BANGKOK (AFP): Despite greater democracy and improving economic conditions, Thai women are increasingly at risk from domestic violence, social welfare activists warned today. “Nobody outside the non-governmental organization community is working on the issue. It’s a terrible situation … and the police do not take opportunities to improve their knowledge of the issue,” said Siriporn Skrobanek of the Foundation for Women, a Thai NGO. Siriporn was speaking at the release of a major World Bank-funded report on domestic violence in Thailand. Womens’ rights activists said that although greater safeguards for women were built into Thailand’s 1997 constitution, battered women are still stigmatized by society and ignored by the legal system. There still needs to be a sea change in Thai society, K. Siriporn said, so that most Thais view battered women as victims, not as people who have done something wrong and deserve punishment. In Thai culture, the report said, people do not regard violence as necessarily a bad thing, and often punish children by beating them. While laws do exist to combat rape and violence, and while the government has admitted that the domestic violence problem “has become rampant, the legal perspective takes no care for women’s rights,” the report said. Thai law does not define forced sex with one’s wife as rape. Few cases of rape go to court in Thailand. There are currently no courses in the Thai police academy on gender violence. Victims of domestic abuse told journalists attending the launch of the report that police had demanded bribes to pursue their cases, insulted them verbally or tried to encourage them to be reconcile problems with their husbands. The report said that many police officers and judges feel that cases of rape and domestic abuse in which the two parties know each other are unimportant and not worthy of significant investments of time and money.
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