1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 176
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
United Nations Resolution on Sexual Violence Against Women
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is also for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Canada has historically been a champion of women’s rights. Since 1994 Canada has led the negotiation of resolutions on violence against women in the United Nations Human Rights Council. However, last week our government took a major step backwards on women’s rights.
On Monday, June 10, our government presented a draft resolution at the United Nations on sexual violence against women. The United Nations adopted this resolution on Friday, June 14. The text ignores the importance of sexual and reproductive health rights for survivors of rape, even though it is recognized that education and health services play a fundamental role in responding to the sexual violence that women and girls face worldwide.
The text fails to mention critical health services that must be made available to survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception, safe abortions, post-exposure treatment for HIV and screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Why were these critical components left out of this draft resolution, and what does this say about our government’s support and funding priorities for sexual and reproductive rights both at home and abroad?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): First, Canada has taken and will continue to take a strong leadership role in resolutions with regard to sexual violence against women and women’s health and well-being writ large.
We are a world leader in the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls, and we continue to focus, as I have said before, on concrete measures aimed at improving the lives of women and girls around the world. This is something this government has done. Rather than have people sitting around in advocacy groups or having kind of a broad approach to a lot of issues, we focus in on the needs and have made a real difference in the lives of women and girls.
Senator Jaffer: Madam Leader, my question was: what have you done to make available to survivors of sexual violence things like emergency contraception, safe abortion, post-exposure treatment for HIV, and screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections. These are victims of rape.
Senator LeBreton: I think I have actually answered that question before in terms of sexually transmitted diseases. Of course, the honourable senator is familiar with the Muskoka Initiative with the Prime Minister with regard to women and girls, and also with regard to efforts towards young mothers and expectant mothers.
I will dig out my previous answers to you, Senator Jaffer, and resend them to you.
Senator Jaffer: I have often complimented the government on its Muskoka Initiative, and I have worked in the villages in Africa and seen first-hand what great work the government has done when it comes to maternal health, but this is a different issue. This is an issue of rape — when women are raped, either in Canada or in conflict. My question to the leader was nothing to do with maternal health.
My question to you is this: Why were the critical components left out of this draft resolution, and what does this say about our government’s support and funding priorities?
This has nothing to do with maternal rights. It has to do with the sexual and reproductive rights of a woman who has been raped.
Senator LeBreton: Again, we as a government have taken many steps to reduce violence against women, not only at home but also abroad. There are many initiatives the government has taken with regard to women and children who are violated.
I will take the honourable senator’s question as notice.