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1 11th WAVE CONFERENCE “Stop Violence against Women and Children” Vienna, 24 - 26 September 2009 Panel 3: “Violence against women and their children”:

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Presentation on theme: "1 11th WAVE CONFERENCE “Stop Violence against Women and Children” Vienna, 24 - 26 September 2009 Panel 3: “Violence against women and their children”:"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 11th WAVE CONFERENCE “Stop Violence against Women and Children” Vienna, September 2009 Panel 3: “Violence against women and their children”: Overlaps and contradictions in protecting the rights of women and their children not to be subjected to violence Victoria Popescu, CEDAW Committee Member

2 Violence against women and children is violation of their human rights It is universally recognized that violence against women (VAW) is one of the most pervasive violation of their human rights, because it ”impairs and nulifies” their enjoyment of H.R. and fundamental freedoms (CEDAW, General Recommendation 19) ” All violence against children is a violation of their human rights to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity” (World Report on violence against children) Violence against women and children empedes upon any real progress towards equality, development and peace. How can be used the standards contained in the CEDAW and CRC conventions, in a joint manner, to put an end to violence directed to women and children? 2

3 3 CEDAW ‘s perspective on VAW Most important HR treaty on discrimination against women. Acknowledges that women’s rights are universal human rights. Provides a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women (Art.1). On VAW, only explicit reference is contained in Art.6 on trafficking and exploitation of prostitution. Explanation: VAW was internationally recognized as a serious violation of HR only in mid 1980s, under women’s movement pressure. CEDAW Convention is a living document, whose interpretation develops. In 1992, CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation 19 on VAW.

4 4 CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation no. 19 on VAW Definition of VAW (gender-based violence): ”form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on an equal basis with men” (para.1). VAW includes: acts that inflict physical sufferings; harms of a mental or sexual nature; threats of such acts, coercion, deprivation of liberty. Other relevant articles of CEDAW: 1 (definition of discrimination); 2 – 3 (states’ obligations), 10 (education), 11 (employment), health(12), rural women (14), marriage and family (16). VAW is both cause and consequence of discrimination. Accountability of States Parties ”to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence”, perpetrated in public and family life, by state actors, persons, organizations or enterprises.

5 CEDAW Committee’s approach to VAW Systematic approach and recommendations on VAW in constructive dialogue and concluding observations. Recommends specific legal provisions/ laws on domestic violence, sexual abuse (including rape inside/outside marriage), harmful practices (FGM, ”honour” killings), sexual harrassment, trafficking and exploitation of prostitution etc; awareness raising campains, training of law enforcement officers. Punishment of perpetrators, clear signal that VAW is punishable crime. Protection of the victims: shelters and hotlines, psychological and rehabilitation assisstance, access to legal redress and remedies etc. Drawbacks: scarce information from States; limited implementation of specific legislation; insufficient action plans, programmes. Stakeholders: governments bear primary responsibility; NGO’s, parliaments, private sector, UN entities and regional organizations. 5

6 6 CEDAW and CRC conventions Comparative approach between the two conventions and cooperation are still at the beginning. 2009: 30 th anniversary of CEDAW Convention (1979) and 20 th anniversary of CRC Convention (1989): opportunity to strengthen cooperation. February 2009: “rapprochement” process between the monitoring committees (CEDAW and CRC Committees); joint working group.

7 7 Commonality and complementarity between CEDAW and CRC (1) There is considerable commonality of interests, particularly in the protection of children’s welfare. Shared principles: women’s and children’s rights are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights; the best interests of children. CEDAW’s provisions relevant to violence against children: equality (Art.2), maternity (4.1, 11), trafficking (6), nationality (9), education (10), health (12), the best interest of children is paramount in relation to equal responsibilities of parents (5/b, 16/d on family).

8 Commonality and complementarity between CEDAW and CRC (2) CEDAW and CRC share concerns on trafficking, violence and sexual abuse, expressed in: - their concluding observations - general recommendations and comments (eg CEDAW’s GR 19; CRC’ s General Comment 8 on corporal punishment) - aditional legal instruments: Optional protocol to CEDAW (1999), CRC’s OPs on sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography/ on involvement of children in armed conflict. Emphasize linkages between violence against women and children Decisions on domestic violence, under CEDAW’s OP, also relevant for children of victimized women: e.g. Ms. A.T. Vs Hungary (2005) Create accountability on the part of the governments. Focus on full implementation of the conventions. 8

9 Differences and contradictions between CEDAW and CRC As shown by HR’s history, competition may appear in the recognition and protection of HR. Absolute interpretation of one HR/ set of HRs may undermine other HR. It is possible to balance conflicting interests between CEDAW and CRC and turn to better account their overlaps and complementarities, through: proper interpretation and incorporation of their provisions in national legislation, appropriate policies and programmes at country level. A few exemples of differences/ contradictions with respect to protection against violence: (1) Difference of emphasis: gender-based discrimination and violence vs. protection of all children (2) The best interests of the child vs. stereotyping motherhood (3) Cultural relativism vs. universality of HR 9

10 (1) Difference of emphasis: gender-based discrimination and violence vs. protection of all children CEDAW focuses on gender-based discrimination and violence against women and the girl child, because of their sex. It is a life-cycle approach from birth to old age linking discrimination and violence against women to girl children and adolescents. CRC focuses on protection of all children and has a more gender-neutral approach. Higher vulnerability of girl child and adolescents to some forms of violence (trafficking, sexual abuse, including rape, harmful practices such as FGM, gender-based foeticide and infanticide, ”honour” crimes). Need to ensure equal protection and opportunities to empowerment for girls, just like for boys. 10

11 (2) Best interests of the child vs. stereotyping motherhood CRC may tend to stereotype women as mothers, for securing ”the best interests of the child”. To avoid this potential conflict of HR, the concept ”best interests of the child” should be interpreted in conjunction with CEDAW’s broader perspective on women’s rights and responsibilities in family and society. Both conventions highlight the obligation of shared responsibilities by parents and for governments to provide child care facilities. Women’s empowerment on equal footing with men contribute to a better environment for their children, free of tension and violence 11

12 (3) Cultural relativism vs. universality of HR In some societies, acts of violence and coercion may be excused in the name of some cultural and religious customs and traditions, such as FGM, ”honour killings” and other harmful practices, early marriages, as well as corporal punishment infliged to children for ”disciplining”. In this case there may be a clash between cultural and religious rights, if absolutized, and the universality and indivisibility of individuals’ human rights (including to life, to physical and mental integrity etc). While cultural traditions must be acknowledged and cherished, they can not justify any violation of a a person’s human rights, including by acts of violence. In conclusion: there is much room for cooperation, among all relevant stakeholders, to turn to account the synergies and complementarities between CEDAW and CRC conventions in an enhanced joint struggle against violence. 12


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