IWRAW-AP Statement on the AHRD

(Sent to the ASEAN Heads of State and Government on 21 November 2012)

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)[1] wishes to express its disappointment in the decision of the ASEAN leaders to proceed with the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration on 18 November 2012 despite the numerous calls to postpone the adoption by civil society groups and other stakeholders.

The current version of the Declaration falls short of its vision and mission as the overarching instrument to “establish a framework for human rights cooperation in the region and contribute to the ASEAN community building process”, due to its restrictive content and the process by which it was created.

• Procedurally,
o   the expediency in adoption, lack of transparency, and meaningful
civil society participation has substantively limited the vision and
scope of the Declaration as an overarching standard setting instrument
for all stakeholders in the region.

• Substantively,
o   the overall approach adopted by the Declaration, provides ASEAN
member states an expedient to continue the denial and violations of
rights under the protective shroud of culture and traditions of the
region which are patriarchal and anachronistic standards that will
continue to negatively impact women’s human rights in ASEAN. This is
clearly embodied in the numerous articles of the general principles
which places limitations rather than to promote and protect the full
recognition and enjoyment of human rights by all in ASEAN;

o   the Declaration, despite affirming its commitment to uphold
international human rights principles and standards has allowed for
limitations such as “balancing rights” with regional and national
contexts and laws. This in the current political context of ASEAN, as
well as the weak institutional climate for promotion and protection of
human rights nationally, allows the member states to interpret the
provisions in ways which may undermine their international
commitments;

o   continuing to limit the exercise of human rights and fundamental
freedoms to meet the principle of “just requirements”, including on
the basis of “public morality”[2], further demonstrates the lack of
true commitment by the ASEAN member states to the duty to respect,
protect and fulfil the human rights of the peoples of ASEAN. The
Declaration fails to provide the measures and mechanisms to ensure
appropriate checks and balances to interpret “just requirements” at
the national level. Further, historically the notion of public
morality has been used to deny and violate women’s human rights to
sexual autonomy and bodily integrity.

As an organisation committed to the realisation of human rights of
women, we are extremely concerned by the absence of these key
elements, as well as inclusion of provisions which negate the full
recognition of human rights, both in the process of drafting and
adopting the Declaration itself and in the substance of its content.

In line with the mission to promote and protect human rights,
democracy, fundamental freedom, rule of law and good governance, we
urge the “People-oriented” ASEAN to ensure progressive interpretation
and implementation of the Declaration in accordance to the spirit and
commitments of internationally agreed principles and standard on human
rights. The women of ASEAN demand the recognition and enjoyment of
allhuman rights and fundamental freedoms unfettered and unrestricted
by unnecessary justifications premised on traditional, patriarchal and
anachronistic standards and interpretations which are embodied in the
adopted Declaration.

It should be noted that all Member States of ASEAN are parties to the
Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as
well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and is
thereby obligated to ensure the recognition and promotion of women’s
and children’s human rights and continue to uphold the principles of
universality, non-discrimination and substantive equality of all
peoples of ASEAN.

We, as a women’s human rights group, together with other stakeholders,
will continue to monitor and demand for the full accountability of the
ASEAN member states in fulfilling its obligations to the peoples of
ASEAN without in any way undermining its obligations under
international human rights laws. We want the guarantee of a regional
Declaration which will withstand national, regional and international
scrutiny in upholding universal principles of human rights.

Yours sincerely,

Audrey Lee
Officer in Charge

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
10-2, Jalan Bangsar Utama 9
59000 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Tel:  (603) 2282 2255
Fax: (603) 2283 2552
Email: iwraw-ap@iwraw-ap.org / iwraw_ap@yahoo.com / iwrawap1993@gmail.com
Website: http://www.iwraw-ap.org

——————————————————————————-

[1] IWRAW Asia Pacific is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with
the Economic Social Council of the United Nations and has national
partners in all 11 Southeast Asia countries. It facilitates and
monitors the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an
international treaty ratified by all member states of ASEAN. In
collaboration with APWLD, it initiated the formation of the Southeast
Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN, with a membership of over 50 women’s
groups in the region.

[2] The statement of the Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN on the
issue of public morality is fully supported by IWRAW Asia Pacific.

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