UN Women Inches Closer to New Policy on Violence Against Women

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women addressed the topic of violence against women in a multi-faceted fashion, prior to gridlock.



Delegates in the Commission on the Status of Women work on merging working papers during an unmoderated caucus.

BOSTON: The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has been working tirelessly since yesterday to address the sensitivities and multiple issue areas associated with the topic of violence against women.

For the past three committee sessions, delegates have been working both constructively and creatively to address every possible facet of this complicated and pervasive issue, and have decided to place their focus on vulnerable populations.

Personally, I deeply commend the committee for selecting this as their first topic. While I do believe that the wage gap and gender inequality in the workplace is a serious issue that women face worldwide, the intersectional and societally-embedded causes of violence against women have yet to be addressed in a comprehensive manner by and international organization. The statistic “one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime” rings like a terrifying siren in my head on a daily basis, and it’s about time a committee composed of the youth of today and the leaders of tomorrow focused its efforts and resources on combatting the realities of this statistic.

Working papers in this committee address the issue of violence against women in both an intersectional and multi-pronged manner. Papers focus on topics ranging from crisis management and health for women, education and economic empowerment of women in the developing world to legislation, wartime violence, and the plight of female refugees. As a woman of colour of Indian origin, where violence against women is both stigmatized and pervasive, I was proud to see such a range of subtopics taken so seriously by the delegates, and the rights of women so respectfully prioritized by all.

My disappointment comes from my continued witnessing of this committee’s inability to merge working papers. The CSW has been in a deadlock for the past committee session, with blocs refusing to merge with others. This impasse lasted hours, and is still unresolved. The CSW Chair has set new committee regulations in order to alleviate the committee of this deadlock, an action that I both commend and respect. More specifically, her requirement now obliges the committee to propose no more than two draft resolutions with 15 signatories each – a requirement that she honours to enforce. Right now, there are 3-5 working papers waiting to be merged. In my opinion, if we want to empower women and advocate for their equality within society, diplomacy, collaboration, and negotiation are of paramount importance.

On the topic of this deadlock, I spoke with the delegate of Trinidad and Tobago, a member of one of the blocs. “Some groups didn’t want to merge with other,” she said, “so there was a dichotomy of strength. We were left out because the group we wanted to merge with felt strong enough on their own.”

The Human Rights Watch NGO confirmed these claims. “Some blocs should definitely be merging because their ideas and policies complement one another significantly,” she told me. However, these same blocs feel strong as a result of their independence and dominance. “They are putting their pride before the goals of the committee.” The delegate of New Zealand echoes Human Rights Watch’s comment. “There’s lots of pressure to merge, so there’s lots of frustration.”

I urge the UN CSW committee to come together, pride aside, with the intention of merging their papers not for themselves, but for that “1 in 5” woman who is a victim of sexual assault. Millions of women worldwide, especially in conflict zones and developing nations, need these policies for their protection, safety, and dignity.

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