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Statements Special Procedures

Statement by Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences at the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61)

13 March 2017

New York, 13-24 March 2017

Distinguished delegates, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to address you today, as Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to continue to contribute to the discussions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the priority theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”, and its review theme, “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development goals for women and girls” and to report on my mandate’s work.

Violence against women is rooted in discrimination and inequalities in all areas of women’s life, including the areas of the CSW priority, review and focus themes. The fight against this pandemic, which targets half of society but affects the whole of it, must be grounded in achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in all these areas.

The mandate of Special Rapporteur on violence against women has reported to the CSW since 2007, strengthening the ties between the mandate and the CSW. I have confidence that this cooperation will only get stronger in the future, especially with respect to the implementation of the recommendations of thematic and country specific reports on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Since the beginning of my tenure in 2015, I have conducted official visits to Georgia, South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Argentina and recently Australia. Bulgaria and Bahamas are the next official visits planned for 2017.  

Each country visit results in a country report with specific recommendations to the State and other stakeholders on actions needed to address gaps in combating violence against women. As a joint effort to focus on the implementation of such recommendations, the Government of Georgia, UN Women and my mandate are organizing a side event  “Combating violence against women in Georgia: Follow-up to recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women” on 17 March.

My mandate would like to support such implementation or follow-up panels and to invite all other States to organize such events at the next CSW, but also at the Human Rights Council and General Assembly.

My next thematic report is on shelters and protection orders. I plan to present it at the June session of the Human Rights Council. This report will focus on States’ obligation to address violence against women through coordinated national legislation and policies on prevention, including the obligation to provide services for victims, such as a sufficient number of shelters, crisis centers, safe houses, 12/7 help lines, as well as civil and criminal protection or barring orders. These services would allow women and children victims of violence to decide whether to stay at home or to leave it, and to receive adequate and efficient protection based on a proper risk assessment and risk management. With the support of the LSE Center for Women Peace and Security, an Expert group meeting was organised and an open call was addressed to all of you, in order to collect inputs and good practices to be included in the forthcoming report.


We have gone a long way in defining violence against women as a human rights violation and form of discrimination and consequently in elaborating a responsibility of States which includes due diligence obligation to prevent and combat gender-based violence by private persons Now we have a solid understanding of the actions needed, but we are still not using all agendas and tools at our disposal to promptly address the realities of women and girls living in a condition of normalized violence at home or in the workplace.

Up to now, progress in eradicating this pandemic has been slow due to a fragmented and insufficient legal and social response, or to deeply entrenched attitudes and stereotypes that make us tolerate and normalize such violence. We still have a long way to go to fully eradicate gender-based violence as a major obstacle to women’s empowerment, and towards the achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals. I strongly believe that by focusing on the implementation of the Goal 5, especially targets 5.1 and 5.2 on the elimination of discrimination and violence against women and girls, we are removing obstacles for the implementation of other goals and targets.


For women in politics, the working place is the Parliament. The recent IPU study on harassment, intimidation and violence against women in Parliament found that violence targets women with the aim to discourage them in particular from being or becoming active in politics. Study shows high levels of prevalence of psychological violence affecting 81.8 per cent of the WMP from all countries and regions, while 65.5 per cent said they had been subjected several times, or often, to humiliating sexist remarks during their parliamentary term. The study’s findings confirm that sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians are very real and widespread and that they exist in every country, albeit in different degrees. 


In my first vision setting report presented at the Human rights Council in June 2016, I called for stronger cooperation between global and regional mechanisms dealing with women's rights and violence against women and for a joint and complementary use of global and regional instruments on violence against women with the aim of ensuring synergies and accelerating their implementation.

During the past year my mandate has intensified such cooperation, and all global and regional mechanisms: the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women SRVAW ,the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Inter- American Special Rapporteur on violence against women, 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) and the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence of the Council of Europe (GREVIO), have issued  on the international Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women a joint call for the intensification of international, regional and national efforts for the prevention of femicide and gender-based violence. We jointly urged all stakeholders to guarantee every woman and girl a life free from violence by applying holistic integrated policies on prevention, protection and prosecution of violence against women. We called for: full acceptance, incorporation and implementation of global and regional treaties on women's rights and violence against women: CEDAW and its Optional Protocol, the Belém do Pará Convention, the Maputo Protocol and the Istanbul Convention, as commitments still have to be implemented at the national level.

I am very glad that some representatives of these global and regional monitoring bodies are with us today in this room. I would like to greet them and to announce that on Wednesday the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and my mandate are organizing a panel on cooperation between global and regional mechanisms, as well as a half day of separate consultations with the aim to strengthen such cooperation.

I have also focused on stronger and substantive cooperation between my mandate and the CEDAW Committee concerning overlapping mandates on violence against women. Strong ties have been envisaged in the founding resolution of this mandate and now this cooperation is progressing. Upon invitation of the CEDAW committee, I participated in its work on updating the General Recommendation 19 on violence against women, with the objective of incorporating all developments in this field and providing more detailed guidance on measures needed to eradicate gender-based violence.

This cooperation is also crucial for the mandate’s work on the evaluation of adequacy of international framework on violence against women, started by my predecessor. Up to now, as reflected in my last report to the General Assembly, the international and regional mechanisms provided their inputs. I have also received 292 submissions from civil society, which will be analyzed and presented in my next GA report and will contribute to findings and recommendations on this topic. On Tuesday, the PM of Croatia and my mandate are holding a panel on the adequacy of the international framework on violence against women, with the participation of chairpersons and representatives of global or regional bodies on violence against women.


Current data on gender-related killings of women make it clear that the majority of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate male partners or family members. Therefore, I decided that one of my immediate priorities as Special Rapporteur on violence against women is the prevention of femicide or gender-related killings of women.

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 a national body that will work as a preventive mechanism.

Taking into consideration ongoing existing work on data collection on femicides, I proposed a flexible model for the establishment of a “national Femicide Watch” which could be a new independent interdisciplinary body, or integrated in existing observatories or other independent mechanisms, such as ombudspersons or human rights commissions. The Femicide Watch should go beyond collection and publication of data, and focus on systematic gaps and shortcomings of national civil and criminal justice frameworks and systems. It should include information on conduct of police and public prosecutors, efficiency of protection orders, availability of shelters and other measures in a number of individual cases.

Each case is an individual woman’s tragic story and we need to focus on the prevention of these avoidable killings.
Last year I attended the session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) and I plan to attend its next session in order to promote the establishment of the  Femicide Watch as a prevention tool for the examination of systemic gaps, including those related to the criminal justice system in preventing femicide. 

The outcomes of my analysis on femicide and gender-based violence will be further discussed during the side event “Ending Violence against Women: Prevention and response to Femicide/Gender-related Killings of Women”, co-sponsored by the Government of Chile and UN Women.


To conclude, let's look at the future.

It is time to start a discussion on the scope and focus of the 20/20 review of all our commitments related to gender equality.  This could be the 5th World Conference on Women, with a focus on the implementation of all commitments under all agendas on gender equality and on the prevention of violence against women. Therefore, I call on governments and civil society to start the process leading to a fifth UN World Conference on Women with a focus on violence against women as a priority.

Thank you!