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A PEN OR a mobile phone can be good enough everyday items for self-defence in cities where one in two women experience sexual harassment in public transport.
Poking the pen deep into their muscles, the knuckles, or bones can inflict unimaginable pain on the perpetrator, said Kittichet Mayakarn, an experienced self-defence instructor at JDT Combative, during a self-defence lab held by Safe Cities for Women Network at Crossover Gym yesterday.
“Choose a sturdy pen, one that doesn’t break easily and, if possible, aim for the chest or the collar bone,” he advised. “But avoid poking the pen in the eyes, unless absolutely necessary because it is a criminal offence,” he cautioned.
Regarding the use of a mobile phone as a defence weapon, Kittichet recommends using the hard case to smash the side of the head or to smash the hand that grabs you.
“The goal of such an attack is to create an opportunity for a safe escape, as men are physically stronger. Slap his ear to disorient him. Make sure that you also give a knee thrust into the crotch, and the face, and stomp on the ankle of the attacker,” he said.
But most importantly, Kittichet said, try to avoid having to employ the weapons in the first place. “When harassed, looking directly into the eyes and not acting like a victim gives the man a clear warning: ‘Mister, you are touching me’. If you find a woman being harassed, ask her loudly, ‘Are you alright?’”
“A verbal warning will turn the eyes of other passengers to you and the harassed woman and would immediately stop the perpetrator,” he said. The self-defence lesson was given to about a hundred #teamphueak (nosy team) members, mostly young women, who aim to be “nosy” and lend a helping hand to women molested in public transport. The team and the self-defence workshop were arranged by Safe Cities for Women network to equip the volunteers with claws and fangs to curb sexual harassment. All around Thailand, there are about 500 #teamphueak members.
The Safe Cities for Women Network comprises ActionAid Thailand, Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Sexuality Studies Association and Four Regions Slum Network.
In Bangkok 45 per cent of female passengers reported being sexually harassed, according to a 2017 survey by Safe Cities for Women. Of these 15.4 per cent reported being touched or groped.
The harassment occurs most in public buses (50 per cent), followed by motorcycle taxis (11.4 per cent), taxis (10.9 per cent), vans (9.8 per cent), and BTS Skytrain (9.6 per cent). Buses, cars, vans and trains have a confined nature, which is conducive to harassment. But motorcycle taxis are no less safer, as the figure above shows.
Many reported that bike taxi drivers deliberately applied the brakes suddenly so that the woman’s breast would bump into the driver’s back. There were some reports that the drivers used a hand to touch their thigh, explained Varaporn Chamsanit, manager of Women’s Wellbeing and Gender Justice Programme, Sexuality Studies Association.
To fight the predators, the network aims to raise more awareness and recruit more #teamphueak members, said Rungtip Imrungruang, programme and policy manager at ActionAid Thailand.
“We must create a society where people are the watchdogs and are ready to provide support to people in need,” she said.
In the next step, Safe Cities for Women will aim to educate schoolgirls, who often become victims of sexual harassment, she revealed.