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Statement delivered by Charlotte Bunch, 57th Session of the Commission on Human Rights Agenda Item: 12 Integration of the Human Rights of Women and a Gender Perspective, April 10th 2001

The Center for Women's Global Leadership speaks today as an organization involved in the worldwide mobilization for the human rights of women at the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 and in many other arenas over the past decade. We note with alarm the recent tendency of some governments to question the historic recognition in Vienna of violence against women as a human rights violation.  This back stepping from previously articulated positions in various international and regional documents over the past decade must not prevail if the human rights of women are to be realized.

It is impossible here to cite all the documents where the growing understanding of how violence against women violates the human rights of women and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms has been spelled out. Allow me to mention a few: the Vienna Declaration, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action and the CSW Agreed Conclusions on VAW (1998), the CEDAW Committee General Recommendation19 and various Concluding Comments, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Elimination of VAW, and of course this Commission's previous resolutions on the subject - beginning with its 1994/45 resolution which "Condemns all violations of the human rights of women, including acts of gender-based violence against women." (OP 1, 1994/45)

In the words of the Beijing +5 UNGASS, "It is accepted that VAW, where perpetrated or condoned by the state or its agents constitutes a human rights violation.  It is also accepted that States have an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence, whether these acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons, and provide protection to victims."

We therefore see that the failure to exercise due diligence constitutes a human rights violation, that when non-state actors feel there is tolerance in society towards their acts of violence against women and girls, then the state has failed to exercise due diligence to prevent such violence. Unfortunately given the numbers of women who are victims of violence all over the world, we must conclude that few if any states have met the due diligence standard - particularly when it comes to violence in the family which remains the primary source of danger and death to women globally.    Even as we face the horrendous atrocities against women in war and armed conflicts as detailed in the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women's current report, we must bear in mind that fundamental violations of the human rights of women in the home are still the most prevalent abuses of human rights in the world and often create the conditions for other violations in the community and in war and conflict.

When we look at the accumulation of information about the extent of violence against women in the family, the community, and by the state presented to this Commission in the excellent reports of the Special Rapporteur on Violence and by others over the past decade, the question we should be asking is why has this violation not decreased and what can states do to address it more effectively, rather than quibbling over how to narrow the definition of state responsibility this violation.

Regarding the integration of women's human rights and a gender perspective into every area of the commission's work, we are particularly concerned with the need to integrate an understanding of the intersection of race and gender into the upcoming World Conference Against Racism and Other forms of Related Intolerance. This conference provides an important opportunity to demonstrate the indivisibility of human rights by moving beyond the linear division of issues reflected in many human rights treaties and mechanisms.  Just as women have sought gender integration into all issues, now we must apply this methodology to show how race and gender, as well as other factors, often intersect to shape particular forms of violations that require remedies that look at these multiple factors together as well as separately.

We must seek to ensure that the World Conference Against Racism does not just become an isolated year of looking at racism but an opportunity to advance a way of working that permeates all human rights practice in the future.  We must also use this occasion to address the debate over diversity and universality.  For while all women and men have a universal right to human rights, this does not mean that their experiences of abuse or strategies for change need to be identical.  Rather, human rights can only be universal in practice if they are looked at in terms of the full diversity of people's experiences and when diverse remedies are shaped in response to diverse and intersecting factors that deny women and men the full exercise of their human rights.

In this regard, we also commend the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions for calling attention in her reports to the urgent and often neglected area of violence against lesbians and gays and violations of human rights based on sexual orientation and identity. The silence that too often surrounds these issues in human rights deliberations and the impunity that perpetrators of such violations have too often counted upon undermines the rule of law and the principles upon which all human rights depend.  The time has come for this Commission to address this as a fundamental matter of human rights.

The future of all human rights for all depends on the full inclusion of the human rights perspectives and experiences of all. Work like that undertaken by this Commission to fully include the human rights of women and of a gender perspective into all human rights standards, mechanisms, and bodies is essential to the future realization of the universality of human rights.

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