BANGKOK – Most sexual assault victims in Thailand and Vietnam face difficulties obtaining justice due to the discriminatory attitudes and practices prevalent at every stage of the judicial process, the United Nations reported on Wednesday.
A study titled “The Trial of Rape: Understanding the criminal justice system response to sexual violence in Thailand and Viet Nam” – released by UN Women, the UN Development Programme and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – found that victims were faced with numerous legal and institutional challenges.
“These include stereotypes about sexual assaults and how survivors are expected to look and behave, informal settlements of complaints, frequent insensitive treatment of victims, and prolonged court proceedings which are often not sensitive to the traumatic experiences that sexual assault survivors endure,” the report said.
The study identified a series of social factors based on “myths” which affect how cases are handled, including that rapes involve strangers, when in reality, most victims and suspects know each other.
Another myth which the study detected is the belief that sexual violence is an issue only when it affects “good” or “innocent” women and girls, who express fear and helplessness while filing the complaint, while victims who recount their experiences with coldness or in a detached manner are not considered credible.
It also reported the myth that some women deserve the violence that they face due to the manner in which they dress, for going out alone at night or for being sex workers.
Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, criticized the widespread barriers to justice that victims face due to the attitudes and biases of police and justice officials.
“This study highlights the limitations in referral networks and coordination mechanisms within the justice system, and with health and social welfare services, which prevent survivors of sexual violence getting the justice they deserve,” said Valerie Cliff, UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“Decisions by the police and judicial actors should be based on an unprejudiced consideration of the evidence presented and not on biased attitudes about women,” said Claudia Baroni, UNODC’s Drug Control and Crime Prevention Officer.