By Rina Chandran
BANGKOK, Sept 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Thai police cadet academy's decision to admit only male candidates from next year is "backward", said women's rights advocates, warning that it could discourage reporting of sexual assaults.
The Royal Police Cadet Academy announced this week that it will not admit female candidates from the next academic year. No reason was given in its statement posted online, and a spokesman for the police department declined comment.
"This is a very backward move for women's rights and women's safety in Thailand," said Jadet Chaowilai, director of the rights group Women and Men Progressive Movement.
"Fewer cases of domestic violence, harassment and sexual assault may be reported if there are no women police officers, as victims may be embarrassed or reluctant to speak to male officers," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In Thailand, nearly 90 percent of rape cases go unreported to the police, and rape is sometimes legitimised based on a woman's past sexual history, according to a study published last year by U.N. Women.
For rape cases, Thai law requires female officers to interview the victim.
The proposed ban also goes against Thailand's gender equality laws, said Usa Lerdsrisuntad, director of rights group Foundation for Women.
"It is gender discrimination. There are already too few female police officers, and now this rule will further reduce those numbers," she said on Tuesday.
"It is a big setback for sexual assault and domestic violence cases, which are hugely under reported in the country."
Women make up about 45 percent of Thailand's labour force, according to World Bank data, among the highest ratios in Asia.
The Thai police cadet academy, which is more than 100 years old, began admitting female students in 2009, and has produced about 700 policewomen, according to its website. It admits about 300 students each year.
Only a small fraction of the more than 20,000 cases of violence against women each year in Thailand are reported to the police, according to a report last year by the non-profit Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Thailand.
It had recommended that there must be more women investigators, so one can be posted at every police station to record cases of violence. (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran. Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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