Violence against women continues at epidemic level: UN

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Speaking during the consideration of her report before the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women pointed to violence against women and girls – the most serious form of discrimination based on sex – continues to be experienced around the world.

“It would not be an understatement to say that we have only discovered the tip of the iceberg”, castigated Reem Alsalem, noting that the improvement in data has made it possible to confirm that “violence against women and girls continues to exist at an epidemic level”.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictive measures imposed by many states to contain it, regardless of gender, have exposed pre-existing gaps and inadequacies in the prevention of violence against women and have exacerbated the risk of violence faced by women and girls around the world,” added the UN Independent Expert.

158 countries have passed some form of domestic violence legislation

Furthermore, “significant progress” has been made in various countries when it comes to strengthening legislation in order to improve the prevention and response to violence against women – although these are not have not always complied with international human rights standards. To date, 158 countries have adopted some form of domestic violence legislation.

The trend observed in recent years has continued in 2021, with in particular the increase in the number of observatories set up to monitor feminicides or gender-related killings, although progress has been more modest than what is expected. we might have hoped. Progress and setbacks have been uneven and have required tailored approaches.

“Given this reality, I have devoted a considerable part of my 10 months as mandate holder to engaging different key stakeholders, with the aim of listening to both how they view the realities on the field and what they consider to be the main priorities,” said Ms. Alsalem.

Impunity for perpetrators of violence against indigenous women

At the Palais des nations in Geneva, the Expert also looked at violence against indigenous women and girls. According to her, few subjects demonstrate the intersectionality of the causes and consequences of violence against women like the violence directed and experienced by Aboriginal women.

“They face a situation of constant daily violence caused by historical and unequal patriarchal power structures, racism, exclusion and marginalization that have been made possible by the legacy of colonialism”, denounced the Special Rapporteur.

It is often a form of intergenerational violence that permeates all aspects of their lives, Alsalem said.

“I know of few forms of violence against groups of women whose perpetrators, whether state or not, enjoy such a level of impunity”, she added, regretting that even when there has an awareness of the alarming and systematic levels of violence experienced by Aboriginal women, “the scale and gravity of the situation is often not reflected in the data collected”.

Even more troubling, where such data exists, it does not sufficiently influence legislation or public policy.

Although numerous customary laws and treaties have enshrined the right of indigenous women and girls to be free from violence, and although several regional human rights protection systems and national laws have reaffirmed the duty of States to ‘adopt all the necessary measures to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence against them, these texts have often not translated into improved prevention and protection measures for them, concluded the Special Rapporteur.

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