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Thai women, pride activists march to nightlife districts for democracy and equality

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An LGBTQ activist walks past a rainbow banner while taking part in the Pride Parade in Bangkok. AFP

Thai women, pride activists march to nightlife districts for democracy and equality

Thai feminists and LGBTQ activists marched to one of Bangkok’s nightlife districts on Saturday, insisting the fight for equality goes hand-in-hand with a broader push for greater democracy.

A rainbow banner hundreds of metres long snaked its way through central Bangkok towards Silom during the pride parade, which attracted a diverse crowd of close to 1,500 according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

Since July there have been frequent protests in the Thai capital, with demonstrators demanding a new constitution, reforms of the monarchy and for Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign as prime minister.

Saturday’s rally canvassed a broad range of issues including “slut-shaming”, access to safe abortions and legalising sex work, while transgender activists had signs saying: “I’m not abnormal”.

Sirisak Chaited, a sex worker rights activist, marched wearing a towel emblazoned with the slogan “My body my business”.

“Sex work is not a crime, sex worker rights are human rights,” he said.

A flash mob of high school students danced to K-pop, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Taylor Swift along the parade route.

Some had messages such as “Stop sexual harassment” written in text on their legs.

Many wore elaborate makeup and movie character costumes, while one woman stripped down to her underwear, scrawled with feminist messages.

Architect Hino, 23, who declined to give her full name, said Thai society had a lot of work to do when it came to gender equality.

“Power is not just for men,” she said.

“Thai men like to criticise women for how many men they’ve slept with but they don’t have the same [scrutiny] themselves,” Natcha, 25, told AFP.

The LGBTQ community has been a visible force at protests calling for the overhaul of Thailand’s government

The kingdom has a vibrant LGBTQ scene and while gender-bending performers are a prominent part of Bangkok’s nightlife, discrimination in schools and the workplace is still rife.

Achita Kittiwannakul, 22, dressed as the character Mulan, said calls for society to respect the rights of minorities aligned with the campaign to shake up Thailand’s democracy.

“We are not happy in this country; the LGBTQ community is suffering,” he told AFP.

“I believe in equality, peace, and for everyone to be able to live happily.”

On Sunday protesters will return to the streets with a major rally scheduled at the Democracy Monument intersection, with a heavy police presence expected.

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