GENEVA (7 June 2017) – Governments must do more to tackle the hugely disproportionate rates of violence suffered by women, including recognising attacks on them as human rights violations and domestic murders as a form of arbitrary execution, a United Nations expert has said.

“Violations of the right to life have usually been understood to be killings involving State officials,” said Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in her first report to the Human Rights Council.

“It is time to recognise that gender-related killings, such as domestic and intimate partner violence, ‘honour killings’, or killings of LGBTQI persons, can also amount to arbitrary executions.”

She stressed: “Governments must pay greater attention to the significant role that gender plays in how likely people are to be arbitrarily deprived of their right to life.

“The fact is that gender plays an absolutely central role in predicting people’s ability to enjoy their human rights in general, and their right to life in particular.  It is an extraordinarily accurate predictor of people’s enjoyment of the right to life. Misogyny persists at all levels of society.”

Ms. Callamard said there was unmistakable evidence of women’s disproportionate risk of suffering harm and violence. Global statistics show that almost half of female homicide victims are killed by family members or intimate partners, compared with just over five per cent of male victims.

“When added to other factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, class, disability or sexual orientation, gender is central to determining the risk and predictability of harm, including killings,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Her report details extreme rates of violations of the right to life perpetrated against women and girls with disabilities, indigenous women and transgender people amongst others.

Ms. Callamard said it was clear that gender-based killings fell within her mandate to challenge arbitrary executions.

“A gender-sensitive perspective seeks to bring gender-based executions squarely within the mandate,” she said.  “This includes the importance of revealing the kinds of systemic discrimination which are currently being perpetrated, in order to remedy them and enable all people to enjoy equal rights.”

Her report also highlights that gender-based violations of the right to life stem not only from intentional acts, but also from a lack of basic conditions and services that guarantee life, such as access to food, water, health services and housing.  

“This negligence, which may be directly attributed to the lack of respect for the principle of non-discrimination, can also lead to death amounting to an arbitrary deprivation of life. The right to life is not only a question of civil and political rights, it is also a matter of the right to development and to economic, social and cultural rights,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

Ms. Agnes Callamard (France) is the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She has a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms. Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.