Women petition against festival sexual harassment

Women petition against festival sexual harassment

A campaigner yesterday calls for more respect for women, who are often sexually harassed during the Songkran festival. Apichart Jinakul
A campaigner yesterday calls for more respect for women, who are often sexually harassed during the Songkran festival. Apichart Jinakul

Authorities are being asked to provide better protection for women as a recent survey has found they increasingly experience sexual harassment during the Songkran festival.

Harassment is not only disrespectful, but also makes many women fearful of the festival, according to 25-year-old Ying (real name withheld).

She joined the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation and the Stop Drink Network yesterday in petitioning the Office of Women's Affairs and Family Development to protect women better during Songkran next month.

Ms Ying said the Songkran harassment she faced two years ago in Samut Prakan has left her with emotional scars and she had no idea who to turn to for help.

She was travelling on a motorcycle taxi to the festival in Phra Pradaeng district when a group of men who appeared rowdy flagged her down. Despite refusing to join them in a noisy party, the men smeared powder on her cheeks and grabbed her breasts.

She said water mixed with shampoo was thrown at women, hurting their eyes and making them squint. This gave the men the opportunity to touch or grope them.

The unruliness associated with the Songkran, which ushers in the Thai New Year, has painted a negative image of the festival in foreign tourists' eyes, said Chadet Chaowilai, of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation.

A recent survey of 1,793 women, aged between 10 and 40 years, found 51% of them experienced some form of harassment during the festival, he said.

The poll also found 85% disapprove of the harassment and want enhanced measures to protect women during the festival.

"Some men believe Songkran gives them an opportunity to touch women," Mr Chadet said.

The foundation and its allies are ready to work with authorities to stop sexual harassment during Songkran, he said adding the government should strictly enforce the law to keep revellers in order.

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