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Press Highlights from the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

In the agreed conclusions of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women, which were finalized March 15, 2013 at the United Nations in New York, UN Member States resoundingly committed to ending violence against women and girls, including strong agreements on promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, and ensuring reproductive rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Here is some of the media coverage of the negotiations:

Greeted with cheers, the agreed outcome document of the 57th CSW, which was announced on Friday evening, was hailed as an “important step” to end violence against women and girls.

After months of behind the scenes lobbying and two weeks of difficult negotiations in New York, the outcome document included strong agreements to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment, and ensure women’s reproductive rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services – an area of particular contention. It reaffirmed previous international agreements on women’s rights, such as those made in Cairo in 1994.

Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, said the declaration was a victory for women and girls but could have gone further to recognize violence faced by lesbians and transgender people.

“Governments have agreed to take concrete steps to end violence,” she said. “For the first time, they agreed to make sure that women who have been raped can get critical health-care services, like emergency contraception and safe abortion.”

Earlier in the talks, Iran, Russia, the Vatican and others had threatened to derail the declaration with concerns about references such as access to emergency contraception, abortion and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, activists said.

The final document approved Friday reaffirms that women and men have the right to enjoy all human rights “on an equal basis,” recommits governments to comprehensive sex education, calls for sexual and reproductive health services such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence, and calls on government to criminalize violence against women and punish gender-related killings. But it dropped references to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We did make gains,” said Francoise Girard, president of the New York-based International Women’s Health Coalition. “This is the first time we have an agreed document recognizing emergency contraception as a necessary service to preserve women’s health.”

—The Globe and Mail

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood sharply criticized an anticipated U.N. document on combatting violence against women, saying on Wednesday that it was “deceitful,” clashed with Islamic principles and undermined family values.

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In its strongly worded statement, the Brotherhood also decried the document’s defense of homosexual rights, which are not recognized in Islam, and the equating between children born in and out of wedlock.

Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the New York-based International Women’s Health Coalition, said the approved text was “ambitious.”

“It’s a good, ambitious text that takes a strong stand in addressing violence against women and girls, and we’re happy to see it adopted,” she said.