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Thai women enjoy limited equality

Church should pay more attention to women’s roles and listen to views

Thai women enjoy limited equality
Valai na Pombejr
Panithan Kitsakul, Bangkok

March 9, 2011

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Thai women enjoy equality with men in only one out of four major categories that define national society according to a recent government report. Women enjoy equality in the family, but not in human dignity or in social and economic life, says the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Valai Na Pombejr, board member of the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace, agreed with the assessment Women's participation in certain areas is lagging, she said, adding that women comprise only 10 percent of the cabinet and that political parties provide fewer opportunities for women. In economic life, Rakawin Leechanavanichpan, former coordinator of Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace, said women are paid less than men despite the law stipulating they should get equal pay. The reason for this she says is because employers come up with excuses, claiming women are less skilled and reliable citing pregnancy and motherhood issues. Some factories force women to resign if they become pregnant, she said. “This makes many women reluctant to become registered employees, so they turn to casual employment, which leads to other problems such as no social welfare or legal protection if they are involved in an accident at work,” said Rakawin. Parinya Boonridrerthaikul, director of Amnesty International Thailand, said the issue of women’s dignity also needs to be addressed. “At present women are used as a commodity …. We can see this clearly in advertisements and TV soap operas.” Good women need to dress in a certain way and use certain products. “This is an affront to the dignity of women.” Meanwhile, Church people say Thai women play a big role in certain areas of Church life but not in the management of the Church. “Women are heavily involved as catechism teachers, social workers and in support services, but women don't have much of a role in management. Most Church committee heads are priests,” said Father Miguel Garaizabal, who has campaigned for gender equality in the Thai Church for the last 20 years. “According to Christian teaching, women and men are equal. The Church should pay more attention to women’s roles, listen to their views with respect, be open to their participation and consult them over Church direction,” the Spanish-born Jesuit missioner added. “By doing all this we will create gender equality in our Church and be an example to society in general.” TH13542.1644
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