Each year Thailand prepares itself for what has been regarded as one of the most dangerous public celebrations – Songkran. Marking the beginning of the Buddhist new year, Songkran begins on April 13 this year and spans the course of three days. The celebration, however also brings to light the deeply rooted misogyny that pervades the nation.
In the days leading up to the riotous festival, every year women find themselves being warned to dress conservatively in order to prevent sexual harassment or assault. This year Sutthipong Chulcharoen, the director general of the Department of Local Administration, revealed that local bodies were aiming to launch campaigns to prompt female tourists to dress appropriately to prevent sexual crimes from occurring.
It is this inherent focus of Thailand’s officials on female attire as opposed to the prosecution of perpetrators that is gravely worrying. This trend of victim shaming has been seen extensively in Thailand over the years. For instance, in April 2016, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, delivered a speech wherein he likened women to candy, using this as a metaphor to advice women to not dress revealingly during the festival, but to rather remain “wrapped”.
It is in light of such comments made extensively by both the Thai media and government, that Cindy Bishop, a Thai- American model, and actress, used her platform to speak out against the gross system of victim shaming that saturates the nation. She started the hashtags #DontTellMeHowToDress and #tellmentorespect,with these social media movements gaining even greater popularity in Thailand than the #MeToo campaign.
It is moments such as these which defines a nation’s position in the context of sexist bigotry. It is time to end the indictment of women for the clothes they choose to wear and the revolting notions of “shared blame” that is being allowed to proliferate in our society.
Photo credit: John Shedrick