I first learned of the horrible phenomenon of femicide through data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Small Arms Survey report. We (the Academic Council on the United Nations-Vienna – ACUNS) had decided to do a side event at the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Commission in April 2012. Our ACUNS team was looking for interesting speakers and possible films to screen for that event, when my wife noticed an article in the Independent (January 16), which mentioned the film “It’s A Girl”. We managed to track down the producer Andrew Brown. Actually, we thought the film was already completed and then entered into a continuing discussion over several months about whether we could screen the film at the UN Office in Vienna. In the end, we recommended that It’s Girl be premiered at the Vienna Human Rights Film Festival, which it was on December 4 to a sold out crowd.
But after previewing the documentary It’s a Girl, our ACUNS team felt compelled to do even more in the fight against femicide. So we organized a one-day symposium at the UN in Vienna on fighting femicide.
The symposium took place on November 26 on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This symposium could not have taken place without the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs; the Permanent Missions to the UN Office at Vienna of Austria, Argentina, Philippines, Thailand, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Small Arms Survey; and the Vienna NGO Committee on the Status of Women.
State representatives, social scientists, NGO representatives, statisticians, lawyers and feminist activists had the opportunity to speak about femicide, explain its meaning and causes, but also presented examples of best practice in fighting femicide.
The Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, opened the symposium with a video message and expressed her support for this endeavor.
Dr. Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research and Rita Banerji of the 50 Million Missing Campaign, two of the experts from India featured in It’s a Girl, were among the other presenters.
The symposium culminated with Dr. Eduardo Vetere, former Head of the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, presenting the Vienna Declaration on Femicide. This document urges not only UN member states, but also UN organizations and civil society to join forces and take responsibility to put an end to femicide. The declaration was signed by the participants of the symposium as well as by Austria, Slovenia, the Philippines and Norway.
ACUNS Vienna intends to bring the issue of femicide, together with the supporting states and partners of the symposium, to the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which will take place in New York from 4-15 March 2013 and will focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
The It’s a Girl documentary played a vital role in mobilizing our ACUNS team to organize the femicide symposium. Now that it has been released with great fanfare, we look forward to screening this powerful film to additional groups interested in the topic.
For more information or if you wish to sign the declaration please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The text of the Declaration is available to download here: Vienna Declaration on Femicide
Michael K. Platzer is a Liaison Officer for the Academic Council on the United Nations and Chair of the Vienna NGO Alliance for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. He served for 34 years in the United Nations Secretariat in various capacities in the Office of the Secretary General, human rights, technical cooperation, HABITAT, UNDP, peacekeeping, and the Office on Drugs and Crime.
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