Society 'must address the mentality' that leads to rapes

Society 'must address the mentality' that leads to rapes
Thai social media users hold banners during a rally calling for the death penalty for rapists.

Thais need to address the societal mentality that allows rape to persist, instead of placing most of the blame on women, a seminar on women's rights was told yesterday.

Speakers at the Royal Hotel in Bangkok cited the controversial example of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who remarked that women wearing bikinis could be at greater risk of being raped.

He made the remark following the recent rape and murder of a female English tourist at Koh Tao.

Suchada Thaweesit, an associate professor at Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research, said Thailand was not only a failed state in democracy but also in preventing rape.

She said Prayut's remark was an example of a questionable thinking that placed the burden on women to watch out for themselves.

"Does this reflect the fact that our society is helpless in changing men?" asked Suchada.

Suchada said it was important that public figures like Prayut think carefully before speaking about this issue.

Varaporn Chamsanit, a programme manager at the Sexuality Studies Association, criticised a recent Durex advertisement, which stated that 28 per cent of women who resist sexual advancement eventually yield to it.

Varaporn wanted to know how the condom producer came up with the figure, saying the advertisement added to the misunderstanding surrounding the issue.

Jaded Chouwilai, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation and the only male speaker at the event, said there were many areas that could be improved in relation to the sexual assault of women and society's response to it.

Jaded said the justice system tended to encourage out-of-court compensation for rape cases instead of punishing the offender. The parents of some victims also felt ashamed and did not want the matter ending up in court.

He said there still was no legal protection for women who were sexual harassed verbally or by the way someone looked at them. And women were still being taught at school to be the more passive gender while TV soap operas continued to present rape as acceptable.

Chanetti Tinnam, a lecturer of mass communications at Kasem Bundit University, said one of the overlooked aspects of the cultural factor that made rape or even gang rape appear acceptable was the glorification of the crime by some advertisers.

Chronology of events involving the Koh Tao rape-murder case

Sept 15: Bodies of British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller are found.

Sept 17: Autopsy results show traces of semen on Witheridge. A British tourist is questioned as he was seen with the victims before the murders. DNA testing indicates that he was not involved with the murders.

Sept 19: A DNA sample from a cigarette butt found near the victims matches the semen found on the woman. Police hunt for an Asian man captured on security-camera footage playing a guitar and smoking on the beach where the murders occurred.

Sept 20: DNA test results reveal the semen found on the woman's body came from an Asian.

Sept 21-22: Many DNA samples are collected from suspects near the scene of the murders. Police are criticised by foreign media for working too slowly in the case.

Sept 26: A witness claims to have seen the murders and states that the killers are foreigners. Police attempt to determine the credibility of the information.

Oct 1: Three migrant Myanmar workers are detained in connection with the murders.

Oct 2: Two of the men confess to the crime.

Oct 3: Police accompany them to the scene of murders for a re-enactment of the crime.

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