Statement by Women of Thailand Coalition for 67th CEDAW session
To the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
3 July 2017
Thank you, Madam Chair, for giving us the opportunity to address the Committee on behalf of the civil society organizations which are present here today.
It has been 32 years since the Thailand ratified CEDAW. Since that time we have had 14 governments, both elected and self-appointed, yet the progress of ending discrimination against women has been very slow. I would like to take the opportunity to give you an overview of the situation on the rights of women, and present our most urgent issues.
Although the Thai 2016 Constitution and other laws seem to provide for equal protections and benefits, in reality there are significant obstacles for women. Since the coup in May 2014, our struggle for justice and equality has become even more difficult due to restrictions of freedoms and discrimination. Of particular concern is the situation of women human rights defenders especially those defending land and natural resource; women in violent conflict; indigenous women; migrant workers, sex workers, women in prison, women with disability and women who identify as LBTI.
The Thai government has introduced policies and projects that appear to be aimed at improving women’s development such as the Gender Equality Act (2015). However, many of these policies are weakened and overshadowed by the use of special legislations such as Martial Law, Article 44, and other National Council for Peace and Order decrees which impede women’s basic human rights and freedoms.
Women, especially indigenous women are the key carers of the land and natural resources. According to the 2016 Constitution Section 77 those impacted by policy must be consulted in the planning process. However women have not been consulted on the Master Forestry Plan 2015; NCPO Order 64 – 66; or the Mining Act 2016. The zoning of national parks and world heritage sites that lie in indigenous lands has had devastating impact on the well-being of our communities, particularly for mothers. The Thai government has failed to acknowledge us as indigenous and has failed to address the intersectional discrimination that we experience by State and non State actors.
The current environment prevents access to justice and freedom from discrimination and does not comply with Thailand’s obligations under CEDAW.
The National Machinery
In order for us to achieve gender mainstreaming and end discrimination we need strong national mechanisms that promote and fulfill our rights.
Previously the Committee raised concerns that moving the Office of National Commission of Women’s Affairs from the office of the Prime Minister to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security may undermine the authority of the national machinery. We do not yet see that Thailand has taken the Committee’s concerns into consideration.
In 2013 the Thai Government upgraded the National Machinery to the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development. Since that time there have been serious concerns raised by CSO’s regarding issues of their capacity and performance. Since 2015 the government has doubled the budget and increased staffing from about 250 to 700 people. However even after 2 years there still has been no concrete action taken on gender mainstreaming.
The Thai Women’s Empowerment Fund created to strengthen and develop gender equality is not accessible. It is also not clear how the fund is managed. The Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development is not linked with the National Economic and Social Development Plan further weakening gender mainstreaming and making women invisible.
Access to Justice
The weak national machinery puts women at more risk and creates obstacles to access to justice. Of current urgency are policies that increase violence against women both directly and indirectly.
The Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act (2007) states clearly that it prioritizes the use of mediation in the face of violence against women. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is drafting a new Act “Protection of Family Member’s Security”. The Act aims to strengthen the family as an institution. Protection of the family as an institution is often in direct conflict with providing protection to individual family members especially women. It is of great concern that the Act also intends to give powers to local authorities and community leaders, mostly men to intervene in the family life especially promoting settlement.
The justice system for Malay Muslim women is complicated due to the adoption of both multicultural jurisprudence and a multicultural justice system. There is a lack of legal decisiveness. There is also a lack of strict enforcement of the Islamic Law on family and inheritance matters. The current justice system is a combination of the Justice Dato and the resolution of disputes concerning family and inheritance matters by the male only Provincial Islamic Committee plus the informal customary justice system managed by the community leaders. However this Islamic law has not been officially passed by Parliament. The practices enforce de jure and de facto discrimination against Muslim women in the areas of equal rights & responsibilities in marriage; polygamy; access to divorce; and violence against women. There have been no attempts made by the government to reform and review the contents, despite criticisms made by the local judges as well as academics on its lack of conformity with trends in law reform in some Muslim countries.
Women including trans-women who do sex work experience human rights violations from police practices such as violent raids, detention and women in particular face entrapment based on manipulation of our sexual consent as a consequence of the Prostitution Act 1996 and Human Trafficking Act (2008). Entrapment and raids occur more than once a month with 19 incidents in the last 6 months affecting over 200 women.
Women Human Rights Defenders, especially those defending their community land and natural resources face arrest, judicial harassment, hate crimes and violence. These occur more often for women than men human rights defenders.
There is a lack of mechanisms and procedures that guarantee access to justice for women with disabilities and Indigenous women. Long standing stereotypes and stigma against indigenous women leads to collective punishment and accusations of crimes such as drug trafficking and encroachment. In addition there is a lack of recognition of language and cultural difference within the justice system. The multiple discrimination results in increased imprisonment and lack of redress for indigenous women. It is also a key factor in discrimination against Indigenous women in employment.
Migrant women workers are discriminated against in employment, health coverage and have fewer opportunities to access documentation under the law. The recent Royal Decree on Managing the Work of Aliens (2017) has increased the penalties for those employing undocumented migrant workers. The fear created has resulted in widespread dismissals even of documented migrant workers. It is well documented that women workers are the first to be dismissed in such situations therefore we predict women will be unfairly disadvantaged by the decree.
It is deeply concerning that the national security strategy serves to silence dissent, permit impunity and encourage corruption. This has contributed and amplified existing widespread discrimination and violence against women which is rooted in patriarchal attitudes.
Thank you for your attention.
 Women’s Network for the Advancement and Peace
Foundation for Women (FFW)
Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand (IWNT)
Asia Indigenous People Pact (AIPP)
Thailand Representative of Protection International
The Southern Peasant Federation for Thailand (SPFT)
Anti-gold mining Khon Rak Bankerd
Cross Cultural Foundation
Togetherness for Equality and Action (TEA Group)
PATANI Working Group for Monitoring of International Mechanisms