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Convention for the Elimination of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women: Thailand measured up by the United Nations--FFW presented a statement to the CEDAW committee.

Thailand and CEDAW

Thailand ratified the Convention for the Elimination of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on August 9th, 1985, but held reservations against 7 Articles of CEDAW. Since then, 5 reservations have been withdrawn as new laws and national measures to protect women's rights have been introduced. Thailand signed the Optional Protocol the year 2000 and there are now only 2 articles of CEDAW which Thai laws and policies do not comply with; Article 16 which relates to women's role in the family and Article 29 which relates to using the International Court.

States who have signed and ratified CEDAW must submit progress reports to the United Nations every 4 years. Thailand's combined 4th and 5th report was due on January 20th, 2006. Representatives of the Thai government attended the United Nations in New York to present their report to the CEDAW committee. Ms. Usa Lerdsrisuntad, Foundation For Women Program Director, attended the informal meeting to give a statement about current issues of discrimination against women in Thailand. The statement was prepared based on our work with women facing real life prejudicial, inequitable and discriminatory treatment. Ms. Chortip Chaicharn, FFW's Program Coordinator working in the Tsunami devastated areas, a member of the Women for Peace Network and Tsunami affected women, also attended the monitoring meeting in New York. Ms Chunsuk Asaithamkul attended as a representative of the Alliance for the Advancement of Women, and Ms. Lakela Jator represented the Network of Tribal Women.

Currently men and women enjoy differing rights in relation to marriage, divorce and betrothal. Over the last few years the Thai government has worked towards compliance with Article 16 by creating the Domestic Violence Suppression Bill. A draft of the Bill has been developed, but the CEDAW committee questions "the rationale for providing a maximum penalty of six months in jail under its terms, while the Criminal Code provides for a two-year term for other forms of violence. Doesn't that make domestic violence seem less important?" a committee member asked. Also disparaged by CEDAW was the "definition of rape in the country's Penal Code, which limits it to a man's "sexual intercourse with a woman who is not his wife". That wording effectively allows a husband to rape his wife with no penalty." The CEDAW committee has advised the Thai Government to "amend the definition of rape in the Penal Code by deleting the exemption for marital rape so as to make it a criminal offense", and "ensure that women and girls who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection and that perpetrators are effectively prosecuted and punished".

CEDAW on Human Trafficking in Thailand:

Both the CEDAW committee and FFW welcome that the Thai government has "increased cooperation with the countries of the region, promulgated a law on the prevention and suppression of trafficking in women and children and involved non-governmental institutions". Despite these efforts, trafficking victims are still suffering discrimination; cases of trafficked women are dismissed by the criminal justice system because of prejudices against women sex workers, and public prosecutors drop charges against traffickers because they do not have an adequate understanding of human trafficking as an actual crime. Many women are also afraid of reprisal by traffickers and thus decide not to report their cases. Members of the CEDAW committee blamed "widespread corruption" for the failure of steps by the government to "bring about the desired results".

The committee remarked that the "situation in neighboring countries and poverty in Thailand itself, fuels the problem of trafficking in people". FFW agrees that poverty is the biggest push factor causing women to become victims of human trafficking, and without provisions for safe migration and secure economic options, more and more women will become easy prey for human traffickers. The committee advised that the Thai government should "address the root cause of trafficking by increasing its efforts to improve the economic situation of women" and implement "measures for the rehabilitation and social integration of women and girls who are victims of exploitation and trafficking."

FFW welcomes the recommendations made by CEDAW and points out that these goals can only be achieved through explicit actions. On behalf of trafficking victims, we declare the need to: assess the impact of Free Trade Agreements on women; develop strategic plans for women to secure their source of income; improve social security options and labor conditions for formal and informal sectors; promote safe migration options for women; and conduct follow up reports with human trafficking victims and make changes to the prosecution of traffickers based on the advice and experience of victims.

FFW Raises the Issue of Tsunami Affected Women:

The FFW representative enlightened the CEDAW committee with news that a lack of any gender specific Tsunami relief works has left many women in deprivation and excluded from the government' s compensation program. "Migrant women who lost their husbands are facing very difficult situations because they have no access to compensation and they are afraid of deportation. Some Muslim women did not receive any compensation for their dead husbands because they could not show a marriage certificate. There is no specific compensation for pregnant women or women with infants". The committee did not hand down specialized recommendations relating to the Tsunami, but instead gave directives on the broad issue of migrant and refugee women. The committee urged the government to "take steps that will ensure refugee women can obtain legal status" and consider "ratifying the Inter national Convention on the Protection of the rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families"

On Thai-Muslim Women:

Widowed Muslim women and fatherless Muslim daughters are struggling for survival following the violent massacres which killed their loved ones in the southern provinces. Speaking on behalf of the Women's Network for Peace, FFWs representative commended the National Reconciliation Commission's (NRC) recommendations to extend assistance to so-called "rebel" families and use community based solutions to the violence in the southern provinces. Concerned, however, that women will be omitted from the consultation process, she declared, "we strongly emphasize the need to ensure that women are included in all peace processes, given that there are few Muslim women in positions of community leadership to represent the needs of women". The government was advised by the committee to ensure that "all women in the south have access to health care, social security, economic resources and opportunities of education and skills training so as to enable them to rebuild their lives" by the next monitoring meeting in 2010.

The Foundation for Women was pleased to be a part of the CEDAW monitoring meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York and bring women's voices, experiences and stories to an international platform to impel change. We hope to see recommendations made by the CEDAW committee transform into actions and practical changes for women in Thailand during the next 4 years, and will champion the voices of women at the next monitoring meeting in 2010.
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Author:McAuslan, Kate
Publication:Voices of Thai Women
Date:May 1, 2006
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