Tuesday, October 10, 2006

UN: New Report Says Violence Against Women Is a Human Rights Violation

Classification Obliges States to Punish Perpetrators and Prevent Abuse

(New York, October 9, 2006) - The Center for Women's Global Leadership and Human Rights Watch welcomed a report issued by the United Nations today that classifies abuse against women - whether it happens in the home or elsewhere - as a human rights violation. As such, states are obliged by international human rights standards to hold perpetrators accountable.

The 140-page report, entitled "In-depth study on all forms of violence against women," which was issued by Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office, confirms that violence against women by spouses, family members and employers is a human rights violation, settling any outstanding debate on this issue. By squarely stating that it is, the report says that governments have an obligation to protect women whether the perpetrators are state or non-state actors.

"This report acknowledges for the first time from the highest levels of the United Nations what human and women's rights advocates have documented over the past few decades: violence against women is a massive human rights violation that is both a cause and a consequence of deeply ingrained inequality between men and women," said Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University, and a member of the secretary-general's International Advisory Committee for the study.

The report describes promising practices in the fight against violence against women, but dismisses state efforts so far as mostly ineffective. Even with a sophisticated analysis of the problem and, in certain cases, strong laws related to this violence, most national-level responses have been inadequate, and have not eradicated the impunity perpetrators too often enjoy.

"The secretary-general's study conveys a very simple message," said LaShawn R. Jefferson, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division. "The individual who carries out any form of violence against women has committed a crime. A government that does not develop, fund and implement all necessary laws and programs to prevent and to punish this violence violates international human rights law. Both the individual committing the violence and the government blithely letting it happen must be held responsible."

The study highlights the need for additional attention to violence suffered by women from marginalized groups (such as indigenous peoples or ethnic minorities). The report also draws attention to the problem of under-documentation of violence and control of women's bodies and sexuality as an insidious component of gender inequality. In addition, the study addresses violence in conflict situations, pertinent issues related to criminal justice systems, service provision for survivors, the need to work with men to address violence, and needs of women who are facing multiple forms of discrimination.

It is incumbent upon the next UN secretary-general to commit to advancing the specific recommendations set out in Kofi Annan's study, and it is imperative for human rights advocates to keep pressure on governments to fulfill their responsibility, said Human Rights Watch and the Center for Women's Global Leadership upon the launch of the report.

The report's recommendations are directed at member states and at various entities within the UN system, and include a call to document and register all forms of violence against women and to provide leadership at all levels in the condemnation and prevention of violence against women.

"What the secretary-general's study makes clear is that this violence is not inevitable: with sufficient political will, funding, and carefully developed and targeted programs, violence against women can be significantly reduced," said Bunch. "The issue now is, will governments and the United Nations make a firm commitment to act on the findings of this report?"

To read the UN report, "In-depth study on all forms of violence against
women," please visit:


For more information, please contact:

At Center for Women's Global Leadership, Charlotte Bunch (English):
+1-732-932-8782; or +1-732-642-5271 (mobile)

At Human Rights Watch, LaShawn R. Jefferson (English, Spanish):
+1-212-216-1290; or +1-917-442-8256 (mobile)

Monday, October 09, 2006


Arsham Parsi's speech in 2nd Session of United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva:

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen:

My name is Arsham Parsi. I am Secretary General of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. PGLO for the past four years has volunteered its efforts to paint an accurate picture of LGBTs’situaton in Iran. And we will spare no effort in the struggle to increase the basic human rights of Iranian LGBTs. Today, I have the immense responsibility of reporting the situation of Iranian LGBTs in but a few minutes.  And, there is inevitably much that will be left unsaid. Our organization has prepared information packets that are available to you, and that you can study at your leisure to gain a better understanding of the living conditions and the hardships we face.

First of all let me thank the conveners of this gathering, and express my sincere appreciation to the organizers, who have provided us Iranian LGBTs with this opportunity, however brief, to express our concerns, and to demand our basic human rights after many years. But today is also an important day for us. Today is the anniversary of the first expression of the desire for freedom by Iranian LGBTs- the first time we raised our voices.

It was about three years ago we decided that since no one was hearing our voices, we should announce our existence and make our presence felt. Three years ago on October first, we asked our members, who numbered less than fifty at the time, to break their silence- to gather on a Yahoo chat room for a discussion, which we named “Celebration of Voices”.

Some twenty individuals did sign on, but no voices were heard. Our fear and apprehension were so high that we could not even speak amongst ourselves. No one dared to utter a word. But although our “celebration of voices” passed in silence, we did write to each other. This October first is the third anniversary of our “celebration of voices.” But now, we have a membership of more than five thousand, and millions can hear our voices.

Iranian LGBTs stand here in Geneva today, in the seat of Human rights in the world and can break their long silence. This is truly the celebration of our voices.

And I hope that our gathering will raise international voice demanding that any form of discrimination, persecution, abuse and murder of LGBTs is intolerable. I hope that we can send a message to Iranian LGBTs that they are not alone, and that they are part of a global family.

We want to say to Iranian families: “Do not drive your children away because they have a different sexual orientation- They need your support.”

We would like to say to all Iranians that the only difference between LGBTs and other Iranians is their sexual orientation- that human rights are for all, not the domain of only one group. We Iranians have to be united; to respect and defend each other's rights, if we are to achieve freedom and democracy. We want to ask, “If we do not recognize each other's rights, how can we fight for freedom and democracy?”

We in PGLO would like to tell the Iranian government that we, the LGBTs of Iran, solely because of our sexual orientation, are denied our civil rights; that we are not allowed to organize openly, or to assemble freely; that we are denied the right to register as an NGO. We would like to say that because of misinformation, we are even denied physical safety, and worst of all, because of anti-homosexual laws, we are forced into exile. But today we also recognize the rise of anti-Muslim stereotypes and racism in the West, and we condemn these racist expressions of Islamophobia. We condemn any portrayal of Islam as a lesser, violent religion. So we ask, not from the Western states, but from the Head of Islamic States, why the death penalty is applicable to LGBTs in nine countries, the majority of which are Islamic states. Therefore, we ask that if you believe Islam is not a religion of violence, then you must not consent to this travesty that is committed in the name of Islam in
 silence. We ask you to defend the rights of LGBTs in your countries.

Today, we would also like to say to countries that have accepted and gave safety to our refugees in their lands, and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee: “If Iranian LGBTs of leave their homeland, it is because they are persecuted and their rights are denied in Iran. By not properly supporting them and leaving then stranded in different countries, stateless and homeless, you also perpetuate the violation of their rights.”

We also want to tell the United Nations and its new Human Rights Council that the only words that define Iran today should not be “Uranium Enrichment.” LGBTs, ethnic and religious minorities, Iranian women and children, Iranian workers and political activists; each and every Iranian is under pressure today and defending their rights must be on the top priority of this honorable organization.

PGLO objects to the lack of civil rights in Iran, and demands that the systematic violation of human rights in Iran be effectively addressed. PGLO declares its readiness to cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations which defend human rights, especially the rights of LGBTs, and will devote all its efforts in promoting peace and tolerance.

Finally PGLO asks all legal and civil rights organizations to coordinate their efforts in defense of human rights and the rights of LGBTs.

- Islamic republic of Iran’s Punishment code must decriminalize homosexuality.

- Homophobia should be fought against.

- The systematic denial of Human Rights in Iran should be ended.

- We are humans- Human Rights are our rights.

- Rights are never given, they are struggled for.

- Do not forget Iranian LGBTs.

- Do not leave us alone.

Communication Coordinator
Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization – PGLO
(Recently renamed Iranian Queer Organization – IRQO)