Gender Equality in Thailand

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Flag of Thailand
Population (in Mil.) 66.79
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 365.97
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.98
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.084507042
Fertility Rate 1.66
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.61
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 47.7
Women in Parliament (in %) 15.8
Human Development Index 103/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 25/86
Gender Inequality Index 103/186
Gender Equity Index 57/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 47/128
Global Gender Gap Index 65/68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

Known as Siam until 1939, majority-Buddhist Thailand –has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932.[1] A military coup in 2006 ousted then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the country has remained politically unstable since then, with recurring street demonstrations and clashes between police and supporters of different political factions; there is also an ongoing insurgency in the southern, Muslim part of the country.[2] Nevertheless, a civilian coalition government was formed in 2008, and in 2011, Thailand elected its first female Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.[3] Previously reliant on agriculture, the Thai economy grew rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s with the development of manufacturing industries and tourism.[4] Thailand is classed as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank.[5] The landmark 1997 Constitution drafted by an elected assembly was abrogated by the 2006 military coup and replaced in 2007 by one written by a council elected and appointed by the junta, which was approved by voter referendum.[6] The 2007 Constitution guarantees the equality before the law and prohibits discrimination on multiple grounds, including on the basis of sex.[7] Nevertheless, gender inequality remains a serious concern and is manifested in violence against women, discrimination and human trafficking.[8] Thailand ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, and the Optional Protocol in 2000.[9] Thailand is ranked in 103rd place in the 2011 Human Development Index, with a score of 0.682.[10] Under the 2011 Gender Inequality Index, Thailand’s score is 0.382 (69th out of 146 countries).[11] Under the Global Gender Gap Index for 2011, Thailand is in 60th place (out of 135 countries), with a score of 0.6892.[12]

Discriminatory Family Code

The legal age for marriage is 17 years for both men and women, and individuals are legally free to marry their partner of choice.[13] United Nations data from 2000 estimated that 11% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.[14] Family Law does not outlaw polygamy, but according to a report published by the CEDAW a man who engages in a second marriage is considered to have committed perjury against the presiding officiate. He can be fined or imprisoned for up to six months, although according to the 2004 CEDAW report, no man has ever been imprisoned for bigamy.[15] Women have equal legal rights to exercise parental authority in the family, but traditionally men are seen as the head of the household. In the event of divorce in which the parents cannot agree upon custody rights, it is quite common for judges to grant custody to fathers, but for the mother to continue to look after the children on a day-to-day basis.[16] According to the 2004 report to the CEDAW committee, men and women in Thailand do not have the same rights to divorce, as a woman cannot file for divorce on the grounds of her husband’s adultery, but a man can file for divorce on the grounds of his wife’s adultery.[17] Married women in Thailand are legally obliged to take their husband’s name, and to use the title ‘Nang’ (‘Mrs).[18] Since 1992, women have been able to pass Thai citizenship onto their children.[19] Thai law does not distinguish between men and women with regards to inheritance. According to a CEDAW report, the right to inheritance is instead attributed in the following order: i) descendants; ii) parents; iii) siblings who share the same father and mother; iv) siblings who share one parent; v) paternal and maternal grandparents; and vi) aunts and uncles.[20]

Restricted Physical Integrity

Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offence in Thailand, with penalties depending on the age of the victim, the type of assault, and the physical and mental condition of the victim after the assault.[21] According to the US Department of State human rights report, the law is not effectively enforced.[22] The Act on the Prevention and Resolution of Domestic Violence came into force in 2007.[23] Domestic violence against women is a criminal offence, with fines of up to 6000 ($190) or six months imprisonment.[24] In cases of serious injury, prosecutions can be made under separate provisions for assault.[25] However, the law is not effectively enforced, as many police officers continue to see domestic violence as a private matter.[26] Sexual harassment is illegal in both the private and the public sector, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison or a fine of 30,000 baht ($940).[27] The 2004 CEDAW report notes that sexual harassment in workplaces and public places is a common occurrence; local NGOs complain that the law is vague in its definition of sexual harassment, making it difficult to launch prosecutions.[28] Local NGOs report that rape is a widespread and serious issue, according to the US Department of State. Police reports indicate that in 2010, 4,255 rapes were reported, leading to 2,397 arrests;[29] it is unclear how many of these arrests eventually resulted in a conviction. Rapes are underreported, due in part to a perception that law enforcement agencies do not have the resources or will to bring perpetrators to justice.[30] The US Department of State reports that the police have sought to change this perception, by increasing the number of female police officers.[31] According to the 2004 CEDAW report, spousal rape is rarely understood as a violation of a woman’s rights, but rather as a private matter between a husband and wife.[32]

According to the 2004 CEDAW report, the social perception is that domestic violence is a private matter.[33] Survey data from 2006 indicates that most people in Thailand believe that it is rarely justifiable for a man to beat his wife, but only 38% answered that it was never justifiable.[34] According to the US Department of State, in 2010, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) logged 673 cases. However, many incidents remain unreported and reliable statistics on the real extent domestic violence are difficult to obtain.[35] Support services are provided by both state agencies and NGOs.[36] Human trafficking and the commercial sex trade are also significant problems in Thailand. However, internal trafficking of women appeared to be on the decline, due to prevention programs and better economic opportunities. The government has also passed stronger anti-trafficking laws with harsher criminal penalties.[37] There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation (FGM) is practised in Thailand. Abortion is legal in Thailand in cases of rape and incest, foetal impairment, or when the woman’s mental or physical health is in danger.[38] Women have the right to use contraception, and to access information about contraceptives and reproductive health.[39] State-funded provision of reproductive health services is comprehensive, according to the US Department of State Up-to-date statistics are not available but in 2000, 79.2% of women were currently using contraception, with birth control pills, female sterilization, and injections forming the most common methods although women cannot be sterilized without their husband’s consent.[40] The primary burden of responsibility continues to fall on women: male-administered methods, such as condoms and male sterilization, comprised less than 2% of the reported used methods.[41] According to the UN, contraceptive prevalence among married women of reproductive age had fallen to 70.1% in 2006.[42]

Son Bias

Gender-disaggregated data on childhood vaccinations, rates of under-five mortality and malnutrition are unavailable, so it is not possible to determine whether son preference in regard to early childhood care is an issue in Thailand. Gender-disaggregated data is also unavailable in regard to child labour. Enrolment and attendance rates at primary school are 2% higher for boys than for girls, according to UNICEF, while at secondary level, enrolment and attendance rates are higher for girls. Overall, this would not indicate pronounced bias towards sons in regard to access to education.[43]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.98.[44] There is no evidence to suggest that Thailand is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

In theory, women in Thailand have the same legal access to land as men. However, the law allows that only the head of the household may acquire land and the Ministry of Interior routinely registers men as the heads of households. This negatively affects women’s ability to obtain land in their own names. In addition, married women in Thailand face the additional restriction of needing their husband’s consent for some legal transactions; in theory, men must also obtain their spouse’s consent for some legal transaction, but in practice, this rarely happens, according to the 2004 CEDAW report.[45] Women and men also have equal access to property other than land. Conjugal property is either managed jointly or by one spouse who has been given consent to do so by the other spouse. The 2004 CEDAW report states that if either spouse enters into any legal contract independently or without the consent of the other spouse, the latter may apply to a court to have the contract revoked.[46] Women in Thailand appear to have the same legal access to bank loans and other forms of credit,[47] although in practice, this may be limited by the fact that as outlined above, married women are often requested to obtain their husband’s consent before entering certain legal contracts. In addition, the fact that (as of 2004), 88% of beneficiaries of the ‘people’s bank scheme’ operated by the Government Savings Bank were women[48] would indicate that it is difficult for women to obtain credit from other sources.

Restricted Civil Liberties

There are no legal restrictions on women’s freedom of movement.[49] The exception to this is members of Thailand’s hill tribes, some of whom face restrictions on their freedom of movement.[50] Freedom of speech, assembly and association were restored under the 2007 constitution, and are generally respected.[51] According to Freedom House, there is a vibrant and outspoken NGO sector, including many groups working specifically on women’s rights issues.[52] The 2004 report to the CEDAW committee notes that women’s rights NGOs are active in providing material and legal support to victims of violence against women, and advocating in this area, campaigning to raise awareness of trafficking and rehabilitate women and children who have been trafficked, advocating on behalf of home-workers in the textiles industry. [53] Women and men have the same right to vote and stand for election in Thailand.[54] Thailand’s current prime minister is a woman, but at other levels of government, women are under represented. As of February 2010, women held 87 out of 623 seats in Thailand’s bicameral parliament.[55] However, the political representation at provincial, municipal, and village levels of government is several percentage points lower, and often in the low single-digits.[56] According to the 2004 CEDAW report, women wishing to stand for office face considerable hurdles, not least in the form of discouragement from their families from entering a ‘male domain’, lack of access to patronage networks, and violence or the threat of violence.[57] Outside of politics, the US Department of State reports that women hold 24% of executive level positions in the civil service, and 35% of managerial positions in commercial companies.[58] Thailand’s maternity leave laws allow 90 days of leave, 45 at 100% of pay with the remainder at 50%. A woman’s employer pays for the first 45 days, followed thereafter by the national system.[59] However, women working in the informal sector and as unpaid laborers are excluded from taking advantage of these social benefits.[60]


  1. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) The World Factbook: Thailand, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  2. Reference 1; BBC (n.d.) ‘Thailand country profile’, BBC News, (accessed 18 November 2011); Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World country report: Thailand’, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  3. Reference 1; BBC (n.d.) ‘Thailand country profile’, BBC News, (accessed 18 November 2011); Kate, Ploy Ten (2011) ‘Thai women cheer first female prime minister’, Reuters, 3 July 2011, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  4. BBC (n.d.) ‘Thailand country profile’, BBC News, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  5. World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Thailand’, Washington, D.C.: World Bank, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  6. The Nation (2007) ‘Publicity blitz to counter moves to reject new charter’, The Nation, 11 July 2007 (accessed 30 April 2010)
  7. Chapter III, Part 2, Article 30 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, 2007.
  8. US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Thailand, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC,, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  9. United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2011): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. - CEDAW: (accessed 15 November 2011) - Optional Protocol: (accessed 15 November 2011)
  10. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at, accessed 29 February 2012 p.128
  11. Reference 10 p.140
  12. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at, accessed 2 March 2012 p.10
  13. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2004), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Thailand, Combined Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/THA/4-5, CEDAW, New York, NY , p. 84.
  14. United Nations (UN) (2008), World Marriage Data 2008, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY.
  15. Reference 13, p. 85-86.
  16. Reference 13, p. 87-88.
  17. Reference 13, p.86
  18. Reference 13, p.87
  19. Reference 13, p.33
  20. Reference 13, p. 88.
  21. Reference 8
  22. Reference 8
  23. Domestic Violence Legislation and its Implementation: An Analysis For Asean Countries Based On International Standards And Good Practices, UN Women, Revised 2nd edition (2011) p.16, 26 – 27 and ix – x.
  24. 2007 Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence Act in Reference 8
  25. Reference 8
  26. Reference 8
  27. Reference 8
  28. Reference 13, p.22; Reference 8
  29. Reference 8
  30. Reference 8
  31. Reference 8
  32. Reference 13, P.22
  33. Reference 13, p.22
  34. World Values Survey (WVS) (2007), Selected Country/Sample: Thailand, World Values Survey, available, accessed 6 January 2010, Question V208.
  35. Reference 8
  36. Reference 8
  37. Reference 8
  38. UN (2011) ‘World Abortion Policies 2011’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York.
  39. Reference 8
  40. Reference 13, p. 87.
  41. Reference 13, p. 76,
  42. United Nations (UN) (2007), World Contraceptive Use 2007
  43. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (n.d.) ‘Thailand – statistics’, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  44. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.
  45. Reference 13, p. 87.
  46. Reference 13, p. 86.
  47. Reference 13, pp. 77-78.
  48. CEDAW (2005) Responses to the list of issues and questions for consideration of the combined fourth and fifth periodic report Thailand, CEDAW/C/THA/Q/4-5/Add.1, CEDAW, New York, p.23
  49. Reference 13, p.83
  50. Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World country report: Thailand’, (accessed 18 November 2011)
  51. Reference 50
  52. Reference 50
  53. Reference 13, pp.24-25, 31, 68, 82
  54. Reference 13, p.34
  55. Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, IPU: Geneva,
  56. Reference 13, pp. 35-36.
  57. Reference 13, p.40
  58. Reference 8
  59. Reference 12
  60. Reference 13, pp. 63-65.

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women? 

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Covering 128 economies, Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Thailand, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Thailand


The FAO Gender and Landrights Database

The FAO Gender and Landrights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender
FAO logo.jpg
inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access

is one of the major causes for social and gender in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

  • National legal frame
  • International treaties and conventions
  • Customary law
  • Land tenure and related Institutions
  • Civil society organizations
  • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information information on Thailand, please visit the report on in the FAO Gender and Landrights Database.


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