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Recent killings of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan, “a tragic reminder of a global and increasing concern”

GENEVA (18 July 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo has stated that the recent killing of Fareeda Afridi, a human rights defender in Pakistan, of Hanifa Safi, a provincial head of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan, as well as the public execution of Najiba, a woman accused of adultery in Afghanistan, “are tragic reminders that gender related killings of women are a global and increasing concern.”

“Whether labelled murder, homicide, femicide, feminicide, or ‘honour’ killings, these manifestations of violence are culturally and socially embedded, and continue to be accepted, tolerated or justified - with impunity as the norm,” stressed the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and report on violence against women, its causes and consequences. “The failure of States to guarantee women’s right to a life free from violence, allows for a continuum of violence which can end in their death.”

“The killings of women is indeed a State crime when tolerated by public institutions and officials - when they are unable to prevent, protect and guarantee the lives of women, who have consequently experienced multiple forms of discrimination and violence throughout their lifetime,” Ms. Manjoo said, urging both the Pakistani and the Afghan governments to conduct prompt and impartial investigations on these cases and to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice

“It is crucial to acknowledge that these are not isolated incidents that arise suddenly and unexpectedly, but are rather the extreme manifestation of pre-existing forms of violence experienced by women everywhere,” she stressed. “However, women suffering multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, face a greater risk of experiencing such violence.”

The expert noted that women human rights defenders “are commonly perceived as challenging accepted sociocultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity and the role and status of women in society, while reclaiming their rights or the rights of their communities.” In her view, “this is also the case when women are accused of acting in ways that are considered ‘dishonourable’ in certain societies, and subjected to public punishments, also with the aim of influencing and controlling the conduct of other women.”

In her 2012 report* to the Human Right Council, the Special Rapporteur underscored that States should adopt a holistic approach to addressing the gender related killings of women, and offered some key recommendations to that end:

1. Ensuring effective investigations, prosecution and sanctions;
2. Guaranteeing access to adequate and effective judicial remedies;
3. Treating women victims and their relatives with respect and dignity;
4. Ensuring comprehensive reparations to victims and their relatives;
5. Identifying certain groups of women as being at particular risk when adopting preventative measures;
6. Modifying the social and cultural patterns and eliminating prejudices, customary practices and other practices based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes, and on stereotyped roles for men and women.

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. 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. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report on gender-related killings of women: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/A.HRC.20.16_En.pdf

UN Human Rights Country Page – Afghanistan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/AFIndex.aspx
UN Human Rights Country Page – Pakistan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/PKIndex.aspx

For more information and press inquiries, please contact: Gabriela Guzmán Garza (+41 79 444 43 32 / gguzman@ohchr.org) or Thierry del Prado (+ 41 22 917 92 32 / tdelprado@ohchr.org) or write to vaw@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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