11 July 2024

Sexual harassment occurs in educational institutions and private and public sector work places. It is often treated as “normal” and an “insignificant” problem, according to the opinions shared by women’s and children’s rights advocates at a recent forum on “Sexual Harassment, Politicians and Power.”

Thararat Panya, a veteran campaigner for gender equality, said that it is a well-known fact that sexual harassment has been widespread in Thai society for a long time, the problem has not been taken seriously by the authorities and, in most cases, has been settled through compromise, with most victims not being treated fairly.

As such, most victims are reluctant to disclose what happened or do not tell the police the whole truth about how they were sexually harassed, resulting in their cases being weak and their tormentors escaping unpunished, she claimed.

Dr. Varaporn Chamsanit, an advisor on women’s health and gender fairness, said that the recent increase in the number of allegations of sexual harassment against women by politicians is an indication that Thai society is changing, as more females become aware of their rights and do not tolerate sexual harassment in any form.

In political circles, she claimed that a number of politicians, like people in other professions, have engaged in sexual harassment, but their misconduct was not disclosed by the media, citing the case of a political party which is popular among the new generation of Thais.

She suggested that all organisations, including political parties, should have built-in mechanisms to deal effectively with sexual harassment among its members and they should take the problem seriously, adding that parties should educate their members about gender equality and respect for the rights of their opposite gender.

Dr. Sanetti Tinnam, of the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University, attributed widespread sexual harassment to the fact that the Thai society does not promote sexual education in schools and most Thais are not taught about women’s rights over their bodies or that they should not be touched without their consent.

Additionally, when Thai women complain of being sexually harassed, they are often viewed in a negative light, while men are viewed as being dominant over women.