27 November 2018
Bangkok, Thailand

Sanam Amin, APWLD Grounding the Global Programme Officer

Thank you chair. I speak on behalf of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, a membership-based women’s rights organisation active in 27 countries in the region. I wish to draw attention to the date: today is the third day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. On that note, delegates here today should understand that our governments have the power to make policy decisions with repercussions over generations and can deepen the challenges women and girls contend with.

The report on Population dynamics and inequality in Asia and the Pacific mentions the regional impact of son preference on sex ratios, stating that “It is a violation of the human rights of girls resulting in a surplus of males.” A recent piece by the Washington Post finds that India and China together have 70 million more men than women, largely due to female feticide and the one-child policy respectively. The piece is called “Too many men”. 70 million is larger than the population of Myanmar. A consequence is women from Cambodia and Myanmar are being trafficked as brides to China; older women continue caring for their adult sons that they had expected to pass on to young daughters-in-law. Without deconstructing patriarchy, without challenging traditional roles of men and women, without eliminating discriminatory practices we are not going to be able to implement core human rights commitments or realise the 2030 Agenda.

As mentioned in the opening remarks yesterday, inequality within and between countries is increasing. This goes hand in hand with obscene growth of wealth for the few. Swiss bank UBS reports that in 2017, over two thousand billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4 trillion, more than the GDP of Spain and Australia. Action is needed to address this: there is enough wealth, should states choose to redistribute it. Redistributive justice is one of the five necessary shifts that is the foundation of Development Justice, a collective call that comes from civil society in the region to change our approach to development.

My next point is to do with elements raised yesterday about the increase in migration within the region as well as the fact Asia Pacific hosts 3.5 million refugees, 1.9 million IDPs and 1.4 million stateless people. These are symptomatic of the states that are in “fragile and conflict-affected situations” such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and even in the Philippines on a subnational level, in the state of Mindanao which has been under a state of emergency for over a year. Conflict has multiple impacts on women and girls, including removing them from the normative forms of social protection.

States in the region need to act on human rights-based principles, whether they are dealing with minority and discriminated against populations such as Lumad indigenous people in the Philippines, Rohingya in Myanmar, or Uighur in China; or whether they are receiving migrants and refugees from their neighbours. As the average life expectancy increases, we must not be accepting of discrimination, entrenched poverty and other factors that impact the quality of life and human dignity. A longer life is not a better life unless we act to make it so.