|A MESSAGE FROM WOMEN’S INTERCULTURAL NETWORK (WIN), PRESIDENT/CEO, MARILYN FOWLER
Our deepest gratitude for Hillary’s courage to keep fighting against a merciless opposition and break the glass ceiling with the popular vote. She survived the battle with honor to lead another movement another day. Shout outs to Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris and all the women warriors who braved this election. And, with much appreciation for our awesome President Barak Hussein Obama and First Lady Michele Obama who fought for us eight years with grace and dignity. WIN’s roots go back to the women’s and civil rights movements in the ‘60s. This week felt like that era to me and the outcome has been paralyzing.
But we must move on as we have always done. WIN rose out of the early human rights movements to build strong women’s networks empowered locally with links to women in other states, countries, cultures and religions. WIN brought the 1995 UN Women’s Conference to California with CAWA, a sustainable state women’s policy mechanism. In 2015, WIN brought the global UN CEDAW effort local for the Cities for CEDAW campaign. We believe that you can not know a country’s politics without knowing its culture. Our mission has always been to bring women together across cultures for collective action. Our mission hasn’t changed, only our tools and strategies change. See more on the 2017 CAWA Report and Plan of Action on our website.
WIN stands ready to mobilize against sexism, bigotry, racism, misogyny, fascism and oppression of any kind. But we can’t do it without you. Let’s reach out to US women who sent an election message to us of frustration, mistrust, anger and fear. Please stay with us. We will be stronger together.
The Women’s Intercultural Network submitted the following Caucus Conclusions for consideration in conjunction with the United Nations Committee of the Status of Women annual meeting, which was held in New York, March 14-25, 2016.
The WIN Caucus’ primary comments focus on securing assurances by State Parties, corporations, and other entities to uphold the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and dedicate the necessary resources to ensuring the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls around the world.
Specifically, the WIN Caucus calls on all relevant parties to take note of the following:
- The rights of girls need to be reiterated throughout the Agreed Conclusions document to underline girls’ unique needs and challenges, such as trafficking, genital mutilation, and the issue of child brides. Governments must be held responsible for allocation of all necessary funds and resources to strengthen the empowerment of girls in accordance with the provisions of CEDAW, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and all other relevant international law.
- State Parties and International Organizations, including the United Nations and the Committee on the Status of Women, must ensure that corporations are an integral part of the discussion and implementation of procedures for upholding human rights. Governments need to ensure corporate accountability for human rights violations in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and should pass all necessary domestic law to ensure such accountability.
- It shall also be recognized the corporations have a special role in assisting with mitigation and adaption to climate change and work to ensure sustainable development models in line with local populations, specific cultural and economic contexts, and indigenous rights to law and natural resources.
- Special attention should be paid to the role of extractive industries in considering sustainable development and the protection of the rights and needs of women and girls.
- State Parties must increase economic, social, political, cultural, technological, and educational resources for marginalized population and strengthen accountability of all member states to develop effective actions and policies to adequately address gender based discrimination.
- Public-private partnerships have a crucial role to play in providing these resources and states should take all necessary action to ensure their participation.
- It should be recognized that technology companies have a special role to play in sustainable development and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
- Women and girls are entitled to access the information necessary to ensure their effective growth and development and protect and promote their rights in equality and dignity. The right of access to information is a fundamental right, as outlined in numerous international treaties, court cases, and policy documents, and is necessary for empowerment and the fulfillment of other rights crucial to the empowerment of women and girls.
- The WIN Caucus calls on all state and non-state actors such as corporations to defend the human rights defenders within their territory and around the world from abuse, harassment, punishment, torture, and death. We call for a stronger statement by states and the Committee on the Status of Women condemning actions against human rights defenders and a statement of understanding that enhanced protections are going to need to be different in different contexts and cultures.
- We call on all states to actively work to internalize the founding documents and the resolution that came out of CSW60. Such internalization needs to include legislation, the judiciary, police, and civil society, as well as the education system. All states must work to ensure that at whatever their current level of internalization, they actively work to improve the situation within their own territory, including an emphasis on Art. 5(a) of CEDAW which calls upon states to work to modify culture patterns detrimental to achieving equality and equity.
In closing, sustainable development cannot be achieved without recognizing women’s contribution to the economy and society at large. Women’s Intercultural Network and its partners support UN-Women’s call for countries to step up their efforts and implement effective solutions and strategies and close the global gender gap — by 2030.
Discussed and Drafted by Representatives from:
The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute
Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network (ICWIN)
UNA Women Greater Kansas City
US Women Connect
Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City
Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN)
Editors: Elahe Amani, Member of ICWIN Steering Committee; Lenka Belkova, Associate Director, WIN; Kathleen Cha, Former Co-Chair, WIN; Dana Zartner, Associate Professor and Chair, International Studies Department, University of San Francisco
Written by Lenka Belkova, WIN Associate Director
In March WIN participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) 60th session in New York with an unprecedented number of NGO accredited delegates. This year’s UN CSW primary theme addressed women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.
Women’s Human Rights and Sustainable Cities with CEDAW and Habitat III panel at NGO CSW FORUM NY, March 15 2016
WIN’s star panel at the Forum “Women’s Human Rights and Sustainable Cities with CEDAW and Habitat III” was moderated by Elmy Bermejo, Region Nine Representative to the US Department of Labor in conversation with distinguished speakers Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University; Araceli Campos, Commissioner, LA Commission on the Status of Women; Lois A. Herman, Editor and Publisher of Women’s United Nations Report Network; Ross Uchimura, CEO, Solariv, Sustainable Smart Village-Nepal; June Zeitlin, Director of Human Rights Policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Soon-Young Yoon, former Chair UN CSW NGO NY and visionary of Cities for CEDAW.
During the panel discussion Krishanti Dharmaraj stressed the importance of policies’ relevance for diverse communities to remain effective. With regard to Cities for CEDAW campaign, LA Commissioner Araceli Campos offered examples from Los Angeles on how a CEDAW ordinance can bring a change fostering fairness and inclusiveness by providing new programs for disadvantaged communities and training city employees to assist in identifying human traffickers. Long time advocate for US CEDAW ratification, June Zeitlin, reminded everyone that passing of CEDAW at the federal level is still as important as implementing it locally. Lois Herman, delivered passionate remarks on CEDAW education and mainstreaming while Ross Uchimura, whose ambitious plan to bring solar panels to Nepal with his company while upholding CEDAW principles, captured audiences attention with applause. Soon Young-Yoon, who paid a short visit to our panel, spoke about Habitat III.
The panel was well received and we hope that it incited even greater interest in the growing movement for local policies reflecting human rights principles.
WIN Co-Sponsored several other panels discussing topics from violence against women, technology for women’s empowerment, CEDAW activism in the USA, women’s entrepreneurship and support for refugee girls.
WIN Caucus at Ms Foundation, Brooklyn, NY
As every year, WIN invited organizations to comment at our annual Caucus on the UN CSW 60 Draft Agreed Conclusions for a collective statement addressed to US government representatives to the UN CSW. Participating organizations included The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, FemResources, Iranian Circle of Womens Intercultural Network, UNAWomen Greater Kansas City, US Women Connect, Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City and other community leaders from around the country. Our final statement highlighted the importance of
- recognizing women’s contribution to the economy and society at large.
- the rights of girls to underline girls’ unique needs and challenges, such as trafficking, genital mutilation, or the prevalent issue of child brides.
- recognizing the importance of securing data for implementation and action.
- increasing resources for marginalized population and strengthening accountability of all member states to develop effective actions and policies to adequately address gender based discrimination.
- corporations that must be part of the discussion and accountability on upholding human rights.
- the role of technology in empowering women and girls.
- the right of access to information as a fundamental and universal right, necessary for economic empowerment and the fulfillment of other rights.
- the right to gender identity as a key human right that must be as such addressed throughout the UN CSW 60th Agreed Conclusions.
Many thanks go to our UN NGO delegates, panel speakers and everyone who engaged with us during UN CSW 60 in giving women and girls a stronger voice.
The following debrief was prepared by Jessica Buchleitner, Secretary, Board of Directors:
The fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 9 to 20 March 2015. Representatives of Member States , UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attended the session.
The main focus of the session was on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Commission undertook a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The review (Beijing+20) also included the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, the first five-year assessment conducted after the adoption of the Platform for Action, which highlighted further actions and initiatives. The session also addressed opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda. See the Women’s Intercultural Network Beijing Plus 20 page with reports and responses to the CSW 59 outcome documents (links included). You can also see a complete history of NGO involvement with UN conferences on women from 1975- present here.
During the opening ceremony in General Assembly, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark remarked of the need for civil society to be more included in the activity of the Commission on the Status of Women. It has been observed over the last four years the growing number of NGOs attending the annual Commission meeting. This year was no exception as it boasted an attendance of around 9,000 NGO delegates, the most in history of the Commission session.
This debrief is divided into four parts that will include the Commission reports from the major regions concerning the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), the NGO and civil society progress, Women’s Intercultural Network’s NGO panels and my takeaways from the conference. To read Women’s Intercultural Nertwork’s official NGO statement (prepared by Lenka Belkova and Jessica Buchleitner) click here.
I. Reports from major regions and member states on the progress related to the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) 20 year review
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session on Beijing Plus 20
– No country has achieved gender equality to date.
– Progress has been far to slow towards implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action marked by aggression and regression within member states.
– On a positive note, many discrimination laws have been passed in member states that forward the rights of women and girls.
– Since 1990, maternal mortality rates worldwide have decreased by 45 percent.
– Since the 4th world conference in women in Beijing in 1995, a doubling of representation in national parliaments from 11 percent in 1995 to 22 percent today ensues. This is a marked increase in women taking party in the political process.
– A marked increase worldwide of women participating in the labor force since 1995 has also been revealed.
Regional Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) by major UN regions
The Commission on the Status of Women conducted a regional review of BPFA progress on March 11 in the Trusteeship Council chamber with the 5 regional heads. Here is a summary of key points taken from each region:
1. Executive Secretary of ESCWA (Arab states region) reported:
– Much progress has been made to implement Beijing Plus 20 in the middle eastern nations, though it is difficult to attain an accurate picture of all the Arab states due to the ongoing conflict in the region.
– Gaza is in conflict and continued occupation of Palestine and this has made implementation of BPFA difficult in the region.
– Arab states have since adopted most major UN women’s treaties and 20 of the 22 countries have ratified CEDAW.
– The new Tunisian constitution is unique and new national laws were made in terms of fair wages.
– Since 1995, 87 percent of girls are enrolled in primary school.
– Since 1995, the arab nations have observed a 1/3 decrease in infant mortality rates.
2. Executive Secretary of UNESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) reported:
– 70 percent of women and girls in this region face violence because of a male partner.
– This region has the second lowest proportion of female parliamentary members.
– Human trafficking remains at an all-time high in several of the members states of this region and is a growing problem in others.
3. Executive Secretary for ECE (European Union) reported:
– Hosted regional review conference in November that revealed strong progress of the BPFA in European Union states.
– Through all EU states, legislation to forward the rights of women and girls has been improved throughout.
– Violence against women is criminalized in all states, with legal penalties.
– Education of women and girls is pervasive and boasts a high rate of equality.
– A further drop in maternal mortality rates was observed.
– A rise in eating disorders has been reported, especially among young women.
– Half of women in the EU states still experience sexual harassment and sexual violence before the age of 15.
– An increase of young women’s’ and women’s e4mployement continues.
– 25 percent of the parliament members are women yet most news stories focus on women.
– There is a large gap in financial pensions for women, especially aging women.
– The EU states would like more data studies to be conducted per the BPFA.
4. Executive Secretary of ECA (Economic Commission of Africa) reported:
– It was reported that Africa region has made significant progress in regard to the BPFA, contrary to popular belief.
– Enrollment of girls in primary school has achieved targets in the entire continent, but falls short in terms of secondary school.
– Africa had a low base in all indices and from that marking point most countries have done well by way of improvement, but still have a long way to go.
– There are currently 3 heads of states in the member states that are women and a number of new female ministers for foreign affairs.
– Africa is the best region in terms of performance in the entire world at the UN.
– There are concerns about the ongoing economic opportunities being made available to women and a strong transformative process.
– African Union proclaimed this will be the year to address outstanding BPFA issues.
– The African nations boast a 92 percent rate of compliance with BPFA.
5. Executive Secretary of ECLAC (Latin America) reported:
– There is a diverse situation for women in the Latin American nations currently of progress and violence.
– Rates of poverty for women have increased steadily since 1995, particularly in Colombia and Brazil.
– Much of the feminization of poverty is attributed to unpaid care work, a subject of the World Bank Economic Development task force.
– Governments are pushing for more reform to allow women more economic autonomy.
Recommendations by all major regional executives to drive further implementation of the BPFA:
– In the ESCWAR and ESCAP regions, women face drastic inability to give citizenship to their children.
– 30 percent of the ESCAR states are in a situation of armed conflict, where Security Council Resolution 1325 needs to be enacted.
– In ECE, all governments must continue to implement strategies to prosecute perpetrators of VAW.
– In ECE, pay equity action is in continued need and governments should create transparency tools. For example, in France, there are sanctions against companies who do not give equal pay.
– Gender sensitive budgeting is recommended in all regions.
– Governments must focus on changing the amount of unpaid care work that women are subjected to in the ECLAC region.
– ECA has a three pronged strategy for implementation of BPFA that involves the private sector, women’s rights and the social sector.
– All areas agree that more data on the progress of women is needed to pinpoint better reforms.
II. NGO progress with Beijing Platform for Action
The variety of NGO sessions we attended yielded information on several fronts, namely the subject of masculinity, land rights, labor force participation, violence and armed conflict and the subject of unpaid care work, a theme that has echoed into this year’s CSW 59 and widely discussed at CSW 58 last year. Several panel discussion stuck out to me, namely one about UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the situation of women in Ukraine where we heard from the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Several NGOs were conducting studies on masculinity and its perception in culture and contribution to violence against women. There has been significant progress in dispelling cultural myths surrounding what defines a “man”, by teaching men to respect women.
Perhaps one of the most influential panels of all was one that featured Zakia Hakki- the first female Iraqi Kurd judge who is also a key player in drafting the new constitution for Iran. She clicked through an extensive PowerPoint presentation of the effects of ISIS on the Middle East and the destruction it wields. Through a tearful speech she showed a photo of 10 children locked in a metal cage about to be burned alive and exclaimed that the Kurds and Iraqis just wanted their land back. You can view her presentation here (Zakia_presentation), but be forewarned that the images are very graphic.
Here are some photos from a few of the panels:
III. Women’s Intercultural Network NGO panels on Beijing plus 20 and Cities for CEDAW.
This was a big year for Women’s Intercultural Network at the UN. WIN is a Peer Leader for the civil society NGO leg of the Cities for CEDAW campaign. Our goal is to get US mayors in cities of all sizes and cultures to agree publicly that they will support a CEDAW ordnance in their city government. We hosted two panels, the first Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) panel convened an interactive and solutions oriented forum with shared innovative strategies for implementing the Beijing Platform for action in the Post 2015 Development Agenda. A stellar group of panelists spoke that included Siobhan Nieland and Marie Murphy with those on the flyer below discussed how we can capitalize, organize and politicize our critical concens for gender equality for all women and girls. Joining WiN at the forum were women from NGO, governmental and the private sector.
The second panel was co-hosted with the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women where we featured Reverend Mary Sue Barnett from Louisville, Beth Denghan from North Carolina and Yolanda Mendoza from Salt Lake City – three women who are pushing the CEDAW ordnance in their municipalities. Mary Sue Barnett was able to get the mayor of Louisville to sign CEDAW into action! I also presented the civil society portion of the campaign, emphasizing the importance of government (San Francisco Department on the Status of Women) and civil society to work together. Since the panels we have had an enormous of interest in the campaign and thousands of sign ups. It was very successful. For more information about starting a campaign in your city please contact: email@example.com and visit the weblog for more information on how to get involved.
Reception at the Roosevelt House
WIN also co-hosted a reception at the Roosevelt House in honor of the late Congresswoman Bella Abzug with her daughter Liz. A group of noted feminists and diplomats attended and gave testimonials about Bella and cheered at a film of Bella’s life. It was an honor to welcome diplomats,women in media and academia along with noted NGO women leaders to the event in honor of a woman who gave so much to the world. Liz Abzug currently heads the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute that works with young women and girls by inspiring, mentoring and training them to become leaders in creating positive social and economic change. To see all the photos from the event click here.
IV. Our takeaways
Several of our delegates have provided summaries of their experiences at CSW 59 that will be posted soon here below.
Jessica Buchleitner, Secretary, Board of Directors
My personal takeaways this year are of course the big, glowing accomplishment of the fact that I had 50 Women, Book One with me in tow and was able to present it on Women News Network’s panel and the Cities for CEDAW panel with Women’s Intercultural Network, where I am a director on the Board of Directors. Not only did the copies I brought sell out, but they book also received extensive praise and interest for its inclusiveness of all the major world regions. After the glorious mix of the WTF roller coaster ride it was publishing the first book in the series, the UN was practically a paid vacation as getting to present it there in front of heads of states and seasoned diplomats was rather fabulous. I also feel it is giving many of the causes these women represent the much needed attention. I attended the conference alongside contributors Nwe Oo, Jane Anyango and Book Two contributor Siobhan Neilland. It was an honor to share the stage with them.
Below are some photos of its debut!
CEDAW, a set on Flickr.
Our fearless leader Marilyn Fowler recently received the CEDAW Human Rights Award! Check out photos of the ceremony!
Our recent Women’s Equality Day event August 24, 2013 was a raging success at the African-American Arts and Culture Complex in San Francisco! We discussed critical concerns that are challenging California women and girls and related them to the global Beijing Platform for action. We were graced with the presence of Christine Pelosi, who accepted our Princess Leia award for her amazing mother Leader Pelosi. Accepting our Circle of Courage Award was Lys Anzia, Founder and Executive Editor of Women News Network , and Rebecca Blanton, dynamite new Executive Director, California Commission on Women as of March , briefed us on her work and vision for the state CSW.
Sign on to participate in co-creating the 2015 California Women’s Agenda (CAWA) with us and to receive updates on plans and emerging issues for Beijing+20, 2015. Join WIN HERE , send in the WIN Member Form, or email us at win@WINaction.org
View the Outcome Summary Report from the Discussion Tables at the event.
More photos from the Women’s Day Event August 24, 2013 and videos with soon to come! There’s a whole lot more!
“Call to Action on Issues Impacting Women and Girls”
Priority issues raised at this event will help co-create agendas for a California and US Women’s Plan of Action that goes to the UN Commission Session for a celebration of Beijing+20 in 2015 as part of efforts to amplify women and girls’ voices and impact US and global deliberations. Read more here. We welcomed farm worker leaders from the Central Valley, grassroots activists, women’s organizations, legislators, and other interested groups. Participants discussed priority issues important to their communities. Among those were economic justice, education, health, violence against women and human trafficking. These key concerns were framed by a shared consensus on the ratification of CEDAW at the federal level as a founding document for further progress in women’s rights. Our event was a beginning, a step forward in creating empowerment, identifying critical issues, and problem solving with strategic solutions.
Be sure to read Board Member Kathleen Cha’s Concluding Remarks.
YOUR VOICE COUNTS! Join WIN now and be part of the CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S AGENDA, 2015.
For more information on how to add your voice to CAWA+20 email us at win@WINaction.org!
Please read the following news articles and the attached statement about news from our home city and activists we directly work with:
The Japan Times
San Francisco mayor ‘offended’; meeting in doubt
BY ERIC JOHNSTON
MAY 22, 2013
OSAKA – Embattled Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto faced fresh criticism Tuesday from the San Francisco mayor’s office over his remarks about the necessity of Japan’s wartime brothels.
Osaka says Hashimoto will meet with San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on the morning of June 11, but the international firestorm created by the Nippon Ishin leader’s remarks that Japan’s “comfort women” system had been necessary at the time has infuriated human rights groups and the U.S. State Department, which called Hashimoto’s remarks outrageous and offensive.
That view is shared by the San Francisco mayor, and despite the schedule Osaka announced, Lee’s office says the Hashimoto meeting has not been confirmed.
“Mayor Lee is disappointed and offended by (Hashimoto’s) statement,” said Francis Tsang, a spokesman for the mayor.
In addition, San Francisco’s Department of the Status of Women, formed in 1998 by the city, has criticized Hashimoto’s comments.
“Sex slavery is never ‘necessary,’ ” Emily Murase, the department’s executive director, said in a statement. “To justify the exploitation and suffering experienced by the women, some just girls, who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II is a flagrant denial of human rights.”
Osaka and San Francisco have a sister-city relationship dating back to 1957, and mayoral delegations have visited each other on numerous occasions over the years. The San Francisco-Osaka Association condemned Hashimoto’s remarks last week.
“Statements that justify controversial wartime abuses and devastating violence against women are damaging to international relations and contrary to the mission of the association,” it said.
U.S. slams Japanese mayor’s sex-slave comments as ‘offensive’
Thu, May 16 2013
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States condemned as “outrageous and offensive” comments by the mayor of the Japanese city of Osaka who said this week that Japan’s military brothels during World War Two were “necessary” to provide respite for soldiers.
The remarks by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto drew strong criticism from China and South Korea, two nations sensitive to what they see as any attempt to excuse Japanese abuses before and during the war.
Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 sex slaves, known as comfort women, were forced into submission in the Imperial Japanese Army’s brothels during the war.
“Mayor Hashimoto’s comments were outrageous and offensive,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“What happened in that era to these women who were trafficked for sexual purposes is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions,” she said, adding that Washington hoped Japan would work with its neighbors to address the mistakes of the past.
The Japanese government has sought to distance itself from Hashimoto’s comments.
“The government’s stance is, as we have said before, that we feel great heartache when we think about the indescribable suffering of those who experienced this,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, although he declined to comment directly on Hashimoto’s remarks.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Click here to read a statement from Emily Murase and the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women: dosw_statement_hashimoto_051613 FINAL
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.
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.
Here is the experience of our Board member Jessica Buchleitner at UN CSW 56. As we gear up for the the 57th annual session of the United Nations Comission on the Status of Women meeting, we recall the lessons we learned last year. Jessica is currently wrapping up a book entitled 50 Women, an anthology of 50 women’s stories of strength and perseverance from 30 countries. Watch her videos and read about her revelations. More to come in 2013!