TV channels' portrayal of sexual violence harms our society

national April 01, 2014 00:00

By Chularat Saengpassa

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A few years ago, BEC World executive director Pravit Maleenont vowed to limit violence in TV Channel 3's series for the sake of society. Female activists - firmly convinced that violent acts shown in soap operas promotes violence in society - warmly welco

Alas, things remain much the same. One of the most frequent forms of violence in TV series these days involves rape. Even though these series don’t say rape is good, they are guilty of normalising sexual violence.
This was reflected in the most recent series, “Samee Tee Tra” (Registered Husband). It has kept millions of Thais glued to the TV every Wednesday and Thursday in recent months.
In a recent scene, Nampheung – a lead character playing a seductress – was seen crying and terrified when a client attempted to violate her. Indeed, the scene could have been omitted. 
Though the scene was a part of Nampheung’s strategy to win a man, this could have been changed to something else. 
Rape is referenced in numerous series. Mostly, it involves the two lead characters. The female lead character is kept in the house and raped. 
At the end of the series, the rapist said he did it out of love. At the end, the two resolve their conflict and live together happily ever after.
Would that happen in real life? Rape as the equivalent to the emergence of a soul mate?
Morally, no matter what the circumstance is and no matter who the victim is, rape is unacceptable. If a man is to win a woman’s heart, it is definitely not this way. 
Morally, all people should say no to these scenes. 
Perhaps, they are too familiar with the teaching that anyone doing bad deeds deserves bad treatment. 
It explains why some viewers pardon male characters who rape female characters out of love. It also explains why some viewers had no sympathy for Nampheung.
“It serves her right,” is one of the most common comments. This is an alarming sign – TV series, though inadvertently, have been justifying sexual violence against women. 
TV series can be used to promote moral standards. A man should be encouraged to stand up to 
something wrong. 
Yet in Samee Tee Tra, Nampheung refused to lodge a complaint, saying she felt ashamed. 
It is a fact in Thai society that many girls and women keep sexual attacks secret to avoid embarrassment and stigmatisation. 
Even worse, in some series it’s not hidden and men say that the victim deserved it because she wore a sexy outfit. 
It is also a fact that whenever a real life rape occurs, I have often heard people, particularly men, asking if the victim wore revealing clothes and whether she went out at night. 
Women and girls, no matter how they are dressed, are protected under the law. No one deserves to be attacked because of the way they dress or the places they visit. 
Instead of questioning the victims, society should condemn sexual attackers. People should also review why so many members of Thai society fail to feel for the victims. 
It explains why rape cases are rampant in Thai society, when attackers are not as harshly dealt with as they should be. 
According to the Public Health Ministry, there were 31,866 reported rapes in Thailand last year, or 87 rapes per day on average. In other words, there was one victim every 15 minutes. 
How can sexual violence get to this point? 
It is incomprehensible that TV series keep including scenes of rapes or attempted rapes.
Something really is wrong here. By recognising leading male characters who rape a lover as heroes, many male viewers may simply come to the conclusion that they can rape a woman they love because it is a way to get happiness. 
It is imperative that we change such attitudes or else one day tolerance of sexual attacks will soar so high that no woman will feel safe, even inside her home. 
TV producers, screenwriters, and novelists can wield much influence. Their work can reach large audiences. 
By producing morally-sound content and embracing a zero tolerance for sexual attacks, they should be able to make a big difference in this country.
Producers and writers, please don’t just say you’re simply delivering what people want to watch, or read. As members of this society, you must be socially responsible.

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