Liberia: Sister4Sister Int’l, Women’s Rights Advicate Call for New Treaty to Address Violence against Human in Liberia and Worldwide

Janice Smallwood Malekebu, Executive Director, Sister4Sister International

MONROVIA – A new report released today documents a rapid rise in violence against women and girls worldwide and current gaps in international law to address this crisis. The Safer Now report was released by the Every Woman Treaty, a coalition of over 2,000 women’s rights activists from 128 countries, including LIBERIA, advocating for a new global treaty to address this issue.

Causes of the rising tide of violence include conflict, climate change, cyber-violence, and the lockdowns associated with COVID-19 says the report. Although there are regional treaties to protect women from violence and international law against discrimination against women, there is no specific, overarching framework to protect women and girls from violence worldwide. Every Woman Treaty is urging the UN and nations to adopt a global treaty to fill this legal gap and begin to systematically address this growing crisis.

“Women and girls are dying. The activists defending them are hunted. The violence is rising. This begs a single question Are the needs of women and girls being met under the current system? The indisputable answer is no,” says Najla Ayonbi, co-founder of Every Woman Treaty, in the report. Najla was the first female judge in her province of Afghanistan who paid the price defending women’s rights with the assassination of her father and brother before she was forced to fee.

According to the World Health Organization, violence against women is “devastatingly pervasive,” impacting 1 in 3 women worldwide, with younger women most at risk. “Safer Now” highlights some of the reasons for the current worldwide escalation, including

  • Conflict During conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, violence, particularly sexual violence, is used as an intentional tactic

of war, with women and girls as the primary targets of widespread rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, and torture.

  • Climate Change The impacts of climate change exacerbate drivers of violence against women and children, including economic instability, food insecurity, mental stress, disrupted infrastructure, displacement, human trafficking, and forced marriage as an exchange for goods.
  • Cyberviolence As many as 73 percent of the world’s women have experienced some form of online violence, such as sexual harassment, threats of rape, death, or stalking, and the distribution of sexually explicit images and videos of unsuspecting women without their consent, making cyberviolence one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women.
  • Coiid-19n One in two women reports that they or a woman they know have experienced violence since the Covid-19 pandemic. Since Covid-19, women report feeling less safe because of increased physical violence, threats of violence at home, or because other women in the household have been hurt.

The report also details that while current international law has made extraordinary progress on women’s safety, it does not go nearly far enough to protect women’s right to live free from violence. For example

  • Regional Treaties The Convention in Latin America, the  Maputo   Protocol in Africa, and the Convention in Europe are effective locally, but leave nearly 75 percent of the world’s women without protection from a legally binding instrument specific to violence against women.
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)n CEDAW is an ant-discrimination human rights treaty designed to improve gender equality, such as education and employment opportunities for girls, but it falls short in addressing violence against women and girls. For example, there is no mention of “rape,” “assault,” or “violence” in its texts, leaving its interpretation vague and without legal obligation.

A new treaty would make State obligations clear, specific, and legally binding, and provide adequate attention to the problem’s scope and complexity.

A new global treaty to end violence against women and girls would

  • Work in concert with CEDAW and build on existing regional treaties
  • Bring awareness to the rising violence against women and girls
  • Provide an actionable advocacy tool that protects activists from threats and retaliation
  • Provide a specific, metrics-based reporting frameworks
  • Establish an international monitoring body specific to violence against women and girls
  • Require training and accountability for police officers, judges, and health professionals
  • Increase funding for survivor services such as shelters, hotlines, and legal aids and    Prioritize violence prevention education.

For 30 years, experts – from the Commission on the Status of Women to Special Rapporteurs on violence against women to frontline advocates – have repeatedly called for a global treaty to eliminate violence against women and girls. Now, the treaty is closer than ever to becoming reality. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, and Sierra Leone have formed a State-led group to advance the treaty among UN Member States.

“Women and girls cannot wait any longer. The rise in violence against women and girls demands that we protect them with the highest level of global commitment treaty,” says Every Woman Treaty CEO and co-founder, Lisa Shannon.