Muslims join pledge on women's rights

Hardliners defied as historic blueprint to tackle violence against girls and women is agreed at the United Nations

New York, London

A remarkable coalition of Conservative Muslim, Roman Catholic, and liberal Western countries have joined together to approve a historic United Nations blueprint to combat violence against women and girls. In doing so, they ignored strong objections from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that it clashed with Islamic principles and sought to destroy the family.

But within hours of it being agreed came news of a crime which emphasises how badly action on violence against women is needed: the second gang rape of a woman in India, this time a Swiss tourist on a cycling trip. The country is still grappling with the legal and political aftermath of the gang rape and murder three months ago of a woman on a New Delhi bus. That outrage set off nationwide protests about India's treatment of women and spurred the government to hurry through a new package of laws to protect them.

The UN agreement should encourage changes of attitude and new laws in nations where women's access to rights and freedom from institutional discrimination need substantial reform. It came after two weeks of tough and often contentious negotiations, but, in the end, on Friday night, 131 countries achieved consensus on a 17-page document. Michelle Bachelet, head of the UN women's agency, called the document historic because it sets global standards for action to prevent and end "one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world, the violence that is committed against women and girls". She added, to loud applause: "People worldwide expected action, and we didn't fail them. We did it!"

The final text urges all countries "to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition and religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination."

The document reaffirms that women and men should enjoy all human rights "on an equal basis", recommits governments to comprehensive sex education, calls for sexual and reproductive health services such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence, and calls on governments to criminalise violence against women and punish gender-related killings. Françoise Girard, president of the New York-based International Women's Health Coalition, said: "This is the first time we have an agreed document recognising emergency contraception as a necessary service to preserve women's health."

Terri Robl, the US deputy representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, called the agreement an important step but said the text is "only a beginning." She expressed regret at its failure to state that ending violence must apply to all women, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, or to refer specifically to "intimate partner violence". While the document is not legally binding, Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said "it sets a certain standard by which all member states can monitor their performance and can be monitored by others".

A number of Muslim and Catholic countries, including Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Honduras, and the Holy See, expressed reservations about elements of the text – but Libya was the only country to dissociate itself from the final document, though it did not block consensus. Libya's top cleric raised similar concerns as those of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejecting the document for violating Islamic teachings. The Libyan delegation objected to paragraphs calling for sex education for all adolescents and youth, and for priority to programmes for girls' education.

At the start of the meeting, Ms Bachelet said data from the World Health Organization and other research shows that an average of 40 per cent – and up to 70 per cent of women in some countries – face violence in their lifetimes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea