Church body speaks out on violence against women at UN

(Photo: WCC / Geronimo Sesumala)Dr Isabel Phiri, WCC's associate general secretary speaks at the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York on March 27, 2013.

Traditional values or religious beliefs cannot be used to justify violence against women, a global church body representative told a UN gathering recently.

Dr. Isabel Phiri, associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches read aloud a declaration from her organization at the United Nations in New York on March 14. She was attending a meeting of the UN body dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women.

The Commission on the Status of Women gathers annually to evaluate progress in gender equality, set global standards to generate policies and promotes women's empowerment.

"Now, more than ever, it is necessary to reiterate that women's rights are human rights, and that human rights are universal," she said. "Traditional values or religious beliefs cannot justify the acceptance of violence against women, nor can they be accepted as limitations on women's rights and freedom."

She also referred to a faith-based argument to urge protection.

"Women as well as men are created in the image of God and deserve to be respected, protected, and cared for," she said.

Dr. Phiri also read aloud from a WCC statement made in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, emphasizing its relevance today.

"We believe that empowerment is not possible as long as women live in contexts of violence, often exacerbated by cultural and religious tradition," Dr. Phiri read.

She said it was necessary for UN member states to agree upon and protect strong international frameworks.

She added that civil society, including faith-based groups had "an important role to challenge attitudes that contribute to undermining women's rights and dignity."

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