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International commitment for the elimination of gender-based violence

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter…” These were words used by Dr Christine B. Ford at the hearing against Brett Kavanaugh and with them, I would like to introduce the following article. Violence against women is indelible for society as a whole because it is like that laughter, a destructive impact.

It is a matter of due diligence and state responsibility to prevent and eliminate violence against women since it is a violation of human rights.

The aim of the international community is to end impunity, and not just because of the public opinion but for the wellbeing and security of society. Further commitment should be applied for the elimination of those privileges of some perpetrators who have whole systems invested in their success that make them innocent when they are not.

Dubravka Šimonović, a UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, addresses the GA Report on violence against women 69/147, discusses on her visits and on the adequacy of the international legal framework on violence against women, presents responses received from regional mechanisms and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The international engagement is efficient. She especially advocates against femicide (the gender-related killing of women) and proposes the establishment at the global, national and regional levels of a “femicide watch” and observatories on violence against women, since it is a phenomenon that takes place in both the private and public spheres anywhere and results from mostly intimate partner violence and armed conflicts. Statistical studies by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirm that women and minorities are at more risk than (white) men and that in many countries, intimate partner or family-related homicide is the major cause of homicide against women.

The committee of experts on the follow-up mechanism to the implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women considers that the adoption, in 1979, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women reflected a new international model of respect for women’s human rights, with its own monitoring mechanism. Protocols to strengthen that like the one to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Women clearly need further support.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention, that also takes into account the Statute of Rome, 1998 in its powerful preamble) is a Council of Europe convention opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey. The 33 ratifying states have undertaken a series of initiatives to promote the protection of women against violence since the 90s. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also taken a firm political stance about it, by adopting a number of resolutions calling for legally-binding standards on preventing, protecting against and prosecuting the most severe and widespread forms of gender-based discrimination.

Furthermore, the Istanbul Convention mandates an independent expert body, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), with monitoring the implementations. It has been noticed that in EU 20% of women between 18 and 29 have been victims of online sexual abuse.

The innovation is that the Convention also contains a definition of gender in Article 3(c) as "the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men", which had some misinterpretations.

It is the majority of males, legitimized by patriarchal mechanisms (and by popular nationalists), that violently repress other genders. Moreover, it is clear that gender-based roles are too alienating and have a negative impact on our society, mostly that of “toxic masculinity” (of which “representatives” “mansplain” to silence our important and loud voices).

Fighting for equality and the elimination of violence should be everyone’s aim and must stop being a synonym of man-hating. Straight men are facing the irruption of the new female and LGBTQ+ subjectivity. Male chauvinists think that a sort of feminization is going on and it is “stupid, bad, socialist and disarming”. But as Simone de Beauvoir stated, “No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” They are scared.

What is at the core of gender-based violence, are sexist beliefs. Everything is sexist, from our language to online content, bra commercials, mottos. Sexist hate-speech takes place in all forms of social interaction and it is the most common kind of violence: “Both knowledge and policy action at all levels need to be developed to combat sexist hate speech” (The Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy).

So states that ratify the above-mentioned Conventions must criminalize several offences, not just homicide and rape, but also psychological violence (Art.33), stalking (Art.34), forced marriage (Art.37), female genital mutilation (Art.38), forced abortion and forced sterilization (Art.39).

The economic system too, is discriminating against women and in doing so, it is violent. Pay, economic independence, maternity and paternity leave duration, career opportunities, decision-making… Are still not equal for the genders in the private sector. In Europe 65% of women between 20 and 64 works (and most of them just involuntary part-time jobs) against 76% of men. These disparities might be a factor contributing to gender-based violence.

So, in September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (resolution 70/1), which sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. Goal no. 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, recognized as “a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets”.  Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is sensitizing against violence, economic disparity and disarmament, helping Goal 5 become increasingly real.

“Being born a woman is my awful tragedy. (…) My consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars--to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording--all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night...”  -Sylvia Plath.

Article by Clara Palmisano

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