International Women’s Day:  Dejevu? CSW heads into deadlock

International Women’s Day: Dejevu? CSW heads into deadlock

Date: March 8, 2013
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New York, 8 March: I am sitting here in freezing New York on International Women’s Day (IWD) entertaining a chilling thought.

Forty-seven years ago, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) deliberating on the same topic as this year – preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls – failed to reach agreed conclusions.

Every indication is that the 57th session of the global body charged with delivering gender justice to the women of the world will end in the same way.

Each year, the CSWreligiously holds “theme” sessions on topical issues affecting women and children across the globe.This year’s theme is on “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.” Violence against women and girls constitutes a gross human rights violation of the physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and economic integrity of women and girls.

Despite the outcry, GBV has globally reached alarming levels requiring the intervention and response of the United Nations and the member states.Violence against women and girls in the world should be declared a crisis of unparalleled proportions.

Agreed conclusions traditionally mark the conclusion of its annual sessions. But last year the CSW failed to reach conclusions on a subject as innocuous as empowering rural women.This year hundreds of women from around the world have crammed into limited spaces to make their voices heard on the war at home – its ugly manifestations, how it is limiting women’s rights and their human potential; the costs at individual, national and global level. At just about every meeting, we have heard estimates of levels of GBV reaching up to 70% in most countries. Gender violence cuts across race, creed, class and nation.

The world in general, and survivors of gender violence in particular will be expecting the outcome of the deliberations by the member states.

The process for discussing and negotiating on the draft “AGREED CONCLUSIONS” started early for this year’s theme. The African Union met in January. Southern Africa held a sub-regional caucus in February to comment on the draft and come up with its own statement. The fifteen countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a Protocol on Gender and Development that aims, among others, to halve current levels of GBV by 2015.

The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance – a collation of women’s rights organisations in the region – commended governments on their “bold statement” that women’s rights are human rights. The meeting concluded that “we must tackle the root causes of gender violence- patriarchal norms and harmful traditional practices that result in gross human rights violations being perpetrated with impunity.”

Urging governments to go beyond “business as usual” civil society organisations urged their governments to press for a rights based approach in the post 2015 agenda that recognises that rights are indivisible – “rights cannot be given with one hand and taken away with another.”

“This means that all marginalized groups – the poor, rural dwellers, the disabled, sex workers and sexual minorities among others must be acknowledged and accorded their rights,” the alliance said. “Women have a right to security of person; to bodily integrity; to make decisions and choices over our lives and bodies, including the right to safe abortions.”

Statements like this show how far gender discourse in our region has progressed; also the level of expectation of the CSW among the women of the world.

Yet when the lowest common denominator kicks in at the UN, the danger is not only a watering down of the draft agreed conclusions, but that there might be none at all.

Sexual and reproductive health rights – seen as a euphemism by many governments for abortion -is a key threat to the agreed conclusions. Negotiators are in knots over the inclusion and reference to girls as far as Sexual and Reproductive rights are concerned as well as questioning the inclusion of abortion and emergency contraception services in the context of health consequences.With regards to comprehensive sexuality education for girls, some member states are arguing that such education has to be age appropriate and with parental/guardian guidance.

Some member states believe that Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights will promote homosexuality.

While some members support the recommendation for setting global standards,others say the focus should be on the implementation of existing measures. This has led to the rejection of the inclusion of text from non-international agreements and emphasising the importance of sovereignty in national efforts.

Language on harmful traditional practices – which some states believe are not harmful – is another contentious issue.

Women and girls saying “NO” to violence against women and girls they are expecting a strong statement to emerge from the CSW. It is therefore imperative that consensus is reached this year by the 15th of March and that we will have AGREED CONCLUSIONS.Anything less would be a betrayal.

Matrine Bbuku Chuulu a member of the Alliance Think Tank and Regional Coordinator of the Women in Law Southern Africa Research Trust. This article is part of GL’s special coverage of CSW 57.



0 thoughts on “International Women’s Day: Dejevu? CSW heads into deadlock”


Hie ,we appreciate the work that all of you are doing at the CSW 57th session on behalf o fall women.We encourage you to keep on pushing what ever is due for women the war on women s rights and justice is still on we expect thing to change bit by bit as as you deliberate on these issues ,i know its not an easy task but keep on pushing , brave the chilli weather for a purpose. wishing you the best

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