ICHR & IHRAAM Celebrated International Women’s Day: Protecting & Promoting Women’s Rights
Friday, 8 March 2013, Geneva - International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) and International Council for Human
Rights (ICHR) hosted a full day conference entitled Protecting & Promoting Women’s Rights at Palais des Nations. The conference explored
international women’s human rights issues in general and conflict areas in particular, and the applicable international legal framework, including
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in the context of violence against women, rape, and
women human rights defenders.
Speakers included Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of ICHR and IHRAAM’s Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Mrs. Angélica
C. Navarro Llanos, Ambassador Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the UN, Ms. Isha Dyfan, Chief of Women’s Rights and Gender
in the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel, Permanent Representative of Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to the UN, Prof. Melissa Rancourt, Founder of Greenlight for Girls & the Head of Faculty - Boston
University, Prof. Fozia Nazir Lone, Women’s Rights Expert - University of Hong Kong, Mr. Neil Buhne, Director of United Nations
Development Programme’s (UNDP) Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Prof. Frances Heidensohn, Gender & Justice Expert –
London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr. Lale Say - World Health Organisation (WHO), Mrs. Shamim Shawl, Chairperson -
Kashmiri Women’s Forum, Dr. Emma Brännlund, NUI Galway University, Ms. Mary-Ann Mills, Vice Chair - the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, Dr.
Suzanne M. Clisby, University of Hull, Princess Micheline Djouma, President & Main Representative International OCAPROCE, Prof.
Veerle Draulans, Gender Studies - University of Leuven, Ms. Sylvia McAdam, Co-Founder of Idle No More, Dr. Mareike Schomerus, The
Justice & Security Research Programme - London School of Economics and Political Science, and Dr. Mazahir Osman, Chairperson of the
International Muslim Women’s Union.
Chairing the Opening Plenary, Barrister Tramboo outlined the dedicated work undertaken by the UN, its agencies and by NGOs over the last
decade in providing care and sexual health support on the ground, raising global awareness, pursuing ground-breaking legal cases and
working with member states to frame vital UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security, including the Resolutions 1325 and
1820. However, he stressed that tackling sexual violence is central to conflict prevention and the human rights fundamentals worldwide and
stressed that violence against women must be an urgent priority to the international community. And it also cannot be separated from wider
issues of women’s rights. Barrister Tramboo expressed concern about the chilling reports of rapes in Kashmir, Syria, Palestine, Dalits,
indigenous peoples and many other conflict areas today along with murder, torture and repression of thousands of innocent civilians.
H.E. Mrs. Navarro commended the work undertaken by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and gave examples about
her country’s experience of discrimination against indigenous peoples, women in particular, she highlighted the importance impact of democracy
on improving women’s rights.
Ms. Isha Dyfan said the Security Council held an open meeting in December to discuss sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and it
expressed deep concern that such violence continued to occur, becoming in some situations “systematic and widespread, reaching appalling
levels of brutality.” The Council also unanimously adopted the resolution 1960 which allowed the Secretary General to provide detailed
information on parties credibly suspected of responsibility for patterns of sexual violence during armed conflicts. The Council expressed its
intention to use such a list of perpetrators as a basis for action, including the consideration of sanctions and other targeted measures.
Chairing the first session, Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel appreciated holding of the conference and said that usually human rights are discussed in
general, yet we fail to acknowledge the women’s human rights. She congratulated the organisers for bringing together a wide-range of experts
of women’s human rights from different parts of the world.
Prof. Fozia Nazir Lone stressed that efforts should be encouraged to incorporate women rights concerns at each stage of pre-conflict
agreement negotiations so that women rights concerns appear bold in the post-conflict reform when the time comes. Time has come to divorce
patriarchal morals in the management of the Kashmir conflict and make it gender oriented so that women are protected. She went on explaining
the issue of women in Kashmir as a pre-conflict case study, she stressed that it is time to effect a revolution for protection of Kashmiri women in
never ending conflict and it is an hour to reestablish their lost dignity and giving a voice to their silence.
Dr. Lale Say presented the latest work undertaken by World Health Organisation and said that violence against women is a widespread public
health and human rights problem and has multiple health, social and economic consequences for the individual, families, communities and
society as a whole.
Prof. Frances Heidensohn focused on women and justice, particularly women's experiences of criminal justice. She outlined some key
questions and proposed possible solutions for inclusion in an agenda for change.
Judge Mary-Ann Mills highlighted that Alaska has been overlooked by the world as it struggles with every high rates of violence against
women and described it as a crime scene. Around one third of all women have been raped. She went on describing that Alaskan women are
among the highest rate of sexual violence in the United States. She spoke about how to stop atrocities against indigenous and other women by
having absolute self-determination for women and therefore, the right to self-determination being placed at the top of the Human Rights Council
Dr. Suzanne M. Clisby provided her own definition of violence against women as a continuum for minor acts to major acts of violence during
conflicts. She said that we need to look closely at patriarchal societal norms to analyze what the relationship between gender and power is. She
described it as relations embedded in society, a rise in gender issues, also a shift from denial of violence to an acceptance that it exists, and
noting that violence is underpinned by gender differences.
Prof. Veerle Draulans believes media should be stimulated to reflect the crucial contribution in spreading messages related to women’s rights
and to gender related violence. She recommended media not to limit themselves to portray the female body as a signifier of subordination but
should portray it as a signifier of resistance.
Chairing the second session, Prof. Melissa Rancourt stressed on the need to work together to help inspire and build confidence in girls so
they do not feel being a burden, to help them to believe that they deserve to be educated and to be treated the same as anyone in a society.
She recommended the creation of an education programme to teach the importance of equal rights, to install confidence and the importance of
role models and to inspire children around the world that anything is possible.
Mr. Neil Buhne highlighted the continued support of UNDP/BCPR to women’s access to justice, especially survivors of sexual and gender-
based violence. He stressed that any serious shift towards sustainable development requires gender equality.
Representing Kashmiri Women’s Forum, Mrs. Shamim Shawl outlined that there have been many reports of mass rapes carried out by Indian
forces in Jammu & Kashmir, which marked the escalation of conflict in the region. Rape most often occurs during crackdowns; cordon-and-
search operations where men are held for identification in parks or schoolyards while security forces search their homes. In these situations, the
occupying forces frequently engage in collective punishment against the civilian population. Rape is used as a means of targeting women whom
the security forces accuse of being militant sympathisers; in raping them, the armed forces are attempting to punish and humiliate the entire
community. Rapes are often used as counter attacks to militant strikes on the Indian army. She exemplified by referring to the gang rapes of the
Kunan Poshpora tragedy and the Shopian Two Case.
Dr. Mareike Schomerus outlined that there is a disconnection between the political aim and programs and the everyday situations that women
face. She emphasised that the base of gender discrimination is the notion of muscularity in the society.
Dr. Emma Brännlund elaborated on the situation in Indian Held Kashmir. She explained how the state of insecurity in the region has affected
women’s situation as well as how gender discourses fuel the conflict. She gave details on how the conflict affects women and men differently
and how in Kashmir women have been incorporated in freedom and anti-Indian discourse hence the symbolic inclusion of women as “weeping
mothers”, “half-widows”, “innocent victims” or “motherland” often used to legitimise war and violence.
Dr. Brännlund explained that sex and sexual violence are very prevalent despite the fact that there are no reliable statistics, this leading to a
desecration of the woman’s and the family’s honour; additionally, sexual harassment and eve teasing occurs on everyday life.
Dr. Mazahir Osman emphasised that women in conflict areas are the most vulnerable of all, especially when concerning discrimination and
violations of rights. She focused on combating violence against women minorities, as well as the role of media and how it can help to expose
violations at the national and international level.
Ms. Sylvia McAdams focused on the current situation in Canada. She explained that the spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that
First Nations peoples in Canada would share the land while retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. However this has not occurred
and the taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned. This has affected negatively the communities’ life style in the light of their
own laws, thus obstructing people´s exercise of their rights, especially women who need the land for medical purposes.
In the Closing Plenary, under the chairmanship of Barrister Tramboo the two Rapporteurs briefed the Chief of Women’s Rights and Gender
Section in the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Isha Dyfan about the recommendations that came from the two
sessions and which would be formally submitted to her for the consideration of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of
the Human Rights Council.
Ms. Dyfan appreciated that IHRAAM and ICHR organised such conference, and said that she will submit all the recommendations to the High
Commissioner for Human Right for her attention. Barrister Tramboo expressed his gratitude to all the distinguished guests, and the huge
amount of expertise that was concentrated in the conference and announced the closing of the conference.