Lahore: International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) and International Council for Human Rights (ICHR) today hosted a full day conference entitled Protecting & Promoting Women’s Rights. The conference explored international women’s human rights issues general and in conflict areas in particular and the applicable international legal framework, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in the context of violence against women, rape, and women human rights defenders.
Speakers included Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of ICHR and IHRAAM’s Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Mrs. Angélica C. Navarro Llanos, Ambassador Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the UN, Ms. Isha Dyfan, Chief of Women’s Rights and Gender Section in the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel, Permanent Representative of WILPF to the UN, Prof. Melissa Rancourt, Founder of Greenlight for Girls & the Head of Faculty – Boston University, Prof. Fozia Nazir Lone, Women’s Rights Expert – University Hong Kong, Mr. Neil Buhne, Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recover, Prof. Frances Heidensohn, Gender & Justice Expert – LSE, Dr. Lale Say – World Health Organisation, Mrs. Shamim Shawl, Chairperson – Kashmiri Women’s Forum, Dr. Emma Brännlund, NUI Galway University, Ms. Mary-Ann Mills, Vice Chair – the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, Dr. Suzanne M. Clisby, University of Hull, Princess Micheline Djouma, President & Main Representative International OCAPROCE, Prof. Veerle Draulans, Gender Studies – University of Leuven, Ms. Sylvia MacAdam, Co-Founder of Idle No More, Dr. Mareike Schomerus, The Justice & Security Research Programme – LSE, and Dr. Mazahir Osman, Chairperson of the International Muslim Women’s Union.
Chairing the opening plenary, Barrister Tramboo outlined the dedicated work undertaken by the UN and its agencies and by NGOs over the last decade in providing care and sexual health support on the ground, raising global awareness, pursuing ground-breaking legal cases and working with member states to frame vital UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security, including Resolutions 1325 and 1820. However, he stressed that tackling sexual violence is central to conflict prevention and human rights fundamental worldwide and stressed that violence against women must be an urgent priority to the international community. And it also cannot be separated from wider issues of women’s rights. Barrister Tramboo expressed concerns of the chilling reports of rape in Kashmir, Syria, Palestine, Dalits, indigenous peoples and many other conflict areas today along with the murder, torture and repression of thousands of innocent civilians.
H.E. Mrs. Navarro Llanos commended the work undertaken by the office of the UNHCHR, and gave examples about her country’s experience of discrimination against indigenous peoples, women in particular, she highlighted the importance impact of democracy on improving women’s rights.
Ms. Isha Dyfan said the Security Council held an open meeting in December to discuss sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and it expressed deep concern that such violence continued to occur, becoming in some situations “systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality.” The Council also unanimously adopted resolution 1960 which allowed the Secretary General to supply it with detailed information on parties credibly suspected of responsibility for patterns of sexual violence during armed conflict. The Council expressed its intention to use such a list of perpetrators as a basis for action, including the consideration of sanctions and other targeted measures.
Chairing the first session, Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel appreciated the holding of this conference and said that usually human rights are discussed in general, yet we fail to acknowledge the women’s human rights. She congratulated the organisers for bringing together a wide-range of experts of women’s human rights from different part of the world.
Prof. Fozia Nazir Lone stressed that efforts should be encouraged to incorporate women rights concerns at each stage of pre-conflict agreement negotiations so that women rights concerns appear bold in the post-conflict reform when the time comes. Time has come to divorce patriarchal morals in the management of Kashmir conflict and make it gender oriented so that women are protected. She went on explaining the issue of women in Kashmir as a pre-conflict case study, she concluded that it is time to effect a revolution for protection of Kashmiri women in never ending conflict, it is an hour to reestablish their lost dignity and giving a voice to their silence. Reestablishing them as actors in pre-agreement conflicts resolution rather than just visualizing them as victims of violence.
Dr. Lale Say presented the latest work undertaken by World Health Organisation an said that violence against women is a widespread public health and human rights problem and has multiple health, social and economic consequences for the individual, families, communities and society.
Prof. Frances Heidensohn focused on women and justice, particularly women’s experiences of criminal justice. She outlined some key questions and proposed possible solutions for inclusion in an agenda for change.
Judge Mary-Ann Mills highlighted that Alaska has been overlooked by the world as it struggles with every high rates of violence against women and described it as a crime scene. Around one third of all women have been raped. She went on describing that Alaskan women have among the highest rate of sexual violence. She spoke about how in order to stop atrocities against indigenous women we must have absolute self-determination and self-determination placed at the top of the Human Rights Council agenda.
Dr. Suzanne M. Clisby provided her own definition of violence against women as a continuum for minor acts to major acts of violence during conflict. She said that we need to look closely at patriarchal societal norms to analyze what the relationship between gender and power is. She described it as relations embedded in society, and notes a rise in gender issues, noticed also a shift from denial of violence to an acceptance that it exists, noted that violence is underpinned by gender