A United Nations (UN) General Assembly committee has agreed to a landmark first resolution on women’s rights defenders such as Malala Yousafzai,despite a hard fought campaign by an alliance including the Vatican to weaken the measure.
A Norwegian-led coalition,which has prepared the resolution for months,had to delete language that condemned “all forms of violence against women” to get the text passed by consensus late on Wednesday.
African nations,the Vatican,Iran,Russia,China and conservative Muslim states had sought to weaken the resolution passed by the assembly’s human rights committee,diplomats and activists said.
The campaign for women’s rights defenders has been given a huge boost in recent months by the likes of Malala,the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for her battle for girls’ education,and Denis Mukwege,the Democratic Republic of Congo doctor briefly forced into exile for his work helping rape victims.
Both had been named as Nobel Peace Prize candidates for this year.
The resolution calls on all states to publicly condemn violence against women human rights defenders,amend legislation that hinders them and give activists free access to UN bodies.
“The international community has sent a clear message. It’s unacceptable to criminalise,stigmatise or curtail women’s human rights defenders,” said Geir Sjoberg,the Norwegian government’s lead negotiator on the resolution.
He added that the key aim now would be to make sure governments are held to commitments made in the text.
“There is a great mismatch between realities for brave women on the ground and what was agreed today. The real work starts now,” Sjoberg added.
Fraught negotiations were held over the text.
African countries had insisted on highlighting respect for customs and traditions. Russia,Iran and China had called for language which insisted the rights defenders should follow national laws,diplomats and activists said.