Special Rapporteur on VAW: Cultural Practices in the family that are violent towards women


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UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences

Thematic Report

The universal standards of human rights are often denied full operation when it comes to the rights of women. Throughout the world, there are practices in the family that are violent towards women and harmful to their health.
Young girls are circumcised, live under severe dress codes, are given in prostitution, denied property rights and killed for the sake of honour in the family. This report documents a number of cultural practices which violate women’s human rights to bodily integrity and to expression, as well as undermining essential values of equality and dignity. These practices and many others constitute a form of domestic violence but have avoided national and international scrutiny because they are seen as cultural practices that deserve tolerance and respect.
Cultural relativism is often used as an excuse to permit inhumane and discriminatory practices against women in the community, despite clear provisions in many human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in accordance with which States parties shall take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women (art.5).
The Special Rapporteur provides extensive empirical evidence of the various types of cultural practice in the family found in different parts of the world that are violent towards women. All cultures have certain practices that deny women their rights and dignity. The Special Rapporteur records evidence of such practices in the hope that States will take immediate action to help eradicate those that are violent towards women.
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