Conservative Muslim and Roman Catholic countries and liberal Western nations approved a UN blueprint to combat violence against women and girls,ignoring strong objections from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood that it clashed with Islamic principles and sought to destroy the family.
After two weeks of tough and often contentious negotiations,131 countries joined consensus last night on a compromise 17-page document that Michelle Bachelet,the head of the UN women’s agency,called historic because it sets global standards for action to prevent and end one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world,the violence that is committed against women and girls.
People worldwide expected action,and we didn’t fail them, she said to loud applause. Yes,we did it!
On Wednesday,the Brotherhood,which has emerged as the most powerful political faction in Egypt since the 2011 uprising,lashed out at the anticipated document for advocating sexual freedoms for women and the right to abortion under the guise of sexual and reproductive rights. It called the title,on eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls,deceitful.
Last week,Egypt proposed an amendment to the text saying that each country is sovereign and can implement the document in accordance with its own laws and customs,a provision strongly opposed by many countries in Europe,Latin America and Asia.
It was dropped in the final compromise drafted by the meeting’s chair. Instead,the final text urges all countries to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom,tradition and religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.
When countries were polled on their views on the final draft,there was fear among the declaration’s supporters that Egypt would oppose it,which would block the consensus required for adoption.
The head of Egypt’s delegation,politician and diplomat Mervat Tallawy,surprised and delighted the overwhelming majority of delegates and onlookers in the crowded UN conference room when she ignored the Brotherhood and announced that Egypt would join consensus.
International soldarity is needed for women’s empowerment and preventing this regressive mood,whether in the developing countries or developed,or in the Middle East in particular, Tallawy told reporters afterwards. It’s a global wave of conservatism,of repression against women,and this paper is a message that if we can get together,hold power together,we can be a strong wave against this conservatism.