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.
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