Women’s Caucus asks ACWC for inquiries; produces paper on due diligence

Text by Nina Somera, APWLD, Photo by Souknida Yongchialorsautouky, Gender and Development Association (Laos)

Following the first formal meeting between the ASEAN Committee for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) and civil society organizations (CSOs), the Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN reiterates its call for inquiries, beginning with violence against women (VAW) in the context of women migrant domestic workers.

Previously, the Women’s Caucus proposed a due diligence framework as a response to VAW.

In its 24 January 2012 letter that contained points for consideration for ACWC’s last meeting from 16-18 February 2012, “Such inquiry, even taking the form of country visits, can deal with the most pressing issues and concerns of violence against women, particularly in the context of women in situations of conflict, women human rights defenders, sexual minorities, indigenous and rural women, among others.” ACWC is a human rights body that is expected to assist ASEAN member states to comply with their commitments to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). One of the mandates of the ACWC as stated in its Terms of Reference (TOR) includes, “To facilitate sharing of experiences and good practices, including thematic issues, between and among ASEAN Member States related to the situation and well-being of women and children and to enhance the effective implementation of CEDAW and CRC through, among others, exchange of visits, seminars and conferences.”

The Women’s Caucus, along with Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and International Women’s Rights Action Watch – Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP) produced a paper titled “Due Diligence and Violence Against Women: Enhancing Accountability to ASEAN Women and Girls.” Due diligence is a critical process in effectively addressing VAW and also violence against children (VAC). It consists of four interrelated areas: prevention, protection, punishment and reparations.

The paper highlighted some recommendations of Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women Radhika Coomaraswamy and Yakin Erturk, who both wrote reports on due diligences. These include ratification of international human rights instruments, constitutional guarantees of equality for women, national legislation that provides adequate redress for women victims of violence, policies or plans of action on VAW, gender-sensitivity of the criminal justice system, modify discriminatory policies and collection of data and statistics.

The paper also cited good practices and failures in addressing the four areas of diligence. One promising practice on prevention is Cambodia’s “Good Men Campaign” which aims to change the attitude of boys and men towards girls and women. One failure on protection can be seen in the deaths of Singapore-based Indonesian migrant domestic workers who are still subjected to discriminatory laws under the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers Abroad Law and are not adequately protected in Singapore. One example of failure to punish deals with the acts of impunity against girls and women from ethnic groups inside Burma.

There is still no good example of a reparations case. Nonetheless the Women’s Caucus cited the recent ruling of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that ordered Mexico to compensate the families of three young women cotton field workers who were tortured and killed in Ciudad Juarez US$383,000, issue an apology and construct a memorial. More than 400 women have died violent deaths in Ciudad Juarez since 1993.

The paper also suggests a Convention on VAW, following the example of the IACHR. As the paper reads, the due diligence framework “should guide the work of the ACWC in its efforts to support the implementation of ASEAN states’ human rights obligations…assess the compliance of states and identify areas lacking across the region.”

As of this writing, ACWC has yet to respond to the Women’s Caucus letter, which also calls for the institutionalization of a meaningful civil society participation, the Women’s Caucus’ involvement in the task force that ACWC will create and a mapping of women’s human rights experts and resources within the region.

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