Gender Issues in Thailand Essay
Over the last decades, gender studies are in a worldwide demand due to escalating struggle for gender equality. Most of these studies have proven that each case has its unique chain of causality concluding with significant gender differences, indirect discrimination and finally, inequality. Besides universal facts and norms related to gender, some of those academic works display stunning social and economic systems which are established on ender roles that are assigned by society.
Specifically, Thailand stands there as a great field in order to investigate complex relationship between gender and economy. This relationship can be observed in the realities such as occupational borders, gender oriented migration and commercial sex trafficking. Beside its relative success compared to neighboring countries, Thai society fails in revising traditional methods which humiliate women by emphasizing their inferiority at every stage of social life.
Even during the Thai modernization period, which means adopting Western values and culture in his case, neither state nor society paid attention to the significance of gender equality and discrimination, instead, modernization ended up with an enormous sex industry where women are forced to participate for prosperity. Since Thai women realized that prosperity reduces level of discrimination and provides a chance for better life, sex industry and Thai society began to benefit mutually from this win-win relationship.
Even if Thai women’s social status change parallel with economic contribution, this fact occurs as a consequence of lifetime exploitation tarring form family and reaching at its highest level in labor market. This paper will focus on gender exploitation in economic and social context by examining Thai sex industry which represents the core of gender trouble in this particular country. In addition, Thailand unique social structure including various labels will be discussed to highlight how individuals shape “gender” in the form of an economic tool.
A brief background information covering Thailand ‘s unique conditions will aid this paper in dealing with complexity of subject which are the consequences of scum Latvia social behaviors. Background Information Before going a detailed examination for this particular subject, it will be useful to focus on Thailand historical and cultural uniqueness which concluded with ongoing gender discrimination and exploitation. Thailand is an Indo- China country, which is located in the Southeastern part of Asia with a population around 66 millions.
As a common feature for most of the Asian societies, Thai culture is shaped by Buddhist values and beliefs since the emergence of a “Thai” society.
Even Thai school of Buddhism is more tolerable than its close relatives at this particular region, gender coordination and exploitation has been a custom for Thai society by the hand of slavery or prostitution throughout history. In the middle ages, women were given to soldiers as rewards for military services or they were taken to service of Thai peasant men working on coerce labor for the nobility (Crawford).
As Thailand improved relations with the West, a new era began under the rule of Ram V who abolished slavery at the very beginning of 20th century. The process which labeled Thailand as one of the largest sex industry in the world triggered by mentioned modernization that resulted with masses f former women slaves transferring to prostitution not only in Thailand but also neighboring states such as Burma and Cambodia. In addition to these sufficient reasons, Vietnam war period of the ass and ass contributed popularity of prostitution among Thai women who failed engaging with legal labor force, instead, sought for a Western “White Knight”.
Traditionally, there used to be a social system called “kidnap” which is sort of an” gender apartheid” similar to caste system in India but gender based where transition between classes is out of question.
According to traditional kidnap system, women are only responsible from aging care of children and housework while men participate economic and political activities. Nowadays, contrary to tradition, Thailand has one of the highest female labor force participation rate in the world which was 65. 5% in the 201 1 , yet, it is not more than an illusion related to gender equality in workplace.
In fact, most Of female workers face with sex segregation and more importantly paid less in the workplace which make them attractive for employers. In consideration of these enlightening facts of social structure, focusing on Thai family would be useful in investigating the roots of coordination and exploitation since it is the most significant element of a society which shapes individual’s future life. Role of Family in Discrimination To understand what gender means for Thai society at all points, it will be logical to go for a detailed examination covering the constant building block of a society: family.
No doubly, family structure should be a starting point to examine a particular society since it is the most significant compound that shapes social existence of an individual. To simplify, families in a society are identically similar to cells in a living organism which coexist and congregate n order to sustain a complex structure. It is a universal fact that nurture has a greater impact on determining conception of social norms related to gender beginning from the earliest period and continuing throughout life.
As Best indicated in her cross-cultural studies, infants even in the two years of age tend to imitate their parents in either negative or positive manners and take stereotyped gender labels for granted ( Best 287 These findings have proven that children learn how to act in their family unconsciously which turns in the form of discrimination in the case of Thailand.
Typically, realization of sex walks hand in with gender related education in Thailand as same as distinct parts of world regardless varying norms, beliefs and values.
However, Thai society highlights gender differences and encourages discrimination more intensely compared to a given Western one which relatively succeeded to revise traditional methods by struggling for gender equality with a few exceptions. A traditional Thai family automatically values boys more than girls -which is a worldwide problem related to parental behavior- and performs this discrimination directly in parenting which cause remarkable gender coordination in adulthood. Historical perspective mentioned above provides a reliable point of view which explains ongoing direct discrimination in Thai society.
Still, Thai families raise their children according to highly respected “kidnap” system specifically in the rural regions of Thailand where women are forced to obey male dominance. Like any other society in the world, there is a distinction between rural and urban lifestyles in Thailand, however, gender discrimination is a fact among both urban and rural Thai families except highly modernized elite.
As cultural colonialism imposed Western aloes to urban Thai society, level of discrimination in the family notably reduced.
Yet, reducing discrimination in family replaced with exploitation Of female labor force even between the ages of 10 to 20 by the hands of parents. In addition to corrupted structure of mainstream Thai society, minorities in Thailand are far worse than traditional Buddhist culture related to gender based discrimination and exploitation (Win). Muslim community locating in the southeastern regions of Thailand approximately 3% of Thai population – performs widespread violence against women who drift apart room fundamental religious obligations.
Fathers, husbands and brothers kill women due to Islamic enthusiasm driven by positioning women as properties belonging to men. Compared to relative innocent Buddhist majority, minorities such as Muslims or Khmer turn to violence due to their limited perspectives enchained by religious or cultural justification.
Beside all these devouring facts, exploitation and discrimination may differ due to women’s economic contribution which is an attractive phenomenon deriving from Thailand unique conditions.
In Thai society, women are palpable of resetting level of discrimination by improving their economic status regardless what they do in order to earn money. At micro level, families treat differently to their girls when they directly contribute taking care rest of the family. What makes Thailand a working field for this paper is changing status of Thai women and complex relationship between gender and economy which is based on exploitation and occupational borders.
As indicated above, gender inequality in Thailand is consist in identical universal reasons, yet, duplicity in Thai society reaches at its highest level in the labor arrest where women are exploited and contently discriminated by both employers and coworkers. In the following section, this paper will examine clear discrimination in Thai labor market by representing strong evidences related to wage differentials based on gender.
In addition, investigating reasons that conclude with unemployed masses in Bangkok will make it easier to understand vulnerability of Thai women.
Women in Thai Labor Market A detailed examination covering Thai labor market will aid this paper in understanding level of gender discrimination and occupational segregation at all points. As an identical phenomenon with neighboring countries, Thai society performs a widespread occupational segregation based on gender. Recent studies have proven that trends in occupational segregation change simultaneously with worldwide norms. For instance, women are willing to be a professional nurse, instead of working as an accountant (Hassles and Majoring 43).
Another significant study by Son simply explains that in Thailand, female workers are largely in clerical and service occupations, or professions such as education, life science, and health; male workers are heavily employed in the extraction and building trades, as drivers, and in mobile-plant operations (Son 8).
Despite the attractiveness of those clear statements, a deep analysis related to occupational segregation will not take a larger place throughout this paper due to possible digressions.
Instead, social status of Thai women depending on bilateral gender exploitation will be investigated due to complex structure of Thai society which is established on vulnerable women of Bangkok, specifically in the last decades. According to recent analysis, Thailand experienced GAP growth by 7. 8% in 201 0 making it one of he fastest growing economies in Asia and the fastest growing economy in South East Asia (Action).
Even if there are contradictions which basically assert that economic development requires wage inequality as an outgrowth of varying capabilities related to gender, escalating gender pay gap between men and women is simply based on sex segregation.
Moreover, Thailand succeeded to increase participation of Thai Women to its growing economy. Researches related to increasing women contribution highlights that: “Thai women participate actively in the labor force constituting nearly half of the economically employed population.
Job opportunities are now much more accessible to women whose potential and capabilities have been recognized. During the late 1 ass’s and the early sass’s, women formed the majority of workers in the export and tourism industries which brought the highest foreign exchange earnings” (Evensongs 1).
However, while women are encouraged to take a slice from developing labor market, they charge with far less wages compared to their men co-workers at both government and private sectors.
In fact, partial equality at first glance does not reflect a fair distribution of welfare, instead, a massive exploitation f women labor force underlies in the gender wage gap statistics of Thailand. “Women are more likely to have lower wages and salaries, with 37. 6 per cent receiving 3;500 baht or less per month compared to just 27. 2 per cent of men. The difference is clearer for the private sector, with 44.
9 per cent of women earning 3,500 baht or less per month,compared to 32. 8 per cent of men.
Women fare better than men in the government sector, however, with just 6. 2 per cent earning less than 3,500 or less versus 7. 7 per cent of men” (Tonight 17).
These facts display that women charge with an indirect discrimination ND exploitation stemming from direct treatment of employers. Especially, private sector relies on female labor force in tourism and service profession due to their less wages compared to men. On the other side, poor Thai women are eager to participate this circle of exploitation due to limited job opportunities both in rural and urban Thailand.
Contrary to private sector, recent government policies seek for gender equality in all aspects, thus, Thai government succeeded to narrow gender wage gap specifically in the municipal areas. Covina states that policy makers put effort to impose ender equality in workplace in order to respond recent campaigns by the KIN and other international agencies (Model and Covina 4).
However, subject of this chapter roots in clear discrimination existing in private sector which gave rise to mentioned exploitation of women with the aid of migration and poverty.
In Thai context, migration waves determine demand and supply trends for labor force due to its unique urban and rural conditions. Traditionally, mobility of Thai women is prohibited due to expected roles of women such as housework, child-rearing etc..
. Yet, modernization concluded tit astonishing migration waves among Thai women either rural to urban or vice versa. According to recent studies, while men migrate from urban to rural for the purpose of agricultural jobs, women perform the opposite since they are preferred in tourism and service profession.
Inevitably, these ongoing gender oriented migrations corrupt demographic structure in the developing cities Of Thailand which are being invaded by unemployed masses Of women. As an outgrowth of this social fact, ‘famous” Thai sex industry ,which is located at the heart of Bangkok, is fed by those women who strive to get a utter life or, at least, take care of their families waiting for them in hometown.
In spite of entire occupational borders and discrimination in Thai labor market, Thai society is flexible in determining the extent due to women’s status and economic contribution.
Changing Role of Thai Women Beside all these logical explanations related to gender as an economic apparatus, there lies another factor beneath this exploitation circle which is possibility of reducing gender discrimination by gaining economic welfare. Despite the fact that gender equality does not depend on social status and rookeries, Thai society reduces the dosage of inequality if a woman begins to play a man’s role which means looking after her family.
On this purpose, most of Thai women work in disgraced positions by aiming a relative respect even it may not be compared to inherent respect for men.
To achieve this dishonest respect, some of newly migrated women are swallowed by wild sex industry which is a final destination for desperate women who are blinded by status or fostered by their own families. It is possible to access thousands of individual experiences related to participation in sex industry with different Tories including distinct aims such as a Western lover, jewelry or better lives for family members.
Some scholars argue that the roots of today’s sex industry may be related to U. S Wartime presence in South East Asia. In addition, Charles Keyes insists that “the high rate of prostitution in Thailand must be understood as a consequence at least in part of the growing disparity between the rural and urban economies, rural women are drawn into prostitution because if the poverty of their families” (Keyes 157). As repeated above, gender is shaped by Thai society in the form of an economic LOL not only for families but also for a society in a larger scale.
There are many examples displaying the complex relationship between gender and economy, yet, observations of local scholars related to changing social values and norms will provide a radical experience. To understand changing conditions in Thailand due to rise of sex industry, following observation will make it easier to consider how could it be possible for a family tap grow their girls for prostitution. “Than-Dam Truing argues that the past two decades have witnessed a change in rural attitudes toward the value of female children.
As a result of new opportunities to sell a daughter into prostitution, female sexual capacity is perceived as having a market value taking”predominance over male labor[…
] Families actually celebrate the birth Of a daughter, because she now has potentially more access to social mobility'(Bishop and Robinson 11). This remarkable change in Thai society is directly related with poverty and scarce opportunities . Beside economic welfare within the country, participating to sex industry means the easiest way of escaping from Thailand.
No doubtful, most of the Western sex tourists visit Thailand in order o access one of the cheapest sex market in the world, however, some of them may find more than a sexual intercourse. Thai sex industry also provides a “marriage market” for Western middle aged men with less requirements compared to their hometown. It is possible to expand significance of Thai sex industry for both individual and social level, yet, Thailand has another unique feature to examine.
Rising sex industry does not only swallow dreamy Thai girls, but also poor boys of the rural areas who run the risk of stepping further than prostitution. Destroying Gender Patterns Even most of the gender studies are limited in traditional borders and focus on two sex typology, Thailand differs with another unique structure where individuals define themselves in five different gender labels instead of only male or female. A brief chapter focusing on transgender reality of Thailand will be helpful to augment perspectives on gender roles and cultural diversities.
Beside mainstream gender knowledge, Thai society tolerates attitudinal three unique identities which are: Tom, Dee and Kathy. In short, Tom is a female cross-dresser who follows masculine patterns, Dee is a nonsexual female who engages in a relationship with Tom, and most known one is Kathy -or Ladybug- which refers to genetically male individuals who carries out the identity of woman.
Ladybugs in Thailand are directly related to sex industry due to increasing demand from Western homosexual or bisexual sex tourists.
As a result Of demand, rural Thai boys begin to participate sex industry in a massive scale by sharing identical goals With their sisters. Contrary to decreasing extent of discrimination against women, it is normally expected them to face with discrimination at extreme levels. Instead, there begins the cultural norms and beliefs which are more tolerant to alternative gender identities compared to the most -so called- civilized societies. For instance, Holland Suasion – a transgender politician and celebrity- was elected in regional parliament to represent Mange Nan District in 2007.
Even in the vast majority of distinct cultures and countries, this sort of tolerance is out of question due to strict traditional discrimination against transgender individuals.
Thus, it will be logical to state that while Thai society performs a widespread discrimination against women in almost every specs of life, they outweigh Western culture in tolerating different gender identities which do not fit gender patterns determined by society itself. However, claiming that there is a fully comfort in gender and transgender issues will be contradicted as an overly optimistic view.
Still there stands a male dominant society in Thailand which was established on worldwide norms but which was also driven by more tolerant values, norms and beliefs. Struggle for Equality Despite the relative tolerance in society and governments’ efforts related to gender equality, Thailand carries out sufficient records to be accused.
However, some studies examining historical background of Thai society figured out that Thai women’s status has been changed throughout history either in positive or negative manners.
According to Nonzero, modernization period contributed Thai women is fight for equality because of its success in imposing Western values to traditional structure (Nonzero 134). There is no doubt that this sort of modernization were not adequate in spreading a progressive conscious, yet, the process brought unseen rights and partially liberated Thai women who used to live as lifetime slaves of their husbands or landlords. Historical perspective proves that even it was imposed from up to bottom by hand of the king, still, Thai society is able to follow social development at some specific cases.
Despite the entire social and economic disorder, compared with their neighboring countries, Thai women are quite liberal and easily visible and also have no restriction in mobility in public places. Since the early sass, Thailand has undergone rapid development when Thai industrial policy had focus on labor intensive, export-oriented manufacturing industries. It is a belief that along with national economic transformation, the status and role of Thai omen has increased. To support, Social Watch measured the gap between men and women in education, economy and political empowerment.
Research concludes that “Thailand 71 points rank it among those countries with LOW GEE, two points above the East Asia & Pacifism’s average, which stands at 69. All of its neighbors are in worse condition: Vietnam (70), Indonesia (62), Ala PDP, Malaysia (both with 56 points), Cambodia (55), and India (37)” (Socialistic). Even Thailand ranking seems to give evidences about rapid growth in gender equality, Thai women inevitably seek for an “absolute” equality at every stages of social life. In the near future, as a reward of globalization feminist struggle.
During the past ten years, many women of Thai elite have been influential in manipulating the public policies and state politics which caused a mutual benefit for both upper and lower class women. On the other hand, in terms of academic activities, Thailand succeeded to institutionalize feminism in two women’s studies programmer.
Thus, gender issues in Thailand found a new path in the context of universal approach related to women rights and equality. To conclude, similar to any other country around the world, Thailand has its win unique background which concluded with a complicated exploitation circle of gender.
In addition to natural differences between men and women , Thai family and society perform a clear discrimination against girls by overvaluing boys since the beginning of their lives. Women are not capable to get rid of this “normal” discrimination even after they fulfilled stages of adulthood.
Specifically, discrimination make it easier to end up with massive exploitation in Thai labor market where women are vulnerable, but still eager to participate due to economic welfare.
A bilateral exploitation takes place in the heart of Bangkok labor market, women are in demand since they are far less paid compared to men co- workers. Besides, duplicity in Thai society fosters women to participate sex industry for gaining prosperity in the price of their “free’ life. In addition to all these facts, Thailand differs with some unique features including 5 grinder identities and rapid growth at fight for gender equality. To sum up, even if there are many to investigate and little to find, gender is an economic apparatus in Thai economy which is controlled by urban employers.