Officials from the Government of Canada gave a scheduled report to the “Committee Against Torture” (CAT) in Geneva the week of May 18 – 20, 2012. The report outlined the measures that the Canadian Government has taken to implement provisions of the Convention Against Torture, but also asked that the Committee refrain from considering acts of domestic violence under the Convention.
In response, CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee could not discount acts of domestic violence because discriminatory treatment for women or men that could constitute torture is clearly listed in Article 16 of the Convention.
Grossman went on to state that while there are other UN committees dealing with issues of domestic violence under the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Prevention of Discrimination Against Women, Racial Discrimination and so on, for the CAT to ignore acts of violence that could constitute torture occurring in the private and domestic spheres would mean that the CAT would end up only considering acts of torture committed against white males.
CFUW’s position paper on Non-State Torture (NST) and on the Convention Against Torture also came before the Committee Against Torture this week. CFUW, represented by Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, appeared as “expert witnesses.” They raised the issues of assault towards children and violence against women as forms of torture committed in the private sphere by non-State actors. They stated that this form of torture is not always taken as seriously as it should be.
They stated that NST could include severe violence against women and children such as female genital mutilation, burning, cutting, imprisonment by families, whipping and severe sexual and psychological violence performed in the private or domestic spheres. These crimes share aspects of the definition of torture, as well as the discriminatory effect of torture. Investigation, protection, prevention and redress are very important. There is a need to raise awareness of torture by non-State actors, as torture does not just happen to one gender – it happens to women and children too.
One of the Committee experts said that the CFUW report will be very important as a legal reference.
A link to the report can be found on the Committee against Torture’s website at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/cats48.htm under Canada and then the Canadian Federation of University Women.
Access the UN news piece here:
 Jeanne Sarson, Linda MacDonald, Susan Russell, Brenda Wallace