Almost 60% of women report being groped during Thailand’s Songkran water festival — but government advice to dress conservatively puts the onus on the victims, critics say.
Victim blaming put a serious damper on Thailand’s annual water festival.
The nation celebrated the three-day Songkran holiday celebration this past weekend, with people having friendly water fights in the streets to wash away last year’s misfortunes and head into the new year with a fresh, clean start.
But the often booze-soaked fest known as the world’s biggest water fight also has a reputation for getting too wet and wild. Almost 60% of women ages 10 to 40 told the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation (WMP) that they have been molested during Songkran, including gazing, whistling, grabbing faces and hands and fondling body parts, the Bangkok Post reported.
So part of the government response this year was for women to avoid dressing in ‘sexy’ outfits to prevent sexual harassment and assault, according to the Bangkok Post. And in light of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment taking all countries and industries by storm, Thai women clapped back against women bearing the onus to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted by turning the attention back to the men behaving badly.
Thai-American star and “Asia’s Next Top Model” host Cindy Sirinya Bishop led the way by launching the #DontTellMeHowToDress campaign on her Instagram page three weeks ago. “Women have the right to dress however we choose, as long as it’s not illegal,” she wrote in a post that’s been liked and viewed more than 500,000 times on Facebook and Instagram. “Sexual assault and harassment is never the woman’s fault! Tell men to keep their hands to themselves!”
Women rejected the call to cover up on social by noting it doesn’t matter how you dress. “My favorite sweatpants and sweatshirt are still in my rape kit at the state crime lab,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
Being half Thai and a survivor of sexual assault I'm so proud that Thai women are standing up against the Thai government's rape culture with #DontTellMeHowToDress
— ✨OtherworldCreature🌸🌙✨ (@MeryxValentine) April 13, 2018
In Thailand we teach our daughters to “รักนวลสงวนตัว” or to be modest and “reserve” ourselves yet we neglect to teach our sons to treat women with dignity & respect. That’s why a woman is still getting blamed for sexual assault… Somehow she failed. #DontTellMeHowToDress
— Cindy Sirinya Bishop (@cindysirinya) April 14, 2018
And the hashtag has become Thailand’s #MeToo, with Bishop suggested to Bloomberg that it’s resonated with women in the country because no men in particular are being singled out for sexual misconduct the way Americans such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Louis C.K. were. “Maybe the reason this is taking off faster is because they’re not coming out and accusing anyone,” she said. “Our society is quite conservative, and for someone to come out and point a finger at someone who’s assaulted her is huge, I don’t know if we’re ready for it yet.”
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