8 March 2022, International Women’s Day
111 years ago, women in Russia, the United States of America, Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland banded together to form groups and take to the street. Their organization and struggles have ensured that we are not made to do more than eight hours of waged work a day, we are paid a minimum wage, we have the right to vote and the recognition of an International Women’s Day celebrated all over the world.
Since then women the world over continue to march against the war and against the state’s perpetration of violence, which decimate our lives, our families and our communities and the planet.
In Thailand, International Women’s Day 2022 is not a day of celebration either. It marks the time the government is trying to introduce the Draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E… to undermine our rights and freedoms, particularly everyone’s right to freedom of association.
The people push for creating a better society is fueled by women including transgender women. The right to ‘freedom of association’ enables us to talk together, to meet and to collectively protest. It enables us to make our voices heard, whether raised in jubilation or roaring in condemnation injustice.
Gathering together for the common good is a part of human nature and our society. It is natural for people in society to organize together. The Draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E… attempts to impose restrictions on our freedom of association. The proposed NGO law will affect every gathering, every group and every voice.
The law will impede on the freedom of association of all groups, all demonstrations, and all advocacy groups. It affects how people can get together to oppose policies which are detrimental to the environment, natural resources, or local livelihood. Under the Draft law any action of dissent can be easily interpreted as an act in breach of public order or national security. Let’s imagine that we are planning activities to mark the International Women’s Day or any activities including the handing of letters of petition on protection of women human rights defenders, land rights, housing rights, the closure of mine and restoration of the environment, collective bargaining, labour rights and sex workers’ rights, pedestrian crossings, violence in school, youth’s rights, the right to health, vaccination, state welfare, nationality and the rights of ethnic groups, etc. To advocate for such rights, we are required to first obtain permission from the Committee pursuant to the Act regulated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Without such permission, we might not be able to organize anything. Can we tolerate such restriction? Can we allow the state to legislate to interfere with our right to freedom of association?
On this International Women’s Day, let’s call out and demand the state to stop introducing the Draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E… and any law which aims to restrict our freedom of association. Let’s make our voice heard that such laws are incompatible with the spirit and aspiration of women around the world which has made possible the International Women’s Day and we shall not allow this to happen!!!
The Women Human Rights Defenders Collective in Thailand
The Women Human Rights Defenders Collective in Thailand is composed of community and grassroots women human rights defenders currently representing seventeen different sectors. Indigenous women, Disabled women, Lesbians, Muslim women from the Deep South, Sex Workers, Women fighting for natural resources and environment e.g. resisting coal power plant, potash and gold mining, and mega-dam projects, Women occupying and farming land, Woman fighting for rights to the sea, Women fighting for land reform in the Northeast, Women for democracy, Refugee women, Migrant women, Former prisoners, Women lawyers who represent various communities under threat (and are under threat themselves), Rural women, Assembly of the Poor, Women from the Slum Communities, Garment Workers (Tri-Arm) and Women journalists.