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Rights group urge changes to ASEAN Human Rights declaration

Rights group urge changes to ASEAN Human Rights declaration

Regional women’s rights groups called on Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to press for substantive changes to a highly criticised draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

Namhong is scheduled to meet his ASEAN counterparts in New York this morning to review the draft declaration.

Chief among the changes suggested by the Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN is that a controversial public-morality clause be struck.

“Its application has been based on the dominant patriarchal and religious hierarchies, and has been targeting the rights of women and girls,” the letter reads.

The group also asked that the draft be presented for public consideration. While a copy was leaked last month, officials haven’t publicly released it.

“It is said that in this meeting, they will decide on the fate of the AHRD,” said Nina Somera, of the Women’s Caucus Secretariat, adding that groups were pushing for a delay.

“We are really hoping that the foreign ministers will extend the timetable for the drafting of the AHRD. There is no need to rush, otherwise it will only result [in] a document that may lack a sense of currency and boldness in confronting and addressing the reality of human rights issues.”

In an open letter sent to ASEAN foreign ministers yesterday, more than 50 regional rights groups called on the officials to address “serious flaws” in the draft in today’s meeting.

Despite the ongoing controversy, foreign ministry officials have said they expect the declaration to be adopted during November’s ASEAN summit.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Abby Seiff at [email protected]