Briefing Report: Women in Thailand

Dr. Sutada Mekrungruengkul, Gender and Development Research Institute (GDRI)

Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index 2009[1], shows that Thailand’s gender gap is not narrowing. As regards education and economic activity the situation of Thai women has generally improved to 99% in education and 62% in economic activity, but when it comes to empowerment the level attained is a low 56%. The level of women’s empowerment does not necessarily depend on a country’s wealth, and a high level of economic development does not have to result in gender equity.
The global crisis has shown that if Thailand is to survive in the new international environment it has to perform social, political, and economic paradigm shifts. Regarding development assistance, the country has neither a strategy for development co-operation, nor a system to evaluate aid efficiency. Its commitments will be difficult to uphold as in almost every sector gender budgeting is non-existent. At the same time, despite the documented success of their grassroots projects, civil society organisations are still considered minor players in the area of women’s development policies.

In 1933, in Thailand’s first constitution, women were given the same voting rights as men. Since then, socio-cultural attitudes regarding the role of Thai women in public affairs have gradually changed as the society has been modernised and educational opportunities for women have increased. The spread of Western ideas has promoted the notion that women have the capacity to take on duties long held to be the prerogative of men.
In the 2006 general elections 52.22% (12,000,372) of voters were female, 47.78% (10,972,706) male. In the latest election for Governor of Bangkok, in 2009, 54.56% (1,435,842) of voters were female, 45.37% (1,193,964) male[2].  In the political arena, however, Thai women are underrepresented. In 2006, 1,027,666 more women than men went to the polls, yet less than 8.7% of MPs were female; in 2010, the figures stood at 15%.In the 59th Cabinet (December 20, 2008 – now), there were 8.5% women (three women, 32 men) [3]; in the 58th Cabinet (September 24 – December 2, 2008) there were 14.2% of women (five women, 30 men) [4].
The Senate of the Kingdom of Thailand is the upper house of the National Assembly of Thailand (Thailand's legislative branch). The number of female senators has risen to 25, although proportionately it remains at a low 16.4%. For the elected senators the number of women elected has risen to 14, i.e. 17.9% and for the appointed senators the figure is 11, i.e.14.9%. The recent improvement was partly due to lobbying by women’s groups, who, in order to show that there were many women qualified to be Prime Minister, put forward a list of candidates. 
In local government, substantial changes occurred when the Local Administration Act allowed women to take up the posts of village head and sub-district head. In 2009, 9.33% of elected provincial governors (there are 75 Provincial Administration Organisations) and 4.8% of elected Tambon (district) governors were women (there are 6,060 Tambon (districts)) [5].

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[2] Source: Office of the Election Commission of Thailand

[3] 1. Pornthiva Nakasai 2. Narisara Chawaltanpithak 3. Pansiri Kulanartsiri

[4] 1. Pornthiva Nakasai 2. Narisara Chawaltanpithak 3. Pansiri Kulanartsiri 4. Khunying Kallaya Sophonphanij 5. Na Ranong

[5] Source: Department of Local Administration, Ministry of the Interior

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