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#metoo, Thailand?

If you’re somewhat active on social media and / or follow international news you probably came across the news about sexual harassment cases in Hollywood involving all kinds of famous or important people. In the wake of all those news the #metoo campaign, that has been around for quite a while, gathered lots of attention again especially thanks to its spread on Facebook and Twitter (where actress Alyssa Milano seems to have given it another boost by posting it again).

As the campaign gained attention I saw more and more of posts in my newsfeeds showing the strong #metoo message. It was shocking to see that so many of the people that I follow, be it friends or professional contacts, have experienced situations of sexual harasment / assault. When getting sadder and sadder while scrolling through my feed I realized one thing though: I barely saw posts from any of my Thai friends or contacts. Now I would want to believe that’s simply because nobody here in Thailand experiences sexual assault or harassment but, unfortunately, we can safely assume that is not the case.

We still don’t talk about it!

When you ask anyone outside of Thailand what they think about upon hearing Thailand it’s probably ‘beaches’, ‘food’, and ‘sex’. And while I don’t want to go down the road that many other articles have taken, saying that ‘sex work is everywhere in Thailand’ I do want quickly to point out that just by not talking about it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. That also applies to sexual harassment, of course. Upon posting a status on Facebook which read that I was wondering why I don’t see updates from my Thai friends in this regard I received a few direct messages from friends from Thailand (and other Asian countries) telling me that’s because ‘you don’t talk about that in Thailand’. Quite frankly, that was the response I expected.

We don’t talk about it! If nobody talks about it, it did not happen. As easy as that. Here in Thailand we still see the approach of victim blaming happening more often than not. Even the current prime minister once said something along the lines ‘If she’s wearing a bikini like that, what did she expect?’ – that was a statement made about a female tourist who got killed (and allegedly raped) here in Thailand.

In school girls are still being taught to wear skirts of a certain length because otherwise they just lead guys on and while growing up girls are more often held responsible for whatever happens at home / school / wherever while boys ‘are just boys’ so we ‘let them be’.

Now when diving a bit deeper into that topic and follwing those private messages I received (thanks to everybody for sharing!) I heard quite a few despicable stories. Those stories ranged from groping at job interviews to teachers that would try to take advantage of minors, to bosses trying to use their power over their employees. So, unfortunately, it seems we got all those ‘normal’ forms of sexual harassment here as well, it’s just that even less people are speaking out about due to

  • shyness about the topic
  • embarrassment about being subjected to such an experience
  • partriarchy still being dominant in all kinds of social and professional relations
  • being scared of repercussions

All those ‘reasons’ – obviously – should not hold anyone back from speaking out. Harassment / assault is way too an important topic to be just quiet about.

What can we do?

Now that’s the difficult part. What can we do to change that? There might be not that much that we can do (here’s a guide by forbes though on what men could do at the work place) besides encouraging everybody to speak up and, as equally important, listen to those who do and believe what they are saying. Don’t just be ‘oh, but that’s just men being men’. You can not, and should not, be ok with assholes just being assholes. Therefore it is certainly not ok to let sexual predators just be sexual predators. So, one more time, speak up, listen, believe, respond, encourage, act!

This is not a ‘women only’ thing by the way and it not only is on the victims to bring about change, it’s about all of us making the world a better and safer place for everybody. And we will only achieve that if we all stand and work together.

Update: Khaosod English published an interesting follow up article on the questions asked in this article. You can read it on their website

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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  • Cindy Apichaya Pattanasirimong

    I never heard about #metoo because in my facebook or twitter doesn’t have anyone use it. When I read through your information. I feel shocked this hashtag about sexual harassment and assault experience that people met in their life and share through the #metoo. For me, I think when they share an experiences, they won’t be alone anymore. Other people will listen, understand and support them. Be happy don’t worry about the bad thing that you met in life, just move on. :)

  • Moné Pusanisa

    The #metoo campaign is such a great campaign to help woman to step out from the shadow and share experience without any shame which they shouldn’t be! But well said that in Thailand a lot of woman still suffer from the sexual harassment act and after been though that situation they coated themselves with shy and shame. If we can make them trust and believe that they shouldn’t be shame about it the #metoo campaign would be more in attention among Thai network community.

  • The initial campaign now took off again as actresses / celebrities started to share it – I believe that would also help in Thailand if famous people would not only think about being ‘idols’ but actually would try to help and have a positive impact on society. Overall I do think we also need to listen better to people talking about their experiences and don’t just say ‘get over it’ or ‘mai pen rai’. Thanks for your comment!

  • I agree with everything you say, except the last statement. If you experienced something terrible like that you might not be able to just move on I believe.

  • Kana Matsushita

    Your message,”speak up, listen, believe, respond, encourage, act! ” is very strong and so true.
    In addition, as you say in the article, I have not seen any #metoo on my Facebook or twitter news feed as well because Japanese people are being shy and negative to speak up such a personal thing, sexual harassment. # is for people who can’t speak up in the real world, but on SNS, however, I suppose Japanese women don’t even use this # because they want to act different and nicer on SNS.
    What a county. How can we change the cultural thing?

  • Palm Siradanai

    I have heard about the #metoo campaign for about just last 2-3 days from some of celebrities have done this, even though it just come by now but I think it is the great campaign to help to people to speak out. Many people, almost, would be shy about their experience, like sexual harassment or else, so this #metoo could be one of the way to speak out loud to let the other know this already and to let people know that this problem is really serious problem.

  • Leading by example. As Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. If you come across anyone who slightly mentions such things, encourage them to speak out, if you see something, intervene. That’s the only way we can change those cultural things.

  • Non Kasipat

    To be honest, I have never heard or seen of this campaign before even on my Twitter or Facebook because I’m living in Thailand. As we all know that women in Thailand are kind of being not able to speak about sexual harassment or does not want to speak it out loud. Perhaps because of the culture by the way. One thing that I wonder about this hashtag is that will it be working so well in Thailand like it is in other countries. But for me, I personally, it is maybe not because I have never heard of it even on Twitter. But great campaign anyway.

  • Thananopawan Rattanatrisri

    #metoo campaign is better in foreign country not in Thailand because of Thai people. There’s a case by Thammasat student who has been sexual harassment by senior BUT there is a lot of comments insult that girl who post the story that maybe she is the one who let it happen, she did not be careful or even her clothes are too sexy. I was like WTH. Why don’t you teach guys not to rape instead? I don’t get it. However, I really want to support this campaign. I want Thai people to beware more about sexual harassment.

  • Thx for your comment. I do think there are (probably way more than we know) cases here in Thailand as well and so speaking out would be really important. Everybody is talking about Thailand 4.0 in terms of technology but all this ‘fancy’ stuff doesn’t help if society not also develops further – and victim blaming / shaming should definitely belong to the past ages and should not have a place in 2560 anymore. The question now: How do we make a change?

  • Natcha Lohasawad

    I used to saw an actress tweeted a message with the hashtag #metoo on Twitter but during that time I still have no idea what is the hashtag’s content about until you bring that topic to discuss in class. I just recently checked #metoo hashtag, seems like Thai people just begin to participate the campaign and start to share their thoughts and experiences via the hashtag. After I have went through all the tweets, I feel sad because they should not experienced those disgusting actions, no one should. Every country, not only Thailand, should be more concerned about the problems and take it serious.

  • Jade Maciag

    It is sad that Thai traditions mostly taught us not to express ourself much. This #metoo campaign is very interesting and is worth promoting but in Thailand people mostly regard exposing these stories as self shaming or as destroying the image of oneself. However, this is really bad because people who harras others sexually will think that these kind of act is easier done in Thailand because nobody would speak up anyway… I think a group of brave Thai men and women should start up the campaign seriously and maybe the others would follow the trend, hopefully :)

  • Ellen Deveaux

    This makes me very upset that something big has to happen in order for people to be brave enough to speak up about it. Also, I hope that people in society realize that this is an issue that needs to be confronted. Overall, I am glad that everyone is promoting this hashtag to let others know that they are not alone.

  • Fin Kasi

    Another thing that needs to be addressed is catcalling. (which is a form of sexual harassment verbally) Personally, I remember being mildly catcalled on the street while walking home from school when I was in like the 11th grade. I think this form of harassment, even though it’s seemingly “harmless,” degrades women and is just disrespectful. It’s really sad the system, especially here in Thailand, tries to just ignore all these problems. And yeah I totally agree with your last paragraphs, thanks for spreading a positive message!

  • May Chiranakorn

    I also saw this hashtag sharing on Facebook and Twitter as well. It explicitly made me realize how many women in this world have experienced the situations of sexual harassment and most of them never have a chance to speak up. Therefore, I think that this campaign is totally great opportunities to express the feeling and truth without being fear, embarrass or shy. The first thing that we should do is to stop blaming the victims and start to prevent from those sexual predators. We should get over it as soon as possible!

  • Great point. Quite a few friends of mine also mentioned that in conversations. Again, not 4.0 at all :-/

  • Couldn’t agree more, thanks for your comment!

  • Wanthida Tiwari

    this # is something that we really need to bring up the prominence of sexual harassment in this world. not only does it matter in the west but here in Asia, it could be helpful if only people would come out and speak. in Thailand, however, I didn’t know that the subject of sexual harassment would e considered somewhat of a taboo because countries like India are actually using this # and speaking up. I was shocked when I saw my Indian friends using #me too as subjects like this are less spoken about in a culturally reserved patriarchal society that of India but there should be more of this atlas in countries like Thailand even though it is more popular for being the adultery hub among tourists. it may be hard, but the Thai society need to break out of this sudden reserved secretive norm that they have suddenly established. there is nothing for Thailand to hide, why now when the mothers and the sisters of the nation need the help and recognition for their troubles! the real question is why now?

  • Beam Palakarn

    psychologically, the person who got raped tent to be extremely emotional and did not want to provide the information about how, when or where it happened. BUT if you report it to the police, you’ll be asked a lot deeper than that, what position?, inside or outside?, use condom? any dirty question, you name it. And also Thai peoples have an obtusely logic like ” you dress like a slut! you’re deserved to be rape” or ” I would also rape her if I were him according to how beautyful she is”. The #metoo campaign is interesting and will definitely have an impact towards sexual harassment. But with the Thais mindset towards rape, our chance is low.