Southeast Asians Focusing on Women

Bishop Notes Need for Diocesan and Parish Ministries

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia, FEB. 1, 2008 ( Southeast Asian dioceses and parishes need to focus on promoting the dignity of women, said a bishop from Indonesia.

Bishop Agustinus Agus of Sintang, Indonesia, affirmed this to Catholic women from Southeast Asia attending a meeting ending today in Malaysia to reflect on how to promote the dignity of women.

The meeting, the third of its kind, is focused this year on “Challenges to Women and the Family in the 21st Century.” It is sponsored by the Office of Laity and Family of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and was attended by participants from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia and the Philippines.

Bishop Agus, a member of the family and laity office, gave the inaugural address. He encouraged ministry focusing on the dignity of women at both the diocesan and parish levels.

The prelate especially noted the plight of migrant women: “Many of these women suffer discrimination and violence in the countries in which they work and the breakup of their family at home. Some of these women are tricked into prostitution.”

Bishop Agus also noted the value of women’s role within the family, as well as the challenges they face.

He said: “The domestic work a woman does is taken for granted […] The responsibility of family planning is usually put on the woman; she has to undergo the tensions of taking precautions to plan the number of children, using the right methods of birth control and raising the children to meet the high expectations of modern society. […] Support from the family network is reduced because of migration and urbanization. Very often women are the innocent victims of HIV/AIDS and alcoholic husbands.

“At the work place women have to face discrimination by way of low pay, hard work, less facilities and constant disregard and humiliations from their employers and co-workers. […] Women have to struggle in their role as mothers working long hours, with lack of health care and child support facilities. Together with these problems many women have to face physical, mental, sexual violence due to the negative attitudes of society toward women.”

When the Church celebrated National Women’s Month in 2007 in the Philippines, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of that nation’s episcopal conference, stated that gender-based violence was “a sad reality” in the country.

In her report on trafficking of women and children in Indonesia, Kim Warren of the International Catholic Migration Commission said that Indonesian migrant women were trapped into sex work and becoming mail-order brides.

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