Drink is involved in a huge number of crimes against women in Thailand. Most of us are all too well aware of two recent cases where drink was implicated – the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a train and the violation of a 72-year-old grandmother in her home.
But these are just the tip of a much larger iceberg, two extreme examples of the thousands of violent assaults committed against women and young girls every year - the vast majority of which nobody knows about other than the perpetrators and their luckless victims.
The official rape rate in Thailand is around 87 a day – or nearly four every hour. This is by any standards a shocking statistic. But, for many reasons, most rapes and sexual assaults go unreported and the real figure is estimated to be at least five times the recorded number. The victims, shockingly, range from a baby of eight months to a pensioner in her eighties.
Across the world, surveys have shown that on average half of all rapes and sexual assaults are carried out by men “under the influence” – a clear case, if ever there was one, of cause and effect.
Thailand has a freewheeling drinks culture which not only tolerates the imbibing of excessive amounts of alcohol but regards binge drinking as acceptable. This is particularly the case among men, who typically begin drinking regularly from the age of 15, and whose alcohol dependence rates are five times that of Thai women.
The alcohol content of Thai beers is high and the price relatively low. Alcoholic drinks can be can be bought around the clock from a wide variety of sources, ranging from bars, retail shops and stores to village outlets selling home-made strong, cheap fermented rice and palm liquor for local consumption.
Thai men are arguably as addicted to drink as they are to sex – a pastime which is almost a national sport, with males coming out on top in a condom company’s recent promiscuity survey designed to discover the world’s least faithful lovers. One does not need to be an Einstein to conclude that there might well be a relationship between these twin obsessions.
Any attempt to curb alcohol consumption, which is a major cause of murder and other violent crimes as well as rape and sexual offences, is sure to be met with strong opposition. This is to be expected not only from countless thousands of drink-dependent Thais and social drinkers, but also from the drinks industry - from the big breweries and distilleries to bar and supermarket owners and everyone else who makes a buck out of booze.
Let the pips squeak. The price Thai women are paying for years of official failure to identify and act upon the obvious link between drink and rape is far too high. It is an admission of defeat that Thailand should have to protect women by the sexual apartheid of introducing Ladies Only carriages on trains.
The lives of all women should be made safer by attacking the root causes of the violent attacks which cause them travel in fear – by far the most pernicious and pervasive of which is alcohol.
The present administration is spending billions of baht on a continuing war on drugs. A similar commitment needs to be shown in counteracting against the dangers of alcohol - and, with a woman being raped every 15 minutes, the sooner the better.
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Maybe this has something to do with cultural issues and also with what happens after abuse in Thailand - usually nothing. As an example, I once had to calm a farang lady down who had just come into a bar I was in. She had heard a commotion in her guest house which resulted in a thai lady getting the xxxx beaten out of her by her Thai husband. She called the police, and was told by the officer "It's New Year's Eve, he's drunk, and she's his wife." End of story. OK, maybe drink was part of the problem, but perhaps he'd be a little less likely to do it if there were to be some consequences.
There’s also the scary rash of rapes in India over the last few years.
At least there is a desire in India and UK to do something about it and there are some serious punishments being dished out.What about Thailand? The only crimes I can see that attract heavy penalties in Thailand are drug trafficking, being poor, and being of the wrong political persuasion at the wrong time.
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