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Statement submitted by members of the Working Group on Girls: non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.
The Secretary-General has received the following statement, which is being circulated in accordance with paragraphs 36 and 37 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
The commitments have been made. The Beijing Platform for Action, Section L, for example, pledges to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls, specifically addressing violence, education, economic exploitation, and harmful cultural attitudes and practices. It highlights the need to overcome prevailing gender stereotypes and to create enabling environments whereby girls can develop their full potential. It promises to strengthen families and to promote girls’ participation in their own lives and in their societies. Finally, it recognizes that the advancement of women is not sustainable without attention to the rights of girls.
Other commitments have also been made. They include conventions (e.g., CRC, CEDAW), protocols (e.g., Palermo), reports (e.g., Report of the Secretary-General on Trafficking in Women and Girls), and outcome documents (e.g., CSW 2007 Agreed Conclusions). Nonetheless, girls are denied their political, economic, social, and cultural rights and subjected to behaviours that hinder their physical, psychological, spiritual, and social-emotional development. We highlight research on victims of violence in the form of harmful and traditional practices and trafficking of girls for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE).
- Girls who are missing because of son preference, (female feticide, infanticide, malnutrition and neglect). In 2011, the WHO reported that although a sex ratio at birth of 102 – 106 is typical, rates of 130 males per 100 females are documented.
- Girls who have been harmed by female genital mutilation (FGM). In 2011, the UNFPA reported that approximately 100 to 140 million females have experienced FGM.
- Girls who were forced into early marriage. In 2011, the Population Research Bureau indicated that over 60 million girls are married before the age of 18.
- Girls murdered in the name of honour. The UNFPA estimates that 5,000 females are murdered annually by family members in the name of honour. Women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia have estimated that the number is closer to 20,000.
- Girls who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Available data are inherently unreliable due to methodological problems and the lack of a standard definition of trafficking. In 2012, the ILO indicated that 98% of those who are victims of forced sexual exploitation are female, with children under age 18 accounting for 21% of the total.
As CSW57 meets in the shadow of the First International Day of the Girl, we call upon Member States, UN agencies, and our civil society partners to keep these outrageous practices in the forefront of discussions. CSW57 offers a unique opportunity for Member States to recall the commitments that have been made, to review progress, and to create meaningful partnerships to ensure freedom from discrimination and violence. We highlight research findings how the harmful practices described above impact girls’ physical, reproductive, and mental health. Complete details, including references, are presented in a forthcoming article by Yvonne Rafferty in the Journal of International Women’s Studies.
- Higher Rates of Childhood Mortality/Severe Physical Health Complications
- Son Preference: In addition to female infanticide, adverse health outcomes for girls occur through privileged access to nutrition preferring boys (e.g., girls more likely to be underweight and anaemia, boys have diets higher in essential nutrients).
- FGM: In addition to obstetric complications, such as postpartum haemorrhage and death (due to excess bleeding and infection, including septic shock), girls with mutilated genitals have higher levels of chronic infections, severe pain, ulceration, and longer-term outcomes including infections of the urinary and reproductive tracts, and infertility.
- Early and Forced Marriage: It is in the context of reproductive and sexual health that child brides face the greatest risk. Pregnancy related deaths are the leading cause of mortality in 15 – 19 year old girls; those under age 15 are five times more likely to die than those over age 20.An estimated 70,000 adolescent mothers die annually because they have children before they are physically ready for parenthood. According to UNFPA, for every person who dies in childbirth, some 15 to 30 survive, yet suffer chronic disabilities, the most devastating being obstetric fistula. Furthermore, children born to adolescent mothers are 50% more likely to die than children born to women in their 20’s.They are also more likely to be premature, low birth weight, and malnourished.
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE): The harsh conditions, persistent and extreme abuse, and trauma can result in direct physical injury (e.g., broken bones, bruises, contusions, cuts, burns), indirect physical injury (e.g. chronic headaches, dizziness), insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns, or in extreme cases homicide or suicide. Drug and alcohol abuse are also problematic and can result in overdose or addiction.Research on the sexual violence associated with CSE has identified higher rates of pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, vaginal fistula, complications from unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and poor reproductive health.
- Higher Rates of HIV/AIDS
Adverse health consequences associated with being a girl include increased risk of HIV/AIDS. Data collected by UNICEF (2011) on girls and boys indicate that in sub-Saharan countries young women 5 – 24 years old are 2 – 4 times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men. Risk factors include limited access to information and unprotected sexual activity.
- Early and Forced Marriage: For girls who start their sexual activity within marriage as child brides, their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is increased.Barriers include limited access to, and use of, contraception and reproductive health services and information, and inability to negotiate its use due to fear of violence from their spouses. In Zambia, for example, 25% of young women aged 15 – 24 are HIV positive. The corresponding rate for Mozambique is 19% (both are child marriage hotspots).
- FGM: The risk of HIV infection exists, especially when the same instrument is used to cut several girls at the same time; in some cases, traditional doctors do not have health training, there is no use of anesthesia, and instruments are not sterilized.
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE): Higher rates of HIV/AIDS (30% – 61%) have been identified among girls and women who had been trafficked for CSE in Nepal. In Cambodia, 74% of the girls had an STI.
- Poorer Mental Health Outcomes
There is a vast research base documenting the link between gender-based physical and sexual violence on girls’ mental health (e.g., the Institute of Medicine 2011 report on violence against women and children). Studies attest to the excessive physical and sexual violence associated with early and forced marriage, honour crimes, and CSE, including the impact of these practices on girls’ mental health.
- FGM: In Senegal, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were significantly higher among those who had been mutilated than peers who were not mutilated (30% vs. 0%). Girls with FGM were also more likely to experience other psychiatric symptoms (48% vs. 4%). Overall, 90% described feelings of helplessness, horror, intense fear and severe pain.
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE): The psychological symptoms demonstrated by children who have experienced trafficking-related abuses can be compared to the psychological reactions identified in torture victims.In Nepal, for example, girls and women had higher levels of anxiety (98%), depression (100%), and PTSD (30%). In Israel, 17% scored above the diagnostic cut-off for PTSD symptoms, 47% had considered suicide and 19% had attempted suicide. In Europe, girls and women reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hostility in the 98th, 97th, and 95th percentile respectively, compared to a normative sample. Furthermore, 39% reported recent suicidal thoughts and 57% met the criteria for PTSD. A final study explored the association between girls’ and women’s experiences and symptoms of common mental disorders in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy and the United Kingdom. Overall, 77% had possible PTSD; others reported higher levels of depression symptoms (55%) or anxiety (48%). .
1. Criminalize Offenses and Close Gaps in Law Enforcement: Member States that have not established harmful traditional or cultural practices and all other acts of violence against girls (including trafficking for CSE) as criminal offenses should immediately implement and ensure enforcement.
2. Provide Resources and Funding for Gender Equality and Girls’ Empowerment: States parties must develop gender-responsive budgeting that allocates funding for: (a) girls’ physical and mental health programs, including adolescent and HIV/AIDS matters; (b) education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels; and (c) programs to end all forms of violence against the girl child, including harmful traditional practices and sexual violence.
3. Promote the Participation, Visibility, and Empowerment of Girls: Strategies must be developed to empower girls to deal with violence, raise their voices, increase their self-esteem, advocate for their human rights and embrace their culture. Active engagement with girls and respect for their views in all aspects of prevention, response and monitoring of sexual violence against them is vital, taking into account article 12 of the Rights of the Child.
4. Raise Awareness and Promote Community Involvement: Improved efforts are needed to confront the deeply rooted discrimination against girls that lies at the heart of violence against girls. Research has identified information and media campaigns as effective strategies to create greater awareness, challenge discrimination, engage men and boys, and eliminate the victimization of girls.
5. Collect, Analyze and Disseminate Data on Girls: Institutionalizing the gathering of data (disaggregated by sex, age, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity) in critical areas, inter alia health, education, labor and protection will facilitate an inclusive gender perspective for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of government programs, and for benchmarking across nations and communities.
6. Identify and Share Best Practices: States Parties should identify, share, and promote effective policies and practices where gender sensitive and human rights-based approaches are used to challenge gender-based violence and harmful practices. Identified strategies include enhanced economic opportunities; incentives to share property with wives, daughters, and sisters; education; enforceable legislation; human-rights education; and effective networks of grassroots organizations.
7. Ensure Access to Education and Schooling as a Human Rights Imperative: Effective approaches to achieve gender equality must promote the competence and resilience of girls and include their social, political and economic empowerment through education programs and job training to prepare them for their critical roles within their families and communities. Education empowers girls and women to reject gender-based norms and to find alternate opportunities, supports and roles. Educated girls are better informed about health risks such as HIV/AIDS. Higher levels of education have also been linked with lower levels of child marriage and greater opposition to FGM.
“Make it Binding: Include Gender-Based Violence in the Arms Trade Treaty”
Joint Oral Statement for the 57th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on Elimination and Prevention of all Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
The International Peace Bureau
Center for Women’s Global Leadership
International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries
Edmund Rice International
Global Justice Center
World Young Women’s Christian Association
Femmes Africa Solidarité
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)
Militarization and the arms trade contribute to the legitimatization and continuation of gender inequalities, discrimination and violence against women. Emboldened by weapons, power and status, many State and non-State actors perpetrate gender-based violence with impunity. In addition to perpetuating violence, weapons are used as a source of intimidation to women’s active participation in social and political life. In conflict, parties use sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war, and these crimes have been greatly intensified by the proliferation and availability of small arms and light weapons. For example, in DRC or Côte d’Ivoire, varied actors including state security forces and armed groups perpetrate armed gender-based violence. The lethal and negative consequences of arms are not isolated to conflict zones. Often, guns, or the presence or threat of guns, are used to facilitate domestic violence.
After the conclusion of this year’s CSW, a second negotiating conference for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will take place here at UN Headquarters. The ATT could, if strengthened, reduce gender-based violence, save lives and protect rights.
We therefore call on Member States to:
- Negotiate and agree on a strong Arms Trade Treaty that includes legally-binding gender provisions. There must be an obligation in the criteria requiring States to deny an international transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that the arms under consideration are likely to be used to perpetrate or facilitate acts of gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence. In short, the current draft Treaty text must be strengthened. This wording could be included as an obligation under Article 4.2 of the current draft.
- Reflect the gendered reality and the gendered impacts of arms in the work and outcome document of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women
- Reduce military spending and expenditure on weapons production and procurement, diverting these resources to human development and environmental sustainability.
- Stop the selling of arms that inherently violate human rights.
- Integrate and implement Human Rights, Women Peace and Security, and Disarmament frameworks and mechanisms in relevant processes so that prevention of violence and empowerment of women can work more effectively.
- Ensure and support women’s full and equal participation in all peace negotiations and processes and in the development of international instruments such as the Arms Trade Treaty.
The 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women opened on March 4th, with this year’s focus on the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, and former President of Chile, noted that this was the largest international gathering ever to focus on ending violence against women and girls. She noted that recent events– gang rapes, beatings, shootings of women and girls the world over – highlight the urgency of the problem and the necessity of accountability and strong, action-oriented commitment to address this fundamental violation of human rights. World leaders called for implementation of laws, collaborative and systemic enforcement, decriminalization and elimination of blame and re-victimization of women, increased focus on prevention and attention to root causes, vulnerabilities, and the multiple factors and cultural attitudes that contribute to the high prevalence of violence against women and girls. Others spoke of the need to establish a zero tolerance response, establish comprehensive and non-sectarian services for victims, the importance of girls’ education free of violence, and the need for reliable data regarding incidence, effects, identification of at-risk groups, etc. The UN Deputy Secretary General stated that the elimination of violence against women and girls is a matter of life and death, noting that violence pervades all countries, stable and unstable. He and many others advocated for making it a specific Millenium Development Goal, and including women’s involvement in all areas of decision-making, noting that gender equality is also a requirement of peace, sustainable development, health and safety – all basic human rights. With 7/10 women worldwide and 50% of girls under the age of 16 experiencing sexual or physical violence, a holistic and systemic approach is clearly needed to reduce gender inequality, attitudes, and practices. Gender violence is a fundamental human rights violation.
In addition to high level heads of agencies, several representatives – women and girls – from grass roots organizations, governmental organizations, and NGOs detailed the broader scope of the issues, advocating and delineating strategies for eliminating violence against women and girls, in a number of parallel workshops made available within and outside the UN. Such events highlighted problems such as domestic and school discrimination and sexual violence, labor and sexual trafficking, HIV/AIDS, rape and other forms of violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, the risk of violence to vulnerable populations such as female refugees and domestic workers, mental health and economic effects of violence against women, implementing laws and securing justice for victims of sexual violence, and corporate sexual responsibility and commitment to the UN Global Compact to eliminate sex purchasing and trafficking (see: http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/index.html ), to name but a few….
In preparation for CSW 57, the Working Group on Girls, a coalition of 80+ NGOs, national and international, promoting the human rights of girls in all stages of development, prepared advocacy/fact sheets on ten areas of discrimination and violence experienced by girls: child marriage, domestic violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, girl child pornography, HIV/AIDS, harassment, rape, honor killings, son preference, and trafficking. Please visit the Working Group on Girls website: www.girlsrights.org to learn more about the issues at stake and best practices to eliminate these forms of violence. Also on page 2 of the website, is an excellent article by WGG member, Yvonne Rafferty, PhD, Pace University, who also represents the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues at the UN, entitled: “Gender as an Obstacle to Good Health: Health Related Human Rights Violations and the Girl Child”, see pages 15-24 of the following link:
In my own country (USA), where much of the violence against women is illegal (but still largely hidden), implementation is uneven at best, and the extent of work advocating, educating, and collaborating with law enforcement, the justice system and other agencies to adequately address violence against women and girls is enormous. Likewise, efforts at prevention are insufficient and lagging in support. Even at the congressional level, the Violence Against Women Act was recently in danger of non-renewal. One can only imagine the obstacles confronting countries lacking infrastructure.
How has violence against women and girls become so normalized, reached epidemic proportions, become so pervasive throughout the world? Is it our silence, our acquiescence? Why are women seen as inferior, less valued, and thus prevented from reaching their full potential? Is it the result of dualistic thinking? More than attitudinal, discrimination and violence against women and girls takes many forms, causing severe physical, mental, spiritual and psychological damage, placing them at greater risk and vulnerability, rendering them increasingly powerless. It limits their intellectual, spiritual, social and economic development and full participation in society. They fall far short of the flourishing we theologize about, the flourishing our Creator desired and intended..
I am my sister’s keeper. What then is my/our role in light of this awareness? How can I/we contribute to the work of eliminating discrimination and violence, ensuring the protection and flourishing of women and girls so that they will no longer be made vulnerable by violent and dualistic attitudes and practices? We are called to make a preferential option for the poor as modeled by Jesus of Nazareth. Will we stand with those women and girls beaten down by myriad forms of discrimination and violence as he did? Will we allow ourselves to be disturbed enough to find ways to respond and join others in the work of holding institutions and each other accountable? Are we willing to be vulnerable by listening to the stories of women and girls – the dangerous memories – spoken and more often silenced throughout the world and in our own neighborhoods? These are the questions I come away with. I hope that questions will surface for you too, so that together we can begin to “be the change we wish to see in the world”.
Some additional links…
Working Group on Girls Statement to CSW57:
Sexual Assaults in Egypt :
Position on Post-2015 Global Development Agenda
The New York based Subcommittee for Poverty Eradication
Introduction The New York based Subcommittee for Poverty Eradication is a subsidiary body of the NGO Committee for Social Development, – http://www.ngoscodev.net – a substantive committee of CONGO, at the UN Headquarters, New York. It is comprised of a number of NGOs, representing constituencies spread across the world. The Subcommittee engages in advocacy work related to poverty eradication in various UN forums. The subcommittee has adopted the following position and recommends its inclusion in the formulation of the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda.
Principles and Values underpinning any New Development Framework
- Holistic in approach incorporating the social, economic, environmental and cultural dimension of well being
- Human rights based
- Predicated on ethical, universal, equitable and y sustainability principles
- Participative and inclusive
- Ensures gender equality
- Builds peace and security
- Addresses systemically and structurally the root causes of poverty
- Promotes good governance based on rule of law including compliance with international laws
We the members of the subcommittee urge that particular attention be paid to the following aspects:
Poverty Eradication and Inequality The growing inequalities among nations and within nations both in terms of wealth and income must be addressed. Commitment to the common good and the ethical practices that honor and protect the principle of equitable distribution of the earth’s resources is imperative if we are to have a common sustainable future. Focus on the most marginalized people in society, e.g., women and girls, the aged, person with disabilities, indigenous peoples and youth.
Participatory Structures An enabling environment must be created at the neighbourhood level for people to become active agents in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the development agenda. The model programmes, such as ‘People’s Planning Process and Sustainable Development, the Kerala Experiment and for children and youth www.childrenparliament.in result in participatory democracy where people continuously monitor the processes and have their effective say in an ongoing way ensuring the realization of global development goals.
Care of the Earth All development must be environmentally sustainable. Production and consumption must take into account how the common goods of the earth are used and protected. The 10-year framework for sustainable consumption and production patterns adopted by Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development should be a guiding principle for a development framework.
Implementation of the Social Protection Floor All States are strongly urged to ensure a human rights approach to social protection implementing ILO Recommendation 202 that urges all States to establish as quickly as possible a social protection floor.
Decent Work and Full Employment Essential to advancing sustainable human development is decent work and full employment for all. The ILO has already prepared a Decent Work Agenda whose various components could be used as part of the post 2015 agenda. The Global Jobs Pact also has important elements that contribute to the commitment to full employment and decent work.
Global Financial and Economic Architecture A new global financial and economic governance system is urgently needed that addresses:
- support for social infrastructure and employment creation
- a commitment to realistic targets with accountability in aid for development
- an equitable and effective tax system
- adequate regulation of trade
- a sovereign debt work-out mechanism
- the need for transparency, regulation and accountability
Aid for Development Effectiveness Traditional development assistance needs to shift from the current focus on “aid effectiveness” to a more purposeful “development effectiveness” and must be instrumental in redefining the global partnership for development in ways such that it would make it a forceful enabler for the implementation of the post-2015 agenda.
Additional Resources to help Developing Countries
A Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) for development that is internationally coordinated and distributed under the auspices of the United Nations;
A portion of the resources presently allocated to the Military reallocated specifically to peace and development;
Airline taxes, Billionaire’s tax and other innovative programs are recommended for individual countries.
Rural Development and Sustainable Agriculture Rural development and sustainable agriculture with special consideration of the smallholder farmer is essential for food security. Food sovereignty must be incorporated into the Post 2015 Development Policies. “Investments in agriculture are more effective in lifting people out of poverty than investments in any other sector—they not only drive economic growth and set the stage for long-term sustainable development, they pay high dividends in terms of quality of life and dignity for poor rural people.” said the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze.
Corporate Social Responsibility Implementation of the UN Framework for Business and Human Rights http://www.business-humanrights.org/SpecialRepPortal/Home should be included in the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Governments need to develop mechanisms and regulations to ensure Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability.
Gender Equality The empowerment of women and girls and the protection of their rights must be at the center of the Post 2015 development agenda. Gender equality must be adequately addressed and maintained as a clear focus in relationship to its root causes and poverty eradication.
Sustainable Development Goals The proposed Sustainable Development Goals for all countries need to be limited in number, time-bound, concise, action oriented, global in nature, easy to communicate and sensitive to the fact that ‘one size does not fit all’. There needs to be common goals with differentiated targets and indicators. Incorporating the strengths of the Millennium Development Goals and learning from weaknesses will be a step towards ensuring success. All relevant stakeholders should be actively involved in realizing these goals. Sustainable Development Goals must be socially, economically and environmentally sound and gender sensitive.
Measurement of Development Qualitative as well as quantitative measures of sustainable development must include social, cultural, environmental, economic and political aspect of wellbeing.
Monitoring and mutual accountability An accountability mechanism must be established supported by a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on development modeled on the UPR mechanism of the Human Rights Council. This mechanism should cover all relevant issues linked to human rights, trade, macroeconomic policy, the environment, financing and political participation. The UPR remit should be extended to considering information provided by such stakeholders as civil society and the private sector, in addition to governments. Information on reports and Universal Periodic Review findings should be made widely available through channels that actively target all relevant stakeholders.
 Realizing the Future We Want –para 93
 Development Dialogue No Future without Justice- page 98
 The Future We Want -para 226
 Realizing the Future We want- para 109
 Development Dialogue No Future without justice- Pages 64,73
 Development Dialogue No Future without justice- Pages 21, 63
 ibid- page 100
Do you know that:
- At least 967 million people go to bed hungry every night.
- Every year 20 per cent of Earth’s people in the rich nations use 75 per cent of the world’s resources and produce 80 per cent of the world’s waste.
- 1.1 billion people in developing countries lack adequate access to water.
- In 1950 the world numbered 2 billion people; by 2030 there will be 10 billion people on the planet. To translate these statistics into a vivid image, another Mexico is added every 60 days and another Brazil every year.
- In the last 25 years, 20 per cent of all living systems have become extinct and when these plants and animals disappear, they never come back again.
- It is estimated that there are more than 200 million international migrants in the world today.
- Women account for 70 per cent of the world’s people who live in absolute poverty.
- Women hold only about 14 per cent of parliamentary seats worldwide and account for two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults.
- Girls account for two-thirds of the world’s children without access to school.