Roberta Clarke, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific and Representative in Thailand 25 January 2014
During periods of political contestation, women who are in politics can become the targets of stereotyping and gender-based abuse. When few voices speak out for equality and respect, women's equal position and standing in society becomes threatened.
In Thailand as elsewhere, women’s participation in political processes and leadership remains at a low level. This is caused in part by discriminatory practices and political cultures that devalue women’s worth and impede their contributions. Many women are reluctant to enter political life because they anticipate sexual harassment and gender-based abuse and disrespect.
It is for these reasons that increasing women’s participation in politics is a marker of gender equality. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women signed by Thailand in 1985 calls for the elimination of discrimination of women in public and political life. Such discrimination occurs when women are spoken about or treated unfairly with the intention or effect of restricting or impairing their enjoyment of human rights and dignity because of their sex.
To eliminate such disadvantage, states, communities and individuals must change social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes.
In the context of Thailand's current political situation, it is a serious concern to learn of the use of abusive language against women to score points for a political agenda. Commentary and images which are sexually abusive and which demean women on the basis of their sex and gender roles should not be tolerated or encouraged. Thailand has made much progress both in its laws and policies to secure the empowerment of women and gender equality. This progress will be expanded when more women engage with and influence the political and governance processes in both the public and private spheres. For this to happen, we need an environment which is respectful of the rights and dignity of all.