Report sheds light on Thai sex assaults

Report sheds light on Thai sex assaults

In Thailand and Vietnam, discriminatory attitudes and gender bias in the criminal justice process create barriers to justice that result in a high rate of failure in rape and sexual assault cases, a new UN report finds.

The report, "The Trial of Rape: Understanding the criminal justice system response to sexual violence in Thailand and Vietnam", released last week by UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD), highlighted that stereotypes, informal settlements, insensitive treatment of victims and prolonged court proceedings are contributing factors to the low conviction rate of sexual violence cases in both countries.

The report is the first comparative study of failure in reported cases of sexual violence in the Asia-Pacific region. It examines how the criminal justice systems in the two countries respond to reported rape and sexual assault cases by interviewing 213 people and reviewing 290 police or court case files.

The report found that the attrition rate is highest at the initial reporting stage (the victims are often asked to negotiate charges or withdraw the cases), as court procedures can be long and drawn out, and focus on forensic evidence or the victims' credibility.

In Thailand, the report found that women reporting cases of rape face barriers to justice that arise from societal, legal and institutional policies and practices.

"Stereotypes about sexual assaults and how survivors are expected to look and behave result in barriers to justice which can, in turn, inhibit the reporting of sexual violence and reduce the likelihood that a woman will pursue redress through the criminal justice system," said Anna-Karin Jatfors, deputy regional director at the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific during the launch of the report.

She said the report also found that discriminatory social and cultural values, patterns and practices all contributed to the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence.

"The criminal justice service needs to meet the needs of victims, and institutional behaviour needs to be adjusted to include gender sensitivity," she recommended, citing the findings of the report.

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