Guerda Benjamin from OFAT Haiti reports on how IANSA women are using a CEDAW Shadow Report to urge the government to take action to reduce and prevent gun violence against women.
NGOs have a very important role in making CEDAW an instrument of women's empowerment, through advocacy and the monitoring of their government's implementation of the treaty. CEDAW's enforcement is based on a reporting system and governments are often thought to minimise problems and maximise achievements when assessing their own progress.
NGO input, in the form of ‘Shadow Reports' to bring women's real concerns to national and international attention. Although the CEDAW Committee does not directly invite or fund NGOs to send a Shadow Report, Article 2 of CEDAW's Additional Protocol allows such submissions from NGOs or individuals. However, most States have not signed the Additional Protocol and this is the case in Haiti.
Nonetheless, IANSA women in Haiti have submitted a Shadow Report to highlight specific issues and in this way, maintain government accountability both inside the country and at the UN. This ensures that their concerns and key issues are included in formal records of the reporting process.
The Shadow Report to CEDAW included specific references to armed violence against women such as: the disproportionate impact of gun violence on women and girls; the lack of research and data collection in this area; the fact that guns held legally are as dangerous as those possessed illegally; the need to question current distinctions between legal/illegal weapons, war/peace and the private/public spheres.
The Shadow Report called for the drafting of a law to deal with domestic violence and for the law to include references to gun possession, to remove guns from abusers.
It also called for specific programs including: the training of the police and judiciary, and the protection and accommodation of survivors. It also added that in order to achieve this, the government must allocate sufficient funds from the national budget.
This is directly linked to the 2006 report by Professor Barbara Frey, UN Special Rapporteur on Small Arms & Human Rights, which examined the use of guns by civilians and concluded, “The State has particularly acute obligations when it comes to protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, including victims of domestic violence, who are most at risk from misuse of a gun in the home. The presence of a gun in the home can easily turn domestic violence into domestic homicide.”
Haitian civil society also used the Shadow Report to build upon the 2008 UN report ‘Report of the Expert Group Meeting on Good Practices in Legislation on Violence Against Women' which mentioned guns and domestic legislation, particularly in relation to domestic violence (Section 8, part C).
It is hoped that this Shadow Report will increase the scope of CEDAW on a national level, but also contribute to the development of women's rights jurisprudence within the UN system. In this way, women can transform the Convention and establish norms and standards for women's rights.