Asia Pacific Women's Watch (APWW) is a regional network representing voices from across the five sub-regions of Asia and the Pacific. APWW welcomes the priority theme for the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, "Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls'.
APWW recognizes that the priority theme is a prerequisite to the realization of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), the International Conference on Population and Development Plan of Action (ICPD PoA), the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It also recognizes the opportunity for Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) to address situations specific to women in conflict and war-affected areas.
The Asia Pacific is home to 60% of the world's population, of which there are a significant proportion of women. This region has cultures that privilege the male that creates situations where violence against women is exacerbated. It is also a region which sees a multitude of interventions adopted by States and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to employ effective measures to prevent Violence against women (VAW) and girls.
VAW is defined by the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women recognises that VAW includes physical, sexual or psychological acts perpetrated by another, in public or private spaces. VAW can be perpetrated by assailants of any gender, family status and the State. The BPfA expands this to include "violations of the rights of women in situations of armed conflict, in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy," as well as "forced sterilisation and forced abortion, coercive/forced use of contraceptives, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection." This recognises particular vulnerabilities, of women from minority communities, indigenous women, refugees and displaced women; migrants; women in poverty; destitute women; in institutions; women with disabilities; elderly women, and women in situations of armed conflict, foreign occupation, wars of aggression, and terrorism. Other forms of violence not included above are date rape, so-called 'honour' crimes and violence in cyber space. These forms of violence are systemically pervasive and persistent across the countries in Asia Pacific.
VAW is a generic problem across the Asia Pacific and deeply rooted in patriarchy. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) potentially reinforces a range of known determinants of gender inequality, social isolation, economic disadvantage and overall poor health, including poor mental health status. Violence diminishes the ability to gain an education, earn a living and participate in public life. Violence severely restricts women's ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights (SRR), with grave consequences for sexual and reproductive health as well as increasing the risk of contracting HIV.
For countries in conflict and post conflict VAW is a severe impediment to women's full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Women face direct threats to their lives, bodies, dignity and security when they face sexual violence and exploitation when there is a breakdown of law and order and when they are forcibly displaced. They are denied access to basic services, lose opportunities to engage in waged work and are not included in peace building processes.
Women are particularly vulnerable to violence after disaster. This region is increasingly vulnerable to disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts and tsunamis. Women comprise 50% of the displaced population and face the brunt of violence and sexual and reproductive health concerns such as rape, intimidation, early and forced marriages, kidnapping and miscarriages.
There is an alarming increase in intimate partner violence across the region. Women in such situations face repetitive physical, sexual and psychological violence.
Indigenous and rural women experience various forms of violence within their own communities and societies, often being marginalised from benefiting from economic development programmes and processes, at local and national levels. Women also face violence caused by colonisation, militarization, ecological destruction and the practices of extractive industries; indigenous women are often invisible in many legal systems and suffer from ongoing intergenerational trauma.
Migrant and refugee women face oppression, violence and discrimination in their new communities and societies where harmful traditional, cultural and religious beliefs continue to prevail. Migrant women workers face violations such as forced labor, seizure of documents, physical, mental and sexual harassment, denial of weekly rest days, non-payment of agreed wages, and trafficking. Low remuneration, heavy workloads, long working hours, poor career development opportunities, and in some countries, lack of freedom of movement is commonplace. Jobs tend to be in the low wage sector such as domestic work or factory employment. Deaths of migrant workers abroad, are categorized as accidental, homicidal or suicide. Trafficking of women is a major concern resulting in severe exploitation, deception, coercion and brutality. Trafficked women are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and violence due to inability to speak the local language and irregular status in a foreign country.
Women in the work force face structural violence when denied equal pay and benefits as their male counterparts. Many do not receive formally recognized entitlements.
Women and girls with disabilities are the highest risk group of gender based violence across region and are the least represented. Women with disabilities are more likely to suffer from multiple levels and aspects of violence than other women and the numbers of disabled women who experience intimate partner violence is considerably higher.
Societies across the region are being subjected to religious extremism and "fundamentalisms", women face increasing incidences of violence when diversity is not tolerated. Honor killing in most instances goes unreported, murders are perpetrated within the context of shame, property disputes and inheritance rights of women. Female genital mutilation in the name of religion and culture remains a key challenge. Some governments resort to manipulating the right to cultural and religious diversity as a pretext for violating human rights, including the rights guaranteed to women and girls, HIV survivors, and persons with diverse sexual orientations. Homosexuality is criminalized or treated as a punishable offence in a number of countries.
As we move towards constructing the post 2015 development agenda, it is an optimal time to review, analyse and re-strategise all efforts on how to respond to ending all forms of VAW in all situations.
APWW calls on governments to strengthen political will and invest and allocate funds for women's and girl's access to health and education and participation in political and public life.
APWW calls on governments to maintain accountability and transparency in state reconstruction by including women's needs and priorities, women's human rights including their SRHR, access to justice, and representation and participation in peace processes.
APWW calls on governments to ensure the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on women peace and security and to recognise the needs and priorities of women in conflict and post conflict must be comprehensively addressed.
APWW urges governments and aid agencies in disaster and emergency situations, to ensure provision of gender responsive relief strategies and strong preventative measures to bring services to women and girls, including SRH, and work to eliminate VAW. Longer term measures are essential to mobilize women and girls, and enable confidence and ability to make choices for their health and SRR and violence prevention.
APWW calls on governments o reflect the importance of integrating and mainstreaming labour migration issues in national employment, gender equality, labour market and development policies as key to maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks for migrant workers in both origin and destination countries and to ensure migration policies and measures in countries of origin and destination are gender responsive, ensure greater gender equality and benefits for women and development.
APWW calls on governments to provide confidential and secure domestic and sexual violence interventions that meet the needs of a diversity of women, who are currently underserved by existing services. This includes the provision of specialist services where these are required. Safe houses / women's refuges, especially for women who require higher support such as disabled women that include levels of clinical care. than provided in the usual refuge situation.
APWW calls on governments to strengthen health policies and decrees related to VAW/ gender based violence are fundamental in initiating and sustaining health sector responses, are holistic and integrated and include; community level awareness raising programmes done in a rights-based, gender-sensitive and culturally sensitive manner, integration of gender based violence into the medical curricula, provide SRHR education in schools as a means of primary prevention,
APWW recommends developing resource pools of experts at national and international levels for capacity building.
APWW calls for stronger political will to institutionalise a systemic gender based violence prevention response into routine SRH care, models need to use rights-based and gender sensitive approach and include monitoring and formal evaluations. This needs to be achieved in a sustainable way in order to reach the diversity of women, while effective project-based interventions need to be sustained.
APWW strongly advocates governments and civil society to focus on strengthening documentation and management of data which is essential for providing improved holistic responses.