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SAPA TFAHR Letter to the ACWC Regarding the draft Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children in ASEAN

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H.E. Datin Paduka Hajah Intan bte Haji Mohd Kassim
Chairperson of the ASEAN Commission on the
Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)

Re: Civil society’s recommendation to the draft Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women & Children in ASEAN

Your Excellency,

We write on behalf of the Solidarity of Asian People’s Advocacy – Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR), a network of more than 70 civil society organizations in Southeast Asia.

We welcome the initiative of the ACWC to enhance its efforts to promote and protect the rights of women and children by drafting the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children (EVAWC), which would be vital to the facilitation of systematic and long-term policy and program commitments from the ASEAN governments and therefore must be fully in line with international human rights norms and standards. For this reason and in the spirit of constructive participation and shared commitment to the advancement of women’s and children’s rights, we strongly put forward the following recommendations:

  • There is a need for separate Declarations on the rights of women and of children respectively:
    • While the rights of women and children are often interrelated, specific characteristics, vulnerabilities and protection needs that women and children face must be genuinely and distinctively addressed. In particular, the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that children are entitled to special care and assistance and must be provided with special safeguards, including legal protection, must be upheld.
  • The phrases, “taking into consideration the different historical, political, socio-cultural, religious and economic context in the region” and “balances between rights and responsibilities”, in paragraph 6 of the Zero Draft (April 2013), must be removed.
    • The prohibition on violence against women and children is absolute and non-derogable. There are no historical, political, socio-cultural, religious and economic contexts that can ever justify such violence. Any traditional or other practices that allow violence against women and children must be uprooted.
    • Similarly, the idea that violence can be inflicted on women or children in the name of “balances between rights and responsibilities” is unacceptable and must be rejected. Children and women must never be subject to violence because they have supposedly failed to exercise their responsibilities. Just like the rights to freedom from torture and from slavery (both of which involve violence against women and children), freedom from violence must never be conditioned on “contexts” or “balances.”
    • Further, responsibilities of women are often anchored on gender-stereotyped roles which are rooted in historical and structural inequalities of power between women and men. [1]
    • The phrase “balances between rights and responsibilities” is not in line with the spirit of this draft Declaration which aims to eliminate violence against women and children. The conditions imposed on the exercise of human rights contradict the principle of universality as affirmed in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) which specified that the “promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels should be universal and conducted without conditions attached.” [2]

We are hopeful that before presenting the draft Declaration to the 23rd ASEAN Summit in October 2013, the ACWC would still consider the above recommendations and are open to further discussions in the course of drafting the Declaration.

Should you have further queries, we can be reached through email: [email protected] ; [email protected] or mobile: +62 81 2940 1766.

Thank you.

Giyoun Kim
Convenor of SAPA TFAHR
Acting Executive Director
Chalida Tajaroensuk
Co-Convenor of SAPA TFAHR Child’s Rights Focal Point
Executive Director
Melanie Ramos-Llana
Regional Coordinator

ACWC Representatives of

Datin Paduka Hajah Intan bte Haji Mohd Kassim (Chair) – Children
Dayang Hajah Mordiah bte Haji Jackia – Women

Ms Long Sophally – Women
Mrs. Khiev Bory – Children

Ms. Rita Serena Kolibonso – Women
Mr. Ahmad Taufan Damanik – Children

Ms. Siamphone Sirattanakoul – Women
Ms. Chongchith Chantharanonh – Children

Dato Sri Dr. Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur – Women
Datuk Dr. Chiam Heng Keng – Children

Mrs. Daw Mya Mya – Women
Ms. Rupar Mya – Children

Prof. Aurora Javate – De Dios – Women
Ms. Amihan Abueva – Children

Dr. Aline Wong – Women
Mr. Koh Choon Hui – Children

Madam Kanda Vajrabhaya – Women
Dr. Saisuree Chutikul – Children

Ms. Cao Thi Thanh Thuy – Women
c/o Nguyen Ngoc Anh (assistant)
Mr Dang Hoa Nam – Children

ASEAN Secretariat
Ms. Mega Irena

[1] UN Commission on the Status of Women, Report of the fifty-seventh session (4-15 March 2013), paragraph 10
[2] Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA), 25 June 1993, paragraph 8

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