The Opening session of HRC26 has kicked off with many important issues on the table – Read WILPF’s view on the session to stay updated on the latest in the human rights community.
Second week of the Council just passed and negotiations for resolutions are advancing, but not all of them in a very positive way!
Resolution on Firearms
This week saw the last of the consultations for the resolution on the Impact on Human Right of the Civilian Possession and Use of Firearms.
As always with arms at the Human Rights Council, some States were extremely sensitive to the kind of language included. Countries such as the USA and Canada are actively opposing the notion that civilian possession and use of firearms is negative in itself, rather preferring to focus the resolution solely on the illegal acquisition and use of firearms.
The fact is, as the delegate of Uruguay has pointed out in several occasions, no matter how civilians get hold of weapons, their possession and use is a threat to human rights. Firearms can still be acquired legally and used illegally, both directly and indirectly by creating an atmosphere of insecurity and fear. Have a look at this article on our recent side event (LINK) explaining how this is particularly linked to women’s rights violations.
The latest draft that was discussed appears to be very careful towards respecting the discretion of States in regulating the use of firearms as they see fit, according to their own social conceptions and national laws around weapons. Unfortunately this means that States with a high use and production of firearms will continue to have lenient policies at their discretion. WILPF will keep pressuring for stronger language on control of weapons as well as many other policies to limit their negative impact on women’s rights, as we propose in our briefing note. We’ll keep you updated on the progress!
Women as Leaders of Peaceful Transition in Syria
Our MENA project ran a side-event this week with the aim of stressing the important role of women in conflict resolution in Syria.
The event focused on women’s situation in the conflict from multiple perspectives, such as their role in civil society, their situation in refugee camps in Jordan and Beirut, and their overall representation in the media and public opinion.
An important issue of concern is that women continue to be underrepresented in civil society and this leads to their exclusion from peace negotiations. WILPF has denounced this time and time again and we will continue to repeat it: there is no peace without women. The media is also responsible for this lack of representation, as women are rarely presented as active actors of the peace process, but rather as victims in need of protection.
This situation shows how imperative it is to train women on Security Council Resolution 1325, including Syrian refugees in camps. Engaging women on the ground is the only way to really implement and give meaning to the resolution.
A positive note that came out from the panel is the mutual collaboration between Muslim and Christian communities, which are mistakenly represented as in opposition. The Syrian people still stand strong and examples of solidarity such as these are the demonstration.
This Tuesday was the Annual Full Day Discussion on Women’s Rights with a series of events and panels focusing on women. In particular, we attended a high-level panel on the negative impact of gender stereotypes on the enjoyment of women’s human rights.
Social perceptions and norms that prescribe what a woman should be like are as damaging as discriminatory laws and even more difficult to eradicate, as they lie embedded in our minds and attitudes. For example, the idea that a woman is the property of a man leads to them being victims of sexual violence by their partners, as this is not seen as violence, but as the right of the man to exercise his will on what is his.
Gender stereotypes can also operate in more subtle ways: the fact that women are seen as irrational beings can lead them to not be entrusted to be able to handle certain positions of power, thus impeding their participation in society.
There are various ways in which these social conceptions intoxicate our society and our ability to be the women we want to be. WILPF has always advocated for an approach that looks at the underlying causes of gender inequality, so we are glad that the Human Rights Council is addressing this and hopefully this kind of awareness will be reflected in future actions.
Protection of the Family
As we flagged in our March session newsletters, a core group of States led by Egypt has tabled a resolution on the Protection of the Family.
Seemingly innocuous, the draft contains some concerning language such as the family being the “natural and fundamental unit of society”. In reality, this can contradict the human rights of members within the family, and can exclude non-western traditional forms of families such as extended families, single moms or dads, widows, kinships and same-sex couples and parents.
Some delegations proposed to include text on the acknowledgment of “the right to found a family for a man and a woman implies the possibility to procreate and live together”, which is obviously sneakily trying to define that that is what a family consists of.
Another important concern is that the rights of individuals within the family are not underlined by the resolution. The family can be a context of peace-learning and joy for individuals, but in many occasions it has been a place of gender inequality, child abuse and violence against women and children. The need to protect the family has always been used as an excuse to hide these crimes and a motive to perpetrate honour killings.
If this resolution passes, it means that future resolutions can be built upon this original one, and more discriminatory text like this can be added. Have a look here on what you can do to make sure the resolution does not get voted!
Fortunately, delegates of the EU, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Switzerland were very active in voicing their concern over the draft, commenting that the text must include the recognition of different forms of families and the need to protect individuals within the family, such as children and women victims of domestic violence.