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Domestic violence, trafficking in women and forced prostitution, sexual abuse, genital mutilation, forced marriage or sexual violence in conflicts are just some examples of the violence practised against women and girls all around the world. The elimination, as well as the prevention, of all forms of violence against women and girls, constitutes the focus of this year’s 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which starts next Monday. In addition to this principal item, other aspects of the general issue are going to be discussed, such as the shared responsibility of women and men in the context of HIV/Aids.
“No society can really function properly until all forms of discrimination against women and girls have been eliminated and until gender equality has been established”, is how the leader of the Swiss delegation, FDFA Secretary-General Benno Bättig, sums up Switzerland’s position. For this reason, Switzerland is strongly committed both nationally and internationally to acting against all forms of violence against women and girls. The measures adopted in 2012 include the enactment by the Swiss Parliament of two statutory provisions explicitly making genital mutilation and forced marriage criminal offices. It has also added the adoption of a guideline on gender equality to its legislative programme for 2011-2015, including, inter alia, the prevention of domestic violence. Finally, the Parliament has expressed its support for the Federal Council’s intention of tightening up the measures to combat forced marriages by 2018.
While the Session is on in New York, Switzerland is going to be staging several side events on specific aspects of the priority theme to complement the plenary debates and negotiations. At one event, which Switzerland is organising jointly with Australia and UN Women, the central issue is to be the economic independence of women and the role of private businesses in putting an end to violence against women. A panel discussion, organised jointly with South Africa and BRIDGE/Institute of Development Studies, is going to be looking into equality issues in the follow-up to the UN Millennium Goals. Finally, in cooperation with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Switzerland is organising an event on the subject of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Swiss delegation is comprised of representatives of the federal administration, academia and an NGO. Its members also include Lauren Redding, one of this year’s three youth representatives. “Youth Rep” is a project run jointly by the Swiss National Youth Council (SYNC) in cooperation with the FDFA, in the context of which three youth representatives participate in the Swiss delegations to UN conferences each year, where they represent the concerns of young people from Switzerland.
The CSW is the central body within the United Nations that deals with the status of women and the advancement of gender equality. It was set up in 1946 and holds an annual two-week Session, tackling a different theme each year. The commission’s activities include evaluating challenges and progress and formulating substantive measures. The CSW is made up of representatives from 45 UN Member States selected on the basis of geographic considerations. In April 2012, Switzerland was successfully elected to a seat as a CSW member with voting rights for a four-year period beginning with the 58th Session. Moreover, it should also be pointed out that for this year’s CSW conference, a record-breaking number of more than 6000 NGOs have registered.