UN_CSW Tweet, 27 March 2021

Two responses in the media

A minimal text adopted at the UN Commission on the Status of Women
After five weeks of negotiations during the day and sometimes at night, the Commission on the Status of Women gave birth on Friday March 26 to the United Nations (UN) of a minimum declaration. While these annual negotiations should have been easier than recent ones, given a new US administration less conservative than the last one, they were “the most difficult and the most tense for three years”, lamented one diplomat under cover of anonymity, evoking “great disappointment”.

SOURCE: Le Monde, 27 March 2021


Women’s rights: the backlash and the strong, organised resistance to it
The final text adopted by the UN Commission on the Status of Women on Friday, 26 March, is disappointing with its lack of ambition on the themes of the full and effective participation of women in decision-making in the public sphere and on the elimination of violence. In the midst of a pandemic, this is a missed opportunity for the world’s largest gathering for women’s rights.

Indeed, Covid-19 has reinforced the extent of gender inequalities for many women, from the upsurge in domestic violence to the increase in the burden of unpaid care and domestic work, including the dilemma of whether to continue working or look after their children with the closure of schools and day-care.

Why has this happened? Once again the Commission on the Status of Women was the scene of a terrible showdown between some its members wishing to come up with a strong text and others wishing to empty the text of as much of its substance as possible.

Progress has not been made because of the rejection of women’s rights and gender equality. A wide variety of actors have a common denominator. The demonisation of “gender” and conservative views on sexual and reproductive rights that seek to control women via our bodies. Traditionalist actors of Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Russian Orthodox and Muslim origins actively participate in this backlash, alongside right-wing governments led by Russia, the Vatican (an observer), the Caribbean Community, the group of Arab States (especially Saudi Arabia and Bahrain). And don’t forget Brazil.

But… little progress on women’s rights would have been possible without the activism of women’s rights organisations and feminist movements to raise public awareness, influence governments and hold them to account in implementing laws and policies. Around the world, feminist movements and organisations promoting and defending women’s rights, led by young feminists, are calling for systemic changes for social, economic and environmental justice. A large-scale quantitative study based on data collected between 1975 and 2005 in 70 countries found that empowered women’s movements are the most important factor in influencing progressive policies on violence against women.

Faced with the backlash in terms of women’s and girls’ rights, feminist movements and women’s rights organisations are organising to counter religious and political conservatism and attacks against those who campaign for human rights and gender equality. Various progressive organisations, including those belonging to different major religions, also participate in this resistance movement and openly support feminist positions in favour of gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

Some States are working together to keep gender mainstreaming on the international agenda and to avoid setbacks for the rights of women and girls, particularly in the area of sexual and reproductive rights. Thus, Sweden, which adopted a feminist foreign policy in 2014, and Canada, which adopted a feminist international aid policy in 2014, are united with other countries that pursue a similar agenda without declaring their policies feminist per se (including Belgium, South Africa, Argentina, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand).

In May 2020, 58 countries including Belgium published a joint declaration for the protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights and the promotion of gender equality during the Covid-19 crisis. The content of this declaration illustrates proactive communication on the human rights of women and girls, and echoes recommendations from feminist civil society and gender advisory bodies and institutions. However, civil society, including feminist movements, women’s organisations and progressive religious organisations, as well as various governments, continue to defend and promote gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, to advance towards a world where each woman and each girl can freely take decisions about her own body, live free from violence and fully enjoy human rights.

SOURCE: rtbf.be, by Coralie Vos, 27 March 2021