Although women in Thailand enjoy a relatively high degree of freedom, gender inequality still manifests itself in violence, trafficking, stereotypical attitudes to employment and gender-related roles, the latest national review on progress in gender equality submitted by the Thai government to the United Nations showed. The report was submitted under a process dubbed “Beijing+20 Review”. “The biggest challenge is that some people are still not fully aware of direct and indirect gender discrimination and substantive gender equality in society. In addition, some media reproduce stereotypes of women and men. Raising awareness and improving the status of women are our main priorities in the Women Development Plan,” the 51-page national review on the progress and challenges in bridging the gender equality gap recently submitted by the Thai government stated.
This voluntary submission was part of Thailand’s commitment to realise gender equality under 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The report cited the need to tackle sexism, gender bias and gender-related stereotypes that may exist in school textbooks, adding that if such stereotypes go unchallenged, “these negative norms of behaviour and attitude could be institutionalised and gradually become part of our social and cultural code”. Other remaining challenges in bridging gender inequality include tackling what the report refers to as the “feminisation of poverty”.
‘Deadlock on legalising abortion’ “Factors contributing to poorer women are limitations of access to resources and services, such as credit, land, assets, education and training, information, welfare, as well as salary gap. Labour mobility, specifically the migration of male family members into big cities, divorces, pregnancy out of wedlock, neglectful husbands and the fact that more women prefer to remain single are some of the reasons,” the report said. “This is partly due to the fact that women in Thailand are still under-represented in decision-making and high-administrative positions, both at local and national levels. “As a result, many decisions on important issues or areas are based on insufficient gender perspectives and consideration, such as the allocation of micro credit, utilisation of the Village Fund, or the selection process of participants in the new vocational training programmes.”
In 2011, women accounted for just 16 per cent, or 79 out of 500 parliamentary seats, even though women constitute more than half of the Kingdom’s population. Paweena Subhimaros, a social development officer at the Bureau of Gender Equality Promotion, pointed out that one issue where Thailand was at a deadlock is on the legalisation of abortion. Paweena, whose bureau comes under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, took part in last week’s Asia-Pacific regional meeting organised by UN Women and UN Escap in Bangkok with some 50 countries participating. The review also listed achievements such as the fact that there is an even number of women and men on social media in the country, with Facebook accounting for some 51 per cent women and 49 per cent men. It also cited the setting up of a “lady parking” area in Suvarnabhumi Airport, with 450 slots in August, as well as the “lady zone” cluster of seats for women passengers on the Nakhonchai inter-province buses.