Civil Society Chants ‘If Women Stop, The World Stops’/Photo Credit: Ya Gan

Over 150 civil society organisations, including women human rights defenders and grassroots activists from Asia and the Pacific, are disappointed at the outcome of Asia Pacific Ministerial Meeting on the Regional Review of women’s human rights. 25 years after the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the inability to recommit to the same policy language of Beijing reflect the regression of women and gender human rights in the region.

“While some governments fought long and hard to support the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights, others are undermining the principles of the Beijing Declaration  and their own countries’ commitments to this document. They are not meeting their obligations to uphold our rights and safeguard the wellbeing of future generations.” said representatives from the  Beijing+25 Civil Society Steering Committee for Asia and the Pacific.

“We are in the midst of a climate change crisis. We are becoming climate refugees and our Islands are sinking and yet the governments refuse to acknowledge this. As women, sexual minorities, disabilities and other marginalised identities we face the brunt of the climate crisis daily. We cannot for another five years to have the commitment from the governments responsible to acknowledge this critical situation”  said Nalini Singh,Fiji Women’s Rights Forum, Fiji.

“This region has seen an increase of patriarchal, militaristic and authoritarian governments. And this has led to increased attacks on women human rights defenders, especially, indigenous, environmental rights defenders. And the outcome document of this conference will not address these ongoing and increasing attacks on WHRDs, ” said Arieska Kurniawaty, Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia.

“It’s a pity that more than 170 years since the first revolution women’s bodily integrity is still subject to regulations and restrictions imposed by the state and policy makers. We cannot continue to crumble down to political aggression against recognition of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, and their regressive positions on sexual rights especially sexual orientation & gender identity and expression, access to comprehensive sexuality education, and safe & legal abortion. It’s high time to build a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, with her life, and with her future.” said Neha Chauhan, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

For the past 25 years little progress has been achieved in acknowledging women and all their  diversities. “We are appalled at the complete disregard and intentional silence on issues of lesbian, bisexual, queer women, transpersons, and It feels like we are being pushed back to our closets,” said Ritambhara Mehta, Nazariya: A Queer Feminist Resource Group, India. “Once we step out of the gender binary mold and freely express our sexuality, the risk of violence, abuse and discrimination increases,” added Ging Cristobal, Outright Action International, Philippines.

In a statement presented by civil society at the closing session, Lilly Be’Soer, Voice For Change, Papua New Guinea said, “We are appalled that 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women, 40 years since the adoption of CEDAW convention, 20 years since the Security Council Resolution 1325, all we have heard this week is rhetoric. We are angry that this space does not recognise us as equal partners in the process of development, change and contribution to the outcome document. We are locked out of discussions that will affect our lived realities. The time has come to show our governments that when women stop, the world stops!”

The civil society strongly demands that as we move to the global review of women and gender human rights at Commission on the Status of Women and Generation Equality Forum to be held in 2020, the Governments (Of France and Mexico?) will enable a courageous space to acknowledge and name structural and systemic barriers to gender justice, especially patriarchy and its collusion with neoliberal globalisation, fundamentalisms and militarism.

About Beijing+25 Review Process

The governments from Asia Pacific are currently in Bangkok 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. The Beijing+25 review process began in 2019 in all regions of the world and will culminate in a global review at the 64th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2020 at UN Headquarters in New York. The global review will highlight the achievements and barriers to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). It also marks the commemoration of 40 years o, f the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which is the international bill for women’s human rights.

SOURCE: Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)