For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

Liberian women’s rights activist Lois Brutus shares insights from the conflict in Liberia

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Lois Brutus during a seminar in Almedalen – Photo: Sara Ludtke/The Kivnna till Kvinna Foundation

The Liberian women’s rights activist Lois Brutus has long pushed for the recognition of sexual violence in war as a crime against humanity. She still continues her fight, so that victims can finally see justice implemented. During Almedalen’s political week in Sweden, she shared with us her experiences.

Mrs. Lois Brutus, Liberian Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary to South Africa, participated in several seminars at Almedalen where she discussed the measures needed to bring perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence in war and conflict to justice. (more…)

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma first woman to head the African Union Commission

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Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Chairperson of the African Union Commission – Photo: African Union

Following the election on 15 July 2012 of candidates to the African Union (AU) Commission, the AU has officially announced the South African Minister of Home Affairs, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, as the new chairperson of the AU Commission. Dr. Zuma is a member of the African National Congress National Executive Committee and National Working Committee. She is also a member of the African National Congress Women’s League National Executive Committee and the National Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa.

In her acceptance speech she expressed that she considers her election not as a personal victory but a victory for the African continent in general and for women in particular. She also added that this event commemorates a milestone in the history of the AU, namely that a woman has been afforded an opportunity for the first time to chair the AU, stating:”We are grateful as women that our leaders have understood that women have to participate and take their rightful place in society so they can reach their full potential because it is only if men and women reach their full potential, shall we as a continent reach our full potential.”

Nadia Elgohary

The International Criminal Court celebrates its 10-year anniversary

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ICC judges from left: Robert Fremr Anthony T. Carmona Howard Morrison, Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Chile Eboe-Osuji. Photo: ICC

Every year on July 17, the world celebrates World Day for International Justice, also known as International Criminal Justice Day, in recognition of the emerging system of international criminal justice. On the same day in 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by 120 States, thereby creating the international treaty that is the legal basis for establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002, upon being ratified by 60 States, and the ICC officially started its activities.

The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, and thereby prevent future occurrences of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.  The Court is a fully functional institution supported by 121 States Parties.

Over the past ten years, the ICC has become a fully functional institution, with 15 cases having been brought before the Court, 6 of which are at the trial stage. ICC judges have issued 20 arrest warrants and 6 arrests have been made; they also issued nine summonses to appear, all of which have been honoured. On 14 March 2012, the ICC rendered its first verdict in the case The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo; the accused was found guilty of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 into military forces, and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

In June 2012 Gambian Fatou Bensouda has been appointed new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, after serving as ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004. The Office of the Prosecutor is conducting investigations in seven situations, Uganda, the DRC, CAR, Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as seven preliminary examinations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Honduras, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea and Guinea.

This year marks the ICC’s 10-year anniversary, and on this occasion a new website was launched to commemorate the milestone event.

In commemoration of World Day for International Justice, Amnesty International has also launched its global Campaign for International Justice: “Demand Justice Now” to ensure access to justice, truth and reparation for victims of crimes under international law around the world through the creation of an effective system of international justice. According to Amnesty, the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002, has sent a clear message around the world that failure to investigate and prosecute these crimes at the national level, will not be tolerated. The challenge now is to ensure that this new international justice system succeeds in practice.

Amnesty International’s Campaign for International Justice aims at getting more states to ratify and implement The Rome Statute, encouraging governments and intergovernmental organisations to provide the ICC with full cooperation and support and forcing more national authorities to exercise universal jurisdiction to ensure their countries are not safe havens for perpetrators of crimes under international law.

Nadia Elgohary

Communications procedure for submitting human rights violations against women to the Commission on the Status of Women

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According to the announcement made on the UN Women website regarding the communications procedure of the Commission on the Status of Women, any individual, non-governmental organization, group or network may submit communications (complaints/appeals/petitions) to the Commission on the Status of Women containing information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world.

The Commission on the Status of Women considers such communications as part of its annual programme of work in order to identify emerging trends and patterns of injustice and discriminatory practices against women for purposes of policy formulation and development of strategies for the promotion of gender equality.

What the Commissions seeks is accurate and detailed information relating to the promotion of women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields in any country anywhere in the world.

The communications should advisably:

  • Identify as far as possible the woman victim, or women victims
  • Indicate clearly where (the particular country/several countries) the alleged violation(s) or pattern of violations have occurred or are occurring
  • Provide, when available, dates and circumstances of the alleged violations
  • Explain the context by providing relevant background information
  • Provide, when available, copies of documentation

All claims must be submitted in writing and signed by e-mail, fax, or regular mail by 1 August 2012.  It is worth mentioning that, the author’s identity is not made known to the Government(s) concerned unless she/he agrees to the disclosure.

In recent years the Commission identified a number of trends and patterns including among others; arbitrary arrests of women, death and torture of women in custody, violations of the rights of women human rights defenders to freedom of expression and assembly, domestic violence, virginity testing and lack of due diligence by States to adequately investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of violence against women.

For more information about the submission procedure, please visit the UN Women page.

Nadia Elgohary

“You must put pressure on your government!”

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Annika Flensburg, Marwa Sharafeldin, Hana Al-Khamri, Gunilla Carlsson & Fredrik Uggla – Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Sara Lüdtke

Even though women have played a central role during the Arab spring, but right after the uprisings, they were unable to claim their deserved place in society. Therefore, it is now especially important that the international community supports civil society and women’s rights activists. This was the message that all the speakers at the seminar entitled “The Arab Spring – backlash for women?” agreed upon.

- But such support does not make sense while, at the same time, arms are being sold to Saudi Arabia, said the Egyptian activist and researcher Marwa Sharafeldin.

The seminar was hosted by The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, The Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida) and Amnesty International during Almedalen week in Sweden last Tuesday, the 4th of July 2012. Speaking at the seminar were Hana Al-Khamri, a journalist from Yemen, Marwa Sharafeldin, an Egyptian activist and researcher, Gunilla Carlsson,  Minister for International Development Cooperation and Fredrik Uggla from the Swedish Embassy in Cairo. Annika Flensburg, Press Secretary at the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, moderated the session.

Marwa Sharafeldin criticized the Swedish government for, on one hand selling arms to the Saudi government, while at the same time providing support for democracy activists and implementing projects to support women’s rights. It makes no sense, said Marwa Sharafeldin, given that support for the Saudi government provides aid to movements and groups – including the Salafists – who obviously oppose democracy and women’s rights.

- Saudi oil money is behind many sufferings endured in the name of Islam, said Marwa Sharafeldin.

Marwa Sharafeldin – Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Sara Lüdtke

The seminar discussed, among others, the role of civil society during and after the revolutions, the type of support needed in the current building phase, the place of women’s rights  and the relationship between Islam and feminism. The latter was an issue Marwa dwelled on further.

- First, we must agree that patriarchy exists in both the North and the South. We also have to agree that patriarchy is alive and that it thrives in both secular and religious contexts. The dividing lines are not between secular and religious, she said, but between social and gender equality on one hand – and oppression, patriarchy and ferocious capitalism, that is ruining whole communities, on the other hand.

She also pointed out that Islamic groups are present in many forms – progressive, fanatical, violent and peaceful – and that we must keep this in mind when we talk about Islam and feminism, as well as when we talk about the current situation in Egypt.

- It is important to understand that religion is part of the social fabric of our society. It must be remembered that during the revolutio’s first 18 days, no one called for the implementation of sharia law, we demanded bread, dignity, freedom and social justice.

Marwa further explains that the reason why Muhammad Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, was newly elected as president was that the Muslim Brotherhood helped provide people with their basic needs, such as food and water when the state was totally absent.

-  For the feminist movement in Egypt, the challenge is to work within the religious discourse. When religious conservatives start attacking women’s rights, we have to be able to respond to them in the same language they use.

She also directed an appeal to feminists in Sweden, who want to support the struggle of feminists in the Arab world.

- You must put pressure on your government to stop selling weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia!

Hana Al-Khamri from Yemen concurred. Yemen is located next to Saudi Arabia and ends ups in a vulnerable position when Saudi Arabia feels threatened by the Yemeni people’s struggle for democracy. A militarily strong Saudi Arabia is paralyzing to the democratic process, she pointed out.

As regards the situation in Yemen, Hana Al-Khamri explained that attitudes to women’s participation in the political process vary widely, both among women themselves, as well as among religious leaders. And while some began to question women’s participation in street protests and calling for them to go home and take care of their children,others stated that it was actually women’s duty to take part in the uprising. Although there are many signs of a backlash for women, women have been – and remain – highly involved during the protests. They have protested against an increased separation between men and women and demonstrated under the slogan “No spring without women”.

Marwa Sharafeldin also said that it is important to support those working for women’s participation in revolutions, and to be aware of how religion is used for political purposes. Conservatives manipulate the fact that people value religion to achieve their own political goals.

- There are other alternatives, and other religious discourses that are more pluralistic, democratic and equal.

Karin Råghall