Why we’re working with the Government on violence against women
The 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) takes place in New York from 4-15 March. The TUC is working with International Development Ministers Justine Greening and Lynn Featherstone to ensure that the session ends with agreed conclusions – unlike last year – especially on violence against women and girls. This is despite their Government’s attacks on women’s rights in the UK – and especially the cuts to women’s refuges, police domestic violence units and all the other public services that address gender-based violence. We’re doing it because, while we don’t agree with what the coalition is doing on the issue here at home, that shouldn’t stop us working with Ministers whenever they’re doing the right thing. It might even help us persuade them and the electorate that they’re doing the wrong thing here in Britain. And it would be no victory for feminism –here or in developing countries – for CSW57 to fail.
Secretary of State Justine Greening has written to the Executive Director of UN Women, former Chilean President Michele Bachelet, backing her work on violence against women and girls. She says:
“We owe it to every girl and woman around the world to send a clear and unambiguous signal that the world stands with them. It is the responsibility of the international community to ensure we agree strong conclusions at this year’s CSW, avoiding a repeat of last year’s failure to reach any conclusions at all.”
And her letter urges action to promote education for girls, and reproductive rights through access to family planning services.
There’s more that we’d like to see in the outcomes to CSW57, including more detail on reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose, which mustn’t become an excuse for not agreeing conclusions. Global Unions will be sending a delegation to New York (including Unite’s Diana Holland and Prospect’s Denise McGuire who chair the ITUC and UNI women’s committees respectively), calling for action on violence but also for decent work and quality public services.
But violence is the main issue that we and the UK Government will be concentrating on: violence in war (especially using rape as a weapon), in the home, in childhood through female genital mutilation and at work. As the global unions statement to CSW57 says:
“In Europe alone, 3,500 women are murdered by their intimate partners every year. Those figures are growing in several EU countries including Spain, Italy and the UK. A 2004 national study on femicide in South Africa estimated that a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six hours. In Latin America and in Canada, between 60 and 70% of all female homicides are perpetrated by an intimate partner.”
So we’re working with Tory and Liberal Democrat Ministers, despite the damage they’re doing back home. But once the UN session is over on 15 March, it’s back to the battle.