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Delegates at the Commonwealth Human Rights Unit's panel discussion

Commonwealth panel calls for data-driven approach to prevent gender-based killings

27 September 2019

The Commonwealth has called on its member countries to collect and share data of victims of gender-based killings.

Many countries are unaware of how many women and girls suffer injury and death because the statistics are not gathered, and so knowing the full extent of the problem is seen as a key step in preventing abuse and attacks leading to injury or death.

The call came at a panel discussion convened on the sidelines of the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, titled “Establishment of a Femicide/Gender Related Killings Watch in the Commonwealth as a Prevention Mechanism: Challenges and Opportunities”.

The event was held in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Fiji and Seychelles and UN Women with the aim of sharing best practices and identifying key challenges, including the need to improve and systematise data collection and analysis on femicide.

Permanent Representative of Fiji, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan said that under-reporting due to cultural expectations and family pressure are key challenges to counter gender-based violence (GBV)/gender based killings. She emphasised that an “unbiased criminal Justice system is the most effective way to deal with it”.

Charge d’affaires of Seychelles, Gayethri Pillay, highlighting positive steps taken by the government of Seychelles to combat GVB, said that shelters dedicated to women who are victims of GBV are being opened and government is in the process of finalising a domestic violence bill that places an emphasis on GBV.

She said: “As a nation we have recognised and taken positive steps towards the issue of GBV, femicide, a term which is not too commonplace in Seychelles, and deserves further targeted attention.”

Orlagh McCann, of the OHCHR, gave an overview of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on ‘Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences ‘ and said that the SR has initiated a call for the establishment of a femicide prevention watch at global, national and regional levels, as well as observatories on gender-related killings and violence against women.

Anne-Claire Block, human rights focal point at UN Women, welcomed the discussion and added that there is no globally agreed definition of femicide and a lack of approach to measuring gender-related killings of women and girls for statistical purposes, which needs to be addressed.

Madeleine Rees, Secretary General, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom focused her presentation on the link between economic social and cultural rights, gender equality and gender violence. Some of the possible solutions she suggested included compliance with the arms trade treaty, non-regression of economic and social rights, and gender-sensitised legal reform.