GENEVA (2 July 2012) – The United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice stressed that political transitions “offer unprecedented opportunities for progress on women’s human rights, despite there being a risk of regression and new forms of discrimination.”
“Good practice is evidenced where States take advantage of the opportunities to advance women’s human rights and avoid any kind of regression,” said Kamala Chandrakirana, who currently heads the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, during the presentation of the expert body’s first annual report* to the UN Human Rights Council.
However, the Working Group expressed concern at reports that women who have been active in the fight for democracy and justice find themselves excluded from decision-making in new state-building processes. While governments may change, international human rights legal obligations to promote equality and women’s human rights remain constant, even during times of political transition. Countries in transition need to effectively take advantage of the ongoing legal, policy and institutional reforms to guarantee strong participation of women in all spheres of political and public life, especially at decision-making levels, and include them as equal partners in shaping the future of their country.
“Women’s full and equal participation in ongoing political transitions in many regions of the world is a prerequisite for any democratic and lasting change, and is critical to sustainable development, peace, and progress,” said Ms. Chandrakirana. “There is a window of opportunity to consolidate women’s involvement in politics as many have participated in and driven the civil movements in their countries and are poised to make further progressive contributions to their societies.”
The expert, on behalf of the Working Group, regretted that there were still too few women in politics and in decision-making positions despite decades of efforts. “States need to step up efforts if the UN Millennium Development Goals’ target of 30 per cent women in decision-making positions is to be achieved,” she said. She underscored the importance of affirmative action and of the guarantees of freedom of expression, assembly and association to increase the number of women in politics.
On 21 June 2012, the Working Group presented its plan to focus on two priority thematic issues for 2012-2013 to the Human Rights Council. These are discrimination against women in political and public life, including during times of political transitions; and discrimination against women in economic and social life, including during times of economic crisis. “The Working Group is encouraged by the broad support expressed by stakeholders for its thematic priorities,” said Ms. Chandrakirana. She explained that the need to secure equality for women in the political and economic arenas is of the most pressing global concerns today as it affects both women’s human rights and the welfare of all members of the community.
Through its thematic reports to the Human Rights Council, the group of experts will share good practices and provide concrete recommendations principally to States to inform their decisions on courses of action and strategies in the complex dynamics of political transition and economic crisis.
“We are encouraged by the good practices in this area that we have started to collect, including through the country visits we have conducted, and we are looking forward to further expanding and detailing them in our future report.” The Working Group will present its thematic reports to the Human Rights Council in 2013 and 2014.
(*) The report:
The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice is composed of five independent experts from all regions of the world: Kamala Chandrakirana, Chair-Rapporteur (Indonesia); Emna Aouij (Tunisia); Mercedes Barquet (México); Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom) and Eleonora Zielinska (Poland). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WGWomen/Pages/WGWomenIndex.aspx
The Working Group also presented its Morocco country mission report:
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