To facilitate a genuinely ‘people-centred’ ASEAN, it is imperative that civil society understand ASEAN and its vast work. This requires civil society groups to be more knowledgeable about ASEAN and to have the capacity and resources to engage with and influence ASEAN and its various bodies. Similarly, it is critical that women’s voices from ASEAN countries are audible and influential. It is important for women’s movements to utilise all possible mechanisms for advocacy in advancing women’s human rights. This handbook aims to increase knowledge and awareness around ASEAN and its mechanisms. The handbook was envisaged as providing information about ‘ASEAN in a Nutshell’.
The Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN, or the Women’s Caucus, represents a network of women’s human rights groups that engage with ASEAN human rights processes and structures, as well as broader ASEAN structures, in order to achieve the full realisation of women’s human rights in Southeast Asia.
The Women’s Caucus was initiated by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP) in 2008 and continues to be co-convened by these two organisations with the support of a Coordinating Group. The Women’s Caucus strongly upholds and is committed to ensuring that the Member States of ASEAN adhere to the following principles:
- HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL ABOVE ALL, particularly for the more vulnerable, marginalised, disadvantaged women and girl children;
- ACCOUNTABILITY TO WOMEN AND THE PEOPLES OF SOUTHEAST ASIA through independent, transparent, effective and responsive processes and structures which are consistent with Member States’ human rights obligations to protect, promote, fulfil and realise the human rights of women. This includes extraterritorial obligations and recognition of primacy of human rights over and above other obligations;
- MEANINGFUL & SUBSTANTIVE PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN ASEAN which is inclusive and representative of the diverse and multiple sectors of society aimed at eliminating discrimination and ensuring substantive equality of all women in Southeast Asia.
The Women’s Caucus is committed to taking concerted regional action around identified 5 Key priority issues for women in Southeast Asia. They are:
- Poverty, conflict and the loss of small scale agricultural lands drive women across borders. Despite policies that support migration, little policy exists that offers migrant women workers protection. Most women migrants work in unregulated, low paid industries like domestic work where exploitation and abuse is common.
- Violence against Women (VAW)
- While violence against women occurs overwhelmingly in the home, VAW has many other forms and permeates other spaces. These include:
- Economic rights
- Women are economically disadvantaged in earnings ratio, access to property and resources and overall wealth. Persistent efforts to deregulate, privatise and remove trade restrictions may have increased trade in the region but has done little to advance the rights of women or reduce poverty for the most marginalised. Women workers in the informal sector such as domestic workers are largely unpaid, undervalued and continue to be exploited. In the formal sector, women experience discrimination in wages and unequal access to employment. Gender stereotyping and inadequate legal frameworks leave little opportunity for women to redress these issues.
- Political participation
- Lack of effective implementation, monitoring and assessment of policies to promote women’s political participation, coupled with reluctance to institute temporary special measures impede women’s political participation. Further obstacles include persistent gender stereotyping and patriarchal attitudes in society, government, and media that impacts negatively on women’s participation in political arena.
- Discrimination in laws, policies and practices
- Reluctance to fully legislate against discrimination, to perform a comprehensive review of laws to identify discriminatory laws; to implement policy measures and machinery to strengthen women’s human rights are identified as major barriers to the advancement of women’s rights. Further, government efforts to eradicate harmful social and cultural beliefs and practices including those in media are required.