Thai Women Movement

Topics: Gender, Chakri Dynasty, Marriage Pages: 8 (2849 words) Published: October 16, 2006
From the past until now, conservative Thai culture has transformed little by little. Transformation of Thai culture is caused by two components; the first is the development that Thailand has in itself. The second component is the influences from other countries. At present one of the important changes that can be clearly seen is the role of women in Thai society. Compared to the past, modern Thai women tend to be more active, confident, and independent. Since women's roles have changed, the new and surprised kind of relationship between men and women, which is called a "gig," is introduced into the Thai society. Gig means a relationship between males and females who practically act like a boyfriend or a girlfriend; but they do not really commit themselves into a relationship. In other words, such behavior is quite similar to the practice of polygamy in the past. The "gig" phenomenon reflects drastic changes in Thai society especially the role of Thai women. However, in this paper, the emphasis will be put on the transformation of traditional Thai women to modern day Thai women's roles and the practice of gig among Thai young women. The pervasive practice of gig in female youngsters is an evidence of young Thai women seeking gender equality.

Background knowledge
Thai society, the society of polygamy in men
Most Thai men are recognized by some Thai women as unfaithful husbands since a large amount of Thai men are rooted to value the practice of polygamy. Traditionally, the practice of polygamy was widely accepted in Thai society. Thai men usually had at least one minor wife or more. Although polygamy was legally abolished in 1932, the practice of polygamy still exists in modern day Thai society.

Thai society has long been under the patriarchal system, a form of social organization in which a man or men rule and descent is reckoned through the male line. In other words, Thai society was a male dominant one which women's status was unquestionably inferior when compared to men's status. Generally, men had the responsibilities to earn an income for his family, as well as to protect his family members; while women had to follow their husbands and look after their husbands and children. In the past, Thai women had to behave properly and be faithful to their husbands. The proper behaviors of Thai women include obedient, modest, submissive, and being a good housewife. The traits of good housewife are explained in Cross-Cultural Communication: An introduction text book that "The wife is expected to look nice, to be obedient and loyal to the husband, to manage the household chores and to take care of her husband and the children." In contrast, Thai men were the leader of their family and had full authorities over their wives. "Wives and children were subjects of their husbands and parents; they could be sold as a piece of property."(Onozawa, 7) It can be noted from this quote that in the past women were held as men's property; and they could be sold to compensate debts. In some family, a daughter was offered to the royal family, the nobles, and the well-off people as a second, third, or fourth wife in order to build social prestige and power.

What's worse, though women were obliged to be loyal to the husbands, it didn't necessary mean that husbands had to be faithful and loyal to their wives. The practice of polygamy in men tended to be widely accepted in traditional Thai society; as most men in every Thai social class had a so-called Mia Noi" or a minor wife. Extra-marital affairs were especially common in high social class. In the past, Thai men recognized polygamy practices as an action to show superiority. To explain, men believed that the number of wives they had represented the social class they belonged in. Having many wives show that they were wealthy or prominent enough to be able to support all of his wives. "Traditionally, polygamy was a common practice and the more number of wives represented...
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