Today in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the European Union and the United Nations are hosting a high level event on the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative – inviting all countries, leaders, civil society representatives and local ambassadors to join the movement and take action to end violence against women and girls.
Ahead of the event, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Violence against women is violence against the entire society – so the entire society must react to end it. The European Union is already by far the first investor in gender equality around the world, and together with our partners, we will continue to fight for women’s human rights.”
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “Over the last two years Spotlight has become a genuine movement. Thanks to the many survivors, activists, advocates, government and community leaders who have joined the initiative we are pushing ahead to end gender-based violence in all its forms. And to make sure that every woman and every girl, everywhere, is safe and free to realise her full potential.”
Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed said: “The Spotlight Initiative in partnership with national governments will also be introducing new country programmes for Afghanistan, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu in 2020. With our expanded global footprint, we can scale-up our collective efforts on violence prevention, protection and the provision of high-quality services, alongside broader efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment and participation in all aspects of society.”
Two years after its launch, the Spotlight Initiative’s activities are spanning the entire globe – thanks to the EU’s and UN’s engagement, and the support of partner governments and civil society at all levels. 13 countries have already started implementing Spotlight programmes, and around 2/3 of the European Union’s initial seed funding of €500 million have already been allocated.
In Africa, Spotlight aims to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, including harmful practices. The programme worth €250 million is under implementation across Liberia, Malawi, Mali Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It will also include a regional component to scale up existing initiatives on fighting female genital mutilation and child marriage and joint activities with the Africa Union.
In Asia, the Spotlight Initiative is focussing on ending female trafficking and labour exploitation. The “Safe and Fair” programme, worth €25 million and implemented through the International Labour Organization and UN Women, aims at ensuring that labour migration is safe and fair for all women in the ASEAN region. It focusses on countries of origin – Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam – and countries of destination – Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
Further, €32 million are devoted to projects addressing gender-based violence in “forgotten crises”. The initiative is now rolling out and includes activities in Yemen, Iraq and Palestine, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Sudan, Mali and Chad; Ghana, Liberia and Mali.
In Latin America, the €50 million initiative focuses on ending femicide, with targeted programmes in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, and on empowering regional networks.
The Pacific regional Spotlight programme was launched last March with a budget of €50 million and focuses on ending domestic violence in the region.
This will be followed by actions to tackle family violence in the Caribbean region, supported by an envelope of €50 million; the countries selected are Haiti, Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Violence against women and girls still takes place every day, whether at home, at work, at school, in the street, or online. As many as 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
The European Union and the United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative, a multi-year partnership to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in September 2017.
The EU has offered initial seed funding of €500 million inviting other donors and partners to join the Initiative to broaden its reach and scope.
Public participation, ambitious political action that are built on evidence-based policies, as well as increased resources and knowledge generation are all vital to the Initiative.
UN: India should ‘unlock’ freedom curbs in disputed Kashmir
The people of Indian-administered Kashmir continue to be deprived of numerous basic freedoms, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday, before urging the Indian authorities “to unlock the situation”.
The appeal over the territory – which both India and Pakistan claim as sovereign – follows months of escalating tensions linked to earlier suicide attacks and the Indian Government’s decision in August to revoke majority-Muslim Kashmir’s special status, which for decades had allowed it partial autonomy.
At the time of the Indian Government decision, five UN-appointed independent rights experts warned that it had led to tighter central Government control, restrictions on peaceful protests and a communications blackout.
Curfew ‘still in place in large parts’ of Kashmir valley
In Geneva on Tuesday, spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville acknowledged that an “undeclared curfew” had been lifted from much of Jammu and Ladakh regions within a few days.
But he noted that it was reportedly still in place “in large parts of the Kashmir Valley, preventing the free movement of people, as well as hampering their ability to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and restricting their rights to health, education and freedom of religion and belief.”
Highlighting several allegations of excessive use of force against protesters that involved the use of “pellet-firing shotguns, tear gas and rubber bullets”, Mr. Colville said that there had also been unconfirmed reports of “at least six civilian killings and scores of serious injuries”, in separate incidents since the Indian Government declaration on 5 August across Jammu and Kashmir.
The Office of the High Commissioner had also received reports that armed groups in Indian-administered Kashmir have threatened some residents trying to work or go to school, the OHCHR spokesperson said.
In addition, “at least another six people have been killed and over a dozen injured in alleged attacks by armed group members, since 5 August”.
Web access blocked, politicians detained
And although restrictions on landline telephones were eventually lifted, and a state-run telecom company allowed to resume partial mobile phone services, all internet services remain blocked in the Kashmir valley, Mr. Colville insisted.
In line with the Indian Government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s partial self-rule, two separate federally-administered Union Territories are to be created this Thursday, the OHCHR Spokesperson explained, adding that “hundreds of political and civil society leaders” had been detained “on a preventative basis”.
While some political workers have reportedly been released, most senior leaders – especially those from the Kashmir Valley – remain in detention, he said.
Why we must urgently close the data gap to end violence against women
Having the full picture is crucial for effective action to end violence against women. Yet today, efforts to address this critical sustainable development and human rights challenge remain severely hampered by lack of data.
Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality, reflecting and perpetuating deep-rooted patterns of discrimination. Violence and fear of violence permeate social, economic and political interactions between women and men, constraining opportunities, choices and access to resources and so limiting economic growth and hindering the achievement of sustainable development.
Ending violence against women and girls is a crucial part of both the Beijing Platform for Action – progress on which will be in focus at the Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October) – and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Beijing Platform calls for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls—physical, sexual and psychological. The Sustainable Development Goals reiterate this, with two indicators designed to track changes in violence by intimate partners and by other perpetrators.
Yet tracking such changes is hard.
Reliable and comparable data on the incidence of violence against women are rare. The Beijing Platform for Action, back in 1995, recognized that the absence of adequate sex-disaggregated data makes it difficult to create and assess programmes designed to bring about change.
Administrative data such as crime records only cover incidents that are reported, and so are likely to underestimate massively the actual occurrence of violence, which often goes unreported due to fear of recurrence or reprisal, shame or perceptions of ‘honour’ within families. Trends in reported gender-based violence can also be influenced by changes in awareness and public perceptions, making victims more or less likely to perceive an act of violence as a crime or affecting their willingness to report it to authorities.
A clearer picture of the true scale of violence against women—and its impacts on their lives– must come from surveys designed specifically for this purpose. UNECE’s survey module, developed in 2011, provides a standardized tool for countries to produce indicators of physical, sexual and intimate partner violence. To date, few countries in the UNECE region have conducted targeted surveys to measure violence against women, and where they have been conducted they are one-off surveys offering no possibility to see trends over time.
An EU-wide survey conducted in 2014 by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency and an OSCE-led survey conducted in 2018 in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe take us a step closer towards the goals of international comparability.
However, until such surveys are conducted regularly the data gap will remain a major impediment to progress.
Violence against women – key trends in the UNECE region
Available data in the UNECE Statistical Database shows significant variations in patterns of violence against women across the UNECE region, as detailed in the Beijing+25 regional key trends paper.
The most serious manifestation of violence, homicide, is less likely than other forms of violence to go unreported and is less subject to variations of definition and classification between countries. Trends in homicides among countries can therefore more reliably be compared than other forms of violence.
Although two-thirds of the UNECE countries analyzed show low and unchanging levels of homicide of women, there are exceptions where high levels and/or large increases are seen in the past five years.
Among the 32 countries with available data, Azerbaijan had by far the highest female homicide rate in 2017, at 6.8 per 100,000, slightly down from 7.3 in 2012. Latvia and Lithuania also had high rates in 2017 (3.7 and 3.2 respectively). Fourteen countries had rates of less than 1 per 100,000 with very little change since 2012.
Homicides of women by partners and relatives
A large proportion of homicides of women occur at the hands of current or former partners or relatives.
In 2017, over 70 per cent of homicides of women were perpetrated by a relative in Albania (79 per cent), Croatia (74 per cent), Italy (72 per cent) and Slovenia (71 per cent). In all these countries, this percentage increased since 2012. The increase was particularly significant in Albania, where the percentage doubled in five years. Between 2012 and 2017 the percentage of homicides of women in a family context also increased significantly in Belarus (from 30 to 44 per cent), the Republic of Moldova (from 39 to 50 per cent), Tajikistan (44 to 53 per cent) and Georgia (from 15 to 23 per cent).
Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE Region
Progress in combating violence against women will be one of the areas in focus at next week’s Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action) is the most ambitious road map for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. In 2020, it will be 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action outlined how to overcome the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life.
The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October 2019) will take stock of where the UNECE region stands on keeping the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. Bringing together government representatives and key stakeholders from the UNECE region, the meeting will tackle a number of obstacles that keep girls and women from realizing their full potential. UNECE is joining forces with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia to deliver a two-day multi-stakeholder meeting to exchange concrete policies to accelerate the realization of gender equality. The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9 to 20 March 2020.
Decisive international action needed to end Israeli occupation
The international community has a responsibility and legal obligation to compel Israel to end its 52 year-long “occu-annexation” of Palestinian territory and remove barriers preventing Palestinian self-determination, a UN independent human rights expert told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
“The status quo of Israel’s ‘occu-annexation’ is endlessly sustainable without decisive international intervention because of the grossly asymmetrical balance of power on the ground,” said Mr. Lynk, a Special Rapporteur who advises the UN Human Rights Council on the issue.
“Accountability is the key to opening the titanium cage that is the permanent occupation. The international community has issued countless resolutions and declarations critical of the never-ending Israeli occupation. The time has long past to match these criticisms with effective consequences.”
To remedy this, Mr. Lynk recommended that the international community should devise a list of effective countermeasures which would be “appropriate and proportional” to the circumstances.
His report outlines some modern examples of applying pressure, such as diplomatic public statements, trade sanctions, flight bans, travel restrictions and reduction or suspension of aid.
“Should Israel remain unmoved, (the international community) should apply and escalate the range of its targeted countermeasures until compliance had been achieved,” he said.
Mr. Lynk said the occupation is the longest in the modern world. It has been characterized by what he described as “a strong sense of impunity” by Israel.
“This occupation will not die of old age,” he stated.
“Palestinians, along with Israelis of conscience, have been asking repeatedly for the international community to act decisively in support of international law to compel Israel to end the occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination. We can’t afford to ignore their call.”
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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