After meeting at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2018, Bangkok native Net Supatravanij, 25, and Parisian Julie Sané-Pezet, 25, joined forces to form ila, a network that connects sexual violence survivors with training and jobs. Launched in London in June, the group will host its first Bangkok event on Aug 17. We met with them to find out more.

What is ila? 

Net: A social enterprise to empower survivors of sexual violence with skills-training in order to achieve employability and financial independence. 

How did it come about?

Julie: We clicked in the first days at [LSE]. Before we knew it, we were working together.

How does ila work?

Net: It connects survivors, corporations, and young, socially-conscious individuals. For survivors, ila focuses on rehabilitation, transition, mental health and personal development, work placement and professional training.

Julie: It’s a space where survivors can safely raise their voices and share their experiences. We believe connecting people is the best way to trigger change. 

How is sexual violence in Thailand unique? 

Net: The foreign perception is infamous places like Soi Cowboy. But the truth is most trouble starts right in our backyard. According to the Public Health Ministry of Thailand, 75 percent of all Thai males have visited a prostitute and 47 percent of teenagers have their first sexual encounter with a prostitute. It’s a lot easier to point fingers at foreigners, but Thai men are perpetuating this vicious cycle. And you’d be surprised to know that 91 percent of Thai women who report abuse know their perpetrators (according to the United Nations). Something is keeping these women from leaving their boyfriends or husbands, which we believe is money. 

What are the changes you want to see in Thailand? 

Net: Gender equality should be a normal thing, and men need to be more involved in the conversation. You just say the words “gender equality” and many men zone out.  

Do you think Thai media contribute?

Net: 100 percent. In fact, the Thai Ministry of Health said 80 percent of lakorns feature rape scenes. Many lakorns on Channel 3 or 7 don’t even show kiss scenes. It’s insane. Somehow rape scenes are fine, but showing people kiss is taboo?

Do you think gender violence and inequality are caused by men? 

Julie: Sexism is the root of the problem. If you believe that women are weaker, less capable and meant to be people-pleasers, what do you get? But women can also be sexist. So tackling sexism will take everybody. It’s true that most gender-based violence perpetrators are men. But also, because of their positions of power, men can also make a tremendous difference.

How can people get involved? 

Julie: On our website []. 

Net: We are hosting an event (ilaX) August 17 at Barely Human Gallery, Yaowarat. It will be the first since our London launch. The theme is “Unapologetically Me.” We’ll touch on important topics like how gender is represented in media, and how to handle sexual assault in the workplace. Chayanid Udomrattanasirichai