By Jane Morse
IIP Staff Writer
March 27, 2013
Ambassador Susan Rice, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said that the “Agreed Conclusions [by the commission members] represent vital international recognition that women and girls everywhere have a right to live free from violence, exploitation, and abuse.”
The 45 member states met for the 57th session at U.N. headquarters in New York March 4–15. U.N. experts estimate that up to six out of every 10 women in the world experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
“International and regional legal instruments have clarified obligations of States to prevent, eradicate and punish violence against women and girls,” states the U.N. Women website. “The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) requires that countries party to the Convention take all appropriate steps to end violence.
“However, the continued prevalence of violence against women and girls demonstrates that this global pandemic of alarming proportions is yet to be tackled with all the necessary political commitment and resources,” the U.N. Women website said.
The U.S. delegation to the commission’s 57th session, which was headed by Rice, worked with fellow member states to shape a strong consensus document that could support and galvanize worldwide efforts to eliminate gender-based violence.
Among the 34 items in the Agreed Conclusions were a number of groundbreaking statements, including these:
• An explicit acknowledgement of the importance of respecting and protecting sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
• Recognition of the fact that domestic violence is the most prevalent form of violence against women and girls, and that men and boys are crucial to preventing such violence.
• Recognition that prevention and response efforts must also address trafficking in persons.
• Calls for a multisector response and an end to impunity.
• Calls for the advancement of women’s full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and to ownership of land.• Reference to harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage, and clear language asserting that custom, tradition or religious considerations should not serve as a basis to condone violence against women and girls.
• Calls for greater protection for specific populations that face heightened risk of violence, such as disabled women and girls, those living with HIV and indigenous women.
Although Rice hailed the Agreed Conclusions as “a milestone in our fight for the safety and dignity of women and girls everywhere,” she said: “The United States remains disappointed that the Conclusions did not explicitly recognize that women and girls should not suffer violence or discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Basic rights must apply to everyone, and the United States will continue to fight relentlessly to ensure equality for all people regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
In a memorandum issued January 30, 2013, to the heads of U.S. executive departments and agencies, President Obama called for better U.S. coordination of polices and programs to promote gender equality and to empower women and girls globally. “During my Administration, the United States has made promoting gender equality and advancing the status of women and girls a central element of our foreign policy, including by leading through example at home,” the president said.
“Promoting gender equality and advancing the status of all women and girls around the world remains one of the greatest unmet challenges of our time,” Obama said, “and one that is vital to achieving our overall foreign policy objectives.
“Ensuring that women and girls, including those most marginalized, are able to participate fully in public life, are free from violence, and have equal access to education, economic opportunity, and health care increases broader economic prosperity, as well as political stability and security,” Obama said.
According to Rice, the Agreed Conclusions “mark a milestone in our fight for the safety and dignity of women and girls everywhere.”
“The United States,” Rice said, “celebrates this progress as we pledge to redouble our efforts to protect and support the fundamental rights of all women and girls, both at home and around the world.”
Learn more here: U.N. Women, United Nations 57th Commission on the Status of Women, Presidential Memorandum — Coordination of Policies and Programs to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women and Girls Globally.