Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Sexual and gender-based violence encompasses a wide variety of abuses that includes sexual threats, exploitation, humiliation, assaults, molestation, domestic violence, incest, trafficking, torture, insertion of objects into genital openings and attempted rape.

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Action Canada Statement before Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

Honourable Members,

I want to begin by thanking you for the invitation to present before you today.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is a Canadian organization working domestically and globally to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.  While the Committee’s study covers a number of specific topics relating to children and youth, I will focus my remarks on the issue of early and forced marriage and how Canada can strengthen its role to address this issue.

Early and forced marriage is a pervasive human rights violation whose causes are deeply rooted in gender-based inequalities, norms and stereotypes, including traditional, patriarchal perceptions of women’s status and roles in society, as well as social control of women’s bodies and sexual choices.

Early and forced marriage constitutes one example of how these root causes are manifested in societies. Other examples include female genital mutilation (FGM) and acid attacks, as well as keeping or pulling girls out of school, which of course is often a precursor to their being forced into early marriage.  Problems associated with early and forced marriage, while based in inequalities relating to gender and age, are also exacerbated by other factors of inequality such as poverty, lower education level and rural location.

After marriage in these circumstances, all of these same inequalities and forms of control continue to manifest themselves in the lives of these girls and young women as a plethora of continued human rights violations.  First of all, married girls are twice as likely to experience sexual violence and often this sexual violence is perfectly legal.  According to UN Women, 127 countries do not explicitly criminalize rape in marriage.  And in fact, 53 of these countries actually explicitly permit marital rape.

Secondly, adolescent girls and young women often lack access to sexual and reproductive health information, commodities and services, including for contraception.  While part of this lack of access is certainly the lack of availability of these services, it is also partly based in legal requirements for spousal consent to these services, potential reproductive coercion by the spouse, and indications that services are not youth-friendly or not geared at meeting specific health needs in a non-judgmental manner.  Currently, over 220 million women and adolescent girls who are married or in a union and would like access to a modern method of contraception do not have such access.

Thirdly, if an adolescent girl experiences an unwanted pregnancy, she may lack access to safe abortion services and post-abortion care.  Factors impacting on access to abortion services include its legality in the country in which she lives, the availability of this service, and spousal consent requirements.  Fourthly, if giving birth she might lack access to personnel or facilities that would ensure safe delivery.  Primarily because of a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal health services, maternal mortality is the second leading cause of death of adolescent girls in the developing world.

This is just a small glimpse of what the picture for adolescent girls forced into early marriage looks like.  Addressing early and forced marriage requires addressing these interlinked human rights violations rooted in gender-based and other inequalities.

Given the Committee’s focus on what Canada’s role should be, I would like to offer a few thoughts on this.  First of all, in terms of Canada’s work at the intergovernmental level, I want to begin by commending the government’s leadership role in bringing this issue to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly for action by these two bodies.  Within the intergovernmental sphere, we are currently in a place where, like FGM, governments are not particularly defending this practice even where this practice is widespread.  In this sort of situation, the intergovernmental system can be seized upon to make tremendous advances and in turn support and spur further action to address early and forced marriage at national levels.

Canada should work to ensure resolutions are substantive and strong, aimed at identifying what States need to do to eliminate these practices and to address the human rights of those subjected to the practice.  This necessarily entails comprehensive, integrated approaches, which include education, health and justice components.  For this upcoming June Human Rights Council resolution, we would urge the government to work to ensure that the Council commission a technical guidance on using human rights-based approaches in addressing the issue.  Such a policy tool could serve to assist governments in identifying key interventions needed in order to fully implement and give effect to the relevant human rights obligations and principles.

Added to this effort, the government should also step up its engagement in policy dialogue with other countries, both bilaterally and in its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.  The aim should be not only to advance approaches to preventing early and forced marriage but also to challenge interlinked violations of the rights to education, health and bodily autonomy: That includes working with countries to reform laws, including setting a minimum age of marriage, criminalizing marital rape, and removing legal or policy barriers to health services, including spousal consent requirements and the criminalization of abortion.

With the post-2015 agenda soon poised to be adopted, we have now agreed, as part of this framework, on a robust gender equality goal.  Addressing child marriage is a part of that goal as are numerous interlinked issues.  The implementation of this goal, along with other aspects of this ambitious post-2015 agenda will need to be financed through a mix of domestic and international resources as well as new financing mechanisms.  Now even more so than with the Millennium Development Goals, donor countries must renew their commitment to ensuring that levels of overseas development are at or above 0.7% of GNI.

As part of its efforts to address early and forced marriage comprehensively, the government further needs to prioritize investment in sexual and reproductive health, including family planning.  In addition to supporting the fulfilment of these human rights, these are also smart investments.  At the present time, expenses related to unsafe abortion complications alone cost women, girls, and their families a further US$600 million per year in out-of-pocket expenses.  Conversely, meeting the unmet need for modern contraception and achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030 is estimated to yield impressive returns of US$120 for every dollar spent, and over US$400 billion in annual benefits.

As a final recommendation, the government must also look to invest further in women’s and youth-led organizations working towards gender equality.  Despite greater attention to gender equality, women’s organizations themselves are struggling globally.  Greater investment in those voices who are challenging the very gender norms and inequalities that are at the root of these interlinked human rights violations, including early and forced marriage, is a major need at this point.

Thanks for your attention and I look forward to your questions.


Action Canada Joins over 100 organizations Up for Debate

Alongside over 100 women’s organizations and their allies, Action Canada is part of Up for Debate – a campaign calling on all federal political parties to make meaningful commitments to change women’s lives for the better, at home and around the world.

Women in Canada have questions, Up for Debate challenges our leaders to answer them. When it comes time to elect our next government in 2015, we want to see party leaders explain how they plan to build a more equal Canada for us all. This must start by committing to participate in a nationally broadcast leaders’ debate focused on policies and issues that impact women’s lives.

In Canada, women continue to earn 20% less than their male peers for the same full-time work, are more likely to be poor, and do twice as much unpaid work at home. Since 1980, over a thousand Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered, and each day more than 8,000 women and children seek protection from a shelter.

Around the world, women face economic exclusion and marginalization. Violence against women is endemic, and sexual violence continues to be used as a weapon in armed conflict. Every year 14 million girls are married against their will before they turn 18. Women still account for only nine per cent of the police, 20 per cent of parliamentarians, and 27 per cent of all judges worldwide.

The struggle to realize equal rights for women and girls is far from over. Women can determine the outcome of the next federal election. Women vote in greater numbers – over a half million more women than men voted in the last federal election. We want proof that the candidates for Prime Minister understand the diverse needs and realities of women.

We’re up for the debate. The question is, are the party leaders?

The Alliance for Women’s Rights is a network of over 100 women’s organizations and allies from across Canada united in raising awareness about women’s rights in the lead up to the next federal election. You can follow the Up For Debate campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

To learn more about the campaign, visit

Is this Canada’s watershed moment on violence against women?

As part of the 16 days of activism against violence against women campaign, the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday December 2nd in partnership with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Amnesty International Canada, Oxfam, Inter Pares, Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada, and MATCH International Women’s Fund.

Approximately 50 individuals were in attendance, including Members of Parliament (representing all of Canada’s major political parties), Parliamentarian legislative assistants, civil society, academia, government officials and activists.

The event centered on the question: ‘is this Canada’s watershed moment to take meaningful action to address violence against women?’ Beginning with the recognition that the issue of violence against women continues to garner attention on Parliament Hill, across Canada, and around the world, the event invited representatives from all political parties to discuss what their parties are doing to meaningfully address these issues and what concretely needs to be done to achieve real progress, at home and globally.

All panelists recognized the need for the issue of violence against women to be raised in the context of the upcoming federal election, highlighting the recently launched ‘Up for Debate’ campaign which aims to do so. Concretely, panelists discussed the urgent need for a national action plan on violence against women, alongside an inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. In the context of Canada’s actions globally, the issue of greater respect and protection of women’s sexual and reproductive rights was raised, particularly as critical elements to meeting the needs of survivors of sexual violence.

Originally posted by WIIS Canada with slight adaptation

Sandeep Prasad on UNFPA’s 2013 State of World Population Report

During the Ottawa launch of the 2013 UNFPA State of World Population Report, Executive Director of ACPD (now Action Canada), Sandeep Prasad spoke to the role Canada could be playing to addressing adolescent pregnancy overseas.

This is not a theoretical report.  It sets out the commitments relating specifically to adolescent girls that were made in 1994 by 179 governments, including Canada, to guarantee their rights to sexual and reproductive health and what countries must do to respect, protect and fulfill these rights.  The ICPD Programme of Action commits government to make information and services available to help protect girls and young women from unwanted pregnancy and to educate young men to respect women’s self-determination.

The report makes clear that solutions cannot be targeted at changing the behaviour of girls; rather they must be targeted at expanding the choices that girls have in their lives.  It requires a multi-tiered approach that involves addressing the underlying determinants and drivers of adolescent pregnancy, including gender inequality, poverty, sexual violence, early and forced (or “child”) marriage, exclusion from educational or job opportunities, and negative attitudes and stereotypes about adolescent girls, as well as, more proximate causes such as the lack of availability of sexual and reproductive health services and the legal, social and economic barriers that interfere with adolescents’ access to them.

These are complex issues but fortunately this year’s State of World Population report sets out a roadmap to the solutions required.

Issues related to adolescent pregnancy are linked to several stated priorities for the Canadian government, in particular: maternal mortality, sexual violence and early marriage.  About 70,000 adolescent girls die each year from pregnancy and childbirth related causes.  The report also notes that adolescent pregnancy occurs, in the developing world, primarily in the context of early marriages or as a result of sexual violence.

While we welcome the government’s attention to a number of issues that are fundamentally intertwined with adolescent pregnancy through its various commitments, it has much more to do to show itself as a leader on these issues.

And here are some thoughts on what that “more” needs to include:

1. The report lays out very clearly the role that laws and policies can play in both driving the conditions that lead to adolescent pregnancy and we also see how addressing these can lead to realizing the human rights of adolescents.  The government needs to use its representation abroad and its seat at the table as a development partner to actively engage in policy dialogue geared at changing laws and policies.  This includes not only measures to ban early and forced marriage but also the paramount need to criminalize marital rape.  There are still 89 countries in the world in which marital rape is perfectly legal and there is a strong correlation between the countries where this is legal and those where early marriage is prevalent.  We know 9 in 10 adolescent pregnancies occur in the context of marriage, but how many occur as a result of rape within marriage?These representations need to also focus on achieving the reform of laws and policies which restrict adolescent access to contraception and abortion services, including the criminal prohibitions of abortion and spousal and parental consent requirements to access these services.

2. The new DFATD needs to commit to implementing the UN Technical Guidance on operationalizing human rights-based approaches to maternal mortality as a donor and in its multilateral engagements.  Moving beyond a statement of principles, the Technical Guidance has the potential to radically change the way countries design and implement sexual and reproductive health policies. It is a technical guidance focused on ministries of health on how to actually implement a human rights based approach to policies and programmes related to maternal mortality and morbidity, showing what is needed at every stage of the project cycle.  This took a great deal of work by civil society at the international level to bring about, including a substantial amount by ACPD.  We are pleased that UNFPA and other UN agencies agreed one year ago to implement the Technical Guidance and we are excited about the pilot projects happening in 5 countries involving government, civil society and UN agencies.

3. Invest further funding for comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents.  On comprehensive sexuality education, if we are committed to a gender transformative approach that this report recommends, then this is a key intervention to bring this about.  Not the way sexuality education is being delivered now in many places – these programmes need to focus on, among many other things, eliminating gender norms.  These norms in and of themselves are harmful to girls, boys, and transgender youth and also perpetuate gender inequality and violence.  On funding for sexual and reproductive health, the Canadian government has fallen short of the mark.  For example, despite the investment in the Muskoka Initiative, the government’s figures show that in FY 2011-2012 it spent about $6.9 million on family planning overseas – much less than the $17.8 million it spent in 2005.  In terms of overall funding for sexual and reproductive health, Muskoka has had a positive impact, but the government’s spending falls far short of the target of allocating 10% of ODA to sexual and reproductive health.  Keeping in mind that the government is far behind in fulfilling its overall ODA commitment of 0.7% of GDP, we would estimate that it would take another commitment of the size of 4 new Muskoka initiatives devoted to sexual and reproductive health for the government to be fulfilling its fair share.

4. The government must rescind its Ministerial declarations prohibiting its funding being used to provide safe abortion services.  The government’s response to this has been two-fold: 1) we can’t provide services that contravene national law and 2) other donors will fund these services so we don’t have to.  On the first point, there is plenty of scope for the government to support safe abortion services as part of a comprehensive and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services – 24 out of the 33 priority countries for international development permit abortion in circumstances of rape, risk to mental health or without restriction as to reason.  On the second point, we need to learn a lesson from our neighbours to the South. The Helms Amendment in the United States (banning the provision of abortion services as a form of family planning in all US-funded development initiatives) has led to denials of lawful care related to abortion. This includes the denial of lawful safe abortions, post-abortion care, and referrals, counselling and information with regard to abortion services.

5. Lastly and yet crucially, the government must invest in human rights accountability for these issues.  That entails advocating for a strong human rights-based accountability framework in the post-2015 agenda, including not just outcome indicators, but also structural and process indicators.  But even more crucially it requires an investment invoice accountability through building the advocacy capacity of civil society in country, particularly women’s organizations and youth-led organizations.  We know from recent attention to these matters the drastic underfunding that exists for these organizations.

Those are our 5 recommendations related to how Canada can improve its efforts directed at improving the lives of adolescent girls.  To conclude, and with a view to strengthen Canada’s efforts abroad, we must question the Governments’ policy, or lack therefore, refusing to fund safe abortion services abroad. This begins with holding the Government accountable to upholding its human rights obligations. We must do this by carefully monitoring the impact of this policy on women’s access to information and services. There must be accountability for these impacts.

I urge you all to read this year’s State of World Population report and the roadmap that it sets out to realize the human rights of girls and I look forward to questions.

Follow-up to UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Violence Against Women

The 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council came to an end on June 14th 2013. Action Canada for Population and Development (now Action Canada for Sexual Health and rights) participated in the session of the Council, and closely monitored the resolution on sexual violence against women.

The resolution ‘Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence’ (A/HRC/23/L.28) (see attached below) tabled by Canada was adopted today at the UN Human Rights Council. It was co-sponsored by 66 member states (a drop in number from previous years).

The initial text circulated by Canada was very weak on sexual and reproductive rights and health issues. It recognised the importance of women’s right to exercise control over their sexuality but had nothing on reproductive rights. Input from States such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of EU and Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) States led to inclusion of language recognising the importance of promoting sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and protecting and fulfilling reproductive rights.

Due to Canada’s constant reluctance, the final text does not operationalize these sexual and reproductive rights in the form of critical actions like providing sexuality education to adolescents, which plays a strong role in promoting gender equality, empowering girls and reducing gender-based violence, and reviewing laws that criminalize or restrict access to abortion. It asks governments to provide accessible health care services but did not list critical sexual and reproductive health services that survivors of sexual violence must have access to, such as emergency contraception, safe abortion, post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

It does have a strong provision on marital rape and changing discriminatory laws in relation to sexual violence. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), led by Egypt, had been pushing Canada to change this language. Canada was willing to weaken the language to avoid a vote but some co-sponsors took a strong position, saying they should stick to the strong text and let a vote be called.

Russia, on behalf of a group of States, tabled six amendments to the text tabled by Canada on June 10 2013, all seeking to weaken the text. These were:

  • Inclusion of reference to the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, to reinforce sovereignty
  • Weakening reference to CHR and HRC resolutions on VAW
  • Deletion of all references to SC resolutions on sexual violence
  • Limiting the settings in which sexual violence is unlawful and reference to different social statuses of women
  • Objecting to procedure for transmitting information from the HRC to the Security Council
  • Weakening language around rapid deployment of experts for investigation

Action on the resolution:
Canada introduced the text and explained the revisions. An announcement by Russia that they would withdraw their six written amendments ‘to preserve consensus‘ was preceded by a very hostile statement in which they criticised Canada’s handling of the negotiations, their lack of transparency and refusal to negotiate openly.

Additional statements were delivered:
Brazil made a very strong statement on behalf of 19 States including Argentina, Czech Republic, Ireland, Venezuela, Finland, Portugal, France, Slovenia, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Cuba, Croatia, Norway, Luxembourg and others which highlighted that responses to sexual violence must include actions to prevent and protect survivors, including access to services, access to justice and training, and lamented that there was no reference to the root causes of sexual violence or the need for sexuality education, the need to empower adolescents, especially girls and eliminate gender stereotypes. (see attached below)

The US also made a statement welcoming the resolution but lamenting inter alia the lack of reference to access of services required by survivors of sexual violence, such as those included in the recent Agreed Conclusions of the March 2013 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). (see attached below)

Switzerland also stressed that the language in the resolution did not live up to expectations, in particular in addressing the root causes of gender inequality (as highlighted in outcome document from CSW 20213), that impunity had not been adequately addressed in resolution, and that the text had lost key elements that are essential for survivors of sexual violence. (see attached below)

It was widely anticipated that an oral amendment would be made to the paragraph on marital rape on behalf of the OIC, however, this did not materialize. It is believed this did not happen because if a vote were called, the amendment would have been defeated.

As such, with written amendments withdrawn, and no oral amendment delivered, the final text was adopted without a vote.


General comments – Brazil

General comments – Switzerland

General comments – USA

Letter to Prime Minister Harper on HRC Resolution on Violence against Women

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., MP
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

We, the undersigned organizations and women’s human rights defenders, are deeply concerned regarding Canada’s actions during the ongoing 23rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), which have weakened the annual HRC resolution on violence against women. As it stands now, the resolution fails to reflect the views of many governments and civil society organizations regarding the crucial linkages between sexual and reproductive health and rights issues and the resolution theme of “sexual violence.”

In the past, the Government of Canada has taken a leadership role in seeking to create advances to protect women from violence, as recent as April 11, 2013 when Canada pledged $5 million to G8 efforts targeting sexual violence in conflict zones.

The approach to the new resolution has been regressive. It represents a serious attack on women’s rights and the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence. The Government of Canada has used its role as chair of the negotiations to block commitment to provide access to a comprehensive package of services that are essential to survivors of sexual violence. Numerous governments and civil society organizations insist that these services must explicitly include: access to essential sexual and reproductive health services including emergency contraception, safe abortion (including review of laws that restrict access to abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape), post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection, and diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. In addition to this, the Canadian government has blocked the inclusion of references to critical prevention strategies, including providing comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents, which challenge gender stereotypes and norms and promote gender equality, therefore contributing to eliminating all forms of gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination.

Blocking references to the full realization of women’s human rights, by refusing to secure the access of survivors of sexual violence to essential sexual and reproductive health services, constitutes not only a troubling departure from Canadian law but also legally-binding international treaties to which Canada is a party, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Moreover, this position alienates Canada’s traditional allies, who continue to express grave concern regarding Canada’s failure to recognize the linkages between sexual and reproductive health and rights and sexual violence.

In addition to concerns about the content of the resolution, we are concerned about the tone of the negotiation process. Actions of the Government of Canada, which chairs negotiations of the annual HRC resolution on violence against women, have hampered the negotiation process. This has included circulating drafts of the resolution only a short time before negotiation meetings thereby hindering other governments’ abilities to engage meaningfully in the negotiations, and not including numerous critical proposals pertaining to sexual and reproductive rights and health that were made during negotiations that had broad support from governments and received no opposition comments.

We call on the Canadian government to include (at a minimum) the following operational provisions in the text, which commit to:
1. Providing survivors of sexual violence with essential sexual and reproductive health services;
2. Providing comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents which would promote not just sexual and reproductive health and rights but also gender equality, and hence reduce gender-based violence; and
3. Reviewing abortion laws and regulations that restrict or deny access to safe abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape.

Failing to include these references represents a significant roll back on international agreements, including the recent 57th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which will result in serious consequences for women’s rights at the UN, and at the national level, including for survivors of sexual violence.

In line with the above recommendations, at a minimum, this resolution must reflect and not deliver less than what was agreed at this past CSW. We trust that you will take this matter seriously by taking immediate action to ensure the full integration of the above into the text.

(Please see list of signatories below)

CC: Honourable John Baird, P.C., MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ONK1A 0A6

CC Paul Dewar
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic
House of Commons
Ottawa, ONK1A 0A6

CC Bob Rae
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic
House of Commons
Ottawa, ONK1A 0A6

Signatory organizations

Action Canada for Population and Development (now Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights)
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF)
Amnesty International Canada
ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
ASTRA Youth Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW)
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Association of Social Workers
Canadian Council for International Co-Operation (CCIC)
Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
Canadian Federation for Sexual Health
Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women
Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW)
Canadians For Choice
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Canadian Unions of Public Employees (CUPE)
Canada Without Poverty
Canadian Women’s Foundation/Foundation canadienne des femmes
Center for Reproductive Rights
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Unions of Canada
Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA) 
Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (International)                
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
Fair(e) Enough Inc.
Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland
Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA)
Harmony House, Ottawa, ON
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)
Institute for International Women’s Rights – Manitoba
MATCH International         
McLeod Group
Minority Women in Action (MWA)
Mouvement Français pour le Planning Familial
National Council of Women Canada
Ontario Federation of Labour
Oxfam Canada
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
Transition House Association of Nova Scotia
Rutgers WPF
Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI)
West Coast Women’s Legal Education Action Fund (LEAF)
Women’s Legal Education Action Fund (LEAF)
World Federalist Movement – Canada
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights 
YWCA Canada 

Signatory women’s human rights defenders/défenseurs des droits humains des femmes signataires:

Aidan McFarlane
Alecsa Mackinnon Blair
Alexa Johns
Alexandria Novokowsky
Allison Webster
Amelie Laporte
Amy thirst
Andrea Fernandez
Angela Huser
Ann Braithwaite
Anna Veeder
Annabelle Mineault
Annapurna Moffatt
Anne Langdji
Anni Buelles
Ashley Wheaton
Ashmeela Ahmad
Barbara Lyske
Bedelia Bloodyknuckle
Bonnie Pearson
Brendan Glauser
Brian Delaney
Canadians for Choice
Carol Leigh
carolyn johnston
Carolyn Rumsey
Cheryl Dendoff
Christiane Nkolo
Claire Cameron
Claire Duffy
Claudine Jacques
Craig Peters
Crystal Casey
Dan German
Daniel Cayley-Daoust
Daniel van Heest
David Rogalsky
Deane Aguilar
Deanna Ogle
Devon Crick
Devon MacFarlane
Diana Sarosi
Elizabeth Dandy
Elizabeth Pickett
Erika Reis
Evan Johnston
Forrest Wieler
France Laferriere
Franki Harrogate
Fraser Mackinnon Blair
Georgia Foster
Gladu de Vette Alexia
Gladys Radek
Gordon Hill
Heather Burley
Heather Gibb
Hilary Brown
Ian Weniger
Isaac Campbell
Jacqueline Hansen
Jamie Eberle
Jamie Murray
Jane Doyle
Janine Farrell
Jeff deValk
Jennifer Burgess
Jennifer Kaleta
Jo-Ann Rodrigues
Joni Di Placido
Jonquil Garrick
Josh Lepinsky
Josie Baker
Joyce Arthur
Julie Caron
Julie White
Kathleen Heaney
Katherine MacDonald
Kathleen May
Katrina Nokleby
Kayla Vick
Keith Higgins
Kelsey Croft
Kristine St-Pierre
Lana Fox
Laura Manning
Laura Track
Laura Wershler
Laurie Martin
Leigh Elliott
Leigh Naturkach
Leilani Farha
Leonie Johns
Linda MacDonald
Lindsay Bush
Lindsay Roberts
Lisa Blair
Lisa Redekop
Llynn Byrne
lori hirtelen
Lorlie Copeland
Lorraine Serrano
Margaret S. Martin
Marie Cuillerier
Marie Hammond-Callaghan
Marie Lemay
Marie Shoup
Marilyn Carpenter
Mark Olacke
Martha Villeda
Martin Dufresne
Mary Leong
Mayssam Zaaroura
Michael Beck
Mike Thorpe
Monique Cuillerier
naima mussarat
Nancy manderson
Noorin Dahya
Olga Gil
Pat Bailey
Paul Hannon
Philip Ogyny
Raheena D
Randy Tyson
Rebecca Langstone
Reece Sellin
ripika kapoor
Rita Kodida
Robin Sundstrom
Rosario Castro
Sally Armstrong
Sarah Kennell
Scarlett Lake
Scott Long
Seanna Nichol
Senthuri Paramalingam
Shannon Hardy
Shannon Lloyd
Sharon Froese
Sharon Goldberg
Shawn Des Jardins
Shelby Smith
Shobana Rajan
Simone Manley
Sonja Boon
Stephen Dick
Stephen Mounsey
Susan Russell
Sylvie Denault
Tara Stout
Tharmini Kuhathasan
Trevor Phillips
Tricia-Dawn Parker
Turia Hudsmith
Vera Peters
Vince Clements
Yvonne Sullivan
Zuly Trujillo

Additional sign-ons/Signataires supplémentaires
Childcare Resource and Research Unit
Club des femmes de carrière du Sud-Est du N.-B. (Shediac-Moncton)
DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada / Réseau d’action de femmes handicapées (RAFH) Canada
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Justice for Girls International
Inter Pares
Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Réseau Action femmes
Women’s Health Clinic

Adele Rayworth
Adrienne Germain
Adriana Fresco
Adrienne Stevenson
Alana Domit Bittar
Allyson Lyske
Amber Scoyne
Angie-Lee Louis-Seize
Anne Finlay
Anne McMullin
Ariane Coury
Arlene Macklem
Ashleigh Wiles
Ashok Athavale
Audrey Beaulieu
Audrey McClelland
Barbara McCubbin
Belle Jarniewski
betty smith
Bonnie Winters
Brenda Durdle
Brenda Mielke
Brenda Wallace
Brian Freund
Brianna Bertin
C Murphy
caitlyne brewer
cam macquarrie
Camilla Bignell
CAREY McPherson
Carol Churchill
Carol Greene
Carol Pelton
carolyn egan
Carolyn Filteau
catherine levasseur
Catherine Phipps
Cathryn Nadjiwon
Celine Basto
chanda pundir
Chantal Gauthier
Chie Reeves
Christine Monks
Christine Storm
Claire Card
claude lebeuf
Colleen Allan
Constance Caton
Corrine Patchett
Craig Lauder
Cristiann Kannen
daniel pessole
Danielle Bertin
Darryl Peck
Dave Snelgrove
david allan
Debbie Emery
Deborah Kahan
Diane O’Reggio
Donna Zaffino
Dorfam Farno
Dorothy Stephens
Douglas Alton
dreulani dupuis
Drew Varsava
Elizabeth Abrantes
Elizabeth Barnes
Elizabeth Eaton
Emily Newcombe
Emma Alexander
Emma Hazan
Felicitas Ritter
Franca De Angelis
Frank Showler
Fred Andersen
Fred Brailey
Gail Brinston
Gayathri Naganathan
ginette deslauriers
GloriaAnn Curwin
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Press Release: Canada blocking efforts at the UN to address sexual violence against women

Ottawa/Geneva – June 7 2013 – Governments and civil society are calling into question the leadership of the Canadian government on the theme of Violence Against Women at the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).


In previous years, the Canadian government, which chairs the negotiations of the annual HRC resolution on violence against women, has played a leadership role in helping to create advances seeking to protect women from violence. Yet this year, a number of concerns have been raised regarding Canada’s approach to the new resolution on the theme of ‘sexual violence’. The concerns in question are the very proposals that Canada itself is putting forward which are regressive and represent a serious attack on women’s rights and the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence.

The Canadian government has been, and continues to be, actively preventing numerous key recommendations related to effectively addressing sexual violence and the rights of survivors of violence.  In particular, it is using its role as chair of the negotiations to block the recognition of a comprehensive package of services that need to be available to survivors of sexual violence. Numerous governments and civil society organizations insist that these services must explicitly include: access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, safe abortion, post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection, diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, among others. “Once again, we see the government of Canada exporting its conservative ideology internationally, to the detriment of millions of survivors of sexual violence who need access to these essential services,” said Sandeep Prasad, the Executive Director of Action Canada for Population and Development, who is at the HRC following negotiations. “We need only look to the exclusion of funding for safe abortion services, even where legal, from Canada’s international aid under the Muskoka Initiative for another example.  This time Canada is standing in the way of ensuring survivors of sexual violence have access to services they need, including access to safe abortion.”

Beyond the issue of access to essential services, Canada is blocking key proposals related to the prevention of sexual violence, including references to “reproductive rights” and “gender equality”. The Canadian government is also refusing to include acknowledgement of the need to implement rights-based, accurate and comprehensive sexuality education programmes as a key tool to prevent violence and promote gender equality.

“Not only is Canada not entertaining recommendations on advancing existing commitments, it is actively seeking to roll back hard-won previously-agreed policy measures made in other international fora, including just 3 months ago at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, for which the theme was elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls,” said a delegate closely involved in the negotiations.

Without these references, women’s rights activists and their allies are less able to hold their governments accountable to provide sexual violence survivors with essential services they need, as well as work to eliminate gender stereotypes and norms among younger generations, through providing sexuality education, which can in turn contribute to the elimination of all forms of violence, stigma and discrimination.

The actions of Canada have resulted in the alienation of its traditional allies on the resolution from all regions of the world.  At the time of this release, many of these allied governments who traditionally co-sponsor UN resolutions addressing violence against women have indicated that they will not be co-sponsoring this draft resolution unless Canada shows flexibility and fixes the problems it has created with the text.

“As many as 7 in 10 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, and the first sexual experience of up to 1/3 of them is forced. Adolescent girls and young women are especially at risk of violence.  Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16. Canada will be tabling for adoption a resolution that neglects the very real needs of survivors of sexual violence. In doing so, it has alienated its allies in States and civil society around the world.  This is a historic low for Canada on the international stage,” said Prasad.