Faculty urged to hurry probe

Faculty urged to hurry probe

Line group chat puts focus on harassment

Chulalongkorn University's faculty of law is under pressure to speed up a probe into a LINE group linked to the sexual harassment of female students.

Executive members of Chulalongkorn University's Student Council of Faculty of Communications Arts have asked for greater haste with the probe.

The move followed the hashtag "#chulastudents" that started trending on Twitter early this month. It revealed a group chat of 60 male law students from the university who had recently passed the university entrance exam.

The LINE group included sexually motivated discussions by the students, comparing and criticising women from various faculties, according to Phakkamai Jangbangyai, an executive member of the university's Faculty of Communication Arts.

Ms Phakkamai was speaking at a seminar titled "Educational Institutes with Sexual Harassment Problems" held by the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation (WMP).

She said her faculty's student council would monitor the investigation. "The situation has made women feel unsafe,'' she told the panel.

Education outlets should help raise awareness and educate students about sexual harassment, she said.

However, Ticha Na Nakorn, director of the Baan Kanchanapisek Vocational Juvenile Training Centre for Boys, a home for youngsters serving criminal charges, said she tried to change her charges' views on the role of men in society to reduce violence, and had met with some success.

Ms Ticha said changing the perspectives of the law students was feasible, and that if they were punished or expelled, they may become more dangerous. "Sexual harassment problems are inherently structural problems," Ms Ticha said. She said children need to be educated on the issue and education leaders must work together to end sexual harassment.

Apichaya Pothong, another executive member of the faculty's student council, said the university should have clear policies to take care of victims and punish abusers.

Angkhana Inthasa, head of the WMP's Gender Equality Promotion Division, said sexual misconduct takes place across the education spectrum.

It includes not only rape and physical harassment, but also verbal harassment aimed at making women feel uncomfortable.

In 2019 alone, there were 333 complaints of sexual harassment made to her foundation. More than 84% concerned children, adolescents and students.

Many cases involved a perpetrator with higher authority than the victims, such as teachers, professors, seniors, and friends.

Some cases showed teachers grooming students, and parents discovering what happened after observing their children suffering depression, suicidal thoughts, and stress, she said.

Ms Angkhana suggested promoting understanding of sexual harassment in schools, and helping victims file lawsuits.

Chanetti Tinnam, a lecturer at the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University, said everyone knows that sexual harassment is a crime, but society has a tendency to sweep it under the rug.

Men and women may also have different interpretations of the definition of "sexual harassment", he said.

Male students often narrowly interpret the meaning as rape, while female students view sexual harassment more broadly to include verbal abuse, staring, and body language as well.

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