UN agreement on ending violence against women finalized

The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has released the final text of the agreed conclusions of its recent fifty-seventh session, which focused on prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

On Friday, the commission, which met March 4 to 15 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, adopted conclusions that urges States to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and offers recommendations on addressing the problem.

"The Commission affirms that violence against women and girls is rooted in historical and structural inequality in power relations between women and men, and persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of the enjoyment of human rights," reads the final version of the agreed conclusions.

"Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women and girls of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"Violence against women and girls is characterized by the use and abuse of power and control in public and private spheres, and is intrinsically linked with gender stereotypes that underlie and perpetuate such violence, as well as other factors that can increase women's and girls' vulnerability to such violence."

The document was welcomed by the UN secretary general and also ecumenical women who participated in parallel events during the 57th CSW.

"The secretary general hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls," said Ban Ki-moon's spokesman.

"Good news for so many women and girls globally," wrote Mandy Barbante, co-director of Restored, an international Christian alliance of organizations working to end violence against women, on her Twitter.

Ecumenical organizations, including the World Council of Churches and World Christian Student Federation, sent women delegates to the 57th CSW event and to parallel event by Ecumenical Women that allowed women of faith join the conversation.

On March 13, Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC Associate General Secretary, delivered an oral statement on behalf of the Geneva-based organization.

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

During the global gathering, the WCC and WCSF released a book titled, When Pastors Prey, that addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse. The publication examines the issue in personal, ecclesial, legal and theological dimensions and provides specific guidelines for dealing with clergy "sextortion."

Dr Fulata Mbano-Moyo, WCC program executive for Women in Church and Society, and WSCF general secretary Christine Housel expressed hope that the ecumenical community could help address violence against women through more joint projects and advocacy.

The publication was welcomed by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. "Christian community and witness hinge hugely on the personal integrity of professionals in ministry. Yet that bond is severed by sexual exploitation and abuse, a phenomenon sadly present in the Christian churches around the world," he said.

Delegates from ecumenical organizations who attended the CSW event are continuing to post their reflections on the Ecumenical Women's website.

Raimy Ramirez, a member of the Student Christian Movement of Venezuela and WSCF, said one of the challenges remaining is to empower those spaces where decisions are made over the rights of women.

Even if "the ears of the people who choose not to be open," she wrote, "we have to keep screaming loud and keep in mind the need to keep walking, because although 'the pace is slow, is still underway.'"

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