Friday, March 15, 2013

It's official closing time - and we know it'll be a long night

At 9 this morning there was an ambassadors meeting where a select group of countries came together to discuss the agreements. Though it is encouraging to see such high-level involvement in the CSW, problem with this procedure was that countries as varied as The Netherlands, South Africa and Iran, and the Holy See  (note the subtle difference of comma's placing in this sentence ;) had to come together to discuss strategy. Unfortunately no real solution came out.

The fifth version of the agreed conclusions was released. It does not really include anything new, just a better overview than the version of the day before. There was a small victory today, when a paragraph to "support and protect those who are committed to eliminating violence against women, including women's human rights defenders" was agreed. We cheered loudly.

However, still none of the contested issues has really been discussed, thus they remain open. And it has been confusing to hear how each time a controversial issue has been on the table, the text was debated and adapted a little, only to then move forward to the next without coming to an agreement.

So it's time to get straight: what is really still on the table?

There is sexual an reproductive health and rights, currently in 4 different paragraphs for different and crucial reasons. There is sexual and reproductive health services (which have been completely skipped so far) and there's the issue of qualifying (limiting) agreements on reproductive rights to the ICPD from 1994, thereby excluding all crucial agreements that have been made since then!

There is sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Not having this included in agreements about violence against women, would make us loose out on the opportunity to call serious attention for the horrible crimes committed to lesbian, bisexual and transsexual women, for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Think for example about corrective rape - we are still miles away from ever getting that in the text, but come on, it can not be denied that crimes take place specifically because of people's SOGI.

The inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education has been one of the central additional values of agreements made, for example at the UN General Assembly Third Committee only a couple of months ago. 

Intimate partner violence, which includes but is brader than domestic violence.

So this is what “we” want. And what do “they” want? Well they want all this out. And in adittion, they want to add a paragraph that on “the sovereign right of each country to implement recommendations in the present document, consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and conformity with universally recognized international human rights.” Which, as I have stressed several times before, would undermine the universality of women’s rights as human rights – and with that indeed the human rights framework as a whole.  

= Joni van de Sand =