The 10th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration of 1993 occurs this year among significant escalation and exacerbation of the phenomenon of violence in al] parts of the world. This is manifested in the crises, conflicts and wars afflicting many areas from Latin America, East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Sudan where numerous forms of violence and discrimination have been committed, with negative effects hitting the peoples even before the governments.
Of the categories most subjected to violence during armed conflict are women. In fact, violence against women was not only confmed to armed conflict but was also woven in societal and institutional entrenched practices due to prevailing misunderstandings, beliefs and traditions, fundamentalism and legislation. There also exists a glaring disparity between words, slogans on the one hand and actual practices on the other.
The international community became aware of this phenomenon nearly two decades ago. More importance was accorded to it in the 90s as reflected in several international conventions and conferences most prominent of which is the Vienna Declaration of 1993. This was followed by the Population Conference 1994, Beijing Conference 1995 and the Beijing+5 Conference in 2000. Accompanying this international activity was another movement at the regional level in different parts of the world.
At the Arab regional level, effective efforts were exerted and many regional NGO conferences convened such as Beijing+5 in Jordan and Beijing+l0 in Cairo where the question of violence was discussed as one of the key themes.
In this context this report covers the activities of one of the most important consultative regional meetings of a global nature which was requested by the special Rapporteur on the question of Violence against Women of the UN Commission on Human Rights,and was organized by the Alliance for Arab Women in recognition of the role played by the Alliance as a NGO regional coordinator in the follow up to the Beijing platform of action.
The following is the final report on the activities of the meeting held at the Conrad Hotel in Cairo on 12,13 May 2003.
First: Preparatory phase of the meeting
The preparatory phase of the meeting was characterized by consultations at three levels. This is because the Alliance for Arab Women adopts a general methodology in all its programs through participation. In this context, the Alliance carried out contacts and formed technical committees at three levels:
The Egyptian level, represented by Egyptian associations involved in combating the phenomenon of violence against women.
The Arab level, represented by the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) (Geneva and Cairo offices).
The international level, represented by UN Human Rights Commission and the Rapporteur on Violence against Women.
These contacts and committees culminated in spelling out the following:
1 - Objectives
The general objective of the meeting is to arrive at an action program against the violence phenomenon, to be planned and implemented by civil associations in Arab countries. It is therefore necessary:
A - To review in general the phenomenon of violence against women in the last decade and to focus on forms, trends and repercussions emanating from it as well as what countries have achieved in confronting it.
B - To determine the magnitude of the violence phenomenon bearing in mind its specificity in every country in the Arab region.
C - To present the experiences of Arab countries in confronting the phenomenon of violence against women.
D - To revise laws and legislation in countries that criminalize violence and to evaluate their effectiveness and enforcement.
E - To exchange expertise among NGOs and between them and the UN Human Rights Commission.
F - To extend necessary expertise to NGOs related to mechanisms utilized by the UN against violence.
Criteria for selecting associations:
1 - The association should have a project or activity related to combating violence against women.
2 - The association should be concerned with, or ready to devise, a project on the issue of violence against women.
Themes of the consultative meeting:
The meeting consisted of plenary sessions in which the general framework of the question of violence against women was defined. Participants split into four groups, each discussing specific aspects of the issue and addressing the following points:
Domestic violence (traditional practices..)
Violence against women in society ( rape, sexual harassment,trafficking in women..).
Violence against women by official authorities (in detention camps, win Rights prisons..).
Violence against women during armed conflicts.
Laws and legislation promulgated by Arab countries to criminalize violence.
Discussions focused on types of violence perpetrated against female categories such as handicapped women, working girl child, immigrant women, refugees and wives of prisoners.
G - Methodology
The meeting followed a methodology that included certain steps and activities towards achieving its goals:
Country papers which map the violence phenomenon
These country papers would eventually be integrated into a comprehensive Arab study
Contributions to the preparation of the meeting and participation in its activities were requested by international experts and organizations.
Documentary films that deal with violence were projected.
A large number of documents and publications were disseminated as background material for the meeting in order to raise awareness of the problem.
H - Targeted groups:
* Arab NGOs
* International agencies and organizations
* Egyptian, Arab and international experts in their personal capacity
* Academicians and researchers
* Arab and international media
Final Report Of Consultative Regional Meeting
Violence Against Women: Dimensions and Consequences. Cairo 12.13 May 2003. Alliance For Arab Women. May 2003
Speeches 1 :
Chairperson The Alliance for Arab Women
Hayfaa Abu Ghazala
Regional Director. United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
Secretary General, Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR)
Faisal Abdel Kader
Regional Director UNFPA (Cairo office)
Stop The War Organization
Regional Representative UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Assistant to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
"UN mechanisms working to eliminate violence aginst women"
CEDAW expert. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Expert
"Violence Against Women - an International Perspective"
Font: Alliance For Arab Women