05 / 1996
The AWHRC carries out its actions in three directions: - educating the public, - strengthening the capacities of women and their access to information, - combating the dominant thinking that accepts and cultivates violence in the world.
Over and beyond the jargon used, the AWHRC seems to have succeeded in translating its rhetoric into reality. Its initiatives and approach deserve praise.
This regional network has started several notable initiatives covering four areas: - research and data collection, concerning, among other things, "military prostitution" and sexual tourism; - political lobbying: the AWHRC participates in national, regional and international conferences, as well as in commissions and their preparation, including several important UNO commissions; - the diffusion of information through its own publications, The Quilt, and Asian Women news; - the public hearings of witnesses.
This initiative deserves special attention and is particularly interesting for human rights activists seeking "grassroots" resources to ensure justice and reparation of crimes committed against women.
AWHRC started to promote these public hearings, known as the "Women’s Court", in 1993. They deal with a wide variety of issues related to "crimes against women in the Asia-Pacific region". Up to now, the AWHRC has sponsored and organized seven courts in different towns of the region. These hearings are attended by Women’s groups and a wide cross-section of the public. They give women who have been victims of persecutions, discriminations and violence due to sex the opportunity to present their cases.
From 1993 to 1995, seven women’s courts were held in Lahore (Pakistan), Tokyo (Japan), Bangalore (India), Cairo (Egypt), and Manilla (Philippines), on a variety of issues: violence against women, war crimes and female slavery, crimes against Dalit and native women, the consequences of demographic policies on women, the dominant system of development, nuclear policies. The culmination of these initiatives was a world public hearing during the NGO Forum during the fourth World Conference on Women (Peking, September 1995).
Public hearings represent an innovative way of dealing with human rights abuses against women. What is more, they produce quite impressive results concerning the victims’ awareness; they are given the means of expressing their pain and anger, and a starting point to finding a cure. By illustrating their cases, the victims hope to compile documents and data on these types of crimes. This information can also be used to develop compensation strategies at local, national, regional and international levels. Finally, AWHRC hopes that these public hearings contribute to a vital structural change and ensure that justice is not blind to specific abuses and violations perpetrated against women. The very existence of these hearings demonstrates that our present judicial system deals with women’s rights in a completely inadequate way when correlated with human rights.
According to "Women Under Islamic Law" (FSLM), AWHRC has recently organized the defence of "comfort women", women who were used as sex slaves by the Japanese army of occupation during World War II. Following a major campaign in several formerly occupied countries, these women, now aged from seventy to eighty years old, obtained official excuses from the Japanese government, which should now examine their demands for reparation. This initiative has snowballed in countries such as Bangladesh, where, during the war for liberation, some 200,000 thousand women were raped and made pregnant by Indian and Pakistani troops.
This sheet uses large extracts from an article by Debby Leyh, published in the journal "Connections" (Netherlands, march 1996, no. 1). The author was able to meet the coordinator of the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council (AWHRC)whose head office is in Manila (Philippines). The author was inspired by this woman’s enthusiasm and the organization’s history. Contact : AWHRC, P.O. Box 1013, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines. Tél. : (632)924 64 06. Fax : (632)924 63 81. Original text in French in this data base.
Articles and files
LEYH, Debby, Spotlight presents The Asian Women's Human Rights Council, Vrouwenberaad Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Netherlands)