By Rosabel Agirregomezkorta
One of the instruments used by the feminist movement and diverse other organizations is the symbolic Tribunals or “Courts of Awareness”. With this and other tools, feminists and other human rights activists have been able to advance towards gender equity in social and legislative contexts as well as within international institutions.
The Tribunal carried out in Vienna in 1993 within the framework of the World Conference on Human Rights was a key point of reference for the Tribunal carried out in Bilbao, Spain, this year.
Held on 7 and 8 June, the Vienna+20 Tribunal was convened by the organization Mugarik Gabe together with more than 20 feminist organizations, development NGO’s and other social movements from the Basque country.
20 years earlier, during the Vienna Tribunal the testimonies of 33 women led to a recognition that women had been made invisible by history. Their voices at the same time reaffirmed that women are humans and therefore deserving of all the rights already granted to men. Through their testimonies the meaning of human rights in the lives of women acquired a concrete manifestation that helped millions of women and men around the world to understand this concept. The Vienna Tribunal taught many women new ways of thinking about the use of the United Nations mechanisms to establish accountability for violations of women’s human rights.
20 years later, many of the demands for defence of women’s rights raised in Vienna are still to be achieved. This is why we carried out a Tribunal for Women’s Rights in Bilbao. The cases heard recounted the violation of three specific human rights:
1. The right to a life free of violence;
2. The right to abortion;
3. The right to a dignified standard of living for women.
During the Tribunal, women from different backgrounds and regions were heard. 8 cases were put on trail. Women’s rights experts for each of the three rights carried out an analysis of the progress and setbacks in pursuit of each right. The 8 women plaintiffs presented their cases and finally, the women prosecutors made requests to the International Tribunal asking for reparation of the damages inflicted in each case. The cases heard were from the Basque country, the Spanish state, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala. They all made violence against women visible as a global reality, though with different expressions and magnitude according to the place in which they occurred.
Over 300 people were present in the court and the proceedings were witnessed by more than 500 viewers through a live webcast. The Tribunal also attracted significant media attention.
This Tribunal has contributed in making sexist violence visible. These multiple forms of violence are a result of inequalities, which are in themselves a violation of women’s human rights in the Basque country, the Spanish state and throughout Latin America.
The convocation and carrying out of the Tribunal contributed in itself to the collective empowerment of women through political action, symbolic reparation as well as achieving recognition for women and the feminist movement.
The results of the Tribunal were formulated in a final resolution. It demonstrated the need for a review of the political and judicial systems that define and apply laws from an androcentric perspective. It demonstrated the necessity of incorporating into these institutions a political and feminist methodology.
The 2013 Vienna +20 Basque Country Tribunal on Women’s Rights ended with the reading of the final decisions by an international jury consisting of seven women and one man from different backgrounds, with recognised social, academic and legal prestige.
The resolution is a valuable document for ongoing work in the defence of the rights of women. It opens a period for intervention not only with regard to each of the cases presented; It also shows that we need to review not only the application of legislative and judicial measures in the specificareas involved but also the way in which the law and other international instruments are conceived of and understood by the institutions involved. We need to question the views and interpretations of the legal frameworks (what they are understanding as poverty or development for example, as they are reduced to hunger and aid).
The organizers will now enter into a period of making contacts and generating synergies in combined efforts with other organizations, among them WIDE+ which is invited to take part in the process.
For more information:
or contact: Joana Etxano (bilbao[at]mugarikgabe.org) or Lidia Ruiz (araba[at]mugarikgabe.org)
Rosabel Agirregomezkorta, direccion(at)ceim.eu, Centro de estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres, CEIM, WIDE-E (Spanish platform) Coordinator.