BANGKOK, Thailand, MARCH 16, 2003 (ZENIT.org–Fides).- Catholics must work to eliminate violence and discrimination against women, says the president of the Thai bishops’ Commission for Women’s Issues.
In a pastoral letter to Thai Catholics, Bishop Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit of Chanthaburi quoted John Paul II’s postsynodal exhortation “Ecclesia in Asia,” which recalls that the condition of women in Asia is still a serious problem.
“Discrimination and violence begins at home and continues at work also within the legal system: Many women are treated like objects, in prostitution, tourism and the entertainment business,” the bishop wrote.
“Women’s role in society is often undervalued or ignored and this leads to the spiritual impoverishment of humanity,” he said, adding that the local Churches in Asia should promote activities to protect women.
In 2000 the Thai bishops’ conference set up a Commission for Women’s Issues with the task of safeguarding women’s rights and dignity and at the same time encouraging women to take part in the life of the Church and society.
Commission secretary Chuensuk Arsaitrumkulha said the panel organizes training courses in theology for women, and meetings with major seminarians to increase awareness of discrimination against women. It also helps dioceses form women’s groups to promote income-earning activities.
Arsaitrumkulha said the bishop’s letter reflects faithfully the situation in Thailand, where prostitution and sex tourism involve more than 2 million women and children.
Another major problem for women in Thailand is HIV/AIDS. The country is the most affected in Asia. The World Health Organization reports that HIV/AIDS in Thailand leads to the death of about 46,000 people a year, producing 95,000 new orphans under age 5.