On December 5th– 6th 2022, The League of Arab States (LAS) launched the Arab Declaration on Combating All forms of Violence against Women and Girls in a two-day high-level event in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Declaration’s launch ceremony was chaired by Her Excellency Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development in the UAE, and Her Excellency Dr. Haifa Abu-Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Social Affairs Sector at the LAS.
The Coalition was proud to be represented by its Vice-Chair Magda Al Neweshi alongside other bodies including the Gulf Cooperation Council, General Women’s Union, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the European Union, Council of Europe and United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The Declaration is a commitment to protect women and girls from all forms of violence and to enhance efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination. It defines violence against women and girls as:
“All acts of violence at the family and community level, which shall cause, material or moral harm, including physical, sexual and psychological violence for women and girls, or the threat to perpetrate such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of rights and freedoms, and this violence includes, but is not limited to, family, domestic, community and digital violence.”
The text calls for strengthening legislative measures and legal procedures to protect women and girls in the region and guarantee their access to justice. It entails commitments to adopt and strengthen policies for equality between women and men, and develop comprehensive national programs and action plans to empower and protect women, including during times of crisis and armed conflict.
In addition, the Declaration highlights the role of education and the media in raising the awareness on the role of women in public life, spreading a culture of dialogue and tolerance, and rejecting all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Declaration is the fruit of efforts of the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women, amongst others. The Coalition first conceived the idea of a regional Arab Declaration and lobbied for its introduction in national parliaments and at the level of the LAS. This was originally planned to be a legally-binding regional Convention under the auspice of the LAS. As such, the Coalition formed a regional committee consisting of a number of its members and experts, with the support of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to draft the Convention. These consultations, lobbying efforts and advocacy with LAS member states contributed to the decision to proceed with a regional Declaration to Combat VAWG. The declaration was approved by the League of Arab States at a ministerial level on March 9, 2022.
We are very proud to see that this Declaration – the first of its kind in the region – has been officially launched by a prominent regional body. This makes a public statement about the importance of tackling VAWG in the region. It stands to be seen how commitments to the Declaration will be upheld. The Coalition, with the support of WFD, will continue to collaborate on a regional level including to push for the roll-out and fulfilment of the Declaration.