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Measures to improve gender equality and child protection

Thailand continued to take steps to improve the lives of its women and children as last week the country’s charter drafters approved a measure to promote greater representation for women in government and a key ministry said it would strengthen laws to protect children. 
 
With the goal of increasing gender equality in government, the Constitution Drafting Committee approved a clause that requires political parties to apportion one third of all their party list memberships to women.  Women’s suffrage in Thailand dates back to 1932 when the country became a parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy.  Since then, Thailand has had a woman prime minister, and over 52 percent of those who voted in the last general election were women.  However, women made up only about 15 percent of the number of lawmakers in the House of Representatives during its last term.
 
Party lists are slates of candidates representing a political party during a general election, but unlike constituency candidates, they are not directly elected by, and do not represent voters in a specific district.  The number of party list candidates elected to the House of Representatives depends upon the proportion of the popular vote won by the party.  The party leader generally chooses party list candidates.  The clause approved by the charter drafters applies only to national, not local elections.
 
Last month, a woman member of the Constitution Drafting Committee resigned when it appeared that the Committee would not pass the clause.  The woman, Ticha na Nakorn, argued that the clause was needed to remedy the lack of gender equality in parliament.
 
Women’s rights groups subsequently lobbied the president of the Committee, Borwornsak Uwanno, to more seriously study and consider the proposed clause.  In the end, Borwornsak threw his support behind the proposal.
 
“I insisted on strengthening women's roles in politics along with the budget system that concerns the gender aspect,” Borwornsak said.
 
Although they have been under-represented in the political sphere, Thailand is a leader when it comes to women business executives.  According to some studies, Thailand has the highest percentage of women chief executive officers (CEOs) in the world, at 30 percent of all CEOs in the country.  The average, globally, is only 8 percent.
 
Also last week, the Ministry of Social Development said it would ask the government to amend the Child Protection Act to increase penalties for those convicted of abusing children.
 
The announcement came following a public outcry over a video that went viral of a father beating his two-year-old stepson in Bangkok, and the boy later died of his injuries.  The man was arrested and is facing criminal prosecution.
 
Article 26 of the Child Protection Act prohibits a person from abusing a child physically or mentally, and offenders can be punished by up to three months in prison and/or a fine of up to roughly $900, or by other laws for more severe punishment.  Children’s advocates have complained that the penalties for abusing children are too light and so do not do enough to deter abuse.
 
See the original article at Thailand Focus

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