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Statement by Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences for the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

11 March 2019, GA Hall, New York 

Madame Chairperson,
Excellences Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address you today in my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and contribute to the discussions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the priority theme on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. I will also report on my mandate’s work.

With respect to this year’s priority theme, I would like to flag out the need to integrate in the discussion and in the CSW agreed conclusions, the need for public services to address gender based violence and use my report and recommendations on human rights-based approach to integrated services and protection measures on violence against women, with a focus on shelters and protection orders (A/HRC/35/30).

Your Excellences,

This year my mandate celebrates 25 years since its establishment  in 1994 with the aim to addressing all forms of violence against women, its causes and consequences as human rights violations, with particular focus on States’ obligations to adhere to human rights standards, including the standard  of due diligence when addressing the issue of violence against women.
This mandate was the first independent human right mechanism on violence against women.

At the time of the 4 World Conference on Women, this mandate was just established. Next year there will be the  Review of the Beijing Platform for Action +25th (1995) and this should also include review of the achievements and role  of this mandate and other independent women’s rights and violence against women mechanisms entrusted with monitoring role,  like the CEDAW committee. I am preparing the next thematic report on the 25 years of the mandate, which will contribute to  this review process.  I have called all of you to send me your proposals and contributions and  I would like to thank those who already submitted them.

By its founding resolution, this mandate is invited to recommend measures at global, regional and national level to combat violence against women and also report to the CSW. This is a great opportunity for the mandate but also a huge challenge since the time allocated for this oral report is very short.

For that reason, I will focus on some of my mandate’s recommendations:

In my report on adequacy of international framework on violence against women (A/72/134), I have concluded that there is a need to address gender-based violence more forcefully at the global level and to accelerate its eradication. I have called for the elaboration of a Global Action Plan on violence against women and for the organization of an implementation oriented world conference on violence against women. The need for action is also visible  from numerous women’s marches and  movements  like the  #MeToo and # NiUnaMenos and their various   expressions across the world that denounce the pervasiveness, pandemic and systematic nature of violence against women.

These transformative women’s rights movements are challenged by backlashes coming from regressive groups which misinterpret the term “gender” and read in it the so-called “gender ideology” despite the fact that the term gender is used in the Beijing Plan of Action and numerous UN document including now in the 2030 SDG Agenda in our global goal 5 on achieving gender equality.   

The main question today is how do we address these backlashes and, in general, the too slow progress in achieving gender equality and support these groundbreaking and transformative women’s rights movements?

My answer is to let us finish the unfinished job of ratification, incorporation and implementation of the CEDAW, the Declaration on the elimination of violence against women and the Beijing Plan of Action, as well as regional instruments like the  Maputo Protocol, the Belém do Pará Convention, the Istanbul Convention along with the 2030 SDG Agenda. We need to focus on implementation and this Commission and all of you have an important role to play.

This mandate has also an essential role in implementation.

With a view to strengthening and improving the implementation of the above-mentioned instruments, at last year’s session of the CSW, I have launched an initiative establishing an institutional platform of cooperation between international and regional independent monitoring mechanisms on violence against women and women’s rights, which is composed by myself, the Chair of the CEDAW Committee, the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice (WGDAW), the President of the GREVIO, the IACHR Special Rapporteur on women’s rights (IACHR SR) and the Chair of MESEVCI. Full information is available on the website at:
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/CooperationGlobalRegionalMechanisms.aspx.

Last year, during the 169th session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in Boulder, Colorado, we had the first meeting of the platform. The next one is planned in May this year in Strasbourg, hosted by the Council of Europe, and the next one at the end of the year hosted by the African Union. The last meeting will be next year at the CSW, but what happens after that?

This initiative is currently run as a project and has been supported by Switzerland, Spain and the Republic of Korea. Today I am calling all other States to support this initiative and make it sustainable at the next session of the CSW  by providing support for regular meetings of this Platform during each session of the CSW. This could be done by UN member states through the adoption of a General-Assembly or CSW Resolution but also through the joint support provided by OHCHR, UN Women, the UN Trust Fund on violence against women and regional organizations.

Allow me to call again for  cooperation of my mandate with the UN Trust Fund on Violence Against Women, as envisaged  by its founding resolution in 1994 (GA Res. 50/166). Regretfully, such collaboration has yet to begin, even after 25 years. Therefore, I call upon all donors of the Trust Fund and UN Women as its administrator to support such cooperation, which would strengthen efforts and actions in preventing and combating violence against women.

Let me express the hope that during all forthcoming review processes, including the BPA review, you will examine those mandates’ recommendations that are directed  towards  stronger implementation  of global and regional standards on women’s rights and violence against women and integration of the work of their respective monitoring mechanisms  into the work of this Commission.

I would also like to propose  that all of you attending this commission consider and  call for inclusion of  violence against women among the main themes for the each session of the CSW. 

Let me now briefly mention some other implementation initiatives. 

This year were are also commemorating the 40th anniversary of the CEDAW Convention, a “living women’s human rights instrument”. As a former CEDAW expert for 12 years and knowing its catalyst work on eradicating discrimination and violence against women, I have also focused on a stronger and substantive cooperation with the CEDAW Committee. 

Last November, we jointly approved a framework of cooperation between the CEDAW and my mandate with the aim of advancing the promotion and implementation of the CEDAW General Recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women as a new global roadmap that should trigger the elaboration of new VAW national action plans at the national level. In this regard, I would like to announce that I will hold a side-event on the role of my mandate and the CEDAW General Recommendation 35 on Thursday 14 March. 

Let me briefly mention my thematic report on violence against women in politics and during elections that was done in collaboration with the IPU and NDI, UN Women and OHCHR and also with participation and inputs from all UN and regional independent mechanisms on women’s rights and violence against women. In that report, I have called for urgent action by States and also by Parliaments to adopt new codes of conduct and efficient reporting mechanisms or revise existing ones, recommending the zero tolerance of Parliaments for sexual harassment, intimidation and any other form of violence against women in politics that 80% of women in politics experience.

In my report on online violence against women I have called for incorporation of women’s human rights into digital spaces and I  have started discussions with  Facebook, Google and Twitter on some specific forms of online violence against women, but much more is needed in order for all of us to uphold human rights norms into digital spaces that are our public and private spaces.

Mme. Chairperson,

Information received by my mandate in the last year has shown the magnitude of harmful practices, abuse and humiliation to which women are subjected during childbirth and when they access reproductive health care. Therefore, I have decided to focus my next report to the General Assembly on disrespect and abuse on women in pregnancy and childbirth and you are all invited to contribute and send your proposals.

Mme. Chairperson,

Let me briefly mention my mandate’s long term initiative on the establishment of a femicide watch. Data from both States and the United Nations show that 80 percent of victims of all  killings involving intimate partners are women. Women are mostly killed at homes by the hands of those closest to them.

In October 2018, I called on all States to submit femicide related data and information, to follow up on my initiative to establish femicide-watch or observatories launched in 2015. More than 20 States and MESECVI have already submitted their femicide data and I encourage those countries who haven’t responded yet to do so by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November this year.

I hope that this initiative will result in the establishment of comparable data on femicide and on femicide rate as an indicator on violence against women and will contribute to the creation of global, regional and national femicide watches. Further details will be discussed during my side-event on “25 years of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women: the femicide watch initiative and the role of international and regional mechanisms in its prevention” on Wednesday 13 March.

Mme. Chairperson,

Let me conclude by informing you that since the beginning of my tenure, I have conducted country visits to Nepal, Canada, Australia, Bahamas, Argentina, Israel and the oPt/State of Palestine, Georgia and South Africa. This year, I am planning a visit Bulgaria in October 2019 and I hope that I will be able to visit South Sudan, New Zealand, Madagascar, Ecuador, Mongolia and Pakistan to which I have recently requested a visit.

All other States are encouraged to express their interests in a visit by my mandate, which is your mandate your mechanisms to accelerate progress in eradicating gender based violence against women and girls.

Thank you.