Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session

Annual Discussion on Women’s Human Rights

Statement by Australia, 5 June 2013

Australia welcomes the opportunity to participate in the annual day of discussion on women’s human rights, and is pleased to see the continuation of high-level discussions on the elimination of violence against women, particularly after the successful outcome of the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Violence against women, in all its manifestations, is a fundamental human rights violation. Whilst living free from violence and the fear of violence is everyone’s right, it is everyone’s responsibility to make this a reality for all women. To this end, Australia released its National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children in 2011. The vision of the Plan - which brings together the efforts of governments and civil society - is that ‘Australian women and their children live free from violence in safe communities’. This is a vision that holds true for all women and all girls, in all nations, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, disability or sexual preference.

We have made a further undertaking to safeguard the rights of women and girls to live free from gender based harm by committing to additional national action on female genital mutilation. This includes a review of current legislation, a national summit, and additional funding. Australia’s action has been encapsulated in the National Compact on Female Genital Mutilation. The Compact, released in April 2013, reinforces Australia’s position that female genital mutilation is legally and ethically unacceptable, outlines support for the abandonment of this practice and support for affected communities. Copies of the Compact have been made available in the room.

Internationally, the Australian aid program is working in partnership with national governments, civil society, international partners, and men and women to reduce and respond to violence against women and promote gender equality.

A landmark breakthrough at CSW came in the recognition that custom, tradition or religious consideration should play no part in denying women equal rights or justifying violence against them. States also reaffirmed that violence against women is the outcome of gender discrimination that shapes social, economic, cultural and political structures, and stressed the importance of data collection to address violence and discrimination against women more broadly.

One strategy that Australia has undertaken to better understand the realities for men and women and to address deep-seated gender inequalities is to develop a national set of gender indicators focussed on economic security, education, health, work and family balance, safety and justice and democracy, governance and citizenship. The indicators support analysis and monitor outcomes for women and men in Australia, as well as assist and inform government policy and decision makers when working to achieve gender equality.

In addition, the Personal Safety Survey, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, collects information about a person's experience of violence by men and women including: sexual and physical assault and threat; partner violence and emotional abuse; stalking; and sexual harassment. The survey measures the nature and extent of violence against men and women and the effects of this violence. We are also supporting efforts to build a strong and shared evidence base on the prevalence and forms of violence against women through our aid program, including to support ground-breaking research on violence against women with a disability in Cambodia.

We look forward to engaging constructively with other delegations in a continuing dialogue in the Council on these vital issues. We would be grateful for the panellists’ suggestions of how the Council could take forward consideration of this issue, including ways to continue the sharing of best practices and experiences.