The Royal Police Cadet School is proud of a recent workshop it conducted on ending violence against women in the community.
However, in practice, its female students still experience gender discrimination at the school, claiming some of their male peers have even given them the silent treatment for their attempt to prove that women and men are equal.
“Most male cadets here have a really strong gender perspective. They can’t bear the fact that women can shoulder a rifle like they do,” a female cadet said sadly.
Speaking on condition that she be identified only as Tuk, she said gender discrimination was so severe she once decided to call the course quits.
“I felt uncomfortable. Apart from many strict rules, there were certain issues about female nature. For example, when I have my periods, I always have a bad stomachache but they failed to understand why I couldn’t join their normal training,” Tuk recounted.
Four years ago, she entered the school with its first batch of female cadets. At the time, there were about 20,000 female applicants but only 60 emerged the best in both physical and academic tests.
Tuk couldn’t stand the pressure in school, so she decided to leave during her third year.
“Most Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (AFAPS) graduates who study here tend to not accept female cadets as they think women ruined their system,” one male student at the Royal Police Cadet School admitted. He agreed to give the interview on condition his name be withheld.
The student said about 70 per cent of male students still had a bad attitude towards female police. Some might express their feelings clearly, such as not stopping to bow to more senior female cadets, even though such action violates regulations.
When graduates from boys-only schools move to higher-educational institutes, their attitudes about gender equality do not pose much of a problem because most institutes have graduates from girls-only and co-ed schools.
However, at the Royal Police Cadet School, most students are still male – 80 per cent of the current students at this school coming from the AFAPS. It was big news when 80 Royal Police cadets voluntarily joined the three-day training over the past weekend to increase their knowledge of the nature, extent, and seriousness of crimes perpetrated against women.
However, if sexist attitudes continue to prevail at their school, will the workshop be really useful?
“Some male cadets changed their masculine attitudes after women proved they could do everything men do. But there are still extreme individuals who won’t talk or participate with us,” said Key, a third-year female cadet, who hesitated before speaking softly.
Tuk, who resumed her study at the Royal Police Cadet School, reckoned that things had changed in a better way. Yet, when asked whether the workshop on ending violence against women would erase wrong gender perspectives, Tuk gave a firm “No”.
Anek Anonthawan, a teacher at the Royal Thai Cadet School, insisted that the girls’ presence
at the institution so far has benefited the males.
“At first, there were heated debates on whether girls should be accepted as police cadets. But we explained to students that police need policewomen to work on sensitive cases and all understood it.” Anek said.
Nattaporn Seedajai, an administrative teacher, said the school’s practices had been adjusted to ensure they suited the physique of both males and females.
“Female cadets have coloured and softened the atmosphere here,” Nattaporn said.
However, the less tough physical training has not made male police cadets happy and has led to anti-female cadet feeling in the school.
“Police cadets used to be proud of their system, their programmes. But when things changed, they blamed the girls,” a male police cadet said.
Although Nattaporn has welcomed the girls to his school, he still apparently believes females can’t be as strong as males. “I respect a female police cadet’s spirit, but I feel pity for a little girl who has to be trained hard like men,” Nattaporn said.
He also felt sorry for female cadets who may not be allowed to join an award ceremony where the royally-granted swords are presented and all male graduates attend.
“To date, no female police officers have got the swords even though their male peers receive one each. So, I am not really sure whether female graduates from our schools will be allowed to join the ceremony. I love them all but I won’t be able to help in this regard,” Nattaporn said.