Asian leaders are meeting in New Delhi to discuss why, despite the economic boom and rapid progress, women on their continent still remain victims of violence and the traditional patriarchal mindset.
Patriarchal traditions stifle the wellbeing of women in many Asian countries
"Preventing and Responding to Violence against Women and Girls: From Legislation to Effective Enforcement,” is a forum, taking place September 15 to 17, where Asian parliamentarians are meeting to discuss challenges faced by women in Asia. The event was organized by the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Parliament of India.
In the conference, members of parliament from China, Cambodia, Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Iran and several other Asian countries will try and identify appropriate parliamentary action required to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of women and girls and their right to a life free of violence.
Speaker of India's lower house of parliament, Meira Kumar
Meira Kumar, speaker of the lower house of the Indian parliament, the “Lok Sabha,” inaugurated the meeting with some hard-hitting evidence: despite the fact that two-thirds of countries have enacted laws against domestic violence, around 76 percent of women all over the world have been victims of either physical or sexual violence.
Tradition as an excuse
Violence and discrimination against women in Asia have often been justified by tradition, which include dowry-related violence, so-called "honor killings," marital rape and marriages of minor girls, according to Kumar. Even today in 17 out of 41 countries of South East Asia and the Pacific, more than a quarter of the population, believes that it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife, she added.
The Asian Human Rights Commission, a group of jurists and human right activists in Asia, says that the Philippines and Sri Lanka rank respectively 9th and 16th out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality, mostly due to their attempts to improve education and health.
South Asian countries remain at the bottom of the gender gap index
South Asia fares badly
Pakistan ranks the third worst 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 percent) of the non-agricultural labor force.
The gender situation in Bangladesh and Indonesia, numbers 82 and 87 respectively on the gender gap index, is less positive. Though both countries have female heads of State, their scores in terms of economic empowerment, access to education and health are very low.
Closing this ranking are India (112), Nepal (114) and Pakistan (132) with extremely important discrepancies between genders in all spheres of life, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.
Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Editor: Sarah Berning