Progress and Setbacks for Women’s Rights Around the Globe

We hope everyone had a restful Mid-Autumn Festival with family and friends. We are currently preparing our response to the Government's Policy Address Public Consultation, on a wide range of issues that adversely affect women and girls, particularly over this past period under the pandemic. As we take stock of the state of gender equality here in Hong Kong, it is also important to look at developments elsewhere in the region and the globe. It has been both a hopeful and concerning few weeks for women’s rights around the globe.

Here are three areas we are watching:

APEC’s pledge for gender inclusive economic growth: On Friday, the 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies recognised the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and pledged to address it. They committed to a number of critical measures including addressing the gender pay gap and high quality, sustainable employment in high growth sectors, ending gender-based violence at work, and promoting shared responsibility for domestic work, among many others. TWF has been a long term advocate for many of these same recommendations. As the Hong Kong SAR is an APEC member, we look forward to encouraging the Government to action these measures and build a recovery plan that prioritises inclusive growth for all.

International Safe Abortion Day: Yesterday was International Safe Abortion Day and it has been a year of both progress and setbacks for women’s access to safe abortions around the world. Amid the pandemic, the rise of telemedicine services for abortion care has enabled women to have safe abortions at home. Promising legal reforms have been made in several countries, including South Korea and Thailand. In other countries like Poland and the United States, abortion rights have been severely restricted. Earlier this week, China announced that it would limit non-medical abortions although what constitutes "non-medical" has not yet been defined. At TWF, we believe in the safety, dignity and bodily autonomy of all women and believe international days like this one that raise awareness around stigmatised issues such as abortion are critical for more engaged and concerted discussion and action.

Setback for Afghan Women’s Rights: Since the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the re-instalment of the Taliban rule last month, the rights of women and girls continue to be in a precarious state with primary and secondary girls not being allowed to return to school and widespread reports of women being asked not to return to the workplace and universities. Last week, the Women’s Affairs Ministry was replaced by a Ministry of Virtue and Vice. While these developments are concerning, we were heartened to see the groundswell of demonstrated action by Afghani women marching to preserve their right to work.

While TWF’s mission to improve the lives of women and girls is focused on our own city, we recognise the struggles and progress of women and girls elsewhere impact all of us. As we continue to monitor these regional and international developments, we will consider their potential ripple effect here in Hong Kong and offer our solidarity for those working to progress gender equality around the world.

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The Women's Foundation