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Asia Undercovered Special: Women's rights, gender, and feminism in the Asia Pacific

Featuring a guest post from Kate Walton of Solidaritas
Asia Undercovered Special: Women's rights, gender, and feminism in the Asia Pacific

At Asia Undercovered, we like to highlight stories of communities that are neglected in western media coverage. It’s a big task, and something we obliviously cannot do alone. That is why for this week’s special issue, I’m happy to share a guest post from the author of one of my favorite newsletters, Solidaritas, run by Kate Walton focused specifically on amplifying stories about women's rights, gender, and feminism in the Asia Pacific.

— Nithin

Asia Undercovered Special Issues focus on a single theme, with the goal of giving readers deeper insight into that topic.

Over the millennia of recorded history, women's voices and stories have taken second place. In fact, oftentimes they are simply not recorded at all, with domestic work, child rearing, and handicrafts seen as less important than the 'serious business' of men's politics, wars, and public debates. There are always exceptions to this, of course, but by and large, the experiences of women and other gender minorities are overlooked and left out.

Fortunately, the world is changing, albeit slowly. More media outlets and journalists now understand the importance of women's stories and of taking a gender lens when reporting. We now see more coverage of how women experience climate change, for example; of how women cope with economic pressure during periods of inflation; and of how women's domestic burdens skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Solidaritas is a fortnightly newsletter that covers these stories and more. It focuses on compiling reporting and analysis of women's rights, gender, and feminism in the Asia Pacific. While I am also a journalist, Solidaritas does not provide original reporting; it rather aims to amplify what is already out there, and, in the same streak as Asia Undercovered, highlight those stories which are often missing from mainstream media.

— Kate Walton

Ruchi Kumar, a journalist formerly living in Kabul, writes about trying to assist others to escape Afghanistan.

A group of six high-profile Afghan women are leading the development of global policy on Afghanistan under the Taliban:

“They [the Taliban] don’t know how to govern and they don’t respect the social mosaic of Afghanistan, which makes them more fragile, but is also hurting Afghans,” says Fawzia Koofi, who has been working in Europe and the US with member states across the UN for the past year. “I don’t believe they will last very long, but I am concerned over the damage they inflict on Afghanistan’s social and political fabric.”

New research has found more than half of Australian women in their 20s have experienced sexual violence, with fears the rates of abuse across the population are far higher than previously thought.

Two of Australia’s most powerful people are women: Jennifer Westacott AO, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, and Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade unions. This week, they’re participating in the Australian government’s National Jobs and Skills Summit.

Speaking of women and jobs: Australia’s gender pay gap has increased over the past six months, with full-time working women earning AU$253.60 per week less than their male counterparts.

22-year-old female weightlifter Mabia Aktar on becoming Bangladesh’s flagbearer at the Commonwealth Games.

Rising sea levels in Bangladesh are driving women to take the pill to stop menstruating.

For the first time, an openly lesbian women will represent Bhutan at the 2022 Miss Universe contest. Miss Bhutan, Tashi Choden, says she hopes the role will give her an opportunity to support the LGBT community in Bhutan. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the country last year.

Dozens of Cambodian women and girls are taken to China each year, where they are forced to marry local men. Only the lucky ones manage to escape.

The Ministry of Culture has summoned the Miss Grand Cambodia organiser for education over ‘erotic and offensive’ costumes.

The outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, has said that China had committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province which may amount to crimes against humanity:

“Several women interviewed by OHCHR raised allegations of forced birth control, in particular forced IUD placements and possible forced sterilisations with respect to Uyghur and ethnic Kazakh women. Some women spoke of the risk of harsh punishments including “internment” or “imprisonment” for violations of the family planning policy,” the report said.

Authorities have charged 28 people and 15 officials including police are being investigated for corruption two months after a brutal attack on several women in a restaurant in the city of Tangshan.

A new report shows that while women's participation in the Fijian workforce is growing, the pay gap between them and their male colleagues is the widest in the Pacific.

Police in Jharkhand announced that they are forming a special investigative unit to look into the alleged murder of a 19-year-old woman. The victim, named as Ankita, was in her final year of high school, and was allegedly doused in kerosene while sleeping and set on fire by a local man who had begun stalking her when she rejected his marriage proposal. She was treated in hospital for six days but succumbed to her injuries.

Women in villages have been increasingly banding together to successfully demand improved access to water for their households.

Four women have died and nine others were hospitalised after undergoing sterilisation at a government-run medical camp, most likely due to sepsis.

The hargila, one of the largest storks in the world, is threatened with extinction. There are just 1,200 of them estimated to live in the wild. A group of female Indian activists want to prevent that - with weaving, music and dance - so they’ve founded the Hargila Army to further their cause. (DW video documentary)

On Indonesia’s First Lady, Iriana Widodo, and her diplomatic efforts as the wife of the President of the G20:

Iriana’s diplomacy is an effort to introduce Indonesia’s identity to the Ukrainian people, and to shape the image of Indonesia as a country that is open and friendly. This is important for Indonesia, which holds the G20 presidency this year. In doing so, Jokowi aimed to project himself as a peace-broker who invited both Ukraine and Russia to the G20 Summit in Bali this November.

Meet Amalia Rezeki, who is dedicating her life to saving South Kalimantan’s proboscis monkeys.

The success of female candidates in the recent upper house election is a positive step, but the real challenge is to increase the representation of women in the lower house. In the 2021 lower house election, women accounted for just 18 per cent of all candidates, and only 10 per cent of those elected.

Japan looks like to approve the medical abortion pill, but women will still need their partner’s permission to access it.

A Lao couple who hired young women to work as waitresses and tried to coerce them into having sex with customers have been sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 100 million kip ($6,500) each, authorities said, in a rare case in which traffickers have faced significant punishment for their crimes.

A Nepali mother of two, Parwati Sunar, aged 27, has found herself attending school alongside her son, after returning to the same education system she fled at just 15, when she eloped with a man seven years her senior:

"I enjoy learning and am proud to attend with classmates who are like my own children," she tells Reuters. …

"I think I should not have left my school," she says, explaining the desire to catch up on the lessons she missed, having had her first child at 16.

"I feel good to go to school with mum," says her son, Resham, 11, who is a grade behind his mother.

Pakistan is experiencing horrific floods, with over one-third of the country under water. As with many natural disasters, women and girls are among those most at risk.

Papua New Guinea
What is behind PNG’s ongoing problem of sorcery-accusation-related violence (SARV), the public torture and murder of women accused of witchcraft?

Despite two women being elected to the 118-seat parliament in PNG, there are immense struggles for women in leadership and power. What is behind the very slow movement to gain more women in politics and what more can be done to accelerate the move? (ABC Radio National clip)

The Philippines
A town in eastern Misamis Oriental was horrified after 11 cult members threw their 84-year-old matriarch into a pile of burning wood as part of a ritual to purge her of her “great sins”.

South Korea
A first-of-its-kind study by the Korean government has shown that 1 in 3 adult women in Korea has experienced violence against women, with perpetrators often being current or former intimate partners.

A Vietnamese court has upheld the nine-year prison sentence imposed on Pham Doan Trang, a female journalist and prominent dissident convicted of anti-state activities.

Vietnam’s silk industry relies heavily on women, as this photo essay demonstrates.