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JASS Monthly Newsletter Strengthening & sustaining women's organizing power


Myanmar Activists Hit the Draft Associations Bill

Southeast Asian Women Clamor for Peace and Good Governance The right to peaceful assembly and association is a civil right guaranteed by most states in Southeast Asia. However, in some countries in the region, this right is being reversed through policies and laws that limit or curtail the freedom to peaceably assemble and form associations. Myanmar is currently deliberating the Associations Bill, a bill that would put the civil society under onerous conditions, according to activists. In Indonesia, the Mass Organizations Bill is now a law – a law that is said to control all organizations in the country.

Around 90 civil society groups in Rangoon and Mandalay objected to a draft Association Bill after a parliamentary committee asked for their suggestions earlier this month. According to the draft legislation, any organization must inform a yet-to-be-established committee about the formation of any association and must provide the group’s name. Failure to register with the relevant authority could see both organizational leaders and members face jail terms as well as fines. “We object to the draft legislation because it is not clear even in its first section defining an ‘association,’ which says groups—either small or big—networks and unions need to inform the local authority about their formation,” said Moe Thway, leader of the Rangoonbased youth activist group Generation Wave.

Meanwhile, thousands of Southeast Asian women exercise this right to the fullest as they went to the streets this month to call for peace and good governance. In Cambodia, women ask for a peaceful solution to the political impasse. Every week, women are at the center of the peaceful assemblies in the capital. In the Philippines, women’s groups join the huge demonstrations in Manila to call for an end to graft and corruption of government officials. Indeed, Southeast Asian women are making their voices heard even when authoritarian policies are being enforced.

Young Women Join Peace Rallies in Cambodia

Photo source: CYWEN

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Along with women’s organizations and social justice groups in Cambodia, the JASS-inspired Cambodian Young Women’s Empowerment Network (CYWEN) assembled in Phnom Penh City on August 14, 2013 to appeal for sobriety and peace amidst the growing tension between the two opposing political parties surrounding the recent national elections. Opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claim that there were ‘widespread irregularities’ and ‘fraud’ committed by the ruling party, Cambodia People’s Party (CPP). Under the broad umbrella alliance Working Group for Peace, the post–election Peace Rally was one among a series of peace gatherings that started since July before the elections. The peace rallyists marched from the Royal Palace to Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh City. Young women activists from CYWEN took part in all these mass actions.

Filipino Women Partake in the Million People March against Corruption Manila The huge August 26 demonstration at the Luneta Park in Manila, and various other places in the Philippines was an indicator of the Filipino people’s widespread anger at the misused and corruption-ridden “Priority Development Assistance Fund” (PDAF). PDAF, also known as “pork barrel”, contains money that lawmakers can spend on their own development projects. The demonstration was dubbed as the “Million People March against Corruption” where close to 100,000 protesters went to the park to unite against government officials’ plunder of public funds. Various women’s groups took part in this protest – including women from the JASS Network in the Philippines – such as the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), SAMAKANA, and GABRIELA.

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Young Indonesian Women Set the Record Straight on Virginity Testing

Photo source: FAMM-Indonesia

The Forum Aktivis Perempuan Muda Indonesia (FAMM-Indonesia) or Young Indonesian Women Activists’ Forum recently released a statement clarifying the alleged mandatory virginity testing in South Sumatra. The Department of Education in Prabumulih City, South Sumatra is on the spotlight over the alleged proposal for mandatory virginity tests for female students in high schools in the province. In confirmation of the reports in the media, HM Rashid, the education head of the province, explained that virginity testing is a proposal from parents of students to respond to allegations of human trafficking teams that “their children are no longer virgins." Rashid said, “I only responded to their proposal and I supported it in order to prevent ‘defamation’ of the students.” FAMM believes that “the media has succeeded in blowing the case out of proportion in pursuit of high ratings and readership. The media has given a misleading picture about women's sexuality. The ‘virginity myth’ is perpetuated once more and created a stir in the communities.”

Thailand Stirs Up Same-Sex Marriage Debates

The fight continues in Thailand for a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Renowned Thai activist Anjana Suvarnananda, founder of the Anjaree Foundation, believes that the same-sex marriage law should be passed and the movement is held back by Thai LGBTs’ own lack of self-acceptance. Anjana says that “Thai society is more accepting of LGBT these days but still treats them differently from heterosexuals.” Anjana admits that “the hardest part about pushing for LGBT rights in Thailand is our LGBTs are afraid to accept their sexual identity.”

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“Most Thai LGBTs aren’t aware of how the law affects their lives. New laws should reflect present and future situations. But it seems our law makers are still only concerned with past approaches to human identity that are divided between men and women. Everyone should be treated as a human no matter what are their sexual identities. We’re all part of the diverse family that is society,” concludes Anjana.

Flooding in Myanmar and the Philippines Displaces Thousands Severe flooding caused by days of heavy monsoon rains has displaced some 120,000 people in the Philippines and Myanmar. In the Philippines, up to 100,000 people have been forced to leave their homes following incessant rains in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, southern part of the Mindanao islands. In southeastern Myanmar, more than 23,000 people in five states and regions remain displaced by flash floods according to the latest report by the United Nations.

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Jass sea august 2013 e newsletter  
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