News / Asia

UN Report: South Asian Women Need More Domestic Violence Protection

Child bride at the Balaji temple in Kamkheda village, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, May 7, 2011
Child bride at the Balaji temple in Kamkheda village, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, May 7, 2011
Kurt Achin

International rights activists say South Asian women need more legal protection from violence brought on by their own families.   A new report from the United Nations says even in countries with domestic violence laws in place - justice remains out of reach for millions of  women.

Laws non existing, or inadequate

The report  titled In Pursuit of Justice notes that only four South Asian countries - Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh - have laws specifically prohibiting domestic violence.  But even where laws exist, scholars say lack of awareness, poverty, and social stigma often prevent women from accessing legal help.

United Nations Women, which was formed last year to focus on gender equality and women's empowerment, points to nearly 90,000 cases of family violence in 2009 here in India alone.  The report says 35 percent of Indian respondents surveyed say they have been physically abused by family members.

Madhu Bala Nada is a senior policy advisor to UN Women in India.  

"We have to re-look at the way we have been looking at family as a protective unit," said Madhu Bala Nada.

Hina Jilani is a prominent lawyer and co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.  She agrees South Asian countries should stop behaving as though family matters fall outside the justice system.

"The family has now become the locus of violence, especially against women and children and the whole question of family being the basic unit of society is there in international instruments [of human rights] as well as in many constitutions," said Hina Jilani. "So I would say we really need to review the whole notion, and stop romanticizing the family."  

The UN Women's report says nearly half of all women surveyed in Bangladesh report incidents of physical violence by their partners.  

Bangladeshi women's rights activist Sultana Kamal says the country's domestic violence law can not make much of an impact unless attitudes also evolve.

"In our society there is an acceptance of violence against women - either explicit or latent," said Sultana Kamal. "It's a culture of impunity. The whole society will have to stand up and say this can't go on."

But Lakshmi Puri, assistant U.N. secretary-general for gender equality and empowerment, says passing domestic violence legislation can be a good catalyst for changing public mindsets.

"When there is a law against domestic violence, people realize - even in the family context - that it is not a natural thing to do," said Lakshmi Puri. "That strengthens the perception that it is wrong to use violence against women and girls, in the family."

Sapana Pradhan Malla, a member of Nepal's Constituent Assembly, says the laws in place to protect women should be enforced.

"Generally what happens in our part of the world - yes, we criminalize excessive use of power, we also criminalize abuse of power," said Sapana Pradhan Malla. "But we don't criminalize non-action of state actors, so we need to criminalize and make them accountable."

Not enough women in official positions

United Nations officials say more women in law enforcement and the justice system could also help victims of violence.  Currently, in South Asia, women make up just 9 percent of judges, 4 percent of prosecution staff and just 3 percent of police.

Experts say increasing the number of women in such positions could better help South Asian women understand and navigate the justice process, many of whom are impoverished, illiterate and unaware of the laws and programs in place to protect them.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs