It's time to tackle domestic violence

It's time to tackle domestic violence

Another young woman has fallen victim to domestic violence. Saifon, a young farmworker in Nakhon Si Thammarat, was killed this week by her jealous former husband after she tried to end the relationship.

According to news reports, Saifon left her husband six months ago. When he found her in a new relationship, he stabbed her to death on Friday night and seriously injured her new partner. There are no details as to why she left the former husband, but the fact that he murdered her suggests his violence-prone personality and mentality may have played a part.

Saifon was no different to many women wanting to abandon a brutal relationship, yet the 21-year-old paid for her freedom with her life. Such killings are sadly familiar in Thailand, with several cases reported in local media each month. It also stands to reason that such extreme acts point to the far larger problem that much of the country's domestic violence goes unreported. The Social Development and Human Security Ministry's 1333 hotline generally fields complaints of about five cases of domestic violence each day. Most of the perpetrators are men. News reports in recent years suggest that violence is equally prevalent in both rich and poor families, with a number of convicted wife-killers having been well-educated and middle class.

Sometimes there is a twist, and the women end up in jail having taken fatal measures of self-defence to ensure their safety from these dangerous men.

Saifon's murder took place just two days before Thailand joins the global community in celebrating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women today. The Social Development and Human Security Ministry has come out to reaffirm the state's commitment to the end of violence against women, while other agencies are also banging the drum for efforts to the same end.

Earlier, the Office of Attorney-General showcased the progress of a new system that provides a channel for women to report violence against them so the state can intervene. The office cited a case in which a juvenile and family court ordered an abusive husband not to beat his wife, with police asked to make frequent visits to their house over a six-month period to ensure he is adhering to the court order. The office noted that the woman has yet to file a criminal lawsuit against her husband for the sake of their children.

According to the Office of the Attorney-General, the man will also be required to undergo therapy and an anger management course.

These may be steps in the right direction, although questions remain about their effectiveness.

The new system for women to report domestic abuse brings to mind the case of Nitiwadee "Mor Nim" Pucharoenyos, who was involved in the high-profile murder of her estranged husband and national sharpshooter Jakkrit Panichpatikum.

As police conducted their investigation, the story unfolded. It was found Mor Nim was a victim of domestic violence. At one time the woman, who has two kids with Jakkrit, suffered the miscarriage of a third child due to his brutality.

In fact, Mor Nim did follow the "correct" procedure. She called for help and police arrested him on charges of assault (among other things). However, later on, with social pressure and the intervention of well-wishers, she felt obliged to reunite with her estranged husband who relentlessly pursued reconciliation when he was released on bail. The agreement for reconciliation was brokered by police and a former minister.

Mor Nim was sentenced to death for premeditated murder by a Min Buri court in 2016, which triggered a public outcry as it did not take into consideration the domestic violence angle. In August this year, the appeals court finally changed the verdict, sentencing Mor Nim's mother, Surang Duangjinda, to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment as the murder was seen to be an attempt to protect her daughter. But the tragedy could have been prevented.

Therefore, it's a welcome move that the state, especially those in the judicial system, have started to recognise domestic violence in a more official capacity, departing from an archaic belief that unjustifiably tolerates violence in the family. It's praiseworthy that they have put in place a mechanism to protect women in abusive relationships. The old belief that condones domestic violence, treating it as a family issue, and encourages neighbours and family members to turn a blind eye when a woman needs help, must be eliminated.

The agencies concerned must invest the appropriate amount of time and money to make sure this mechanism is effective, including such measures as providing shelters for women in need, and at the same time increase the understanding of authorities dealing with the case.

Public education is also a must. The state must work with non-state actors and educators to come up with a plan to eliminate violence against women and ensure men have the right attitude toward their partners. And, at the same time, it is imperative that women should no longer suffer in silence.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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