This week is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. One of the ways to raise awareness and combat this offence is to better apply laws that protect women.
Thirty-five years ago, a group of activists set aside November 25th as a day in which to tackle the violence women face. With the full support of the UN, in 1999, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was adopted as a resolution.
Werksmans Attorneys, Pro Bono Lead Lawyer Deshni Naidoo says even before then, in 1967, UN Member States adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which set out that discrimination against women is an offence against human dignity. Since then, the consistent call on States were women are abused has been to “abolish existing laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women, and to establish adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women”.
Naidoo notes, however, that “…despite the resolutions, declarations and recommendations adopted by the United Nations and the specialised agencies promoting equality of rights of men and women, extensive discrimination against women continues to exist”.
She says international law set out in the Charter of the United Nations (adopted in 1945), in Articles 1, 13 and 55; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 2; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), offer several layers of protection to women.
“Implementation and use of those laws are where the problem lies.”
She says while the aspect of application of law needs to be addressed, the conversation on combating violence of women needs to progress to the topic of institutionalised violence “[We] need to address insidious behaviour in our society which places (from birth) more value on males than females.”
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