Governments, rights advocates and experts from across Asia and the Pacific gather to unify efforts to end violence against women ahead of CSW57
Governments from across Asia and the Pacific convened in Bangkok from 5-6 February to bring together voices on ending violence against women and girls. The high-level meeting, organized by the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), provided a space for Government representatives in the region to discuss key issues, challenges and priorities on violence against women, in preparation for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57).
The next meeting of the CSW — a UN Commission that meets annually to assess progress, set global standards and develop policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment — will be held in New York on 4-15 March 2013 with a specific focus on preventing violence against women.
The main outcome document of the CSW will be a set of “agreed conclusions,” agreements and action points for Governments, civil society and other groups around ending violence against women.
By convening members of Governments in the Asia and the Pacific region – who in March will be at the CSW to negotiate and finalize such agreements – this meeting served as an important opportunity to discuss regional priorities, key issues, and recommendations.
“Violence is a barrier for women; it is part of what keeps them out of the mainstream economy. If we want to develop our countries, we have to realize the potential of women fully,” said Bikash Kishore Das, Joint Secretary in Bangladesh’s Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. He was joined by 12 Government officials from the region – China, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and Thailand – representing 12 elected Member States (of the total 45) of CSW. 
Over the two days, participants highlighted the persistence of violence against women in their countries, shared challenges and examples of progress, and came up with a common set of recommendations for what next steps are needed. Key themes that emerged were: the importance of shifting gender power dynamics and ensuring equality between women and men in public and private life; the crucial role of the media in helping to shift norms and culture; and the need to focus on prevention. Their recommendations were summarized in a final report.
The high-level preparatory meeting followed on the heels of a two-day civil society gathering, which brought regional women’s rights groups together for similar purposes. The meeting, which was co-organised by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asian Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP), Fiji Women’s Crisis Center, Disabled People’s International Asia Pacific and made possible by the support of UN Women, resulted in a strong statement which was presented to Government representatives, urging them to act courageously and decisively to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women.
During the civil society meeting, key issues emerged around VAW among marginalized groups of women, such as women with disabilities, HIV-positive women, indigenous women and sex workers, among others.
Suneeta Dhar from JAGORI, an Indian women’s rights and empowerment group, discussed the importance of addressing impunity in cases of violence against women. She has been an outspoken voice on the need for policy reform following the Delhi gang rape case, which has shaken the world.
“We have all been implicated, in a way,” Dhar said. While advocates in India have been working for decades to stem violence against women, this recent gruesome and highly publicized episode has catalyzed near-immediate action. Following a commission’s in-depth review of the country’s rape laws, India’s President signed an executive ordinance that bolsters current laws, including harsher punishments for perpetrators. “This is the historic moment,” said Dhar. “A lot of work has been done and has been in the pipeline [to end violence against women]. The time has now come.”