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Special Rapporteur on violence against women concludes visit to Algeria

ALGIERS (10 November 2010) -- At the end of of her 10-day visit to Algeria, which took her to Algiers, Constantine, Oran and Ouargla, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, delivered the following statement:

“At the outset, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the full cooperation extended to me by the Government of Algeria. I am grateful to all my interlocutors, including State officials at both national and local level, representatives of civil society organisations, representatives of United Nations agencies, and last but not least, individual victims of violence that shared their personal experiences with me.

This mission takes place three years after the visit of my predecessor, subsequent to the invitation extended by the Algerian Government to seven special procedures mandate holders in April 2010. The invitation reflects Algeria’s commitment in fulfilling its international obligations. It is my hope that my peers will soon have the opportunity to visit Algeria and gain a deeper understanding of the context and the reality.

My objective in conducting follow-up missions, as I undertook in El Salvador in March 2010, is to deepen, build continuity and review progress made on situations of violence against women, its causes and consequences, in different countries throughout the world.

This mission was underpinned by the recognition of the historical, sociological and environmental context within which Algerians continue to live today. The deep wounds of the past emanate from numerous sources, including the war of liberation from the long French colonial domination, and the Black Decade which reflected the exploitation of religion for political ends. Laying the foundations of a new State, repairing the ruptures in the social fabric while simultaneously guaranteeing the security of the population has required institutional, political and economic reforms which are based on the values of peace, security, reconciliation, and social cohesion. However, such values should not preclude the addressing of past violations of human rights in general and women’s human rights in particular. I acknowledge that the past is difficult to deal with and that more time may be necessary to name and address the violations that occurred. As one of the interlocutors stressed, “… the past is extremely painful and it is too near. Currently it is more important to find a space for just living. But the past will have to be dealt with. Distance is fundamental and it is a question of time.”

Violence against women is a manifestation of de facto and / or de jure inequality and discrimination and it cannot be addressed in isolation of the historical and current context. My predecessor’s report identifies different forms of violence against women including domestic violence, sexual harassment, abuse of women who are living on the streets, and violence in the private sphere which is largely invisible. The invisibility of these manifestations, the lack of reporting, the use of mediation and conciliation to solve incidents of violence, the absence of effective cooperative and collaborative partnerships between civil society and the State, as well as the absence of verifiable statistics on the prevalence, was confirmed in my discussions. While I applaud the focus on prevention and the setting up of centres for vulnerable groups, I am of the view that the absence of specialised services for women and girl victims of various forms of violence contributes to such invisibility and silencing.

My discussions with State officials indicate the Government’s commitment to fulfil its due diligence obligations to protect, prevent, punish and provide compensation. Such intentions include institutional mechanisms, such as the National Consultative Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the Delegate Minister responsible for the Family and the Condition of Women, the National Council for the Family and Women, and the National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women. I also welcome the proposal to establish a National Centre for Studies, Information and Documentation on the Family, Women and Children. I support the recommendation by my predecessor relating to the upgrading of the office of the Delegate Minister for the Family and Status of Women to a fully-fledged Ministry with the mandate to coordinate and monitor all Government action on gender equality and to initiate proposals to reform polices and laws. I also support the creation of a programme within the National Consultative Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to address discrimination and violence against women.

When it comes to law reform, and as acknowledged by my predecessor, there have been significant developments in the Nationality, the Family and the Penal Codes which are aimed at eliminating critical areas of inequality between men and women. I was also informed of the forthcoming adoption of a framework law addressing the low level of representation of women in elected bodies, through the establishment of quotas. Despite these achievements, challenges remain, particularly in the areas of interpretation and implementation. In my meetings with victims, testimonies indicate different attempts to defeat the spirit of the law, which result in further discrimination and injustice. I encourage wider societal discussions, including on the need to adopt specific legislation as regards domestic violence, sexual violence and sexual harassment. While law by itself is not a panacea for social ills, it can serve as a protective, preventative and educational tool.

In conclusion, I acknowledge that Algeria has distinguished itself in the promotion of gender equality through laws, policies and programs, particularly in the realisation of equal access to educational and economic opportunities – in less than one generation. This laudable achievement can be further enhanced through a systematic analysis and addressing of all manifestations of violence against women and girls, including the causes and consequences of such violence.

My findings will be discussed in a comprehensive way in the report I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011.”

ENDS

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the United Nations Human Rights Council for an initial period of three years. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo is also a Professor in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.

For additional information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit the website:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Algeria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/DZIndex.aspx
For further details on the mission, please write to: vaw@ohchr.org

*To access the 2007 report by the Special Rapporteur, please visit:
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G05/101/90/PDF/G0510190.pdf?OpenElement