The review of the Beijing Platform for Action 20 years after it was passed in 1995 is a huge opportunity for us to highlight what has been achieved in the last two decades and examine the remaining challenges to attaining full gender equality.
Legislation to protect women against violence and proper funding for shelters were both part of the Beijing Platform for Action.
In the last 20 years many Asian countries have made great progress by passing legislation on domestic violence and providing funding for shelters. But, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Asian Network of Women’s Shelters, law reform and proper implementation of the law is still needed, and governments must spend more money to help shelters provide the necessary support to help survivors of violence rebuild their lives.
1. Domestic Violence Law Reform and Proper Enforcement
The Beijing Platform for Action calls for reform of gender-insensitive laws and proper enforcement of existing laws related to violence against women (paragraphs 118, 121, 124(g)).
In the last 20 years, many Asian countries have passed legislation to protect victims of domestic violence such as the Domestic Violence Act in Nepal and the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act in India.
Despite these positive steps, there are still major problems with both the content and the implementation of these laws. An ANWS survey of nine Asian countries/areas conducted in 2013 found that although all nine countries/areas have a specific law to combat domestic violence, in eight cases the law is not properly implemented and/or needs to be reformed.
ANWS calls on governments to reform existing laws on domestic violence which do not properly protect women and girls; and strengthen law enforcement and application to achieve dignity and justice for women and girls who are subjected to domestic violence.
2. Decent Funding for Shelters
The Beijing Platform for Action calls for “well-funded shelters and relief support for girls and women subjected to violence”, which includes medical, psychological and other counselling services, legal aid, and other welfare support (paragraph 125(a)).
Despite this demand, funding for shelter services in Asia is woefully inadequate. Only three out of the nine countries/areas in our survey reported that government funding for shelters was “significant”. ANWS members in four countries reported insufficient or minimal funding, and two countries reported no government funding whatsoever.
Even in the three countries/areas which enjoy significant government funding, two put high operation costs and financial pressure at the top of their list of challenges. Another problem is the fact that government funding for shelters is often granted on a project-by-project basis, so when the project ends, the funding stops and the shelter closes.
ANWS calls on governments to fulfill their responsibility to provide sufficient and sustainable funding for shelters and other relief support mechanisms for women and girls who are survivors of violence.