The National Legislative Assembly of Thailand approved a new law last week that criminalizes marital rape. Previously, rape law could not be used to prosecute a husband who forced sex on his wife. This new law carries a monetary fine (40,000 baht, or $1,156) and up to 20 years in jail for offenders.
In addition, the definition of “victim” has been expanded so that man, too, can file rape charges against a woman or another man. This expansion has been applauded as a breakthrough by gay rights activists who have struggled to obtain rights and protection for gays, lesbians, and cross-dressers who are often targeted violently.
Gender and gay rights activists admit that although the new law is a significant first step, it will take many more changes — both social and political — before rape victims will be able to speak out freely. The fear of being rejected by the justice system and society is still very real, as is the fear of suffering further violence at the hands of aggressors determined to keep victims silent.