Ending violence against women in Asia

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, 2014, activists from countries around Asia were asked to comment briefly on the greatest source of violence against women in their society, and the challenges in overcoming this violence.


The prime source of violence against women is their lack of empowerment and decision making power, as women often lack economic resources and independence to make decisions about their own life. The patriarchal system and upbringing of men in our society is another reason of violence against women in India; very often we ignore their first offence and later on these men become habitual offenders. Societal influence is biased against women and culture also enhances violence against women. Adverse impacts of technology, pornography and victim blaming are also responsible.

Education is one of the curative measures to overcome violence against women. Students and young kids should be aware of the adverse effects of the internet and learn proper use of the media, proper use of technology. Parents should play a constructive role and be conscious about their children’s upbringing. Economic empowerment and independence of decision making is important, for a woman in a powerful position in an institution is likely to be less vulnerable to violence. The general perspective of women as the weaker section of the society needs to be changed through proper education and awareness programmes. Shrutimala Goswami

The Philippines

I think the biggest source of violence against women is domestic. It may not be physical, but emotional and psychological. For instance, a friend wants to take a criminology course but her father does not allow it, so she takes a different course even though she does not like it. Another friend, a mother of two, was not allowed by her husband to pursue her career because then ‘no one will look after their children’. The wife cannot go out and see her friends; her duty is to take care of the household chores and look after the kids. To deny, deprive and obstruct women from their aspirations, whether in the family/ private or public sphere, is indeed another dimension of psychological and emotional violence.

The challenge faced in overcoming this violence is how to voice out or let people know what women want and think. Even in a society in which women know their rights and equal status, there continue to be domesticated and subdued women. It is one thing for women to know their rights, but when social and family conditions prevent women from letting others know what they want, the impact is profound. It leads to subjugation, repression and domination by men, effectively hindering women from what they want to become. Diana Mariano

Sri Lanka

Culture is the primary cause of violence against women. Sri Lanka has historically had a male dominant culture. Men have all the power to control women. Religion also teaches that women have always been under the arm of men. Girls should live under the authority of their fathers or brothers. After marriage, women should obey and live under the authority of her husband. She cannot speak against her husband, and she should bear everything on behalf of her children. When old, she should live under the authority of her sons. In particular, this is what Buddhism teaches and what people practice. Things are slowly changing with women nowadays playing a role in the family economic system.

To change people’s perception regarding the role and status of women is the main challenge in overcoming the cultural aspect of violence. Most people think in a traditional way and do not want to change their minds, particularly the older generation. People also need more education about relevant laws, including men. Inoma Karunatilake


The biggest source of violence against women in Indonesia is culture. In the country’s patriarchal system, there are various traditions or policies that provoke violence against women. The 1998 reforms saw more than 50 policies designed to support and fulfill women’s human rights, and some 400 institutions were set up by the government to handle cases of violence against women at the national, provincial and district levels. A lack of understanding about human rights and gender justice however, has led to strong opposition to groundbreaking laws. The recent report of the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan -2013) states that domestic violence is the most common in Indonesia. It shows a lack of awareness of the link between law and the elimination of violence against women. The other problematic issue is the implementation of sharia laws in some provinces and districts (365 local regulations) that are a source of discrimination against women.

The challenge is how to integrate a human rights perspective in the state’s policies and laws. Furthermore, it is important to build awareness in the society on gender equality. Indria Fernida


Violence against women has been found to be increasing in Nepal. We have come across incidents of sexual violence against girls aged three, to women aged 80. In most of these cases, women suffer sexual and domestic violence at the hands of their families and close relatives. Alcohol and unemployment plays a major role in increasing violence against women in Nepalese society.

Violence against women is increasing because of the lack of rule of law and impunity for the perpetrators of these violations. The state has been unable to tackle the issue, due to sheer negligence on the part of the state mechanisms. The justice mechanism is not women friendly in Nepal. When women try to register cases at the police station, they are usually discouraged and urged to settle their issues at home and in the village. Women victims of rape are often asked questions that make them uncomfortable. All this deters women from seeking justice. Women have to agitate to even register their complaint in demand of investigation of the case.

From a political perspective, I think the overall situation of women has improved, such as women representation in politics. The overall representation of women in the public sphere has not improved however, despite the firm commitment that the previous Constituent Assembly made. Similarly the denial of justice remains a major challenge for women in improving their overall security. The continuous denial of the state to address the conflict era sexual violence is another challenge. While there has overall been a lot of commitment, including the National Action Plan, we still need to do a lot in terms of putting commitments into action. Mandira Sharma


Violence against women is a structural issue. The mindset (tribal, feudal and distorted) comes first, which puts women in a subservient reproductive role confined to the four walls of the domestic sphere. This mindset further promotes sexual discrimination which excludes women from decision making processes, which in turn prevents them from accessing and exercising their fundamental rights. The legal system is plagued with the same mindset, in addition to its own structural flaws such as corruption, inaccessibility, time consuming and expensive processes. Related law enforcement agencies also lack sensitization, capacity, resources and free will to work as per their rules and regulations. The police are highly politicized and corrupt. There is lack of sustainable and consistent accountability system.

Poverty is another major cross cutting issue fuelling gender based violence. Across all economic classes women are seen as men’s personal property/commodity, economic/ honor burden or women are being forcibly pushed to perform reproductive, productive and social roles in a perfect manner. Women throughout the country are not only overburdened but also exploited.

To change this mindset is the greatest challenge in overcoming the situation, which is further supported by the misinterpretation of religion to justify control and power over women. Religious extremism and feudal mindset are the core areas to deal with in the fight against gender based violence. The lack of political will to bring about the necessary structural and functional reforms is another challenge. Arifa Mazhar