Canada blocking efforts at the UN to address sexual violence against women
Ottawa/Geneva - June 7 2013 - Governments and civil society are calling into question the leadership of the Canadian
government on the theme of Violence Against Women at the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).
In previous years, the Canadian government, which chairs the negotiations of the annual HRC resolution on violence against women, has
played a leadership role in helping to create advances seeking to protect women from violence. Yet this year, a number of concerns have
been raised regarding Canada's approach to the new resolution on the theme of 'sexual violence'. The concerns in question are the very
proposals that Canada itself is putting forward which are regressive and represent a serious attack on women's rights and the health
and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence.
The Canadian government has been, and continues to be, actively preventing numerous key recommendations related to effectively addressing
sexual violence and the rights of survivors of violence. In particular, it is using its role as chair of the negotiations to block
the recognition of a comprehensive package of services that need to be available to survivors of sexual violence. Numerous governments
and civil society organizations insist that these services must explicitly include: access to essential sexual and reproductive
health services, including emergency contraception, safe abortion, post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection, diagnosis and
treatment for sexually transmitted infections, among others. "Once again, we see the government of Canada exporting
its conservative ideology internationally, to the detriment of millions of survivors of sexual violence who need access to
these essential services," said Sandeep Prasad, the Executive Director of Action Canada for Population and Development, who is at the HRC following negotiations. "We need only look to the exclusion of funding for safe abortion services, even where legal, from Canada's international aid under the Muskoka Initiative for another example. This time Canada is standing in the way of ensuring survivors of sexual violence have access to services they need, including access to safe abortion."
Beyond the issue of access to essential services, Canada is blocking key proposals related to the prevention of sexual violence, including
references to "reproductive rights" and "gender equality". The Canadian government is also refusing to include acknowledgement of the
need to implement rights-based, accurate and comprehensive sexuality education programmes as a key tool to prevent violence and
promote gender equality.
"Not only is Canada not entertaining recommendations on advancing existing commitments, it is actively seeking to roll
back hard-won previously-agreed policy measures made in other international fora, including just 3 months ago at the UN
Commission on the Status of Women, for which the theme was elimination and prevention of all forms of violence
against women and girls," said a delegate closely involved in the negotiations.
Without these references, women's rights activists and their allies are less able to hold their governments accountable to provide sexual
violence survivors with essential services they need, as well as work to eliminate gender stereotypes and norms among younger generations,
through providing sexuality education, which can in turn contribute to the elimination of all forms of violence, stigma and
The actions of Canada have resulted in the alienation of its traditional allies on the resolution from all regions of the world. At
the time of this release, many of these allied governments who traditionally co-sponsor UN resolutions addressing violence against
women have indicated that they will not be co-sponsoring this draft resolution unless Canada shows flexibility and fixes the
problems it has created with the text.
"As many as 7 in 10 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, and the first sexual experience
of up to 1/3 of them is forced. Adolescent girls and young women are especially at risk of violence. Up to 50% of sexual
assaults are committed against girls under 16. Canada will be tabling for adoption a resolution that neglects the very
real needs of survivors of sexual violence. In doing so, it has alienated its allies in States and civil society
around the world. This is a historic low for Canada on the international stage," said Prasad.
For further information (not for publication), please contact:
Neha Sood, Advocacy and Policy Officer, Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD),
Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director, Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)
Sarah Kennell, Policy and Communications Officer, Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)
For more HIV and AIDS News visit...
Positively Positive - Living with HIV/AIDS: