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Oral Statement at CSW by the Middle East Caucus

03/01/2007

Speaker: Amal Mahmoud Fayed
When: Friday, March 2, 2007
What time: 3:00 – 6:00 pm, General Debate
Organization: Middle East Caucus (Amal Fayed herself is from the Forum for Women in Development and Karama Arab Group for Ending Violence Against Women)

Topic: Arab Women's Suffering Under Armed Conflict, Economic and Political Situation Threatening Women's Dignity

We are the women in the Middle East Caucus participating in the CSW sessions from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen.

We consider women's dignity to be the essence of a woman's right and a woman's life. In Arabic, this word for dignity is 'Karama.' We believe the elimination of discrimination and violence against women is a reclamation of dignity and a defense of human rights.

We urge the formal government delegations at CSW to place a greater focus on prevention of violence against women and protection for children from violence, and conflict resolution in the Middle East region. War brings the maximum escalation of violence into human lives and the greatest violations of human rights and women's rights. War brings obstacles that affront the development process, which enacts a double form of violence against women: 1) traditional practices based on cultural heritage, 2) practices of the occupation force against local women, including rape, prostitution, economic exploitation, and violence.

Women from Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, and Somalia are experiencing the height of victimization by armed forces at war in their countries. Yet there exists no international convention that explicitly protects the rights and safety of women within armed conflict zones, and their survival. Neither is there questioning of those responsible for this military and gender violence in our region.

The cost of war to women and its exponential harm is our concern. To eradicate the roots of war in our region, we must also transform the abuse of global media which stereotypes Arab women as passive, oppressed, and incapable of self-determined rights and liberties. These stereotypes in the global media are used to market so-called democratic reforms as a justification for military action. The democratic reforms do not arrive, instead women and their families suffer increasing injustice and loss of human rights living under armed conflict.

We ask the CSW and UN to focus their efforts to solve the special problems for women and girl refugees, to protect them from the violence and discrimination they face in escaping war and in the countries to which they flee. The resources for UN ANWRA should be increased to offer necessary services and additional program to serve and protect women and girl refugees. They live as some of the most vulnerable and unprotected people in the world.

The World Bank policies such as structural adjustment and privatization in the Middle East are dramatically increasing poverty and economic deprivation and violence, with an exaggerated burden falling on women and their children. Economic crisis makes women more vulnerable and exposes them to many forms of abuse, especially sexual abuse. We demand review of all of these economic policies and insist on a special convention on the economic empowerment of women and girls.

We also take into consideration on our region the position of immigrant women, who suffer double dimensions of violence and violations of their rights: economic violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and abuse of their civil status and rights in the host country where they have immigrated, as well as male domination and forms of discrimination suffered in their country of origin. We urge a Special Protocol to protect immigrant women in whatever nations they live, and to ensure their rights despite any disparity between the laws of their country of residence and the laws of their country of citizenship/origin.

Violence against women is a crime against all humans. UN member nations and governments must protect all women, and punish those responsible for committing the violence. We want to see the Declaration to End All Forms of Violence Against Women transformed into a UN Convention banning gender violence, to which governments sign their commitment and monitor compliance in their countries.

Because of the expansion of all forms of violence against women and girls in the Middle East in the private sphere, public sphere, or by states, we request a policymaking process with outcomes that are more concrete, more committed, and more enforced with laws, programs, and resources to integrate gender perspective in all institutions, agencies, and governments.

We urge the private sector to implement international criteria and standards for ethics to protect women and girls from exploitation and abuse in workplaces, employment, services, and industry.

We urge the partners in the 1999 UN Global Compact on Corporate Leadership in the World Economy, which upholds social responsibility and human rights principles across the private sector, to implement and enforce these international ethics and criteria that protect women and girls from economic abuses. We encourage national authorities and local governments to impose penalties on any private sector entity that commits violence or discrimination against women and girls.

In the Middle East and around the world, we regard the civil society organizations as essential partners with national and local government bodies in their strategic decisionmaking and policymaking to eliminate violence and discrimination against women and girls. This partnership will ensure that the national and local governments will have strategies that are more diverse, representative, and stronger in their protection of women and girls.

We support the effort for UN reform of the gender architecture to achieve equality and to end all forms of discrimination against women in the UN structure. We call on all UN agencies to support, implement, and integrate the work of UNIFEM, OSAGI, and the Division for the Advancement of Women, and to significantly increase their budgets.

We recommend that UN agencies and member nations invest a greater commitment and more resources to offer shelters and welfare for women victims of violence, to establish legal procedures that protect these shelters and those who work at them, defending women from violence.

We urge UN member nations to enact equality for women and men in both word and deed, enforcing it in the written laws and in the application of the laws, especially in criminal law which has biases that favor men and allow the trafficking and abuses of women.

We need to raise the legal age for marriage to 18 years in all countries, for women and for men, in order to stop violence and forced marriage of girls underage.

It is a necessity to ensure girls' rights to have their mother's citizenship, especially to ensure the mother's right to pass her nationality to her children. We highlight especially the Palestinian women's suffering from Israel Family Unification Law, which denies citizenship and permanent residency to any Palestinian from the Occupied Palestinian Territories who marries an Israeli citizen, a right available to spouses from every other country in the world.

The Secretary General's report on Violence Against Women should follow up with more attention to specific populations of women and girls who suffer double dimensions of discrimination and violence: on one level as women and then again as women with disabilities, girls in armed conflict, women detained or in prison, women suffering mental health disabilities.