Government sends 37 observations to Pillay

In her report Pillay has demanded an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, which could also monitor any domestic accountability process.She notes that while the government has made significant progress in rebuilding infrastructure and while the majority of internally displaced persons have been resettled, considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation and resumption of livelihoods. “The PoE Report on Sri Lanka which was commissioned by the UN Secretary General was the culmination of a private consultation that the latter sought to advise him on. As it has not received the endorsement of the intergovernmental process, it has neither credence nor legitimacy within intergovernmental fora. The PoE’s mandate did not extend to fact finding or investigation. In its Report, the three-member Panel also makes it clear that the assertions set out therein remain unsubstantiated and require a higher standard of proof. For these reasons, the government does not extend any credence or legitimacy to the PoE Report,” the government said. The government has sent its observations to the report on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and has requested amendments to 37 points mentioned in the report.In a response sent to Pillay’s office detailing its observations on her draft report on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, the government insisted that all references made to the Panel of Experts (PoE) appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon be removed. Click here for the observations by the government Pillay also calls for the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice.On the issue of enforced disappearances, the government told Pillay in its observations that it has on numerous occasions provided information to the UN Human Rights Council on the process adopted with regard to disappearances. The government said that the generalization made highlighting a few isolated incidents as a spike in reports of abductions and disappearances in the period last quarter of 2011 to mid 2012 is inaccurate.“As a case in point, categorizing the case of a ‘diplomat’s child’ is erroneous. Investigations have revealed that this case cannot be categorized as either an enforced disappearance or abduction and the incident appears to be of a personal nature and the child has not been forthcoming in revealing the truth,” the government said. The government also said that it is inaccurate for Pillay’s report to state that Sri Lanka “has no comprehensive national policy on IDPs”. Pillay’s report was made public last week and a draft was sent to the government two weeks ago.  (Colombo Gazette) The government said it does not extend any credence or legitimacy to the Panel of Experts report as it is not the product or a request of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly or any other UN body. read more

By 2020 more than 140 million girls will have become child brides

Of these 140 million girls, 50 million will be under the age of 15, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which added that young girls who marry before the age of 18 have a greater risk of becoming victims of intimate partner violence than those who marry later. “Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin. “A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled. Since many parents and communities also want the very best for their daughters, we must work together and end child marriage.”Child marriage is increasingly recognized as a violation of the rights of girls as it interferes with their education, blocks their opportunity to gain vocational and life skills, and increases their risk to sexual violence as well as their chances to contract HIV.“No girl should be robbed of her childhood, her education and health, and her aspirations. Yet today millions of girls are denied their rights each year when they are married as child brides,” said the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Michelle Bachelet.In addition, child marriage also exposes girls to the risks of child-bearing at an early age, which can have fatal consequences. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 years in developing countries. Still births and newborn deaths are also 50 per cent higher among mothers under 20 than in women who get pregnant in their 20s.“Child marriage makes girls far more vulnerable to the profound health risks of early pregnancy and childbirth – just as their babies are more vulnerable to complications associated with premature labour,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.While 158 countries have set the legal age for marriage at 18 years, laws are rarely enforced since the practice of marrying young children is upheld by tradition and social norms. The practice is most common in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.These issues are the focus of a special session on child marriage being held today by the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. Strategies to be discussed include supporting and enforcing legislation to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years; providing equal access to quality primary and secondary education for girls and boys; mobilizing girls, boys, parents and leaders to change practices that discriminate against girls; providing girls who are already married with options for schooling, employment and sexual and reproductive health information and services; and addressing the root causes of child marriage, including poverty, gender inequality and discrimination.Currently, the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are: Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Guinea, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Malawi. However, in terms of absolute numbers, because of the size of its population, India has the most child marriages – in 47 per cent of all marriages there, the bride is a child. read more