Powerful UN CSW57 Document on Ending Gender-Based Violence Created

On March 14, I wrote a blog entitled “The “Unholy Alliance” that May Defeat Comprehensive UN Call to End Gender-Based Violence.” I talked about an alliance between the Vatican, Iran, Russia and a couple of other countries that were attempting to eviscerate the comprehensive plan being created at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) to end gender-based violence and fully comply with all of the universally agreed-upon agreements (treaties, resolutions, and statements). These previous agreements include the Women’s Rights Treaty (commonly known as CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1993)) as well as the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

I am happy to say that this didn’t happen.  Thanks to the bloggers, news media, Tweeters, NGO’s attending CSW57, and several official Member States, the amendments to the document were voted down on Friday during the final day of the 2-week convention.

Iran was the only country that voted against the final, comprehensive document. The Vatican did not get to vote because of its status as a “Permanent Observer State” rather than as a voting “Member State”. And Russia backed down and voted for the final document along with all of the remaining UN Member States.

People around the world heard about these attempts to deny women and girls safety from all forms of violence.  We spoke out and acted.

As a result, unlike last year, we FINALLY have a strong document that

“condemns in the strongest terms the pervasive violence against women and girls, and calls for increased attention and accelerated action for prevention and response.” (Source)

This document has a strong prevention focus since the best way to end violence against women and children is to stop it BEFORE it happens.  It also addresses inequalities in the political, economic, and social spheres that engender violence. And it takes action to provide services and justice for victims of violence around the world.

Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women summarized the comprehensive coverage of this powerful statement to end this type of human rights violation in her closing statement of the conference:

During the past two weeks, discussions centred on matters of urgency to people around the world — eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, ending impunity for perpetrators, fully engaging men and boys, and advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality to prevent and end these human rights violations….

Important and timely matters were addressed — ending child and early forced marriage, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and providing justice and critical services for survivors of violence.

There were debates on ending sexual violence in conflict, tackling human trafficking, protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and on the role of culture, religion and the family.

You had many intense late-night negotiations, going over every single word and paragraph, debating long and hard in order to come to [this] strong agreement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, immediately after CSW57, released a statement showing the commitment of the United Nations to fully implement this new document. It says, in part:

Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage.  No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear.  She has the universal human right to be free from all forms of violence so as to fulfill her full potential and dreams for the future.

States have a corresponding responsibility to turn that right into reality.  The Secretary-General hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls.  The United Nations system is fully committed to leading this global effort.

So now I say, THANK YOU! Thank you for creating this statement. It is one more step  towards realizing the rights, dignity, and humanity of girls and women throughout the world.

Picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey standing with sign that says "I AM Ending Violence"

Joanne Tosti-Vasey “Refusing to be Silent” and calling for an end to gender-based violence

We Can Do It! Alice Paul and a New White House ERA Petition

If she was alive today, Alice Paul would be 138 years old.  Ms. Paul was born on January 11, 1875. After the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote was ratified in 1920, many of the suffragettes thought women’s rights were won.  Alice Paul disagreed, saying that until women were fully written into the US Constitution, our rights would always be at risk and we could (and would) be treated as second-class citizens.  In 1923, Ms. Paul introduced and then continued working for passage of what became known as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for the rest of her life.

The ERA passed Congress in 1972. It has not yet been ratified by three-quarters of the state; it needs three more states to sign on.  It is short but to the point:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In honor of Alice Paul’s birthday, a group of women supporting the Madison Amendment or “three-state” approach for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment started a second petition on the White House petition website.

I recently wrote about the ERA and the first of these petitions. Unfortunately because of the lack of organization surrounding the first petition, it is highly unlikely that it will receive the 25,000 signatures required by its January 17 deadline in order to get a response from the White House.

This new petition, in contrast, looks like it has a much better chance of reaching the 25,000 signature threshold.  In the first 6 days of this petition drive, there have been over 4800 signatures received.  That’s an average of 800 signatures each day.  With 25 days left (deadline is February 10)—and if the momentum keeps up—we could make it.  Between now and then we need to average a total of 840 additional signatures each day.  Your help is needed.

So I am once more asking people to sign on and tell President Obama that you want him to:

Vigorously support women’s rights by fully engaging in efforts to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Once you sign the petition, please let your friend, family members, and colleagues know about the petition and ask them to sign as well.  Like the WWII poster says, “WE CAN DO IT!”

We Can Do It poster

“We Can Do It!” poster created by J. Howard Miller for the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee during World War II and later associated with “Rosie the Riveter”