UN Agrees to Advance Women’s Rights through Accountability

States meeting at the Commission on the Status of Women call for end to impunity for perpetrators of grave crimes against women and girls.

“There can be no peace, no progress, as long as there is discrimination and violence against women”said outgoing head of UN Women Michelle Bachelet upon the conclusion of the 2013 UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York on 15 March.

The adoption by the Commission’s 45 member states of a range of provisions in the outcome document was widely hailed as a significant advance towards the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. Its last meeting in 2012 had closed without agreement.

Accountability for grave crimes against women and girls
Notably, states agreed to include references to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the urgent need for accountability for grave crimes against women and girls:

  • “The Commission recalls the inclusion of gender-related crimes and crimes of sexual violence in the Rome Statute of the ICC, as well as the recognition by the ad hoc international criminal tribunals that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide or torture.” (5)
  • “End impunity by ensuring accountability and punishing perpetrators of the most serious crimes against women and girls under national and international law, and stressing the need for the alleged perpetrators of those crimes to be held accountable under national justice or, where applicable, international justice.” (A.n)

Crucial NGO advocacy 
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world, including the Coalition, played an active and crucial role in the run-up to and during the Commission’s sessions, including through the submission of written and oral statements, attending meetings, and participating in panel discussions. NGOs also held and participated in a range of side events:

  • Coalition Program Director Jelena Pia-Comella spoke, along with John Washburn of the American Coalition for the ICC, at a panel discussion entitled ‘Prosecuting gender-based crimes before the ICC’ organized by the International Alliance of Women. Pia-Comella was also interviewedon African radio ‘la Voix de l’Amerique’ on the need to obtain justice for women, especially pertaining to the ICC Rome Statute.
  • Switzerland hosted a meeting with the Special Gender Advisor to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, Brigid Inder.

What is the Commission? 
The UN Commission on the Status of Women is a subsidiary body (functional commission) of theUnited Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, the Commission’s member states and observers gather to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

What happens now?
The Commission’s next session will take place in 2014, and will focus on the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, The Coalition will therefore play an active role in promoting recognition of the ever-increasinginterconnectedness between sustainable development and justice and the rule of law.

Where can I learn more?
Our gender justice webpage
The website of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.
Watch Women’s Initiatives “Our Voices Matter” which features interviews with women victims/survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.