All over the world, women continue to suffer discrimination and violence. In many countries, discrimination is enshrined in the law : women are refused equal rights in marriage and divorce, to custody of children, nationality, inheritance and land. But even in those countries where women have achieved – often partial – equality in law, laws are rarely fully implemented. Violence against women persists as a result of inadequate legislation to protect victims and prosecute and punish perpetrators, obstacles to access to justice and a lack of political will on the part of public authorities who tolerate the spread of violence against women. When violence against women is not punished, it contributes to a culture of impunity which in turn contributes to the repetition of such crimes.
Women are not just victims. Everywhere, they are the leading figures of their own emancipation. Yet women’s rights defenders are targeted with particular forms of repression because of their sex and the nature of their activities.
Women remain massively under-represented in political and other decision-making bodies. Since 2000, the United Nations Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions recognizing the crucial role of women in conflict prevention, resolution and peace consolidation.
However, more than a decade later, only a handful of states has adopted national action plans, implementation remains weak and women continue to be marginalised in peace negotiations.
++++FIDH defends women’s rights
Since 2004, protecting women’s rights has been one of the core priorities of FIDH’s work. FIDH defends women’s rights through its Women’s Rights Action Group.
In order to promote the respect of women’s rights in law and practice, FIDH focuses action on two objectives:
- Eliminating discrimination: FIDH and its members and partners around the world advocate for the ratification, without reservation, of international and regional women’s rights protection instruments (CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the CEDAW, Maputo Protocol) and their implementation. Alongside members and partners on all continents FIDH investigates and reports on violations, engages in dialogue with national actors and mobilises regional and international mechanisms. FIDH has participated in launching two major campaigns:
- In every part of the world, access to justice for women victims of violence is limited. As a result of gaps in legislation, inadequate laws, stigmatisation and reprisals against victims, defective justice systems, costly proceedings... violence against women goes unpunished. FIDH endeavours to facilitate access to justice for survivors of violence, documents obstacles to justice at the national level and advocates for legal, institutional and political reforms. In several cases, FIDH provides legal assistance and representation to victims of crimes of sexual violence before national courts (for example, in DRC, Guinea and Ivory Coast). FIDH also advocates for the International Criminal Court to systematically include sexual and gender-based crimes in prosecution strategies.
++++ Highlights 2014
- Libya adopts unprecedented decrees protecting victims of crimes of sexual violence
Victims of sexual violence used as a weapon of war during the Libyan revolution can now legally seek reparation in Libya. The Minister of Justice, Mr Salah El Marghany, adopted an unprecedented decree in February 2014 recognizing victims of sexual violence as victims of war. This historic step was taken following a high level meeting, organised by FIDH and its partners with Mr El Marghany and several French leaders to express support for the text and call upon the Libyan Congress to assume its responsibility in breaking the taboo that surrounds rape and sexual violence. In June, a second decree establishing the structure tasked with identifying the victims and according reparation was passed.
- FIDH’s Report « Egypt : Keeping Women Out – Sexual Violence in the public sphere »
Sexual harassment and assault against women remain rife, FIDH and its partner organisations warn in a report released in April, constituting major obstacles to their participation in the political transition of their country. Successive governments have failed to take measures to stop violence against women and such crimes continue to meet with complete impunity. The report presents over 250 cases, which took place between November 2012 and January 2014, in which women protesters were sexually assaulted and in some cases raped, by mobs of men.
Read full report
- Advocacy to advance women’s rights in Ugandan family law
In many areas related to marriage and divorce, Ugandan law discriminates against women or fails to protect their rights. Reform of the Ugandan law on marriage and divorce has been on the table for 50 years. The latest draft proposed, the Marriage and Divorce Bill, has its flaws, but it provides for minimum guarantees with regard to age of marriage and spouses’ consent. It also provides for equal rights regarding matrimonial property and divorce and outlaws the practice of levirate. The Bill came before Parliament most recently in July 2013 but the session was suspended to allow for further consultations to take place.
Alerted by its member organisation in Uganda, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), FIDH sent an international fact-finding / advocacy mission to Uganda in January and February 2014. During the mission, FIDH and FHRI, documented and analysed the obstacles to the adoption of the Bill.
In June, FIDH and FHRI, referred discriminatory provisions in the Ugandan marriage and divorce law to the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women, in law and in practice. The information submitted emphasized the need for Uganda to consolidate existing laws and provide for more equal rights between women and men, by passing the Marriage and Divorce Bill.