Women’s Rights activists from Asia-Pacific gather to discuss progress, challenges of achieving gender equality in the region

December 1, 2019 naz

BANGKOK, 25 November 2019 — OVER 230 civil society organisations, including human rights defenders and grassroots activists from Asia and the Pacific, representing large groups of women in their own countries are in Bangkok this week for a regional civil society forum on women’s human rights.

The Beijing+25 Regional CSO Forum is a space to celebrate achievements and identify regressions on women’s empowerment, as well as to facilitate intersectional and intergenerational dialogue and solidarity between the diverse constituencies represented.

At a workshop organised by the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Senior Programme Office, Naz Chowdhury discussed the regional status of sexual and reproductive rights for young women with regards to the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA).

Entitled “Taking Stock Of The Progress And Gaps – BPfA, Gender Equality and Sexual And Reproductive Health And Rights (SRHR) For Young Women,” the workshop looked at the various achievements and shortfalls particularly around normative standards on women’s human rights. It featured sharing of first-hand experiences through stories and poster presentation, followed by a plenary discussion on the critical issues of young women that needed to be addressed at different levels.

“We should be very proud of how we have resisted the pushback on women’s SRHR. The Asia Pacific region has captured and developed a sound policy platform.

The grassroots effort over the years have contributed to how SRHR is today, including the creativity of messaging and taking advantage of the era of digitisation,” Chowdhury said.

“The connection of national level efforts with international efforts have improved, bringing focus to pressing issues on women’s rights in the region. Despite the barriers, such as shrinking spaces for civil society and clamping down on human rights defenders, we are moving forward by creating new spaces for engagements such as youth forums and staying committed to working together as feminists.

Women’s rights have a long way to go in the region, but the strong regional women’s networks and grassroots organisations are still advancing on the agenda for gender equality,” she added.

Participant Teta Sibugon from the Phillipines informed that safe abortion rights gained significantly with countries like Cambodia enacting a law allowing abortion for up to 12 weeks gestation, Nepal and Europe legalised abortion, while Thailand and Indonesia expanded regulations to allow abortion.

“There is also increased awareness and conversations among young people about safe abortions. However, countries like the Philippines without even a divorce law, cannot push for an abortion law. As there are no legal provisions to allow abortions,  the safe abortion advocacy network is moving the dialogue of abortion rights from the gains in various AP countries. It should also be noted that decriminalisation of abortion does not mean that abortions are automatically easily accessed, as biasessand taboos, especially towards young people and pre-marital sex exists,” she added.

The workshop concluded with strong recommendations for various stakeholders at different levels.

The Beijing+25 Regional CSO Forum which operates as an inclusive, feminist space where diverse voices of women from across Asia and the Pacific are heard, acknowledged, and validated, also serves to consolidate the civil society inputs to the regional and global review processes for women’s human rights which will be followed up at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 64 at United Nations headquarters in New York in March 2020.

The forum will continue for three days in Bangkok after which the governments will meet to review the Beijing Platform for Action’s regional process at United Nations ESCAP. The regional review is part of the global review of women’s human rights.

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