In the frame of the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC41), the EuroMed Feminist Initiative and the European Union Delegation to the United Nations organized a panel discussion “The Impact of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence on Women Participation” on the 3rd of July 2019 in Room XXVII, Palais Des Nations, Geneva. The panel aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities for the recognition of gender-based violence and the inclusion of women in the political process in Syria and globally.
H. E Mr. Walter Stevens, Ambassador at the Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations Office opening the side event, on his right Lilian Halls-French, Co-President of EuroMed Feminist Initiative, on his left Joumana Seif.
The panel was opened by H. E Mr. Walter Stevens, Ambassador at the Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations Office. His Excellency stressed the importance of women's political participation: "We want to make sure that women are sitting at the decision-making tables". Stevens declared that "if violence is used to intimidate or limit the participation of women, then the best answer to it is more participation of women."
Ms. Wafa Bani Mustafa, member of the Jordanian Parliament and chair of the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women, shared the Jordanian experience on the implementation of the UNSCR 1325. In her speech, she addressed the Coalition Initiative launched in Amman to protect women from political violence on May 4, 2019, in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Jordanian Parliament, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. She highlighted the main challenges facing female politicians: “according to the IPU, 44% of female parliamentarians reported receiving threats of death, rape assault and 1/5 have been subject to sexual violence”.
Ms. Wafa Bani Mustafa speaking. On his right, Ms. Zeina Hilal and Ms. Joumana Seif
Ms. Maya Al Rahabi, Executive Director at the Women’s Study Center/ Musawa addressed the Women’s political participation in Syria with an overview of the situation since 1946. She explained that women and girls were excluded from the revolution to prevent them from being arrested and subjected to sexual violence. Ms. Al Rahabi explained “after the release of a female detainee, the main concern would be whether she was raped while being subjected to torture or extreme physical and psychological violence was not important at all. The number of detainees in the regime’s prisons is estimated today at 8000 detainees and 250 girls, who are subjected to all kinds of violations.”
Ms. Maya Al Rahabi, Executive Director at the Women’s Study Center/ Musawa speaking, on her right Ms. Lilian Halls-French
Ms. Joumana Seif, shared the outcomes of her co-authored research “Sexual and Gender-based Violence and its impact on the Political Participation of Syrian Women”. The research, written by Ms. Joumana Seif and Ms. Wejdan Nassif, sheds light on how sexual violence against women was used as a political strategy by Assad regime to silence women and all forms of opposition. According to the report, violence against women, in particular, sexual violence, was among the major reasons that dissuaded Syrian women and prevented them from participating in political, economic and social life.
Ms. Joumana Seif, researcher and activist presenting her last study, on her right H. E Mr. Walter Stevens, Ambassador at the Permanent Delegation of the EU to the UN
Ms. Zeina Hilal, Program Manager at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Gender Partnership Programme, addressed the Sexism, harassment, and violence against women in politics. She shared the findings of the joint report of IPU and PACE on Parliaments in Europe, which show that “85.2% Women Parliamentarians had experienced psychological violence, of whom 46.9 % reported having received death threats or threats of rape or beatings. Female MPs in Europe are particular targets of online attacks. 58.2 % of those interviewed had an experience of abusive, sexual or violent content and behavior on social networks.”
Ms. Zeina Hilal addressing the last findings of the IPU, on her left Ms. Wafa Bani Mustafa, on her right Ms. Joumana Seif, H. E Mr. Walter Stevens, Ms. Lilian Halls-French and Ms. Maya Al Rahabi
Ms. Lilian Halls-French, Co-President at EuroMed Feminist Initiative and moderator of the side event, closed the session by addressing the engagement of EFI in ensuring gender sensitive democratic processes and contributing to the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls through the project Combating VAW in the Southern Mediterranean Region, funded by the European Union. She finally called on the members of the delegation, institutions, and activists attending the event to join this common fight.