WLUML: In response to the forces delegitimizing the CSW!

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and its network partners are deeply concerned with the negotiations taking place at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) which this year focuses on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. The CSW is building on already established international agreements on women’s human rights. However, governments attacking the CSW are using arguments based on religion, culture, and tradition to justify violence and discrimination towards women and allow violations of their fundamental human rights.

WLUML denounces the use of‘religion’ or ‘tradition’ to give legitimacy to patriarchal practices. WLUML knows from its own extensive research that from the religious point of view alone, the Qur'an can be read and interpreted in many different ways. Furthermore, cultural and traditional beliefs and values often influence religious interpretation. This is clearly illustrated where local traditions such as muta'a marriage or female genital mutilation are adopted as part and parcel of ‘religion’ in some Muslim countries and not others.

WLUML calls on  States to reaffirm their commitment to agreed upon standards in promoting women’s human rights and eliminating and preventing violence against women as articulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action as well as other international humanitarian and human rights laws.

WLUML recognizes the particular situation of women and girls in countries of transition (like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya) and supports the work of local actors to ensure that women’s rights in regions undergoing transition are respected, protected and fulfilled.

WLUML strongly demands all governments and the international community to reject any attempt to invoke ‘traditional’ values or morals to infringe upon human rights long guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope. The evocation of customs, tradition or religious considerations must not be tolerated to justify discrimination and violence against women and girls, whether committed by State authorities or by non-state actors.

WLUML supports civil society and non-governmental organizations in their struggle to challenge traditional values and practices that are antagonistic to fundamental human rights norms, standards and principles.

WLUML emphasizes that the CSW’s mandate is to ensure the full implementation of existing international agreements on women’s human rights; and to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote equality and advancement of women worldwide. The outcome document must advance women’s human rights, rather than taking an alarming step backward from international law’s that recognize women as equal in human dignity and bodily integrity.  Let us not now have governments unravel women’s fundamental rights and hold them hostage to a future where ‘traditional values’ trump the right to live a life free of violence.