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Inquiry examines human rights barriers for women and girls

Graphic: Indian women and girl

The APF has highlighted the vital role of NHRIs to advance the rights of women and girls in its submission to an Australian parliamentary inquiry.

The APF has highlighted the vital role of national human rights (NHRIs) to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls across the Asia Pacific region in its submission to an Australian parliamentary inquiry.

The APF's submission drew attention to serious human rights issues facing women and girls in country across the region, including gender-based violence; discrimination in public and private life; harmful traditional practices; child marriage; and unequal access to health, education and employment.

In addition to the impact on the lives of individual women and girls, the APF noted that gender inequality comes at an enormous financial cost to the economic development of the region.

The APF's submission highlighted the marked absence of women in public life and leadership positions in countries across Asia and the Pacific, saying it was a factor in perpetuating stereotypes, inequality and discrimination against women and girls.

However, NHRIs were well placed to draw attention to many of these issues, build relationships with government and civil society groups, contribute to community education and advocate for changes in laws, policy and practice, the APF said.

The APF's submission featured the example of the national inquiry into rape and so-called "honour killings" by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, as well as recommendations for law reform to address trafficking and violence against women developed by the National Human Rights Commission of India in cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders.

Pip Dargan, Deputy Director of the APF secretariat and APF Gender Focal Point, also provided oral evidence to the Inquiry on the Human Rights Issues Confronting Women and Girls in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific Region, conducted by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

The work of NHRIs to promote gender equality and implement the APF Action Plan on Women and Girls' Human Rights was also a key topic discussed at the APF's 19th Annual Meeting in September 2014.

Representatives from the NHRIs of India, Jordan and Mongolia gave comprehensive presentations highlighting the ways in which they have used their functions and powers to address individual violations of human rights, as well as respond to systemic issues of discrimination and inequality.

These include:

  • Investigating complaints received from individuals, conducting suo moto ("own motion") investigations and initiating court proceedings on behalf of women and girl victims
  • Undertaking monitoring activities to identify the economic, social and cultural obstacles that women and girls face in different areas of their daily lives
  • Advocating to government to amend laws that discriminate against women and to strengthen protections for women who are victims of human rights violations
  • Conducting regular training programs for government agencies, employers and other groups, as well as leading public awareness campaigns on issues such as domestic violence.

Date: 15 October 2014

Image credits

  1. Indian women and girl - Padmanaba01, Flickr Creative Commons