New York, 14 March 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to address you today for the first time, as Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and to contribute to the discussions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development and to the follow up of the review theme on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
This year topic is timely, since the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a global gendered framework for development with an explicit stand-alone goal No5 on the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls and through systematic gender mainstreaming in all other goals.
By this we have a gendered Sustainable Development Agenda with gendered transformative goals, a stand-alone goal with a specific target on elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres.
My mandate of Special Rapporteur on violence against women its causes and consequences covers violence against women in its largest extent and is ready to not only monitor progress achieved but to give a credible guidance to States and other stakeholders in preventing and ending violence against women and girls in order to make real change and to leave no woman or girl behind.
I would like to commend the catalytic role played by the Commission on the Status of Women for providing us with an important opportunity to assess progress achieved and to exchange good practices but also to focus on measures needed to accelerate progress on achieving gender equality and eliminating violence against women that is too slow and too uneven.
My mandate of Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences was one of the first human rights special procedures established in 1994 by the then Commission on Human Rights, replaced by the current Human Rights Council. It started to report to the CSW from 2007 thereby establishing this important link between the work of this independent mandate of the Human Rights Council and the CSW. I hope that this cooperation could be further deepened and strengthened in the future especially with respect to the implementation of country specific recommendations on elimination of violence against women.
I would like to mention as a positive development that due to the increasing recognition of gender mainstreaming, a number of Special Procedures mandate holders started to develop the work done by their mandate from a gender perspective. Recently the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment presented a thematic report to the Human Rights Council, in which he provided a message that the torture protection framework must be interpreted against the background of the human rights norms that have been developed to combat discrimination and violence against women and girls.
My mandate has noted that despite the existence of significant numbers of legal instruments, policy documents and mechanisms to combat violence against women, at the global and regional levels, this phenomenon remains universal, widespread, systemic, and structural and its fight is still likely to be marginalized at the national level, because of the existence of a large implementation gap.
Indeed, despite the existence of international and regional norms and standards on violence against women, including the CEDAW Convention, the Beijing Plan of Action (BPA), the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW), the United Nations Security resolution 1325 and its following resolutions, the Belem do Para Convention, the Maputo Protocol and the Istanbul Convention there is a general lack of holistic and comprehensive approach to combat and prevent violence against women.
In addition, the lack of full acceptance and incorporation of the international norms and standards at the national level and lack of their implementation contribute to leave this worldwide pandemic largely unaddressed and tolerated.
Throughout my mandate, I will strive to contribute to the reduction of this gap and acceptance of violence as a way of life. I will strongly promote and support States and NGOs to uphold the rights of every woman and girl to live a life free from violence.
I believe that my mandate has an important role to play in promoting synergies between the existing international and regional instruments and systems on violence against women, with the purpose to achieve and accelerate their full implementation at the national level. I already had a meeting with the GREVIO monitoring body established under the Istanbul Convention and will continue to connect with other regional monitoring mechanisms.
I would also like to strengthen the engagement between my mandate, the CEDAW Committee as well as other relevant treaty bodies. The founding resolution of this mandate envisaged a strong cooperation between the SRVAW and the CEDAW Committee. As a former CEDAW Committee member familiar with its work and jurisprudence in the area of violence against women, I intend to focus on cooperation and synergies between these two independent accountability mechanisms. I already had a meeting with the CEDAW Committee to discuss such cooperation that has now started. As was mentioned by the CEDAW Chairperson, Ms. Yoko Hayashi, I have been invited by the CEDAW Committee to participate in its Expert Group Meeting on Updating the General Recommendation n°19 on violence against women and to input into the draft that will provide an updated interpretation of the global standards on violence against women.
I would like to use this opportunity and call all UN member States and other stakeholders to provide me with their views and proposals on any actions needed to improve the current framework on addressing violence against women and girls.
I would also like to call the UN Member States to look at the Declaration on the Elimination of violence against Women and its call for a development of specific guidelines for its implementation as an avenue for its stronger implementation that could be elaborated by this Commission.
The landmark UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security and follow up resolutions urge States to increase the active participation of women at all levels of decision making and in all the phases ranging from conflict prevention, to conflict resolution and peace building. The UNSCR 2122 adopted in 2013 called for a global study on the implementation of the UNSCR 1325, highlighting good practices, implementation gaps and challenges, emerging trends and priorities for action. The Global Study, which was presented last year, for the first time elaborated important links between the implementation of the CEDAW Convention and the UNSCR 1325 framework. This is in line with reports of my predecessors who highlighted that prevention of violence against women must start during times of peace and the women, peace and security agenda should be strongly connected with the broader gender equality and empowerment of women agenda.
Since under the UNSCR framework the mandate of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict was established, I would like to develop a strong cooperation between our two mandates when addressing the same country or the same themes of overlapping mandates.
Last month, I participated in a “Seminar on Litigation of Cases of Violence against Women and Access to Justice to Women in Central America”. Following the seminar, I had the opportunity to observe the last day of the hearing of the emblematic trial of the Sepur Zarco case, which marked the first case where crimes committed against women, including sexual slavery during an armed conflict were prosecuted in the country. In its decision, the Court ruled that the two military officers accused were found guilty of crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence, sexual slavery and domestic slavery perpetrated against 11 Q'eqchi indigenous women, which was part of a broader control and domination plan by the Guatemalan Army during the internal armed conflict.
This verdict is an important attempt to address impunity and to establish historic facts for crimes of sexual slavery committed in 1982 and prosecuted in 2016. This case is also a lesson to all similar cases that still await such trail.
UNICEF has indicated last month that, for the first time since the start of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, there were more children and women on the move than adult males. Women and girls on the move face various forms of gender-based violence in their journey towards a hosting country, as well as multiple forms of discrimination, all the more if they travel alone. These women and girls are vulnerable at all stages of their journeys; in countries of origin, transit and destination. As well as being a key driver behind women’s decisions to flee, gender-based violence is a common feature throughout their journeys and within their countries of destination. This large scale phenomenon of female migration has yet to be adequately addressed in migration policies with the full recognition of the gender specific challenges and risks faced by migrating women and girls. Significant challenges faced by women and girls migrants include high risks of certain form of violence, including sexual violence by smugglers, criminal groups and individuals in countries along the route. But they also face increased risks of sexual violence and harassment while in transit in camps/shelters due to, among others, shared accommodation and common sanitation facilities which leave them vulnerable to violence and abuse, lack of provisions of gender specific services, under-reporting of cases of sexual violence due to the victim’s reluctance to speak out about their experiences. There is a lack of data on such crimes which prevents the authorities to take the necessary measures which could ensure the safety of these women and girls. My mandate stands ready to assist in the development of the necessary guidance for States in this field.
States have the primary responsibility to address violence against women and to have clear and comprehensive national legislation and policies, including on services for women survivors of violence. It is also their responsibility to establish guidelines, standard operating procedures, directives, as well as minimum standards on shelters, in compliance with international human rights norms and standards. I plan to focus on the prevention of violence against women, as part of the mandate that deals with the elimination of root causes and consequences of violence against women. Efforts to prevent such violence should be accompanied with police and criminal responses to violence, including the issuance of effective protection orders, as well as the provision of adequate services needed for survivors of violence, such as an adequate number of crisis centres and shelters. I am interested to also focus on risk assessments, prevention and protection orders and measures for victims, witnesses and their families.
Looking more closely at mechanisms for prevention of VaW, I would also like to highlight the existence of major barriers in preventing femicides or gender-related killing of women and developing meaningful strategies to address this serious human right violation, including weaknesses of national prevention systems, lack of proper data collection, risk assessment and the scarcity and poor quality of data, which result in misidentification, concealment and underreporting of gender-motivated killings including of women belonging to ethnic groups. For this reason, last year, on 25 November, I have called all States to establish a ‘Femicide Watch’ or a ‘Gender-Related Killing of Women Watch’ and to publish on this date – the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women – the number of femicides or gender-related killings of women, disaggregated by age and sex of the perpetrators, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim or victims, as well as the collection and publication of information concerning the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. Such data and their analysis would greatly contribute to prevent preventable deaths of women, because the analysis of specific cases of gender-related killing can contribute to identify any failure of protection, in view of improving and developing further preventive measures.
Last week, I participated in the 5th General Assembly of the Kigali International Conference Declaration (KICD) in Algeria on the role of security organs in ending violence against women and girls. 12 Member States signed the Declaration, following a high-Level International Conference on the Role of Security Organs in Ending Violence against Women and Girls, which took place in Kigali in 2010. Since then, 43 States have taken part into the activities of the implementation of the Declaration, which includes, out of 14 commitments, a commitment n° 6 “to recruit and promote more women officers at all echelons of the security organs”. It is extremely important to focus on the involvement of the security organs including the police in the process of combatting violence against women and girls. These organs are the fist-respondents in cases of violence and have a key role to play in the prevention, prosecution of perpetrators and protection of women survivors of violence. The goals achieved and the challenges encountered in the implementation of the Kigali declaration could be used as good practices for the elaboration of such global code of conduct for police forces. I intend to explore the possibility of the elaboration of a global code of conduct for security officers dealing with violence against women and girls.
Country visits in 2015 and 2016
Since I took up functions, I have conducted an official visit to South Africa from 4 to 11 December last year and to Georgia from 15 to 19 February this year. I would like to thank the Governments of these countries for inviting the mandate and their cooperation during my visit. I am currently working on the reports and recommendations on the official country visits, which will be presented to the HRC in June this year.
I am also pleased to announce that I have received positive replies to conduct visits to Australia and Bulgaria. I welcome the announcement made during the High Level Segment of the 31st session of the Human Rights Council by the Government of Mauritania and I am looking forward to receiving a formal acceptance.
Thank you for your attention and I look forward to the discussions.