EWL News

57th UN Commission on the Status of Women: Agreement on Conclusions on Violence against Women and Girls Welcomed, but Women’s NGOs Express Concern over Lack of Real Progress

[Brussels, 22 March 2013] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) came back from the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (4-15 March 2013), relieved and delighted that UN Member States adopted agreed Conclusions on the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. During the two weeks-session in New York, the EWL had been very active in advocating for strong agreed Conclusions, looking at all forms of violence against women and girls, in a context of attacks against women’s sexual and reproductive rights and growing conservatism and nationalism from some observers and Member States. After the failure of CSW 2012 to achieve agreed Conclusions on rural women, and the lack of agreed Conclusions on violence against women at CSW 2003, these 2013 CSW Conclusions give an important signal about the urgency to tackle violence against women and girls in order to achieve equality between women and men. However, the difficulty of the negotiations and the fact that for most part, the text reaffirms existing UN language, are worrying. The EWL would like to congratulate and thank the official delegations which worked hard to achieve a positive outcome, in particular the positive role played by progressive European countries.

The Agreed Conclusions reaffirm the key international instruments which form the legal base for action for women’s rights for all UN Member States. Violence against women is identified as a pervasive violation of women’s rights and the EWL welcomes the holistic approach which clearly links the persistence of violence against women and girls with the structural inequality in power relations between women and men. All spheres of society are concerned when it comes to ending violence against women and girls, and the conclusions mention them all: the work place, education, health care, the media, women’s access to decision-making, women’s full participation in the formal economy, etc. Gender mainstreaming – including gender budgeting – is identified as a key tool for the development, adoption and full implementation of laws, policies and programmes aiming at ending discrimination and violence against women and girls. The Commission also stresses that all States must exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of violence against women and men.

Despite opposition from some Member States, the Conclusions make it clear that no custom, tradition or religious consideration can be invoked to support acts of violence against women and girls: it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EWL particularly welcomes these provisions as they support the universality of women’s rights and are key for solidarity actions between women’s organisations from all over the world.

The EWL also welcomes the acknowledgment in the Conclusions of the role of women’s organisations, as partners and experts in the efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The EWL also welcomes the point made in the Conclusions that women and girls who face multiple forms of discrimination are exposed to increased risk of violence. Migrant women, indigenous women, women and girls with disabilities, women and girls deprived of their liberty or under State custody or care, girls, women and girls living with HIV, and older women are explicitly mentioned. However, the EWL regrets that no specific provision addresses the needs of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women, of undocumented women, of Roma women and of women asylum seekers.

The attacks of several Member States and observers against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are of great concern for the EWL and women’s organisations and we regret that no reference is made to the right to safe abortion, a topic on which the EU Member States did not show unity. However, it is positive that the Conclusions are explicit that the Programme of Action at the International Conference on Population and Development is an international commitment for all Member States, which must respect and promote sexual and reproductive health. The EWL regrets that only reproductive rights are mentioned, and that sexual rights are still not recognized at international level as women’s human rights. Likewise, the EWL regrets that the mention of prostitution as a form of violence against women and girls is not included in the final Conclusions, while it was discussed during the negotiations. However, the EWL welcomes the provision asking Member States to accelerate public awareness, education and training to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation.

Finally, the EWL welcomes and supports the final article of the Conclusions, which recommend that the realisation of gender equality and empowerment of women be considered as a priority in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. The EWL would also like to see the realization of gender equality as a stand-alone goal, and women’s right and the fight against violence against women and men to be mainstreamed in all areas of the post-2015 development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals.

During CSW 2013, the EWL was highly visible and brought the recommendations and expertise of its members to the UN level. The EWL co-facilitated the meetings of the Europe and North America NGO Caucus, which delivered two strong common positions to guide and influence the negotiation discussion between Member States and supported the work of the EU delegation (position of 7 March, position of 11 March). EWL President Viviane Teitelbaum was a speaker at the two high-level events of the EU, one on comprehensive strategies to end violence against women, and the other on trafficking as a form of violence against women and girls. The EWL also organised its own side event on prostitution as a form of violence against women, where NGOs, MEP Parvanova and a survivor presented their experience and recommendations towards the abolition of prostitution (read EWL at CSW - week 1). The EWL made two statements during the general discussion, one the urgency of an EU action to end violence against women, and one the impact of the crisis on equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men (read EWL at CSW - week 2).

We now call on all UN Member States to make their utmost to implement concrete measures for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and to dedicate high levels of resources to this topic.

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Loud and United to end violence against women and girls, European Women’s Lobby Conference, 6 December 2017, Brussels.

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