By THE NATION
The forum started with an opening remark by Dr. Phiset Sa-ardyen, TIJ director,who said the justice works related to gender-based violence against women is challenging because of its link with structural obstacles related to culture and law which impede access to justice. He said TIJ’s role has been focused on pushing this issue forward through constant knowledge sharing, researches, and academic activities. He hoped that this forum would provide a clearer answer on how to solve the problem by using international approaches while taking into account Thailand’s specific context.
“Violence against women is a tough and challenging problem. TIJ has been trying to build our body of knowledge on this topic through collaboration with international experts. United Nations has always placed importance on violence against women. There are relevant standards and international benchmarks, which have been constantly updated via periodical meetings, to be used for developing a prototype strategy in solving violence against women. Solving this problem may need to take everything into account: both international approaches, especially on respect of human rights, and specific contexts, especially in social dimension. I hope that, what we would learn today will give us a better understanding on this problem,” said Dr. Phiset.
During the discussion on “Effective and Integrated Criminal Justice Responses to Violence against Women in Thailand,” Asst. Prof Dr. Pareena Sriwanich, dean of Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, said the society’s perceptions of women as being physically fragile and dependent on men has led to women being at risk of sexual harassment. She pointed out flaws in traditional justice process that have heavily affected the sexually harassed women by making them feel being double harassed as it requires them to prove their disagreement to such offence.
“Once entering the justice process, Miss A, the sexually harassed victim,was required to prove herself that she didn’t agree to the harassment. She were asked to show proofs and video clips to several people. At the prosecutor level, prosecutors asked her the same questions. At the court level, same questions were asked again. Then, lawyers cross-examined her saying: ‘Didn’t you agree to it that day.’ So, how can we be certain that the mediation process beautifully stipulated in the law are understood by the practitioners?There are still many other points here. Can Miss A request that snapshots of the video clip be brought down from the internet? And who could she go to? Can it be a police station? And, if not, she may have to go to Ministry of Digital Economy and Society where she must go there herself. But, then, who will be taking care of her?” said Asst. Prof Dr. Pareena.
Ms. Bussayapa Srisompong, human rights lawyer, domestic violence researcher and founder of S-Hero, a group that has been campaigning for an end to violence against women, spoke about the myths of gender that have impeded women from seeking help in justice system and from being treated fairly.
“What hinders women’s access to justice is not only their level of legal knowledge, because they sometimes understand well the structure and know the challenges of the law. Rather, it is the voices of society and community that always impose social stigma on victims,as well as the voices of family that discourage or deter women’s courage in suing offenders. Those voices keep telling women not to sue the offenders, to be pity for them, to not destroying their future. And there are also friends who ask: ‘What did you do to him? What did you do so you were treated like that?’” said Ms. Bussayapa.
The panellists discussed victim assistance by means of survivor-centred approach – a public health-based approach that focuses on treating mental wounds of the victims of violence – which might prevent them from being double harassed by the justice process. It will also allow for options and genuine empowerment of the victims through existing stipulations in Thai laws that let the damaged persons pursue the lawsuit themselves. And, as most victims have limited budget and knowledge, building on the Centre for Protection of the Damaged Persons should provide some support to these vulnerable groups.
“Thailand is one of the countries that allow the damaged persons to pursue the lawsuit themselves. But this right has been only rarely exercised because the damaged persons have little budget to hire a lawyer and collect evidences and witnesses themselves. Using this means may increase the damaged persons’ rights and power so they can pursue the lawsuit themselves, especially in the case that all evidences are with them,” said Ms. Bussayapa.
This forum was also participated by honourable guests and experts in different fields, including Dr. Kanate Wangpaichitr, Thailand Chevening Alumni Association president; Mr. Sitthisak Wanachakit, presiding judge of the Supreme Court; Mrs. Santhanee Dissayabutr, Ayutthaya Public Prosecutor for Juvenile and Family Litigation and director and secretary-general of Nitivajra Institute; Ms. Kornwilai Theppankulngam, UN Women’s analyst for Ending Violence against Women programme and Safety and Justice programme; Dr. Panjai Woharndee, Division of Forensic Science director, Ministry of Justice’s Central Institute of Forensic Science; Mrs. Worapat Saengkaew, psychologist and head of Pathum Thani Hospital’s One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC), Ministry of Public Health. The forum was moderated by Second Lieutenant Paramate Boonyanan, Ministry of Justice legal officer, and Ms. Chonlathit Chuenura, director of TIJ’s Office of the Bangkok Rules and Treatment of Offenders.
Recording of the forum’s live broadcast can be watched on TIJ Thailand’s Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/tijthailand.org/videos/1331738437208784/