Asia: Seeking end to violence, female foeticide, poverty, and fundamentalist & workplace injustices Print E-mail
The Sun-Herald ~~ Sydney ~~ Sunday March 9, 2008

Pleas for action as Asia marks Women's Day

Asia marked International Women's Day from Afghanistan to Australia with pleas for greater rights and equality for half the region's population.

Events were also held in Pakistan, India, Indonesia and China as activists pressed for an end to discrimination ranging from abortion of female foetuses to workplace bias.

Women gathered at Kabul's American University to highlight issues affecting them, organisers said.

Another event was planned in Panjshir province, north of the capital.

The issue has special resonance in Afghanistan, whose former Taliban government was notorious for stopping women from working or going to school and forcing them to wear the all-covering burka.

Events were also planned in neighbouring Pakistan, where "honour killings" of women and punishment gang-rapes have been widely reported.

Activists joined a conference on eliminating discrimination and violence against women, a rally and even a women's rock-climbing competition.

Meanwhile, Australia's women's minister, Tanya Plibersek, said the occasion was a chance to acknowledge issues of continuing concern such as women's lack of economic security and financial independence.

"From the moment a woman enters the workforce she is likely to earn less than her male colleagues, regardless of her career, industry or level," she said.

In Japan, a rally was scheduled in Osaka to express solidarity with women in Iraq.

Female unionists held a seminar in Kushiro on the northern island of Hokkaido to address the plight of part-time workers and other employees who work irregular hours.

In Taiwan, presidential frontrunner Ma Ying-jeou has pledged to create 100,000 new jobs for women and offer one billion Taiwan dollars ($34.6 million) to help female entrepreneurs if elected.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo launched two programs, costing a total of $US11.4 million ($12.3 million) to provide livelihood opportunities for women and turn them into entrepreneurs.

And Communist North Korea marked International Women's Day in its own way by urging its women to reject Western fashions and to "set good examples" in their clothes and hairstyles.

"Women must set good examples in all fields of culture and custom, including clothes, hairdos and language," Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of the North's ruling Korean Workers' Party, said in an editorial.

It also urged women to raise their children as trustworthy revolutionaries.

The plight of women in the 21st century was outlined by the top United Nations human rights official yesterday.

"Laws that discriminate against women are still to be found on the statute books of virtually every country in the world," said human rights commissioner Louise Arbour.

Discrimination takes many forms, from legal restrictions on property to a lack of recognition of sexual abuse and rape, she said.

Nearly 100 years old, International Women's Day on March 8 marks an ongoing worldwide battle to ensure equal rights for half the globe's population on issues such as work, voting and abortion.

The day serves as a reminder of the fields in which women must still battle for fundamental rights, and where they remain victims of violence and enduring inequalities.