Why is rape not considered torture? (or the Fifteenth Report on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights, April 6, 2005)

Yakin Erturk, the Special Rapporteur (SR) on violence against women, its causes and consequences:

-widespread violence against women around the world and just as common is impunity of the violators.

-country visits to Guatemala, El Salvador, occupied Palestinian territories, Sudan. In Guatemala widespread violence against indigenous women who face multiple discriminations. In Sudan, horrific rape by armed forces of women in refugee camps and trying to escape from war zones, this encouraged by government. In occupied Palestine, no freedom of movement for Palestinian women who end up giving birth at military checkpoints and dying.

-domestic violence as a human rights violation, even though by definition human rights violations are State sponsored, because domestic violence is indicative of inequalities in power between men and women, and so even though it occurs in private sphere, is indicative of cultural, religious and societal forces that violate the human rights of women. Also, marital rape is a human rights violation that must be recognized as such.

-her report focuses on the intersection between violence against women and HIV/AIDS spread with some horrific statistics and information. Rape in all its forms (war, domestic violence, prostitution, etc) and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Feminization of the disease. Horrible stuff.

El Salvador – concerned country:

-thanked Ms. Erturk for her good work, noted positive changes for advancement of women, how the government is eradicating violence against women through legislation and assistance, etc. blah blah.

-then criticized the SR for making subjective judgments about El Salvadorian culture, especially her comments about incest and the widespread sexual abuse of daughters by their step-fathers, especially if their mother is no longer of childbearing age.

-El Salvador does everything to fulfill its obligations to their women.

Guatemala – concerned country:

-thanked Ms. Erturk for her good work, noted positive changes for advancement of women, but violence against women is not a problem of the State, but in any case are working to improve the situation. Violence against women is a very complex issue with a varying social and cultural basis all of which must be considered.

-went through all of the legislation that Guatemala has enacted to protect women, and especially indigenous women.

Israel – concerned country:

-a very odd discussion about the evils of terrorism. Hardly anything about violence against women, except to say that the violence against women present in the occupied territories has nothing to do with the occupation of Palestine by Israel.

Palestine – concerned country:

-detailed horrific violence against women by Israeli occupying powers, all of which are detailed in report of SR. horrific. Some more grotesque than what Ms. Erturk discusses.

Sudan – concerned country:

-they thanked their ‘very good friend’ the Special Rapporteur for her report.

-they claimed that they have changed legislation so that rapists have the longest sentence possible now (what would that be? 10 days?). Murder is not a problem in Sudan. The only violence against women taking place is in Darfur region by rebel forces. Criticized the SR for saying that the justice system in Sudan is inefficient in addressing violence against women, and they said that it is not in the mandate of the SR to assess their legal system nor that of any member of UN.

Interactive Dialogue with SR on Violence Against Women:

Iran: spoke for ages and said nothing, very general statement about violence against women. Also discussed the SRs visit to Iran and all of the advances Iran has made in the promotion and protection of human rights of women.

Mexico: Will the SR work with the SR on adequate housing to integrate the issues of violence against women and domestic violence with the right to housing?

USA: Is there disaggregated data on the disproportionate number of women HIV/AIDS victims in Africa? Wanted to know that in forced marriages, if Member States understood that it was wrong for young girls to marry? The intersection of peacekeeping forces and violence against women?

Canada: What is Iran doing to improve human rights for their women?

Indonesia: The SRs report was not accurate in her comments about Indonesia.

Cuba: How are developing nations meant to fulfill her recommendations if they do not have the resources and technical assistance to do it?

New Zealand: something ridiculous and incomprehensible.

Switzerland: Whether women in prison had access to HIV/AIDS screening.

Russia: blah blah blah, said nothing.

Luxembourg (EU): Darfur and sexual violence, what is rape to the women of Darfur? What needs to be done to criminalize marital rape, especially since many States do not agree it exists? How should men and boys be encouraged to participate in the elimination of violence against women?

SR Erturk – closing comments:

-to Sudan-shows that we can be friends and disagree. Her information came from Sudan’s own committee of inquiry.

-to Israel – that we consider her theory about violence in the occupied territories as a hypothesis that will be tested once the occupation is over!

-necessary steps are being taken to investigate this issue of marital rape, forced marriages, as well as violence against women in terms of peacekeeping forces.

-she has written an article on masculinity and the male role in eliminating violence against women.

Ms. Sigma Huda – Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and girls:

-as it is her first report, mostly a work plan and methodology for her term as SR. discussion of scope of her mandate. Has attended several conferences on issues relating to trafficking. Met with governments and UN agencies, but only one country visit so far to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

-issues arising with trafficking are sexual exploitation of women and girls, sexual slavery, with many being bought and sold over the internet. Many times the victims are criminalized for violating immigration laws or prostitution, while the perpetrators of trafficking go free. Labor trafficking, trafficking for organ donations, adoption. But mostly for sexual exploitation.

-human rights must be at the core of any anti-trafficking program and victims must not be criminalized.

Bosnia-Herzegovina – Concerned Country

-condolences to the Vatican for death of the Pope.

-thank her for the report, blah blah blah empty statement.

Interactive Dialogue:

USA: more attention should be placed on the demand side of trafficking, what are the root causes, and it continues because there is a huge market. How do the demand factors contribute? What about trafficking of children as soldiers? What about trafficking of children in India, Thailand and Sri Lanka post-Tsunami?

Honduras, Mexico, India to note that there has been no trafficking of children post-tsunami.

SR Huda – closing comments

-very bland, thanked everybody and took all comments into account.

Ms. Rachel Mayanja – Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of women.

-CEDAW, Beijing +10 conference. Rights of women and responsibilities of States. Gender equality is a human rights issue. Overt discrimination of women, cultural and religiously based violence against women and inequality. Mentioned all the issues regarding violence against women, trafficking, rape, domestic violence, unequal opportunity, multiple levels of discrimination…..

General Debate: Member States

Australia, Canada, New Zealand: reaffirmed commitment to human rights of women. Always fulfill obligations to protect women in their countries. Instead of strategies, more action to advance rights of women. Support work of SR Erturk. Empty discussion.

Libya – Arab Group: very general statement on human rights and women. CEDAW. All rights are universal. Respect of Privacy, Safety and Security of the Family. Arab women are on the top of the agenda of Arab countries. War and conflicts in the region are the only obstacles and stumbling blocks to attainment of rights of women.

Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba: missed these, but am positive they committed themselves to advancement, promotion, protection of women, and assured everyone that there is not a woman who faces discrimination in their nation.

Ecuador: a pre-emptive defense statement. All that they are doing to advance the rights of women in legislation, blah blah.

Mexico – GRULAC: very general intervention, human rights of women are important. Key to stop violence against women, yada yada.

Lithuania: discussed trafficking and human rights violations in theory.

Burkina Faso: Pre-emptive defense statement. Female genital mutilation has been abolished in the country.

Ukraine: Pre-emptive defense.

Dominican Republic: Pre-emptive defense.

Qatar: Pre-emptive defense.

USA: trafficking is problem in eastern Europe. (um, maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem if America didn’t make so many pornographic movies? Aren’t they the leader in this?) worst violation against women is trafficking (um, rape?). Pre-emptive defense, America has new laws to prosecute men who practice sex tourism abroad with minors. Root of problem is the market and demand for trafficked persons. USA leads the world in fight against HIV/AIDS with most money pledged, $2 billion (although only the tiniest fraction of this has been given in two years, like less than $5 million…). Violence against women in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran was getting better. ‘I am a proud American,’ the delegate noted, ‘But of Iranian descent.’ And went on to note that her life in America has allowed her to have a freedom of speech, movement, etc because it is her right. Confessional intervention, common of the USA in past years.

India: Pre-emptive defense.

Indonesia: Pre-emptive defense and lies.

Japan: Pre-emptive defense. (no mention of the enforced sexual slavery of the grotesquely named ‘comfort women’ kidnapped from Korea who were ‘drafted’ into the Japanese army as prostitutes.)

Honduras: Pre-emptive Defense.

Mauritania: Pre-emptive Defense.

Luxembourg (EU): General support statement for human rights of women.

South Africa: Pre-emptive Defense.

Blah blah blah. No one admitted any of the disgusting violations of women’s rights that their country commits, nor apologized for it. None really admitted they have problems, but all were very quick to expound on the legislation they have that protects women and how discrimination in their country simply does not happen.

Sezin’s notes:

1) everyone noted all of the new legislation that protects and advances the rights of women. But not a single one mentioned how it is being implemented, or if it is being implemented at all. And I will place a wager that once the NGOs take the floor, we will hear that all of these wonderful laws and legislations and decrees exist only in theory and do nothing to prevent or punish violence against women. In regards to female genital mutilation, many African nations stated FGM is abolished, but again as I am sure we will see, this is only in theory, and in practice women are still being encouraged by society to mutilate other women to the detriment of their health and mental well-being.

2) The USA’s comment on ‘peacekeepers’ and violence against women ironic as American soldiers are known to not only increase prostitution anywhere they are based, but rape statistics skyrocket. Disgusting how they used the word ‘peacekeepers.’ Exactly what peace was being kept? Certainly not the peace of the raped women who now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or who are dead.

3) Why is rape not considered torture? Why is domestic violence not considered torture? It is cruel, inhuman and degrading. It leaves its survivors with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) even though it is called rape survivor’s syndrome or battered women’s syndrome, but whose symptoms are the same. It is a human rights violation in the true sense because States do in fact covertly encourage violence against women through media, culture, religion and societal norms, especially in the construction of masculinity through education and the above pressures. If rape were considered torture, wouldn’t that change the issue from being a gender-based to being a human-based crime against humanity in any form it manifests? Is it not sexist and misogynistic that torture in the form of rape is considered a lesser violation than torture?

4) It would appear that the highest attainment of mental and physical health is virtually impossible for the women of the world. What does Mr. Hunt, the special rapporteur on this issue have to say about this?

5) Culture as used to justify the torture of women. Oppression justified through perverse interpretations of religion or the illegal occupation of peoples.

6) The Confessional Intervention. Where the government delegate speaks about their life in an effort to propagandize their government and extol the virtues of their country. Used mainly by the USA in a heavy-handed and racist manner.

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