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Thailand: Action needed to break male dominance

Urgent action needed to break male dominance in Thai Government – UN report

Thai women face major prejudice in politics and stark under-representation in the upper tiers of the Government, according to a United Nations-backed report launched today that sets out a raft of concrete recommendations for speeding progress in reducing gender disparities, including the use of quotas.

Holding one ministerial post out of 36, with one governor out of 76, and only 10 per cent of parliamentary seats, women are strikingly under-represented in positions of power, according to the report - Women's Right to a Political Voice in Thailand – issued by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Women for Democratic Development Foundation (WDDF).

“Gender equality in politics cannot be achieved without a major shift in attitudes of people in general and in particular men,” the lead author of the report, Juree Vichit-Vadakarn said. “This will require an unprecedented mobilization of government, political parties, media, education system, and advocacy groups in an all-out effort to promote women's right to a political voice in Thailand.”

Although Thai women have made visible progress in terms of life expectancy, maternal health, and education and literacy standards, they continue to suffer the cultural and traditional prejudices of a male-dominated society, with consistent discrimination in the government's administration, the report noted. Without a strong voice at senior levels, women will not be able to determine their own future, it added.

With women representing only 10 per cent of the outgoing members of parliament and senate, Thailand places 113th out of 185 countries around the world, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In East and South-East Asia region, only Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan rank below it.

For the world as a whole, the average of women in the lower houses of parliament is 16 per cent, and in the upper houses is 15 per cent, while for Thailand the respective proportions are 10.4 per cent and 10.5 per cent.

In the lead-up to the 2 April election, women make up only eight per cent of party list candidates and 11 per cent of constituency candidates of the governing Thai Rak Thai Party for an overall average of 10.4 per cent. Women make up 26 per cent of the party list and 23 per cent of constituency candidates of the seven small parties.

The report calls on the Government to show strong leadership by setting time-bound targets for increasing the number of women in senior positions, government committees, and independent bodies; reducing the male dominance of promotion and evaluation committees; sensitizing civil servants about gender equality; and strengthening the hands of Chief Gender Equality Officers and Gender Focal Points in public agencies.

It urges political parties to recruit more women candidates, and set targets and quotas for women's representation on party lists. The media and civil society groups must also play a leading role in changing public attitudes toward women, by engendering fresh perspectives among young people and working against stereotypes, it said.

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