On Friday (Aug. 30), Thailand’s Education Ministry updated its Child Protection Act 2003, in an attempt to curb sexual harassment against girls by altering their school attire. Amendments to the act have now made it illegal for school girls to dress “inappropriately”, citing that attire like short school skirts and tight school blouses are now illegal.
The amendment, signed by newly appointed Thai Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, was meant to discourage the popular trend of “sexually suggestive behaviour and attire”, particularly among female students, according to Thai Examiner.com.
Though the legal language published Friday was vague, the amendment seems to only be targeted at female students, who have been known to regularly alter their school attire.
No specific incidents were cited as having influenced the new regulations, which call for stricter adherence to the uniform requirements set by schools. While the amendments specify that school uniforms should be worn in “an orderly fashion”, “obscene” attire has also been prohibited. However, no details on what constitutes “obscene” clothing were given.
Besides clothing, sexually suggestive behaviour by school students has also been outlawed.
Under the act, the parents or guardians of a student who disobeys the regulations could be fined up to 30,000baht (S$1,360) and even face three months of jail time.
This is the first update to the act since 2005. Ironically, the education ministry said that new regulations were appropriate to allow for a more modern age and society.
These regulations come at a time when other countries—such as Mexico, Wales and Taiwan—have made their own amendments to school attire, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, giving students more freedom to choose what they wear to school.
A high school in Taiwan became the first in Asia to allow students to choose their own school uniforms, regardless of their gender. Boys can wear the school skirt uniforms if they wish, and girls can wear pants.
While the move by Thailand’s Education Ministry had good intentions to limit cases of sexual harassment, it also pointed to the fact that girls are to be blamed for wearing what is perceived as “sexy” attire.
However, the idea that women are more likely to be sexually harassed or assaulted if they dress in a more sexy fashion is a myth and shows how deeply victim-shaming is entrenched in society, specifically in socially conservative Thailand.
In fact, research has shown that a way a woman dresses has nothing to do with the incidence of sexual harassment, as rape and other forms of sexual assault are about fantasies of control on the part of the perpetrator, not about scant clothing or the appearance of the victim. -/TISG