In 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović put out a global call for submissions asking for feedback on the adequacy of the current international legal framework on violence against women.
The call for input, which was published on the Special Rapporteur’s webpage, consisted of the following five questions:
1. Do you consider that there is a need for a separate legally binding treaty on violence against women with its separate monitoring body?
2. Do you consider that there is an incorporation gap of the international or regional human rights norms and standards?
3. Do you believe that there is a lack of implementation of the international and regional legislation into the domestic law?
4. Do you think that there is a fragmentation of policies and legislation to address gender-based violence?
5. Could you also provide your views on measures needed to address this normative and implementation gap and to accelerate prevention and elimination of violence against women?
The request for input was an important step in furthering the conversation of whether a new legal instrument is needed to address violence against girls and women worldwide. But in a recent report, the Special Rapporteur published points of views from human-rights mechanisms that were against a new treaty while downplaying the response from NGOs and members of civil society who are widely in favor of new a treaty. The lack of transparency mischaracterizes the fact that people around the world—survivors, frontline practitioners, lawyers, directors and staff of local and national nonprofits—are passionate and mobilized on this topic. They want a treaty, urgently.
In fact, the vast majority of submissions from civil society (at least 230 of the 291) called for a treaty. When people respond, their voices should be heard. What follows is a summary of the responses from advocates around the world, along with excerpts of their submissions, expressing their support for a new treaty on violence against girls and women.
NO BINDING TREATY, NO GLOBAL PRESSURE, NO ACTION: The Case for a Treaty
There is no legally binding treaty addressing violence against girls and women and the absence has resulted in the lack of political will and global pressure necessary to implement current agreements. This includes CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which is often cited a reason for not supporting the idea of new treaty.
Difference in culture is often used to justify State Parties’ resistance to implementing CEDAW recommendations, but that idea simply allows the cycle of violence against women to continue. The absence of a comprehensive, legally binding, definition of violence against women has also led to fragmented policies and legislation. As a result, State Parties do not feel compelled to focus on implementation efforts, despite persistent advocacy by a wide range of organizations and groups.
Respondents emphasized that CEDAW does not directly address violence; it addresses discrimination, which leaves “violence” open to legal interpretation. Therefore, State Parties are left to their own discretion to incorporate, or not incorporate, CEDAW, including General Recommendation 19 [and General Recommendation No. 35] into their local and national policy frameworks. This causes an irreconcilable gap in global norms and standards on violence against women.
What does this mean? Violence persists. Justice for survivors is limited, or non-existent. Families and communities suffer. Wages are lost. Local and national economies weaken. Violence against women and girls leads to an avalanche of negative consequences worldwide, affecting public health, economics, and national and global security.
“Yes there is a need for a separate legally binding treaty because there is no specific international legally binding document that addresses the gross violation of rights that is violence against women and girls. A separate monitoring body focused on violence against women and girls can ensure all countries are upholding their due diligence and a global high standard to protect women and girls and prevent violence.” – Anne Gamurorwa, Executive Director, Communication for Development Foundation, Uganda
“Without an international mandate that obliges states to use standardized definitions, set punitive actions, provide unconditional resources for survivors, and train public and private officials on response and prevention, no serious reduction of VAWG will take place, particularly in autocratic states.” – Hala Aldosari, PhD, Aminah, Saudi Arabia
“Violence against women is probably the most democratic in its incidence, since it occurs across all boundaries of creed, ethnicity, nationality, educational status and economic strata. Since it is a global phenomenon, all the more reason it should be treated not just a cultural off shoot of patriarchy, but as a crime against humanity and a gross and irrefutable violation of human right to life of dignity.” – Meera Khanna, Executive Vice President, The Guild of Service, India
“The current lack of a legally binding international legislation means governments must have the political will and drive to implement general recommendations and comments – they are not legally bound to uphold these obligations at present, so there is no accountability.” – Ruth Howlett, National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuge New Zealand
“Conflating violence against women and discrimination against women results in an inadequate or incomplete description of the legal concept of violence against women as its own human rights violation. Just like torture is better addressed in CAT than in the ICCPR, VAW would be better addressed in a separate treaty than in CEDAW.” – International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law, California, USA
“Implementation of domestic policies could be greatly strengthened by a legally binding document holding governments to a specific level of accountability.” – Manizha Naderi, Executive Director, Women for Afghan Women, Afghanistan
A BINDING AGREEMENT, POLITICAL PRESSURE, THE END OF VIOLENCE
A new legally binding treaty specific to violence against women and girls will close the legal gap by creating a clear definition of violence and specific steps for addressing it. This legal tool would create a mechanism for collective global action, placing the weight of the world behind every women’s rights advocate, lawyer, and practitioner around the world working to end this violence.
Violence against women and girls is a complex and intersecting issue that requires a comprehensive, systematic approach. Using the success of the Landmines Treaty, the Tobacco Treaty, and the example of Tunisia’s comprehensive new law on violence against women, a new treaty would mandate that nations take a proactive approach across all sectors. It would require:
- Comprehensive legislative reform
- Training responders
- Support Services
- Prevention education
- Adequate funding
The establishment of a legally binding tool combined with global pressure from around the world creates a concrete solution to implementing programs, policies and standards across states.
The following 228 Everywoman Everywhere members responded to the UN Special Rapporteur’s call for submission on the adequacy of the legal framework on violence against women stating their support for a new treaty.
|6||Asmaa||Al Ameen||Middle East/ North Africa|
|13||Khadija||Arfaoui||Middle East/ North Africa|
|17||Naila||Awad||Middle East/ North Africa|
|18||Sama||Aweidah||Middle East/ North Africa|
|20||Alvaro||Baca||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|22||Fadoua||Bakhadda||Middle East/ North Africa|
|34||Abdelilah||Bouasria||Middle East/ North Africa|
|40||Vanessa||Coria Castilla||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|54||Zine||El Abidine Larhfiri||Asia|
|55||Halah||Eldoseri||Middle East/ North Africa|
|56||Amany||Elgarf||Middle East/ North Africa|
|61||Evelyn||Flores||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|71||Nabila||Hamza||Middle East/ North Africa|
|72||Raazia||Hassan Naqvi||North America|
|76||Joyce||Hewett||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|78||Md. Liakat||Hossain Khan||Asia|
|104||Hassan||Khani||Middle East/ North Africa|
|109||Denise||Kindschi Gosselin||North America|
|113||Saida||Kouzzi||Middle East/ North Africa|
|116||Nina Wolff||Landau||North America|
|121||Sandra||Lopez||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|137||Meherbano||Mirzayee||Middle East/ North Africa|
|143||Yolanda||Munoz Gonzalez||North America|
|159||Ivan David||Pachon||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|164||Jocie||Philistin||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|169||Alina||Ramirez||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|171||Francisco||Rivera||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|175||América||Romualdo||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|195||Ramona||Singh||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|197||Samira||Souley||Middle East/ North Africa|
|199||Kelly||Stoner||North America – Tribal Lands|
|212||Jinan||Usta||Middle East/ North Africa|
|213||Viola||van Bogaert||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|220||Ken||Willman Bordat||Middle East/ North Africa|
|225||Association Marocaine des Droits Humains||Africa|
|226||Centro de la Mujer Panameña||Latin America/ Caribbean|
|228||Training for Women Network||Europe|
WHO WE ARE
Everywoman Everywhere is a coalition of individuals and organizations from 141 countries advancing a global treaty to eradicate violence against women and girls. Our members include more than 1,300 frontline practitioners, advocates and survivors of violence, and more than 550 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Vital Voices and Futures Without Violence.
Everywoman Everywhere was incubated at the Initiative on Violence Against Women at the Carr Center for Human Rights, Harvard Kennedy School. Additional research revealed that the current international legal framework is insufficient for addressing this global crisis. Gaps in the law, and the mechanisms for implementation, leave millions of women and girls with little to no legal protection against violence or the recourse to seek justice. It became clear that a specific treaty on violence against girls and women would give advocates, practitioners, and world leaders the legally binding instrument necessary to hold nation states accountable.
Download this report: Global Outcry Advocates Urge UN for Treaty to End Violence Against Girls and Women