Thaweeporn Kummetha is an active journalist and blogger and works for the Thai Netizen Network. She wrote on cyber sexuality in Thailand, and the use of the internet in the sex trade in that country. Thailand, she writes, “has a reputation for openness and tolerance when it comes to issues of sexuality. But this is a view that is only partly correct. While [it] is famous for sex tourism, beautiful transgenders and the skills of its sexual reassignment surgeons, the Thai authorities are not so proud of this fact…” Recently, Thailand proposed the Prevention and Suppression of Temptations to Dangerous Behaviours bill, which initially aimed to suppress child pornography. However, the draft law also criminalises “media which may lead to dangerous behaviour”, considered to be mostly available on the internet. The following sexual practices are defined as dangerous and must be banned: bondage, discipline, domination and submission (BDSM), group sex, swinging, incest, bestiality and necrophilia.
Kummetha was interviewed by Lamia Kosovic, who is a lecturer at the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at SUNY Plattsburgh in New York, and an instructional designer at University of Maryland.
Lamia Kosovic (LK): Why did you feel the topic you chose for this year’s country report was important?
Thaweeporn Kummetha (TK): I think my topic is very progressive in terms of sexuality. Why so progressive? Well, in 2013, I also contributed to the GISWatch, and that year the theme was women’s rights and gender, so I had already discussed how women and LGBTs used the internet for sexual rights. When it came to the 2015 theme, I had to move the issue forward to discuss more unconventional sexuality, like BDSM. I believe people who have such tastes should be able to enjoy them without social stigma. The Thai government is going to make it illegal which is very nonsensical, and I argue that making it illegal is not ethical. So, in the report I discuss the bill which may suppress BDSM and unconventional sexualities.
The implication is that the government has already ruled what kind of sexuality is legal and illegal.
LK: So what is the main challenge you have identified when it comes to alternative sexualities?
TK: I think it is the silence around the issue. It is important to move the issue forward and discuss it publicly as I never see any forums that discuss these things. I think it is important because it will be healthy for relationships if we can openly discuss these forms of sexual desire with our partners, for example, and when there is a community of people that have this kind of sexual taste. Open discussion is necessary to share experiences, and practice alternative sexualities safely. The bill is not in yet, and this practice is not illegal yet, so the question is why the media has been silent. The implication is that the government has already ruled what kind of sexuality is legal and illegal and what kind of sexual acts are legal or illegal.
LK: What were some of the challenges you faced when writing your report?
TK: It was not so difficult writing this report because I have been writing about the topic in other publications as well. It’s difficult to find the kinds of websites that I’m looking for, on the use of the internet for finding examples of the sex trade online – that was more difficult to find – as well as on the BDSM community because it’s unacceptable in Thailand. It is also difficult to find people to talk to me because they hide their sexual practices, so finding more examples to support the case I raise in my report was a challenge.
The bill is also a threat to internet freedom, as well as a threat to Thai citizens and their sexualities by intruding in their private lives.
LK: What do you hope the role of your research will play in your local movement pertaining to sexual identities?
TK: I hope that the Prevention and Suppression of Temptations to Dangerous Behaviours bill will be suspended, that it will not be enacted. This report gives a lot of reasons for that. Besides BDSM is not dangerous, and what the report does is discuss the other side of it, as something not dangerous – which is implied in the title of the bill. The bill is also a threat to internet freedom, as well as a threat to Thai citizens and their sexualities by intruding in their private lives. So it is necessary to create a better understanding of BDSM.
LK: Within a global push for more sexual rights discourse in internet governance, how do you feel this GISWatch will contribute to that?
TK: GISWatch looks at the internet from a very rounded perspective. The internet is not only about connection and infrastructure but people, about human interaction and content created by humans, and sexuality is one of those aspects of what being human is. So internet governance must take a serious look at the human dimension of the internet. There are other issues that need to be addressed such as child pornography, adult pornography and in Thailand they are dealing with BDSM – what are the limits? And where should the state intervene. What is acceptable when it comes to the internet, and how should we deal with it?
Sexuality has to do with personal taste and this should be a clearly guaranteed right in the constitution.
LK: What would be the action steps for future advocacy that you propose in your report?
TK: Sexuality has to do with personal taste and this should be a clearly guaranteed right in the constitution. Instead of suppressing sexual activities, services and products, forcing users to go underground, the Thai authorities should decriminalise and regulate them in order to better control standards, safety and the age of consumers and providers. My third proposal is that The Computer Crime Act should be amended to decriminalise pornography and obscene websites. Instead it should establish measures, such as age verification, to regulate access to this content. And my last action is that The Prevention and Suppression of Temptations to Dangerous Behaviours Bill should be amended. It should not criminalise content which is an expression of sexual diversity and different sexual tastes – it should instead deal with child pornography.