Humanists oppose violence against women at UN Human Rights Council

16 June, 2014

Humanists have spoken out about continued violence against women across the globe at a meeting of the human rights council in Geneva. The British Humanist association (BHA) intervention last week supported the proposal of a ‘Universal legally binding instrument on violence against women’ and address the issue as a specific human rights violation.

Amelia Cooper, representative of the BHA, made a speech to the UN council calling for an operative criminal justice response for female victims of violence, noting that gender inequality in the law constituted a violation of existing international law and the obligations of the council. She defended the rights of women, stating that women globally should be protected from threats such as psychological, physical and sexual abuse and that these issues cannot be challenged in many areas when women are treated as second hand citizens by both state authorities and the law.

Reminding member states of their obligations to achieve non-discrimination and equality are immediate and not subject to progressive realisation, Ms Cooper reiterated that this would mean the abolition of laws which currently penalise or discriminate against women. Citing regressive laws in countries such as Iran and Jordan, which protect men who murder their wives for adultery. Miss Cooper went further, calling for a repeal of discriminatory laws and for a real enforcement of comprehensive preventative measures, and reiterating to member states that CEDAW decrees that states must ‘respect human and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind, including sex’.

Ms Cooper stated to the president that there was no excuse for the persistence of state discrimination against women in the 21st century, nor that victims of violence should be failed by the state with their inability to have them adequately addressed. She concluded that this is incumbent by basic human rights legislation, and that the roots of violence against women, and the actions themselves, should be combated.


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the BHA statement:

The UN Human Rights Council:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.