Changes for Women in Thailand

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In February 2020, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional the abortion provision, which falls under the country’s criminal code. In accordance with this provision, women who have an abortion can be imprisoned for up to three years and those who perform them can be imprisoned for up to five years. As a result, the court gave the Thailand government three hundred sixty days to change abortion laws.

According to the new amendments, women can have an abortion if the fetal age reaches twelve weeks. But if a woman has an abortion after twelve weeks, she could be jailed for up to six months and face a fine of ten thousand baht or both.

Significantly, abortions can be performed after the end of the first trimester, but only if they meet criteria established by the Medical Council of Thailand (MCT). According to these criteria, a pregnancy can be terminated beyond the permitted period if it poses a threat to the physical or emotional health of the mother, if the fetus is known to have abnormalities or if the pregnancy is the consequence of sexual assault.

While the amendments signal progress, pro-choice activists in Thailand remain unconvinced and continue to demand full decriminalization of abortion. Human Rights Watch also called for a full decriminalization of abortion so that women can completely exercise their reproductive rights.

One of the faces of the pro-choice movement in Thailand is gender equality and LGBT rights activist Chumaporn Waddao Taengkliang, who is the co-founder of a group called Women for Freedom and Democracy. She also joined pro-democracy or anti-government protests year in 2020 that demanded that the monarchy be reformed and that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha resign. The protests were among the most prominent seen in recent times and, although they are broadly against the monarchy, other groups have joined them in pushing for expanded LGBT and women’s rights, reforms to the education and the military and improvements in the economy.

Taengkliang told the New York Times in year 2020 that the male supremacy society has grown since the coup. Taengkliang was referring to how Chan-ocha came to power in 2014, through a coup. He is endorsed by the king and allegedly meddled in electoral laws during the 2019 elections, which would have allowed him to remain in power. Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country of about seventy million people and transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Following a coup in 1947, Thailand was ruled in largely by the military.

During pro-democracy protests in year 2020, scores of young women, many of whom were students, dominated the protests. These women called for gender equality and endorsed matters specific to women, including taxes on menstrual products, abortion and school rules that compell girls to conform to an outdated version of femininity.