[Brussels, 15 September 2017] In July 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) adopted a new General Recommendation, which builds on a previous key document, General Recommendation 19.
General Recommendation 35 updates the previous text, and provides a strong reference and tool for advocacy action for women’s organisations. Taking stock of the developments of the last 25 years, GR 35 reaffirms the UN commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls.
GR 35 defines gender-based violence against women as a social problem, requiring comprehensive responses, and “one of the fundamental social, political and economic means by which the subordinate position of women with respect to men and their stereotyped roles are perpetuated”. Violence against women is “a critical obstacle to achieving substantive equality between women and men, and a violation of women’s human rights”. It manifests in a continuum of multiple, interrelated and recurring forms, including violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and is supported by a series of factors, among which the ideology of men’s entitlement and privilege over women.
GR 35 recognises the new forms of violence against women and girls, redefined “through technology-meditated environments, such as contemporary forms of violence occurring in the Internet and digital spaces”. As EWL is developing its #HerNetHerRights project on cyberviolence against women and girls, it is very important to see an international recommendation taking stock of the role of technology-mediated settings in the perpetuation of male violence.
The EWL is also satisfied to see that GR 35 takes stock of the UN agreed language when it comes to prostitution, and identifies being in prostitution as a factor for higher vulnerability to male violence. GR 35 also calls for the repeal of legislation that “criminalises abortion, being lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and of women in prostitution”.
GR 35strongly calls for action from the international community: it (re)defines a series of obligations for States, and highlights that reservations to the CEDAW Convention are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention. Among many obligations, it is good to see a call for legislation, budgeted measures, access and implementation of justice. GR 35 understands violence against women to be linked to a societal context and therefore calls for education and training of the judiciary, and measures to eliminate discrimination against women, including harmful and stereotyped portrayal of women.
Thanks to women’s organisations, the lived experiences of women survivors and victims have been taken into account, and GR 35 mentions the need to train professionals about the understanding of trauma and its effects, or the power dynamics that characterise intimate partner violence, but also to ensure that gender-based violence against women is not mandatory referred to alternative dispute resolution procedures (including mediation and conciliation) and that women victims/survivors get effective reparation.
We have now a very important document for the women’s rights community, and we hope to see its implementation at all levels, including by the EU and its member states.
Find out more about EWL work to end all forms of male violence against women here, including EWL 2017 factsheet ’Disrupting the continuum of violence against women and girls’.