WCO marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2020

The World Customs Organization (WCO) joins the international community, with UN Women taking the lead, to acknowledge International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by affirming its commitment to prevent and combat gender-based violence.

While there are a number of international efforts and declarations in place, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)[1] adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 1979 and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women from 1993, gender-based violence continues to be a global concern.

Gender-based violence is rooted in inequalities between women and men. Although it can affect everyone, the majority of victims are women and girls. Gender-based violence is an infringement of human rights and can take many forms, including physical, sexual and psychological violence as well as economic harm, and can include intimate partner violence and maltreatment in online spaces.[2] It is estimated that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence sometime during their lives.[3]

During the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a significant increase in reported cases of gender-based violence and domestic abuse around the world.[4]

The WCO is giving this situation serious consideration and is encouraging its Members to take proactive measures to prevent gender-based violence as well as to support victims of such violence. In this connection, today the WCO is holding a dedicated session with its Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity to discuss gender-based violence and share experiences of how to prevent it.

“Violence against women is a global concern that requires attention. In recent months, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been alarming reports from around the world indicating that the number of reported cases is increasing. As Customs administrations, we need to take responsibility to raise awareness, prevent and support victims of such violence by adopting proactive measures,” said Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General. “We invite our Members to use the WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool which can offer guidance in this regard,” he added.

Photo: UN Women

The WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT) contains a specific chapter on gender-based violence, which recognizes it as a serious safety and health issue that can take many forms, including verbal and physical abuse. This chapter includes seven indicators which guide Customs administrations on how they can work to prevent this type of violence and support victims thereof.

For example, the GEOAT recommends that Customs administrations audit incidents of gender-based violence, ensure that this issue is addressed in a comprehensive way, and conduct awareness raising events for all staff as well as targeted trainings particularly helping managers to detect and manage such situations. Customs administrations are also advised to assess the physical security procedures in place on a regular basis, so as to address particular safety concerns of employees as well as of external stakeholders, acknowledging that these might be different for women.

“Gender Equality and Diversity” is one of the topics to be discussed at the WCO Policy Commission in December 2020 and a draft WCO Declaration on Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs will be presented for endorsement.

The WCO reaffirms its commitment to keep on promoting and supporting the advancement of gender equality and diversity among its Members, and to continue working closely with its international partners to move this agenda forward.