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WTO protests in Hongkong
Posted: December 27
, 2005
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21 December 2005

WTO Guilty of Numerous Crimes Against Rural Women - Asian Women's Tribunal

Before an audience of 200, a presidium of 6 women judges and 6 strong women witnesses, Ms. Irene Fernandez the head of the presidium and awardee of the 2005 Alternative Nobel Prize read the verdict of the Asia-Pacific Women’s Tribunal Against the World Trade Organization (WTO) as GUILTY of numerous crimes on rural women at 3:30 pm on December 16, 2005 at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club Auditorium in Wanchai, Hong Kong.

The Asia-Pacific Women’s Tribunal was organized by the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Amihan Philippines) national federation of peasant women in the Philippines) and GABRIELA Philippines (national alliance of women in the Philippines) to give a stronger voice for women in the Asia-Pacific region in presenting their cases against the global trade regime in the 6th ministerial meeting of the WTO held in Hong Kong from December 13-18, 2005. The women’s tribunal is one among the the several actions of women and people’s movements all over the world who came all the way to HK to demonstrate their resistance and call for an an end to the WTO.

According to the Ms. Tita Elisa Lubi of APWLD and Gabriela Philippines who served as chief presentor to the tribunal, the WTO proves to be monopoly capital’s most ambitious, far-reaching and wide-ranging scheme for changing neo-colonial policies to serve its greed. Lubi said that WTO already spans 88.0% of the world’s population and 93.2% of the world’s economy. With the addition of 33 of countries which are now observers, the WTO will cover 98.8% of the world’s population and 99.8% of the world’s economy.

Yaowapa Promwong from Ban Jode in the northeast part of Thailand who was the first witness in the tribunal said that the ricefield which used to be a main source of people’s survival in her country is no longer the case. The ricefield has turned to be a commercial center for agri-chemical companies of rich countries like the US and EU in collaboration with the Thai government’s agricutural department to dump first generation seeds, fertilizers`and pesticides. In the introduction phase said Promwong, were given by the government for free. After that, they were bought at expensive price. At the end of each production period, a women peasant cannot recover the expense she had thus ending up bankcrupt. Prongwong emphasized that the entry of Thai government to WTO only meant producing for export which is killed by the entry of cheap agricultural imports.

“WTO destroyed my life, my role in production. I am no longer a seed selector and keeper as the agri-chemical company has stolen this role”, Promwong stressed.

A woman worker from Hong Kong who presented her testimony demanded her government not to contract-out or privatize services. She said that government should be the employer. As it is now, being the sole bread winner of the family and earning only a measly amount of HK$4,000.00, she cannot move out to a bigger flat where her family can be more comfortable.

Purevdulam, a herding woman from Mongolia said in her testimony that mining companies both local and foreign, which had been allowed by her government much more when it entered in WTO polluted and killed 800 rivers and 700 lakes. The ecological imbalance from 1998-2001 caused harsh winters. Some 10,000 livestock had been killed because of the climate change and livestock raising is no longer diverse as before. Now, most herding families are raising goats.

Mariena Manurung from a fishing community in Indonesia shared about the displacement of fishers from their livelihood because of the domination of foreign fishing trawls numbering about 3 million and price of oil products getting more and more unaffordable to small and medium fishers. Her husband was killed by a foreign fishing trawl and so is left to raise the orphaned family. At leat 9 of fishing women including her have been widowed because their husbands were killed by big or foreign fishing trawls which preventd small local fishers from engaging in this livelihood. The foreign trawls are backed by the Indonesian Navy.

Carmen Buena, a poor peasant from Pampanga and national chairperson of Amihan, shared about an increasing number of peasant women from the Philippines being pushed to prostitute themselves to landlords in exchange for a meal of rice.

“This is the extent of poverty among rural women in the Philippines”, Buena illustrated. “This is the price of the Phil. Government entry into WTO-- 7 out of 10 peasant families are landless, 10 pregnant women die daily and the country has become a net food importer”.

Shanti of Tamil Nadu, India representing the Association of Dalit Women said that Indian government entry to WTO has prevented them to keep their own seeds. The Indian government as part of its commitment to WTO imposed on Indian farmers to have all seeds certified before these are used or planted. Shanti shared that farmers are fined of 25,000 Indian rupias if caught using uncertified seeds.

“This is theft, this is depriving us of life, this is genocide”,explained Shanti.

In the verdict, Irene Fernandez further read that WTO, the governments of the US, EU and Japan and their multinational companies are GUILTY of killing the livelihood of many rural women, of intensifying hunger and poverty among rural women and their communities and subjectd rural women to different forms of violence including forced prostitution, out-migration and sex trafficking.

The Asian Women’s Tribunal ordered the WTO to discontinue from being a world trade body and demanded the WTO and the governments of the the US, EU and Japan to compensate the dmages it caused the rural women of Asia. It also demanded the respective governments of Asia to cease from taking orders from the WTO and to heed their people’s call on the negative impacts of the WTO.

In celebration to the victory of the women’s tribunal, a women’s march was held from Wanchai to the Convention and Exhibition Center in Causeway Bay where the ministerial meeting is being held. Vernie Yocogan-Diano of Innabuyog and master of ceremonies for the women’s rally said that the tribunal had captured the real situation of rural women all ove the Asia-Pacific region.

“The stories of the 6 women who gave their testimonies are the same stories said by women who are peasants, indigenous, herders, fishers, workers in the Asia-Pacific region. WTO is indeed guilty of numerous crimes against rural women. It has only intensified hunger, poverty and has driven rural women to forced prostitution and migration even to foreign lands thus the urgent call is to junk this global trade body”, summarized Diano in the rally program.

The women marched with them a 25 feet by 50 feet patches of women’s resistance bearing slogans against WTO in different languages. The march-rally was participated in by about a thousand women and support groupsa with thousands of by-standers who clapped and cheered while the marchers stopped for short programs.

Representatives of the women contingent led by Irene Fernandez submitted to the ministerial meeting the verdict of the Asian Women’s Tribunal after a long negotiation with the police.

Reference: Vernie Yocogan-Diano
Innabuyog-Gabriela Cordillera


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