We are very proud that our Board Secretary Jessica Buchleitner is featured on the series “Wife Talk” about her recent trip to the 57th annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This 12 min video addresses some of the common challenges faced during this meeting at the UN. For the full report, read her debriefing.
This panel was originally presented at UN CSW57 about the ancient practice of stoning. Here is a statement released by Elahe Amani about the horrific practice:
Today, March 8th 2013, we celebrate International Women’s Day amid the various forms of violence against women—attacks of regressive forces on women by state and non-state actors from India to Iran, from South Africa to Egypt. But in spite of this injustice, more than 6000 women from all over the world have gathered in NY to demand action from the global community at the United Nations Commission on the status of women. It is inspiring to see massive demonstrations all over the world, and to see these demonstrations reach an ever-expanding audience through traditional media and social media. It is inspiring that more than ever men and women—particularly younger people all over the world—are demanding an end to all forms of violence against women. The actions of these individuals prove that the voice of women can never again be denied in any country at any time. No turning back!
It is clear that the world still continues on a path of patriarchal domination. Yet this year marks 102 years since the first organized Women’s Day demonstrations were held and marks the 36th anniversary since the United Nations declared March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1977.
It is in this spirit and intention that we have gathered to draw the attention of the global community to one of the most barbaric forms of the death penalty. While the death penalty itself is being eradicated in many countries around the world, the most brutal form of the death penalty—stoning—is still being practiced. Death by stoning has been practiced since the establishment of the IRI in my birth country of Iran.
While 90 percent of the countries of the world are not executing and 100 countries have completely abolished it, Iran leads the world in number of executions per capita among nations that continue to apply the death penalty in their domestic jurisdictions. Many of these executions are conducted in secret and go unreported by official sources. According to reports from human rights groups that document executions in Iran from both official and unofficial sources, Iran is second only to China in annual death penalty sentences. Since 1979, Amnesty International has documented at least 77 cases of stoning in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this figure is likely low due to the lack of proper documentation through 1979-1984.
The first reported case of stoning was shortly after the revolution in July 1980. Four women were sentenced to death by stoning based on the suspicion of adultery. I recall, when I shared the news with my great aunt (may she rest in Peace), a devoted Moslem and a woman of faith in Kerman, she immediately responded “this is not Islam”. The fact is that stoning was only used as a form of death penalty by the IRI. While there are records of various forms of human rights abuse and discrimination of women in the 20th century history of Iran, there are no records of stoning in Iran prior to the July 1980 stoning. Prior to this event, adultery, nor any other crime for that matter, ever warranted stoning. This is why we call here and now that stoning should not in our name or in our culture.
Perhaps most harrowing is that the Penal Code of Iran specifies the manner of execution and types of stones that should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning.
Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.” This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict as much pain as possible in a process leading to a slow death.
As mentioned, the cruel practice of stoning started with the four women in Kerman, and since then the majority of those sentenced to death by stoning have been women. Women suffer disproportionately from such punishment. One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery.
In 2002, the IRI announced a moratorium on execution by stoning, and since then officials have routinely denied that stoning sentences continued to be implemented in Iran. For example, In 2005, judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad stated, “in the Islamic Republic, we do not see such punishments being carried out”, further adding that if stoning sentences were passed by lower courts, they were overruled by higher courts and that “no such verdicts have been carried out.”
In spite of this, deaths by stoning continued to be reported.Ja’far Kiani was stoned to death on July 5th, 2007 in a village near Takestan in Qazvin province. He had been convicted of committing adultery with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children and who was also sentenced to death by stoning. It was the first officially confirmed stoning since the moratorium in 2002, although a woman and a man are known to have been stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. The stoning was carried out despite a stay of execution ordered in his case and in defiance of the 2002 moratorium.
In 2008, for the second time, Iran’s judiciary announced that the punishment of stoning convicts to death has been removed in the draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval.
Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi announced that “In the latest version of the Islamic penal codes bill, which has undergone several modifications, such punishments are not mentioned.”
While the last case of reported stoning of a women was Mahboubeh M on May 7th 2006, even after the second announcement in 2008 of the moratorium on the practice of stoning multiple cases of stoning have been documented. Dueche velue reported the stoning of a man in Rasht in 2009 and another case of stoning was reported in May 2009.
On March 6th, 2012, the Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in IRI to the general assembly of United Nation reported:
“A number of individuals have been sentenced to death in recent years by stoning despite announcements of a moratorium on stoning as a form of capital punishment by the judiciary. In its report on the subject, Amnesty International stated that at least 15 men and women are currently facing death by stoning sentences for “adultery while married.” The Special Rapporteur joins the Human Rights Committee in expressing its concern about the use of stoning as a method of execution maintains that adultery does not constitute a serious crime by international standards; and strongly urges the Government to enforce its moratorium on stoning. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that stoning has now been omitted from the new Penal Code and hopes all existing cases will be reviewed to ensure that such penalties are not carried out. “
There are several concerns regarding the claim of omission of stoning from the penal code. As the Special Rapporteur of Human Rights also expressed as a concern, stoning can still be issued at a judge’s discretion in accordance with sharia law or fatwas. It is also correct that in comparison to the previous penal code, stoning has been removed from the section of the code dealing with penalties for adultery. Furthermore, the word ‘stoning’ appears twice in articles 172 and 198 of the new penal code, although details about its implementation, such as the appropriate size of stones to be used, wrapping the convicted person in a white shroud (kafan) and burying the male adulterer in the soil up his waist and a female up to her shoulders, are all gone. But the omission of the implementation process is a serious area of concern and, moreover, the fact remains that that sexual relations outside of marriage is still a crime.
The high-profile case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and other victims of stoning have brought shame on the status of human rights in Iran.
In light of the political fog created by Islamic Conservatives, the current political climate, and the government’ s past history of false moratoriums on stoning, the global community should not be too quick to cheer the changes in Iran’s penal code. Whether or not the penal code is truly implemented and the practice of stoning eliminated is yet to be seen.
As I shared in the briefing statement at the 20th Session of the Human Rights Council on July 6, 2012 in Geneva, “Honor crimes, FGM and stoning are often described as “tradition” and an unchanging facet of “culture.” While all these inhuman and cruel practices that violate the rights of women to life, integrity and dignity, have a cultural dimension, they are also shaped by social factors, UN resolutions, government policies, and institutional discourse can provide an encouraging environment for eradicating such inhuman and cruel practices.
A resolution of the Commission on the Status of Women which bans stoning—one of the cruelest forms of the death penalty and a clear form of torture—will be a pivotal moment in the fight to bring an end to this practice.
The time to act is now and action is demanded.
The following is a debriefing prepared by Board Secretary Jessica Buchleitner:
The following is my comprehensive debriefing of the 57th annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting.
The importance of the annual Commission on the Status of Women meeting and the parallel NGO (non-governmental organization) sessions is to bridge the global policy making body of the United Nations with the grassroots efforts of the non-governmental organizations (NGO). NGOs are the ammunition needed to jumpstart UN policy in member nations because they have the most direct grassroots influence on the micro level. What was witnessed at this year’s session was a merger between the micro and macro levels of the United Nations and its NGO consulting partners. This debriefing examines both areas.
The priority theme for 2013 was Ending Violence against Women and Girls. Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and major impediment to achieving gender equality. Violence against women will not be eradicated without political will and commitment at the highest levels to make it a priority locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. Political will is expressed in a variety of ways, including legislation, national plans of action, adequate resource allocation, location of mechanisms to address violence against women at the highest levels, efforts to overcome impunity, visible condemnation of this violence, and sustained support by leaders and opinion makers of efforts to eradicate it. Over the past two decades, there has been significant progress in elaborating and agreeing on international standards and norms to address violence against women. Yet NGOs have a long way to go and a significant amount of work to do.
Microlevel: UN consultative NGOs and current progress at combating violence against women in the global grassroots
There are hundreds of global non-governmental organizations with consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Each year at the annual Commission on the Status of Women meeting they meet in parallel to the main ECOSOC commission in order to present their activities, research and panels of survivors and experts in order to keep other NGOs informed of their progress and key issues in their country pertaining to the theme of the meeting.
Recurring themes of these NGO presentations for this year’s meeting were armament and militarism, fiscal economic policy, women’s political participation, economic inequality and human trafficking.
The first panel discussion I attended was presented by my sponsoring NGO, Women’s Intercultural Network, on winning strategies at combating violence against women and girls where several experts spoke about municipal and government initiatives.
In a separate panel discussion organized by Global Fund for Women, it was brought to our attention that total military spending around the world amounted last year to 1,738 billion dollars. The United States is a top spender, topping out at 40% of total military expenditure. The other 60% is accounted for with China, Russia, UK and France.
An economist emphasized that the feminist movement should be focused on economic policy, budgeting, taxation and military expenditure as war and conflict situations yield high incidents of violence against women. More women need to participate in the security sector if we are going to reduce violent war crimes. UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, was cited multiple times during the discussions of military and armament. The Arms Trade Treaty, created just last year in order to regulate the sale of weapons, was also cited as a means of controlling the flow of armament and land mines circulating globally. In too many countries around the world, women are too often left out of the peace negotiation process when it comes to matters of military, peace and security. The United Nations and its consultative NGOs are working hard to ensure the inclusion of women in these aspects of governance.
These discussions further continued at a separate panel discussion with invitation from Peggy Kerry, NGO liaison at the US Mission to the United Nations (and older sister of our current Secretary of State, John Kerry). We were presented with a panel of UN experts and US UN Mission personnel to answer our policy related questions about violence against women, military spending and initiatives government entities are undertaking to combat it.
In another panel organized by United Methodist Women which represented several NGOs from the Republic of Georgia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Honduras, discussions on military and armament continued. For the Republic of Georgia, the NGO Atinati presented on the amount of displaced persons still remaining in the country after the 1992 energy war with Russia in a region known as Abkhazia. I was fortunate enough to interview the operator of the NGO about its creation amidst a trying time in the country. Although Georgia has its share of improvements to make, she cited recent improvements came in the form of prosecution for individuals who kidnap women as brides and an overall people oriented focus in the police force in recent years. In 1994, the Georgian parliament officially ratified CEDAW, the UN women’s bill of rights and this, she explained, has helped make progress in the country for legal matters concerning violence against women.
An NGO from the Democratic Republic of Congo reported about the 71 million people affected by the 20 years of war and ethnic conflicts happening in the country. It was reported that rebel group N23 was receiving aid from the United States and Europe and were committing 70% of the rape cases resulting from the armed conflict in the country. The presenter described the situation: “We have lost our dignity; our bodies have become a sanctuary for our rebel groups”.
Following the Democratic Republic of Congo, an NGO representative from Honduras painted a grim portrait of the changing sociopolitical circumstances in the country. Currently there are transworld capital investments and organized crime occurring and militarism was cited as one way of controlling the resources, territories and investments pouring into the country. In the current economic crisis, there are an influx of weapons circulating in the country. The presenter stated with great emphasis: “They have made life a commodity itself”.
Due to the 2009 military coup, the country has entered into an arms and drugs race and officially declared bankruptcy. The military coup consolidated all economic interests and started passing laws that systematically made life worse. All labor is temporary and employers pay per hour at a rate they decide, not at one that is regulated by law. As a result of this, the country is also being sold off in bits and pieces where multinational corporations are actually renting parts of the country. 18 provinces are now for sale and the biggest player in this race is the United States. The presence of the US military appears to be justified in the “war against drugs”, yet they are selling and participating in the drug trades. Resource wars, similar to the gas wars in Georgia, are happening all over the country.
I attended another NGO presentation on Wednesday by two Sudanese groups, where we were provided updates on the situation of disputed borders between Sudan and South Sudan. Due to the conflict over natural resources there is unequal power and economic resources, a lack of infrastructure, roads, bridges and hospitals. South Sudan has oil but needs North Sudan to transport it. The peace delegations currently in the country are almost entirely male with a severe lack of female participation. It is currently difficult for women’s rights defenders to operate because many of them are being detained and tortured. Rape as a weapon of war has long since been a factor in this environment. Currently the country is attempting to bridge Sudan and South Sudan in peace talks and a negotiation of their new constitution. Women’s rights groups are grappling to get women a seat at the table, citing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the CEDAW ordinance, since Sudan joins the United States, Somalia, and Iran in refusing to ratify the ordinance.
The last full NGO panel I attended was co sponsored by Women’s Intercultural Network and US Women Connect, where Board representative Ana Maria Sanchez gave a powerful speech about her struggle with Domestic Violence.
In this panel, an engaging discussion was launched on the cellular memory of generations. When a people are oppressed, the scars and burden of that oppression trickle through the generations and are felt by the offspring of the people.
These are just a few select observations that were made in panel presentations in the NGO portion of the meeting.
1. The Beijing Platform for action (BPFA) is a 150 page document that was adopted as a result of the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. It is the agenda for women’s empowerment which fosters women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political –decision making.
2. The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) similarly defines the legal obligations of State parties to prevent violence against women and girls. Adopted in 1979, it is an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and thirty articles, if defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end it. Countries that have ratified or acceded to the convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They must submit national reports every four years on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. Currently 187 States have ratified CEDAW. Countries that have not ratified CEDAW include Iran, Nauru, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga and the United States of America.
It is necessary to realize that it is the responsibility of the member State to prevent, investigate and prosecute all forms of violence against women and to hold perpetrators accountable.
In attending General Discussions and High Level Roundtable of the Commission on the Status of Women, I observed a review of the (Beijing Platform for Action) BPFA and ways in which each member state is looking to implement BPFA and CEDAW. Some examples of this are as follows:
– Jordan and Slovenia reported on the adoption and reforms of laws and policies to address gender-based discrimination. Kuwait and Sri Lanka took measures to increase women’s political participation, and Sweden took measures to increase women’s access to labor markets and financial resources with a focus on rural and immigrant women.
– Many reporting states, including Denmark, Malta, Mauritius and Slovenia have adopted national action plans to address violence against women in general, or in specific forms.
– Several states, such as Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Mauritius, Mexico, Poland, Spain, and the Sudan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reported on the establishment of coordination mechanisms, including task forces, dedicated units, working and interministral groups or observatories.
– Senegal reported on a national action plan to address poverty as a means to address violence against women and girls, while in Japan, Hungary and Slovenia national action plans on gender also included measures to prevent violence.
– Jordan and Slovenia reported on the adoption and reforms of laws and policies to address gender-based discrimination. Kuwait and Sri Lanka took measures to increase women’s political participation, and Sweden took measures to increase women’s access to labor markets and financial resources, with a focus on rural and immigrant women.
– As a means of challenging gender stereotypes, Mauritius developed a program to promote men’s responsibilities within the family.
Suggestions from the Macro policy level for member states to combat violence against women:
– Implement, monitor and set periodic reviews and revisions of laws in order to punish perpetrators.
– Establish a reliable and consistent form of data collection on violence against women utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods. Many countries lack reliable data and much of the existing data cannot be meaningfully compared.
– Strengthen the awareness and knowledge base of all forms of violence against women in society
– Allocate funding for violence programs.
Agreed Conclusions of CSW 57
The agreed upon conclusions of the meeting have officially been released and are receiving objections by the Muslim Brotherhood. To view them click here.
Once again, I went into this experience a bit naïve. Diplomacy work is an oxymoron in a sense because you go into the experience believing you can make a difference yet what you are met with are many layers of corruption. I think most people assume being a diplomat allots you the fancy ability to make the world a better place. Yet, it can be a very dirty, cold and harsh reality. There are egos at stake of key players and leaders and a constant grappling for resources and power. It can be tricky to balance power with the needs of one’s member state. For example, the United States has been aware of the forced sterilization in China since it began, but is so economically tied to the country it that it is not in our best interest to “step on the toes” of officials to end the practice. Diplomacy is tricky in that sense. My experience at the United Nations proved to be a bit disillusioning. I want to believe that all the work I am doing is making an impact, yet in a delegate role- one observes the intricate layers of corruption present in every nation in the world. It is discouraging and disconcerting. In all truth, I felt like an immense failure when I came home. I was severely depressed for the week following the conference.
On the positive note, it has allowed me to connect with grassroots women from all over the world and gave me the fortunate ability to interview fascinating women from Georgia and from Bangladesh.
Receiving the opportunity to be a player in world diplomacy was a blessing in many ways. I was able to see what the real issues are and where many of the problems lie. To change the world, the key area of everyone’s focus should be economics. Money is where everything begins and ends. It is the source of corruption, of power and of greed. My recommendation moving forward is for activists and humanitarians to make economics more of an area of focus.
Overall, I am grateful for this intense experience. It is difficult work to do because it such a hefty dose of all of the world’s problems. The most inspiring aspect of CSW 57 was the amount of women I met from very impoverished countries. Some of them spent their life savings just to attend that conference and talk about what their NGO does to combat violence against women. That is very uplifting to conceive. I have decided to let that notion be my light.
Our United Nations CSW 57 week began with a bang on Day 3! Our Panel on Indigenous Women and Healing through the Sacred Circle was sponsored by US Women Connect. Domestic Violence survivor and Board member Ana Maria Sanchez spoke about her past abusive relationships, her book and how she found the courage to free herself. Another speech was about “Generation rocks” and described visually how generations carry violence and oppression within their cellular memories. It was powerful and we were shocked to see half of the audience crying!
Here are videos and photos of our panel:
Ana Maria Sanchez opening the circle in a healing ritual
Ana Maria Sanchez’s violence testimony
During a later panel we witnessed the testimony of a woman who worked as a prostitute in Ireland. Her story was powerful and we were able to record a portion of it:
Our second day at United Nations CSW57 was amazing! We witnessed and participated in panel discussions and presentations with women from all over the world. Here are some of the topics we covered in video and photos. Our Board Secretary will prepare a debriefing of the conference with all the key issues discussed and facts presented after we wrap up our week.
Bineta Diop’s conversation with African Women
Building bridges between South Sudan and Sudan
We had the opportunity to attend the high level roundtable and General Discussions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. We got to hear all the representatives of member states read their statements and discuss key barriers to combating violence against women.
WIN is proud to be an NGO with consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Our Bay Area delegation kicked off their first day at UNCSW 57 today! Here are the highlights of the day. To see a full selection of videos about our panel Winning Strategies to Prevent Violence Against Women, click here.
Ana Maria Sanchez commenting about violence against women in our morning panel.
Board Chair Elahe Amani speaking in our morning panel about winning strategies in combating violence against women and girls.
Board Secretary Jessica Buchleitner narrates a Land Mine/ Unexploded Ordnance exhibit at the United Nations. Land Mines are a significant threat all over the world.
A quick summary of Ana Maria Sanchez’s experience on the first day of the conference:
It’s been an incredible few days here at the UN. I’m truly blessed to be in the company and rooming with journalist and activist Jessica Buchleitner. There is so much going on here she has been graciously schooling me and my newbie eyes are now WIDE OPEN! I sat in on 6 panels just today. Was able to give my feedback to the WIN panel regarding taking a holistic approach in dealing with the lack of compassion these victims must endure. I learned about atrocities in Japan, Mozambique, China, India. For so long I never wanted to be involved in politics for this exact reason, the ugly truth is hard to deal with, you just want it to go away. The horrific actions that man can dispense on another is something I will never be able to comprehend but what I am quickly coming to grips with is that my involvement is vital to helping change the way things are. In the Asian sector there are now 37 million more men than women!! YES 37 MILLION! Their one child policy act implemented back in 1978 seems to have backfired and now these male children are maturing becoming men in a society with no hopes of being able to find a bride. The citizens of these countries solution = Sex trafficking and female infant kidnappings to assure the males in their families have a future mate. Babies as young as 2/3yrs old are kidnapped right from their homes and taken away into slavery to satisfy the needs of the male population. Genocide is widespread, the value of a girl child nonexistent which has led to a daily dose of infant murders by the very mothers who are supposed to raise them and care for them. Eventually the guilt, the loss, the pain has now led to a statistic of 500 women PER DAY committing suicide. This isn’t only taking place across seas but the abuse and trafficking of our own people here in the USA is rampant. The research is grim people, the facts revealed here at the UN are hard to swallow but being the devout optimist that I am I embrace that the change must begin with me which will have a ripple effect in the world. I vow to do my part to empower my communities in my own backyard knowing in full faith it’s having an impact on the consciousness of the whole world. Wanna learn more go to www.itsagirlmovie.com
Here is a photo recap of our day: