Women and Children Human Rights Council: The Right to a Nationality

From the State Department of the United States:

(July 9, 2012) Washington, D.C. — Only July 5, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, its members adopted by consensus a resolution on “The Right to a Nationality: Women and Children.” This resolution, which the United States led with Botswana, Colombia, Mexico, Iraq, Turkey, and Slovakia, aimed to address an important but under-recognized human right, the right to a nationality, with a specific focus on women and children. This is the first time that the Human Rights Council has addressed the issue of discriminatory nationality laws targeting women, which can lead to statelessness. In total, there were 49 co-sponsors supporting the resolution, with representation from every geographical region.

The resolution focused on the issues of protecting both a woman’s and a child’s right to a nationality, with the goal of reducing statelessness. The equal right to a nationality for women, including the ability to acquire and retain nationality and confer it on their children, reduces the likelihood that they will become stateless and vulnerable to serious harm. As many as 12 million people around the world are stateless. Without recognition as citizens by any government, stateless persons often lack access to legal employment, birth registration, marriage and property ownership, and face travel restrictions, all of which can increase the risk of exploitation and abuse, including forced migration and trafficking in persons.

While recognizing the right of each State to determine by law who its nationals are, the resolution urged States to refrain from enacting or maintaining discriminatory nationality legislation and to reform nationality laws that discriminate against women. Such actions would be consistent with States’ obligations under international law, including Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provide that everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction on the basis of sex. In this regard, the United States recalls our own history of seeking to achieve equal nationality rights for women.

The resolution also welcomed the increased efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to prevent and reduce statelessness among women and children, particularly in light of last year’s 50thanniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The resolution also called for free birth registration for every child.

This resolution supports the Secretary’s initiative to promote women’s equal right to nationality, which emphasizes that women’s rights are human rights.

Last month Jesuit Refugee Service officially signed on as a member of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict.


International Women’s Day: The opportunity of adversity

The thesaurus might equate “disabled” with synonyms like “useless” and “mutilated,” but ground-breaking runner Aimee Mullins is out to redefine the word. Defying these associations, she shows how adversity – in her case, being born without shinbones – actually opens the door for human potential.

Click here to watch the video.

Clinton targets sexual violence during visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo

The New York Times reports

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a $17 million plan on Tuesday to fight the widespread sexual violence in eastern Congo, a problem she said was “evil in its basest form.”

“We are very concerned about civilian casualties: deaths and rapes and other injuries from military action,” she said at an press conference in Goma.

“The Congolese Government, of course, came out of many years of war, and that is very destabilizing to societies and very often human rights are considered a luxury during a wartime. But there are no excuses any longer, and there has to be more expected from the government here. The United States and other countries, as well as the United Nations, stand ready to assist the government in taking actions to both promote human rights, including women’s rights, and to punish violators of human rights and women’s rights,” she said.

“There has to be an end of the paying of the militias by mineral interests and other interests that buys impunity and gives these militias the free rein to terrorize people. And sexual and gender-based violence must be condemned. It must be condemned by everyone in every part of society. People need to be not only ashamed if they commit rape and other sexual violence, but they need to be arrested and prosecuted and punished so that it serves as a strong message that this will not be tolerated,” Clinton said.

Stunning cruelty inflicted on women in Dem. Rep. of Congo, says UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

The award-winning Uruguayan actor and star of Argentine television, Osvaldo Laport, has expressed horror at the abuse suffered by women in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after returning from a visit to the war-ravaged region as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Today, almost a month since my return and back among my family, I’m still struggling to cope with the emotions that I wake up with nearly every morning – the images and the sadness,” Mr. Laport told UNHCR in an interview following the trip.

Mr. Laport said he was stunned by the “degradation, discrimination and mutilation of women,” adding that the “terrible realities of the countless cases of rape, which occur each month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, make me feel ashamed of my gender.”
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Lawmakers re-examine Violence Against Women Act

The Voice of America reports that

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking closely at the immigrant provisions in a domestic violence act.

“It doesn’t make any difference if it’s a family member, boyfriend or stranger. It’s a crime. It’s a crime,” Senator Patrick Leahy says, “It’s a crime.”

Congress first passed the violence against women act, known as VaWa in 1994. It’s up for reauthorization in the next two years. Advocates want more security for immigrants.

“So much more is needed. We must strengthen VAWA so that it works for all victims of sexual or domestic violence – whether they live in rural or urban areas, whether they speak English or another language,” Karen Tronsgard-Scott says. “Every victim deserves a chance to live a peace-filled life.”

But lawmakers are up against protectionists who don’t want taxpayer funds benefiting residents who don’t have permission to live in the U.S.

Lack of medical services leaves migrant women especially vulnerable

Migrant-hosting communities the world over need to provide accessible, acceptable and affordable maternal and child health services for all migrants, irrespective of their legal status, in order to lessen the vulnerability of women to migration, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“Women and girls, especially when forced to migrate or when in an irregular situation, are disproportionately affected by the risks of migration because of their vulnerability to exploitation and violence,” says IOM Deputy Director General Ndioro Ndiaye to mark International Women’s Day.

“This vulnerability is being exacerbated to unacceptable levels by the lack of access to appropriate maternal and child health services in particular, which can have a long-term public and social cost.”

Read the full story here.