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Stop violence against women: highlighting violence against women of minorities

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The recent International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was used to highlight the unique issues of minority women in Southeast Asia. Women who are members of minorities face double discrimination, both as females and as members of minority groups.

Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.

— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 8 March 2007


(Bangkok, 28 November 2007) 25 November marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – which itself marks the start of a 16-day campaign to raise awareness on this issue. The campaign will conclude on Human Rights Day, on 10 December. For women in Southeast Asia who are belong to ethnic minority communities (EMW) or indigenous women (IW), their minority status brings an added vulnerability to discrimination that, in many cases, leads to violence. Two organisations from such communities in Southeast Asia used the day to highlight unique situations in their countries.

The Women’s League of Burma, a network of EMW and IW organisations, used the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to launch a campaign to free all women human rights defenders in Burma. They will be using their international network to encourage governments to call on the junta in Burma to release women human rights defenders that have been detained. In the violent crackdowns on peaceful protests in September, over one hundred women, including nuns, were arrested. The organisation also used the day to release a report on the violence faced by women human rights defenders in Burma.

Innabuyog, a network of women’s organisations in the Philippines, also used the day to highlight problems faced by indigenous women, focusing on extreme poverty in the Cordillera region exacerbated by government corruption, political killings and fuel price hikes.

Another key type of violence faced my EMW and IW in Southeast Asia is trafficking. EMW and IW are over-represented in trafficking statistics throughout Southeast Asia. A recent UN report highlighted the fact that these women are highly susceptible to HIV/AIDS infection, due to their high-risk work and lack of knowledge about the disease. Fearful of their status in a different country, many women who are trafficked are reluctant to report sexual abuse or harassment, or to seek health care.

For more information on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women see the FORUM-ASIA article “Join the call to end violence against women.”

Innabuyog statement
Women’s League of Burma Campaign