Lao Women’s Union (LWU), in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), held a National Consultation in Vientiane Capital, which brought together key government, international organizations, and civil society organizations to provide input to the Draft ASEAN Guidelines for Developing National Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for a Coordinated Response to Violence against Women.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG), is the most pervasive yet least visible human rights violation in the world that affects one in three women in their lifetime. Available data indicates that Southeast Asia has prevalence rates of 37 percent for intimate partner violence (IPV) and 40 percent for both IPV and non-partner sexual violence combined. Laos’ data is similar, with approximately one in three women ever in a relationship experiencing violence (physical, sexual, and/or emotional) by a current or former partner.
The ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence against Women has prioritized the development of SOPs in its priorities to comply with minimum international standards for gender-responsive handling of VAW cases according to international best practices, such as the UN Essential Services Package and other guidelines.
The Government of Laos, with UNFPA support, has developed and endorsed three SOPs for the health, and social sectors and coordination and referral pathways for VAW survivors, which are highlighted throughout the draft Guidelines as best practices.
Mme. Thamma Phetvixay, Vice-President, LWU, said, “Laos and ASEAN member states have demonstrated a strong commitment to ending VAWG. At the national level, the ASEAN Guidelines will assist the development of national guidelines for SOPs on performance standards for the social, health, and justice service providers on gender-sensitive handling of VAW cases, including guidelines for support services for victims/survivors, drawing on lessons learned from Laos.”
To be most effective, coordinated approaches to VAW’s response require clearly defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in line with global guidance on quality coordinated responses. Hence, this National Consultation helped ensure more participatory discussions and allowed participants to provide inputs, insights, and recommendations.
Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative, said, “The SOPs help create a safer environment, so that every door a survivor knocks on, is the right door to access services. SOPs enable service providers to deliver gender-responsive and survivor-centered care. Laos endorsed SOPs for three sectors within one year! This is a testament to the exemplary commitment of the Laos Government to combating VAWG. Laos’ leadership and contribution with UNFPA’s support to the ASEAN SOPs demonstrate strong South-South and Triangular Cooperation.”
The national consultation provided valuable recommendations and feedback for a practical, user-friendly, and implementable guideline for the ASEAN Member States.