By Caroline Mwanga
NEW YORK (IDN) — UN Women has reiterated the concerns expressed by the United Nations in Turkey and other partners regarding Turkey’s announced termination of being a party to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (the “Istanbul Convention”). It has urged Turkey to reconsider its withdrawal.
Turkey’s announcement comes at a point when concerted international action and commitment to end violence against women and girls is more important than ever and as UN Women is seeking to mobilize even greater multi-stakeholder and cross generational action on this issue, with the women’s movement being key in these efforts.
UN Women has highlighted the increase in reported violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of measures such as lockdowns and disruptions to vital support services, which comes on top of the already-existing extreme levels of violence reaffirmed in the latest report by WHO.
WHO news release on March 9, 2001 warned that “violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young”. Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner—a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade.
This violence starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.
“Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only fight it with deep-rooted and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and foster healthy and mutually respectful relationships.”
Intimate partner violence is by far the most prevalent form of violence against women globally (affecting around 641 million). However, 6% of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner. Given the high levels of stigma and under-reporting of sexual abuse, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher.
“The pandemic revealed the gaps in our systems to respond to such violence and the acute need to respond firmly and with unity. The solidarity of nations that comes with being part of international conventions is critical for a world that is free of the ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women,” says UN Women in a statement released on March 20.
The UN entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women reaffirms support to the Secretary-General’s leadership on prevention and redress of violence against women and girls. “We recall the Inter-agency statement on violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19 that highlighted six critical areas for coordinated action and called for the global community to remain steadfast in its efforts to ensure a positive trajectory and avoid regression of hard-earned gains,” the UN Women statement. “The ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention by States is a crucial commitment in this direction,” it adds.
UN Women joins those urging the Government of the Republic of Turkey to continue protecting and promoting the safety and rights of all women and girls, including by remaining committed to the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention, which builds on the standards enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as its General Recommendations and case law.
The CEDAW is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on September 3, 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states.
Currently, as Member States meet in the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women to advance the norms and standards that advance women’s rights, we need bolder and game-changing actions that continue to move us forward, in order to ensure that women and girls live free from violence, in line with the principle of gender equality and the commitment to “leave no one behind” of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 March 2021]
Photo: Collage of women calling for rights and Turkish President Erdoğan.
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