Asean move to aid women, children

THE establishment of Asean Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) is another important step taken by the 10-member grouping.
Among its stated functions, the commission is to promote and protect rights; build judicial and administrative capacity; and encourage data collection, studies and research.
The new Asean commission faces multifaceted challenges. The most important among them is trafficking of women and children. Although the Asean member countries signed a declaration against trafficking in 2004, incidents of women and children trafficking are still widely reported in some parts of the region.
Poverty, socio-economic imbalance between rural and urban areas, lack of employment, and education are the most significant causes for trafficking. The commission will have to concentrate its efforts to eliminate the drawbacks.
Domestic violence is another issue that needs attention of the new body. Rights campaigners believe that the incidents of domestic violence are under-reported because of fear, stigma and social reasons.
A large number of women in Asean are working as female domestic workers, sometimes under appalling conditions. The commission will have to come up with a joint strategy to improve the working environment for domestic helpers.
The commission, which is dominated by current and former civil servants, would also have to work closely with non-governmental organisations and civil society to achieve its objectives.
Most of the member states have already formulated laws to protect the rights of women and children. However, rights campaigners complain that in some cases laws are either flawed or not properly implemented to the disadvantage of women and children.
Dismissing concerns regarding the composition of the commission and its limitations, Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said the new panel marks a “turning point” for the region.
“I think, before this, Asean was criticised for not having these kind of mechanisms. Now that we have them we are being criticised that they will not be effective enough. I think, give us a chance,” Surin said while talking to media in Hanoi.
As a signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Brunei is already committed to promote and protect rights of women and children. The Council of Women of Brunei Darussalam (CWBD) which celebrated its 25th anniversary this month, is pro-active to empower women in the country.
However there is still room for improvement as recognised by Datin Paduka Hjh Intan Hj Muhd Kasim, one of the two Brunei Commissioners in the Asean body.
“For women in Brunei, this is an historic occasion and although the women in Brunei are well protected, there are still some issues which need to be addressed. One can hope Asean commission will help facilitate the work of promotion on the rights of women and children,” she told Bruneian media in Hanoi, Vietnam, after attending the first meeting of the commission.
One can hope that the establishment of women and children commission will play a vital role in realising the vision of achieving an Asean community by 2015.

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