The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Salesian Missions, Inc. recently submitted a joint statement for the 59th Session of the Comssion on the Status of Women (CSW), which is scheduled for March 2015. CSW is a function comssion of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide. For more information about CSW please click here.
OFFICIAL STATEMENT (Soon to be posted on the UN Website)
As international faith-based organizations of the Christian tradition, and moreover as members of the human community, we regard the empowerment of women and gender equality as central components of the post-2015 development agenda. We acknowledge the progress made by Member States and Civil Society Organizations since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Millennium Development Goals advanced the empowerment of women. The proposed Sustainable Development Goals of the Open Working Group augment the issue of women’s empowerment and gender equality. We support the continued strengthening of the efforts made by the global community to ensure the rights of women and girls through decisive goals, targets, and indicators. However, much work still needs to be done. The full participation of women at every level in setting the next development agenda is essential.
We believe that the global community must address the issues that impede development for all, especially women and girls. These issues include, inter alia, equal access to education for girls, infant mortality, maternal health, access to clean water and sanitation, the feminization of extreme poverty, and the denial of participation in both the private and public arenas. The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women identifies the continued prevalence of violence against women and girls as the greatest threat to overcoming these obstacles and notes that such violence impairs and nullifies the realization of all human rights.
We reaffirm our shared interest in the empowerment of women and girls worldwide and the right of all people to peace, security, and freedom. All persons are entitled to live with dignity regardless of gender and/or sex. We insist that the pursuit of equality and recognition of this universal dignity must continue solely by peaceful means, while remembering and respecting the unique contributions of both women and men within various cultures, customs, and traditions.
Assessing the Problem of Violence Against Women
Violence against women, both physical and psychological, takes many forms, inter alia: domestic violence, violence in armed conflict, rape and sexual assault, violence during migration, in the trafficking of women and girls, and conditions of extreme poverty. All forms of violence result in the silencing of women, denying them the right of expression and full participation in the life of their families, communities, and governments. Violence of any form must be systematically addressed by all levels of society.
The physical, emotional, physiological, spiritual, and social consequences inflicted upon victims of violence cannot be fully communicated or understood through data collection. However, the study of violence against women does provide evidence that women and girls are disproportionately subjugated to many forms of brutality, some of which are culturally based. The statistics related to violence against women and girls have been noted:
· According to the WHO, 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. In some national studies, 70% of women have experienced intimate partner violence.
· The WHO global review of scientific data concluded that violence against women is a “global public health problem of epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action.”
· The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has shown that nearly 1 in 5 women have reported experiencing rape in their lifetime. Over 42% of victims were first raped before age 18.
· UNICEF reports that about 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.
· Data from the ILO shows that women and girls comprise 55% of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour worldwide and 98% of the estimated 4.8 million victims forced into sexual exploitation.
· According to the United States Department of State, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. Over 70% of trafficked persons are female and many are victims of physical or sexual assault.
· The UNODC indicates that a disproportionate number of women are involved in human trafficking, both as victims and as culprits. Female offenders have a prominent role in human trafficking particularly where former victims become perpetrators as a means of escaping their own victimization.
· The United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict has noted that the vast majority of casualties in modern conflicts and wars are civilian women and children. Systematic sexual violence against women and girls is regularly used as a means to achieve political and/or military objectives and as a weapon of war.
A transformative development agenda will only be realized when violence against women and girls is eradicated. Affected by a traumatic experience or the fear of imminent violence, women and girls cannot live their lives freely. The systemic use of violence inhibits the accomplishment of daily tasks. It is our shared responsibility as a human community to protect women and girls and cherish their profoundly indispensable contributions in and outside the home, both locally and globally.
In a spirit of love and humility, we condemn any and all forms of violence against women, including the silencing of women, the denial of full participation in society, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, rape, and murder. Research shows that women and girls are disproportionately victims of such violence. It is our responsibility to help create a universal culture that denounces all forms of violence against women and girls and protects them against such cruelties. Such a culture preserves our humanity and universal human dignity.
We believe that a strong post-2015 development agenda must be committed to eliminating gender inequality and promoting the empowerment of women. Recognizing our common but differentiated responsibilities, we recommend that Member States and Civil Society partner to:
· Eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and/or forced labour as well as in military and political conflicts.
· Eliminate the increasing feminization of extreme poverty by achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all women with gender equity, providing equal pay for equal work.
· Ensure the provision of public services and adopt fiscal, wage, and social protection policies to progressively achieve greater gender equity.
· Ensure women’s full, inclusive, and effective participation, providing equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.
· Undertake legislative reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources.
· Move away from the soft law era through the adoption of legally binding instruments.
· Enforce previously adopted legislative policies protecting women and girls from all forms of violence.
· Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.