The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonovic, held a press conference yesterday outlining initial findings from her visit to Australia. Audio of Ms Šimonović’s end of mission statement is available online.
Ms Šimonović has previously said that ‘violence against women continues to be one of the most pervasive human rights violations globally, affecting every woman worldwide and Australia is no exception’. Speaking yesterday, she is reported to have said that ‘women’s human rights in Australia are protected in an incomplete, patchwork way in different states and territories’.
The role of Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Special Rapporteur, an independent expert, reports to the UN Human Rights Council on thematic and country-specific matters, and recommends methods for eliminating violence against women at local, national, regional and global levels. She also has a mandate to communicate with States about individual complaints of alleged incidences of violence against women. Special Rapporteurs have visited numerous countries since 1995, recently including Georgia, South Africa, Sudan, Afghanistan, Honduras and the United Kingdom.
In 2012 a previous Special Rapporteur visited Australia on a study tour, and released a report which emphasised the importance of discussing violence against women as a human rights issue. The report also highlighted issues with the initial implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, which had been launched the previous year.
Ms Šimonovic has been the Special Rapporteur since August 2015, and has previous experience in the international violence against women policy sphere, as well as in the diplomatic and legal sectors. She has been in Australia for the last 15 days ‘to assess the overall situation of violence against women, and gather first-hand information from a wide range of stakeholders, including women survivors of violence’. She has also met with representatives of Australia’s National Research Organisation on Women’s Safety (ANROWS), and government representatives.
Yesterday, she highlighted how women can experience overlapping or ‘intersectional’ discrimination of various kinds (such as those faced by women with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and those from migrant and refugee backgrounds). Ms Šimonović was described as expressing ‘concern about lax investigations into allegations of rape and sexual abuse of women refugees and asylum seekers in immigration detention on Nauru’. Following this visit, she is expected to present her final findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in June this year.