Each year, the EAYAN Program workshop focuses on one thematic issue as reflected within the nine core international human rights treaties.
The thematic issue for the 2020 EAYAN Program Workshop is Gender Equality
WHAT IS GENDER EQUALITY?
Gender equality is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally.
With the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Plaform, East Asia has made considerable progress in developing women’s rights and their political power. There have also been advances made by a number of civil society groups; acknowledged by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (which consists of independent experts, two from Japan and China). Yet, as highlighted recently by the OECD, progress in East Asia remains ‘too slow and uneven’ amid ‘entrenched social and cultural norms’ that maintain discrimination against women and girls.
The 2020 EAYAN Program Workshop will focus on four key areas of gender inequality:
1. Domestic Violence Against Women
Domestic violence is a systematic pattern of behaviors that include physical battering, coercive control, economic abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual violence (Asian Pacific Institute for Gender-Based Violence).
According to the One Billion Rising campaign,, 1 in 3 women across the planet (approximately 1 billion women) will be raped or beaten during her lifetime. Although at first glance such violence towards women does not seem to be such a big problem in East Asia – homicide rates here are below 1 per 100,000 people – the region is actually home to the highest rate of female homicide victims in the world. According to UNODC statistics, Asia accounted for the largest number of all women killed worldwide by intimate partners or other family members in 2017, with an estimated 20,000 victims. Violence ranges from girlfriends (a 2014 study by Korea Women’s Hotline showed 90% of women surveyed had been physically or emotionally abused by their boyfriends); to wives and mothers (government figures in Japan suggest in 1 in 3 wives experiences some sort of domestic violence and 1 in 20 has a near-death experience).
2. Business and the Economy: the Wage Gap and Work-Life Balance for Women
Economic autonomy is crucial in women being able to exercise more control over their own lives. Yet with the global wage gap currently standing at 23%, women are often unable to access an adequate standard of living, to health and housing even when they work for pay. In addition to working full time for less pay outside, women also commonly work another virtual full time job at home as mothers and wives. Women are often forced to make sacrifices in one environment in order to succeed in the other.
Both male and female employees in East Asia have difficulties in maintaining a fair work-life balance due to corporate pressure and social norms. Women however also struggle more to create a healthy balance between managing family and work responsibilities. The declining birth rate in both Japan and South Korea has been attributed to a desire to focus on careers over the more traditional route of marriage and children. In China, a recent survey recorded that 86.1 percent of people believed that giving birth to and raising a child could negatively affect a woman’s career development.
3. Sexual Harassment
Sexual violence is any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work (WHO: Violence against Women: Sexual Violence).
In a majority of cultures and regions across the globe, women and girls are overwhelmingly targeted for sexual violence. Whilst sexual violence and harassment is a universal problem, its cultural expressions differ in different areas of the world, and therefore, in East Asia. In China, a 2017 survey carried out by Guangzhou Gender and Sexuality Education Center and Beijing Impact Law Firm on college students and graduates showed almost 75% of women reported that they had been sexually harassed in their lifetime, with more than 40% of incidents taking place publicly on college campuses. In South Korea, secretly captured footage from ‘molkas’ – miniature cameras hidden in public places such as bathrooms and changing rooms – regularly ends up on online pornography sites. In Japan, meanwhile, where 1 in 3 women report to have been sexually harassed at work, high ranking government figures still publicly make statements such as ‘there is no criminal charge for sexual harassment’.
4. Political Gender Equality and Gender Representation in the Political-Economic Realms
As of February 2019, only 3 countries have 50 per cent or more women in parliament: despite there being increasing evidence demonstrating that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves them. The UN General Assembly noted in 2011 that ‘Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.”
The ratio of women attaining decision-making positions in both the public and private sectors is still low in East Asia. In Japan, women make up only 9.3% on seats in parliament. The proportional female representation in South Korea’s National Assembly lags behind the world average (22.8%) and the Asian region (19.2%). Women further are under-represented within Hong Kong’s legislature, too, with just 11 women among Legco’s (the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) 70 members.