By YENA SEO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Expository)
During the first session of the Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) conference, member nations of the Commission on the Status of Women met to discuss gender violence around the world.
With the 2010 creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, more commonly referred to as UN Women, the international community has reaffirmed its commitment to achieving gender equality and eradicating violence and discrimination against women. At the founding of UN Women, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the body would “significantly boost UN efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe.” The Commission on the Status of Women works collaboratively with UN Women to empower women and to promote gender equality.
The topic of violence against women is especially prominent today, with the World Health Organization reporting that approximately 1 in 3 women around the world have experienced physical or sexual violence. This violence can be attributed to power and economic inequalities, as well as cultural and religious environments.
At HNMUN, the member nations of the Commission on the Status of Women were divided over tackling the causes of gender violence and dealing with the resulting consequences of gender violence. Many of the nations seemed to emphasize one or the other in their speeches.
“We’ve dealt too long with the consequences of violence,” the delegate representing Iran said. “We need to look at the root causes of the issue, rather than trying to play catch-up.”
However, several nations noted that a comprehensive approach would tackle both the consequences and contributing causes to gender violence, and would also work on multiple levels.
“Any approach we take would not necessarily mean we breach the sovereignty of countries,” the delegate from Canada said. “We need to work with multiple levels, cultures and organizations to fully address the issue.”
Other issues that were raised targeted the different environments around the world in which gender violence is found. Although several nations supported public relations, social media and marketing campaigns to eliminate stereotypes, other delegates argued that such efforts would not be feasible in some areas of the world.
“Not all states have freedom of press and freedom of speech that can aid in these public relations and social media efforts,” the delegate from Belarus said. “We must look at other options and work with local communities in these regions.”
The speech that garnered the most support and interest was from China, who stressed the importance of intersectionality in any approach.
“Our feminism must be intersectional,” the delegate from China said. “There is violence against women of color and women of lower income, and we have to learn to address multiple factors when dealing with violence against women.”
The delegate from Iran in the Commission on the Status of Women emphasizes the need to look at underlying causes of violence against women.