Ending Violence Against Women: The case for a comprehensive international action plan | Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women

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What progress has been made towards ending violence against women worldwide? Violence against women is a violation of human rights, a barrier to women’s active citizenship, and a fundamental constraint to the eradication of poverty. When governments meet at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2013 their commitment is urgently needed to expedite the implementation of existing frameworks to eliminate all forms of violence against women. This Oxfam policy paper outlines a proposal for a comprehensive international action plan that addresses this issue politically, with time-bound targets and explicit accountability mechanisms – a roadmap to fast-track existing agreements.
  OXFAM BRIEFING NOTE 22 FEBRUARY 2013 www.oxfam.org  Photo: Heather McClintock ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN The case for a comprehensive international action plan In March 2013, governments will meet to discuss global progress made with regards to the elimination of violence against women in all its forms, under the helm of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57). The commitment of governments is urgently needed to expedite the implementation of existing frameworks to eliminate all forms of violence against women (VAW). This Oxfam policy paper outlines a proposal for a comprehensive international action plan that addresses this issue politically, with time-bound targets and explicit accountability mechanisms. This action plan should provide a roadmap to fast-track the implementation of existing agreements to eliminate VAW.    2 1 AN INTRODUCTION: VIOLENCE  AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS Oxfam envisions a safe and just world, where women and girls gain power over every aspect of their lives and live free from violence. This is a fundamental prerequisite to the empowerment of women and girls. Violence against women (VAW) is a violation of human rights, a barrier to women‟ s active citizenship, and a fundamental constraint to the eradication of poverty. It limits women‟s choices and ability to access education, earn a living and participate in political and public life. It also robs women of control over their own bodies and sexuality as well as being a major cause of death, ill-health and disability. In all countries, VAW has proven devastating long-term effects, not only on women but on their families and society: ã  The home is often the most dangerous place for women and many live in daily fear of violence. One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence from men, usually someone known to them, in their lifetime 1 . ã  Every year, 60 million girls are sexually assaulted either at or going to and from school 2 . ã  Domestic violence is now outlawed in 125 countries but, globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime 3 . ã  The systematic use of sexual violence is now a defining and deliberate tactic of war. ã  Women who have experienced violence are up to three times more likely to be living with HIV 4 . ã  It is estimated that more than 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), with two million girls a year at risk of mutilation 5 . Women's unequal status in society and the lack of control women have over their lives, often manifested in poverty, is at the root of VAW. Therefore, Oxfam supports transformative approaches to ending VAW in order to address these root causes. This approach is based on an understanding that violence against women is structural in nature and is perpetuated on the basis of gender roles and identities and unequal power relations. It is Oxfam‟s belief that th e elimination of VAW is essential for realizing gender justice. The large-scale acceptance of violence against women and impunity worldwide, shows the global community is failing women and girls on this issue. Effecting lasting change in this context requires a multi-faceted strategic approach that catalyses and fosters change at individual and collective levels; in informal and formal institutions; shifts women‟s and men‟s attitudes and beliefs; and increase s women‟s access to resources.   3 2 INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORKS FOR THE PROTECTION OF WOMEN Important progress has been made internationally as a result of years of lobbying by women‟s rights organizations and other civil society actors in promoting international standards and norms that clarify the obligations of states to eradicate and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in the private and public sphere, by state and non-state actors. In 1993 the UN General Assembly adopted the landmark Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 6 , which is considered a major expression of political will towards addressing VAW. The global gender equality roadmap, the Beijing Platform for Action on Women, Development and Peace (1995) condemns VAW and outlines specific steps governments can take to end it. While the legally binding Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 7  does not address VAW in a specific article, its monitoring body, the CEDAW Committee, issued two general recommendations (n°12 (1989) and n°19 (1992)) which specifically address it. These frameworks have been adopted and ratified by almost all governments and other members of the international community. Regional instruments in the EU or in Africa such as the Protocol to the  African Charter on Human and Peoples‟ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), try to strengthen regional efforts to ban VAW. Yet globally the issue of violence against women in all its forms, with the exception of sexual violence in conflict, has been somewhat sidelined. Many initiatives to address the problem of VAW lack coherence, coordination, consistent funding, and concrete actions, structures and systems to implement and monitor their implementation at all political levels, especially the national level. The large-scale persistence of all forms of violence against women and the continuing impunity of its perpetrators demonstrates the urgent need to develop comprehensive and coordinated strategies. 3 WHY WE NEED AN INTERNATIONAL ACTION PLAN AND WHO SHOULD LEAD IT Over the past years efforts have been made to eliminate violence against women. Countries have passed legislation, drawn up action plans and signed international declarations. Other stakeholders like the UN and civil society have stepped up their campaigning and programming efforts to eliminate VAW. Yet despite these gains, there is not enough progress as illustrated by the high number of women still estimated to experience violence throughout their lifetime: one in three women worldwide.  4 It seems that the efforts are not delivering at a national level. In a global survey conducted by Oxfam and VSO UK in 2011, almost all of the 100 women‟s rights activists interviewed across 75 countries in dicated that ending violence against women is the most urgent women‟s rights issue to address at the country level. Respondents from the Middle East and Maghreb (MEMAG) region and Asia even reported an increase in violence against women. 8  Respondents explained their choice, indicating that VAW and the prevention thereof is not often seen as a priority issue by most governments. They gave a number of reasons why action on ending VAW has been delayed, ranging from a lack of accountability, a lack of financial resources, the lack of institutional mechanisms to take the lead at government level, as well as an absence of technical expertise. In addition, respondents said systems that facilitate reporting incidents of VAW, including the role of the police, were inadequate or lacking all together. This leads to serious under-reporting and at the same time ensures that those who continue to inflict the violence carry on with impunity. What emerged from this data is that the problem is global. Although the responses reveal certain regional differences, the reasons why the interviewees selected VAW as the most urgent issue at the country level were the same. The similarities were also great in terms of the causes and effects of VAW, as well as the type of problems they were finding in implementing solutions. This means a global solution is needed, with an international action plan with fixed targets aimed at fast-tracking implementation. The lack of a coordinated strategic agenda at international, regional and national levels is an important barrier to fully implementing current obligations. There are currently no common global targets or timetables for tracking progress including measures dedicated to ending VAW.  An action plan could fill these gaps, by laying out concrete and time-bound steps to fast-track the implementation of existing norms and frameworks such as the BPfA and CEDAW at the national level. This can be achieved by promoting best practices, identifying gaps and mobilizing resources. In addition, this is a means to addressing fragmentation in the formulation and implementation of existing agreements, and in doing so improve policy coherence. An action plan is also a much needed reaffirmation that ending VAW is a shared effort by all nations and the international community as a whole. This momentum in turn could bolster national level efforts to eliminate violence against women. The Expert Group advising the UN system on the elimination of VAW in preparation for the 2013 session of the Commission on the Status of Women recommended the development of a global implementation plan. The Experts state d: “ This plan should aim to provide vigilance on established international obligations (particularly the overarching BPfA and CEDAW obligations cited above), and serve as the tool for operationalising these norms into national policy and programming in a coordinated and results-based way. ” 9  In his recent report addressing the role of prevention and the elimination of VAW, the UN Secretary-General recommended governme nts to “ consider the development of a global implementation plan”. 10  
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