Recent events in Asia have caused new awareness of some of the biggest human rights issues currently impacting people throughout the continent.
4) Gender-based Discrimination
Recently highlighted throughout the world by the gang-rape and subsequent death of a New Delhi medical student, views on gender and associated discrimination continue to be a problem not just in India, but throughout the Asian region. Part of the problem is local attitudes and beliefs, such as those who believe that rapes are the fault of the victims for being “provocative” or “encouraging”. This form of thinking requires a deliberate avoidance of the fact that rape, by definition, cannot be performed on someone who is encouraging it to happen. However, while sexual assaults are currently at the forefront of many discussions, they are not the only element of gender-based discrimination.
Some countries, such as Bangladesh, have recently been noted as having laws that are exceptionally biased when it comes to issues such as marriage and divorce; women are often left with nothing after a divorce, nor do they have any say in how or when such a thing occurs, which has given rise to situations where men may marry and divorce several women in succession in order to legally acquire their property and savings. In some cases, it may even be possible to effectively make a living and avoid working, which provides further incentives for complete abuse of the legal systems of these countries. Protection and enforcement of current laws for these situations tends to be sporadic at best.
3) Human Trafficking
Women and children are the majority of victims in human trafficking throughout Asia, but not the only ones. Alongside the many cases of sexual exploitation that plague the entire trade, many victims are not only tricked into signing up for something, but prevented from leaving an area filled with unsafe (and often lethal) working conditions. Some victims may be forced into military service with terrorist groups or even local governments, particularly in areas closer to the Middle East where rulers may be more concerned about the stability of their own rules than in watching to be sure of human rights.
2) Refugees and Asylum-seekers
On Jan. 1st, a group of probable refugees from Burma were intercepted by officials working for the Thai government as they tried to sail away from a conflict-plagued region (see below). While the Thai Navy has been noted as providing food and water to refugees, this is typically with the condition that the refugees continue sailing to a location such as Malaysia. Unfortunately, in this case, the boat was found to be unsafe and was brought ashore, where the government’s policy of deporting refugees who touch land back to Burma was enforced. Some smugglers are willing to bring those who can pay to Malaysia, but those who cannot afford the prices (typically very high) are often forced into human trafficking and all the associated troubles.
1) Laws of War
Alongside the potential for soldiers to be forced to fight against their will, some governments have taken actions that are explicitly in violation of international agreements on appropriate behavior in peacetime. Highlighting these problems is the Burmese army, which recently launched indiscriminate attacks into a civilian area as opposed to specifically targeting a military objective. The conflict in question was renewed in 2011 after a calm period of roughly 17 years. Unfortunately for civilians in the region, the target of the Burmese Government (known as the Kachin Independence Army) has been known to use child soldiers, while the Burmese Army does not appear to be listening to the government. This has created a situation in which multiple sides in a conflict are violating human rights with terrible consequences for those trapped in the middle; children can very well be ripped from their homes, then eliminated by their own government, and the conflict does not appear to be approaching a conclusion in the near future.
One of the many problems with human rights violations is the way that one violation can soon lead to another; a refugee could very well end up being trafficked back into the country they’re trying to escape, then sold to a rebellious army group and used as a human shield until they are killed by a government that makes no distinction among its targets. Solving these problems often requires more effort than trying to tackle one at a time, and a better understanding of current issues within each country can make a significant difference in helping to restore human rights as quickly as possible.