, ,

Why Is Rape So Common On Thai TV?

(Southeast Asia Globe) – Sara Malakul Lane began acting in Thai soap operas when she was just 15 years old. Although she always dreamed of featuring in a romantic kissing scene à la Hollywood, she ended up in eight rape scenes during her ten-year acting career in Thailand.

“The dialogues were always very similar. In the storyline I was raped by the hero, who was characterised as a good man, and I fell in love with him in a happy ending,” explains the 33-year-old actress, who has since moved to the US.

Thailand’s soap operas – screened at prime time when children are often huddled around television sets – regularly depict sexual harassment and rape as a way to seduce a woman or as punishment for bad behaviour.

In this Sept. 30, 2014 photo, a Thai family watches a soap opera on television in Bangkok, Thailand. A recent real-life rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train in Thailand has focused national outrage on Thai popular culture, and particularly TV soaps for sending messages that trivialize - and some say encourage - rape. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Sept. 30, 2014 photo, a Thai family watches a soap opera on television in Bangkok, Thailand. A recent real-life rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train in Thailand has focused national outrage on Thai popular culture, and particularly TV soaps for sending messages that trivialize – and some say encourage – rape. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Several generations of Thai girls have grown up watching their heroines raped on TV by male characters that viewers are coaxed to admire – and who rarely receive any punishment for their crimes. “Rape scenes are not graphic because there is censorship in Thailand. But, although there’s no nudity, it is implicit in the dialogues,” says Lane.

After seeing one of these confronting rape scenes, Nitipan Wiprawit, a 38-year-old architect who regularly watches soap operas with his mother and sister, decided to take action. He complained to Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), setting up an online petition to end the normalisation of rape on television. The petition garnered more than 59,000 signatures.

“I asked myself how it is possible that the media shows news of rape as something bad during the daytime, and soap operas can show the same situation as something romantic at night? I wanted to change this attitude [of] showing rape as something normal or acceptable,” he says.

As the first viewer to publicly campaign for change, Nitipan has shown how one person’s actions can spark major alterations.

UN Women-Asia Pacific: Interview of Ms. Siriporn Skrobanet, Chairperson of Foundation for Women Thailand filmed at the Regional Workshop for Justice Training Institutions on Good Practices in Promoting Women’s Human Right’s Compliant Justice Delivery during 15-16 October 2014

The first ethical guidelines for television programmes

After his request, Chanettee Tinnam, a media lecturer at Bangkok’s Mahidol University, was tasked with writing the first ethical guidelines for television programmes. These stipulate the need to uphold the “dignity of women”, encourage directors to be cautious when depicting violence against women, advise against showing women as victims and recommend that men’s sexual responsibilities be addressed.

The finalised codes were presented by the NBTC at a ‘women in media’ seminar in April attended by industry representatives, actors and directors, as well as the man who started it all, Nitipan.

Many television soap operas are adapted from old, popular Thai novels that contain storylines where the rape of female protagonists is commonplace. Some of these novels are so popular that they have been adapted into movies and television soap operas multiple times since the 1970s. Koo Kam, for example, has been the source material for six melodramas and four films made as recently as 2013.

It was the 1970s when these stories began to find a wide audience, according to Thai media and sexuality expert Jaray Singhakowinta: “I think [in the 1970s] they captured the Thai mentality. People enjoy watching them and they guarantee high ratings. Producers like this kind of marketing recipe,” he says.

In these soap operas, ‘good’ women or female protagonists are portrayed as sexually naïve, and it is expected that the male characters must initiate a liaison, explains Jaray.

In the Thai language there are two different words used to describe a rape. The first, bplum, is also used to mean “wrestling” and can begin as a forced or violent act that ends in consolidating a relationship, as is depicted in soap operas. The other, khom kheun, is used to describe rape as a criminal act.

For Kosum Omphornuwat, a gender and sexuality studies lecturer at Thammasat University, the omnipresence of rape storylines in Thai soap operas is evidence of the sexism that pervades Thai society. “In rape storylines, women are treated as the property of men, and men may do whatever they wish to their property, including inciting the act of sexual violence in the name of love. The fact that this kind of storyline is popular and accepted says something about Thai society,” she says.

Read More here.

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote

Total votes: 0

Upvotes: 0

Upvotes percentage: 0.000000%

Downvotes: 0

Downvotes percentage: 0.000000%

Comments