IN ASIA

Weekly Insights and Analysis

In Thailand: Women & the Upcoming Constitutional Referendum

August 8, 2007

By Yupa Phusahas

Thailand’s first-ever national referendum on a draft constitution, to be held on August 19, 2007, will be another historic day for women in Thai politics. Whether or not the charter will be accepted in the referendum, the gender equality movement in Thailand has already taken another notable step.

Thailand’s 1997 Constitution not only achieved great progress in protecting civic rights, but also in improving gender equality. Provision 30 (“Men and women shall enjoy equal rights”) and Provision 53 (“Children, youth and family members shall have the rights to be protected by the State against violence and unfair treatment”) have proven to be powerful tools in amending unequal laws as well as calling attention to gender sensitivity in society over the past 10 years.

What more do women stand to gain in the new constitution if passed? What does the women’s movement want and how is it working to obtain it in the new charter?

At the forefront of the fight to include gender equality in the Thai constitution is the Women’s Movement in Thai Political Reform (WeMove). WeMove was formed in May 2006, prior to the September 19 coup d’etat, by the working group of Women and Constitution Network (WCN) and other leading women’s advocacy groups. WeMove’s goals are to reflect mainstream gender perspectives in Thai political reform, especially in the revision of the Constitution.

This year, with the help of WeMove, women’s advocacy groups submitted eight proposals on gender issues to the Constitution Drafting Committee. Seven out of the eight have been approved and are now ready to face approval or rejection by Thai voters this month.

If passed, these seven provisions will further advance women’s role in Thai politics and provide increased security. For instance, for the first time, victims of violent sexual crimes would be protected under the judicial process by Article 40(6). Another article, number 97, would establish a mechanism to promote equal political participation and representation at the national level. If passed, political parties will have to consider submitting an equal number of men and women to run on the party list ballot for proportional seats in the House of Representatives.

If the charter is accepted on the referendum day, the general election will take place in late December. But WeMove is too busy to sit back and contemplate these achievements. Currently, they’re preparing 1,000 women to run for parliament seats in the coming national election.

Ms. Phusahas is a Program Officer for The Asia Foundation in Thailand.

Related locations: Thailand
Related programs: Empower Women

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