Africa: International Women's Day - Violence Rises, Impunity Prevails

press release

Photo: UN Photo/Marco Dormino
Students attend class at a public school in Taliko, a neighbourhood of Bamako.

On the occasion of International Women's Day (8th of March), the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) published today its regional report "Violence against women in the context of political transformations and economic crisis in the Euro-Mediterranean region; trends and recommendations towards equality and justice".

This report alerts that violence against women has dramatically increased in the Euro-Mediterranean region during the recent years, showcasing key patterns of violence against women, through case studies from Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, France, Cyprus and Spain.

The report also underlines the alarming increase and severity of sexual violence in countries such as Libya, Syria and Egypt mounting to sexual terrorism. In Egypt, women protestors were subjected to systematic and seemingly planned harassment and gang rapes in Tahrir Square. In Syria, women and are subjected to trafficking and sexual exploitation girls in refugee camps.

During the 2011 protests, women detainees became victims of virginity tests ordered by Egyptian military forces. Syrian women have been exposed to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence and summary executions among other acts of violence, as seen on a recent EMHRN report.

Limited political participation also raises great concerns. In Egypt, women have been largely underrepresented in all constituent bodies since 2011, as well as in all transitional governments. In the government appointed on 16 July 2013, women held only 3 out of 34 ministerial portfolios. In Libya the 60-member committee charged with drafting a new constitution elected in February 2014 includes only six women.

In Europe, growing poverty and lack of economic independence prevents women from fleeing violent situations. 70% of the working poor in France are women. Austerity measures have hit women harder, including cuts in the public sector, notably in Spain and Cyprus, or services such as shelters, hotlines and women's rights mechanisms.

These measures are sometimes coupled with patriarchal and discriminatory policies inspired by conservative ideologies, such as the recent adoption in Spain of a draft law restricting the right to abortion.

The report shows that instruments and programmes to combat violence and end impunity are available at a regional level through the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Union for the Mediterranean and the League of Arab States and make recommendations to these key regional stakeholders on how to implement their instruments to combat violence against women in the Euro med region.

South and East Mediterranean governments and the European Union are urged to sign and implement the relevant international instruments to combat violence and ending impunity through the development of national legislations and gender sensitive judicial, security and transitional justice systems as well as support services for the victims.

Read full report here (English, French, Arabic)

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