On the last day of its 57th session last week, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and 131 countries agreed to adopt a plan to combat violence against women and girls, urging all countries “to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition, and religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.” The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. The agreed conclusions from last week’s session reaffirm that women and men have the right to enjoy all human rights “on an equal basis,” calling on governments to provide comprehensive sex education and reproductive health services, such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence, and to criminalize violence against women and punish gender-related killings. Conservative governments, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, and Honduras, as well as the Holy See, had pressed for a provision that would have made the agreed conclusions subject to religious, cultural, or traditional practices, reversing large parts of the policy recommendations. Said Luisa Cabal, Vice President of Programs for the Center for Reproductive Rights: “Violations of women’s fundamental reproductive rights are forms of violence against women, and neither can be justified by customs, traditions, or religious practices or beliefs. We are pleased that a U.N. policy-making body has now reaffirmed these rights as protected by the standards already established by numerous other human rights bodies worldwide.” The Center for Reproductive Rights hosted a side event at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, at which lawyers from the Center—along with reproductive rights advocates from Open Society Foundations, Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE), and the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning—discussed reproductive rights violations in health care and education settings. Some of the issues covered included bans on modern contraception in Manila, Philippines; forced pregnancy testing in Tanzania; and the practice of shackling pregnant women in the United States in detention facilities, among other global reproductive rights violations. During the 56th session, the Commission on the Status of Women failed to adopt a plan to advance the women’s rights agenda. Center for Reproductive Rights signed on with individuals and organizations to deliver a letter to the commission in March 2013 urging them to reaffirm their commitment to advance women’s human rights at this year’s session.
CRR Commends U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for Adopting Plan to Combat Violence Against Women and Girls