UN Women, OHCHR and ICJ partner to enhance women’s access to justice in Asia and the Pacific

Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Bangkok, Thailand — Women’s limited access to justice is one of the most significant barriers to gender equality in Asia and the Pacific. On 7 June 2018, UN Women, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) jointly launched a new programme to tackle this issue over the next five years, with generous funding from the government of Sweden.

The public launch for the programme, “Enhancing Access to Justice for Women in Asia and the Pacific: Bridging the gap between formal and informal systems through women’s empowerment”, brought together representatives from the partner organizations, other UN agencies, embassies, civil society organizations, NGOs and other regional stakeholders to present the objectives of the programme and discuss the activities that will be implemented.

‘Enhancing Access to Justice for Women in Asia and the Pacific’ will combat discriminatory laws through engagement of women’s human rights advocates and encourage the application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in domestic court decisions. It will also focus on eliminating gender discriminatory practices and attitudes on the part of formal and informal justice actors, from village mediation units to supreme courts. Finally, the programme will empower grassroots women’s organizations to engage with formal and informal justice actors on issues related to women’s rights. The programme will focus on Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Island countries.

UN Women Regional Director, a.i. for Asia and the Pacific, Anna-Karin Jatfors, speaking at the public launch of the programme to enhance women’s access to justice in Asia Pacific. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran
UN Women Regional Director, a.i. for Asia and the Pacific, Anna-Karin Jatfors, speaking at the public launch of the programme to enhance women’s access to justice in Asia Pacific. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran

Speaking at the launch, Ms. Anne-Charlotte Malm, Counsellor, Head of Regional Development Cooperation in Asia at the Embassy of Sweden, highlighted the government of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy and the importance of ensuring non-discriminatory access to justice to achieve the goal of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Ms. Anna-Karin Jatfors, Regional Director, a.i. of UN Women in Asia and the Pacific, emphasized that "as long as barriers to justice still exist, we will not achieve gender equality and empowerment of women. Gender discrimination in the justice system is both a problem in and of itself, because it deprives women of their basic right to justice. But it is also a problem because it denies women the full enjoyment of their other human rights, civil and political, as well as social and economic rights”.

Mr. Frederick Rawski, Regional Director of the ICJ for Asia and the Pacific, spoke of the unique nature of this partnership, bringing together the strengths of UN Women, OHCHR and the ICJ, to tackle an issue which is at the intersection of their respective expertise and experience.

Mr. Laurent Meillan, OHCHR Deputy Representative, South East Asia expressed his optimism at the prospect of achieving concrete progress in women’s access to justice in the region through this programme.

The public launch also gave participants the opportunity to exchange on other initiatives on women’s access to justice in the region. The Ambassador of Switzerland to Thailand, H.E. Ivo Sieber, the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Thailand, H.E. Laila Ahmed Bahaaeldin, and the Ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand, H.E. Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon, took the floor to highlight the synergies of the programme with their respective country’s ongoing work on this issue in the region. Honorable Suntariya Muanpawong from the Supreme Court of Thailand underlined the lessons learnt from past programmes.

(From left) The Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Thailand, H.E. Laila Ahmed Bahaaeldin, The Ambassador of Switzerland to Thailand, H.E. Ivo Sieber, the Representative of Thailand to ACWC for Women’s Rights, Dr. Ratchadfa Jayagupta, the Ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand, H.E. Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon and Honorable Suntariya Muanpawong from the Supreme Court of Thailand. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran
(From left) The Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Thailand, H.E. Laila Ahmed Bahaaeldin, The Ambassador of Switzerland to Thailand, H.E. Ivo Sieber, the Representative of Thailand to ACWC for Women’s Rights, Dr. Ratchadfa Jayagupta, the Ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand, H.E. Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon and Honorable Suntariya Muanpawong from the Supreme Court of Thailand. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran

The launch was preceded by a two-day workshop which brought together representatives from the three partner organizations and the Government of Sweden to discuss the details of the implementation of the programme over the next five years and enhance coordination between all three organizations at the regional and country level.

Attendees of the public launch of the programme on enhancing women access to justice in Asia. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran
Attendees of the public launch of the programme on enhancing women access to justice in Asia. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran