My return to the United Nations for the 57th annual session of the United Nations Comission on the Status of Women meeting is fastly approaching in March 2013. I recently joined the Board of Directors of San Francisco based UN NGO Women’s Intercultural Network and contributed to the draft of my first UN Policy Paper. The theme of UNCSW 57 is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women. After the recent Taliban shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, gender based violence is a strongly debated topic and, quite frankly, should be!
Here is the policy paper available for reading prepared for the UNCSW 57 session:
Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN)
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN POLICY PAPER, 2012
UNCSW 57: Violence against Women
Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls:
The Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN), along with our partners in Uganda, Afghanistan, the Philippines, US Women Connect and the million women network in California applaud the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and States for giving us an opportunity to address this on-going critical concern. This joint statement is just the tip of an iceberg in terms of combating international violence against women.
Legislators, policymakers and the general public are experiencing an increased awareness and understanding of the horrors faced by women throughout the world due to physical and sexual violence. Through media and activism, people in all walks of life have come to understand the connection between rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and the effects of militarism on women. This understanding is being used to create new and more effective policies and legislation. Below is an example of the tremendous strides recently taken by the United Nations and governments around the world. However, we need further action as violence against women is still readily apparent and a cultural norm in every country around the world. Studies show that one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in their lifetime. Urgent and continued action is needed to break the barriers of violence.
In 1993, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the non-binding Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW). The Declaration, which was supported by the U.S. government, describes VAW as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation
of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” The DEVAW definition of VAW is broad, encompassing both physical and psychological harm. It is used in this report because it is one of the most inclusive and widely agreed to international definitions. In some contexts, VAW may be used synonymously with “gender-based violence” (GBV), which describes violence perpetrated against an individual, regardless of sex, because of his or her gender.
VAW occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures, and economic classes. Many experts view VAW as a symptom of the historically unequal power relationship between men and women, and argue that over time this imbalance has led to pervasive cultural stereotypes and attitudes that perpetuate a cycle of violence. Though the specific causes of VAW vary on a case-by-case basis, some researchers have identified community and individual risk factors that may increase rates of violence against women. Community factors can include cultural norms that support male superiority, high crime levels, poor economic conditions, and a lack of political and legal protection from governments. Individual factors that may lead to a high risk of becoming a victim of VAW include living in poverty and a previous history of abuse. There are many different types of violence against women. Honor killings, for example, occur when women are stoned, burned, or beaten to death, often by their own family members, in order to preserve the family honor. The practice is most common in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, though it has been reported in other parts of the world, such as Latin America and Africa. Dowry-related violence, where victims might be attacked or killed by in-laws for not bringing a large enough dowry to the marriage, is also prevalent in South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Female genital cutting (FGC), which has also been referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision, is common in some African and Middle Eastern countries. The World Health Organization estimates that between 100 and 140 million women and girls have undergone a form of the procedure, and that about 3 million girls are at risk each year. Some consider child and adolescent marriage, which is particularly prevalent in parts of the Middle East and Africa, to be a form of violence against women. In such cases, girls as young as 10 and 12 years old may be married to older men, often with the approval of their parents. Some research indicates that these child brides may face a greater risk of violence.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION AND ATTENTION :
The following are key changes that must occur in order to eliminate all forms of violence against women and to cultivate a legal environment that will allow for more extensive prosecution of offenders.The ratification of CEDAW is effective on the global, national and local scales. It must be adopted into law on the national, state and county level in any jurisdiction. In total more than 180 nations have ratified CEDAW since it began in 1979; however, the United States is not one of them. The U.S. joins Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Palau and Tonga in denying responsibility for violations of women’s human rights. It’s troubling that the U.S. is unwilling to be held accountable to basic standards that all but six of the world’s countries have agreed to. The CEDAW Committee guarantees an international dialogue amongst State parties on how to protect women’s rights. As grim as it sounds, statistical evidence such as fewer femicides, fewer cases of FGM and more convictions for rape cases are tangible goals for governments to strive for. Monitoring these aspects of women’s lives in that country guarantees a level of protection for them. With this comes an understanding that women are entitled to lives free of discrimination, an achievable goal that governments are responsible for providing. The international nature of the United Nations provides an objective commentator to mandate this. Arguments against CEDAW, therefore, are really arguments against women’s rights.
Women’s Intercultural Network strongly recommends not only the adaptation of CEDAW, but also strong legal and adequate security protection for women who are victims and/or survivors of violence. It is essential and must be supported fully and initiated through the actions of lawmakers as well as legal policy and programs, including police protective programs in locations that are local and regional. Giving women and girls an open forum in which to speak and be heard in the public is essential to the process of creating sustainable solutions to stop violence against women both locally and globally. Women who report and/or speak about personal violence as victims and/or survivors shall not be discriminated against based on their age, lack of affluence, disability or limited education. They shall also not be discriminated against based on being indigenous, immigrant, tribal, defined by caste or sexual identity as a LGBTI. WIN encourages full partnerships between NGOs, citizens and governing bodies to prevent violence against women.
Marilyn Fowler, Executive Director of Women’s Intercultural Network, Elahe Amani, Chair Global Circles, Women’s Intercultural Network and Director California State University Fullerton, Jessica Buchleitner, Sec. WIN Board of Directors/ 50 Women Project, Lys Anzia, Executive Editor Women News Network.
WIN Policy Paper UNCSW 57: Violence against Women PDF