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Statement by Dr. Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its cause and consequences at the Gender Symposium: combating femicide

Combating violence against women– bringing security home

Ratsaal, Hofburg, Vienna, 25 November 2016

I would like to thank the OSCE and especially its Gender unit and the UNODC for inviting me to participate in this important gender symposium on combating femicide and all others involved in its organization like the ACUNS.

It is an honour to address you today, the International Day on the Elimination of Violence Against Women as the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and to discuss with you challenges and measures needed to combat and prevent femicide and to bring security home.

Violence against women is a human rights violation and form of discrimination against women rooted in inequalities and discrimination, and its prevention and eradication must be grounded in gender equality and empowerment of women but based on data informed policy.

A few months ago in July, I participated at the the OSCEconference on Combating Violence Against Women in the OSCE Region and bringing security home during which one of the key recommendations was related to the importance of data on violence against women and girls and the use of such data as a tool for elaborating policy for prevention of VAW. At that conference I briefly introduced my mandates initiative on the establishment of a femicide watch that has been further elaborated in report that Ipresented in October to the UN General Assembly.

Current data  on gender related killings of women resulting from intimate partner violence makes it clear, almost without exception, that women are at greater risk than men, and that the majority of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate male partners.

Therefore, I have decided that one of my immediate priorities as Special Rapporteur is the prevention of femicide (defined as the killing of women because of their sex and/or gender), which I believe constitutes the most extreme form of violence against women and girls.

Preventing and combating femicide and other forms of violence against women requires evidence based policy making. Included in my priorities is the use of data collection and its analysis as a tool to end and prevent violence against women. Collection of data is also required to follow up on the implemention of goal 5 target 2 on elimination of violence against women and girls in public and private sphere by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.

Therefore,last year on this important day, I called on all States to establish a ‘Femicide Watch’ or ‘gender related killing of women watch’ and to publish each year on the 25th of November the number of femicides or gender related killings of women per year, disaggregated by age and sex of the perpetrators and victims, as well as the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim or victims. Information concerning the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators should also be collected and published. 

I am deeply convinced that a “Femicide Watch” is a practical mechanism, a tool to improve and strengthen already existing preventative measures by identifying possible failures of protection. Additionally, it would promote awareness about the issue of gender-based violence against women and incite further actions for its prevention.

In my report presented this October to the UN General Assembly (A/71/398), I recommended modalities for the establishment of a national “femicide watch,” or observatories on violence against women.

In line with these modalities, I proposed a flexible model for the establishment of a “national femicide watch or observatory”. It could be a designated existing body that is already collecting data or dealing with vaw or it could be a newly created interdisciplinary mechanism at the national level.  In the future we could envisage the establishment of a network at the regional and global femicide watches.  
Such observatories should consist of legal professionals, among others, dealing with vaw and representatives of non-governmental organizations and academia.

In addition, non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions - ombudspersons - could establish their own femicide watch. 

The femicide watch or observatories on violence against women should include systematic collection and publication of data but also analyses of all cases of femicide in order to determine systematic gaps in the response system to such violence: in the criminal justice system and judicial procedures, and to establish risk factors to prevent such violence and to protect women and girls from femicide. 

I also urge that, as far as possible, such femicide reviews should include cases which remain outside the court system, such as cases where the perpetrator committed suicide.

In general, States should disaggregate femicide data under two broad categories that could further include subcategories in line with national realities: 

  • intimate partner femicide/ family related femicide   - based on relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, 
  •  other femicides  .

Additionally States should collect data on suicides of women or deaths related to  injuries in cases of violence against women  and on killings of children related to a gender-based violence against their mothers.

It is important to collect information on investigations, prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators, and redress and counseling provided to victims’ families.

In my report to the UN General assembly. I also had the opportunity to identify several initiatives as good practices of data collection on femicide but have also received requests from States to present more good practices.
Based on such requests and in with view of creating a global online database, I am   inviting States and all other stakeholders like the National Human Rights Institutions, Non-governmental organizations, as well as members of academia, to send me information:

  • Existing legislative models or operational guides for the investigation of gender-related killings of women;
  • Existing good practices on collection of data on femicides or gender related killings of women
  • Landmark jurisprudence from international, regional, and national courts, on gender-related killings of women.

As part of my mandate as Special Rapporteur, I have conducted country visits in Georgia, Israel, OPT/ State of Palestine and South Africa and Argentina. Within the context of these visits I seek   information on femicide and other forms of violence against women and girls. In all visited countries I have identified the lack of comprehensive official data on femicide and other forms of VAW.

But there are also some positive examples on data collection. During my recent visit to Argentina, I have received information regarding various collection of femicide data form the government and NGOs.  I would like to mention very important initiative of the Supreme Court of Justice that has created a specific office for women and a specific database on femicide. According to their data, in 2014 there have been 225 femicides and in 2015, 235, but now, from this data it is visible that 50% of those cases were intimate partner femicide and 20% were family related femicide or all together around of 70 % are family related femicide.

I welcomed the recent decision of the Ombudsman’s Office in Argentina to establish a femicide observatory in line with the modalities I recommended in my GA report.

I would also like to applaud the “Ni Una Menos” movement for putting the issue of femicide in the lime light and attracting worldwide attention to this issue.

Let me also inform you about some other promising initiatives in this area.   Yesterday I have   participated at the regional conference on Femicide Watch prevention in Zagreb, Croatia, at which participants from BIH, Serbia , Monte Negro and Croatia decided on different measures needed for prevention of VAW including supporting the establishment  of a femicide watch for collection of data and analysis of femicide cases and reporting.

Within my mandate, I have called for stronger cooperation between global and regional mechanisms dealing with women's rights and violence against women and for joint and complimentary use of global and regional instruments,in order to employ synergies between them and to accelerate implementation of all of them.

Thus, in honour of the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, my mandate issued a joint call with all other global and regional mechanisms:

 1. United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences,

2. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),

3.  Inter- American Special Rapporteur on violence against women,

4. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa,

5.  United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice,

6. Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention(MESECVI)
 
7. Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence of the Council of Europe (GREVIO), *

In this statement all key global and regional women's rights expert mechanisms, jointly call for intensification of international, regional and national efforts for prevention of femicides and gender based violence.
We ALL called for:

  • PREVENTION:  fully endorsing, incorporating and implementing global and regional treaties on women's rights and violence against women (CEDAW and its Optional Protocol, theBelém do Pará Convention, the Maputo Protocol and the Istanbul Convention);
  • PROTECTION: providing shelters and safe places, crisis centers, protection orders and services for women and their children survivors of violence and integrating gender perspective in the work of legal professionals and law enforcements officials dealing with violence against women;
  • PROSECUTION, including sanctions of perpetrators and providing redress and reparations to the victims and their families.

All experts also welcome the call of my mandate for the establishment of a “Gender-Related Killing of Women (Femicide) Watch.

To conclude, women victims of violence still face multiple challenges in their search for protection, justice and rehabilitation due to entrenched patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotypes which make gender-based violence tolerated and treated as a private matter.

There is an urgent need to break the cycle of silence and acceptance of violence against women as a private matter and to secure the right of each and every woman and girl to live a life free from violence.

Thank you!