Men's sense of 'sexual entitlement' to blame
At least half of 10,178 male respondents from six Asia-Pacific countries said they had a history of physical and/or sexual violence against women, a United Nations study has revealed.The research - carried out in Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea - also discovered that a quarter of these men admitted to committing rape, while 4 per cent of the men said they had participated in gang rape.
The research, revealed at a UN function marking International Women's Day yesterday, said some of the underlying problems included a sense of "sexual entitlement" among men who believe they have the right to a woman's body, observers said.
Masculinity is also associated with violence against women, as 88 per cent of those questioned said that to be a man, you needed to be tough.
Countries with greater equality between the sexes appear to have a lower level of violence against women, the research concludes, adding that violence is fundamentally about power and control over women. However, preliminary findings show that violence against women can be prevented. Measures to be taken include reduction of vulnerability, increasing equality, addressing consequences of conflicts and empowering women.
Four women who faced or suffered some form of violence briefly spoke at the event at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) office in Bangkok. Malaysian sex worker Fatimah Abdullah, who was gang-raped, said: "Sex workers are also human beings. We can be raped."
Another speaker, Patcharawan Saengsunthorn, who is deaf, told the audience about her struggle against her parents, who wanted her to be sterilised and remain single. She eventually got married and now has two children.
"Many [deaf women] are still being forced to become sterilised," she said. "This forced sterilisation is a form of violence against women."
Also onstage were a former Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong, who escaped after eight months of servitude, and an Australian human-rights advocate who is still coming to terms with sexual assault from her past.
Noeleen Heyzer, UN under secretary-general and Escap executive secretary, said violence against women was a manifestation of unequal power. Custom and tradition, she said, should never be used to justify violence against women.
"Progress for women is progress for all," Heyzer said.
Statistics and figures in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are not encouraging. In the Pacific region, as many as seven out of 10 women and eight out of 10 children experience violence and/or abuse at some point in their lives.
While several countries in the Asia-Pacific region have national action plans on violence against women and girls in place, they are being constrained by poor budgeting and a lack of clarity and responsibilities of key actors, which prevent their implementation.
In rural Thailand, 47 per cent of women reported experiencing sexual and/or physical violence by their partners, while the number of victims in the Solomon Islands stands at 64 per cent.