Women’s Rights Under Threat at 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Ottawa, Canada – March 14, 2013
 
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict on Wednesday called on United Nations member states to uphold international obligations toward women’s rights and not to cave in to a minority of states that seek to weaken global efforts to address gender violence.

As negotiations towards a final outcome at the UN 57th Commission on the Status of Women continue for the second and final week, the Campaign is concerned that a number of states are using the Commission’s final communiqué to revisit already established UN obligations for women’s human rights—and to roll back progress on eliminating violence against women.
 
“It is unfathomable, given the prevalence of sexual violence in conflicts around the world including in Mali, the DRC and Syria, and in light of recent highly publicized incidents involving rape in India and South Africa, that here in New York some government are so willing to try to avoid taking responsibility for such violence, “said Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate and Co-Chair of the Campaign. “How can they consider walking away with nothing from this Commission after women, girls, and their men from over 200 countries around the world recently stood up to demand their governments take action to stop rape and gender violence as part of One Billion Rising?” Williams joined other members of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict in New York last week in calling on member states to take strong action to stop rape in conflict.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is an annual gathering in New York of member states to discuss and promote gender equality and advancement of women. The theme of this year’s session, which runs from March 4 to 15, is “eliminating and preventing all forms of violence.”
 
The Campaign is deeply concerned that during a forum meant to discuss strategies to address gaps in current responses to gender violence, certain member states are attempting to remove references to universally agreed-upon language on women’s rights from the final document.

In particular, the Vatican, Iran, and Russia are claiming that religious or cultural traditions should take precedence over ending violence against women. In addition, the Campaign is concerned that some states are again making sexual and reproductive rights a point of contention, and equally disturbing, are objecting to language that would define rape to include forced sexual acts with a partner. Poland, Malta, Egypt, Pakistan, and other Muslim states have criticized parts of the draft statement.

Nobel Peace Laureate and Campaign Co-Chair Leymah Gbowee, told a high-level panel at the Commission to protect sexual and reproductive rights as human rights that, “all women and girls subjected to violence must have prompt access to critical services and supports for their safety, health, housing, legal and other needs and rights. … Sexual and reproductive health programs and services have an especially strategic role to play in supporting women and girls subjected to violence.”

Certain states’ lack of recognition of violence against Women Human Rights Defenders during current negotiations is also alarming. Violence against Women Human Rights Defenders is pervasive around the globe and the Commission must conclude with a statement that clearly defines state obligations for their protection.

In a letter sent Wednesday, the Campaign reminded delegates to the UN Commission on the Status of Women that current discussions of new targets following the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 are ongoing, and that the Commission’s final statement will influence this process.
 
The Campaign is calling on the Commission on the Status of Women to uphold the universally agreed upon language on women’s rights including CEDAW, the General Assembly’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993), the Beijing Declaration for Action (1995), and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).  Specifically, the Campaign is pushing for strong leadership to prevent violence against women and rape in conflict, to protect women and girls from violence, including through provision of needed psychosocial and medical services, and to provide survivors with access to comprehensive justice mechanisms including prosecution of perpetrators.
 
During a panel session last week, Julienne Lusenge, an Advisory Committee member from the Democratic Republic of Congo, told the audience, “We need to make our voices heard, not allow the authorities to turn a blind eye, and to make our governments responsible.”

The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict calls on government delegates to listen to the demands of the thousands of women and survivors of gender violence that have gathered in New York to take part in a historic moment as the United Nations prioritizes ending violence against women, as well as the millions more watching around the globe. The Campaign calls on those taking part in the negotiations to produce a final statement that provides a clear path of action to end the epidemic.

For the full text of the letter: http://bit.ly/Yd8hNC

 

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Media contact:

Zuzia Danielski
Acting Coordinator
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict
zdanielski@stoprapeinconflict.org
+1 613 569 8400 ext. 112

www.stoprapeinconflict.org

The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is led by the Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and an Advisory Committee comprised of 25 organizations working at the international, regional, and community levels to stop rape, together with more than 700 member organizations around the world. The Campaign demands urgent and bold political leadership to prevent rape in conflict, to protect civilians and rape survivors, and calls for justice for all—including effective prosecution of those responsible.

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The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict
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