Do you know that Thailand is among the top ten countries with the highest number of violence against women and children. The mindset within our society believes that men have power over women, that women are the weaker gender. I think it's time to change that mindset.

Sexually harassed because of your dress, really?

Change starts with you.

Don't Tell Me How to Dress
Cindy Sirinya Bishop

Model / Actress
UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific
Founder of the "Don't Tell Me How to Dress" campaign

Thai Model/Activist

The "Don't Tell Me How to Dress" campaign started when I saw a newspaper headline, warning women to dress properly during the 2018 Songkran Festival to prevent incidents of sexual harassment.

Initially I thought "wait, is this the only measure you propose? Why are women being warned, but nothing is done to prevent men from inflicting violence or sexual harassment?"

It sparked something inside me. Then I took out my phone and posted what was on my mind. "As a person who was harassed during the Songkran Festival, I did not dress in any way inappropriate. It's not a woman's fault. Is it?"

I didn't think that this video would go viral. The hashtag I typed "#DontTellMeHowtoDress" took off. It became global news a few days later. I then partnered with the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation (WMP) and approached UN Women about our campaign.

We held an exhibition displaying clothes of those who have been harassed. So people can see clearly that it's got nothing to do with how they dressed. There have been cases involving a two-year old kid at home, a student on the way to study, and a mother who has been harassed by her own child. I want people to stop blaming women and clothes and realise the real reasons.

"Stop Blaming How Women Dress. Men Should Control Themselves"

The real reasons are that offenders have been fuelled by the media, intimacy, exposure, alcohol, or drug abuse. But in any case, these stem from a mindset that violence towards women is normal or acceptable. From UN statistics, more than 35% of women have faced violence in their lives. But can you believe that only about 10% of those women who have been harassed or experienced violence went to the police. This is because they are usually questioned about what they were wearing at the time.

I have been through an incident and, at the time, I had now idea what to do. I was shocked and paralysed, didn't know who to turn to. Do you know that I had been harassed by five men. They touched all parts of my body. I was only 17. When they left, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know who to turn to. So I went home and kept quiet.

I didn't mention this to anyone until I started the campaign "Don't Tell Me How to Dress". I have been speaking out more. Back then, I felt as if no one would listen to me or they wouldn't believe it. This is the feeling of every woman who has gone through a similar experience. No-one would believe them. It's not worth speaking out. So, just keep quiet.

I continue doing this today because I have a platform, I have a voice. I want to speak on behalf of the many women who are afraid of speaking. Today, more people listen to you and you should stand up and say you have gone through this. I'm worth it, I'm loved and I'm proud. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, anytime.

So today in CI Talks. I have 5Ds, or what we call the Bystander Intervention, that you can use when you are in an incident whether you are a bystander or a victim.


The first D is Distract.

Say you are on the skytrain (BTS) and see a person being harassed, you could use the "asking" technique. Try asking what the next station is. You might pretend to be lost or spill coffee. This technique will let the perpetrator know that you are a witness which can free the victim from the situation.


The second D is Delegate.

Assess the situation and seek help from someone appropriate. For example you are in a supermarket and see something suspicious. You might want to ask someone, an employee, or a security officer for help. Or you could walk straight up to the victim and ask them directly if they need help.


The third D is Document.

Take photos or shoot videos as evidence. Documenting is an approach that is very effective especially if you are the victim. Specify clearly the date and time. If possible, take photos of road signs or the surroundings to be used as evidence of where it happened. If you are the one taking photos or videos, you should ask the victim first about what they want done with the evidence. If you post on social media without consent, it may make the nightmare worse for the victim.


The fourth D is Delay.

If you witness sexual harassment situation but can't offer help in time, you can still, after the incident, approach and talk to the victim. You can ask whether the victim needs help, whether you can call someone, whether you are allowed to send out the evidence you took, or whether you can contact any authority or agency. This is to offer help and support to the victim.


And the last D is Direct.

If you witness a situation or if you are the person being harassed, say "stop!" loudly. This can stop the perpetrator. Often perpetrators of sexual harrassment exploit women's lack of courage.

From what I've said, you will realise that sexual harrassment and violence against women have no place in our society. Everyone, regardless of their gender, deserves respect and acceptance.

Today, you can Be Part of the Change. Change Starts with You.

CI Talks