United Nations Security Council Meeting Room. Photo: Zack Lee, CC
Today, on April 17, the UN Security Council discusses the UN Secretary General’s 2013 report on sexual violence in war and conflict. The report highlights several emerging concerns, such as the practice of forced marriage by armed groups and the links between sexual violence and natural resource extraction.
“It is important that the UN Security Council continues to keep the focus on this issue. The Security Council plays a key role in preventing and combating the prevalence of sexual violence in war and conflict,” says Lena Ag, Secretary General of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, and continues:
“But it is worrying that sexual violence used against political dissidents, as happened during the riots after the Kenya elections in 2007 and in Conakry in Guinea in 2009, is not mentioned in this year’s report, as it was in the last year’s. Nor can rape and serious sexual harassment Egyptian women recently suffered in Tahrir Square in Cairo be found in the report. Our experience is that sexual violence and the threat thereof is one of the most common obstacles for women around the world to get access to the public sphere and to gain influence in society.
This year’s report states that:
- sexual violence is a serious war crime and elucidates that there is an evident connection to international peace and security;
- sexual violence and the number of rapes in Mali have increased;
- sexual violence is often used as a strategy to forcibly displace populations and for ethnic cleansing. One of the reasons is to get access to coveted natural resources or to facilitate drug trafficking. This happens for example in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Libya;
- in Syria, rape happens at some places and at certain times to such an extent that it could be classified as war crime and crimes against humanity. Jailed Syrian men have also been reported to be victims of rape and torture;
- forced marriage and sexual slavery has become increasingly common. Militia and guerrilla leaders in e.g. Afghanistan, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Yemen abduct young girls, marry them for then be able to “legally” rape them. Other victims of sexual violence are forced to marry their abusers. This way the perpetrator gets away from punishment;
- activists, opposition, local politicians and their families are particularly vulnerable to threat of sexual violence and sexual violence.
The report also provides recommendations:
- women who get pregnant after being raped should be offered adequate care and access to safe abortion or emergency contraception pills;
- impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence should be counteracted and prohibited;
- efforts should be made for better monitoring and reporting on men as victims of sexual violence.
“In recent years, conservative forces with religious leanings take every opportunity to try to limit women’s rights. We saw this most recently in March at the UN’s
After the UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the UN Security Council adopted in 2000 the Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace and Security
,” which is about women’s rights and participation as actors in peace processes. It was followed by the Resolutions 1820
, which further strengthen articles of Resolution 1325 (1889), and specifically target sexual violence in conflict (1820, 1888, 1960).
Commission on the Status of Women. An unholy alliance between the Vatican and Iran amongst others used every opportunity to put a spoke in the wheel of the effort to reach an agreement to end violence against women,” says Lena Ag and continues:
“It is therefore an important signal that the powerful G8 countries, with British conservative Foreign Secretary William Hague at the helm, adopted a declaration in support of the UN’s efforts against sexual violence in conflict last week.”
Anna Magnusson | Katharina Andersen
Mervat El-Tallawy, Ambassador and Chairwoman of the National Council of Women in Egypt, who made the CSW57 agreement possible. Photo: Violaine Martin, CC
The 57th session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW57) is over. After two weeks of difficult and tough negotiations in New York, the participants of the world’s largest conference on ending violence against women and girls consented on the adoption of a global plan to eliminate and prevent
all forms of violence against women and girls.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he ”hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls.”
One third of all women experience violence
One out of three women experience violence in her lifetime. According to the World Bank, women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. To put an end to this seems like an excellent idea – but apparently not to all countries.
Even in the year 2013, there are countries that try to impede an agreement that is not even legally binding, that apparently don’t go in for a world which is violence-free for women. At CSW57, the Vatican, Russia, Sudan, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Iran had formed what some diplomats called “an unholy alliance” and objected to language in the draft communiqué, asserting that governments can’t use religion, custom and tradition as an excuse to their obligation to eliminate violence. They also objected to references to abortion rights and contraception, as well as to language suggesting that rape also includes forced intercourse by a woman’s husband or partner.
Last year’s conference ended without an agreement – and this was close to happening again. What made the alliance countries cave in is not known, but in the end it was only Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who classified the draft as un-Islamic and warned it would lead to a “complete degradation of society.”
Agreement made possible by the courage of one women
It seems to be thanks to the courage of one woman that the final agreement was signed, besides Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to block it. The head of Egypt’s delegation, politician and diplomat Mervat Tallawy, ignored the members of her own delegation and announced that Egypt would join consensus. “Women are the slaves of this age. This is unacceptable, and particularly in our region,” Mervat Tallawy said afterwards. “It’s a global wave of conservatism, of repression against women, and this paper is a message that if we can get together, hold power together, we can be a strong wave against this conservatism.”
Religion, culture and tradition are no excuses anymore
The 16-page document agreed upon strongly condemns violence against women and girls, affirms that violence against women and girls is rooted in historical and structural inequality in power relations between women and men, and that this persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of the enjoyment of human rights, calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment and ensure women’s reproductive rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The document reinforces furthermore the validity of all agreements and resolutions hitherto adopted, urges all states to condemn violence against women and girls and to implement effective national legislation and policies against it. It also recognizes violence against women as an impediment to the social and economic development of states, as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Equal access to power and decision-making is also a demand.
“By adopting this document, governments have made clear that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century, there is no turning back.” said UN Women.
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.
The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) ended in disappointment, as the participants were unable to agree on the proposed conclusions.
- Unfortunately we have (…) witnessed an inability to reach consensus on the agreed conclusions on our priority theme, empowering rural women. We have come to an impasse, which is deeply regrettable, commented Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women.
UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet delivers the introductory speech at the opening of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. To the right Marjon Kamara, Chair of the session. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.
The session took place at the UN head quarters between 27 February and 9 March, and its priority theme was rural women.
Usually these sessions end with the agreement on a number of conclusions concerning the priority theme, negotiated by all states. But this time, in spite of them continuing a week after the end of the session, the negotiations stranded.
“Discussions gave us hope”
- The discussions during the past two weeks gave us hope that stakeholders were ready to provide both priority attention and much needed resources to further women’s empowerment and gender equality in all its dimensions, including sexual and reproductive health, and access to technology, and other important areas. I sincerely hope that despite the failure to adopted agreed conclusions Member States will live up to their commitments and responsibilities to improve rural women’s and girls’ lives in all dimensions and ensure their rights, said Michelle Bachelet.
Draft resolutions adopted
So, no agreed conclusions, but at the end of the session CSW approved several draft resolutions including on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS; an end to the harmful practice of female genital mutilation; release of women and children taken hostage in war zones; indigenous women as key actors in poverty and hunger eradication; the elimination of maternal mortality and morbidity through empowerment of women; and gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disasters.
A draft resolution on the situation of, and assistance to, Palestinian women was also adopted after being put to a vote , with 29 in favour, two against (US, Israel) and 10 abstentions (Belgium, Colombia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden), reports IPS news.
More on the 56th session of the CSW on IPS news.
CSW is the body responsible for following up on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
27 February-9 March the Commission on the Status of Women is holding its 56th session at UN’s headquarters in New York. The Commission is responsible for following up on the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and its mission to remove ”all the obstacles to women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making”.
The 56th session is dedicated to the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. The aim is for the Commission to put forward actions needed to make a real difference in the lives of millions of rural women. These recommendations will also provide input into other policy forums, such as the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012 (the 20-year-on review of the Beijing Platform for Action).
As the session reaches half-time the actions are yet to be presented. But in the meantime you can immerse yourself in background reports on the situation of rural women and follow the speaches live on the UN webcast.
We will get back with a report on the outcome.