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Young Thai cadets UNiTE against gender-based violence
On 15 June 2012, nearly 300 third-year police cadets in Thailand attended a workshop on responding to violence against women and girls ,under the framework of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s international UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women.
Photo: UN Women/Panya Janjira
Domestic violence is still broadly perceived as a private matter in Thai society. Although the Protection of Domestic Violence Victims Act has afforded assistance to survivors and penalties for perpetrators since 2007, awareness and understanding of the law remains low throughout the country – and its police force.
With few such crimes reported, Thai police have little working familiarity with the issue, or experience attending to women survivors. Many don’t adequately understand the Act itself. This means that when cases are sent to them from Thailand’s nationwide network of hospital-based One Stop Crisis Centers, they may not process them adequately.
“Filing a case through the Domestic Violence law can be complicated, so some police may just file it under the penal code,” explains Ryratana Rangsitpol, UN Women’s National Programme Officer in Thailand. “This has implications. It stops women from accessing psycho-social support and bars perpetrators from behavioral-change support provided by the law, for example. Many police still lack understanding about the objectives and provisions of the law.”
Although accurate data on violence against women in Thailand is difficult to obtain, a 2003 study by the World Health Organization reported that, of the 1,536 female respondents aged 15-49 years old, 41 percent had been violently or sexually harmed by an intimate partner. Of those survivors, 37 percent had never disclosed the experience to anyone. A national survey in 2009 found young women aged between 15 and 19 years-old to be particularly vulnerable.
On 15 June 2012, nearly 300 third-year police cadets attended a workshop on responding to violence against women and girls. 80 then volunteered to take a further weekend-long in depth session. The training formed part of the Thailand’s commitment to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s international UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women, supported in particular by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol. The two sessions were organized by UN Women, the Office of the Attorney General and the Thai Police Cadet Academy in Nakorn Patom.
Although the regular Police Academy curriculum covers the domestic violence ;aw and the penal code, the additional training extends beyond the legal aspects of violence. Legal and gender experts from the Office of the Attorney General, the One Stop Crisis Center for Women and Children Subject to Violence, civil society and UN Women, along with female police investigators, introduced cadets to the more complex social and human elements, the practical needs of victims, and the need for a gender perspective in police work. A survivor and a former perpetrator shared their experiences of violence, and how they overcome the legal and social obstacles that followed it.
“The police are the first contact point in the justice system, and they shape how laws are implemented,” says Attorney-General Julasingh Wasantasingh, who spoke at the training. “If the police are aware of the importance of the rights of women, they will be able to facilitate and ensure justice.”
A core objective of the programme was to change attitudes. To implement the Act as police officers, the cadets first need to understand the forms, causes and effects of gender-based violence, and therefore how to perform their roles with gender sensitivity. “The training fills the knowledge and understanding of the cadets beyond the regular classroom setting,” says Police Lieutenant General Aree Onchit, Commissioner of the Royal Police Cadet Academy. The school hopes to further integrate similar training approaches into its curriculum, he added.
The training was provided by BlackBox, a youth-led organization that has conducted workshops and youth-initiated projects in schools and communities, supported by the Ministry of Education and UN Women. Six of the Cadet trainers were former students of this programme.
For the cadets themselves, the experience has prompted new perspectives and ideas. One female cadet, Aopa Klahan, noted the way that Thai traditions teaches girls not to tell “family secrets”. She expressed a hope that more women will come forward with complaints if they can speak with female police officers. Another cadet, Tanus Wisutaporn, noted that the training has given him the tools to work with survivors without revictimizing them further. “I have learnt that I have to think from a woman’s perspective,” he says, “and be sensitive to a women’s experience.”
Check out more photographs from the training event on Flickr.