The second and last day of the Beijing+20 Regional Review Meeting at UNECE started with the panel-discussion on preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls. This proved to be the most popular item on the 2-day agenda, with lively responses from civil society in the room and a large number of member states waiting to make their statement. The Istanbul Convention was repeatedly brought up by member states as an important way of showing their commitment to elimination of violence against women and domestic violence. Besides progress on this issue there was a generally shared disappointed that this is still an issue that needs to be addressed, 20 years after the Beijing Platform for Action. Also, there was a general note that the increase in legislation in the different member states still lack behind on implementation.
The Istanbul Convention is a convention of the Council of Europe establishing a legally binding definition that violence against women is a violation of human rights. Three years after its opening for signature in Istanbul it was entered into force on 1 August 2014. To date, 14 member states of the Council of Europe have ratified this new human rights treaty and another 22 states have signed it. (As signatory, the Dutch government is currently in the process of ratifying the Istanbul Convention).
During the final discussion of the day about the way forward, ‘hot items’ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) were raised. Abortion is the known controversial topic between the ECE member states. The statements of the more progressive members (a.o. Belgium, UK, EU, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries) called for ‘inclusive’ or ‘real’ SRHR, as part of Human Rights. Less-progressive members called upon the ‘Right to life’ as part of Human Rights and as argument against abortion (Malta) and how implementation of SRHR should not be an obligation for inclusion of abortion in national constitutions (Hungary). Sascha Gabizon of Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) took seat on the last panel, discussing the way forward. She made a strong call for action and emphasized the inclusion of LGBT, migrant, and diaspora women.
Co-chair’s conclusions and next step
At the end of the day the co-chairs presented their conclusions of the Regional Review Meeting. The conclusions cover the nine items that were discussed during the 2-day meeting. All items have lists of specific recommendations. The most important recommendations that were presented for the way forward:
- States are encouraged to implement commitments undertaken by Beijing in 1995.
- Governments should lead change (also in gender equality in the labour-force and economy) in cooperation with civil society and business sector.
- Implementation of CEDAW, Israel Convention and UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security is crucial.
- The Post-2015 agenda should show a Human Rights Based approach and have a stand-alone gender goal.
- Involve men and boys in gender issues.
- SRHR remains an area of critical need for action.
The inclusion of ‘SRHR’ in the draft-text of the co-chair’s conclusions was read out loud in the room, meaning that it will most probably survive to the final version. LGBT is currently mentioned in the draft conclusions (which is for most part the accomplishment of the Netherlands), but it is doubtful if this will make it to the final conclusions.
The text of the co-chairs’ conclusions will be made public on the Regional Review Meeting Beijing+20 website in the second half of next week (around 13th of November). From then on remarks can be send to the secretariat for a period of two weeks. As there are no agreed conclusions, but co-chairs’ conclusions the co-chairs (the Netherlands and Azerbaijan) will be the ones considering the remarks and draw up their final conclusions. These will be send to the UN in New York, as input for CSW59.
= Sanne Holtslag, on behalf of WO=MEN =