UK MPs join Arab League in calling for internationally legally-binding treaty to tackle violence against women
LONDON - The Arab League and a group of cross-party MPs from the UK and Arab region on Wednesday gathered together to stand united in reaffirming their commitment to tackling violence against women and girls and to making our societies safer, more inclusive and equitable.
They also called for women’s rights to be prioritised through adopting a legally binding international convention across the Arab region to tackle gender-based violence.
The Arab League is working to adopt its first ever regional treaty to tackle violence against women, known as the Arab Convention to Combat Violence against Women and Girls and Domestic Violence. Once adopted, that would represent a commitment of up to 22 Arab countries and will protect an estimated 200 million women and girls by enacting measures to prevent violence and prosecute perpetrators. It would also be the first ever international treaty to tackle violence against women in the Arab region.
The Arab League’s convention has been drafted in a way to serve as important international reference in the field, as despite many diverse efforts taking place to tackle gender-based violence there is no legally binding instrument designed specifically to protect women from violence. The convention, which is a legally binding text, will set the scene for pushing forward consolidated international and regional systems to protect women and girls from violence.
At an event hosted Wednesday by the UK’s democracy-support agency, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, MPs from across the political spectrum joined the Arab League in calling for women’s rights to be prioritised across the region.
This progress comes at an important moment, as since the outbreak of COVID-19, all types of violence against women have intensified. This is known as the Shadow Pandemic. Globally, one in three women will experience some form of violence during their lifetime and that number may in fact be much higher, as many cases go unreported.
Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary General, League of Arab States, said in her keynote speech that “the objective of gender equality and the empowerment of women is one of the key objectives of the Arab League General Secretariat, including Combatting all forms of violence against women.”
“The Arab League launched many initiatives to drive these policies and ensure its implementation. In this respect, working on the development and elaboration of the Arab Convention to Combat Violence against Women and Girls including Domestic Violence, is a key milestone, especially that it was submitted with the great support from Arab Parliamentarians, which gives a solid foundation from the representative of people,” said Abu Ghazaleh.
The convention is also very important for Arab countries.
“The Arab league and the General Secretariat is keen to continue its key role which the in driving forward comprehensive regional system and strategy to combat violence against women and respond to this global pandemic,’’ she added.
Wafa Bani Mustafa, Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries and a former Member of the Jordanian House of Representatives, said “The efforts by the Coalition and the Arab League on this initiative send a powerful message about the fundamental importance of combatting violence against women.”
“It demonstrates our great commitment as parliaments and governments to what is a priority in the Arab region and should be worldwide. We will commit to continue on the path to change the lives of women and girls in the Arab region, through the protections highlighted by this convention,” she added.
Dina Melhem, Director of Middle East and Norther Africa and Senior Human Rights Adviser at Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) said that “The Convention has been written with the intention of becoming a source of International law regarding combating Gender-Based Violence.”
“There is an important role for this Convention and the League of Arab states to play a pioneering role in this field, namely in the absence of an international convention related to this topic,” she added.
The draft Arab Convention to Combat Violence against Women and Girls and domestic violence represent the vision of Arab states to embed a culture of non-violence and non-discrimination against women and girls, promoting an integrated regional system. The Convention has been sponsored by the Arab League, with support from the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to combat violence against women.
The convention was first proposed in 2016 by the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries, with technical support from Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). The Coalition and WFD promoted the draft convention and highlight its importance, especially to Arab parliaments, through organizing round table discussions designed to present and discuss the draft in parliaments.
Key provisions of the convention include:
- The importance of disseminating a culture of human rights, especially for women, to prevent women from violence, considering that discrimination constitutes violence in itself and a source of violence.
- broad international definition of violence against women and girls of various forms and types, which is contained in the international instruments on combating violence against women and girls and domestic violence, which constitutes a compilation and summary of the international definitions that preceded it- its main addition is on VAW in politics
- the types of violent crimes and the measures to be taken to deal with them, including, but not limited to, the right to due process and civil remedies, the right to visit and be protected without endangering the security of the victim and children, rape, forced marriages, crimes against children, incitement to prostitution, .
- special protection measures alongside periods of peace, periods of armed conflict and insecurity
- the importance of protecting the privacy of women with special needs, refugees and displaced women in the Arab region, focusing on ending the impunity of perpetrators of violent crimes and focusing on the importance of establishing shelters and shelters for victims of domestic violence and violence against women.
- a mechanism for monitoring and follow-up to the implementation of the Convention, which is reflected through the establishment of an expert group and how they choose and methods of work.
- the Convention is without prejudice to the requirements of domestic law and other binding international conventions in force or to be in force, under which persons may be recognized or may be granted more positive rights in the prevention and control of violence against women and domestic violence