On 2nd July, the European Humanist federation addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council and urged member states to do more to protect girls and women’s rights in Europe and beyond.
We stressed the urgency for European states to lead the way when one women in three have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 and 500 000 women have to live with the terrible consequences of genital mutilation.
Whilst it is certainly a good thing that women dare to speak more freely about the violence that they have experienced throughout their lives, this cannot be a sufficient answer to this hideous and persistent phenomenon. The EHF called States to engage into vigorous public action, in the spirit of the legal tools that have been adopted by the international and European communities. In particular, we have in mind the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence that has been signed and ratified by only 32 European States. In June, Croatia and Greece have become the 31st and 32nd States to ratify it, but several EU member states are still missing on the list: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.
Several of them simply fail to consider the Convention as the best available instrument when it comes to fighting violence against women and use misleading arguments regarding how the term “gender” is used in the Convention, often echoing anti-choice and conservative religious movements.
The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive international treaty on fighting violence against women and was adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011. It entered into force in August 2014 and was signed by the EU in June 2017.It addresses a wide range of women’s rights’ violations: stalking, sexual harassment, sexual violence (including rape), physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of intimate partners, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced sterilisation. Further, it asks governments to meet specific standards to prevent all forms of gender-based violence against women, to protect the victims of such violence, and to prosecute those who commit the violence.
HRC 38: General Debate item 8
Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
02 July 2018
European Humanist Federation
The Vienna Programme of Action made it clear that all States should intensify their efforts in order to prevent and fight violence and discriminations against women, in both private and public spheres.
As a European organisation, we are particularly concerned to see that progress has been very slow in several countries in Europe.
We all know the numbers. In Europe, one in three women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 and one in five from a partner. Fifty women die every week from male domestic violence. 75% of women in top management positions have experienced sexual harassment at work. At least 500,000 women and girls live with the lifelong consequences of female genital mutilation.
Moreover, many women face multiple discriminations based on other grounds than gender and are especially vulnerable: migrant women, disabled women, Muslim women or lesbian and bisexual women.
The #MeToo movement has helped raise awareness about part of the violence that women too often experiment in our societies. But social media do not deliver justice. Social media do not replace education programmes at school. Social media do not compensate the lack of action of public authorities.
We need public action and we need the legal tools we have to be signed, ratified and effectively implemented by all. We congratulate Croatia and Greece that have just ratified the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. We urge this Council to pay specific attention to women’s rights and the States’ obligations in this field when it reviews the situation of human rights of UN Member States.
Thank you Mr. President.