The United Nations and the international community annually celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November. As expressed by the UN General Assembly in its Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, gender-based violence is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women and to severe obstacles to the full enjoyment of women’s rights. The Declaration raises awareness of the suffering of women and girls on account of their gender and calls on all countries to combat it swiftly. This year’s focus is on Prevention and the first UN Framework on Preventing Violence against Women will be established and discussed at the official commemoration at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) has consistently made efforts to publicise and condemn numerous cases of gender-based violence towards unrepresented girls and women, in countries as different as China, Ethiopia, Iraq and Rwanda. By highlighting the following examples, we hope to increase public awareness about consistent human rights violations suffered by unrepresented girls and women.

Women and children make up the majority of the world’s displaced population from conflict. As victims of displacement, they experience additional challenges and vulnerabilities, such as sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

Women fleeing conflict, civil unrest, violence, forced marriages, genital mutilation, domestic violence, rape and gender-based social and economic exclusion, endure perilous journeys. They are exposed to violence and sexual exploitation at all stages of their journey by smugglers, fellow migrants or border guards in exchange for basic needs and documents. Upon reaching their destinations, many women continue to face harassment or assault and lack the necessary community support structures.

In Northern Iraq, under the occupation of the Islamic State, Yezidi, Assyrian and Turkmen women and girls are subject to rape and sexual slavery.

Furthermore, in West Papua, women are the most affected by the violence perpetrated by Indonesian authorities. They experience rape, sexual abuse and humiliation as systematic practices in detention, refuge facilities and police stations, in clear violation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Proper and effective complaint procedures are neglected or unavailable.

Violence against women is also adopted as a method of warfare. Women of the Ogaden community in Ethiopia are being killed, raped, harassed and physically abused, often in front of their children or husbands. The tactic of sexual-based violence against a vulnerable group furthers the agenda of the military to retaliate against political dissent and serves as a weapon to humiliate and instill fear within the community.

UNPO has organized a conference in February 2015 at the European Parliament aimed at bringing this atrocious issue and its consequences to the forefront of European politics, advocating for the rights of Ogaden women.

The European Commission published a Joint Statement on 24 November 2015 condemning “all forms of violence against women and girls”. In January 2016, a new Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 for EU External Relations will be adopted by the Council.

In relation to the working environment, UN Women believes that ”empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.”

UNPO recently attended a complementarity panel on gender justice at the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. There, the Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, reiterated the need for enhanced dialogue and cooperation between States Parties to effectively prosecute gender-based crimes on a national and international level.

While we can affirm that important efforts have been made in the international community to combat violence against women, more must be done, in terms of prevention and of social awareness. UNPO welcomes the progress made and reaffirms its commitment to raise awareness of gender-based violence, particularly concerning girls and women from unrepresented nations and peoples, who suffer from a double discrimination and whose voices are often neglected.

 

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