violence of globalisation
is an issue in the Asia Pacific region that dominates the context in
which violence against women takes place. It influences how states
respond to violence against women. Primarily, globalisation has made
women more vulnerable to violence in the family, community and by the
liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation policies promoted under
globalisation perpetuate inequalities between nations, between the state
and citizens, and among people, between women and men. These policies,
drafted and enforced with little or no consideration of the interests of
women and other marginalised groups, attest to the patriarchal nature of
neo-liberal economic globalisation.
as testimonies from women living in poverty in the Asia Pacific region
consistently reveal, women have become poorer, more disadvantaged and
marginalised as a direct result of globalisation.
aggressive push for trade liberalisation has led to economic and
cultural dislocation of rural and indigenous women in the region. Large
scale commercial extractive industries such as mining, logging and power
generation by multinational corporations have led to the loss of land,
the loss of traditional sources of livelihood, and increased food
numbers of people affected by poverty resulting from globalisation
policies are consequently forced into migration. This has created a
greater pool of cheap female labour, and a staggering increase in the
feminisation of migration. In Hong Kong alone there were 237,110 foreign
domestic workers in 2002.
of these migrant workers are women coming from Philippines, Indonesia,
Thailand and Sri Lanka. There has also been a deplorable increase of
women and girls being trafficked. In Southeast Asia, women and girls are
being trafficked for the sex industry as well as for sweatshop labour,
forced marriage and street begging.
privatisation and deregulation policies, the return of investments for
the capitalists has had more premium than people's rights. Governments'
strategic approach to poverty has been to open up lands and labour to
multi-national corporations at the expense of national sovereignty and
people's rights to food, land, water and resources. It has also resulted
in reduced access to affordable and accessible health and education.
policies, including agricultural and services trade, intellectual
property rights, finance, heavy burdens on debt servicing and structural
adjustment have had enormous impacts on women peasants and small
increased poverty and migration, women face greater deprivation and
heavier burdens of work. When family food security is threatened, women
are the first to suffer. Nowadays women workers have to work longer and
harder just to survive under the adverse domestic and market conditions.
They face greater health risks and problems from the increasing use of
toxic chemicals in the new market-oriented agriculture.
modern technology-based agriculture, they are even losing the little
control they had on food production, as the process becomes further
marginalised. Their role is being limited only to farm work, and their
participation in decision-making on production methods and new
technology, marketing etc., is not 'well received.'
a result, women have become more vulnerable to violence that persists in
various forms. There has been a backlash against women as men within the
family and the community prioritises their interests over women's. The
UN special rapporteur on violence against women has reaffirmed that
"economically disadvantaged women are more vulnerable to sexual
harassment, trafficking and sexual slavery."
backlash against women and women's rights throughout the region is also
reflected in the state's assertion and protection of economic-political
interests at the expense of women's rights, to the point where the state
actors are perpetrating or condoning violence against women to enforce
forms of violence
this context of globalisation, the state is likewise liable for specific
forms of violence against women. In an environment of state sponsored
militarisation, women have become more vulnerable to violence,
especially in militarised areas and as displaced persons and asylum
seekers in transit and receiving countries.
increased militarisation has been supported by increased allocations in
national budgets for military purposes and subsequent reductions in
budgets for expenditure on health and education for women. Related to
this has been the increase in violence against women perpetrated or
condoned by states.
with women's groups in Asia Pacific reveal the following cases of state
example, the license to rape in Myanmar, where the military junta's
forces rape Shan women with impunity. The army exercises absolute power
and all abuses, including sexual violence, are licensed in the interests
of controlling populations.
documentation of 173 such incidents of rape gives clear evidence that
rape is officially condoned as a 'weapon of war' against women in the
state of Shan; and that the Burmese military regime has committed war
crimes and crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence
against Shan women.
issue of 'comfort women' is another instance of state sponsored violence
against women. 'Comfort women' is a term used for over 200,000 women and
girls who were kidnapped, tricked, or coerced and used as sex slaves by
the Japanese government during World War II.
as young as 12 years, were taken from schools and required to 'service'
dozens of military personnel a day. Only an estimated 25% survived the
war and fewer are alive today. The majority committed suicide, died from
sexually transmitted diseases or forced abortions or sterilisations;
were murdered by the Japanese army for attempting to escape, or murdered
by Japanese troops just before surrender to eliminate evidence; or were
simply abandoned in remote jungle battlefields to die. The Japanese
government in all these regards acted with impunity.
example is where nonintervention by the state in Gujarat's communal
violence resulted in numerous accounts of violence against Muslim women,
including rape, torchings and killings.
key factor that contributes towards impunity for state violence is the
lack of safety afforded to women survivors, their families and witnesses
and their families that prevents women from reporting incidents of state
violence to UN and to other independent fact finding missions and
these situations of state violence, the normal criminal sanctions are
not applicable to the state per se. Only individual state
representatives can be held responsible. Where state representatives
have committed acts of violence against women, women victims and their
families are not able to testify against state officials as they fear
for their safety.
protection schemes in fact-finding missions, such as that identified in
the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court can be employed to
ensure that women are not exposed to further risk and trauma. There is a
need to re-examine the methodologies for verifying violation because
unless safer methods are employed, large numbers of women will continue
to not speak out and the violence will continue unabated.
important element is criminalising violence against women. States have
made tremendous progress in criminalising forms of violence against
women, such as forced marriage, forced prostitution, rape, domestic
violence, violence within the family. The enactment of national
legislations on domestic violence and the entry into force of the ICC
attest to the national and international advances made in these areas.
has increased the recognition of violence against women as a state
responsibility and its obligation to prevent and offer redress. However,
there are several limitations related to such a strategy.
in spite of the legal remedies, there is still widespread acceptance of
acts of violence against women in many communities. Caste based violence
against Dalit women, dowry deaths, honour killings, compensation
practices for rape, domestic violence are justified under religious or
cultural practices and perpetrators are difficult to persecute.
the consequent forms of redress made available to women at the national
level are actionable only within the criminal justice system; which
tends not to employ gendered processes. This has meant that women are
not able to access the criminal justice system as they cannot seek the
assistance of the law enforcers with full assurance that their matters
will be addressed appropriately.
they have sought redress through the criminal legal system, many have
been exposed to further risk, where they are required to give evidence
without adequate witness protection; or further trauma, where they are
forced to re-experience their violation within the court system, and
often face unjust outcomes.
there continues to be a high level of reluctance among women to seek
redress through the criminal system, and correspondingly, a high level
of impunity of perpetrators, particularly state perpetrators.
system that provides legal standards and remedies for violence against
women, but that does not 'persecute' the women affected, is imperative.
Mechanisms and procedures for redress need to be improved to ensure they
do not aggravate the situation for the women affected.
of implementation of state commitments is another contributory factor
towards impunity for state violence against women. To a large extent,
the commitments made by state to address violence against women and
armed conflict under the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms
of discriminations against women and critical areas D and E of the
Beijing Platform for Action and its five-year review, have not been
where states have introduced laws and policies to address violence
against women at the national level, the laws and policies themselves
are not fully implemented. Related to this, insufficient resources have
been allocated in national budgets to fully implement national level
policies and programmes. For example, there continues to be a dearth of
domestic violence shelters, which is a persisting and urgent need in
many countries in the region.
is also concern that states have placed more focus on service-oriented
strategies that address the consequences of violence against women
rather than systemic-oriented strategies that focus on the prevention of
violence against women.
instance, rather than only providing relief services for those affected,
preventing situations of armed or communal conflict necessitates
implementing strategies that change communities' patriarchal attitudes
(Ms. is indebted to the Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law
and Development for this contribution)