On Monday, June 10, Canada introduced the annual resolution on violence against women at the 23rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The resolution, which is expected to pass when the session ends this week, fails to acknowledge the importance of providing access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence in conflict. This is a step backward and contradicts Canada’s previous record of support for women’s rights issues in Canadian and international law.
The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body consisting of 47 States that are a part of the General Assembly of the United Nations. They hold three regular sessions a year to carry out their responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights around the globe. Canada currently serves as chair of the Council’s negotiation process.
Civil society organizations working to end sexual violence in conflict agree that survivors should be provided with services such as emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. A provision on the importance of providing sexuality education for adolescents as a mechanism to combat gender violence is also absent from the proposed resolution.
Canada’s position sends the wrong signal to other countries trying to combat this problem. Amnesty International Canada has noted that the number of co-sponsors for the resolution this year is lower by almost one-third.
“Canada Ignores the Importance of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Addressing Rape” from Amnesty International Canada
“Press Release: Canada Blocking Efforts at the UN to Address Sexual Violence Against Women/ Communiqué de Press: Le Canada S’oppose aux Tentatives Faites aux Nations Unies pour Contrer la Violence Sexuelle Faite aux Femmes” from Action Canada for Population and Development