Archive for the 'women’s rights' Category

“Is the CSW passé?”

Solana Larsen

I just finished writing an article for the New Humanist about the religious conservative presence at the CSW, and stumbled on an interesting article I should have found sooner.

Star columnist for Concerned Women of America, Janice Shaw Crouse, read openDemocracy’s Isabel Hilton’s post on the Guardian’s Comment is Free about the lack of media coverage of the CSW, and had some fun with it (read: plagiarized and distorted).

“While the left is complaining about the outside world’s lack of interest in the goings-on at the CSW, the conservatives are there armed with the TRUTH,” she mocks, “The lack of media interest is just one more sign that the influence of feminism has peaked and is beginning to wane.”

My favorite part:

“The public is genuinely interested in addressing female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and other real forms of violence against women, legitimate issues that must be eradicated. They are tired, though, of having the CSW and other leftists manipulate those issues to push their grab-bag agenda of quotas, governmentally-mandated housework by husbands, universal abortion-on-demand, mainstreaming approval of lesbianism and pushing so-called “sexual freedom” while telling teens that they can be “safe” if they’ll only use a condom.

The CSW isn’t passé – it’s this world view that is.

Another article I found describes the rightiwing presence at the CSW and gives some more details on the controversy surrounding the US suggested resolution on sex-selective aboortion. Elisha Dunn-Georgiou from the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States highlights some of the dishonest tactics of religous conservatives.



Solana Larsen

We’ve got a couple of articles on openDemocracy to help draw this blogging session to a close. Sarah Lindon on International Women’s Day (“Gendered States“) and myself on the closing day of the CSW (“How power works for women“).

I won’t promise not to post again in this blog. But for now it’s goodbye. If you participated in the CSW or you have any comments whatsoever, feel free to email them or post them in the comments below. Thanks for your links, comments, and support.

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UN’s Ban Ki-moon speaks out

Solana Larsen

An exceptionally bland statement on women’s rights from the new Secretary General for International Women’s Day (tomorrow).

Lots of other things going on about women at the UN today and yesterday alongside the CSW.

The Security Council held a meeting on women’s involvement in peace and security keeping, reaffirming it’s committment to Resolution 1325.

And there has been an “informal thematic debate” in the General Assembly on women’s empowerment. World representatives shared where they’re at.

Open meetings

Solana Larsen

Certain parts of the discussion about the CSW recommendations are usually closed off to NGO observers, so governments can discuss contentious issues in private. But this year, the NGOs asked for permission to sit in on the “informal” meetings, and the CSW Bureau said yes.

This makes the process of the CSW remarkably open to scrutiny. In general, the atmosphere is easy and accessible, not stuffy and formal as you might imagine.

That’s not to say there isn’t tension in the air. The delegations are way behind schedule on their revision of the draft document. It does not look like they will finish in time, which means either they might be here until 4am in the morning on Friday (it wouldn’t be the first time), or that they will be called back again at a later date.

Iraq’s “gender apartheid”

Jane Gabriel

Laura Bush said ” the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”.

Hiafa Zangana says ” the main misconception is to perceive Iraqi women as silent powerless victims in a male-controlled society in urgent need of ‘liberation’. This image fits conveniently into the big picture of the Iraqi people being passive victims who would welcome the occupation of their country. The reality is different”.

There was standing room only in the session on the 10th floor where Yifat Susskind, from the organisation MADRE, handed out copies of her report called Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-based Violence and the US war on Iraq. The report argues that the sharp increase in violence against women is the result of an organized campaign against women by Islamists who are using the war in Iraq to transform the country. The report is an attempt to ‘re-tell the Iraqi war story’ . It is the story of how ‘Gender Apartheid’ is being imposed on Iraq’s women.

Houzan Mahmoud, from the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) had flown to the meeting from London, where only last week she had received a fatwa informing her that whether she was in London or Baghdad she would be killed before the end of March. Houzan is accused of campaigning against Iraq; in fact OWFI is campaigning against article 7, and for the separation of religion from the state. Of the fatwa she said “I am here, we will not keep silent, we will be campaigning to keep religion a private matter” – and went on to say that ” just being a woman in Iraq is enough to be a prime target for violence – to be killed, raped or sold”.

OWFI runs two shelters for women who have nowhere else to go. It has outreach teams who look for the truth about the violence against women: Houzan told of one team working last October that had found nearly 100 bodies of women in a Baghdad hospital. The women had been beheaded or cut into pieces and their families had been too afraid to collect them. OWFI has a team that goes into the prisons to expose the rape and torture by Iraqi police under US supervision.

Houzan said that “we believe that in any society that is not secular, there is no room for women’s rights”. “Once” she said, “we had a secular society. We had rights. We didn’t have a theocracy”, but that the occupation of Iraq had opened up the borders to allow the fundamentalists the freedom to kill.

During questions at the end, one woman who had survived the wars that followed the break up of Yugoslavia, asked “What can we learn from the countries that have already gone through this? How do you walk out of this room with a sense that it is still possible to do something? What sustains you in this work? What helps you not walk away from this, but stay with it?

Houzan replied: “In Iraq the bright side is the youth movement and the women’s movement. Imagine if we didn’t exist, it would be complete barbarism: there is hope. We started this century with so much barbarism. The only alternative to this is us. We exist, we started with no support. Now we have support”.

“UN resolutions don’t lead to anything”

Solana Larsen

When did it become the fashion to say “UN resolutions don’t lead to anything”? I understand the world doesn’t look exactly as it should, but it misses the point of the process entirely.

Today, in the Vienna Café of the UN, Jamil Dakwar and Lenora Lapidus from the American Civil Liberties Union, explained how they use the international process as a tool for national lobbying.

Step 1) The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have found that girls in juvenile detention centers in New York are being abused and neglected by state authorities.

Step 2) There was no text in the draft resolution that spoke to the rights of encarcerated girls, so they wrote a few sentences and submitted them to the Commission for inclusion.

“…ensure that girls in conflict with the law are only incarcerated as a last resort, and in conditions free from physical and sexual violence. Ensure that conditions of confinement in all sites of incarcertation are independently monitored and meet international standards, and establish effective mecahnisms to investigate complaints of abuse…”

Step 4) They were certain the United States government would work against this, so they approached other governments who would be open to supporting it. Turkey agreed.

Step 5) If the change is implemented, the ACLU can then use the recommendations to press the US to improve improve conditions in US prisons.

The UN doesn’t do magic. Resolutions and international standards are tools for NGOs and ordinary citizens to pressure their governments with. Some places that’s more difficult and dangerous than others. I’m not saying the UN process is perfect. The point is it doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of working to improve things in our own countries.