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Statement by Ms Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - Gender conference

Combatting violence against women in the OSCE region – bringing security home

Vienna 22 July 2016

Mr. Secretary General,
Mr. Chairperson of the OSCE Permanent Council,
Ms. Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom,
Ms. Principal Advisor on Gender of the European External Action Service,

Distinguished delegates, representatives of international organizations and institutions, as well as representatives of civil society organizations,

I am honored to address the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and to participate in the Gender conference, focused on Combatting violence against women in the OSCE region and bringing security home. I would like to thank the OSCE Gender Section and the OSCE German Chairmanship for the invitation.

I would like now to introduce you to the work of my mandate. I took up function last year as Special Rapporteur on violence against women. This is an independent mandate that cooperates with State authorities and other stakeholders in combating and preventing violence against women by conducting country visits and elaborating thematic reports both with the aim of providing action-oriented recommendations, including on domestic legislation and institutions to prevent and combat violence against women, its causes and consequences. An additional tool at disposal of my mandate is the communications procedure that takes the form of allegation letters or urgent appeals on ongoing cases of violence against women.

This is an independent mandate that reports to the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the Commission on the Status of Women and by invitation to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and cooperates with all regional organizations dealing with violence against women – I hope this is beginning of a fruitful cooperation between this mandate the OSCE and its organs and its institutions and representatives like the Special Representative on gender issues.  

Country visits

Since its creation, the mandate has visited 53 countries, including 16 from the participating States of the OSCE, among which Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America. Through these visits, both concerns as well as few good practices were collected by the mandate. My mandate stands ready to assist other participating States of the OSCE.

Objectives of the mandate

Last month, I have presented my first report to the Human Rights Council, which is a vision-setting report. It examines the general context and main trends and challenges posed by violence against women.

I note in this report that the legal and policy landscape around my mandate has changed owing to developments in international and regional frameworks and mechanisms on violence against women while at the same time violence against women is still at pandemic levels, widespread and persistent.

These developments have led me to reshape the focus of this mandate on prevention, implementation challenges and collaboration with all other relevant global and regional organizations and mechanisms (like the OSCE and its gender representative and gender advisor) in order to accelerate the elimination of violence against women, its causes and consequences.

I would like to share with you some of the priorities to which the mandate will be focusing. As an immediate priority, I intend to focus on the use of data on violence against women as a tool for its prevention.

As you might be aware, last year, on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I called upon all States to establish a “femicide watch” or a “gender-related killing of women watch” and publish data on the number of femicides, disaggregated by age and ethnicity of victims, and the sex of the perpetrators, and very importantly indicating the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. Information concerning the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators should also be collected and published. Each case of femicide should be analyzed by national bodies established for this purpose in order to determine the shortcomings of national prevention systems, the lack of risk assessments and management, and consequent misidentification, concealment and underreporting of gender-related killings. This mechanism would provide crucial information related to such violence and will point out on effective measures and strategies needed to prevent femicides.

I also believe that such model of watch could be extended to other forms of violence against women, such as rape, sexual violence, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

My current work on femicides also fits into the broader context of the gathering and analyzing of data on violence against women in the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

This Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women, has a real transformative potential. Goal n°5, and in particular its targets 5.1 on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and 5.2, on the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, as well as target 5.3 that focuses on the elimination of all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation are among the most relevant to the mandate.

The goal on achieving gender equality and empowerment of women should be seen and used as the bridge between this Sustainable Development Agenda and the United Nations human rights framework for the realization of all human rights for all.

Other thematic priorities I intend to take up during my tenure include:

  • the protection of and services for women survivors of violence;
  • the possibility of formulating a global code of conduct for police and security forces;
  • violence against women in the context of forced displacement and refugee flows;
  • the examination of the connections between fundamentalism or extremism and gender-based violence against women and its root causes; 
  • the building of capacity for legal profession and law enforcement officials dealing with violence against women,  specially judiciary ;
  • new challenges posed by online violence against women and lastly;
  • the prevention and elimination of discriminatory laws and their negative impact in perpetuating or contributing to violence against women.

Violence against women in politics, this was triggered by recent murder of the UK Parliamentarian Jo Cox and Berta Cáceras of Honduras.

Some of my priorities are also in line with the important work already done by the OSCE and areas of focus of the OSCE 2004 Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality.

I conclude my report by noting that there is a general lack of a holistic, comprehensive approach to combatting and preventing gender-based violence, as well as fragmentation of various policies and legislations addressing violence against women and women’s rights. I am convinced that my mandate has an important role to play in promoting synergies among existing international and regional instruments and systems on violence against women, with the purpose of using synergies between them, as well as accelerating and achieving their full implementation.

Overview of the legal standards on violence against women

Based on work already done by the mandate in presenting an overview of the legal standards on violence against women, I have invited global and regional human rights mechanism that monitor the implementation of international and regional instruments to send their views and inputs on a need for a new instrument on violence against women or if there is an incorporation gap of the international or regional human rights norms and standards. I am currently reviewing their answers.

Last month at the Human Rights Council session in June, I have also called all interested stakeholders, including States, NGOs, other Special Procedures mandate holders and treaty bodies, as well as National Human Rights Institutions and members of academia to send me their views and inputs on the questions that are available on the website of the mandate. I hope that the collection of such information will enable all of us to decide on the measures needed to accelerate the eradication of violence against women and girls in public and private life.



Before concluding, I would like to refer to the 2014 decision of the Ministerial Council which refers to the importance of the acceptance of the Istanbul Convention. In this regard, I would like to stress the importance of this Convention, which is complementing the CEDAW convention and is now fully operational and has its own monitoring body. I wish to congratulate all the OSCE Member States that have ratified the Convention, for their political will and commitment to turn the standards set up by this instrument into reality at the national level. I would like to encourage all OSCE Member States to ratify this important Convention. The Istanbul Convention provides a relevant instrument for the mandate to support implementation of the States’ obligations to prevent and combat violence against women at the national level. Its adoption strengthens the European regional framework on preventing and combating violence against women, while its implementation will accelerate the implementation of the global instruments on ending discrimination and violence against women, like the CEDAW Convention, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women,   the Beijing Platform for Action, the UN Security Council resolution 1325 but above it, it will accelerate the end of violence against women and girls.

I hope that the OSCE will progress with the implementation of its Action Plan on Gender Equality and its updated Addendum and look forward to further engagement and cooperation between my mandate and the OSCE to address current gaps on achieving results violence against women.

I thank you for your attention.