Statement by the Freedom Without Fear Platform: 16 December 2013

It is one year since the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, which was followed by the emergence of an unprecedented mass movement against rape and sexual violence in India. This movement had an enormous impact all over the world and here in Britain inspired us to form the Freedom Without Fear Platform. Today we would like to rededicate ourselves to the aims we started with, while expanding them to take on new challenges.

Here in Britain we are facing a racist and increasingly repressive state, which hypocritically claims concern about violence against women while ruthlessly cutting away what few resources still exist for women’s struggles against gender violence, and attempting to destroy the possibilities for women to autonomously and collectively organise against violence. Doing away with preventative measures or escape routes for women facing life -threatening situations, the British state now disempowers women completely, literally silencing them as their cases are handed over to a racist and increasingly privatised criminal justice system run by corporates like G4S and Serco, well-known for their own violence against women from Britain to Palestine. This combination of repression and corporate profits which are at the centre of Britain’s current gender violence policies is inherent in neoliberal capitalism. 

In 2014 we will face an attempt to criminalise Forced Marriage in the face of massive opposition from the vast majority of BME women’s organisations and feminist groups. 

In continuing to build resistance to these attacks, and to strengthen solidarity with movements like the ongoing anti-rape movement in India, we are also committing ourselves to making visible

  • the resistance to rape and violence against women in India and elsewhere - against a tide of racist representations which seeks to erase these struggles and portrays women outside the West and women of colour in the West as victims waiting to be saved.
  • the endemic nature of gender violence in Britain, including that of the state, and the struggles against it - against victim-blaming and demonising of ‘culture’.
  • the historical and ongoing effects of imperialism and global capital accumulation which underpin, reinforce and intensify gendered violence and injustice - against the normalisation of war, occupation, incarceration and neoliberal plunder.

As Kavita Krishnan points out in her reflections a year on from the eruption of the movement in India, ‘The only useful movement against sexual violence can be one that brings the problem home, right into the comfort zone, that challenges rather than reassures patriarchy, that exposes the violence found in the ‘normal’ rather than locating violence in the far-away and exotic. For people in the US or Europe, it might be reassuring to imagine that sexual violence and gender discrimination happens ‘out there’ in India, rather than to look around and question the violence embedded in the ‘normal’ around them. The questions to ask would be: how does the politics of ‘protecting’ women, and of propaganda about ‘good and bad women’ play out in advanced capitalist societies? In what ways are countries like the US and UK complicit in the violence and discrimination that women face in India or Bangladesh?’

http://kafila.org/2013/12/15/the-anti-rape-movement-the-political-vision-of-naari-muktisabki-mukti-kavita-krishnan/

Imkaan contributions to the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women now available on our website

Over the past two weeks, Marai Larasi (Executive Director at Imkaan) has contributed to five sessions at the Commission on the Status of Women; for the UN, the Home Office, the Canadian Government, and two NGO forums.  Marai also lobbied on behalf of UK VAWG services at other sessions during this time.  

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the United Nation’s principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.  Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.  

You can view some of Marai’s contributions to this year’s CSW on our Resources page, under ‘External Contributions and Mentions’.

The CSW has now agreed conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of VAWG.  Amongst the agreed conclusions, Imkaan particularly welcomes those that promote equal access to education, encourage appropriate responses to VAWG by statutory services, recognise the specific needs of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, migrants, and women with HIV, and the important role of the media and ICT in eliminating VAWG.

We have provided a small briefing on the agreed conclusions on our website here, and the full list of agreed conclusions should be available on the CSW website soon.

While there is much work to be done, the CSW conclusions present a critical opportunity for states to implement, strengthen and monitor the work to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls.  We will continue to lobby UK government to encourage targeted efforts to ensure that the conclusions are adopted to strengthen existing work on VAWG in the UK.

The Commission on the Status of Women agrees conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of VAWG

The 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women has taken place in New York over the last two weeks.

Amongst the agreed conclusions, Imkaan particularly welcomes conclusions that promote equal access to education, encourage appropriate responses to VAWG by statutory services, recognise the specific needs of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, migrants, and women with HIV, and the important role of the media and ICT in eliminating VAWG:

  • The acknowledgement of the important role of prevention and elimination of discrimination. 
  • The right to education as a human right, and the elimination of illiteracy, ensuring equal access to education, in particular in remote and rural areas and closing the gender gap at all levels of education, empowers women and girls and thereby contributes to eliminating all forms of discrimination and VAWG.
  • The commission urges states to strongly condemn all forms of VAWG and to refrain from invoking custom, tradition or religion to avoid their obligations as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
  • Ensure women and girls access to justice and effective legal assistance and processes.
  • Develop and implement multisectoral national policies, strategies and programmes with the effective participation of women and girls which include measures for prevention, protection, support services, data collection, research, monitoring and evaluation and national benchmarks for results to be achieved.
  • Adopt and fund policy reforms and programmes, and support education to train and strengthen the capacity of the judiciary, police, military, those working in education, health, social welfare, justice, defence and immigration; hold public officials accountable for not complying with laws and regulations related to VAWG.
  • Recognise the important role of the media in the elimination of gender stereotypes and in promoting non-discriminatory and gender-sensitive reporting, and in improving public awareness on VAWG, to train those who work in the media and to develop and strengthen self-regulatory mechanisms to promote balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women as creative human beings, key actors and contributors to and beneficiaries of the process of development.
  • Support the development and use of ICT and social media as a resource for the empowerment of women and girls including access to information on prevention and responses to VAWG and mechanisms to combat the use of ICT and social media to perpetrate sexual harassment, exploitation, child pornography, trafficking, cyber stalking and bullying.
  • Adopt and implement measures to ensure the social and legal inclusion and protection of women migrants, including women migrant workers.
  • Eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls living with HIV.
  • Ensure that in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, sexual and gender based violence are prioritised and addressed through investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators to end impunity and remove barriers to women’s access to justice. This includes establishing mechanisms of complaint and reporting, access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.

The CSW conclusions provide a critical opportunity for states to implement, strengthen and monitor the work to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls. The UK Government has been participating in these discussions and we hope to see targeted efforts from government to ensure that the conclusions are adopted to strengthen existing work on VAWG in the UK.