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Violences contre les femmes : Qui a peur de la Convention d’Istanbul ?

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on September 8, 2020 at 11:22 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

« You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream », « Vous pouvez tuer le rêveur, mais vous ne pouvez pas tuer le rêve ». Le plus célèbre « rêveur » de l’histoire, Martin Luther King, Jr., qui avait dit à la foule rassemblée devant le Lincoln Memorial de Washington, le 28 août 1963, « I have a dream », « J’ai un rêve », se savait menacé. Il se disait ainsi conscient que d’aucuns saisiraient la première occasion pour l’assassiner, ce qu’ils ont fait le 4 avril 1968 à Memphis. Jamais le « rêve » ne s’est éteint, et l’année 2020 aux Etats-Unis a montré que plus il manquait à se concrétiser, plus il se transformait en cauchemar.

Lorsqu’une personne incarne à ce point sa cause, est-il toujours permis de penser que, pour peu que cette personne disparaisse, la cause lui survivra toujours ? La question se pose désormais en France, depuis le décès le 28 août dernier de Gisèle Halimi, légendaire avocate devenue femme politique puis diplomate et, depuis le Procès de Bobigny qui la fit connaître en 1973, défenseure emblématique de La cause des femmes.

S’il n’a jamais été aussi vigoureux, depuis l’affaire Harvey Weinstein ainsi que l’apparition des hashtags #BalanceTonPorc et #MeToo, le féminisme ne fait pourtant toujours pas l’unanimité. En Europe, certains chefs d’Etat semblent même tant le craindre qu’ils sont prêts à amputer la loi nationale d’un instrument majeur contre les violences liées au genre, au premier rang desquelles les violences conjugales. Quels sont ces dirigeants européens qui rêvent d’un retour en arrière et que cherchent-ils ainsi ? Pourquoi vouloir éloigner encore davantage le « rêve » de Gisèle Halimi de la réalité ?

La Convention d’Istanbul, instrument juridique et engagement politique

A quoi, d’abord, ressemblerait cette amputation ? Quel est cet instrument qui leur fait si peur ? Il s’agit d’un traité, plus précisément d’une convention du Conseil de l’Europe, et comme bien des conventions, celle-ci porte un nom barbare pour les non-juristes, alors le grand public préfère la désigner selon la ville où elle a été adoptée. La Convention du Conseil de l’Europe sur la prévention et la lutte contre la violence à l’égard des femmes et la violence domestique, adoptée le 11 mai 2011 à Istanbul (Turquie), est communément appelée la Convention d’Istanbul.

Entrée en vigueur le 1er mai 2014, elle compte à ce jour trente-quatre Etats Parties et, en tout, quarante-six signataires dont l’un n’est pas un Etat, puisqu’il s’agit de l’Union européenne en tant qu’institution supranationale. Instrument de son temps, la Convention fait référence, outre son illustre aînée la Convention européenne de Sauvegarde des Droits de l’Homme et des Libertés fondamentales, tout à la fois aux classiques du genre, tels que le Pactes internationaux relatifs aux droits civils et politiques ainsi qu’aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, bien sûr la Convention des Nations Unies sur l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard des femmes, la fameuse CEDAW, et la Convention des Nations Unies relative aux droits de l’enfant, mais aussi des textes d’adoption plus contemporaine comme la Convention des Nations Unies relative aux droits des personnes handicapées, datant de 2006, et le Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale.

La Convention justifie son existence non pas seulement en droit, mais aussi en fait, invoquant le « volume croissant de la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme qui établit des normes importantes en matière de violence à l’égard des femmes », et affirmant reconnaître que « la réalisation de jure et de facto de l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes est un élément clé dans la prévention de la violence à l’égard des femmes ». La richesse et la pertinence particulière de la Convention proviennent pourtant de ce qu’elle puise sa force dans la sociologie même, son Préambule reprenant plusieurs réalités de première importance, tant historiques que contemporaines, telles que :

« la violence à l’égard des femmes est une manifestation des rapports de force historiquement inégaux entre les femmes et les hommes ayant conduit à la domination et à la discrimination des femmes par les hommes, privant ainsi les femmes de leur pleine émancipation »,

« la nature structurelle de la violence à l’égard des femmes est fondée sur le genre, et que la violence à l’égard des femmes est un des mécanismes sociaux cruciaux par lesquels les femmes sont maintenues dans une position de subordination par rapport aux hommes »,

« les femmes et les filles sont souvent exposées à des formes graves de violence telles que la violence domestique, le harcèlement sexuel, le viol, le mariage forcé, les crimes commis au nom du prétendu ‘honneur’ et les mutilations génitales, lesquelles constituent une violation grave des droits humains des femmes et des filles et un obstacle majeur à la réalisation de l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes »,

« les violations constantes des droits de l’homme en situation de conflits armés affectant la population civile, et en particulier les femmes, sous la forme de viols et de violences sexuelles généralisés ou systématiques et la potentialité d’une augmentation de la violence fondée sur le genre aussi bien pendant qu’après les conflits »,

« les femmes et les filles sont exposées à un risque plus élevé de violence fondée sur le genre que ne le sont les hommes »,

« la violence domestique affecte les femmes de manière disproportionnée et que les hommes peuvent également être victimes de violence domestique »,

« les enfants sont des victimes de la violence domestique, y compris en tant que témoins de violence au sein de la famille ».

La Convention n’est donc pas un traité de plus, venant s’ajouter à une liste déjà longue lisible des seuls juristes. Elle est un authentique engagement, non pas seulement judiciaire mais aussi politique, du Conseil de l’Europe contre la violence envers les femmes sous les multiples formes qu’elle peut revêtir.

Pour un Etat Partie, s’en retirer ne peut qu’être lourd de sens et tout autant de conséquences. Alors, qui parmi les chefs d’Etat européens peut vouloir en prendre le risque, et quelle peut être la justification d’un acte, même s’il reste hypothétique, aussi indéfendable ?

Pologne et Turquie, même combat – contre les femmes

Les deux pays concernés n’ont en commun ni géographie, ni langue, ni culture, ni religion. Mais aujourd’hui, une tentative identique de leurs dirigeants de déposséder leurs citoyennes de la protection européenne de leurs droits les unit pour le pire.

Le premier coup contre la Convention est venu du nord de l’Europe, d’un pays slave, majoritairement catholique et qui fut pendant la Guerre Froide une dictature communiste du Pacte de Varsovie. Varsovie, qui est aussi la capitale de ce pays puisqu’il s’agit de la Pologne.

Le 26 juillet, le Conseil de l’Europe s’alarmait publiquement de l’annonce du gouvernement du Président Andrzej Duda de son intention de dénoncer la Convention. Marija Pejčinović Burić, la Secrétaire générale du Conseil de l’Europe, déclarait par écrit : « Il serait fort regrettable que la Pologne quitte la Convention d’Istanbul, et ce retrait marquerait un grave recul dans la protection des femmes contre la violence en Europe ».

Zbigniew Ziobro

Devant le tollé, le parti Droit et Justice (PiS) au pouvoir ne tardait pas à se distancier du Ministre de la Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, auteur de l’annonce et représentant d’un parti de droite minoritaire de la coalition gouvernementale. Mais sans désavouer sur le fond le ministre et sans affirmer de soutien à la Convention, précisément jugée trop laxiste par le Gouvernement polonais.

En août, c’était le tour du premier pays à avoir signé et ratifié la Convention de parler à présent de la révoquer, le pays même où a vu le jour la Convention d’Istanbul, donc la Turquie. De nombreux analystes y voyaient un coup de barre à droite de la majorité gouvernementale islamo-conservatrice du Parti de la Justice et du Développement (AKP). Reçep Tayyip Erdogan, Président turc et, à l’époque de l’adoption de la Convention, Premier Ministre, déclarait néanmoins quant à lui qu’« un accord, une réglementation ou une idéologie qui sape les fondations de la famille n’est pas légitime ».

Seul le Parlement, en vacances jusqu’au 1er octobre, pourra décider du retrait ou non la Convention. Et le décès d’une grève de la faim, le 27 août, de l’avocate Ebru Timtik augure mal de la volonté des dirigeants turcs de sauver leurs administrées de violences qu’elles n’ont pas à subir.

Ebru Timtik

Que les partis conservateurs religieux, quelle que soit la religion qu’ils invoquent, n’aient jamais été les plus grands défenseurs des droits des femmes, ce n’est pas nouveau et encore moins secret. De tels partis savent pourtant, du moins devraient savoir, que risquer de perdre le vote des femmes n’est pas et ne sera jamais une stratégie politique sensée, mais bel et bien suicidaire. De là à en déduire que les femmes ne seraient pas la cible, du moins ultime, de ces menaces de départ de la Convention d’Istanbul, il n’y a qu’un pas. Et le franchir mène à une destination inattendue.

Le sexisme en cheval de Troie de la LGBTphobie

Derrière les attaques contre les femmes, dans les deux pays, la véritable cible, c’est la féminité. Non pas la vraie, mais une féminité fantasmée, crainte, maudite, celle qu’incarne aux yeux des conservateurs polonais comme turcs l’homosexualité, et au-delà, toute personne LGBT.

Car forcément, pour un conservateur, l’homosexualité est plus grave encore si elle est masculine puisque, dans son idée, elle féminise l’homme qui s’en réclame, et dès lors, foin du modèle viril patriarcal qu’exalte le conservatisme, cette abhorrée « féminité masculine » corrompt la famille et ronge toute la société.

Un certain nombre de villes de Pologne n’ont rien trouvé de plus intelligent que de se déclarer “LGBT-free”, “Libérées de l’idéologie LGBT”. Elles ont subi à juste titre la colère de leurs villes jumelles à l’étranger, de l’Union européenne, et parfois même de la justice polonaise.

Dès l’époque de son adoption, Zbigniew Ziobro avait été sans équivoque au sujet de la Convention, puisqu’il l’avait dénoncée comme « une invention, une création féministe qui vise à justifier l’idéologie gay ». Le ministre qu’il est devenu n’allait pas se priver de lui infliger le sort qu’elle mérite à ses yeux. Même coupé dans son élan par ses partenaires gouvernementaux, il en demeure capable.

En Turquie, l’anathème contre les personnes LGBT est identique, et c’est de Numan Kurtulmus, Vice-président de l’AKP, qu’il provient sous sa forme la plus explicite. Pour lui, la Convention est « aux mains des LGBT et d’éléments radicaux ». Ce à quoi ne s’attendait certainement pas, en revanche, le parti gouvernemental turc, c’est le soutien apporté à la Convention par l’Association Femmes et Démocratie, notoirement influente et qui a pour Vice-présidente Sümeyye Erdogan Bayraktar, la propre fille du chef de l’Etat.

Sümeyye Erdogan Bayraktar

Voir en la protection légale des femmes contre la violence une présumée manipulation politique des personnes LGBT, c’est tout au mieux du fantasme, au pire de l’homophobie et du sexisme morbides. Même s’il serait naïf de s’étonner de telles saillies haineuses de la part de conservateurs, comment accepter que ce qui est déjà inacceptable en parole devienne la clé qui verrouillera Polonaises et Turques hors de la Convention d’Istanbul ? A l’Europe comme au monde entier, Varsovie et Ankara en demandent ici trop.

Soutien aux femmes de Pologne et de Turquie

Et pendant que les deux gouvernements conservateurs laissent leurs fantasmes dicter leur politique, ailleurs en Europe, dans le nord scandinave, le Danemark met enfin sa législation sur le viol en conformité avec la Convention en l’acceptant enfin pour ce qu’il est – l’absence de consentement. Polonaises et Turques sont vent debout contre la menace. L’Association of World Citizens les soutient et restera à leurs côtés, de même qu’aux côtés des personnes LGBT si sournoisement visées à travers elles par ces intolérables politiques rétrogrades.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

L’ONU n’a plus le droit aux rendez-vous manqués en matière de racisme

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on June 21, 2020 at 10:56 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

Il fallait s’y attendre. Après la mort de l’Afro-Américain George Floyd à Minneapolis (Minnesota) le 25 mai, étouffé par le policier Derek Chauvin et ses collègues auxquels il criait du peu de voix qu’ils lui laissaient « I can’t breathe », « Je ne peux pas respirer », et avec la vague mondiale d’indignation que le drame a soulevée quant au racisme et aux violences policières, l’Afrique s’est élevée d’une seule voix à l’ONU.

Le 12 juin, les cinquante-quatre pays du Groupe africain de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies ont appelé le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme à un « débat urgent sur les violations actuelles des droits de l’homme d’inspiration raciale, le racisme systémique, la brutalité policière contre les personnes d’ascendance africaine et la violence contre les manifestations pacifiques ».

Avec les cinquante-quatre pays africains, c’étaient plus de six cents organisations non-gouvernementales, dont l’Association of World Citizens (AWC), qui appelaient le Conseil à se saisir de la question. Et le 15 juin, la demande a été acceptée sans qu’aucun des quarante-sept Etats qui composent le Conseil ne s’y soit opposé. Le débat demandé a donc eu lieu, sur fond de dénonciation d’un « racisme systémique » par Michelle Bachelet, Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, mais aussi d’indignation des cadres onusiens originaires d’Afrique contre leur propre institution qu’ils jugent trop passive.

The_George_Floyd_mural_outside_Cup_Foods_at_Chicago_Ave_and_E_38th_St_in_Minneapolis,_Minnesota

Une fresque en hommage à George Floyd sur un mur de Chicago (Illinois).

Pour l’Organisation mondiale, il s’agit plus que jamais de n’entendre pas seulement la voix de ses Etats membres, mais aussi celle du peuple du monde qui s’exprime en bravant les frontières, parfois même ses dirigeants. La mort de George Floyd et l’affirmation, plus forte que jamais, que « Black Lives Matter », « Les vies noires comptent », imposent une responsabilité historique à l’ONU qui, en matière de racisme, n’a plus droit aux rendez-vous manqués, réels et présents dans son histoire.

Résolution 3379 : quand l’Assemblée générale s’est trompée de colère

Le 10 novembre 1975, l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU adoptait sa Résolution 3379 portant « Élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination raciale ». Malgré ce titre prometteur, le vote de l’Assemblée générale cristallisait en fait les frustrations des Etats Membres quant à deux situations de conflit, jugées les plus graves au monde depuis la fin de la guerre du Vietnam en avril – l’Afrique australe et le Proche-Orient.

A côté de l’Afrique du Sud ou règne l’apartheid, la ségrégation raciale érigée en système par la minorité blanche aux dépens de la population noire autochtone, se tient l’ancêtre de l’actuel Zimbabwe, la Rhodésie, Etat proclamé en 1970 sur une colonie britannique mais non reconnu par la communauté internationale. La Rhodésie n’est pas un Etat d’apartheid proprement dit, mais sa minorité blanche tient la majorité noire sous la chappe brutale d’un paternalisme colonialiste. Deux organisations indépendantistes, la ZANU et la ZAPU, s’y affrontent dans une violente guerre civile et le gouvernement principalement blanc de Ian Smith n’y veut rien entendre.

Apartheid

Dans l’Afrique du Sud de l’apartheid, même sans le dire, une plage réservée aux Blancs était interdite aux Noirs au même titre qu’elle l’était aux chiens.

Au Proche-Orient, la création en 1948 de l’Etat d’Israël s’est faite sans celle d’un Etat palestinien que prévoyait pourtant le plan original de l’ONU. En 1967, lors de la Guerre des Six Jours qui l’oppose aux armées de plusieurs pays arabes, l’Etat hébreu étend son occupation sur plus de territoires que jamais auparavant, prenant le Sinaï à l’Egypte – qui lui sera rendu en 1982 – et le Golan à la Syrie, la Cisjordanie et Jérusalem-Est échappant quant à elles à la Jordanie. Aux yeux du monde, l’idéal sioniste des fondateurs d’Israël signifie désormais principalement l’oppression de la Palestine.

Et les deux Etats parias de leurs régions respectives avaient fini par s’entendre, causant la fureur tant de l’URSS et de ses alliés à travers le monde que du Mouvement des Non-Alignés au sud. Le 14 décembre 1973, dans sa Résolution 3151 G (XXVIII), l’Assemblée générale avait déjà « condamné en particulier l’alliance impie entre le racisme sud africain et le sionisme ». C’est ainsi que deux ans plus tard, la Résolution 3379 enfonçait le clou contre le seul Israël en se concluant sur ces termes : « [L’Assemblée générale] [c]onsidère que le sionisme est une forme de racisme et de discrimination raciale ».

Impossible de ne pas condamner l’occupation israélienne en Palestine, tant elle paraissait incompatible avec le droit international qui, en 1948, avait précisément permis la création de l’Etat d’Israël. Pour autant, assimiler le sionisme au racisme présentait un double écueil. D’abord, s’il se trouvait un jour une possibilité quelconque d’amener Israéliens et Palestiniens au dialogue, comment Israël allait-il jamais accepter de venir à la table des négociations avec un tel anathème international sur son nom ? C’est ce qui amena, après la Première Guerre du Golfe, l’adoption par l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU de la Résolution 46/86 du 16 décembre 1991 par laquelle la Résolution 3379, et avec elle l’assimilation du sionisme au racisme, étaient tout simplement abrogées, ce qui était l’une des conditions d’Israël pour sa participation à la Conférence de Madrid en octobre. Ensuite, plus durablement cette fois, présenter l’affirmation d’un peuple de son droit à fonder son propre Etat comme étant du racisme ne pouvait qu’alimenter le refus, ailleurs à travers le monde, du droit à l’autodétermination déjà mis à mal dans les années 1960 au Katanga et au Biafra, avec à la clé, l’idée que toute autodétermination allait entraîner l’oppression du voisin.

« Les racistes sont des gens qui se trompent de colère », disait Léopold Sédar Senghor. Il n’en fut pire illustration que la Résolution 3379, inefficace contre le racisme et n’ayant servi qu’à permettre à Israël de se poser en victime là où son occupation des Territoires palestiniens n’avait, et n’a jamais eu, rien de défendable.

Un échec complet donc pour l’ONU, mais qui fut réparé lorsque commença le tout premier processus de paix au Proche-Orient qui entraîna, en 1993, les Accords d’Oslo et, l’année suivante, le traité de paix entre Israël et la Jordanie. C’était toutefois moins une guérison qu’une simple rémission. 

Durban 2001 : l’antiracisme otage de l’antisémitisme

Le 2 septembre 2001 s’est ouverte à Durban, en Afrique du Sud, la Conférence mondiale contre le racisme, la discrimination raciale, la xénophobie et l’intolérance, conférence organisée par les Nations Unies. Sans même évoquer la Résolution 3379 en soi, depuis son abrogation en 1991, le monde avait changé. La Guerre Froide était terminée, l’URSS avait disparu, l’apartheid avait pris fin dans une Afrique du Sud rebâtie en démocratie multiraciale par Nelson Mandela auquel succédait désormais son ancien Vice-président Thabo Mbeki.

Au Proche-Orient, Yitzhak Rabin avait été assassiné en 1995, et avec lui étaient morts les Accords d’Oslo réfutés par son opposition de droite, cette même opposition qui dirigeait désormais Israël en la personne d’Ariel Sharon, ancien général, chef de file des faucons et dont le nom restait associé aux massacres de Sabra et Chatila en septembre 1982 au Liban. Aux Etats-Unis, le libéralisme international des années Clinton avait fait place aux néoconservateurs de l’Administration George W. Bush, hostiles à l’ONU là où leurs devanciers démocrates avaient su s’accommoder du Secrétaire général Kofi Annan. Le monde avait changé, mais c’était parfois seulement pour remplacer certains dangers par d’autres. Et le passé n’allait pas tarder à se rappeler au bon souvenir, trop bon pour certains, des participants.

La Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, Mary Robinson, n’était pas parvenue à mener des travaux préparatoires constructifs, et dès le début des discussions, le résultat s’en est fait sentir. Devant la répression israélienne de la Seconde Intifada à partir de fin septembre 2000, l’Etat hébreu déclenche une fois de plus la colère à travers le monde. Un nombre non négligeable d’Etats rêvent de déterrer la Résolution 3379, mais cette fois, sans plus de racisme sud-africain auquel accoler le sionisme, Israël va voir cette colère dégénérer en récusation non plus du sionisme mais, tout simplement, du peuple juif où qu’il vive dans le monde.

Sharon_ageila

A gauche, Ariel Sharon, alors officier supérieur de Tsahal, en 1967. Plus tard Ministre de la Défense puis Premier Ministre, son nom sera associé à de graves crimes contre les Palestiniens commis par Israël.

S’y attendant, l’Administration Bush a lancé des mises en garde avant le début de la conférence. En ouverture, Kofi Annan annonce la couleur – il ne sera pas question de sionisme, pas de redite de 1975. Rien n’y fait. Toute la journée, des Juifs présents à la conférence sont insultés et menacés de violences. Le Protocole des Sages de Sion, faux document né dans la Russie tsariste au début du vingtième siècle pour inspirer la haine des Juifs, est vendu en marge. Et, comble pour une conférence des Nations Unies, même si elles n’y sont bien entendu pour rien, il est distribué aux participants des tracts à l’effigie, et à la gloire, d’Adolf Hitler.

Il n’en faut pas plus pour qu’Etats-Unis et Israël plient bagages dès le lendemain. Si la France et l’Union européenne restent, ce n’est cependant pas sans un avertissement clair – toute poursuite de la stigmatisation antisémite verra également leur départ.

C’est à la peine qu’est adopté un document final, dont ce n’est qu’en un lointain 58ème point qu’il est rappelé que « l’Holocauste ne doit jamais être oublié ». Dans le même temps, un Forum des ONG concomitant adopte une déclaration si violente contre Israël que même des organisations majeures de Droits Humains telles qu’Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch et la Fédération internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme s’en désolidarisent. Le Français Rony Brauman, ancien Président de Médecins Sans Frontières, ardent défenseur de la cause palestinienne, n’avait pu lui aussi que déplorer l’échec consommé de la conférence, prise en otage par des gens qui prétendaient combattre le racisme, y compris, naturellement, le colonialisme israélien, mais n’avaient en réalité pour but que de répandre le poison de l’antisémitisme.

Pour la dignité de chaque être humain

Le racisme est un phénomène universel, qui n’épargne aucun continent, aucune culture, aucune communauté religieuse. De la part de l’ONU, c’est en tant que tel que le peuple du monde s’attend à le voir combattu. Par deux fois, les Etats membres de l’Organisation mondiale l’ont détournée de sa fonction pour plaquer le racisme sur ce qui était, et qui demeure, une atteinte à la paix et la sécurité internationales, nommément l’occupation israélienne en Palestine où, indéniablement, le racisme joue aussi un rôle, mais qui ne peut se résumer à la seule question de la haine raciale comme c’était le cas de l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud ou comme c’est aujourd’hui celui du scandale George Floyd.

Black_Lives_Matter_protest

Ici à New York en 2014, le slogan “Black Lives Matter”, qui exprime désormais le droit de tout être humain opprimé en raison de son origine au respect et à la justice.

S’il ne peut ni ne doit exister d’indulgence envers quelque Etat que ce soit, en ce compris l’Etat d’Israël, le racisme sous toutes ses formes, surtout lorsqu’il provient d’agents de l’Etat tels que les policiers, ne peut être circonscrit à la condamnation d’une seule situation dans le monde, aussi grave soit-elle, encore moins donner lieu à l’antisémitisme qui est lui aussi une forme de racisme et l’on ne peut en tout bon sens louer ce que l’on condamne !

Par bonheur, le Groupe africain a su éviter tous les écueils du passé, ayant lancé un appel au débat qui fut accepté sans mal par le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme. Les appels de la Haute Commissaire aux Droits de l’Homme et des hauts fonctionnaires d’origine africaine viennent amplifier un appel que l’ONU doit entendre. Le monde s’est réveillé, il faut en finir avec le racisme, et sur son aptitude à agir, à accueillir les critiques, l’ONU joue sa crédibilité dans cette lutte pour la dignité de chaque être humain qui est le premier des droits.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

A Step Forward in the UN’s Efforts Against Rape as a Weapon of War

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Modern slavery, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on April 26, 2019 at 10:50 PM

By René Wadlow

On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, the United Nations (UN) Security Council voted Resolution 2467 concerning the use of rape as a weapon in times of armed conflict. This resolution builds on an earlier resolution of June 24, 2013 which called for the complete and immediate cessation of all acts of sexual violation by all parties in armed conflicts. The new resolution introduced by Germany contained two new elements, both of which were eliminated in the intense negotiations in the four days prior to the vote of 13 in favor and two abstentions, those of Russia and China.

The first new element in the German proposed text concerned help to the victims of rape. The proposed paragraph was “urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities.”

French Ambassador François Delattre

The United States (U. S). delegation objected to this paragraph claiming that “sexual and reproductive health” were code words that opened a door to abortion. Since a U. S. veto would prevent the resolution as a whole, the paragraph was eliminated. There had been four days of intense discussions among the Security Council members concerning this paragraph, with only the U. S. opposed to any form of planned parenthood action. After the resolution was passed with the health paragraph eliminated, the Permanent Representative of France, Ambassador François Delattre, spoke for many of the members saying “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzya

The second concept of the German draft that was eliminated was the proposal to create a working group to monitor and to review progress on ending sexual violence in armed conflict. Such a working group was opposed by the diplomats of Russia and China, both of which have the veto power. Thus, for the same reason as with the U. S. opposition, the idea of a monitoring working group was dropped. Both China and Russia are opposed to any form of UN monitoring, fearing that their actions on one topic or another would be noted by a monitoring group. The Russian diplomat had to add that he was against the added administrative burden that a monitoring group would present but that Russia was against sexual violence in conflict situations.

Thus, the new UN Security Council Resolution 2467 is weaker than it should have been but is nevertheless a step forward in building awareness. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) first raised the issue in the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2001, citing the judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing an accused to trial. The Tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

Nadia Murad, the Iraqi women’s rights activist who was raped as an ISIS/Daesh slave

The AWC again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights Violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo citing the findings of Meredeth Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa (London: Zed Press, 1998). They write “There are numerous types of rape. Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The Security Council resolution opens the door to civil society organizations to build on the concepts eliminated from the governmental resolution itself. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must play an ever-more active role in providing services to rape victims with medical, psychological and socio-cultural services. In addition, if the UN is unable to create a monitoring and review of information working group, then such a monitoring group will have to be the task of cooperative efforts among NGOs. It is always to be hoped that government acting together would provide the institutions necessary to promote human dignity. But with the failure of governments to act, our task as nongovernmental representatives is set out for us.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

The Spiritual and Socialist Start of International Women’s Day

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, United Nations, Women's Rights on March 8, 2019 at 10:53 PM

By René Wadlow

March 8 is the International Day of Women and thus a time to highlight the specific role of women in local, national and world society. International Women’s Day was first proposed by Clara Zetlin (1857-1933) at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1911. Later, she served as a socialist-communist member of the German Parliament during the Weimar Republic which existed from 1920 to 1933 when Hitler came to power. Zetlin went into exile in the Soviet Union shortly after Hitler came to power. She died there several months later in 1933.

Zetkin had lived some years in Paris and was active in women’s movements there. The women were building on the 1889 International Congress for Feminine Works and Institutions held in Paris under the leadership of Ana de Walska.  De Walska was part of the circle of young Russian and Polish intellectuals in Paris around Gerard Encausse (1865-1916), a spiritual writer who wrote under the pen name of Papus and edited a journal, L’Initiation (1). Papus stressed the need for world peace. In 1901 Papus spent time in Russia as a spiritual adviser to Tsar Nicholas II. Papus had warned the Tsar against the growing influence of Rasputin.

Clara Zetkin

This turn-of-the-century spiritual milieu was influenced by Indian and Chinese thought. Translations of fundamental Asian philosophical texts were increasingly known in an educated public. ‘Feminine’ and ‘masculine’ were related to the Chinese terms of Yin and Yang − not opposed but in a harmonic balance.  Men and women alike have within themselves the Yin and Yang psychological characteristics. ‘Feminine’ characteristics or values include intuitive, nurturing, caring, sensitive and relational traits.  ‘Masculine’ traits are rational, assertive and analytical.

Yin and Yang

As individual persons, men and women alike can achieve a state of wholeness, of balance between the Yin and Yang.  However, in practice, ‘masculine’ refers to men and ‘feminine’ to women.  Thus, some feminists identify the male psyche as the prime cause of the subordination of women around the world.  Men are seen as having nearly a genetic coding that leads them to ‘seize’ power, to institutionalize that power through patriarchal societal structures and to buttress that power with masculine values and culture.

Thus, Clara Zetkin saw the need to call attention in a forceful way to the role that women as women play in society and the many blocks which men place in their way.  She made her proposal in 1911 and the idea of the Day was taken up within the Socialist movements.

The harmonious balance of Yin and Yang, present in the early discussions around Ana de Walska and Papus, largely dropped out of the Socialist version of International Women’s Day.  However, with greater attention being given to Chinese philosophical thought, we may see a revival of the theme.

The emerging world society has been slow to address the problem of injustice to women, because it has lacked a consensus on sex-based inequality as an urgent issue of political justice.  The outrages suffered every day by millions of women − domestic violence, child sexual abuse, child marriage, inequality before the law, poverty and lack of dignity require concerted action. Leadership on these issues comes more often from nongovernmental organizations rather than legislative action. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements to create sustainable ways of living in which all categories of people are encouraged to contribute. March 8, 2019 is a reminder of the positive steps taken but also the distance yet to be covered.

Note

1. See the biography by Marie-Sophie André and Christophe Beaufils, Papus (Paris: Berg International, 1995, 354pp.)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.


Pakistan Blasphemy Death Sentence Overturned: A One-time Event or a Trend Toward Justice?

In Asia, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights on November 1, 2018 at 10:55 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 29, 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan reversed the decision of lower courts sentencing to death Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four for blasphemy. After 3,422 days of imprisonment in solitary confinement, the Supreme Court reversed a 2010 lower court verdict. Asia Bibi is now in seclusion and will probably leave the country as some 60 persons in Pakistan have been murdered since 1990, accused of blasphemy.

Her case had drawn attention in Pakistan. Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab Province, was murdered by his bodyguard for commenting on the Bibi case and suggesting that the blasphemy laws should be modified or abolished. Shahbaz Phatti, the Central Government’s Minister for Minorities likewise was murdered for commenting on the Asia Bibi case. Already, there are angry groups in the streets near the homes of the Supreme Court justices attacking their decision. The military has been called to protect them, but radical Islamist groups such as the Tehreek-i-Labaik may incite more demonstrations.

Asia Bibi

During the presidency of General Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988) the Hudaad (Punishment) Ordinances were introduced in 1984 which “define crimes against Islam”. In hudaad cases, the testimony of a non-Muslim is considered worth half that of a Muslim. Section 298-B and 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code dealing with blasphemy singles out the Ahamadiyya as “non-Muslim”, considered by Sunni theologians as heretics, while the Ahmadi consider themselves as the final flowering of Islam. Shi’a Muslims have also been arrested for blasphemy as the law has been expanded to include defiling of the Prophet’s family and companions. (1)

Section 298-C is very broad. “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) shall be punished with death.

While the blasphemy laws were originally directed against the Ahmadi, some of whom hold high position in society, the blasphemy laws are increasingly used against Christians who are often the rural poor, having been converted from low caste Hindus prior to Independence. While there is a small Protestant elite, the bulk of Christians in Pakistan are Roman Catholic and rural poor. Those in cities often carry out menial work, sweeping streets, garbage collection. Thus, when accused, it is difficult for them to pay a lawyer, and lawyers who have taken the defense have been threatened with death. In the climate of intolerance which prevails and in view of threats and pressures brought on the judiciary, it has become nearly impossible to obtain a fair hearing for those charged under the blasphemy laws.

In practice, the blasphemy charges are often used to mask more material motivations, often disputes over land ownership and land use as well as personal vendetta. The failure of successive Governments to bring under control the Islamist extremist movements in the country has strengthened their hands to victimize individuals and groups with impunity.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is opposed to the death penalty in all cases, which certainly includes the “crime of blasphemy”. The AWC has appealed to the authorities of Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy laws and raised the Asia Bibi case in the human rights bodies of the human rights bodies of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. There can be no doubt that freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is of a fundamental character and arises from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

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In 1981, after almost 20 years of formulation and reformulation, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (GA Res 55, November 25, 1981). The Declaration represented the efforts of a relatively small group of governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) both religious and secular such as the AWC. The UN Commission on Human Rights, continued by the Human Rights Council, has a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief who makes reports largely based on information provided by NGOs. The existence of the Special Rapporteur and thus an automatic agenda item allows NGO representatives to highlight issues as they develop. An example is my 2008 intervention at a time when the Government of Indonesia was about to follow the pattern of Pakistan in its attacks on the Ahmadiyya.

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         “Mr President, One of the important functions of NGO representatives in the work of our Council is that of ‘early warning’. By calling attention at the first signs of danger, our hope is that governments and NGOs working together in a cooperative spirit can uphold universally recognized human rights standards. Our aim is to avoid violence and to prevent an escalation of tensions which often take on a life of their own.

It is in this spirit that we raise what seems to be a growing pressure against the Ahmadiyya branch of Islam in Indonesia. We raise it under agenda item 9 as the defamation of a religion can be understood as attacks without reasoned discussion on the doctrine of a religion, on the founder of a religious movement or on the current representatives of a religious movement.

Thus, attacks on the Ahmadiyya are often focused on the founder of the movement: Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who is considered by his followers as the promised Madhi who is to mark the birth of a new era. The movement began in the early 1880s in what was then British India’s Punjab province, now split between India and Pakistan.

From there, the movement has spread to many different countries, including Indonesia. In normally tolerant Indonesia, the Ahmadiyya movement has carried on its activities of worship, education and social services in relative peace for many years.

The causes of the recent flair up of defamation against the founder and the charges of being heretics against the Ahmadiyya followers need to be looked at carefully if we are to prevent what seems to be some violent attacks against flowers followed by police closings of places of worship. The constant defamation of the founder should serve as a warning. In cooperation with the Government of Indonesia, the Council must do all it can to encourage the restoration of mutual understanding among people of different religious movements. Thank you Mr. President”

The AWC welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. We will have to watch if it is a one-time event not to be repeated soon or if, more hopefully, it is a sign of a trend toward justice on the part of the new Pakistan Administration.

Note:

(1) See Charles H. Kennedy. “Repugnance to Islam. Who Decides? Islam and Legal Reform in Pakistan” in International and Comparative Law, Vol. 41, Part 4, p. 772, October 1992.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Highlighting the Need to Combat the Use of Rape as a Weapon of War

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on October 27, 2018 at 2:49 PM

By René Wadlow

The co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, has become an eloquent spokesperson for the effort to outlaw the use of rape as a weapon of war. Rape has often been considered as a nearly normal part of war. When an army took a city or town, the rape of women followed, a reward to brave soldiers. Military commanders turned a blind eye.

However, whatever may have been past practice, rape has now become a weapon of war, often an effort at genocide. Women’s reproductive organs are deliberately destroyed with the aim of preventing the reproduction of a group – one of the elements of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Denis Mukwege has created a clinic near Bukavu in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo – a country that is democratic only in name. He and a number of younger doctors whom he was trained try to care for women who have undergone rape by multiple men, one after the other, often in public in front of family members and others who know the woman. Known rape, even by a single person, can be a cause of family breakup, lasting shame, and an inability to continue living in the same village. There are also negative attitudes toward children born of a rape. Multiple rape is often followed by deliberate destruction of the reproductive organs.

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The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the two Kivu states, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front now become the government of Rwanda. Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had led the killings of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. They continued to kill Tutsi living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.

The influx of a large number of Hutu led to a desire to control the wealth of the area – rich in gold, tropical timber and rare minerals such as those used in mobile telephones. In the Kivu, many problems arise from land tenure issues. With a large number of new people, others displaced, and villages destroyed, land tenure and land use patterns need to be reviewed and modified.

However, violence in the eastern Congo is not limited to fighting between Hutus and Tutsis. There are armed bands from neighboring countries – Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda – who have come on the scene attracted by possible wealth from timber and mines of rare minerals. In addition, local commanders of the Congolese Army, far from the control of the Central Government, have created their own armed groups, looting, raping, and burning village homes.

There is a United Nations (U. N.) peacekeeping force in the Congo, the U. N.’s largest peacekeeping mission. However, its capacity has reached its limit. Its operations are focused on areas with roads, leaving villages on small paths largely unguarded.

There has been a growing international awareness of the use of rape as a weapon of war. The issue was raised during the conflicts which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia as well as cases brought to the International Criminal Court. The Association of World Citizens has raised the issue in U. N. human rights bodies in Geneva.

Yet there is much yet to be done to make the outlawing of rape as a norm of humanitarian law and, especially, to prevent its practice. The Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege should be a strong step forward in this effort.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Nadia Murad: A Yazidi Voice Against Slavery

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on October 24, 2018 at 9:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Nadia Murad, now a United Nations (U. N.) Goodwill Ambassador on Trafficking of Persons, is the co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014, when she was 21, she and her neighbors in a predominantly Yazidi village in the Simjar mountainous area of Iraq were attacked by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These forces were following a pattern of targeted killings, forced conversions to Islam, abductions, trafficking of women, sexual abuse and slavery. In Murad’s village, most of the older men were killed, the younger men taken to be soldiers in the ISIS forces, and the women taken into slavery, primarily as sex slaves, in Mosul, the city which served as the headquarters of ISIS.

There were some 500,000 Yazidi in Iraq though Iraqi demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds who had been Yazidis but had converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds in Turkey but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. Many of the Yazidi are ethnic Kurds and the government of Saddam Hussein was opposed to them not so much for their religious beliefs but because some Yazidi played important roles in the Kurdish community seen as largely opposed to his government.

Nadia Murad

 

After a time in Mosul, Murad, with the help of a compassionate Muslim family, was able to escape Mosul and make her way to the Iraqi Kurdistan area where many Yazidis from the Sinjar area had already arrived. Once there she joined a newly created association of Yazidi women who had organized to defend their rights and so that the voices of women could be heard. A few of these women were able to be resettled in Western Europe. Nadia Murad was able to live in Germany where she became the spokesperson for Yazidi women and other women who had met a similar fate. In December 2015, she addressed the U. N. Security Council and became the public face both for the Yazidi women and for an even larger number of women victims of the fighting in Iraq and Syria.

The structure of the Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian, a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces, that of light and good, and that of darkness and evil, are in constant battle. Man is called upon to help light overcome darkness. However, the strict dual thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet, Mani of Ctesiplon in the third century CE. Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through trade: Buddhism and Hinduism from India, Jewish and Christian thought, Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece, as well as many smaller traditional and “animist” beliefs. He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework, though giving it a more Taoist (yin/yang) character. Mani had traveled in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul by individual effort through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought.

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Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework, the Yazidi added the presence of angels who are to help humans in their constant battle for light and good. The main angel is Melek Tavis, the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam, angels that one does not know could well be demons, so the Yazidi are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers” (1).

While it is dangerous to fall into a good/evil analysis of world politics, there is little to see of “good” in the ISIS actions. Thus, Nadia Murad can be seen as a bringer of light into a dark time.

 

Note
(1) A Yazidi website has been set up by Iraqis living in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. The website is uneven but of interest as self-presentation: http://www.yeziditruth.org (“Yazidi” is sometimes written “Yezidi”)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Human Rights: Government Failures, NGO Need to Organize!

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on March 4, 2018 at 10:08 PM

By René Wadlow

In his final address to the Human Rights Council on February 26, 2018, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein decried the “pernicious use of the veto” by permanent members of the UN Security Council – the USA, Russia, and China in particular – to block any unity of action to reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people in “the most prolific slaughterhouse of humans in recent times.”

However, it is not only the veto in the Security Council which prevents governments from acting. There is a widespread failure of governments to act. “Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action.”

He continued by mentioning States in which armed conflicts were the framework for constant human rights violations, including the fundamental right to life: Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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He highlighted the growing wave of narrow nationalism promoted by political parties and in some cases by the leaders of government. “Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said ‘We do not want our color…to be mixed in with others’ “

He concluded with a warning and an encouragement to action. “It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations which will spark the conflicts that can break the world…For the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This we cannot allow to happen.”

In the light of the use of the veto in the UN Security Council and the realpolitik considerations of States in general, it is the task of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) to promote the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and the respect of humanitarian international law while the armed conflicts go on. NGOs must work so that universal human rights are the basis of society at all times.

In order to carry out these crucial tasks, NGOs must become stronger, have greater access to the media, increase their networks to more countries, and develop greater cooperation among themselves. These challenges require a wise use of current resources and efforts to increase them. There is a need to increase cooperation with universities and other academic institutions for background information and analysis. Government representatives always look for factual errors in NGO presentations as a way to discredit the whole presentation. Dialogue with the representatives of governments must be continued and, if possible, made more regular. States will continue to be important agents in the world society, and we must try to be in contact even when government actions are unreasonable, even criminal.

Cooperation among NGOs will facilitate an outreach to more sectors of the world society. Often a specific NGO will reach a particular milieu – religious, geographic, professional, social class. By cooperation a wider audience can be reached, and techniques for positive action set out.

As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed armed violence, systematic repression, waves of hate and xenophobia are strong today, and there is a real danger that they will grow. To meet these negative challenges, we who uphold the unity of the human family must organize ever-more effectively.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Women as Peacemakers

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on October 31, 2017 at 9:31 PM

By René Wadlow

“Seeing with eyes that are gender aware, women tend to make connections between the oppression that is the ostensible cause of conflict (ethnic or national oppression) in the light of another cross-cutting one: that of gender regime. Feminist work tends to represent war as a continuum of violence from the bedroom to the battlefield, traversing our bodies and our sense of self. We glimpse this more readily because as women we have seen that ‘the home’ itself is not the haven it is cracked up to be. Why, if it is a refuge, do so many women have to escape it to ‘refuges’? And we recognize, with Virginia Woolf, that ‘the public and private worlds are inseparably connected: that the tyrannies and servilities of one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other.”

Cynthia Cockburn, Negotiating Gender and National Identities.

October 31 is the anniversary of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for full and equal participation of women in conflict prevention, peace processes, and peace-building, thus creating opportunities for women to become fully involved in governance and leadership. This historic Security Council resolution 1325 of October 31, 2000 provides a mandate to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace support. Its adoption is part of a process within the UN system through its World Conferences on Women in Mexico City (1975), in Copenhagen (1980), in Nairobi (1985), in Beijing (1995), and at a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to study progress five years after Beijing (2000).

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Since 2000, there have been no radical changes as a result of Resolution 1325, but the goal has been articulated and accepted. Now women must learn to take hold of and generate political power if they are to gain an equal role in peace-making. They must be willing to try new avenues and new approaches as symbolized by the actions of Lysistrata.

Lysistrata, immortalized by Aristophanes, mobilized women on both sides of the Athenian-Spartan War for a sexual strike in order to force men to end hostilities and avert mutual annihilation. In this, Lysistrata and her co-strikers were forerunners of the American humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow who proposed a hierarchy of needs: water, food, shelter, and sexual relations being the foundation. (See Abraham Maslow The Farther Reaches of Human Nature) Maslow is important for conflict resolution work because he stresses dealing directly with identifiable needs in ways that are clearly understood by all parties and with which they are willing to deal at the same time.

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Addressing each person’s underlying needs means that one moves toward solutions that acknowledge and value those needs rather than denying them. To probe below the surface requires redirecting the energy towards asking ‘what are your real needs here? What interests need to be serviced in this situation?’ The answers to such questions significantly alter the agenda and provide a real point of entry into the negotiation process.

It is always difficult to find a point of entry into a conflict. An entry point is a subject on which people are willing to discuss because they sense the importance of the subject and all sides feel that ‘the time is ripe’ to deal with the issue. The art of conflict resolution is highly dependent on the ability to get to the right depth of understanding and intervention into the conflict. All conflicts have many layers. If one starts off too deeply, one can get bogged down in philosophical discussions about the meaning of life. However, one can also get thrown off track by focusing on too superficial an issue on which there is relatively quick agreement. When such relatively quick agreement is followed by blockage on more essential questions, there can be a feeling of betrayal.

Since Lysistrata, women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies. However, when real negotiations begin, women are often relegated to the sidelines. However, a gender perspective on peace, disarmament, and conflict resolution entails a conscious and open process of examining how women and men participate in and are affected by conflict differently. It requires ensuring that the perspectives, experiences and needs of both women and men are addressed and met in peace-building activities. Today, conflicts reach everywhere. How do these conflicts affect people in the society — women and men, girls and boys, the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the urban and the rural?

There has been a growing awareness that women and children are not just victims of violent conflict and wars − ‘collateral damage’ − but they are chosen targets. Conflicts such as those in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have served to bring the issue of rape and other sexual atrocities as deliberate tools of war to the forefront of international attention. Such violations must be properly documented, the perpetrators brought to justice, and victims provided with criminal and civil redress.

I would stress three elements which seem to me to be the ‘gender’ contribution to conflict transformation efforts:

1) The first is in the domain of analysis, the contribution of the knowledge of gender relations as indicators of power. Uncovering gender differences in a given society will lead to an understanding of power relations in general in that society, and to the illumination of contradictions and injustices inherent in those relations.

2) The second contribution is to make us more fully aware of the role of women in specific conflict situations. Women should not only be seen as victims of war: they are often significantly involved in taking initiatives to promote peace. Some writers have stressed that there is an essential link between women, motherhood and non-violence, arguing that those engaged in mothering work have distinct motives for rejecting war which run in tandem with their ability to resolve conflicts non-violently. Others reject this position of a gender bias toward peace and stress rather that the same continuum of non-violence to violence is found among women as among men. In practice, it is never all women nor all men who are involved in peace-making efforts. Sometimes, it is only a few, especially at the start of peace-making efforts. The basic question is how best to use the talents, energies, and networks of both women and men for efforts at conflict resolution.

3) The third contribution of a gender approach with its emphasis on the social construction of roles is to draw our attention to a detailed analysis of the socialization process in a given society. Transforming gender relations requires an understanding of the socialization process of boys and girls, of the constraints and motivations which create gender relations. Thus, there is a need to look at patterns of socialization, potential incitements to violence in childhood training patterns, and socially-approved ways of dealing with violence.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed that it is important to have women directly involved in peace-making processes. The strategies women have adapted to get to the negotiating table are testimony to their ingenuity, patience and determination. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements. The path may yet be long, but the direction is set.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Let My Children Go: World Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights on June 11, 2017 at 12:10 AM

LET MY CHILDREN GO: WORLD EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR

By René Wadlow

June 12 is a red-letter day on the United Nations (UN) agenda of events as the World Day Against Child Labor. It marks the June 12 arrival in 1998 of hundreds of children in Geneva, part of the Global March against Child Labor that had crossed a hundred countries to present their plight to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

“We are hurting, and you can help us” was their message to the assembled International Labor Conference which meets each year in Geneva in June. One year later, in June, the ILO had drafted ILO Convention N° 182 on Child Labor which 165 States have now ratified — the fastest ratification rate in the ILO’s history.

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ILO Convention N°182 sets out in article 3 the worst forms of child Labor to be banned:

  1. All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory Labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
  2. The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
  3. The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
  4. Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

The Convention is supplemented by a Recommendation: the Worst Forms of Child Labor Recommendation N° 1999, which provisions should be applied in conjunction with the Convention: “Program of Action (article 6): Among other issues, the situation of the girl child and the problem of hidden work situations in which girls are at special risk are explicitly mentioned; Hazardous work (article 3(d)): In determining the types of hazardous work, consideration should be given, inter alia, to work which exposes children to physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

ILO_Geneva

The ILO building in Geneva, Switzerland

The ILO is the only UN organization with a tripartite structure, governments, trade unions and employer associations are all full and equal members. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the UN system as a whole played an important role in highlighting children working in circumstances that put their physical, mental and social development at risk, children working in situations where they are exploited, mistreated and denied the basic rights of a human being. Today, millions of children, especially those living in extreme poverty, have no choice but to accept exploitative employment to ensure their own and their family’s survival. However, the ILO is the UN agency most directly related to conditions of work. Thus, the ILO has often been an avenue for ‘unheard voices’ to be heard, usually through the trade union representatives; more rarely the employer representatives have played a progressive role.

Child Labor and the increasing cross-frontier flow of child Labor did not have a high profile on the long agenda of pressing Labor issues until the end of the 1990s. At the start of the 1990s, there was only one full-time ILO staff member assigned to child Labor issues; now there are 450, 90 percent in the field.

Child_labor_in_Africa

Child Labor was often hidden behind the real and non-exploitative help that children bring to family farms. However, such help often keeps children out of school and thus outside the possibility of joining the modern sector of the economy. The ILO estimates that of some 200 million Child Laborers in the world, some 70 percent are in agriculture, 10 percent in industry/mines and the others in trade and services — often as domestics or street vendors in urban areas. Globally, Asia accounts for the largest number of child workers — 122 million, Sub-Saharan Africa, 50 million, and Latin America and the Caribbean, 6 million. Young people under 18 make up almost half of humanity, a half which is virtually powerless in relation to the other half. To ensure the well-being of children and adolescents in light of this imbalance of power, we must identify attitudes and practices which cause invisibility.

Statistics are only one aspect of the story. It is important to look at what type of work is done and for whom. The image of the child helping his parents on the farm can hide wide-spread bonded Labor in Asia. Children are ‘farmed out’ to others for repayment of a debt with interest. As the interest rates are too high, the debt is never paid off and ‘bonded Labor’ is another term for a form of slavery.

In Africa, children can live at great distances from their home, working for others with no family ties and thus no restraints on the demands for work. Girls are particularly disadvantaged as they often undertake household chores following work in the fields. Schooling for such children can be non-existent or uneven at best. There is often a lack of rural schools and teachers. Rural school attendance is variable even where children are not forced to work. Thus, there is a need for better coordination between resources and initiatives for rural education and the elimination of exploitative child Labor.

Child_labor_in_a_Pakistan_Shop

There is still a long way to go to eliminate exploitative child Labor. Much child Labor is in what is commonly called the non-formal sector of the economy where there are no trade unions. Child Labor is often related to conditions of extreme poverty and to sectors of the society where both adults and children are marginalized such as many tribal societies in Asia, or the Roma in Europe or migrant workers in general.

In addition to the worst forms of exploitative child Labor, there is the broad issue of youth training and employment. The challenges ahead are very much a youth challenge. The world will need to create millions of new jobs over the next decade in order to provide employment for the millions of new entrants into the Labor market in addition to creating jobs for the millions of currently unemployed or underemployed youth.

There needs to be worldwide Labor market policies that provide social protection measures, better training for an ever-changing work scene. World Citizens support the demands of decent work for all. We need to cooperate to build economies and societies where young persons participate fully in the present and the future.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a Representative to the United Nations –Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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