During the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, civil society expressed concern and condemnation about an anti LGBTI bill in Ghana, while the second joint government statement on the rights of intersex persons was delivered on behalf of 52 States.
ISHR, as part of the Women’s Rights Caucus (WRC) — a global coalition of more than 200 feminist organisations, networks, and collectives that advocates for gender equality at the UN — advocated throughout the negotiation process for the CSW outcome text to:
Recognise the important work of women’s human rights defenders, and end impunity for threats, harassment, killings, and reprisals against them.
Be inclusive of experiences of all women, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, employment, HIV status, race, financial or social status, as well as those who are migrants, internally displaced, or indigenous;
Uphold sexual and reproductive health and rights;
Uphold women and girls’ economic justice;
Recognise diverse and various forms of families which exist around the world;
Recognise different forms of gender-based violence and intersectional discrimination including racism, homophobia, transphobia, denial of access to sexual reproductive health care services; and
Support representation of all women in the women, peace and security agenda of the UN;
The WRC welcomes the adoption of the agreed conclusions and the renewal of a global commitment to achieving inclusive gender equality. The consensus shows multilateral support to advance the human rights of all women and girls.
Despite pushback from regressive governments, the WRC welcomes several key areas of progress, including explicit calls for:
Recognition of opportunities and threats posed by online platforms which have enabled women’s and girls’ participation and access to decision-making spaces, but need further measures to ensure that women and girls can use those spaces without threats of violence and harassment.
New commitments to address the gendered impacts of COVID-19, particularly among women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and to take stronger action to mitigate them.
‘Despite some progress, we are disappointed that despite sustained and substantial efforts by civil society and various States, there was no progress made in relation to langauge on women human rights defenders. This is particularly disappoining given the theme of this CSW – women in public life – equal participation in decision making,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.
Increasing challenges to civil society participation
The WRC is also concerned about increasing challenges to civil society participation in the CSW and other UN spaces, which were amplified by COVID-19 restrictions. The continuing problem of shrinking civil society participation was even more visible this year due to the virtual nature of CSW. Civil society represents communities on the ground and is a crucial source of information as well as a watchdog keeping States accountable for their commitments.
Attacks on human rights language
However, despite progress, a number of States and anti-rights actors continue to disrupt constructive and plural dialogue with attacks on human rights language and opposition to truly advancing a gender equality agenda. This year we saw anti-rights actors infringe on many side and parallel events, using discriminatory language and disruptive tactics in an attempt to co-opt, distort and undermine our rights. We are particularly outraged by the intensified anti-trans rhetoric and mobilisation. UN Women and NGO-CSW must ensure a safer space for all during the CSW, especially communities and movements that have historically experienced marginalisation and violence.
While we are encouraged by the international community reconfirming its commitment to gender equality, commitments need to be backed by action. The WRC calls on States to ensure that commitments are followed by swift action and mobilisation of public resources.
Contact: Tess McEvoy, [email protected]
Photo: Screenshot of CSW2021 logo
ISHR joined Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence and MENA WHRD Coalition in calling on the Human Rights Council to support Sudanese women human rights defenders in their struggle for democratic transition, gender equality, peace, and protection from violence.
To commemorate the International Safe Abortion Day, ISHR joined 372 organisations as well as women human rights defenders working to prevent maternal deaths, including through ensuring safe abortions, to demand free, safe and accessible abortion for everyone, NOW!
LGBTQ communities in Namibia and those defending their rights remain targeted, suffering various forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and violence. It is time for the Namibian government to take action and decriminalise same-sex sexual relations, revise laws discriminating against, and take measures to address violence in, LGBT communities.
This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
Faced with the appropriation of their name, Peruvian NGO Madres en Acción is pushing back, filing a legal action to recover it. In an amicus brief in support of the action, ISHR argues that trademark law is being used to attack defenders and this must stop.
In the first case on violence against trans people heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Court held Honduras responsible for the transfemicide of human rights defender Vicky Hernández.
ISHR joined 74 civil society organisations from across the world in urging Egypt to release researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy, and to ensure that, pending his release, he is granted immediate and regular access to his family and lawyers, provided with adequate healthcare, and protected from torture and other ill-treatment.
Beyond the discrimination and indignation that ordinary women suffer, indigenous women in Africa continue to be marginalised and denied the full recognition and protection of their rights. Decisively, the long-awaited National Human Rights Institutions’ (NHRIs) Forum organised by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) convened on 8 and 9 April 2021 to discuss the role of NHRIs in promoting the realisation of indigenous women’s rights in Africa. The Forum was convened ahead of the 68th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The result of the deliberations was a final draft Statement on the “Rights of indigenous women in Africa” that will be submitted to the ACHPR.
ISHR, along with 23 organisations, highlight attacks and targeting of trans and gender diverse defenders; the Independent Expert on SOGI examines the construction of gender in international law, a Group of Friends of the mandate of the Independent Expert is formed; and 27 States call on the Council to urgently protect the human rights of trans people.
10 years after the first SOGI resolution was passed at the Council, 27 States launch the Group of Friends of the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Tess McEvoy from ISHR and Gabriel Galil from ILGA World tell the story.
The Martin Ennals Foundation has granted Yu Wensheng, a leading Chinese human rights lawyer, the 2021 Martin Ennals Award. Lawyer Yu was among the three finalists to the Award selected by a jury of ten global human rights organisations - among which ISHR -, along with Loujain AlHathloul from Saudi Arabia and Soltan Achilova from Turkmenistan.