Hear Me Out: Bangkok, Not So Safe After All?

Despite 30 years worth of work dealing with women related issues in Thailand by private sectors and NGOs, Thai women and girls still endure violence, sexual harassment, and abuse in their everyday life. As of 2012, there were 394 cases of sexual crimes; 23.9% were sexual harassment attempts, 21.3% were assaulted with rape intention, 21% were sexually harassed, 19.2% were raped and sexually abused, and 14.6% were verbally harassed (National Statistical Office cited in Matichol Newspaper, 2013). Their fear of violence limits their use of public spaces and enjoyment of their full rights.

Last summer, I had a chance to intern at Action aid Thailand. I worked specifically on the Hear Me Out project for the Safe Cities for Actionaid’s women campaign, which aims to create a safer city that is accessible for all, not only privileged groups. In order to collect information on the current situation and determine the most effective policy, I went around Bangkok to interview people on their views on “What should we do to make Bangkok a Safer city for women and girls?”

The interviews gave me an insight into the existing oppressions and Thai women’s perception of fear and insecurity. These interviews also helped me generate an evidence base, addressing the root causes of gender-based violence against women and girls that shouldn’t be accepted as an inevitable fact of the human condition. More importantly, they will serve as a consensus for action through broadening the impact of violence against women and girls to the wider community.

I found the project eye-opening, as I met people from all walks of life and heard their varying views and experience relating to this topic.I was shocked by the responses I received. I live Bangkok and I thought of it as a fairly safe place. Many also made suggestions that I have never thought of before. I’d like to share some of the interviews because I think it brings up important dialogues that more members of the Thai community should engage in.

Sraawut Taiwitrakul: “To make Bangkok a safer place for women and girls, it must to be acollective effort rather than just the effort of one person or a social group. We may start from educating the public about equality and respect. If everyone respects those around them, we will naturally transcend gender inequality; everyone will have the same human rights.”

Vinussa Boonmee: “Bangkok looks safe because there’s a lot of people here, but I don’t think it is at all safe. I got my butt grabbed when I went to the Safari, a place that is supposed to be safe for children. Sexual assaults happens everywhere…in bts sky trains…in the MTR for example. I think most people are too ashamed to ask for help. There must be an easier way to report these cases like a call center. Laws must be more forceful. Attitudes towards these assaults must also change; we must not be tolerant towards these issues.”

Nuntaporn Lertkowit: “There should be a place for women to file complaints with clear guidelines and steps of what we can do if we’ve been sexually assaulted. I don’t think Bangkok is totally unsafe, but when I go to places that I’m not familiar with at night, I feel the need to be vigilant at all times. Now, some malls have a Lady parking floor, which makes me feel more safe. Once on the skytrain, a guy tried to brush his private parts against my hands. I’m not sure how much importance our society gives to issues like this. When it happened to me, I didn’t know who to report because I felt like I didn’t have evidence; it seemed like it was just a feeling.”

Metee Meesuay: “I think it should start from family. Parents should educate their kids about living together in society. Media should also educate children about present dangers and what they should do to stay safe.”

Arisra Petsaward: “Perpetrators of sexual violence should suffer capital punishment. Imprisonment is not enough; once they are free, they will do it again. Even though there are lights in places around the city, it is still very dangerous. Indeed, sexual abuse within the family occurs even more often between the step father and the daughter or even between the father and the daughter. Therefore, we should also educate our society about proper parenting.”

What do YOU think should be done to make cities safer for females? Do you have any similar experiences concerning sexual violence? Share it with me!