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Violence against women and girls slips through ASEAN legal cracks

Activists push for regional enforcement as COVID fuels abuse 'shadow pandemic'

A shelter for abused women in Dawei, Myanmar, in 2019: ASEAN has sought to address high rates of violence against women, but activists say there is still a long way to go.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- K, a refugee from Myanmar, was 13 years old when she came to Mae Sot, a border town in Thailand. After finding domestic work in a local household, her employer's sister forced K to work in her massage parlor, where she was raped by older men.

K's story is among the testimonials of female survivors of sexual violence compiled by Weaving Women's Voices in Southeast Asia, or WEAVE, a network of lawyers and women's rights activists. The group is lobbying not only national governments to close legal gaps in laws against sexual violence, but also the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to enforce regional standards for women's rights and set protocols for cross-border cases like K's.

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