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International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013 Women’s rights: time to turn decades of empty promises into concrete changes for women

GENEVA (8 March 2013) – Two key groups of independent experts within the United Nations Human Rights system urged world governments, on International Women’s Day, to commit decisively to women’s rights and turn decades of empty promises into concrete changes for women and girls around the world.

“Violence against women remains the most pervasive expression of discrimination against women and an egregious violation of women’s human rights,” warned Nicole Ameline, who currently chairs The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and Michael Forst, on behalf of a group of independent experts* charged by the UN Human Rights Council to address specific country situations and thematic issues in all parts of the world.

“Diverse and persistent forms of violence continue to affect the lives of millions of women worldwide, thus curtailing the whole range of their human rights and empowerment in all aspects of life, whether in the public, economic, social or family sphere,” they said.

The human rights experts stressed that such a situation is unacceptable more than three decades after the adoption of the CEDAW Convention, 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, and 17 years after the Beijing Platform for Action; three landmark strides in the fight for women’s rights.

“It is clear that there exists a wide range of standards and mechanisms which can be used to address violence against women,” noted Ms. Ameline and Mr. Forst. However, “the test question remains: have these made a difference in the lives of women?”

Despite significant advances ranging from gender equality, women empowerment and education, “women disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty, war, disease, lack of safe water, and famine,” they underscored.

“Women living in rural areas and women suffering multiple forms of discrimination because of the intersections of their different identities and characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, migration status, social origin, gender identity and others, remain the most marginalized from development and human rights gains,” they said.

“We the expert mechanisms of the UN Human Rights system cannot but recall that there is a long way to go before women and girls can enjoy equal rights and freedoms as men, as well as respect for their dignity,” they stated, urging States to focus their efforts on the implementation of CEDAW and other relevant instruments.

“We call on UN Member States to heed the voices of all women and girls demanding with ever stronger insistence and urgency their human rights. This is now urgent for implementing their rights,” Ms. Ameline and Mr. Forst underscored. “We are simply the echo of their voices.”

(*) For more details check the full statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13097&LangID=E

“Special procedures” is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 36 thematic mandates and 12 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfilment of their mandates. For more information, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW Committee consists of 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world. Learn more, log on to:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/CEDAWIndex.aspx

Check the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CEDAW.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Federica Donati (+41 22 917 9496 / fdonati@ohchr.org) or Jakob Schneider (+41 22 917 6804 / jschneider@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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