UN rights expert point to protection of women in conflict situations

UN Expert Pramila Patten

“Many countries have not been able to report on the status of women in conflict situations,” reveals Pramila Patten, United Nations (UN) expert on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in a gathering convened by UN Women Philippines and the Philippine Commission on Women.

The absence of these reports prompted Patten to visit several countries to consult women, including those in the Philippines who are caught in situations of armed conflict.

UN Resident Coordinator Jacqueline Badcock said that Ms. Patten’s visit to the country is indeed an opportunity for civil society to have full awareness and understanding on advancing human rights in conflict and emergency situations. She also encouraged everyone to take stronger accountability mechanisms in pushing for women’s right.

It is without doubt that armed conflict impacts on both women and men and the effects are far-reaching and numerous. Nevertheless, the challenges faced by women differ greatly from those of their male counterparts and recent research shows that women as compared to men are disproportionally victimized (Human Security Center, 2005).

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) documented that sexual assaults such as mass rape and the use of rape as a weapon of war are recent phenomena: “the violation of women’s bodies, their sexuality and reproductive functions has become an extension of the battlefield”. On the occasion of United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, it was noted that women and children constitute some 80 percent of the world’s millions of refugees and other displaced persons.

As refugees, women are predominantly vulnerable to sexual violence, in refugee camps and/or during resettlement. In the Philippines, the Department of Social Welfare and Development Services have served nine (9) cases related to women in armed conflict situations in 2011 and 37 cases in 2010 (NSO).

During her stay in the country, Ms. Patten served as a resource speaker to forums and workshops in Manila and Davao.

The dinner reception for Ms. Patten was held on March 21, 2012 at Hyatt Hotel Manila. The event was graced by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, UN Resident Coordinator Jacqueline Badcock, DFA-United Nations and Other International Organizations (UNIO) Assec. Eduardo Meñez, Commissioners Victoria Cardona and Norberto dela Cruz of theCommission on Human Rights (CHR), and distinguished guests from government, UN Agencies, donorcommunity and civil society organizations. Ms. Patten also participated in Asian-Pacific Consultation on CEDAW General Recommendation on Women and Conflicts which was held in Bangkok from March 26 to 28, 2012.

Ms. Patten, who bears the name MS NAVAMABEE RATNA PATTEN, is a lawyer and human rights expert from Mauritius and has been serving as a member of CEDAW Committee since 2003.