BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Three women's rights groups in Thailand are urging the authorities to rule on the validity of a move by Royal Thai Police to accept only male applicants for investigator positions.
In the eyes of the advocates, the move is clearly sexual discrimination.
The activists have cried foul after seeing an announcement on the force's website that participants in its exam to fill the positions of investigators must be male and have successfully passed the bar exam.
The announcement violates the Constitution and Gender Equality Act 2015, activists say.
The Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, along with WeMove and Gender Politics Group, say that in addition to the Constitution, the move is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The groups will together submit a petition to the Office of the Ombudsman for its verdict and will also send a letter to the Royal Thai Police asking them to overturn the exam announcement.
"Political parties as well as women's rights supporters need to join hands," said Ladawan Wongsriwong, former Labour Deputy Minister and a current member of the Pheu Thai Party.
"We must submit a letter to the Royal Thai Police asking the agency to nullify their announcement," Ladawan said on Friday (Aug 3) at a seminar about gender discrimination in the police workforce sponsored by the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women.
She said if the police agency overlooked the issue, it must be taken to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Asst Professor Ratchada Thanadirek agreed.
"The order was gender-biased and against the Constitution," said the former Democrat Party MP.
"The Office of the Ombudsman needs to oversee this order. It must set a standard for government agencies and private companies to forbid gender-discrimination in recruitment and employment.
"Out of over 10,000 police officers in Thailand, only 400 are women," she said.
Ratchada also added that the low number, as well as the male-only requirement, showed the state agency's lack of vision. In other countries such as Brazil and India, where women are often subject to domestic violence and sex crimes, police agencies try to introduce more female officers to police stations to fight these problems, she said.
"In some problematic areas, the whole police station comprises only female policemen," she said.
On the other hand, Bang Phlat Police Station's superintendent Pol Lt-Colonel Petcharat Letvanich, said the police examination is usually open for both sexes.
"We need more equality in shared responsibility, especially when it comes to sending officers to dangerous areas," she said.
"Some think setting quotas for male and female police officers is the solution, but I think it is a double-edged sword. We may get the right gender with the wrong qualifications and experiences," said Tipawadee Meksawan, member of the National Legislative Committee tasked to draft the new National Police Act.
She said fighting for gender equality requires people to look beyond one's gender - be it male or female -and look at their knowledge, expertise and experience.