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South Asian Regional Conference on Violence Against Women In Politics [October, 2010]

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South Asian Regional Conference on Violence Against Women In Politics
Redefining Democracy: Promoting Gender Responsive Politics

2-4 October, 2010
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Democracy, Gendered Violence and Politics in South Asia

The right to participate in politics is a key component of Democracy. Women’s equal participation in decision making and their access to political power are critical issues that have long been ignored and still not getting enough attention despite constitutional and legal provisions to increase their political participation. Decision-making process in democratic governance has always been the domain of men. The countries in the South Asian region are at different stages of democratic governance ranging between highest 33.2 % in Nepal to 5.8% in Sri Lanka. Although the number of women in parliaments around the world has been increasing steadily over the past decade, in 2010 women still occupy only 18.8 percent of all parliamentary seats according to a study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Marginalization of women in governance is a common problem faced by all South Asian countries. Women face many forms of violence and challenges in their quest to participate in democratic governance. Violence Against Women in Politics (VAWIP), in the form of discrimination, intimidation, character assassination threat and others, is a common problem faced in all countries throughout the globe and mostly in South Asia. It is an issue affecting women on a global scale, and is not limited to countries in the third world or to any specific region. Women have been unable to participate in the decision-making process, particularly with regard to the different levels of governance. Their voices remain unheard and their special needs neglected.

The absence of appropriate laws to address the issues of women in politics is also one of the major hurdles for women politicians. None of the national laws, including the code of ethics for political parties and election manifestos or the national plan of action have any provision for addressing the issue. The human rights framework provides a number of international conventions and declarations which support and promote women’s rights. However, none of the existing instruments directly address the concerning issue of violence against women in politics. Among the existing international instruments, CEDAW has been identified as an important instrument in supporting the fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination for women, as well as women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in political and public life. However, the convention fails to specifically address the issue of violence against women and, even more specifically, violence against women in politics.

Effective democratic governance continues to be one of the greatest challenges of the South Asia as countries cope with demands of the global economy and pressures from citizens for increased participation and representation. Democracy is broadened in today’s world in terms of its definitions and its methodologies. There is an urgent need to redefine democracy by enhancing women’s participation and position in South Asian politics. It is impossible to bring about change without increasing the representation of women at various levels of the political power structure.

Therefore, SAP International is attempting to lobby for harmonizing laws, policies and strengthening mechanisms to promote women’s involvement in politics as well as ensure their effective protection from any violence that may result as a consequence of women’s political involvement. Concerted effort should be made to lobby for policy influencing at the international as well as national level to address the issues of VAWIP by the survivors, and successful politicians along with friends of women in politics.

Why this Regional Conference?

After conducting three regional conferences on VAWIP, SAP International realized the seriousness of the issue and the need for collective action to sensitize civil society, media, and political parties and to lobby with National Government and UN agencies for adoption/ / formulation of appropriate laws, policies, provisions, plans and programs and articles to address VAWIP. It also realized the importance of networking with national/regional friends of women in politics (FWIP) for collective actions for lobbying to create a congenial environment for women to participate in politics and strengthen gender sensitive democratic governance.

Hence, the fourth regional conference will be organized to develop the perspective of various strategies undertaken by the survivors of VAWIP individually and collectively. A common understanding will be developed about successful coping mechanisms and its importance to enhance women’s participation in politics. The conference will also provide a platform to learn and share the successful national and international lobbying actions undertaken by various agencies and organizations, which can provide an insight on the elements of successful processes and interventions to lobby for VAWIP.

It will also provide a forum to rights holders to build and strengthen strategies for lobbying with concerned agencies such as UN and International Human Right organizations for bringing a General Recommendation to address VAWIP. It will also provide an opportunity for networking among the Friends of Women in Politics, who are the rights holders to ensure safe and secure participation of women in political process. They will take the agenda forward by influencing the policy process at the national and regional level. The conference will also provide a forum to showcase innovation on evidenced based best practices and case studies to cope up with VAWIP.

Finally, recommendations from the conference will inform a regional common strategic action for lobbying for developing law and policy at national level as well as lobbying for adopting a General recommendation in CEDAW and to address VAWIP in collaboration with women’s rights organizations, national governments, international organizations, SAARC and UN agencies and other relevant stakeholders working towards safe and secure participation of women in politics.

What we want to achieve?

  • Strengthening mechanisms of right holders to address VAWIP at national and regional level: By providing national and regional forums for women politicians, media, academicians, researchers to share experiences, lessons learned and good practices to cope up with violence. The conference will also discuss on ways to build new strategic alliances and partnerships for promoting national and regional forum of friends of women in politics (FWIP) to establish democracies without violence and develop regional women parliamentary caucus to create a congenial environment for safe and secure participation of women in politics.
  • Exploring successful lobbying strategies at different levels for law and policy influencing: By bringing relevant stakeholders to share their successful lobbying experiences to bring General recommendation on International Instruments as well as formulating new laws at national levels. The conference will explore some basic strategies for effective lobbying and lobbying channels.
  • Collaborative actions for lobbying to develop policy to address VAWIP issues at the International level:  By bringing together all the stakeholders working on women in politics including national, regional and international organizations to develop a common understanding on the process undertaken so far to prepare general recommendation on VAWIP in CEDAW. The workshop will initiate strategies to works collectively for lobbying, networking and defining priority actions and mechanisms.

Why participate?

  • To network with FWIP, share and learn good practices and successful coping mechanisms adopted for combating issues of VAWIP to promote gender responsive politics
  • To share and learn successful lobbying strategies of promoting gender sensitive laws, policies and mechanisms.
  • To develop strategic actions to lobby for incorporating VAWIP agenda in the General Recommendations in CEDAW
  • To ensure commitment towards addressing issues of VAWIP.

What will be the themes?

1. Overcoming gender inequality in politics: An attempt made to

  • Listen to women politicians to successfully deal with VAWIP
  • Enlighten media's voice to combat the issue of VAWIP
  • Coping mechanism /combating VAWIP –Good practices by Friends of women in politics politics
  • Voicing women politician's concern: Women parliamentary caucus

2.  Reflection on successful policy influencing: A process to reckon with

  • Gender Sensitive Policy influencing at international level
  • Affirmative action policy towards Gender Equality at national level
    • 3. Collaborative Action: Not a question but a necessity
    • Strategies for Lobbying at international and national levels
    • Collaborative actions for incorporating VAWIP agenda in international instruments

    What will be the program methodology?

    • Presentation and discussion
    • Experience sharing
    • Workshop and write shop

    Who can participate in this conference?

    • Women and men politicians
    • Women political right activists
    • Legal professionals/activists
    • Human/woman rights activists
    • Civil society organizations
    • Gender based networks
    • International agencies and organizations
    • UN agencies and committees

    Location:Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Date: 2-4 October 2010

    South Asia Partnership International
    Tel: 977-1-5522234/5528612
    Fax: 977-1-5553216
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