We have a new Pope. Without meeting me he seems to think that both myself and my partner really are not fit to look after our little girl. Tell her that! At the Commission on the Status of Women, we have the Vatican in unholy alliance with Russia (traditional values, anti feminist) and Pakistan, Egypt and Iran plus a few Islamic supporters, deciding that preventing violence against women is a negotiable issue. Tell us that!

I was afraid this might happen and as we speak the outcome text is unfolding. It may still be at least a document which holds the ground on women’s rights but I am not betting on it. Last year they could not agree on the rights of rural women (mainly the same spoilers).

In February we had the V-Day movement of 1 billion women rising to show the extent and pervasiveness of violence against women.

Banner from the CSW57 2013This year one would think that the prevention of violence against women would have such traction, such resonance, such importance, that there would be consensus on the need to do everything, absolutely everything necessary to get real and effective action: from social and economic rights protection, to participation in governance, security reform and so on.

The answer is no. Women’s established rights are being negotiated; again.

There have been champions in Norway and Switzerland, Lichtenstein and others but there has been a general fear of antagonizing the religious right, whether it be Islam, the evangelicals or the Vatican.

Freedom and democracy?

Not if you’re a woman it seems. Let the unelected decide for the entire world whether or not it is ok for women to be subjected to violence.

We, as WILPF, signed up to the letter from the Nobel Laureates to member States. We did so because we agree with the text and the sentiment. We need to draw attention to the spoilers: Russia, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and the Holy See. We have to question a multi lateral system which allows the Holy See to hold up negotiations, to block and to lobby with the other forces of opposition to women and generally act as if they were a real State with real people to represent. The Vatican cannot block consensus but it can cause enough trouble to prevent it! Freedom of religion is important, but it does not confer the right to deny women freedom from violence.

Read the letter Uphold Women’s Rights at 57th Commission on the Status of Women.

We also endorsed the statement on the very alarming trends in the negotiations of outcome document of the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. You should read that one too!