Women Demand Accountability of ASEAN: End Culture of Impunity

Women Demand Accountability of ASEAN: End Culture of Impunity
Kababaihan Lumalaban! Panagutin ang ASEAN

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Few days before the Leaders from the 10 ASEAN Member States convene for the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings, women from marginalized sectors convened and decried the unending culture of impunity, inequality, and violence against women across Southeast Asia.

In a press conference organized by Philwomen on ASEAN, a national network of women’s groups and advocates promoting women’s rights in the ASEAN, representatives from women with disabilities, indigenous women, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) women, women workers, rural women, and other groups of marginalized women called out ASEAN‘s prioritization of the economic agenda, devoid of concern for human rights, especially women’s rights, and the plight of poor and marginalized women.

The Philwomen on ASEAN is the co-convener of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/ APF) 2017 and the press conference is part of the initiatives and actions of the civil society organization across Southeast Asia to raise critical issues of peoples in the region in time for the 30th ASEAN Summit.

The groups questioned Duterte’s ASEAN vision is Stability, Peace, Prosperity – yet how will these benefit women, especially from the marginalized sectors? Despite ASEAN’s commitment to economic integration, poverty persists in the region. There is also a worrying trend of “Southeast Asia’s regression from democracy” where killings increasingly become rampant especially in authoritarian governments. There is a rising authoritarian rule in the region which leads to shrinking of democratic spaces and intensifying political repression.

There is a pervasive culture of impunity in violence against women and girls, due mostly to the ASEAN governments’ lack of attention and action that reflects blatant disregard of the massive women’s rights violations in the region and within the member states, maintained Jelen Paclarin of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB).

Intersecting poverty and violence – exacerbated by impunity and inequality – compound the oppression of women and girls. A report on the issues of women with disabilities found that one out of three Deaf women is a victim of rape, 72% of deaf women were abused or battered and 63% were abused by their own father, Mary Rose S. Gozon of Filipino Deaf Women Health and Crisis Center shared. Women and girls with disabilities continue to face barriers which create situation of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, added Maria Fe Maravillas of Philippine Alliance of Women with Disabilities.

Gyky Tangente from GALANG Philippines cited their study which revealed that lesbians, bisexual women, and trans men (LBTs) are subjected to sexual abuse, excluded from social protection and housing benefits, and experienced difficulties in accessing decent jobs due to their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE). Jean Enriquez of World March of Women, expressed alarm on how violence against women is exacerbated by the extra-judicial killings related to the drug war. Furthermore, women suffer from trauma, isolation, and economic helplessness that make them more vulnerable to prostitution.

Does ASEAN which prides itself as a caring community really care for its workers, particularly women? Asked Judy Miranda of Partido ng Manggagawa. According to Nice Coronacion of SENTRO, women workers continue to be confronted with gender wage gap, poor working conditions, and pervasive sexual harassment. Rose Otero of Batis Center for Women, shared stories of women migrants who largely occupy low-skilled work – domestic work, care work, and entertainment – and remain unrecognized and unprotected in ASEAN.

According to Zeena Manglinong of Freedom from Debt Coalition, the ASEAN takes on multilateral and bilateral agreements and policies, such as the Tax Treaties and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that favor investors’ and corporate interests, without accounting for the adverse consequences on workers, small landholders, and local producers, many of whom are women. Meth Jimenez underlined that women must be protected against land and resource grabbing, as corporate capture in agriculture and monopoly in trade destroy women’s local economies. An indigenous woman leader, Teresa Dela Cruz of Katutubong LILAK shared how their food security and livelihood are increasingly threatened by the extractivist, corporate-driven development framework, as mining, investments, and other so-called development projects encroached on the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains.

The Philwomen on ASEAN network stressed, when there is no justice in the countries, and within Southeast Asia, mechanisms must be created or strengthened to investigate, monitor, and provide redress and remedy for women’s rights in the region. ASEAN must cease invoking non-interference and consensus principles as it turns a blind eye to the violations against women in the region. ASEAN must reject the neo-liberal agenda and adopt a pro-poor and pro-people framework that fulfill women’s human rights. Women’s human rights and the concerns of various sectors of marginalized women must be at the heart of the ASEAN Agenda. Women, especially marginalized women, deserve no less. On its 50th Anniversary, ending the culture of impunity can and MUST be ASEAN’S legacy to women.