Civil Society Perspectives on Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 57th Session

CONTEXT

In March 2013, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will undertake a review of the progress on gender equality identifies challenges and sets global standards on combating violence against women and girls. The 57th Session review categorically includes "The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS". The CSW session is also expected to formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and empowerment of women worldwide. Emphasis is expected to be placed on the sharing of experiences and good practices, with a view to overcoming remaining obstacles and new challenges, including those related to the post-2015 scenario of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Member States, representatives of non-governmental organizations and of UN entities will participate in the session. A series of parallel events are planned to provide additional opportunities for information exchange and networking.

In regard to the status of the violence against women and girls, Jagaran Nepal, in collaboration with WIPAA, AATWIN, NWS, NAWHRD, Shanti Malika, Sankalpa and NWRF has brought out an NGO perspective through a national consultation process organized on February 24, 2013 in Kathmandu. The consultation was attended by more than 100 key gender activists and women's organizations from all federations, alliances and networks. Several representatives of the concerned ministries and department also attended and contributed to the success of the event. The deliberation and dialogues have revealed the current status of the VAWG, key constraints, accomplishments, shortfalls and future direction for change in domestic context. The major areas where critical gaps remain that specially the CSW session at global arena and the home government at domestic context must commit to in regard to the concern over VAWG. The main objective of the national consultation was to organize an interactive session on the issues of Nepal for advocacy on CSW 57th Session on behalf of Nepali civil society women and specific objectives were to identify and submit the collective issues of women for CSW session to government of Nepal for advocacy on CSW 57 session on behalf of Nepali Civil Society women members; to recommend Nepali participants of CSW 57 session for the issues to lobby and advocacy on behalf of women civil society of Nepal and to continue consultative meetings for sharing and learning of the outcomes of CSW session. The outcome of the deliberation of the consultation has been reflected as below:

VAWG: ISSUES OF CRITICAL CONCERN

  • Non-enactment of equality laws in compliance with international conventions and commitments
  • Prevalence of discriminatory cultural, religious, political and traditional values leading to negative impact on the efforts to combat VAWG
  • Blatant breach of human rights and humanitarian law during the ten year-long armed conflict with no legal remedy for victims/survivors
  • Precarious situation of girl child in terms of violence, abuse, neglect and trafficking
  • Civilians, specially women and children caught in the crossfire during the armed conflict
  • Rising incidences of violent crimes, rape and sexual abuse in the post-armed conflict setting
  • Culture of absolute impunity to perpetrators and offenders of the VAWG
  • Non-existent of specific law concerning the protection of the victims/survivor and the witness
  • Structural violence in the form of poverty, discrimination, injustice, exclusion and marginalization
  • Insufficient enabling environment for legal and social protection of women
  • Under-reporting of violence and abuse due to impunity and inaction
  • Little study and attention on the proliferation of small arms resulting in VAWG
  • Unchecked domestic violence, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence
  • Lack of effective mitigation strategies on forced migration and human trafficking
  • Invisible progress in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and 1820
  • Absence of transitional justice mechanism as foreseen by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement

VAWG & GENDER - FRIENDLY TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE

(A special campaign to secure justice to victims of gender-based violence)

A transitional justice mechanism with entrenched gender justice is vital to ensure a lasting peace and reconciliation in the society. No women: no peace! In accordance with the 2006 parliamentary declaration, the authorities should unconditionally condemn all acts of violence against women including in the context of the conflict, and take measures to prevent such violations occurring along with special measures to protect women and girls who have become displaced as a result of the conflict, and who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuses. Promulgation of specific programs to address the multiple forms of discrimination against dalit and women from indigenous and ethnic groups that may have been aggravated as a result of the conflict and initiation of a programme including rehabilitation and reparation of women and girls is imperative. The direct victims of the armed conflict, including refugees, displacees and the disabled women deserve special attention and care as a legitimate demand of transitional justice arrangements.

Adequate representation of women in any process of peace talks and negotiations in accordance with the UNSCR1325 and 1820 is fundamental. A guarantee of the investigation of every allegation of sexual violence by the warring parties and that anyone suspected of such crimes be brought to justice in a civilian trial that conforms to international standards for fair trial is indispensable. The government should take effective remedial action to address the violence and discrimination against sexual minorities which are a permanent minority in society who in the past have grossly suffered from patterns of disadvantage and the impact of discrimination on their dignity has been severe.
The decade-long internal armed conflict left behind thousands of single women who have had to take all family responsibilities on their shoulders regardless of whether they were educated or had a source of income. Many women are still searching for missing husbands and children, since their relatives disappeared, harboring hope that some truth will emerge from their years of anxiety and worry. The way in which women are treated in society as subordinates and dependant on male family members, meant that during conflict many women who lost husbands found themselves in worse conditions of poverty and vulnerabilities of psychological, physical and sexual nature. Women have also been involved as combatants and supporters of family members involved in conflict and have suffered harassment, suffering and violence as a result of this.
Impunity, or the absence of punishment, is the second wave of violations and the amnesty provision in Nepal's Truth and Reconciliation Commission bill could cause more harm. For women, impunity means lost hope and the de-motivation to seek justice. So, while the transitional phase holds plentiful hope for a better nation and society, allowing the victims of conflict regardless if it was a woman who faced some form of sexual violence or a mother of a missing person, will be allowing many open wounds to be passed down generations. There is no guarantee that these wounds will not awaken anger and foster new conflicts in the form of a stark revenge in the next generation. Therefore, it is of utmost necessity that through commitment or creativity, every mother, wife, sister and daughter who faced trauma and harm from conflict be taken into account in any future peace process. 
A gender justice approach should be a central element, exploring how women and men experience conflict and human rights violations differently. The pursuit of gender justice includes prosecutions for gender-based violence; reparations delivery to diverse groups of women and their families; memorials recognizing women's experiences; and institutional reform that serves human security needs and promotes women's access to justice. The right to privacy in the proceedings of the investigation and rendering justice (e.g. in-camera trial in the event of sexual assault, rape etc) needs to be taken into serious consideration.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTUTURE DIRECTION

A) To 57th CSW Session

1. Participation and Partnership

  • Recruit women from community-based CSOs in CSW's primary theme to participate in their delegations
  • Allocate time on the official agenda of CSW57 for an innovative session for member states to review a selection of best practices
  • Allocate time for a face-to-face forum with the UN Women ED with women from CSOs
  • Ensure regular, systematic engagement and partnerships with CSOs headed by women.

2. Commitment and Concern

  • Support and expand systematic use of evidence-based good practice, through the UN Women's Global Virtual Knowledge Center
  • Structured dialogues and advocacy for global policy such as Cyber Crime Convention during the session
  • Establish an official track for a best practice exchange of VAWG in annual review meetings 
  • Make provisions for dedicated sessions for member states to share their best practices on VAWG
  • Consider VAWG as a prime post-2015 MDG agenda for enhanced mainstreaming of gender equality 
  • Call on member states to commit in developing and implementing integrated measures in prevention/addressing root causes of VAWG

3. Resource Mobilization

  • Allocate additional resource to the victim-led initiatives for women's empowerment
  • Commit dedicated financial support to CSO efforts to prevent and eliminate VAWG 
  • Designate dedicated resource for awareness on small arms at grass root level 
  • Allocate resources to record and categorize examples of the best practices
  • Establish special protocol funding for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to address VAWG

4. Setting Human Rights Benchmarks

  • Implement human rights standards as well as national, regional and international legislation against VAWG
  • Significantly accelerate empowerment of women and girls with proactive approach and effective compliance monitoring scheme
  • Reinforce existing provisions on VAWG in high intensity conflict and post-conflict settings and other humanitarian crises
  • Urge states to form gender friendly transitional justice mechanism in post-conflict setting and bring perpetrators to justice
  • Ensure regular submission of CEDAW report with consultative and transparent process

B) To the Government of Nepal

  • Integration of the principles of equality and non-discrimination into the new constitution and laws
  • Affirmative action and special protection for the neglected, disabled, displaced, disadvantaged, dalits, minorities, abused and battered women and girls
  • Criminalization of domestic violence and appropriate mechanism to suppress trafficking in women
  • Equal and adequate health care with a special focus on caring on HIV/AIDS
  • Provision for scholarships for girls from dalit, indigenous, the disabled, IDPs and minorities 
  • Ensuring women's participation in peace building process and transitional justice endeavor
  • Enactment of strong protective laws to prevent and protect women from all forms of violence 
  • Special arrangements in the judicial system to protect victimized women and creation of provision for shelter, trauma counseling and care for all kinds of survivors
  • Ensuring equal rights to marry, to choose spouse, rights in marriage, rights as parents, on divorce, no child marriage, family education to include responsibility of men and women
  • Institution of in camera trials in all tiers of judiciary, including juvenile courts for the survivors
  • Introduction of special programs for single women affected by conflict
  • Strict enforcement of laws regarding child marriage and priority program for girl child
  • Effective AND TIME-BOUND domestic implementation of the NAP on UNSCR 1325, 1820
  • Formation of a gender-friendly Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on the Investigation of the Disappearances
  • Enhanced economic empowerment of women which is key for prevention, reduction and elimination of VAWG at every level
  • Men's engagement for addressing and elimination of VAWG from the family and the society
  • Resource allocation for addressing VAW should also be provided through gender budgeting.
  • Participation of institutions such as Women Commission in CSW to better influence the proceedings especially in the negotiations sessions.
  • Creation of special programs and policies for empowerment of girl child specific to their needs in terms of nutrition, health care and education 
  • Institutionalization of the existing achievements in the women rights sectors.
  • Participation of civil society women members from different sectors like media, academicians, advocates, women from marginalized sectors in the official delegation

C) To Civil Society Organizations

  • Enhanced advocacy to state, political parties and other stakeholders for continuation of existing good practices like at least 33% women participation in every tiers of the government
  • Strategic advocacy campaign for the reform and effective implementation of Domestic Violence Act and strengthening of the VAW related monitoring unit at Prime Minister's office.
  • Orientation to the CSO actors from different sectors participating in the CSW Session for familiarization with CSW process, issues to be lobbied and advocacy which is essential to overcome problems in language, communication, special needs of differently able people for effective and efficient sharing process
  • Consultation meetings to be conducted prior of the CSW session and most importantly after the participation too so that the issues and outcomes of such events can be deepened at grassroots level to promote gender equality
  • Costing of VAWG is to be estimated and analyzed to understand the social impact of the issue at community, region and national level
  • Engagement in pro-actively exhort CSW mechanism in shaping current global policy framework on women's empowerment and VAWG and holding international national leaders accountable for commitments they made in BPFA
  • Convening and participation in the programs of side events/activities as well as parallel events organized outside formal program of CSW session
  • Country engagement for the pre and post CSW meeting processes.