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Urgent action needed to end pandemic of femicide and violence against women, says UN expert


International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
25 November 2020

GENEVA (23 November 2020) – The COVID-19 pandemic is overshadowing the pandemic of femicides and gender-based violence against women and girls, Dubravka Šimonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said today, calling for the establishment of national femicide watches or observatories around the world to prevent such killings. 

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she issues the following statement:

As the world grapples with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on women, a pandemic of femicide and gender-based violence against women is taking the lives of women and girls everywhere.
I call on all States and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women, and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or Femicide watches/observatories on violence against women. These bodies should be mandated to 1) collect comparable and disaggregated data on femicide or gender-related killings of women; 2) conduct an analysis of femicide cases to determine shortcomings, and recommend measures for the prevention of such cases, and 3) ensure that femicide victims are not forgotten by holding days of remembrance.

Data this mandate has collected since 2015 through my Femicide Watch initiative corroborates the data available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and indicates that among the victims of all intentional killings involving intimate partners, more than 80% of victims are women.  Many of these femicides are preventable.

Since 2015, a growing number of States have either established femicide watches or observatories, and in an increasing number of countries, it is the independent human rights institutions, civil society organizations, women s groups and/or academic institutions that have established femicide watches or observatories.

The outcome document of the Beijing+25 regional review meeting organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in October 2019 also supports this femicide watch initiative. Its recommendation 31(j) calls on all countries to establish multidisciplinary national bodies such as Femicide Watch with the aim of actively working on prevention of femicide or gender-based killings of women.

In his statement to the High-Level Meeting on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women on 1 October 2020, the UN Secretary General called for affirmative action to prevent violence against women, including femicide.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I, and the undersigned UN and regional human rights expert mechanisms, call on all States and other relevant stakeholders to establish a femicide watch and/or observatory on violence against women with a mandate to recommend measures for the prevention of femicides and gender-based violence against women and to collect comparable and disaggregated data under categories of intimate partner and family related femicides (based on the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator) and other femicides by unrelated perpetrators. Data should also be disaggregated based on age, disability, gender identity, migrant status, internal displacement, racial or ethnic origin and belonging to indigenous communities or to a religious or linguistic minority.”


Dubravka Šimonovic, is the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Her recommendations were endorsed by the following UN human rights experts: Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Dorothy Estrada Tanck, Meskerem Geset Techane, Ivana RadačIć, Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule,Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Alioune Tine, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in MaliIsha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; Thomas Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children; Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons;  Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Alice Cruz,Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members;   Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence;  Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;  Ikponwosa Ero, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Chris Kwaja (Chair-Rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Lilian Bobea, Ravindran Daniel, and Sorcha MacLeod,Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination;  Michael Lynk,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 Michael Fakhri,Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Obiora Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Olivier De SchutterSpecial Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Diego García-Sayán,  UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Gerard QuinnSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities;Javaid RehmanSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;Ms. Karima Bennoune,Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Fionnuala Ní AoláinSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Central African Republic; Felipe Gonzalez Morales,Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Livingstone SewanyanaIndependent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order;  Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

And regional human rights expert mechanisms:

Tatiana Rein Venegas, President of the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention; Marceline Naudi, President of the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence of the Council of Europe (GREVIO); Margarette May Macaulay, Inter-American Commission on Human Right's Rapporteur for Women's Rights; Hilary Gbedemah Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media inquiries please contact the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women: Orlagh McCann (+41 22 917 7900/ omccann@ohchr.org  ) or Renata Preturlan (+41 22 928 92 54 / rpreturlan@ohchr.org ), or write to vaw@ohchr.org  

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org), Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / jlaurence@ohchr.org) and Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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