EARTH Thailand

Activists say women's rights under threat

Bangkok Post 05 July 2017  

The protection of women's rights has worsened under this government, activists say, citing the latest migrant regulations and the treatment of ethnic groups.

Speaking at a women's conference on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women's (CEDAW) recently, Thai representatives said women currently face difficulties accessing justice and fairness, especially those taking a stand to defend their communities.

Viron Rujichaiwat, representing a women's group in Loei, said many people in her province are trying to defend their resources. On many occasions, women who take a stand risk being threatened, physically abused, and prosecuted by those seeking to silence them.

Mrs Viron had previously led protests against alleged death threats from the regime towards the Wang Saphung community's battle against a gold mine in Loei province.

Chatchalawan Muangchan, from the Empower Foundation, said many women working in the sex industry face discrimination and trafficking.

Kalaya Chularathakorn, representing the IWNT Network, said Thailand has observed CEDAW for 32 years under 14 governments, but the country has shown no significant progress in protecting women's rights.

She said the situation under this military government has deteriorated.

"The fight for justice and equality for women has become increasingly arduous. We are concerned about women who stand up for human rights, especially women who demand community rights in terms of property and resources," she said.

She said the government has proposed policies and campaigns in accordance with the Gender Equality Act of 2015. Nevertheless, many of these policies have not been enforced effectively.

Regulations such as those under Section 44 have made matters worse, she said. "These regulations obstruct basic human and freedom rights of women, and the present situation prevents them from access to justice and a situation that is free from discrimination," she said.

Ms Kalaya also said Muslim women also face discrimination. "Cultural justice systems have resulted in a lack of clarity in the enforcement of Islamic law in regards to violence in the family and issues related to family and inheritance," she said.

She said female members of the service industry -- including transgender women -- often face human rights violations during police operations.

Female migrant workers also face discrimination in terms of employment, said Ms Kalaya. They have limited access to public health and legal work permits.

"The 2017 executive decree on Managing the Work of Aliens has increased penalties for employers who hire workers who do not have work permits. But employees often feel the effect. Migrant worker lay-offs have led to fear, and reports says women are among the first to be laid off," she said.