(Not) the News – UN Women’s Rights Declaration 2013

What was that that whizzed past me on ‘Al Jazeera’ a couple of mornings ago? The UN Commission on the Status of Women has just issued a historic declaration about safeguarding women against violence. After much wrangling, 131 nations have signed up. Wow! this is big time. I want to know more.

I scour the BBC’s text-based news service. What a surprise: nothing there. And the couple on the couch are twittering on about nowt, as usual. After some ferreting about this morning, I finally manage to track down something about the contents of the declaration in The ‘Independent’ and in San Francisco ‘Chronicle’. Here’s what the SFC says:

‘The final document approved Friday reaffirms that women and men have the right to enjoy all human rights “on an equal basis,” recommits governments to comprehensive sex education, calls for sexual and reproductive health services such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence, and calls on government to criminalize violence against women and punish gender-related killings’.

Importantly, the final text urges all countries “to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition and religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.” Good, let’s have that out in the open at last.

Of course, there were a number of defaulters, including Egypt’s ‘Muslim Brotherhood’, Russia, Iran and the Vatican City. Well, quel surprise!

But nobody can deny what an important step this is.

What we, here in Britain, have to ask is whose interests it serves that coverage of such a major development by major TV news channels is so deplorable – er, lacking. Makers of ‘news’ programmes repeatedly favour the ‘one-off’ human interest story over anything that sheds light on the structural inequality in our society. What are the influences upon them that lead them to do that? Only asking.

Unfortunately, the consequence is that if the general public don’t know about their government’s obligations to the UN, then they can’t ask awkward questions about how well it’s fulfilling them, can they? Nor can they assert their own rights.

UN declaration on rights of women 2013

UN Commission on Status of Women, ratifies declaration on women’s rights

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