Asia: Women speak out on systemic violence in a new report

©Koen Suidgeest

News release

Geneva, 10 May 2021 - Violence against women has been on the rise worldwide over recent years. Nowhere is this more acute than in Asia, due to a combination of specific regional factors, said a report published today by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Philippine Alliance for Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

A survey in Cambodia showed that 46% of women in garment factories were forced to have sex with their managers. In Bangladesh, only 3% of men accused of rape get convicted. One in every four women detained in Nepal has been subjected to abuse such as forced undressing, beating in intimate areas, and full-body searches by policemen. The report, entitled Women break the silence – Gender-based torture in Asia covers topics that go from trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Philippines to violence against LGBTI women in mental health institutions in Mongolia, entrenched impunity for gender-based crimes during Nepal’s conflict, and systemic discrimination in Afghanistan. Additional countries featured are India and Sri Lanka. Each chapter was drafted by a woman with strong expertise in researching and defending women’s rights.

Factors that put women in Asia at particular risk include religious and cultural beliefs that validate violence against women, weak legislation and dysfunctional criminal justice systems, as well as a lack of regional human rights mechanisms. The continent has the highest lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence against women, a situation further worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

« Our research shows that there is a lack of real progress in combating violence against women, which remains systemic in many Asian countries”, said Nicole Buerli, senior human rights adviser at the OMCT and coordinator of the report. « Patriarchal narratives are compounded by corruption in law enforcement, deep-seated social inequalities, and biased courts. All this means that it remains exceedingly rare for women to get justice for the violence endured at the hands of husbands, employers, the police or the military.”

The report advocates for such violence to be defined as torture, in line with evolving international standards. Given that torture carries a special stigma, this might prod reluctant States to address violence against women and girls more decisively, including through robust legislation; training of law enforcement officers and judges; victim and witness protection and the provision of reparations to survivors.

Read our report Women Break the Silence - Gender-based Torture in Asia.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries. Its international Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information, please contact :
Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications

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