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WLD International News (from November newsletter)

November 12, 2012 2:00 PM
By Paddy Beck

Commission On The Status Of Women (CSW), Elimination and Prevention Of Violence Against Women And Girls (VAWG) and Liberal Democrat Ministers

The UK has a lot to contribute and will make its presence felt when the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meets next year, Women's Minister Jo Swinson said recently.

What is CSW and why is it important for women? When the UN was founded in 1945 there were only 4 women among the original 160 signatories. These "founding mothers" fought to have "inclusive" language used in the Charter of the UN - such equal rights of men and women instead of the Rights of Man and they replaced "all men are created equal" with "all men and women are created equal". Many delegates said it was unnecessary as words like "mankind" are generic - but the women disagreed saying that in their languages/cultures "men" meant only men!

The importance of this became apparent when it was established that of the original 51 members of the UN only 30 gave full political rights to women. A fully-fledged and independent Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) dedicated to ensuring women's equality and to promoting women's rights was established. Its first major contribution was, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, drafted by CSW that, after an extensive debate, was adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 1952. It was the first international legal instrument to recognize and protect the political rights of women everywhere by spelling out that women, on an equal basis with men, are entitled to vote in any election, run for election to any office, and hold any public office or exercise any public function under national law. Unfortunately no member state can be forced to sign up to a Convention, which is like a Treaty, but gradually through public pressure at home and abroad most do. Perhaps the other most important Convention which CSW furthered is CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) - this has had a huge impact especially on the education of girls in places from Indonesia to Morocco as well as highlighting other discriminatory practices in employment, marriage etc.

Now every year CSW meets at the UN around International Women's Day. It has delegations from governments but most importantly, it has hundreds of NGO representatives from around the world. When I went in 2008 there were about 1400 representatives from more than 120 countries. A Priority Theme, an Emerging Issue and a Review of a particular past Theme form the Agenda for that session. Next March, at the 57th session, the Priority Theme is the Elimination and Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).

There is an enormous amount of preparatory work done around the world to ensure that both government and NGO delegations are really well informed and up to date to help ensure that any agreements made reflect what women worldwide want. It begins with 3 initial "Issue Papers" to start the ball rolling. One of these papers, A different world is possible was produced by Marai Larasi Co-chair of EVAW (End Violence against Women coalition and Director of IMKAAN UK). There remains much disquiet among women's groups over the abolition of the Women's National Commission. But the initial work has still to be done so there have been several preparatory meetings, some run by GEO (Government Equalities Office) including one on 17th October - which I was invited to - with nearly 100 women contributing to the British position on the 'Priority theme' and what they consider the most important aspects which the British team should put forward and negotiate strongly for.

Our own Lynn Featherstone MP as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, who will be leading the British delegation, gave the opening address. She is obviously immensely engaged in the subject matter and was very well received. The closing address was by Marai Larasi from EVAW who is a wonderful speaker.

If anyone from the WLD has some expertise or experience in the field and wishes to contribute, please contact me and I will willingly to forward it on. Personally I think pornography has been a major contributor to the growth of VAWG and although mentioned in some preliminary papers there not enough emphasis on it! Other activists agree but we need more specific input. Last comment - 97 women in the UK were murdered by their partners or ex partners last year - we need action to prevent or at least reduce VAWG home and abroad.

Paddy Beck, WLD International Advisor (paddybeck99@btinternet.com)