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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on