Asian Review

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The Meiji Restoration and the reforms of King Rama V during the mid-nineteenth century produced great changes in the societies of both Japan and Thailand. One of the outstanding changes was the attempt to utilize aspects of western culture in order to modernize the respective countries. It is clear that some Japanese and Thai intellectuals were influenced by western thought in analyzing problems in their societies. The problem concerning the status of women in the two societies was one of the issues which interested Japanese and Thai intellectuals. Fukuzawa Yukichi and Thienwan were examples of intellectuals who discourses at great length about women and the status of women in their societies. Their attitudes towards women clearly showed western influence. It could be said that the reforms in the two societies, and the openness of both countries to western ideas, especially ideas about women, created groups of progressive women in both societies who eventually decided to tackle the problems of inequality between men and women. Those progressive Japanese and Thai women, and their views in the modernization period until the eve of World War II constitute a topic which may be studied on a comparative basis. This paper will therefore attempt to examine which group or class of Japanese and Thai these women came from. The question of why they decided to fight for their rights will also be studied. In addition, this paper will also compare issues discussed by Japanese and Thai progressive women in order to convince their societies to accept their ideas about the inequality of the sexes. Finally, whether the voice of these women had any impact upon the two societies will be assessed. From the author's research, it is found that the progressive women in Japan and Thailand came from different groups in society. While Thai progressive women were mostly from the upper class, the Japanese ones were from the lower class. However, their problems seem to have been quite similar. It is noticeable that progressive Japanese women were interested in the rights of women in politics and wished to play a role in politics, while progressive Thai women seemed to be passive on this issue. The activities of progressive Japanese and Thai women reflected the alertness of those women in trying to raise women's status in their respective societies. It was unfortunate that the result of their fight had so little effect on Japanese and Thai women as a whole.



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