July 11, 2014 00:00 By Thiranat Sucharikul
Says it is not a deterrent and children must be taught about boundaries
RELATIONSHIP education is key to reducing sexual harassment and rape because capital punishment will not end the problem, United Nations Population Fund representative for Thailand Caspar Peek said.
The recent tragedy of a 13-year-old girl being raped and murdered on an overnight train to Bangkok sparked mass outrage on social media, with people calling for capital punishment against sex offenders.
The UNFPA representative, however, said the UN opposed the use of capital punishment because it goes against human rights, particularly the right to life.
“Even if a person does heinous crimes, they still have the right to life,” Peek said.
He said life imprisonment might prove to be the better prosecution. He said the death penalty did not deter rape and murder because offenders did not consider this before committing the crime. This meant the cycle would continue unless other preventative measures were imposed such as changing the social perspective.
“The real issue is why does a young man think that it is okay to rape a girl. Why do boys in school think it is okay [to do such things]?” he said.
One of the reasons why this tragedy has received as much attention, apart from the victim’s age, is the fact that the tragedy has become “visible” as rape victims often do not come forward due to shame. “The shame is put on the girl automatically and she carries it with her,” Peek said.
“Not only has she been a victim emotionally, physically. On top of that she has to feel ashamed. It’s a terrible thing you are doing to girls and women in society here.”
In order to solve the problem of pervasive gender violence, Peek suggests it is necessary to educate young children about relationships – the boundaries to what is okay and what is not.
An increase in relationship education between boys and girls, and not just sex education, should be implemented so it is constantly reiterated.
“Schools must be clear.” Peek said. “If you do this consistently, you create a generation of young people who will say, ‘Yeah, they told me so many times. Okay I get it’.”
He said gender sensitivity should also be reiterated within society through family members.
Peek said there are various ways in which society can make girls and women feel safe.
An increase in female authority figures such as teachers and policemen would increase the number of advocates for change so these issues were not swept under the carpet.
Awareness was an issue and people must continue to speak out for the “sake of this girl” and “for the sake of the half a million women in Thailand who have been victims to sexual harassment”.