Geneva/London/Brussels/Washington - In an extraordinary move, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) slammed the United Kingdom’s policies on fracking for failing to protect the rights of rural women, and urged the British Government to “consider introducing a comprehensive and complete ban on fracking.”
In summer 2018, the CEDAW asked the UK Government to “provide information on the measures being taken to mitigate and address the health and environmental impacts of toxic substances on women and girls, in particular rural women, due to planned fracking activities.” The government responded in November 2018, writing that it has “a robust regulatory system” and ”tough regulations in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination, and mitigate seismic activity and air pollution.”
A coalition of environmental groups (including Food & Water Europe, Talk Fracking, #BreakFreeFromPlastic, and Frack Free United), academics (Dr. Damien Short of the Human Rights Consortium and Professor Peter Strachan of Robert Gordon University), along with the Concerned Health Professionals UK and the National Union of Students, submitted a joint report to the CEDAW in January 2019 that strongly disputed the government’s claims.
“This U.N. committee is rightly taking the harmful impacts of fracking seriously, and calling on the United Kingdom to strongly consider banning fracking entirely,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe. “There is a wealth of scientific evidence showing that women are particularly at risk from this dangerous form of drilling. Fracking creates unacceptable public health risks, threatens clean drinking water, and deepens our global climate crisis. This report is one more sign that there is an urgent need to ban fracking anywhere and everywhere.”
Other prominent supporters of that joint report were fashion icon Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré, as well as actress and human rights activist Amber Heard.
Amber Heard said on Twitter, retweeted by Vivienne Westwood: "Only a comprehensive ban can protect women and human rights from the destructive impacts of fracking in the UK.”
Vivienne Westwood says: “We wanted to highlight the harm fracking causes pregnant women. Pregnant women who live near active fracking operations in Pennsylvania were at a 40 percent increased risk of giving birth prematurely and at a 30 percent increased risk for having obstetrician-labeled high-risk pregnancies. This is an example of the virulent, poisoning effect of fracking to all life and we are very thankful to CEDAW that it calls on the UK Government to stop it."
The joint report served to bolster the conclusions reached by the CEDAW. The committee declared that it “commends the measures taken in Wales and Scotland” to halt fracking,” and is “concerned that women in rural areas in other territories... are disproportionately affected by the harmful effects of fracking, including exposure to hazardous and toxic chemicals, environmental pollution, and climate change.”
“We welcome CEDAW’s recognition that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the harmful environmental and climate change impacts of fracking and its recommendation that the UK consider a comprehensive ban on fracking. Climate change is a gender issue and the UK must treat it as such.”, said Jennifer Robinson, human rights lawyer and barrister with Doughty Street Chambers in London.
Contact: Seth Gladstone - sgladstone[at[fwwatch[dot]org, 917.363.6615
72 Session (18 Feb 2019 - 08 Mar 2019): https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1190&Lang=en
Joint report submitted available at: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=INT%2fCEDAW%2fCSS%2fGBR%2f33560&Lang=en
CEDAW - Concluding observations on the eight periodic report of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, C/GBR/CO/8 (https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2FC%2FGBR%2FCO%2F8&Lang=en)