Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bringing It Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue

(This "mother and child" statute are located inside Holy Cross Church in Back of the Yards in Chicago, IL where Father Bruce Wellums serves. The generic images of women as loving mother and fierce protector while positive can be highjacked to promote militarism and encouragement of patriotic zeal during times of conflict and war.)

Bringing It Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue
By Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman
DV is an important issue facing women and children in this country
as well as an important human rights issue. Today, in our global village, hundreds of thousands of women and children experience violations of their right to live with respect and dignity and free from fear. No one at home or abroad deserves to be hit, beaten, threatened, humiliated, or otherwise subjected to physical or emotional harm. Articles 1, 3, 5, 12 and 28 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948 describe some of the rights to which we are all entitled, rights which are often denied in a battering relationship. Article 1 states, “all human beings are born fee and equal in dignity and rights, Article 3 states, “Everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of persons”; Article 5 reads, “No one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;” Article 12 states, “No ones hall be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Article 28 reads, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”
The global movement for human rights and democracy has had a
profound effect on citizens around the world. International human rights standards are based on the principle of universality, that is, that human rights standards apply equally to all persons and all nations.
Recognition of violence against women as a human rights issue places power in women’s hands, puts responsibilities on governments and international bodies, and takes excuses and power away from those committing the abuse. Women can now say that they have a right to freedom form violence, and now their words are more likely to spur government action. Governments are obligated to respond to women’s demands to be free from violence, to take steps to prevent violence, and to adopt measures to punish perpetrators when women’s human rights are violated. Neither the state nor the batterers can argue anymore that it is “just a private matter.” By seeing the problem as one of human rights, the world community has flatly rejected this argument. The UN and its components andother regional and international bodies are also obligated to treat violence agains women seriously and as a human rights issue. Women activists worked for decades to achieve international recognition of violence against women as a human rights issue. When the UN first began addressing the problem, neither “women” nor “human rights” were mentioned. Instead, the UN talked only in terms of “domestic violence” and “violence in the family.” Guess where the education, the coalition building and advocacy and pressure came from to change this? If you guessed women’s groups you guessed right.
The first major breakthrough was in 1992 when the UN set up a committee charged with monitoring how the Women’s Convention is observed and implemented. This committee articulated for the first time in an international setting that dv is indeed a human rights violation and they detailed the responsibilitgies of governments to stop the violence. None of this would have been possible had women such as yourself were not taking care of business back home in the state coalitions and serving in the trenches in shelters. Three important actions occurred as a result of women’s advocacy efforts:
1. the specific inclusion of violence against women in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, that is, the report of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, 2. The UN’s adoption of a specific declaration on violence againstg women, also in 1993, and 3. The 1994 appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur, a global fact finder, on violence against women.
Yet every day, women are murdered, beaten, raped, traded as chattel, denied their basic human rights and marginalized around the world. Women cannot reach their potential and participate in the development of their countries if their basic rights to safety and dignity are violated.
While American society has been slow to recognize violence against
women as a pervasive social issue, rather than a personal one, it has only been in the last thirty years that shelters have evolved as a way to help women escape violent relationships. Institutional responses to abuse of women is still at best uneven and thus inadequate. There are still serious knowledge gaps in society’s understanding about the problem. Prosecution and conviction rates of offenders still remain relatively low despite civil protection orders available in every state. The ultimate task contends male allies at Men Stopping Violence in Atlanta, is to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place. The key they believe is to shift from reacting to individual incidents of violence, and focus on changing the social, behavioral, and environmental factors that support violence. The full participation of communities is vital to engender a sense of ownership of the problem. That begins by conceptualizing the issue of domestic violence as a human rights issue which brings it fully into the international agenda as governments grapple with what it means to provide full protection under the law for all citizens, including half the world’s population.

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