We are thankful to the European Network of Migrant Women both for their work representing migrant women, and for their key role in organising this crucial letter in support of Reem Alsalem UNSRVAW. Signed by 800 organisations groups and over 2,600 individuals, Woman’s Place UK are proud to be included in these signatures.
In her role as UNSRVAW Reem Alsalem has a clear mandate to work towards the elimination of violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences. In November 2022 she intervened in the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, setting out her strong concerns about the Bill. These included a lack of robust safeguards, particularly for female victims of male violence. The Scottish Government subsequently invited her, at a late stage of the scrutiny process, to give oral evidence.
In December 2022, initiated by MBM Policy, a range of key women’s organisations, wrote a public letter in support of her intervention. You can read the December letter here:
Despite her expert evidence and the support of women’s organisation’s there have been concerted attempts to undermine her mandate.
Since her intervention, The Scottish Government published their strategic review ‘Funding and commissioning Violence Against Women And Girls (VAWG) services’ (June 2023). It’s findings and recommendations are in line with Reem’s evidence, specifically in relation to the need for single-sex spaces and are a vindication of her submitted expert evidence. You can read our response to the Funding and commissioning strategic review here:
We are thankful to Reem Alsalem for her work in amplifying and representing the urgent issues facing women and girls in both the global north and global south. Her interventions are paramount in promoting the basic rights of women and girls are upheld by governments across the globe.
The systemic oppression and marginalisation of women and girls can not be tackled if Reem and her office are undermined by organisations seeking to politically erase the meaning of sex in policy and law. The letter:
Let the UN Special Rapporteur on VAWG Deliver her Mandate
We, the undersigned, representatives of feminist, women’s and human rights organisations from the four corners of the world, from the South and the North, are appalled by the attacks against Reem Alsalem, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls – the latest of which is an open letter by AWID.
According to the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution 1994/45, the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls is to seek and receive information on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, and to respond effectively to such information. She is also tasked to work closely with all special procedures and other human rights mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and with the treaty bodies, so that they systematically integrate the human rights of women and a gender perspective into their work.
We are grateful to Ms Alsalem for fulfilling her mandate and adopting a comprehensive and universal approach to the elimination of violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, including causes of violence against women relating to the civil, cultural, economic, political and social spheres. However, even though the Special Rapporteur is doing exactly what is within her mandate, she has been attacked, intimidated and even threatened to be dismissed because she has been vocal about the impact of laws allowing self-declaration of legal sex on women and
girls’ safety, dignity and rights. Ms Alsalem has called for protecting and safeguarding women’s fundamental rights not to be discriminated on the basis of sex, and for respecting positive measures obligations such as single-sex spaces and services, including women’s shelters, support groups and services for women and girls victims of violence, as well as
women’s safety and dignity in prisons and health care facilities.
We are currently witnessing violent rhetoric and active denigration towards feminists concerned with the impact of self-declaration of legal sex, or, the erosion of sex and associated with it protections and state obligations, through its conflation with gender and gender identity, as well as the widespread de-platforming of female scholars, journalists, and
public figures who aim to broaden debates around gender identity to include considerations for women and girls as a group with a common characteristic of female sex. We remind that the preamble of CEDAW states that “the role of women in procreation should not be a basis for discrimination”. Nevertheless, discrimination based on sex against women continues and it violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity.
Many of the signatories of this letter have communicated with Reem Alsalem to voice our concerns about escalating intimidation, threats, and malignant communications against women and girls for expressing their opinions and beliefs regarding their needs and rights based on sex and/or sexual orientation, and we have presented her with concrete examples from countries, both from the Global North and Global South.
Ms Alsalem is currently being subjected to the same practices she had expressed concerns about and wanted women to be protected from. In her May 22, 2023 statement, Reem Alsalem denounced “the escalation of intimidation and threats against women and girls for expressing their opinions and beliefs regarding their needs and rights based on their sex
and/or sexual orientation”. By doing so, Ms Alsalem has done exactly what the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence
Against Women and Girls is tasked to do by the UN Human Rights Council: she is transmitting urgent appeals and communications to States regarding alleged cases of violence against women and girls.
An attack on her is an attack on us, and it is an attempt to silence us through silencing her. Recalling the UNHRC resolution 1994/45, we urge the United Nations to protect Reem Alsalem, and provide her all possible facilities to continue her mandate to seek, receive and communicate information on violence and intimidation against women and girls, its causes and consequences.
Recalling the obligations of all UN actors set forth in the UN Secretary General’s initiative Human Rights Up Front and applicable to all UN bodies irrespective of their individual mandates, we urge the United Nations to remain vigilant in identifying emerging risks and ensuring that actions of all UN actors are guided by more effective use of the
information available from UN human rights mechanisms of which the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls is essential.
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We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.