Attitudes towards rape in Thai society

Bangkok Pundit, who now writes more blog posts in one day than I do in a week, has a really interesting post at the moment about the portrayal of rape on Thai TV. The issues raised stem from the Thai soap opera Dao Puan Din, which airs on Channel 7 Fridays to Sundays.

The show’s producers made the decision to punish one of the lead characters by having her gang-raped. The character, Rinlada, is a bad girl who regularly tries to “steal the boyfriends” of her nemesis, Uamdao. The rape of Rinlada is supposedly her just desserts for leading a bad life.

I had to take a minute to for this to sink in.

From an editorial in The Nation:

The argument from “sensitive” quarters is that “inappropriate” behavior by young women could increase the number of sexual assaults or rapes.

This is something I came across recently after the murder of the young Swedish tourist, Hanna Backlund, who was stabbed to death while sunbathing at Mai Khao Beach in Phuket. Thai authorities immediately suspected that the murder was a botched gang rape by up to four men. It has now transpired that there is only one suspect and the issue of rape remains unclear.

The police initially suggested that Hanna sunbathing topless was part of the reason why she was attacked. As a result, warnings were issued by Thai authorities that women should not sunbathe topless or else they might be prone to the same fate as Hanna.

It was never explicitly said that it was Hanna’s fault that she was murdered, but the idea was implied. I was unaware that this whole attitude to rape figured so prominently in Thai soap operas. It astounds me that rape is treated with such triviality in Thai society, when a movie such as Oliver Twist is censored so that people can’t watch the devious act of pipe smoking.

Also from The Nation:

According to Channel Seven, one way to decide on the issue is to take a vote. The public will have their say about whether they want to see the rape scene on television or have the script rewritten.

Notice that the vote is whether or not the rape “scene” should be shown and not whether or not the storyline is morally questionable. It’s incredible to think that minor issues are blown out of all proportion while rape is put in an indifferent light.

Compare this to storylines in UK soap operas, such as the rapes of Kathy Beale and Mo Morgan in Eastenders. Those were hard-hitting storylines that shocked millions of viewers. TV producers have a duty to treat such storylines with sensitivity so as to avoid social the propagation of attitudes that seemingly condone rape in certain situations.

I haven’t watched enough Thai TV to really get into this subject, so I’d love to hear some other opinions on the matter.

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4 thoughts on “Attitudes towards rape in Thai society

  1. Rape is prominent in Thai literature. But it's a difference between RAPE (komkhuen) and the "forcing his way on her because he was blinded by love and was drunk/angry" (pblum).

    The good girl would be playing hard to get or take her stand on moral high ground but somehow piss off the hero and he ends up forcing himself on her. The next morning he would regret it and she would hate him but eventually realize he was blinded by the love for her and ended up happily ever after with her rapist…I mean…the love of her life.

    I didn't realize how f***ed up the whole thing is until I had to explain the plot point of Ku Kham to an American friend.

    Case in point, in Ku Kam, Angsumalin is forced to marry Kobori, the Japanese soldier, to keep up a political front. He loves her but respects the sham marriage and doesn't touch her in anyway. Until one night, injured and drunk, he got angry and "had his way with her". The next morning he regret it and she hated him but eventually she realized that she loved him and carried his baby.

    They didn't call THAT a "kom khuen". They call that a "pblum" because he did it out of "love".

    Many more of Thai classic literature does the same thing.

  2. Sexuality and relationships are viewed much differently in Thailand than in Western societies. So are women's rights. The past truly lives in this part of the world.

    Having met more than a couple of Thai women with serious issues regarding their sexuality, I often wonder how many Thai women were sexually abused as young girls or teenagers.

    Just recently a new law allow Thai women to reclaim their family or "maiden" name after a divorce, or to maintain it while married. Many women saw this as "progress."

  3. Huh. Nothing new.

    When I was still in school there was this campaign that came out to stop girls from wearing spaghetti straps and of course they used rapists as an excuse to scare the girls not to wear them.

    Basically, "if you don't want to be gang-raped, don't wear something Ministry of Culture doesn't approve".

  4. You may remember that last year, the NLA found that the best way to reduce gender inequality amongst spouses in Thai law, was to allow women to rape their husband!!!

    ~R

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