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UN CEDAW Committee adopts Landmark Document on Women and Conflict

[Brussels, 15 November 2013] The UN Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), has taken an important step forward in their recognition of women’s reproductive rights in its new General Recommendation 30 on Women in Conflict Prevention, Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations. “This document is comprehensive. It includes recognition of women’s central role in preventing conflict and in rebuilding devastated countries,” said CEDAW Chair Nicole Ameline.

Specifically, in addressing the disruption of reproductive health services that occurs in conflict areas, the Committee says that states should:

“Ensure that sexual and reproductive health care includes access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information; psychosocial support; family planning services, including emergency contraception; maternal health services, including antenatal care, skilled delivery services, prevention of vertical transmission and emergency obstetric care; safe abortion services; post-abortion care; prevention and treatment of HIV.” (para. 52(c))

This is the first time that the CEDAW Committee has explicitly indicated that states should provide safe abortion services as a component of their obligation to provide sexual and reproductive health care in a general recommendation. In other general recommendations, the Committee would speak more generally about the need to prevent maternal mortality from unsafe abortion, calls on states to remove punitive provisions on abortion, and discusses the discriminatory effects of refusing to provide services only women need, without explicitly calling upon states to ensure access to safe abortion services.

The EWL welcomes the Recommendation and its reaffirmation of the obligation, for all countries, to uphold women’s rights before, during and after conflict. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also said that ratifying States should exercise due diligence in ensuring that non-State actors, such as armed groups and private security contractors, be held accountable for crimes against women. CEDAW adopted its General Recommendation on 18 October, the same day as the UN Security Council Resolution 2122, which stresses the importance of women’s involvement in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building.

The full text of the Recommendation is here.

Read here the UN press release.

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