Canada, China will work closer on preventing violence against women
Maureen McTeer, the wife of former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, and a prominent advocate for women’s and children’s rights, tackled the issue of violence against women along with Chinese colleagues on May 27 at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.
A prominent Canadian lawyer and author, McTeer was one of the attendees at a seminar focused on violence against women through review of commitments of the Beijing Declaration in 1995; analyzing the failures in their implementation, and outlining the next steps required to protect women and girls from violence.
In 1995, Beijing hosted the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, marking a significant turning point in the global agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
At the end of the conference, 189 countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, outlining policy objectives for women’s empowerment and the achievement of gender equality.
To mark the 20th anniversary of this historic occasion, the Canadian Embassy is hosting a series of events to celebrate the achievements of women and girls in Canada and China over the past two decades and to examine the challenges and gaps that remain.
McTeer pointed out that less than half of UN member states have acted seriously, or at all, to the Beijing commitment on violence.
According to the World Health Organization, about 33 percent of women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, and in some countries, the rate is as high as 70 percent.
“In some countries, leaving an abusive situation is not allowed by culture, tradition and religion,” said McTeer, who added that the world must work across legal, ideological, religious and geographical boundaries to fight against domestic violence.
“China is currently addressing the issue of domestic violence against women and girls,” said McTeer. “My hope is that it will be one of the most effective and complete in the world.”
According to statistics from the All Women Federation of China, 30 percent of married women in China’s 270 million households have experienced domestic violence at different levels. The annual number of reported cases is between 40,000 to 50,000.
In November 2014, the government issued the draft of the first anti-domestic violence law to solicit public opinion, which it expects to enact this year.
Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, in 1981.
Canada helped to develop the Vienna Declaration in 1993; played a key role at the Beijing Conference in 1995; and ratifi the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW in 2002.
“Canada and China have worked together for more than three decades on numerous efforts to reduce gender inequality,” said Guy SaintJacques, the Canadian ambassador to China.
From 1998 to 2005, the Canadian International Development Agency – funded a 5 million dollar project with the All China Women’s Federation, which resulted in increased and lasting cooperation among Women’s Federation offices, police, and courts to effectively deal with domestic violence cases.
The agency also provided critical seed funding to various women’s organizations in China, including the Maple Women’s Psychological Counseling Center in Beijing and China’s first Women’s Telephone Hotline, which provides legal and psychological support to victims of domestic violence.
Canada has been very supportive of China’s efforts to combat domestic violence through new national legislation.