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Statement by Dubravka Šimonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, at the s eventy-second session of the General Assembly

Third Committee of the General Assembly at its seventy-second session

Item 29 (a & b): Advancement of women

New York, 5 October 2017

Mr. Chairperson, distinguished delegates, representatives of the United Nations and the NGO community,

I am honoured to be with you today in my capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and to present the work carried out by this mandate, which was established in 1994 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rightsto integrate a women's human rights perspective into the area of gender based violence against women.

Mr. Chairperson,

First, let me briefly mention that, since the beginning of my tenure in 2015, I conducted official country visits to South Africa, Georgia, Israel, OPT/State of Palestine and Argentina and I presented the related country visit reports to the Human Rights Council. I have also visited Australia in February this year andthe report on this visit will be submitted to the 2018 HRC June session.
The mandate’s next official visit is plannedto the Bahamas before the end of this year and toBulgaria in the second half of 2018. Also, in April this year I sent a visit request to Canada for which I am awaiting for a Government’s response.I was also invited to undertake an official visit to Nepal and I would like to thank the Government for its invitation, which I hope to honour in the near future.

Shelters and Protection orders thematic report(A/HRC/35/30)

The mandate’slatest thematicreport (A/HRC/35/30) presented last June to the 35th session of the HRC focusedon integrated services and protection measures for women victims or at risk of violence and on the lack of a human rights-based approach within the provision of shelters and protectionorders, since too many States still perceiveit as a voluntary commitment and not as part of their human-rights obligation.

In that reportI recommended, among other measures,the establishment of a global database on shelters and protection orders, as well as a collection of thesedata as indicators of the elimination of violence against women under the SDG Goal No 5, target 2. Within my mandate, I also proposed the collection of femicide rates or data on gender related killings of women as other important indicators on gender based violence against women.

Femicide or gender related killing of women watch or observatories (A/71/398)

In this context,I would like to briefly inform you on two other long-term initiatives undertaken by my mandate. The first concerns the establishment of a femicide or gender-related killings of women watch or observatories.

In the past two years, this initiative has been supported by a number of stakeholders. Many NGOs worldwide have now startedcollecting and publishing data on femicide and gender related killings. Among others, I gathered the experience of NGOs from Australia, UK, Armenia, Argentina, Ireland, Croatia, Serbia and Italy. For example, the research project carried out by COST Action gathered information and data on femicide across Europe and is planning to establish a European observatory on femicide.

The MESECVI Committee collected data on number of femicides in Latin American states.The UNODC has alsocollected data ongender related killings with respect to a number of UN Member States.In particular, I would like to flag the engagement of the Ombudsperson of Georgia, Argentina and Croatia, who have initiated the Femicide Watch and will publish related data collection and analysis on the occasion of the forthcomingInternational Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In light of those developments, I take this opportunity to reiterate my call to all States and stakeholders to publish data on gender related killings of women on the upcoming International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

I hope that in a near future we will be able to compile comparable data on gender related killings of womenat a global, regional and national level, and that the prevention of many predictabledeaths will be the achieved.

Let me now discuss the second long-terminitiative of the mandate, which concerns the establishment and strengthening of cooperation between independent global and regional mechanisms on violence against women. This initiative was announced in my mandate’s vision settingreport (A/HRC/32/42).

In 2016, all global and regional mechanisms, namely: the SRVAW, the CEDAW Committee, the Inter- American SRVAW, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, the United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) Committee and the GREVIO Group of Experts, issued a joint statement marking the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women and called for the intensification of efforts on combating gender based violence also by supporting the establishment of femicide watch/observatories. We also organized a joint panel and a half-day coordination meeting during the CSW session. Following these events, we held a meeting with the UN Secretary General where we proposed the institutionalization of the cooperation between independent globaland regional monitoring mechanisms on violence against women. This proposal was, in principle, supported by the Secretary General, who entrusted UN Women and the OHCHR to work on its operationalization.Since this proposal is a new initiative that would require additional financial resources and coordinated efforts, I would like to call all States to support it, including byprovidingearmarked funds to this mandate.

Cooperation with the UN Trust Fund on violence against women

In this respect, my mandate is also seekingto establish sustainable cooperation with the UN Trust Fund on violence against women, as it was envisaged in the Fund founding resolution which called forcooperation with my mandate. In undertaking any relevant activities, this resolution requests the Fund “to cooperate closely with the relevant United Nations organs and bodies, among others the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in order to ensure that its activities form part of the system-wide efforts of the United Nations to eliminate violence against women.”Recently, my mandate has proposed to UN Women, in its capacity as administrator of the UN Trust Fund for victims of violence against women, to start such cooperation.

In order to further proceed with the establishment of such collaboration, my mandate would like to call upon all donors of the Trust Fund to support such cooperation, as envisaged in the Fund founding resolution.

Cooperation with independent women’s rights mechanisms, especially the CEDAW Committee

Let me also draw your attention to the excellent exampleof meaningful cooperation between my mandate and the CEDAW Committee.During the past two years, we have established a formal collaboration in relation to the update of general recommendation No. 19 (1992) on violence against women. Upon invitation by the CEDAW Committee, my mandate participated in several meetings of the Committee’s Working Group in charge of the drafting of the new recommendation. On 18 July 2017, I also participated in the sixty-seventh session of the Committee, during which general recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19, was adopted. This is a formidable example of formal collaboration between a treaty body and a special procedures mandate holder.

I would like to congratulate the Committee on this important achievement and I stand ready to work jointly with Committee members, States and other stakeholders on its implementation.

Let me now turn to the report that I am presenting today to this august body, which is very much interconnected with this call for implementation of international human rights law of women’s human rights.

Report on the adequacy of the international framework (A/72/134)

Mr. Chairperson,

You will recall that I addressed this Committee for the first time two years ago, with a presentation of my predecessor’s report on the adequacy of the international framework on violence against women. Today, almost two years later,I am here to present a report based on inputs received from different stakeholders on this topic for your further deliberation.

I have previously presented an interim GAreport on this topic where I reported on inputs submitted by the independent monitoring mechanisms on violence against women.

To provide a brief insight of these submissions, I would like to recall that the CEDAW Committee, the GREVIO Group of experts, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children expressed the view that priority should be accorded to ensure the full implementation of the treaties and other instruments that already exist,hence they did not endorse the proposal for a new stand-alone instrument on violence against women. At the same time, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa presented diverse arguments, both in favour of and against the creation of a new treaty. She mentioned that Asia and Oceania did not benefit from any regional protection and that a global treaty on violence against women could prescribe clear and legally binding enforcement mechanisms at both the international and the national levels. Also, she highlighted that a new treaty could provide a harmonized approach with a view to addressing the fragmentation of policies and legislation on gender-based violence against women.As far as it is concerned, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (MESECVI) and the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice declared that they would supportthe strengthening of existing mechanisms and a supplementary protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as a long-term solution based on the CEDAW GR 19/35.

Let me now turn tothe inputsreceived (291 submissions)from civil society organizations and academic institutions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who invested their time, knowledge and expertise in this area to contribute to this debate.
The large number of responses received highlights a remarkable engagement of civil society on this issue, with a variety of perspectives which require our full attention. This report has summarized these contributions, which are also available on the mandate’s website for your thorough consideration.

With a view to analysing the feasibility of a new treaty on violence against women, I grouped these CSOs submissions under the following categories:

1) Those supporting a new stand-alone treaty with a new separate monitoring body

The main arguments supporting this perspective are:

  • the need to close the normative gap;
  • the lack of a legally binding definition of gender-based violence against women and the necessity for a global legally binding standard and universal language reflecting the global nature of the problem;
  • the need for a new treaty to be “specifically on violence against women, comprehensive and legally binding” and reflect “uniformity, specificity and state accountability”;
  • the opportunity to create more political will to eliminate violence against women.

2) Those opposing a new stand-alone treaty on violence against women and proposing the strengthening of existing instruments

The main arguments supporting this perspective are:

  • a new treaty is “not necessary or wise at present; instead political will and resources should be directed towards full implementation of existing international and regional standards”;
  • there is a need to reinforce the already existing standards provided by the CEDAW Convention and the jurisprudence of regional mechanisms and international treaty bodies addressing violence against women, and to enhance accountability of State responses to the root causes and consequences of gender-based violence against women;
  • the creation a separate treaty may isolate gender-based violence against women from the fundamental causes of violence.

3) Those supporting the creation of a new optional protocol under the CEDAW Convention

The main arguments supporting this perspective are:

  • the need to support and strengthen the current legal framework and mechanisms with the possible adoption of a new optional protocol under the Convention as a long-term solution. Civil society organizations supporting this view also wondered whether the implementation of updated general recommendation No. 35 combined with the adoption of an optional protocol specifically addressing violence against women may represent the best option to strengthen and coordinate efforts to combat violence against women.

4) Other innovative proposals include:

  • a call for the production of a report on global progress and strategic development, as “violence against women is currently a theme rather than an objective” and need to be addressed as a global priority;
  • the creation of a “femicide watch”;
  • the creation of an international watch centre for violence against women, which would include annual reports on each country’s “project implementing and monitoring committees.”

Conclusions on the adequacy of the international framework on violence against women, followed by my recommendations on possible ways forward

Mr Chairperson,

I believe that drawing on all those submissions and discussions collected up to now, we can notice a clear recognition and even a growing consensus on “the need to act at the global level”, in order to address gender based violence against women more strongly and effectively as well as to accelerate progress.

My perspective is that the argument of a normative gap at the international level on violence against women has been recently addressedby the adoption of the CEDAWgeneral recommendation No. 35 (2017), which marks a significant step towards a better understandingof the CEDAW Convention and the existing legal framework on gender-based violence against women.

In my opinion, this does not exclude the elaboration of an optional protocol to the Convention based on and upholding the GR 19/35. This option could represent a long-term solution and a response to all those arguments highlighting the lack of legally binding nature of CEDAW recommendations and the need for strengthening the existing legal and policy framework on violence against women.

However, in my view, as was also stressed by several submissions, this is not sufficient to overcome the current lack of implementation of the existing instruments.

There is aclear recognition of a significant incorporation and implementation gaps of global and regional instruments on violence against women and women’s rights at the national level. This issue should be more vigorouslyaddressed and put at the top of the UN agenda.

It is also important to note thatthe current international legal framework on gender based violence against women composed of the CEDAW Convention, along with general recommendation Nos. 19 and 35 and jurisprudence, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and very important regional women’s rights instruments, is complex, fragmented andin many waysdisconnected in its implementation at the national level.

Thisproblem of lack of implementation and incorporation of the existing legal framework on violence against womencouldbe more effectively tackled through the creation of a global implementation plan on violence against women, which would represent a proper response to address all initiatives and proposals contained in the numerous submissions received within this report.

I believe that such Global implementation plan on violence against women would fit under the implementation Sustainable Development Goal 5, target 2, and that efforts and resources should be focused on bridging the incorporation and implementation gaps between international standards and national law and policy, including by improving data collection on gender related killings of women and other forms of violence, provision of shelters and protection orders, as well as other implementation strategies.
Now it is your turn, it is up to the UN Member States to discuss the contents of this report and to take actions to implement its recommendations.
For this purpose, I would also like to suggestthe establishment of an open-ended inter-governamental working group on gender-based violence against women, open to all States Members of the United Nations and to the participation of NGOs and International Human Rights Institutions aimed at implementing the agenda on the elimination of gender based violence against women.

This would create an opportunity for UN Member States to use all inputs collected on the adequacy of the existing international legal framework on gender based violence against women and related gaps in its incorporation and implementation, with a view to starting the work of the global action plan on gender based violence against women.

At the same time, governments, civil society and relevant UN Agencies should start the process leading to a fifth United Nations World Review Conference on Women, with a focus on violence against women as a priority, and consider the possibility of adopting a global implementation action plan on violence against women.

Thank you.