BANGKOK — The Ministry of Public Health on Monday removed its online post that suggested it was women’s responsibility to avoid sexual assaults.
To avoid harassment and assaults, the ministry told women “Don’t go to isolated places,” “Don’t trust people too easily,” and “Avoid touching others,” in a now-deleted infographic, which has been condemned as tone deaf by women rights activists. An official blamed the information on an outdated ministry publication.
The advisory was based on an old edition of a handbook published by the Bureau of Reproductive Health, according to a Department of Health media officer who refused to give her name.
“The old handbook completely blamed women and told them not to dress in a revealing way. But for this infographic, we already updated it to blame women less,” she said. “I guess it’s still lacking information about men respecting women.”
The official added, “Is the feedback that bad?”
The post attracted dozens of negative comments before it was deleted on Monday afternoon. The founder of a Facebook page that advocated for women rights and sexual consent called the post irresponsible.
“The state should teach people why sexual assault is bad. I can’t knock on my neighbor’s door and tell her son not to assault people, but the state can,” said Wipaphan “Nana” Wongsawang, the founder of Thaiconsent. “People’s own families can tell them to be careful.”
She continued, “This is even worse than victim blaming, it’s saying, ‘Well I warned you,’ if assault happens after this message … Take my taxes and use them to teach others not to rape.”
Nana also created a parody image of the PSA on her page, advising men and people of all genders on “How Not to Sexually Assault.” “Don’t exploit, no matter the situation,” “Don’t take advantage of someone’s trust,” and “Consent is needed for physical touching,” read her tips.
In the original post written by the ministry, the caption reads, “It’s not just Covid-19 young girls have to be aware of, it’s also sexual assault from men na ka.”
The post linked to a now-deleted page on the Department of Health media website, which published a guideline on avoiding sexual assault in a condesending schoolgirlish language that suggests an assault might be somehow enjoyable.
“We see news frequently about ladies getting molested, or disappearing. You should know that getting sexually assaulted isn’t fin, but it feels so bad,” the page says, using internet slang for joy.
“Girls should conduct themselves appropriately with the opposite sex, whether it’s guy friends, relatives, acquaintances, or whoever. Behave modestly so you don’t get assaulted or get too close to the opposite sex,” the guideline continued, using the conservative term rak nuan sa nguan tua.
The media officer who spoke to Khaosod English said she will take online complaints “about teaching the men, too” into consideration for future PSAs.