The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is committed to promoting gender equality and empowerment of women. The ASEAN Member States are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement which has constantly stressed the importance of achieving the full realization of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. In this respect, a prominent role is played by the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).

The ACWC is an ASEAN regional human rights institution established in 2010. It is an intergovernmental commission comprising 20 representatives, two from each of the ASEAN ten Member States. The elimination of violence against women is one of the thematic priority areas identified by the ACWC. The ACWC’s contributions to cross-sectoral and inter-pillar collaboration that impact the lives of women and children are crucial for the whole-of ASEAN approach to promote human rights and advance gender equality and social inclusion. ACWC supports relevant regional initiatives, particularly in the areas of sustainable development; women, peace and security; trafficking in persons; child labour and exploitation; disability-inclusion; culture of prevention; as well as ASEAN’s recovery and resilience-building efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACWC has chaired and submitted to the ASEAN Leaders to adopt many important Declarations in the area of women and child rights such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Elimination of Violence against Children in 2013. ASEAN Action Plan to Implement the 2016 Declaration, Declaration on the Protection of Children from All Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse in ASEAN in 2019.

These statements have reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitment to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015), specifically Target 5.2 which is “Elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private sectors, including trafficking, sex and other forms of exploitation” and Goal 16.2, “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and conduct child abuse” by 2030. The ACWC steers the gender-mainstreaming agenda through the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework that was launched in January this year, together with the ASEAN Committee on Women co-leading its implementation.

On April 18 2022, the 24th Meeting of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) was convened via video conference, It was presided by Cambodia’s ACWC Representative for Women’s Rights, Hou Nirmita, as the Chair of the ACWC. At the meeting, ACWC Representatives from all ten ASEAN Member States deliberated on pivotal pathways to step up the implementation of planned regional initiatives in the ACWC Work Plan 2021-2025 through agile and meaningful engagement with long-standing partners and key stakeholders. The ASEAN Regional Plan of Action (RPA) on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the ASEAN RPA on the Elimination of Violence against Children (ASEAN RPA on EVAC) were given utmost attention.
“Inspired by the theme of Cambodia’s 2022 ASEAN Chairpersonship, ‘ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together’, the ACWC continues to strengthen cooperation and partnerships, forging ahead with the implementation of the ACWC Work Plan 2021-2025 with impactful outcomes and long-term benefits for the women and children of ASEAN,” said Nirmita.

Encouraged by progress made by the ASEAN Member States, the ACWC reaffirmed its stronger commitment to support ongoing initiatives to advance the rights of women and children in the following key outputs’ priorities, namely ending bullying of children; recognition of the legal identity of all women and children; gender-sensitive approaches in counter-human trafficking; climate actions; the use of VAW data for advocacy and capacity-building; and the rights of women offenders and women prisoners; among others. The ACWC was encouraged by the guidance from Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children (SRSG-VAC), during the open session. The SRSG-VAC commended ACWC’s continued efforts to implement the ASEAN RPA on EVAC, shared updates on the SRSG-VAC mandate’s activities and priorities and encouraged strengthening collaboration between the Office of the SRSG-VAC and the ACWC in the implementation of the ACWC Work Plan 2021-2025.

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