Bangkok says #MeToo with new art show

Bangkok says #MeToo with new art show

As the #MeToo movement keeps gaining traction with more global celebrities being held to account for past transgressions, activists in Thailand are rekindling concern about rape and sexual harassment as the number of recorded complaints in the kingdom continues to rise.

"Around 41% of women in Thailand have experienced some form of sexual harassment," said Anna-Karin Jatfors, regional director of the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

"It's very unfortunate that only 40% of that number have ever sought support and assistance. We must break down the barriers for women in accessing justice and protection," she said.

"Women are questioned or even blamed for what they were wearing when such atrocities happen, with little consideration of shifting the spotlight onto the male perpetrators. We must ensure that a system that has long worked against them works for them," Ms Jatfors added.

She was speaking at the launch of an art exhibition in Bangkok titled "Don't Tell Me How To Dress", organised by UN Women in conjunction with the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation.

According to a recent study by the foundation, the number of victims is rising and their age spectrum is broadening, meaning younger girls and more elderly women are also increasingly at risk of being molested or more violently attacked by men.

"We've recorded 300 cases so far this year, but what is clear from our study is that if a child of four and a grandmother aged 86 can both fall victim to such violations then we can hardly blame their respective wardrobes," said Apinya Wechayachai, the foundation's president.

One of the attendees at the event, Thammasat University law student Tararat Punya, shared her success story in bringing her perpetrator to justice.

"When I was in my third year of college, a senior student whom I knew got drunk and sexually violated me. I didn't know what to do at first so I went to my faculty for advice and support," Ms Tararat said.

"Because I decided to speak up, a proper investigation was conducted and disciplinary action was taken immediately, causing the perpetrator to be suspended [from his studies]. I would like to urge all women who have experienced what I went through to rise up against this savagery and seek legal justice," she added.

The exhibition features a series of interviews with celebrities empowering women to stand up and share their stories.

To hammer home its point, it also displays a collection of clothes that women who were raped or harassed were wearing when the crimes against them were committed.

"We live in a world where men continue to display dominance in society. The way in which they express power is through undermining women in a variety of ways, particularly violating women," said Sirinya Bishop, who represented Thailand at the Miss World 1996 pageant.

Famous Thai photographer Nat Prakobsantisuk helped put the exhibition together. "I truly sympathise with them," he said. The exhibition ends on Sunday.

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