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Text of a lecture presented April 1, 2003 at Cornell Law School as part of the Berger International Speaker series.


In the late 1960's, during the time of dictatorial rule in Thailand, a group of educated upper class women in legal and business professions had actively taken up the call for a reform in the family law, which was actually a continuation of the activism of the mid 1950's. The focal issues included the right of a wife to matrimonial property management and the prevention of double marital registration. The campaign, even though it contributed greatly in allowing women a better status in society, was seen by many as an outcry of wealthy elitist women whose concerns were vested in personal economic interests and in the widespread infidelity problem of their husbands having minor wives. It did not touch upon any societal patriarchal structural problems or gender equality. Nor did it touch upon problems of the low income and rural women. The women's movement for legal reform in Thailand cannot afford to be isolated from other social or women's movements. With predominantly male cultural, social, economic and political structure, it has to fight against gender bias cross cutting over other biases stemmed from privileges such as class, ethnicity, race, age, religion and military might.

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