Govt gets low scores for gender parity

Govt gets low scores for gender parity

Access to justice needs improvement

Women's rights activists gather to score the government's compliance with the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Women's rights activists gather to score the government's compliance with the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The government has been criticised by female activists for restricting their access to justice and silencing rights advocates, ahead of this year's International Women's Day which falls on Sunday.

The activists said the government has continued to engage in such actions, despite having endorsed the legally-binding Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) three years ago.

The criticisms were aired at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on Wednesday, where former Cedaw committee members and women's rights activists gathered to score the government's compliance with Cedaw, ahead of the official review next year.

Alisar Bindusa, a representative of the Law Long Beach Youth Society, said the government is hardly following the committee's advice on amending Section 17 (2) of the Gender Equality Act.

"This law prevents prostitutes, refugees, and ethnic minorities from receiving protection on national security grounds," she said.

"However, the government has made progress on setting up a committee on gender equality. Accordingly, we give them a 'D-' in the constitution and legal framework."

Phattraporn Kaengjumpa, a representative of anti-gold mining group Khon Rak Ban Koed based in Loei, said social stigma and negative attitudes of officials often discourage women and children from taking legal action against sex offenders.

"The government should remove hurdles to the Justice Fund and ensure that it is accessible to all women. Only 25 of 440 women rights defenders can seek help from the Justice Fund. Therefore, we give them an 'F' in terms of access to equal justice and remedy," she said.

Ms Phattraporn also expressed concerns about the government's prosecution of women activists, in an effort to silence them.

"Since the 2014 coup, at least 440 have faced charges, many of which were filed simply to deny their public participation. Most of them are urban women living in poverty and those defending lands and resources in rural areas.

"They have faced sexual harassment and online abuse, but officials don't take these issues seriously. The government has also failed to hold culprits behind extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances accountable. For this, we give them an 'F' grade," she said.

However, the deputy director-general of the Department of Women's Affairs and Family Development, Vigita Rachatinantikul, told the Bangkok Post that the Gender Equality Act is still relatively new and little understood.

"It took effect about only five years ago," she said.

Describing women's restricted access to justice and remedy as a "chronic and structural problem", Angkhana Neelapaijit, the former National Human Rights Commissioner, said the Justice Fund needs to be reviewed.

"The absence of knowledge about law and the lack of financial support are obstacles [to women seeking justice]. The constitution states that access to justice should be at no cost, but in reality it costs a lot," said the recipient of a 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award.

"Moreover in Thailand, remedies for crime victims are provided in the form of financial reparation, instead of dignity restoration and accountability."

Ms Angkhana lauded the government's progress on the National Action Plan on Human Rights, but pointed out that it fails to ensure the safety of women activists.

"The plan theoretically ensures they will not be prosecuted to silence them, but what about the online attacks that they face?" she said.


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