International Women’s Day was held in
Thailand and around the world on Friday, March 8. This day has been held on
one day or another since the turn of the 20th century. First in 1909
National Women’s Day was held in the United States on February 28, 1909.
Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
The initiative was launched after more than 15,000 women marched the streets
of New York City calling for the right to vote, shorter working hours and
better pay. An International Conference of Working Women was held in Denmark
in 1911 where women from European countries called for an International
Women’s Day, which was held for the first time the in Austria, Denmark,
Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 2011. More than one million women and
men attended rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be
trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. In 1913 the date was
moved to March 8 and in 1917 a strike by Russian women opposing the war took
place on the Gregorian calendar day of March 8 and ended in the abdication
of the Czar.
International Women’s Day is a public holiday in many countries, including
neighbors Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal. The day is celebrated by women around
the world as many women continue their struggle for human rights and
Thailand is lauded for the number of women CEO positions, in fact,
forty-nine percent of CEOs in Thailand are women, the highest proportion in
the world. It also ranks pretty well on senior management positions with 36
percent of women in those roles compared to a global low of 7 percent in
Japan and 19 percent in the U.K. and 20 percent in the U.S.; this according
to a recent survey by Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR).
However, violence against women continues to rise and it was reported last
year that 3 acts of violence against women or children are reported every
hour in Bangkok, often by their partner or a family member. Laws were put in
place over 5 years ago to protect women and children against domestic abuse
and yet the numbers continue to rise.
Additionally, although discrimination against women is illegal in Thailand
women still face it in the work place, how many ads have you seen asking for
an attractive male reception between the age of 23-29 have you ever seen in
the newspaper? And although the Constitution gives women equal rights, the
man is still the legal of the family.
Add in cultural values which see women as the “hind legs of the elephant”
and Thailand still has a way to go. Not that my home country is any better,
in fact the U.S. ranks far below Thailand for women in senior management and
although police still don’t like getting involved in a domestic dispute they
do, women do seem to have more recourse to the law. Thai police need to
learn to rethink their positions on crimes against women, from the idea that
they should not intervene when a man is beating his wife, to the concept
that a woman who is raped somehow provoked it. But, incrementally, I think
attitudes in this country are changing as can be seen by the outrage
provoked nationwide of the video of the man striking two women because they
would not back up their car for him to get past. The tragedy of this video
is, of course, that this was witnessed and nobody stepped in to stop the