| Newsletters by Year | Newsletters by Subject |
UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Policies in Australia, China, India, Korea, Malaysia and New Zealand
ISSUE 68 - 28 December 2006
This issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update chronicles important laws and policies relating to population and reproductive health that were adopted in Asia and the Pacific in the past few years.
In September 2005, India adopted the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005. The law is specifically aimed at protecting women in "domestic relationships" with men. It covers individuals who live or have lived together and are related by blood, marriage (legal or de facto), adoption, or as members of a "joint family." It states that a woman may file a complaint not only against her husband or male partner, but also against his relatives.
Domestic violence is defined broadly to encompass "any act, omission or commission or conduct" that harms, injures or endangers a woman's mental or physical health and well-being. It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse. The law specifically addresses harassment or harm directed at a woman or her family that is aimed at coercion for payment of dowry or other valuable property. According to an explanatory note in the law, verbal and emotional abuse are defined to include insults, ridicule, humiliation and name calling, including with regard to a woman not having a child or a male child.
The law also protects a woman's right to continued residence in the shared household, regardless of whether she has "any right, title or beneficial interest" in the household. The abuser is thus prevented from evicting or excluding her from the home.
The law also delineates the responsibilities of individuals and agencies responsible for its implementation. The responsibilities of government agencies include: informing the abused woman of her legal rights and entitlement to services, ensuring that she receives legal aid and has access to service providers, shelter homes and medical facilities. The Central and State governments must work to publicize the law widely and provide their officers, including police officers and members of the judicial services, with sensitization and awareness training regarding domestic violence. http://www.csrindia.org/Useful%20Documents/bill/The%20protection%20%20of%20Women%20from%20Domestic%20Violence%20Act,%202005.pdf
In August 2005, China made extensive amendments to its Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women. These amendments provide that it is a basic state policy to realize equality between men and women and to prohibit the abandonment of the girl child. To this end, the amendments require that the State Council and local governments formulate programmes to improve the status of Chinese women and incorporate them into the national economy and social development plans. The amendments also require that the opinions of women's federations are taken into account when laws and policies relating to the rights and interests of women are formulated and that residents' and villagers' committees should contain an appropriate number of women members. The government is directed by the amendments to: a) ensure that the female children among the poor, disabled and migrant population finish their compulsory education; b) guarantee the equal rights of men and women to social security; c) implement a child-bearing insurance system, and d) promote women's reproductive health through guaranteeing access to family planning methods and services.
The amendments also prohibit: a) employment contracts or service agreements that contain restrictions on a woman marrying or bearing children; b) reduction of a woman's wages due to pregnancy, marriage, maternity leave or breastfeeding; c) discrimination against women in implementing the retirement system of the state; d) obstruction of efforts to rescue women who are abducted, trafficked, or kidnapped; e) sexual harassment; f) organizing, forcing or inducing women to engage in obscene performances; g) a husband applying for a divorce during the period of pregnancy or within one year after childbirth; h) refusing to recruit female students, and i) domestic violence. They also strengthen penalties imposed on persons who violate the rights of women and broaden the scope of acts that will be penalized.
Beijing Municipality (China) Adopts Provisions on Economic Benefits and Medical Treatment for Pregnant Women
In January 2005, the Beijing Municipality adopted provisions to ensure that enterprise employees enjoy the necessary economic benefits and medical treatment during the child-bearing period. The provisions create childbirth insurance funds consisting primarily of premiums paid by enterprises. These funds will pay for: (1) childbirth subsidies; (2) medical expenses for childbirth, and (3) medical expenses for family planning surgery. The medical expenses for childbirth will include the expenses of examinations, delivery, surgery, hospitalization and drugs. The medical expenses for family planning childbirth surgery include expenses for the insertion or extraction of birth control devices, abortion and sterilization and reversal operations.
Republic of Korea Enacts a Framework Act on Low Birthrate and Aging
In April 2005, the Republic of Korea enacted the Framework Act on the Low Birthrate and an Aging Society. The purpose of the Act is to improve the nation's quality of life and contribute to sustainable development by making the government responsible for the issues of a low birthrate and an aging society. To this end, the government will establish "basic principles and implementation processes for those principles so that giving birth and rearing children progresses well and the elderly can lead healthy and vibrant lives as valuable members of society."
Under the Act the government and local governing bodies are required to: a) establish and implement comprehensive policies to deal with the low birthrate and an aging society; b) adopt measures to increase birthrates, improve maternal and child health care and reduce financial burdens on families with children; c) adopt measures for guaranteeing employment and income, improving health, providing medical services, ensuring pleasant and safe living conditions, encouraging leisure and cultural activities, promoting lifetime learning and education, providing special care to the underprivileged elderly, facilitating understanding between family members and generations, and supporting the senior care industry; d) draw up a basic plan to deal with the low birthrate and aging society every five years for implementation by each central administrative organization; and e) assess their performances based on their implementation plans each year, and reflect the results in policies that address the low birthrate and an aging society.
The Act also establishes a Committee on the Low Birthrate and Aging Society under the President to deliberate on important matters related to policies for a low birthrate and an aging society.
Malaysia Amends Islamic Family Law Act
In 2005, Malaysia amended the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act to give husbands greater rights under Islamic law. The Act enables a husband to: a) practice polygamy provided that it is just or necessary; previously the requirement was both just and necessary; b) obtain a divorce on the same grounds as a wife, while maintaining his unilateral right to divorce at any time without giving any reason; c) protect his financial claims on the property of a wife or former wife by preventing them from disposing of the property, and d) make a wife choose upon divorce between a division of property or obtaining maintenance; previously a wife was entitled to maintenance regardless of whether she requested a division of property. The Act has not yet come into effect in the Federal Territories, although a number of state governments have enacted similar laws that are in effect in the states.
New Zealand Amends its Crimes Act
In 2005, New Zealand amended the Crimes Act 1961 in order to: a) broaden the definition of "sexual connection" for the purpose of defining sex crimes; b) allow sexual offences that have been committed outside of New Zealand to be prosecuted in New Zealand under certain circumstances; c) create new offences for dealing with sexual exploitation of people under 18, removal of body parts, engagement in forced labour, and using young persons under the age of 16 for the purpose of "sexual grooming;" and d) rewrite provisions of the Act dealing with certain sexual crimes to broaden the scope of the crimes, including crimes committed against minors. http://rangi.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpacts/public/text/2005/an/041.html.
Republic of Korea Enacts Laws to Fight Sex Trafficking
In March 2004, the Republic of Korea enacted two laws designed to fight sex trafficking. Law No. 7196 prohibits persons from engaging in sex trafficking, activities involving sex and human trade for the purposes of sex trafficking, employing persons with the intention of having them trade in sex and acting as a job agent/broker with knowledge of the sex trade. The Law exempts from punishment persons who are forced to engage in sex trafficking by means of fraud or through force. Law No. 7212 sets forth actions to be undertaken by the central and local governments to deal with sex trafficking. These include establishing and operating facilities to prevent sex trafficking through research, education and publicity and to support the protection and self-reliance of victims. The Act also authorizes the central and local governments to provide counseling for victims and mandates the police to undertake actions to rescue victims of sex trafficking.
Australia Amends its Criminal Code to Improve its Laws on Human Trafficking
In 2005, Australia amended its Criminal Code to improve the federal regime of offences targeting trafficking in persons. The Act criminalizes comprehensively every aspect of trafficking in persons and fulfils Australia's legislative obligations under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Act includes provisions to: a) broaden the scope of the crime of deceptive recruiting for sexual services; b) increase the penalties imposed for the crime of aggravated sexual servitude, and c) create new offences for dealing with trafficking of persons and children into Australia and trafficking in persons within Australia. http://scaleplus.law.gov.au/html/comact/12/7010/top.htm
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at: http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters.htm .
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the biennial International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD). The first IPCI/ICPD was held in November 2002 in Ottawa, Canada, the second in October 2004 in Strasbourg, France and the third in November 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
Please send mailing list update information to Ragaa Said at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you have any questions or comments on the content of this newsletter, please contact Harumi Kodama at email@example.com or Safiye Cagar at firstname.lastname@example.org .