First draft of global treaty released

Ishrat Hyatt
Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021

Islamabad : Women’s Rights activists from 128 countries, including Pakistan, released the first draft of a global treaty to end violence against women and girls after eight years of extensive research and consultation with experts. The treaty will now go to the UN member states who are being urged to finalize and ratify this important international agreement, says a press release.

“We have international treaties for tobacco, landmines, and torture,” said Marina Pisklakova-Parker, one of the Co-Founders of Every Woman Treaty who started the first domestic violence helpline and advocates for changing laws in Russia, for which her organisation was listed as a foreign agent. “We need a global treaty to protect women and girls from violence.”

According to the World Health Organization, violence against women is “devastatingly pervasive,” impacting 1 in 3 women worldwide, with younger women most at risk. UN Women calls this a “shadow pandemic,” which has only intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. The cases of violence against women and rape in Pakistan were doubled in the last six months of 2020 as compared to the first six months of the year. The numbers are rising in 2021.

Already the President of Nigeria, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, the former Minister of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan, and four Nobel Laureates, have come out in favor of this global treaty.

“Violence against women and girls is preventable,” said Judge Najla Ayoubi, another Every Woman Treaty co-founder who was the first female judge in her province in Afghanistan when her father and brother were assassinated. Later, she was forced to flee for her own life. “Women’s rights activists put our lives on the line every day fighting for the right to be free of violence, but we can’t do it alone. Laws and policies work.”

In countries that have domestic violence laws, for example, women have a 32% lower mortality rate. Intimate partner violence in eight communities in Uganda was 52% lower after violence prevention training. In the U.S., fifteen years after the Violence Against Women Act passed, intimate partner violence dropped 53%.

But international law does not offer sufficient protection. Right now there are regional treaties, such as the Belém do Pará Convention in Latin America, the Maputo Protocol in Africa and the Istanbul Convention in Europe, which have all proven effective, but leave out three quarters of the world’s population. Efforts made to retrofit CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) to be interpreted to include violence have not been successful.

The First Draft Global Treaty to End Violence against Women and Girls was created in consultation with frontline activists, survivors, medical experts, academics, human rights attorneys, legal scholars, diplomats and policy-makers. It’s considered a “first draft,” because ultimately it is the Member States of the UN which will need to ratify it and weigh in on the final version.