Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Gender, gay
rights activists welcome Thai law expanding definition
of rape

Gender rights
activists Thursday hailed the legislature's approval of an
antirape law that widens the definition of the crime and
makes it illegal in Thailand for a husband to have sex
with his wife without her consent.

The measure,
approved Wednesday 118–5 in the National Legislative
Assembly in Bangkok, also broadened the definition of rape.

Under the amended
law, sex offenders are no longer limited to men —
women can also be prosecuted for rape. The definition
of rape victims was also broadened to cover both men
and women.

Women's rights
activists lobbied for a change in the law, which used to
define a rapist as a person who forcibly has sex with a
woman who is not legally married to him.

''We have been
trying to get them to get rid of that clause for a long
time…. It implicitly gives husbands a green light to
rape their wives with impunity, so this is very good
news,'' said Usa Lertsrtsanthad of the Foundation for
Women.

Under the new
law, rapists face four to 20 years in prison and a fine of
$247 to $1,227.

Gay rights
activist Natee Teerarojpong said the new law ''gives us some
hope that people who are marginalized in society can also
seek justice and legal protection.''

''A lot of gay
people and transvestites are raped but you don't hear
about it because when they report to the police, they get
laughed at. This should help change the attitude,'' he
said.

Activists said it
will still be difficult for women to report rape cases
despite the new law.

''The attitudes
of the police, prosecutors, and doctors are very
important in facilitating the process and making it easier
for women to report rape cases,'' Usa said. ''A lot of
women still choose to remain silent because they are
threatened by the legal process and what may happen to
them before the rapists are brought to justice.''
(AP)

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