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Belarus: UN committee hails role of women in political process and protests

GENEVA (3 September 2020) – Reports of violence against women in Belarus, including sexual abuse and rape, received by UN human rights experts, are deeply concerning, the UN women’s rights committee said on Thursday. The Committee also underlined how women voices are not marginal, but central in political processes.

In a statement, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said it stood with women who have bravely defended their own and others’ human rights in Belarus.

“Women’s hand-holding in protest is a strong and vital symbol,” the Committee said. Several thousand of women, mostly dressed in white and waving flowers, marched through the center of Minsk on 29 August in the protest against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“It is widely recognized that the continuing fight for democracy in Belarus has a female face. Women are among some 6,700 protesters arrested by Belarusian police in the last few weeks,” the Committee continued.

Belarusian women have formed the “Women in White movement” and taken to the streets to protest against police brutality as well as the disputed presidential elections since early August. They waved flowers and flags to show their solidarity and demanded that their votes be correctly counted.

“Women have also shown incredible personal courage, including 73-year-old Nina Bahinskaya who fought fiercely against officials who tried to block her from waving a Belarusian national white-red-white flag during the protests,” said the Committee. “Belarusian journalist Alena Scharbinskaya was reportedly arrested and beaten inside a detention center in Minsk. Lilija Vlasava, a member of the Belarusian Coordination Council's Presidium, was arrested on 31 August.” it added.

“Women play a critical role in political processes across the world. Women’s voices are not marginal but central in calling for environmental rights, social inclusion and equal public participation,” the Committee stressed.

“Gender equality is critical in all States parties to the Convention. However, a lack of political will precludes women in Belarus and elsewhere from enjoying equality with men,” the Committee said.

The Committee emphasized that a free, democratic, participatory and inclusive election process that fully respects women’s rights and is free from flaws or coercion is crucial in any country.

The full statement is available online.

END

For media inquiries, please contact Vivian Kwok at +41 (0) 22 917 9362 / vkwok@ohchr.org or the UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / media@ohchr.org

Background:

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Learn more with our videos on the Treaty Body system and on the Human Rights Committee.

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