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In harm’s way: Women human rights defenders in Thailand

«In harm’s way: Women human rights defenders in Thailand», a new report jointly released on 3 July 2017 by the Observatory, Protection International (PI), and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), documents the pattern of repression of WHRDs in Thailand, especially rural women.

The report is released ahead of Thailand’s review by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on July 5, 2017. The Committee oversees State parties’ compliance with their legal obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The report highlights serious concerns over the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s failure to ensure protection for WHRDs. Under the NCPO, WHRDs have faced an array of abusive practices, including violent acts and threats of violence, intimidation, judicial and online harassment, and denial of justice. This has resulted in their deprivation of the exercise and enjoyment of women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the CEDAW.

Thailand was previously reviewed by the CEDAW Committee in 2006. Several UN human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) have continued to make recommendations to the Government regarding the protection of human rights defenders. However, the critical situation of WHRDs in Thailand has yet to be specifically addressed at the international level.

Ahead of the CEDAW review of Thailand, FIDH and its Thai member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) also submitted a joint shadow report that documents how women prisoners in Thailand are disproportionately affected by poor detention conditions. Such conditions include overcrowding, detention in prisons located far from their families, punishment practices, lack of adequate sanitation facilities, and deprivation of adequate healthcare and nutrition.

Women have a host of gender-specific needs that are often neglected in a penitentiary system that is controlled by men and caters to the majority male population. Discrimination in accessing gender-specific services and maintaining family links constitute discrimination within the meaning of Article 1 of the CEDAW.

In addition, with 113 women prisoners per 100,000 of the national female population, Thailand has one of the highest incarceration rates of women in the world. Women are disproportionately affected by the imposition of harsh penalties, including the death penalty, for drug-related crimes. In June 2017, 81% of the women prisoners in Thailand were incarcerated for drug-related offenses, a percentage that is higher than the 70% of the male prison population incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

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