ASIA: Social transformation ending the culture of gender discrimination in Asia needs a strong justice framework

An Oral Statement to the 35th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

Mr. President.

The ALRC believes that gender based discrimination is deeply rooted in Asian culture, where an estimated 50% of the Asian population are treated as lesser humans. Despite the region having produced world-renowned women leaders, women in general are treated in the region as worthy of instruments of pleasure, labour and mere possessions of men.

Mr. President, to change this what is required is social engineering that will transform the position of women to be considered equal to that of the men. This social engineering will be impossible without the assistance of affirmative legislations, implemented by functioning justice institutions.

In the region, justice institutions are largely used by member states as tools for oppressing the rights of the people. Expecting the same institutions to play the role of social engineers, to augment the fight against discrimination against women is unfortunately a stale dream. Unfortunately the attention given to this subject even by gender rights movements in the region is negligible.

Institutions like Women’s Commission at the national level are mere farce, that in states like India where the Commission is portrayed as a huge leap forward, is in fact a state agency that has not spared opportunities to blame the victim for gendered violence, particularly in instances of sexual abuse.

Mr. President, the situation is such that women in Asia do not dare to approach the local police to file a complaint against her employer or husband or her male counterpart, when instances of discrimination occur, since approaching the police places the woman at the risk of custodial rape.

Mere rallying and expression of concerns when gory instances of gendered violence and discrimination are reported from the region will not help to improve the unacceptable status quo. What is required is an informed engagement with the justice institutions in the region.

The ALRC therefore requests the Working Group to study closely the justice frameworks in Asian states and work to highlight the defects in these frameworks to address gendered discrimination in the region.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Webcast video: Link (Please scroll down and click on clip number 61 to find the statement presented by the Asian Legal Resource Centre)