An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged authorities in Azerbaijan to ensure accountability for acts of violence against women, including by punishing not only the perpetrators but also those who fail in their duty to respond to abuses.
“State responsibility to act with due diligence to eliminate violence against women, is an obligation under international human rights law, which the Azerbaijani Government has committed to,” Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo said at the end of her first official mission to the country.
She commended the authorities for their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and the adoption of specific legal measures to achieve equality and non-discrimination, including for women.
However, she noted in a news release, the issue of limited or the lack of implementation of laws and policies was consistently raised during her 10-day visit which ended on 5 December.
“The vast majority of interviewees acknowledged that violence against women is widespread in Azerbaijan, but the actual extent of the phenomenon is very difficult to assess,” she said.
Ms. Manjoo attributed this to the lack of reliable information provided, the underreporting of cases, the focus on mediation and reconciliation in matters involving violations of women’s rights, and poor implementation of laws that would address the issue of accountability.
“I am extremely concerned by the statistics that were shared with me on gender-related killings of women,” she said. “The killing of a woman is the ultimate act of violence and is a reflection of the lack of protection and prevention measures when other acts of violence are not addressed by state authorities.”
The expert highlighted the issues of trafficking of women, for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour, and the increasing number of early, forced and unregistered marriages. Also of concern was the increase in sex-selective abortions, the marginalization of internally displaced women and girls, and inadequacy of social protection measures.
It is necessary, she stated, to adopt holistic solutions to address the individual empowerment of women, while acknowledging and addressing the social, economic and cultural barriers that are a reality in the lives of women in Azerbaijan.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. Ms. Manjoo will present a report with her final findings and recommendations at a forthcoming session of the Council.