OMCT's intervention at the Commission on Human Rights under Item 12

Commission on Human Rights 59th Session – 17 March – 25 April 2003 Item 12: Violence against Women Oral Statement by the OMCT Violence against Women Programme Madam Chairperson, The torture of women is a fundamental violation of human rights and one which is absolutely and unreservedly prohibited under international law whether in time of peace or war. In spite of the fact that the prohibition against torture is a rule of jus cogens and that the prohibition of torture is explicitly affirmed in international instruments, the torture of women continues to occur in many countries around the world. Inasmuch as international definitions of torture have been narrowly interpreted, women have been denied equal protection against torture under both international and national law resulting in widespread impunity for the perpetrators of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment committed against women. Torture of women derives essentially from cultural patterns that perpetuate discrimination and the low economic, social and political status of women. Gender often has a considerable impact on the form that torture takes, the circumstances in which it occurs, its consequences, and the availability of and access to remedies for its victims. In this light, OMCT believes that it is essential that these gender-specificities are acknowledged and integrated into the relevant United Nations human rights mechanisms and procedures at all levels. For this reason, OMCT urges the Commission to recognise the links between gender and torture and ill-treatment by ensuring that gendered causes and consequences of torture and ill-treatment are fully integrated within the torture resolution and that the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment is included in the resolution on violence against women. Moreover, OMCT would like to call upon the Commission to re-include in its torture resolution the explicit recommendation to the Special Rapporteur on torture to take special note of the situation of women as was done in the year 2001 and before. Madam Chairperson, OMCT is gravely concerned by the recent increase in the number of women being sentenced to corporal and capital punishments, particularly by religious and ad hoc courts, in violation of international standards that prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments. These punishments are disproportionately applied to women, largely as a result of laws that criminalise adultery and sexual relations outside of marriage. These laws are often used as a means to circumscribe and control female sexuality. In addition, evidentiary requirements that provide that pregnancy constitutes irrefutable “evidence” of adultery or that give less weight to the testimony of women reinforce gender discrimination in the administration of justice. As a result, women are sentenced to corporal or capital punishment in far larger numbers than men. In Sudan, between 12 and 20 November 2002, 17 women in Munwashi, a village about 8 kilometres north of Nyala in Darfour, Western Sudan, were convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip. The charges of adultery were based solely on the fact that all of the women are unmarried but have children between the ages of 6 and 12 months. Also in the northern States of Nigeria, that apply Sharia law, pregnancy outside of marriage constitutes sufficient evidence to convict a woman of adultery. On 22 March 2002, a Sharia court at Bakori in Katsina State sentenced Ms. Lawal to death after she confessed to having had a child while divorced. The man named as the father of her baby girl reportedly denied having sex with her and the charges against him were discontinued. The appeal to the sentence of Ms Lawal to the Supreme Court has been repeatedly adjourned. The Special Rapporteur on torture emphasised in his 1997 report to Commission on Human Rights that torture and cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment extends to corporal punishment such as stoning to death, flogging and amputation. In the same report, the Rapporteur noted that States must be considered responsible for the consequences of sentences of corporal punishment handed down by informal or quasi-official agencies, such ad hoc village tribunals or religious courts, if these sentences are carried out with its authorisation, consent or acquiescence. Madam Chairperson, OMCT is gravely concerned about the high rate of torture of women in Turkey. Reports received on the forms of torture of women include rape, threats with rape, electro shocks to the genitals, and forcing women to strip and stand naked during interrogation. Kurdish women and women who are expressing themselves at the political level are particularly at risk of sexual violence by members of the State. Most of these cases have gone unpunished. Due to the fact that in Turkey the women’s sexuality is a reflection of family “honour”, women who have been subjected to sexual torture do often not report the crime out of shame and fear for further violence at the hands of members of their family or community. If reported, the sexual torture is not adequately investigated. OMCT also wishes to draw the attention of the Commission to the more than 300 women and girls who have been murdered, raped and in many cases mutilated, in both the community and domestic spheres, in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua in Mexico. Also, large numbers of women have disappeared. OMCT is particularly concerned about reports that suggest the lack of due diligence to investigate and prosecute these crimes which creates a climate of impunity that perpetuates gender based violence and discrimination. The families of the victims have been mistreated and threatened by the authorities responsible for the investigations. OMCT would like to recall that States are obliged under international law to exercise due diligence in the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of acts of violence against women and in the provision of reparations for victims of this violence, regardless whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons. Madam Chairperson, Finally, OMCT would like to congratulate the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for her continued efforts to investigate and to draw to attention to the causes and consequences of violence against women. The Special Rapporteur was appointed in 1994 and, almost 10 years later, OMCT insists on the absolute necessity to renew her mandate. In renewing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, the Commission should ensure that the Rapporteur is provided with adequate resources and encourage continued co-operation between the Special Rapporteur and other thematic rapporteurs, such as the Special Rapporteur on torture and the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings. Thank you Madam Chairperson. For further information concerning OMCT’s Violence Against Women Programme please contact the women’s desk at: or
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