By Loeky Droesen
During the CSW this year, the member states of the UN are negotiating to reach Agreed Conclusions on what states/governments should do to end Violence Against Women. And today we find out if they are even able to reach agreement. But unfortunately even if promises and commitments are made at the UN, they are often are not translated in action at the national level.
On Thursday the 7th of March between 14.30 and 16.00, about 60 people squeezed into the Drew room (official capacity 35 seats) at the church center to participate in the workshop: “Making our Domestic Violence laws work in practice. A short survey of the participants showed all the continents of the globe were represented, with the exception of the Pacific, and more than half the participants worked in practice providing services to victims/survivors of Domestic Violence[i]. Most of the participants also did lobby and advocacy at the national level and a slightly lower number at the international level.
In many of our countries, often as a result of a strong lobby by women’s rights groups, governments have adopted Domestic Violence legislation and often also developed action plans. But as many participants in the workshop confirmed, the implementation of these laws and policies is weak in practice. It is very frustrating to see that despite a legal framework, in practice Domestic Violence continues and women continue to suffer. But as civil society we cannot get disheartened and have to explore new and innovative ways to make our government’s live up to their legal obligations under national law and Human Rights treaties and to the commitments they made in policy agreements, such as CSW Agreed Conclusions.
The hosts of the workshop: Rights for Change, the Netherlands; WOREC, Women's Rehabilitation Centre, Nepal and Masimanyane, South Africa[ii], shared our experiences as co-developers of The Human Rights assessment instrument on Domestic Violence, DOVA (download your own copy from http://www.humanrightsimpact.org/themes/womens-human-rights/domestic-violence/project-overview/). We developed this step by step guide to make it easier for Civil society carry out action and rights based research on Domestic Violence[iii].
Lesley Anne Forster of Masimanyane shared that a team of South African NGO´s[iv] had used DOVA’s step by step questions, to help them prepare their recently submitted request for an Inquiry to the committee of the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW. In the request, they make the case that women in South Africa are experiencing grave and systematic violations of their Human Rights because of the extremely high levels of Domestic Violence. The research shows that although the South African state has put mechanisms in place to address Violence Against Women, including Domestic Violence, little has changed in practice. Their evidence strongly indicates, that the South African state actors fail to adhere to due diligence standards, so do not live up to their Human Rights obligations. By submitting the Inquiry request, the CEDAW committee is invited to come to South Africa to see what is happening and to guide and assist South Africa in finding approaches that do help to stop the violence and to make South Africa live up to the commitments they made.
Preparing a request for an Inquiry is not an easy task to undertake and only a few organizations worldwide have had the courage to undertake the work. It was great to hear that DOVA provided help in structuring the research and excellent news that South African Ngo’s had the courage to take on this momentous job. A copy of the inquiry request can be found at http://www.dgmt.co.za/files/2013/02/OP-CEDAW-INQUIRY-FINAL-DRAFT-Recovered.pdf
The next presenter was Renu Rajbhandari who is the founder of Worec Nepal and currently active in Alliance of Women Human rights defenders. She explained that as a medical doctor, she became concerned and involved in the suffering of women in Nepal. One of the serious medical problems women face in Nepal, is that they go back to work too soon after giving birth. One of the side effects can be a prolapsed uterus. This medical condition can be reversed but poor women cannot afford to pay for the treatment. Renu realized that solving the problem would require government intervention and that women had the Right to health, but she was not sure as a medical doctor who to use Human Rights standards. With the help of HeRWAI, the Health rights of women assessment instrument (a copy can be downloaded from
http://www.humanrightsimpact.org/fileadmin/hria_resources/HeRWAI_Training/HeRWAI_engels_2010.pdf), Worec undertook as study, and by using the results of the research, successfully lobbied the Nepali government for a change in policy and to give Nepali women access to restorative surgery.
Renu has since become a fan of using fact-based and rights-based research as a basis of strong lobby and advocacy and Worec joined the DOVA development team. In 2013, a coalition of Nepali organizations will undertake an in depth research on the how and if the Nepali Domestic Violence law works in practice. Looking at the impact of the law through the eyes of e.g. people living with disabilities, homeless women or women working in the entertainment sector, they will find out about the specific challenges faced by women facing multiple discrimination and Domestic Violence. Uncovering these challenges will help Nepali civil society in asking for targeted improvements in legislation and practical implementation. The Nepali team is already hard at work to translate DOVA in Nepali.
The participants in the workshop were impressed with the work done by the presenting organizations In our discussion many speakers reminded us of the fact, that working to end violence against women is a long hard road. Many activist get tired of finding obstacles on the road to improvement. But we were also reminded that every women who survives violence and builds up a new life is a success story. And woman and man living in harmony and making their own choices in life, is the world we want to achieve.
Loeky Droesen is freelance consultant at Rights for Change, the writer of DOVA, board member of the Women Peacemakers Program and policy advisor at RutgersWPF
[i] Perhaps it would better to use the term intimate partner violence in this blog. The more conservative forces at the CSW do not like that term at all. They feel using the term would somehow recognize the existence of same sex couples, something they want to avoid at all cost.
[ii] With the support of Ausaid
[iii] The other co-developing organizations include Center for Legal Civic Initiatives, Albania; Mosaic, Training, Service and Healing Centre for Women, South Africa; WILDAF, Women in Law and Development, Ghana; ZWLA, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Zimbabwe; Centro de la Mujer Peruana Flora Tristan, Peru; Independent consultant Anara Moldasheva, Kyrgyzstan and The Network/Research Center for Combating Domestic Violence (CDVN), China
[iv] Which also included Mosaic