Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World

31 March 2003

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I speak on behalf of Femmes Africa Solidarité, the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, the International Alliance of Women, the International Baccalaureate Organisation, the International Council of Jewish Women, the International Council of Women, the International Council of Social Welfare, the International Federation of University Women, Socialist International WOMEN, Soroptomist International, Women’s Federation of World Peace, World Federation of Methodist & Uniting Church Women, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations, Worldwide Organisation for Women Zonta International and Centre for Women’s Global Leadership.Femmes Africa Solidarité is also the convenor of the Working Group on Peace of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women.

Madam Chair, in October 2000 when the Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1325, it heralded a new area for the realisation of women’s rights through their participation in issues of peace and security by changing the role of women not only as victims of conflict but as contributors to peace. Their experiences as mediators and peace builders are now being recognised. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement to the Security Council meeting on women, peace and security, declared that if women suffered the impact of conflicts disproportionately, they are also the key to the solution of conflict (October 2002). He also stated that women are better equipped than men to prevent or resolve conflicts (October 2000).

Since September 11, a new phenomenon which is influencing the full realisation of women’s rights, occurred. This has shifted priorities from human security to military security to counter terrorist attacks which do not only threaten women’s physical security, but also their economic, social and cultural rights. There is a need to reverse these tendencies and to bring the focus to mainstream women’s perspective and gender issues into peace and security based on the Beijing Platform of Action, CEDAW and the recent mandate emanating from Security Council resolution 1325.

Furthermore, the conflicts that are occurring presently violate women’s political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, and the violation of women’s rights anywhere is the violation of women’s rights everywhere. For this reason, these violations are at the forefront of women’s global agenda. Despite our call in October 2002 to the Security Council and in March 2003 to the Commission on the Status of Women, yet the voices of women in present conflicts are not heard and there has been insufficient or no consultations with women’s groups in those conflicts. Learning lessons from recent situations where women were called upon to participate in the process of nation building, where they bear the burden of reconstruction and reconciliation of their societies, it has to be said that they have not been given the favourable environment to realise their human rights and their empowerment.

The 2002 study of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Women, Peace and Security by the Division for the Advancement of Women issued on the second anniversary of Resolution 1325 as well as the UNIFEM experts’ assessments in 2002 on Women, War and Peace have provided further recommendations for the implementation of the Resolution and thereby the realisation of women’s political and effective participation in peace and security processes. We therefore strongly urge this body to ensure that article 1 of resolution 1325 referring to women’s participation in decision-making is fully implemented.

Violence against women in all its forms is a human rights violation irregardless of where it occurs. Rape and other violence perpetrated against women continue to happen in war-torn countries which should be punished and these cases should be brought before international tribunals or to the International Criminal Court, since they constitute crimes against humanity. Viewed against this ever-growing situation of violations of women’s human rights around the world, we urge the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women after the present mandate has been successfully carried out for nine years. Equal attention should be paid to the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons, a high percentage of which are women and these numbers are growing as new wars emerge.

Madam Chair, we welcome your opening speech to this Commission, and your position regarding violence against women. We also welcome the High Commissioner’s opening remarks to this session reaffirming that women’s participation in all spheres of lives is essential to security, stability, and prosperity in modern societies. These two statements highlight the international community’s commitment to promote and protect the human rights of women as stipulated in CEDAW and its Additional Protocol as well as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women of 1993. We thus welcome this Commission’s adherence to these principles as guiding tools in your new endeavours as well as the joint plan to be established by CSW and the High Commissioner. Indeed, existing instruments have guided women in their efforts at realising their human rights, especially their rights to education, food, housing, safe water, health and participation in decision-making processes.

Recent efforts at more decentralisation of tasks to the field offices of the Office of the High Commissioner and the establishment of a senior gender advisor in the High Commissioner’s office are also welcome. We support the High Commissioner in his plan to focus on national systems and their records of implementing women’s rights. This will require strengthening the links among treaty bodies such as the Committee on CEDAW and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which both call for a joint struggle to eliminate discrimination against women in all its forms.

Thank you, Madam Chair.