UN expert urges States to fulfil obligation to prevent violence against women

Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

10 October 2011 – An independent United Nations human rights expert told the General Assembly today that violence against women across the world continues to be pervasive and widespread and reminded States of their obligation under international law to protect women.

“Whether it occurs in times of peace and conflict, the various forms and manifestations of violence against women are simultaneously causes and consequences of discrimination, inequality and oppression,” said Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

“Wherever it occurs, any violence that is either directed at women, or experienced by a group that is overwhelmingly female represents a violation of international human rights law,” she said when she presented her thematic report on violence against women to the Assembly.

Ms. Manjoo reiterated that States must uphold their international human rights obligations to prevent acts of violence against women, investigate and punish crimes against women, protect women against such violence, and provide remedy and reparation to the victims.

“The fight for the human rights of women remains a collective endeavour in which we should jointly take action to ensure their full enjoyment by all women and girls worldwide,” she told a news conference at UN Headquarters after presenting her report.

Silvia Pimentel, the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), pointed out that States Parties to the Convention had made some progress in promoting and protecting the rights of women.

“Many States repealed discriminatory legislation and have enacted gender equality laws, but still challenges remain with respect to implementation,” said Ms. Pimentel.

There had also been positive trends in women’s political participation, enrolment in educational institutions, and access to employment, even in profession’s traditionally dominated by men, although equal pay for equal work remained elusive for women workers compared their men counterparts, she said.

Some of the challenges in the fight for gender equality include the fact that women continued to be highly under-represented in top decision-making in both the public and private sectors, Ms. Pimentel said. On average only one in six cabinet ministers is a woman, and only 30 of the 500 largest corporations in the world have a female chief executive, she said.

“Violence against women, in particular sexual violence, is prevalent in many parts of the world, and is only the rise. Female genital mutilation is still widely practised – it is a scourge on women and girls which must be eradicated.” Conflict had disproportionate impact on women, Ms. Pimentel said stressing that “women and girls’ bodies have become part of the battleground.”

“The committee is committed to combating and ending discrimination against women in all its forms. Although there are already 187 State Parties to the convention, the committee calls upon the seven remaining States to become parties to achieve universal participation of this most important legally-binding instrument,” she added.


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