Human rights in crisis
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
proliferation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is a most
welcome development since they facilitate our life in society. With
them, the requirements of the principles of subsidiarity and
solidarity, so essential in society, are more finely met.
Subsidiarity is when a
bigger entity can delegate some of its powers to a lower entity. It’s
also when the smaller needs of men in society are met due to the
presence of more intermediaries between the individual citizens and
the over-all state authorities.
Solidarity is when
society becomes more organized and moves more or less in the same
direction without annulling legitimate differences and variety of
sectors comprising it. It means having better working unity in
The NGOs are these
agents and intermediaries that foster the need for subsidiarity and
solidarity in a given society. We just have to make sure that a third
social principle, that of the common good, is also met, so that the
play of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity gets into the
This is the problem we
often encounter these days with respect to the NGOs. Many of them, I’m
afraid, are a cover to advance an agenda whose idea of common good is
at best inadequate, often dangerous, if not utterly wrong.
The other day, someone
told me that in a Congress hearing, a representative of an NGO was
batting for sexual rights, saying that everyone has a “right to a
satisfying and safe sex.”
While it’s true that
we are a sexual being, and therefore sex has a legitimate part in our
life, we just can’t be naïve when ideas like what was presented in
that Congress hearing is proposed to us.
We need to see if
indeed this “right to a satisfying and safe sex” truly corresponds to
an objective common good meant for us. We have to know what that right
involves, what its inspiration and true purpose are, etc.
We just cannot say
anything is a human right based on an opinion or even on a consensus
of some people. We cannot even consider a culture and civilization as
the ultimate source of what is the authentic common good for us and
what is not. They are not the ultimate terra firma. They shift too
like sand, and can contain impurities.
The crux of our
problem is that in determining our common good, any mention to God is
immediately or, worse, automatically rejected. It’s as if God has no
place in this discussion. It’s as if God is the very antithesis of
democracy and its ways and processes.
At best, any reference
to God has to be veiled, since making it explicit is considered a
fallacy of begging the question. It is feared it would illegitimately
stop further discussion or reasoning, which is not true, since such
reference would in fact throw the doors open for further scrutiny. It
fosters more discussion.
We need to make a
drastic change in our attitude and ways of determining if a claimed
human right is indeed part of our common good. We have to defer to
what the Compendium of Social Doctrine says about the source of human
In point 153, it says,
“The ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of
human beings, in the reality of the State, in public powers, but in
man himself and in God his Creator.”
So, it’s clear that no
matter how hard it is to determine what is God’s will and design for
us, we just have to make an effort to know God’s will, since ignoring
it would just put us in the dark, and lead us to unjust ways of
determining what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, true and
In short, it would not
be democratic, in fact, if our political ways would systematically
shun the contribution of religion, or that our discussion of issues
that affect our common good would exclude faith and religion, and
everything involved there, like listening to the teachings of the
In that set-up,
democracy would be understood as just a purely human affair, as if
everything begins and ends with us. Of course, we are the primary
actors in democracy, but we are nothing without God who is our source,
our Creator, and in fact, also our end.
God, would lose its foundations and sense of purpose, and would just
be driven not by truth nor by love, but by sheer and brazen human
power. That’s when human rights enter the crisis zone.
Why I am against
Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read
any books except the books that nobody reads – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
By ALEX P. VIDAL / PNS
April 25, 2011
As a community
journalist, my orientation is anti-censorship.
Because I was blessed
with editors during the Tita Cory post EDSA revolution era whose
dyed-in-the-wool adherence to freedom of press and expression was at
fever-pitch, I could not countenance censorship when it was my turn to
rock the chair as editor-in-chief of two daily newspapers – Sun Star
and Daily Informer – during the Erap and Gloria administrations.
Even if some of their
motives and principles were suspect, I could never in heaven’s name
mangle or touch with a ten-foot pole the write-ups of our columnists –
the opinion makers and so-called “catalysts” of change.
An eager beaver but
wet-behind-ears radioman who wanted to dabble in print media, a
vegetarian but malnourished penpusher who belonged to the Dinosaur
Age, a male celibate university professor hiding in a female moniker,
a dentist who loved to lecture about sex education.
politician who wanted to write a column so he could expose the
inanities of a former law firm partner, an ex-convict who wrote poetry
inside the jail, an ex-Maoist Lothario who permanently turned his back
from the movement after a “rest and recreation”, a debonair but
Quijotic brain doctor who wanted to preserve our native dialects. You
name ‘em, we had ‘em.
I am a firm of
believer of John Stuart Mill who said that “Even when the opinion is
wrong, discussion should not be suppressed. Without such challenge and
discussion, the true opinion would become nothing more than dogma –
something believed on mere faith.”
Because of this
personal principle, I even nixed suggestions to delete horny and
irrational Facebook friends because I believe they too have the right
to exist and express their opinions however weird and downright corny
and illogical their ideas may be.
One of the best
stories I read about the subject matter was the opinion made by
Alejandro Roces. Actually, it was Hilarion Henares who started the
series by stating that censorship originally started not to exorcise
sex and violence, but to control religious and political views.
The initial and most
powerful censorship board in all history was the Catholic Church’s
Index of Prohibited Books that started in 1557 about a century after
Gutenberg’s movable type made books available to the public. The books
condemned then are now popular classics – the novels of such authors
Victor Hugo, Balzac, Dumas and Flaubert.
They were not
considered pornographic. They just did not meet the political norms of
Authors were often
forced to change the identity of the characters in their books.
Boccacio’s The Decameron was banned because the characters involved in
illicit sex were priests and nuns. When he changed it to plain ladies
and gentlemen, his books were removed from the Index Librorum
The very first film
movie board censor was the British Board of Film Censors established
in 1913 but still in operation to the day. In the United States,
censorship was a state matter, but the Catholic Legion of Decency
Actually, the courts
were deciding obscenity issues long before censorship came. As far
back as 1868, Chief Justice Cockburn in a judgment in Regina vs.
“The test of obscenity
is this: whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to
deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral
influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.”
Pope Leo XIII in
General Decrees Concerning the Prohibition and Censorship of Books,
decreed: “Books which professedly treat of, narrate, or teach lewd or
obscene subjects are prohibited. Care must be taken not only of faith
but also of morals, which are easily corrupted by the reading of such
And on March 31, 1930,
the Code to Govern the Making of Motion and Talking Pictures by the
Motion Picture Producers and Distribution of America, Inc. declared,
“Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion
This is the question
that has become a major issue in our times. Where does artistic
liberty end and where does obscenity begin?
Law, yes; legalism, no
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
March 29, 2011
A SIDELIGHT in the RH
Bill issue that is gaining public interest is that ordinance of the
Ayala Alabang Village that seeks to regulate the availability of
contraceptive materials. It so happens that the same ordinance is now
being copied by other barangays in Luzon, and so, the controversy
The brouhaha actually
surfaces a more important aspect of life, and that is none other than
the interplay between legality and morality, man’s laws and God’s
laws. This is an area prone to a lot of problems.
For one, there is an
emerging attitude of considering any reference to God in the making of
our laws as completely out of place. How this mindset came to be is
quite a mystery to me, since as far as I can see, the ultimate basis
of our laws should be God’s laws.
Of course, we are now
in some secularized and Godless world, and thus, we should not be all
too surprised when we meet anomalies like this not only in the
streets, but also in our lawmaking congresses worldwide. Some would
ask, how would we ever know that such and such is the law of God?
So, some of our legal
minds are held captive by what is known as legal positivism. That’s
purely human law with God having no place in it. Unfortunately, in
some so-called developed countries and among some of our bright minds,
this narcissistic anomaly reigns supreme.
There are also people
who may not openly profess atheism and agnosticism, but put God in
brackets when they pursue their temporal affairs, like making laws and
ordinances. They consider God a drag, a bother or an embarrassment in
law-making. At best, they give him only some formalistic references,
but no more.
This is actually a
common problem. While we need to have law and a whole legal and
judicial system to regulate our life in society, what we don’t need is
legalism, or the distortion and abuse of our man-made legal system.
We are, of course,
vulnerable to this predicament, since man’s intelligence and free will
can take tortuous turns that in the end are determined by how our
heart tilts – either toward God or is it just stuck with our own
Apropos of this point
is what St. Paul once said about freedom: “You have been called unto
freedom. Only do not make freedom an occasion to the flesh, but by
charity of the spirit, serve one another.” (Gal 5,13) St. Peter said
something similar when he said we should not make freedom a cloak for
malice. (cfr 1 Pt 2,16)
That's why Christ told
us to be most faithful to his word. ¨"Whoever relaxes one of the least
of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the
kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be
called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5,19)
When our freedom is
not acknowledged as coming from God and therefore, for God, when it is
not lived in charity for the others as God wants it, then we can make
laws and ordinances that cater to our own ideas, and not anymore
God’s, of who we are and of how we are supposed to behave, etc.
We can abuse our
freedom and use it to pursue what we want, even to the point of
disobeying God. This abuse of freedom and of the other gifts of God to
us is rampant these days. That’s why we have many brilliant people
entangled in their own web of conceit and pride.
In this RH
Bill-related Ayala Alabang ordinance, for example, it is claimed that
some sector of the Catholic Church is imposing their option on others,
and therefore, unconstitutional.
How that conclusion
was arrived at is again a mystery to me. I suppose we can look at
things in different ways and through different lenses. If one is not
clear about the intrinsic evil of contraception, not to mention
abortion to which the RH Bill is bound to approve one day, if
experience of other countries is to be considered, then anything that
regulates or restrains the use of contraceptives would be viewed
Some so-called legal
luminaries are questioning this ordinance when in fact other RH-related
ordinances that favor contraceptives not only regulate and promote but
rather impose the use of contraceptives.
In this RH Bill
issue, we are not mainly concerned about the legalistic intricacies
involved. We are more concerned about the morality of such bill.
State of preparedness
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
March 15, 2011
IT’S good that with
the recent spate of calamities around the world, we are now talking
seriously about how to achieve a state of preparedness. Many ideas
have come out, obviously propelled by the best of intentions and
supported by the best of technical details.
There’s just one thing
that needs to be highlighted. In fact, it is the most important thing,
since this aspect of preparedness is what integrates everything else
and brings us over the inevitable things in this life and world to
reach our final destination.
This is none other
than our spiritual preparedness. Hardly anyone talks about this, I
know, and it’s sad. And if ever it’s taken up, it most likely will be
handled by a priest in a strictly religious environment or some weirdo
who makes it a hobby to talk about the end of times.
This should not be so.
I feel that everyone should be not only aware of this necessity, but
should also do whatever he can to help the others attain this state of
spiritual preparedness. In short, everyone should take care of his
spiritual preparedness and should do all to make this concern widely
So far, the media have
been quiet about this aspect of preparedness. They almost exclusively
talk about technical and logistical items. That’s understandable. But
in the end, we can only talk so much about these aspects. The state of
spiritual preparedness should be the more mainstream concern among us.
No matter how
exhaustive and scientific we are in the technical and logistical
preparedness, we cannot avoid the disasters, the devastation and death
itself that will surely come to us one way or another. We need
something else that somehow will enable us to find meaning in these
dark events and draw infinite good from them.
This is what spiritual
preparedness does to us. It frees us from purely human fears and
natural concerns, and gives us the confidence, based on truths of
faith, that everything will be alright in spite of all the in spites
preparedness is what gives us the full picture of our life and
destiny. We are no mere creatures of nature. We have been made in the
image and likeness of God, elevated to be children of his in Christ.
preparedness takes us to a higher ground, giving us a glimpse of what
is beyond our human horizons and natural limits. This is not to
mention the corrections it will make to our inadequate if not
erroneous understanding of our life here on earth.
It affords us an
apocalyptic worldview, because it unveils and reveals, which is what
apocalypse means, the true meaning and purpose of our life. In other
words, with this kind of preparedness, anything can happen in the
world, and we can still manage to come out safe and sound, in the
ultimate sense of the words.
We have to make a race
to reach this kind of preparedness, since, truth to tell, we are far
behind the relevant passing grade. We seem not only to be in the
primitive, stone age still in this regard, but also to dig in further
in our ignorance, confusion and error.
In fact, there are
instances when we seem to be taking the wrong path insofar as the
spiritual preparedness is concerned. The other day, for example, I
learned that US President Obama dared to brand the Defense of Marriage
He is extending his
defiance to basic natural moral law, that is, to God’s law about us.
He is pitting our man-made legal system with the God-given moral law.
This is courting God´s wrath.
This kind of event,
for sure, has an effect on the over-all status of mankind. God is all
merciful, but his goodness does not preclude the demands of justice
and the possibility of divine retribution to correct, if not also
penalize, our wrongdoings, especially the ones committed in massive
We need to go back to
God! We have to stop taking on a purely human itinerary in our life,
since that will get us nowhere but much graver disasters and
devastations than what apocalyptic movements in the earth, seas and
skies can inflict.
When these natural
disasters come, let’s not only try to know their natural causes. We
need to go all the way to asking what message God tries to convey
through them. These calamities and disasters have in the end a
religious meaning. They are not purely natural occurrences. They are
meant to occasion conversion.
violence against women impedes social change
A Statement from the
Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the International
March 8, 2011
For 100 years now, a
strong struggle for equal rights between genders has been taking place
in the world. International women's day is the opportunity to
celebrate women's economic, political and social achievements. It is
the day to acknowledge the enormous potential of women in service of
the prosperity of their communities and the core societal role they
have to play for peace and political and economic development in their
countries. Having educated and empowered women actively participating
in every sphere of the public life of their country has for long been
acknowledged as the key to development and prosperity in all the
countries of the world. Discrimination against women has been formally
recognized as a violation of human dignity and as riding roughshod
over the concept that all human beings are born free and equal in
dignity and in rights. Nevertheless, in numerous corners of the Asian
region, direct and indirect violence and discrimination, under various
forms continue to oppress women and prevent them from fully achieving
their potential for change. Through 2010 and since the beginning of
2011, the Asian Human Rights Commission has been aware of numerous
cases of such oppression. The diversity of
Asia clearly illustrates that the formal recognition of equal
rights without discrimination based on gender and criminalization of
gender-based violence has failed to materialize in practice. Violence
against women is sometimes justified through the evocation of
tradition and religion and is exploiting the weak rule of law
framework of numerous Asian countries to the advantage of the
male-dominated society. It is used to control the behaviour of women,
prevent them from freely taking part in public debate and continuously
undermines the expression of women's potential for change in
The Global Gender Gap
Index of 2010 offered a clear overview of the disparities which exists
in the Asian region with regard to the country level of advancement in
terms of equality of rights and opportunities between genders. The
Philippines and Sri Lanka rank respectively as 9th and 16th out of 134
countries in terms of gender equality, mostly due to the achievements
of those two countries in reducing the gender-gap in education and
ranks the third worst country in the world in terms of gender
equality. Thailand ranks 57th globally but ranks among the best
countries in terms of maternal health and 36th in terms of economic
opportunity for the women, with women representing the majority (51%)
of the non-agricultural labour force, a rarity in the Asian context.
The gender situation in
and Indonesia is less optimistic: ranking respectively as 82th and
87th. The scores of both countries are increased only by the fact that
they have women as their head of State, but their scores in terms of
economic empowerment, access to education and health are very low.
Closing this ranking are India (112th), Nepal (114th) and Pakistan (132th)
with extremely important discrepancies between genders in all spheres
In a number of Asian
countries patriarchal cultural and religious traditions are invoked to
systematically control women's lives, their free will and even their
bodies and hamper the full realization of their potential. In India,
discrimination rooted in gender prejudices that foster stereotypical
roles for the girl child and women is one of the reasons for the poor
state of affairs of women. The concept of purity and submission
superimposed upon women by cultural and religious practices, restrict
their access to education and limits their freedom to choose the
employment of their choice. The continuing practice of demanding and
paying dowry, though prohibited by the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
limits the parents' interest to educate a girl child.
Another example is the
common practice in some communities in Pakistan that at the time of
birth of a girl, she is declared engaged to be married to a boy which
will prevent the 'engaged' girl from freely choosing her future as her
fate is sealed from the day of her birth.
killings remain a strong issue in
South Asia. The women being seen as carrying the honour of the family can be
murdered if a family or the community considers that she is following
a path different to what was expected of her. The United Nations
Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women die each year in honour
killings worldwide. However, the actual number is likely to be much
higher as the cases largely go unreported.
Another example of
religion or tradition being invoked by the community to control the
lives of the women was seen in a case reported in August 2010 from Sri
Lanka. A husband was forced by community members of the local mosque
to sign a document agreeing to the punishment of his 17-year-old wife
for having given birth to a child as a result of an extra-marital
relationship. The woman, who was sick, was then beaten 100 times with
the hard centre stem of a coconut frond.
Bangladesh, the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women expressed its concern in February 2011
that "despite the High Court's decision that the extra-judicial
punishments, fatwas, are illegal, there are reports of illegal
penalties being enforced through shalish rulings to punish
"anti-social and immoral behaviour". In January 2011, a 14-year-old
girl was "lashed to death" following a punishment given by a village
court consisting of elders and clerics under the Shari'ah law, after
being accused of having an affair with a married man.
In some countries the
"traditions" invoked to maintain the women in a state of oppression
benefit from the support of the authorities, like in Pakistan, or are
even reflected in the legal framework like in Aceh where some of the
criminal laws are based on the misinterpretation of the Shari'ah. A
2010 report by Human Rights Watch "Policing morality" on the law
related to "seclusion" which makes association with a unmarried member
of the opposite sex a criminal offense punishable by caning and a fine
and to public dress requirement, two of the five Shari'ah laws in Aceh,
revealed that these laws are abusively implemented by the authorities
and document cases of aggressive interrogation, including beating of
the suspects, forcing the suspects to marry and forcing women and
girls to submit to virginity examinations as part of the
The Jirga courts in
Pakistan oppress women's rights and, though illegal, are tolerated or
even supported by the authorities. Jirgas deny the equality between
women and men, apply corporal or capital punishments upon women whose
behaviour is seen as deviating from traditional standards and lack
standards of fair trial. In July 2010, a woman was condemned to
stoning to death by a Jirga merely for having been seen as walking
alone with a man. In May 2010, a young couple was marked for death by
a Jirga that included police officers because the woman had denied a
suitor selected by her family in favour of her husband, who came from
outside of the tribe. Despite an eventual Sindh High Court ruling in
favour of the couple, community members and police continued to
persecute the couple and the groom's family. Legal and social
complicity results in near impunity for those who continue to abide by
the Jirga rather than law and perpetrates honour killings. The
government has not been seen to take any sort of action to pronounce
the Jirgas' ruling as illegal and to dismantle them by taking action
against the individuals engaged in running them.
Those cultural and
religious representations remain strong obstacles in the way of women
who want to take an active part in the future of their communities.
Even in countries which are trying to achieve a 33% representation of
women in the Parliament, such target remains very hard to reach; Nepal
being the only Asian country to have achieved that goal so far. Women
seeking emancipation are the target of those who want to maintain the
patriarchal order of the society and see female emancipation as a
direct threat to their own power and social status.
Acid attacks in
Bangladesh and Pakistan against women who dare to say "no" to a
marriage or a relationship are a case in point. Threats and harassment
against women human rights defenders in Nepal further show the society
resistance to those seen as challenging the established social order.
In some countries,
women are considered as simple chattel that can be exchanged to
maintain the relationship between families; to settle conflicts or a
commodity that can, more simply, be sold. In February 2011, the AHRC
documented a case of marriage which was opposed by the 70-year-old
father of the bride in Pakistan. As "compensation" for the marriage
and the loss of his daughter, the father demanded the barter of a girl
from the groom's family.
In South Asia, cases
of dowry disputes and dowry deaths also reveal the value placed upon a
woman's life. These are cases where the groom's family claims that
they had not received enough material benefits to accept the woman
into the family. Those claims may result in assault, mental and
physical harassment of the bride, and ultimately, in her killing.
continues to suffer from a massive phenomenon of trafficking in women.
In many cases the authorities cooperate with trafficking rings and
brothels were women are kept, effectively imprisoned for sex work. Due
to the irregular immigration of trafficked women, the victims often
have no legal status in the country where they are trafficked to and
risk detention should they try to escape or lodge a complaint with the
local authorities. In
sex workers are particularly at risk of exploitation and
stigmatisation with cases of arrest and humiliation commonly reported,
while rape cases of women sex workers are not properly dealt with.
All the cases
mentioned above clearly show a pattern that, although the attitude of
state actors is primordial in dealing with cases of violence against
women, the functioning of law enforcement agencies in practice
reflects the patriarchal values of the society and further contribute
to oppress the women. The systematic failures of the criminal justice
systems have been exploited by perpetrators to deny justice and
protection to the victims of gender-based violence and to maintain the
women in a situation of vulnerability. For instance, in almost all the
countries in Asia, authorities at all levels of the judicial system
have denied assistance and justice to rape victims and protected the
perpetrators, resulting in a de facto "decriminalisation of rape".
Victims of rape and gender-based violence seeking legal redress face
harassment, threats from the authorities and community members and
often the courage required to confront such obstacles to get justice
is only rewarded with impunity for the perpetrators. This starts from
the moment the victim makes the complaint of rape. In almost all of
Asia there are incidents of police officers refusing to accept the
complaint, forcing the victim to negotiate a settlement with the
perpetrators or in specific countries even to marry the perpetrators.
Collusion between the
perpetrators of rape and police officers is common. Further, the
social stigma surrounding rape and women filing cases in the police
station and economic dependency of women are the most important of all
obstacles hampering the women's access to redress.
In a case in Nepal
last July, the police took the rape victim in custody twice at the
demand of the perpetrators which resulted in having all the physical
traces of rape disappear. In Sri Lanka, in January 2011, the family of
a 23-year-old physically and mentally disabled rape victim was forced
by the police to accept monetary compensation from the perpetrator as
a settlement for the case. In
in December 2010, a woman was raped by a local gangster with the help
of two police informers and was forced by the police to withdraw her
complaint. In India, women face additional risks at the hands of law
enforcement officers than their male counterparts due to the risk of
sexual harassment and even custodial rape. In a case reported on 1
February this year, once again from Assam state, the police officers
assaulted and sexually abused a woman and her mother when the officers
came to their house in search of a male suspect. In this case too, the
police have refused to register a case against the accused despite
These cases, from
different corners of Asia, illustrate that protecting the right of
women is intrinsically linked to the state of rule of law in the
country, in particular to a sensitisation of the police and to the
introduction of accountability within the ranks of law enforcement
All over Asia, the
situation of women belonging to communities which are traditionally
marginalized and discriminated against deserves a special mention as
those women will be exploited at several levels with even less access
to judiciary and state institutions than women belonging to the
dominant majority in the country.
In India and Nepal for
instance, women belonging to the Dalit or tribal communities are more
vulnerable to rape as their lives and dignity are seen as less
valuable and they have less access to judicial institutions.
has also recently seen an increase in cases of isolated women, often
widows and often from the Dalit community, being trashed, violently
beaten, tortured and forced to eat human excreta after being accused
of "witchcraft" by villagers. The Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC)
has documented 82 such cases within two years. In
from religious minorities are targeted, abducted and forcibly married
to convert them to Islam. It is estimated that 20 to 25 Hindu girls
are abducted each month and forcibly converted to Islam. In March
2010, the family of a 17-year-old Hindu girl who was kidnapped by
three influential Muslim brothers and raped by one of them, was
pressured into accepting her wedding to her rapist and her conversion
to Islam by a jirga. Judicial and police inaction went as far as
arresting the victim's father under a fake case and intense pressure
from ruling party members and local landlords prevented the family
from seeking further assistance.
The targeting of women
from marginalized castes or classes or religious and ethnic minorities
is not an aimless and insignificant act; on the contrary it has
calculated implications and impact. Raping or abusing the women aims
at not only destroying the victim but also, through her, the
community. Rape and violence against women has become an instrument of
power in the hands of the dominant majority. The victimization of
women from marginalized castes or classes contributes to the
maintenance of power and the domination of "upper" classes or castes
while the victimization of women from minorities, religious or ethnic,
aims at destroying the whole structure of that community, integrating
them into the "mainstream" majority through the destruction of their
identity. This aspect is particularly evident in the case of Burma,
where women from ethnic minorities are the target of systematic,
state-induced campaigns of rape and other forms of sexual abuses by
soldiers in order to "spread the blood" of the ethnic majority and to
humiliate and oppress. "Licence to Rape", a June 2002 report by the
Shan Women's Action Network documented 173 cases of rape and other
forms of sexual violence, with 625 Shan girls and women victimized by
Burmese soldiers from 1996 to 2001 and showed that rape was condoned
as a weapon of war from the Burmese state in order to subjugate and
control ethnic minorities. Documentation by women's groups shows that
such cases of rape; torture and killings of women continue unabated in
other areas of ethnic conflict.
speaking, women in areas of conflict suffer from specific abuses and
often find themselves deprived of any legal remedy; in the South of
Thailand, women are facing unrest and loss but have not been provided
any kind of remedies. The Victim Protection Scheme is inappropriately
implemented, which deprives the victims seeking justice with any kind
of remedy. In Nepal, during the decade-long conflict, the women faced
gender-based violence and sexual violence but such victims have
remained invisible and absent of the government relief programmes and
compensation schemes for conflict victims, a joint report by Advocacy
Forum and the
for Transitional Justice found.
Gender bias is also
visible in larger issues like poverty and malnutrition. For instance,
in South Asia and South-East Asia, in both urban and rural poverty,
often the direct victim of poverty and malnutrition is the women
and/or the girl child. In most cases reported by the AHRC, the pattern
shows that it is the mother and the girl child which face the worst
brunt of poverty.
Women therefore suffer
from multi-layered, multi-facetted discrimination and forms of
violence in Asia. The malfunctioning of the rule of law framework is
exploited by those who want to prevent women from playing a major role
in the public sphere.
throughout Asia, women continue to gather, organise and defend their
rights and the rights of their community. The fight of those thousands
of anonymous women not only contributes to the promotion of the
"rights of women" but also to the advancement of democracy in their
community as a whole.
In countries where
reservations were made to ensure the representation of women in
elected bodies, especially at the local level, women have been able to
make use of such arenas to raise concrete issues of tremendous
importance for the community, such as access to water.
In Nepal, women have
played a tremendously important role in the popular uprising of 2006
which lead to the end of the conflict and the establishment of
democracy in the country. Similarly in India, it is a woman, Ms. Iron
Chanu Sharmila of Manipur, who has today become the beacon of hope and
peace. Sharmila has undergone a ten-year-long fast in protest against
the ongoing violence and impunity in India, committed both by the
state and non-state actors. The state attempted to stifle her protest
by keeping Sharmila in arbitrary and solitary detention in a hospital
room for the past ten years in which she is force fed through a nasal
tube. In Burma, it is also the fight of a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi that
has become the incarnation of the hopes for peace, human rights and
democracy of the people. In Sri Lanka, women activists and lawyers are
taking a great role in the fight against torture and support to the
Pakistan, it is
a woman parliamentarian who had the courage to deposit a law in the
Parliament seeking to amend the Blasphemy law under which religious
minorities face persecutions.
International Day, the AHRC calls for comprehensive action, from all
forces of the society, to create the conditions for women to fully
express their potential for better change.