When the Human Rights Council 23rd session started, we had hopes for a Resolution to end Sexual Violence called ‘Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence’ (A/HRC/23/L.28). During the negotiations, we put all our efforts to strengthen the draft text that was already a compromise between States that they should be able to accept.
What is missing in this resolution?
From our perspective, one of the main weaknesses of the draft resolution was how succinct it was in sexual and reproductive rights or sexual education. Some other weaknesses we have pointed out concern on the one hand the lack of linkages between militarization and sexual violence, and on the other hand the lack of attention given to the root causes, including patriarchy and harmful conceptions of masculinity.
During the negotiations, some States took some of these concerns up, but Canada, who introduced the draft, was reluctant to take on those changes. Naturally, as they wanted consensus, they also had at least to listen to the voices of the most conservative forces in the Council (mainly the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – OIC, the Vatican and the Russian Federation) on issues such as sexual and reproductive rights, sexual identity rights, references to the Security Council and even clauses on equal access to justice and marital rape. During these negotiations, the text that had been agreed on by consensus at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2013 was no longer agreed on during this session. The fight for women’s human rights continues!
In the end, thanks to the pressure of some co-sponsors of this resolution, some of the most outrageous modifications proposed were not taken on: for instance, the provisions prohibiting marital rape remained. Even though the OIC had proposed many modifications in that sense, the text still passed by consensus.
Brazil, speaking on behalf of a very large group of States from all regions, made a statement regretting the lack of mentioning the root causes of sexual education.
This leaves us with a text that has a strong provision against marital rape and some strong elements on access to justice (paragraph 8), but on the other hand, it is very weak in terms of addressing the root causes of sexual violence and sexual and reproductive rights.
What to do now?
Read the resolution and use it in your advocacy work. If you would like to stress sexual and reproductive rights, linkages between militarization and sexual violence, you should use other texts such as the one agreed on at the 57th session of the CSW, which is stronger and better.
However, this new resolution from the Human Rights Council can also be used for some advocacy work, such as combatting marital rape or ensuring justice for survivors.