Item 12: The Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women

March 20 - April 28, 2000
Palais des Nations, Geneva

Joint Statement delivered by Renate Bloem on behalf of the Franciscans International, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, the Asian Legal Resource Center, International Alliance of Women, International Council on Social Welfare, International Council of Jewish Women, International Council of Women International Institute for Peace, International Service for Human Rights, School Sisters of Notre Dame, World Federation of United Natins Association, World Young Christian Women's Association, World Vision International.

The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women is pleased to make some comments on behalf of NGOs, the names of which are listed at the end of the statement.

First, we would like to reiterate the High Commissioner's request (made in her opening remarks to the Commission): to look at the human rights of women in the larger context of the current review process towards Beijing + 5. We hope that this Commission will help to smooth the way to a successful outcome of the June meeting. Therefore, at the outset, we call on members of the Commission to ask their governments for a renewed commitment and show of political will to really go ahead and move towards full implementation of the Platform for Action with specific targets, benchmarks, timelines and resources.

Secondly, we commend those Ministers or high level personalities who, as guest speakers, made the integration of the human rights of women a central piece of their interventions, (in particular Italy, Zambia, UK, Finland, Guatemala, Pakistan, and EU) thus showing the way to mainstream gender concerns into the overall agenda of the Commission. In this context, we recall ECOSOC's agreed Conclusions 1997/2 on Gender Mainstreaming which strongly supported the recognition that in the field of human rights there is a gender dimension in every occurrence of a human rights violation..We therefore ask the Commission to provide the legislative authority once for all in its resolution on "Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system" to address all agenda items with a gender perspective.

Thirdly, we praise ECOSOC for having dedicated its last high level segment (July 1999) to the role of employment and work in poverty eradication, and to have focused on the advancement and empowerment of women. The Council articulated: "Combating gender inequalities is central to successful poverty eradication efforts and must include the establishment and implementation of policies aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against women" (E/1999AL.21) As the Commission prepares for the "Special Dialogue on Poverty and the Enjoyment of Human Rights", let us not forget that women are the large majority of that 1,5 billion mired in extreme poverty.

To move them from the corridors of poverty into the corridors of power, women and girls need education. However, we agree with Katarina Tomasevski, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, that education of girls requires more than getting girls into school. I quote: "Their prospect after schooling influence the attractiveness of schooling for the girls and for their parents. These prospects are determined by their ability to exercise all their human rights - from equal political participation to equal access to bank loans." We call on the Commission to adopt a special resolution on the "Right to education" addressing all the concerns reiterated above. We also ask that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur be renewed.

Women's economic independence is another step to their empowerment. Gender- based inheritance laws and practices which deprive women and girls in many countries, particular in Africa, of their economic, social and cultural rights, of their economic well-being and social status are discriminatory and disempowering and contribute to the perpetuation of poverty and underdevelopment. We therefore strongly support the adoption of a resolution under item 10 on "Women and the Rights to Land, Property and Housing".

Fourthly, we would like to share with the Commission the historic event that took place on 8 March, the first International Women's Day of this new millennium. The President of the Security Council addressed the Preparatory Committee for Beijing + 5 and stated that Council members finally recognize that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men.. "The impact of violence against women and violation of the human rights of women in conflict situations is experienced by women of all ages. Women and children also constitute the majority of the world's refugees and internally displaced persons. Members of the Council note that although women play an important role in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building, they are still underrepresented in decision-making with regard to conflict. If women are to play an equal part in security and maintaining peace, as called for in the Beijing Platform for Action, they must be empowered politically and economically and represented adequately at all levels of decision-making, both at the pre- conflict stage and during hostilities, as well as at the point of peacekeeping, peace-building, reconciliation and reconstruction." We call on the Commission to help to translate this historic statement into concrete action and take measures everywhere to bring women as peace power/brokers to the table.

Fifthly, we deplore that in spite of growing awareness violence against women in all its forms is still growing, ranging from too often trivialized "domestic" violence to "honor killings". For many girls and women rape, gang rape and incest is a way of life. Women are battered by their husbands and in-laws, and are thrown on to the streets to go to brothels, to resort to drugs, or to be used and abused so they can earn their livelihood. Dowry death and girl children burnt to death are frequent and common in the Sub-Continent of India and Pakistan, and girls and young women are sold and trafficked the world over for sexual and other commercial exploitation. We express in this context our appreciation for the continuous high quality of the work done by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women and welcome her focus on trafficking, its root causes and States' responsibilities.

In preparation to the Beijing + 5 event thousands of women from all over the world have testified in an on-line discussion, increasingly on culturally condoned homicidal violence such as honor killings where men often get away with murder.

Finally, the question remains how best to intervene. Four World Conferences on Women have brought forward impressive changes on the statute books, but changes in custom, tradition and mentalities are slow. The gap between de jure progress and de facto reality widens. At the recent PrepCom in New York comments were made such as: "The laws might well have been written on the moon".

Another aspect of this issue is that is that while much work has been done to bring into open what is happening to women much less discussion has been devoted to cultural norms that define men's identity. Nor have there been systematic attempts to have sensitized men as partners in overcoming violence against women. We therefore call on the Commission, in particular its male members, to join our battle and become more proactive in redefining gender roles.

Oral, Written or Summary: 
Meeting Year: 


UN Commission on Human Rights: Fifty-sixth session
Meeting Name: 
UN Commission on Human Rights: Fifty-sixth session