From where I stand: “If we talk more about sexual harassment in our society, we’ll change mindsets”

Law graduate and Thai women’s rights activist Thararat Panya, 23, used her experience of sexual assault to drive change at the Thammasat University in Bangkok.


Thararat Panya.   Photo: UN Women/Zaid Basil Thanoon
Thararat Panya. Photo: UN Women/Zaid Basil Thanoon


One day, I was out drinking with friends. Everybody was drunk, so we crashed at a friend’s room, which is a pretty normal thing for university students.

I woke up during the night to find my friend using his legs to hold me down while he grabbed me...

I decided to tell my close friends about this sexual assault, and there were many people who encouraged and supported me every step of the way.

I notified the Dean of the Faculty of Law what happened and requested that the incident be investigated. In the end, the perpetrator was suspended from his studies for a term.

That was when I decided to post about my experience on social media. Speaking about this publicly was about me winning a fight within myself. If I wanted change, I needed to speak up.

People posted comments attacking me for exposing myself to a possible assault. Even though I had prepared myself, I didn’t expect to create this much of a storm. It made me realize that our society has never properly discussed this before. Thai women… are afraid to upset the social norms that say a woman should keep quiet.

Also, reporting sexual assault is difficult because there isn’t a clear process.

The law is clear about the consequences, but the process for reporting needs to be easier. For example, a woman who reports assault to the police has to tell her story over and over to different officials. Why can’t they just record her testimony instead of having her relive her trauma?

A woman is blamed if something happens to her, but no one questions why the man did that. I think, one day, if we talk more about sexual harassment in our society, we’ll change mindsets.

Speaking up comes with a price, But I would like to encourage victims to come forward. You have the right to bring the culprits to justice. I would also like to encourage universities to create protocols outlining detailed steps and procedures for reporting and investigating cases of gender-based violence.”

SDG 5: Gender equality

Thararat Panya is a graduate of Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. She shared her story at UN Women’s latest HeForShe University tour and during a 16 Days forum at the UN. She led the first wave of student-led movements to demand justice for herself and other survivors of sexual assault and harassment on-campus some years ago. Her case influenced Thammasat University’s efforts to set up a Committee on Ending Sexual Harassment on Campus and Promoting Gender Diversityin October 2019 UN Women introduced the Guidance Note on Campus Violence: Prevention and Responseto Committee Members and has been technically involved in reviewing the Committee’s workplan. On 25 November, UN Women will join the University in its official announcement of a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment on campus.