With the recent national election in Thailand and results still up in the air on the exact nature of the next parliament, the future of Thai women’s and LGBTQ+ rights are also still in question.
Since the rise of feminist and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and others) protests in Thailand in 2020, the current state of Thai women’s and LGBTQ+ rights are being questioned more heavily than ever. In addition, a history-making bill which would make same-sex marriage legal in Thailand is being considered in the parliament. The policies of the main Thai political parties regarding gender issues – or for some, the absence of them – with focus on different aspects of women’s and LGBTQ+ lives, signify their current thinking on these issues.
Policies regarding women’s rights, for the parties that do have them, are focused on women’s health, period poverty, maternity leave, childcare, and financial support for low-income women. The previous main opposition parties, Move Forward and Pheu Thai, who came first and second in the popular vote, both highlight these issues. The newly-formed political parties Thai Sang Thai and United Thai Nation Party also have policies regarding women’s rights.
For Move Forward, the party’s policies to fight against period poverty are to exempt the value-added tax (VAT) on menstruation-related products and to give out free menstrual pads in educational institutions and subdistrict health promoting hospitals. The party also highlights longer paid maternity leave to 180 days. With this policy, fathers can also share the leave with the mothers. For childcare, Move Forward proposes more childcare centers and breastfeeding areas near workplaces.
For Pheu Thai, the party mentions free menstrual pads for all, but its most highlighted policies regarding women are free HPV vaccines for all women, as cervical cancer is the second-most common cause of death for Thai women behind breast cancer, and financial support for women through The Women Empowerment Funds. The Funds is focused on giving underprivileged women financial and job opportunities and was implemented by the party during Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra’s time as prime minister (2011–2014). The party also has a policy to extend paid maternity leave, from the current 98 days to 180 days and will include paternity leave. LGBTQ+ can also take maternity/paternity leave.
As for the Thai Sang Thai Party, which was founded in 2021 by former Pheu Thai members, there are multiple policies focused on women. The party has a policy to give out free menstrual pads for students and low-income women, free HPV vaccines for girls, free breast cancer screening, and free per vaginal examinations. The party also focuses on creating funds to create careers for women.
United Thai Nation Party, registered in 2021 with incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as its prime minister candidate, mentions gender equality with policies promoting gender equality in the workplace, especially in politics. Other women-related policies include the protection of women against online harassment through laws against grooming, chatbot and AI to help victims, and the addition of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) lessons in schools to help children be able to defend themselves.
Other major political parties do not have policies specific to women or do not highlight them in their official websites.
LGBTQ+ rights has come to Thai national attention since the same-sex marriage bill and the civil partnership bill were considered in the parliament in 2022. Both bills’ future are now up to the new parliament after the recent election. Most main political parties mention their stance toward same sex marriage/civil partnership law and other issues regarding LGBTQ+ rights.
The Move Forward Party supports the same-sex marriage bill. The party has policies supporting gender affirmation without the need for medical practitioners’ approval, gender affirmation through the change of name titles (gender neutral or no title), and laws against discrimination based on gender and sexuality.
The Pheu Thai Party supports the same-sex marriage bill, and has other policies regarding LGBTQ+ people. For example, trans people must have access to hormone therapy and they should be included under the National Health Security Act. Also, the party supports gender affirmation through the change of name titles.
Thai Sang Thai, another party that supports the same-sex marriage bill, also has policies to include hormone therapy within national health security, and to create funds for gender-affirming operations.
Other major political parties such as the Democrat Party, Bhumjaithai Party, and United Thai Nation Party’s stance on the same-sex marriage bill and the civil partnership bill is unclear. However, based on the past votes on the mentioned bills, these parties are likely to be more in favor of the civil partnership bill which gives same-sex couples some rights, but not the same as heteronormative unions as the same-sex marriage bill is aiming for.
The future is still unclear…
With Move Forward and Pheu Thai having clear policies supporting women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, but the make-up of the next Thai parliament still in question, it’s unclear whether Thai women and the LGBTQ+ population’s living conditions will change for the better. Despite receiving the majority of the popular vote, the two parties are in discussion to form a coalition, alongside many other parties, and still need a further majority vote for their candidate to be Prime Minister in the coming months.
The majority of the political parties that support the incumbent government are on the conservative side. While some of these parties, such as United Thai Nation Party, have policies supporting women’s rights, most others do not have them or do not put them at the top of their priorities.
Same-sex marriage is also an important issue for the nation as it will, if successfully implemented, give equal rights to the LGBTQ+ population. Similarly with women’s rights, only Pheu Thai, Move Forward, and Pheu Thai former members’ party Thai Sang Thai, have spoken out in support for the same-sex marriage bill. Other parties lean more toward the civil partnership bill.
The Thai population have clearly voted for a change in government, but the process is not over yet. It's hard to hope for a better future for women and LGBTQ+ population if the more progressive parties cannot be recognized as the next legitimate government, but it doesn’t mean that there is no hope. The feminist and LGBTQ+ protests have already put these rights to people’s attention and wider awareness. If the situation on Thai women’s and LGBTQ+ rights does not improve, we can expect more demonstrations from feminists, LGBTQ+ and their allies across the next term.