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The pro-democracy movement is now sheading light on issues on gender equality and LGBT rights in Thailand. Some people at the September 19 rally in Bangkok were collecting signatures calling on the decriminalisation of abortion and prostitution. Even a booth called “Pussy Gallery” was set up where people could draw colourful vaginas, raising awareness that the colour does not value a woman.

Since a large rally in July, activists have been calling on an end to the military run government and demanding a rewrite of the constitution. The New York Times reports that young women are at the frontlines of the protests, some raising issues like abortion and taxes on menstrual products as well as outdated rules for girls at Thai schools.

A Times reporter spoke to female student involved in the political movement who said “The monarchy and the military have all the power in Thailand… I shouldn’t be afraid to say that men have almost all the power in Thailand.”

In the past, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha brushed off talk of gender equality. In 2016, before he became prime minister, the retired general said “Everyone says that we have to create justice, women and men have equal rights … Thai society will deteriorate if you think that way.” He went on to say “Outside the house, we (men) are big … At work, we (men) have the power.”

The Times reports women only occupy 14% of seats in parliament. Before the 2014 military coup, they only occupied 5%. The nation’s top military school and the Royal Thai Police Academy do not accept women.

Along with the Pussy Gallery at the September 19 rally, another booth encouraged participants to paint sanitary menstrual pads to send the message that a woman’s period is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. The pads were also given away for free as a protest against the tax on menstruation products.

Gender equality and LGBT rights activist Chumaporn “Waddao” Taengkliang gave a speech at the rally and said there are stereotypes, harassment and injustice in Thai society that exclude both woman and LGBT people from the right they deserve. Waddao says in Thai media, LGBT people are often portrayed as comic relief.

Winner of Drag Race Thailand Season 2, Angele Anang, was also seen at the rally. Angele says Thailand needs LGBT rights, like same-sex marriage.

“This government is no longer legitimate. They have not provided justice to everyone, whether you are an LGBT person, or whether you are a woman. They are not transparent in every aspect, such as the budget. I am here to be a part to tell them what we want.”

SOURCES:New York Times | Prachatai English

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