Cases of sex abuse on schoolgirls bring to light gender bias in Thailand


Thais are shocked and angered of reported sexual attacks on two female students by their teachers which, according to the victims, happened several times over the course of more than a year at their school in northeastern Thailand.

Besides the assaults, the men were also accused of filming the acts and using the video clips to threaten the victim, who had kept it a secret since March last year.

Their cases have shocked the nation. Anger erupted on social media with calls for severe punishment. There have been talks about chemical castration, capital punishment and life without parole for sex offenders.

Even Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha vowed maximum punishment if the allegations are proven to be true.

“Regarding the case involving teachers and students, it proceeds according to the law. Maximum punishment as stipulated by the law will be given if the offence was committed and there is clear evidence, given that educational personnel are involved,” he said in a press conference on May 12.

According to data from the Royal Thai Police, 1,965 rape complaints were filed nationwide between Jan. 01 and Dec 31, 2019, and 1,893 people were arrested as a result.

In the same year, the Pavena Foundation for Children and Women alone recorded 786 cases of rape and indecent assaults. Since 1999, it has assisted more than 9,000 victims of sexual attacks and according to its records, these cases have been on the rise.

“Since the start of this year until May 05, we’ve already received 293 complaints about rape and indecent assaults. These are victims who approached our foundation alone, not to mention others who filed complaints to the police,” the foundation’s chairwoman Pavena Hongsakul told CNA.

“Many victims are children aged below 10 and the attacks took place at home or at school,” she added.

Elderly people have also been sexually assaulted in Thailand. The oldest person to have sought help from the Pavena foundation was 90 years old. Her perpetrator was a 14-year-old male neighbour.

“Age and gender doesn’t really matter when it comes to rape,” Pavena said. “It’s more about opportunity.”

In Thailand, convicted sexual offenders face serious punishment. They could be sentenced to death or life in prison.

Still, rape cases continue to make headlines in the country and according to prominent sexual rights advocate Jaded Chouwilai, more people will become victims as long as society is still dominated by men.

In an interview with CNA, Jaded said the root cause of rape in Thailand is the traditionally superior power men exert on women and children.

“The perpetrators would often say they did it because they couldn’t control their sexual urge,” said Jaded, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation.

According to Jaded, these social values have been ingrained in Thai society – a belief that men are superior and women are sexual objects they can do anything to.

To end sexual violence in Thailand, rights advocates believe the solution starts with gender equality and social mechanisms that would help women become more visible and able to direct social change. Still, the concept is not yet widespread in Thai society, where many women are still taught to be submissive and follow instead of lead.

“We have to admit we don’t teach gender equality in the family. At school, the concept isn’t included in the curriculum just yet,” said Jaded.

Following the allegations by the two students, police pressed charges against the men for the crime of repeated sexual assaults but were released on bail.

As for the two victims, they have been offered assistance by social officers. (Source: CNA)