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While there have been some positive developments and growing national conversations about women’s rights violations in the region, particularly regarding widespread sexual violence, governments across the region are still failing to protect the rights of women and girls.

Overview

Across Asia, women and girls from marginalized communities, for example, Dalit women, face additional barriers to justice. Aside from sexual violence, women across Asia are often not valued as equals to men in their country’s laws and the practice of female genital mutilation occurs across some communities in the region, without laws against it.

Equality Now in Asia at a glance

Analyzing rape laws across South Asia. Our 2021 report, Sexual Violence in South Asia, found rape laws across South Asia are insufficient, inconsistent, and poorly enforced

Amplifying the voices of marginalized women and girls. Following our 2020 report, Justice Denied, we’ve continued to amplify the urgent conversation on caste-based sexual violence in India at national and international levels

Advocating for laws to protect girls and women. In 2009, we took on the case of a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was raped by her father, getting the highest penalty under the law for the perpetrator in 2011. We used the case to advocate for a law against incest.

Achieving Legal Equality

Countries across the region have laws that treat people differently on the basis of sex.

Ending Sexual Exploitation

 Online sexual exploitation and abuse is a growing issue for women and girls across the region

Ending Sexual Violence

Laws in some countries fail to criminalize marital rape or provide exceptions for perpetrators

Ending Harmful Practices

Female genital mutilation occurs across some communities in the region, with few countries explicitly criminalizing the practice, and girls are also at risk of child marriage across the region.

Our work

Equality Now works with partners in the region, particularly in South Asia, to campaign for stronger laws and practices around sexual violence to ensure that women and girls, especially from the most marginalized groups, are fully protected from violence, supports activists working to end female genital mutilation, as well as working to end inequalities in the law.

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Key resources

India – UPR Joint Submission 2022

This submission outlines the gaps in protection of the rights of women and girls in India from the harmful practice of FGM/C, provides critical information on the prevalence of FGM/C/Khafz within the country, and provides recommendations on the …

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Sri Lanka – UPR Joint Submission 2022

During the previous UPR cycle, Sri Lanka received 39 recommendations to strengthen and improve measures regarding women’s rights protection. Of these recommendations, 11 related to preventing and eliminating violence against women; including …

READ MORE

India – UPR Joint Submission 2022

This submission outlines the challenges in the criminal justice system, gaps in legislative protection, and barriers to accessing justice for survivors of sexual violence, particularly from Dalit, Adivasi, and Muslim communities which are …

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Countries

Equality Now works with partners across the region to hold governments accountable for protecting the rights of women and girls. Explore progress towards gender equality across the region.

Afghanistan

In August 2021, the Taliban regime took control of the country, leaving the last twenty years of progress for women in Afghanistan at risk.

In February 2021, 27 % of seats in parliament were held by women, according to UN Women

Currently, women’s rights are severely restricted, despite constitutional protections

Women’s rights activists are continuing to demand their rights, despite threats of violence and intimidation by the Taliban

Bangladesh

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in Bangladesh.

The definition of rape in Bangladesh is narrowly applied to include peno-vaginal penetration only

Bangladeshi law explicitly permits marital rape of adult women in all circumstances

Unofficial estimates suggest that the conviction rate in rape cases in Bangladesh between 2002-2016 was 3%.

Key Resources for Bangladesh

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia. Recent and widespread public…

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Bhutan

In addition to low rates of reporting of sexual violence cases, there are still a number of protection gaps in the law and other barriers to justice that deny survivors in Bhutan access to justice.

Marital rape is explicitly criminalized in all circumstances, but is only considered a petty misdemeanor

Bhutan’s law allows the introduction of evidence as to the past sexual history of the victim during the trial process in rape cases in certain circumstances

As well as compensation to the survivor, Bhutanese law provides for compensation to be paid to the husband when a married woman is raped

Key Resources for Bhutan

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia. Recent and widespread public…

READ MORE

Bhutan Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 80th Session 2021

This submission details our concerns with regard to laws related to rape and other forms of sexual violence and procedures and practices which effectively…

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India

Survivors of sexual violence face barriers to justice, including a culture of shame that shifts blame onto the survivors. These barriers are magnified for those from marginalized communities, including Dalit and Adivasi women.

Caste-based sexual violence is endemic in India, with around 10 Dalit women and girls raped every day according to data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau statistics from 2020

India’s law does not explicitly criminalize marital rape

Despite evidence of FGM happening in India, there is no specific legal prohibition against female genital mutilation and the Indian government fails to acknowledge the issue

Key Resources for India

India – UPR Joint Submission 2022

This submission outlines the gaps in protection of the rights of women and girls in India from the harmful practice of FGM/C, provides critical information on the prevalence of FGM/C/Khafz within the country, and provides recommendations on the…

READ MORE

India – UPR Joint Submission 2022

This submission outlines the challenges in the criminal justice system, gaps in legislative protection, and barriers to accessing justice for survivors of sexual violence, particularly from Dalit, Adivasi, and Muslim communities which are…

READ MORE

Ending Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Women and Girls: A Call for International Standards

Online sexual exploitation and abuse are growing at an alarming pace globally. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable as offenders take advantage of the sex, gender,…

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Maldives

Though sexual violence had traditionally been considered as a private matter in Maldives, in recent years, there has been increasing public awareness of the issue.

In the Maldives marital rape is only criminalized under certain circumstances and there are burdensome and discriminatory evidence requirements to prove rape

There are very low levels of reporting of rape cases despite high prevalence

National level data on the prevalence of FGM, at 13% of women and girls aged 15-49 but only 1% among girls aged 0-14.

Key Resources for Maldives

Sexual Violence in the Maldives: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia, including in the…

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Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia. Recent and widespread public…

READ MORE

Maldives – Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 78th Session 2020

This joint submission details our concerns with regard to laws related to rape and other forms of sexual violence and procedures and…

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Nepal

The critical issue of sexual violence has received more attention from the public and policy makers in Nepal in recent times, with widespread protests in 2018.

Nepal has seen an increase in reported cases of rape, with 2230 reported rape cases in the fiscal year 2018-19

Nepal’s statute of limitation for rape cases requires complaints to be filed within one year of the date of the incident

An ordinance passed by Nepal’s President in December 2020 which increased penalties for rape, and made it an offence to force rape victims to mediate cases was not passed into law.

Key Resources for Nepal

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia. Recent and widespread public…

READ MORE

Sexual Violence in Nepal: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia, including in…

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Nepal – Submission to the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) 131st Session March 2021

This submission, ahead of the 131st session of the Human Rights Committee, details our concern about sexual violence laws and procedures in Nepal that deny justice to survivors, as well…

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Pakistan

In Pakistan, there is no specific law on incest in the penal code and, given the conservative nature of society, issues such as rape and incest are surrounded by stigma and are very difficult to address.

Pakistan’s Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984, provides that women’s testimony is worth half that of men in certain civil matters.

The Lahore High Court declared the “two-finger test” unconstitutional in January 2021

FGM is known to take place in Pakistan within the Bohra community

Key Resources for Pakistan

Learning From Cases of Girls’ Rights

Representing the knowledge gained from cases undertaken as part of Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF), this report identifies and addresses the common obstacles faced by adolescent girls in their pursuit of justice….

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A Struggle for Justice: Incest Victims in Pakistan Report

War Against Rape, Lahore (WAR Lahore), Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services (NWT) and Equality Now pro-actively undertook a preliminary study on the subject of incest in Pakistan prompted by the case of a 15-year-old…

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Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence.

The law explicitly permits marital rape, including of children over the age of 12, unless the parties are judicially separated.

The law specifically allows the introduction of evidence in rape cases which shows that “the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character”.

The law applicable to the Tamil community in Jaffna restricts a married woman from dealing with her own immovable property without the written consent or her husband.

Key Resources for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka – UPR Joint Submission 2022

During the previous UPR cycle, Sri Lanka received 39 recommendations to strengthen and improve measures regarding women’s rights protection. Of these recommendations, 11 related to preventing and eliminating violence against women; including…

READ MORE

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia. Recent and widespread public…

READ MORE

Stories

Hear from some of the incredible survivors and activists committed to raising their voices to make equality reality across Asia and the Pacific and around the world.

Malaysian mothers challenging discriminatory citizenship laws

A group of Malaysian mothers with children born outside the country come together with a human rights group to push for a change in the discriminatory citizenship law that has cost them and their children so much. In …

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Deena and Charulatha – Nepal

A mother escapes an extremely violent and abusive relationship, but with no proof of paternity, her daughter is repeatedly denied approval for citizenship paperwork, ultimately leading them to take their case to the highest court in the land. Nepali law …

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Radhika – India

I set up a Facebook profile and received a friend request from a man I didn’t know. I saw a few of my family were connected with him so I accepted. He got my telephone number from somewhere and messaged me on WhatsApp.  He asked about my family and I told him I …

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telephone lines on a street in India

Dr. Debarati Halder expert interview – India

Dr. Debarati Halder is Managing Director, Centre for Cyber Victims Counselling, India I have observed an explosion in different types of online victimizations targeting women and children, and it is becoming very common. I have dealt …

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None of us can afford to sit back and wait for equality to arrive – we need to act now. Only by working together will we achieve the legal and systemic change needed to address violence and discrimination against women and girls.

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Social change begins with legal change and people like you — raising your voice against injustice — play a vital role in our collective success.


Take action across Asia and the Pacific

India: Haryana Government must act to end caste-based sexual violence

Dalit survivors of sexual violence in Haryana, India are facing severe obstacles to accessing justice as well as intersectional caste and gender discrimination. The Haryana government needs to take immediate …

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