24 May 2013
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The Charter of the United Nations (1945)
The Charter of the United Nations entered into force in 1945. It is the founding document of the organisation, affirming faith in fundamental human rights, justice and peace. It was signed by all the member states.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
The Universal Declaration gave birth to the major human rights instruments. It also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of theExploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949)
The convention begins with the statement that "prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community". It sets out provisions for the prevention of abuse of prostitutes and the punishment of those procuring others for the purposes of prostitution.
4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949)
The fourth Geneva Conventions was adopted in 1949 and covers civilians. Article 3, which is common to all four Genva conventions, urges combatants to refrain from violence against civilians, including murder, torture and inhumane treatment of all kinds, such as rape and other forms of sexual violence. Article 7 of the 4th Convention state that ”Female civilians in an occupied territory, internees and refugees must be protected against any attack on their honor, including rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.”
Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977
Protocol 2 Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977
The two additional Protocols adopted in 1977 respectively cover the Protection of Victims in International Armed Conflicts, and Non-International Armed Conflicts.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
Although human rights are interdependent in the sense that social, economic and cultural rights cannot be neatly and distinctly separated from civil and political rights, the international community choose to create 2 different instruments to cover each category. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) identifies rights which are equally applicable to men and women. It also contains special provisions for women.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(1966)
This Covenant recognizes that rights must be afforded to women and men on an equal basis.
Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (1966)
A growing number of countries have granted asylum to women on the grounds of certain acts of violence such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence. It is the leading international document which defines who is considered a refugee, and which lays out their rights.
Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1967)
The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated in 1967 that "discrimination against women, denying or limiting as it does their equality of rights with men, is fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offence against human dignity".
Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict (1974)
The Declaration urges to protect women and children during conflicts.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) has its origin in the International Bill of Human Rights. The documents incorporate The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together, they proclaim “the right to equality, liberty and security and the rights to be free from discrimination, torture and degrading and inhumane treatment”.
This Convention defines discrimination as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
Signatory states commit themselves to ending all forms of discrimination against women: by persons, by organisations or by enterprises. Sufficient legal protection must include the abolishment of discriminatory laws, along with the establishment of tribunals and public laws institutions.
The 177 states which ratified the treaty (as of June 9, 2004) must release regular reports, which are scrutinized by the UNHCR’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
General Recommendation 19 on Violence against women, adopted by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1992)
In 1992, the Committee adopted General Recommendation 19, which includes violence in the prohibition of gender-based discrimination: ”violence that is directed at a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately [is discrimination]”. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty". Violence against women is an internationally recognized human rights violation when either a public official or a private person commits the violence. State participating to the CEDAW must take all the necessary measures to eliminate violence, including legal sanctions, civil remedies, preventative measures, (such as public information and education campaigns) and protective measures (such as support services for victims).
UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna (1993)
The UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 generated a platform for women via the Global Campaign for Human Rights - which resulted in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which state that women’s rights are human rights.
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) (DEVAW)
The Declaration states that "violence against women constitutes a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women and impairs or nullifies their enjoyment of those rights and freedoms . . ."
The DEVAW, although it is not binding, is the first significant legal instrument that highlights sex discrimination, and advocates for “all measures” to be taken to “abolish existing laws, custom regulations and practices that are discriminatory against women, and to establish adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women” (Article 2).
Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (also known as the Convention of Belém do Pará) (1994)
The Convention declares that every woman has the right to be free from violence in both public and private spheres. In particular, the standard of due diligence (i.e., the efforts made by a state to implement a right in practice) has been implicitly incorporated in the Convention.
Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action (1995)
The Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 resulted in The Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, which strengthens the fundamental principal that the rights of women and girls are not separate from universal human rights. It calls upon governments to take measures which include the National Plans of Action, and to follow up on local implementation efforts.
The definition of violence, contained in the Platform for Action, is extended to"any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life."
Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (1998)
Article 7 of the Rome Statute, setting up the International Criminal Court (1998), declares that “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, and other forms of sexual violence of comparative gravity” are to be considered as war crimes. If these acts are knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population they constitute “crimes against humanity”. It includes gender-sensitive definitions of crimes, and progressive provisions relating to the protection of victims and witnesses during trial, as well as reparation for victims.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, December (1999)
In the absence of an adequate enforcement mechanism for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, an Optional Protocol was signed in 1999. It provides women with more efficient tools to bring to justice the violators of their rights, as defined by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The Committee can now receive complaints from both individual citizens and State party groups. Once a complaint has been filed, the CEDAW has the authority to adopt provisional measures to protect the victim from further harm.
United Nations Resolution 1325 (2000)
The Resolution emphasises states’ responsibility to end impunity for crimes against humanity, war crimes including sexual and other forms of violence against women and girls.
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (2000)
The Protocol defines trafficking as “at a minimum, the exploitation, forced labour services or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) of the African Union
The Protocol aims at making the participants take measures to suppress all forms of violence against women, identify the causes, punish the perpetrators and ensure effective rehabilitation and reparation for victims.
Several European conventions and laws
aim at eradicating violence against women.
Our Bodies - Their Battle Ground: Gender-based Violence in Conflict Zones
C O N T E N T S
Gender Based Violence: A silent, vicious epidemic
Film and PDF file
Our Bodies...their battleground: Gender-based Violence during Conflict
Download this in-depth report
Rape as a tool of war
What the humanitarians are doing
The responsibilities of the state and civil society in addressing gender-based violence
UN peacekeeping - working towards a no-tolerance environment
Impunity and gender-based violence: The second wound of rape
War and women's health
ANGOLA: After the war ends, violence against women continues
BURUNDI: Fear condemns many to silence
DRC: Fighters commit atrocities against women and also men
LIBERIA: Working on rebuilding lives and trust
LIBERIA: War leaves no respect for age in Voinjama, northern Liberia
LIBERIA: Rape and sexual violence come hand in hand with war
TAJIKISTAN: Civil war leaves one in three women victims of domestic violence
SUDAN: Rape as a weapon of war in Darfur
Interview with W. Kwendo Opanga, Executive Editor of the East African Standard, Nairobi
Interview with Jeanne Ward, GBV Research Officer, RHRC (Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium)
Interview with Laurel Patterson, UNDP, Programme Officer for Great Lakes Small Arms Reduction Programme
Links & References
Links and references
Map - Gender-based violence in countries in conflict & post conflict
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