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Group calls for strengthening gender equality law

Dec 23. 2017
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By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE SUNDAY NATION

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AN LGBTIQ rights group has called for changes to the Gender Equality Act to improve enforcement of the law, noting that it took over a year for action to be taken on a clear case of gender injustice – and even then the response was too weak.

The Togetherness for Equality Action (TEA) group on Wednesday publicised correspondence with the national gender discrimination committee relating to claims of discrimination against non-heterosexual students at Tawanchai Wittaya School in Nakhon Ratchasima. 

According to a letter to the Tawanchai Wittaya School principal, the committee, which has a duty to investigate and take action on gender discrimination cases, informed the school that there was a complaint about the school’s student admission policy.

It said the policy, which bans LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning) students from studying at the school, was gender discrimination, and asked the school to reconsider it to comply with Gender Equality Act.

The school principal could not be reached for comment, but earlier reports stated the school had reasoned that LGBTIQ students would have trouble adapting because it was a boarding school and had a religious mission to produce students with “good morals” according to Buddhist values.

In a separate letter to TEA, the committee explained that the complaint made by the rights group did not match the rules of the Gender Equality Act, which requires the discriminated persons or their representative to submit a complaint. Therefore, the group’s complaint was turned down. TEA member Chumaporn Waaddao said that although the gender discrimination committee had taken some action on this case, it took too long and did too little to stop the discrimination.

“It took one-and-a-half years for the committee to exercise its power in this case. Moreover, the letter to the school is merely a suggestion, which does not ensure that the school will comply,” Chumaporn said.

“Moreover, the committee did not punish the school or provide any compensation for those who lost opportunities from the school’s poor policy, even though they have such power under the law.”

She said this case demonstrated that there were problems with enforcement under the current Gender Equality Act. She said that the committee agreed that Tawanchai Wittaya School discriminated against the LGBTIQ students, but it had rejected the complaint from TEA because of the law.

Moreover, she noted that most cases accepted by the committee were about the rights of LGBTIQ students to dress as per their gender identification, but not about more serious cases of discrimination.

Chumaporn stressed that Thai society is full of gender discrimination and inequality, and the current law contained too many flaws that made it ineffective as a means to promote equality.

“The main issue of this law is in Article 18, which allows only the victims of discrimination to file a complaint to the committee,” she said. “In many case, discrimination victims are too afraid to seek justice and it is the duty of rights groups to pursue their cases for them.” 

She said another problem was in Article 17, which exempts gender discrimination that is part of a religious practice or any practice that relates to national stability. She stressed that gender equality must be protected in all circumstances.

 

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