“Our voices need to be heard loudly”

Women’s recommendations should be turned into government action
Source: Isis International

The Beijing+20 CSO Forum bringing together over 400 feminist women activists working on women’s rights in the Asia and Pacific region ended today. The Forum concluded with an outcome document adopted by consensus containing recommendations to the governments that will meet November 17-20 in the Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review.

Women highlighted the need for governments to provide information and to guarantee consultation processes with women’s organizations as means for accountability. They reiterated that States should guarantee the participation of women in political spaces, particularly of those women traditionally marginalized. Women also expressed the importance of engaging with regional mechanisms to advance women’s human rights in the region.

“The governments that are meeting are going to be negotiating on our rights, on our lives,” reiterated an activist from Sri Lanka. “It is crucial that our voices are strongly reflected in the statement that States will finalize.”

Women’s statements and voices in the CSO Forum were in fact strong. The CSO outcome document reiterated the need to address violence and discrimination against women, including migrant workers, sex workers, women with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, women living with HIV, women with disabilities, and women human rights defenders.

The document included key issues linked to the economy and the environment and its interconnection with development, poverty, trade, and labor and land rights. It added the need for governments to take action to address the specific situation of rural women, indigenous women, women in poverty, and women refugees. It also called to end violence against the girl child, including sexual violence and early marriages. Women expressed the need for states to decrease military spending, end militarization, and increase the accountability of extractives industries and multinational corporations. Women also included recommendations on emerging issues in the region, such as the impact of private and state development projects and trade agreements on the human rights of women.

Thirteen briefing papers on crucial discussions also informed the outcome document. Below you will find the key messages from the briefing papers.
Briefing Papers Key Messages

Abortion—There is a need to guarantee safe and legal abortion in the region and decriminalize this practice. Government should eliminate social, cultural, structural, and religious barriers to access abortion and guarantee that it is part of public health policies and health care services.

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)—Women have a right to accurate information about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). CSE should be specifically mentioned in order to guarantee that young women have their sexual rights upheld and to guarantee that they have agency and choices. CSE should cater to formal, informal and non-formal education systems.

Economic environment and role of the private sector—There is a need for accountability mechanisms for transnational corporations and better regulation of the private sector. There should be efficient development assistance and an analysis of macro economic policies. States should address the structural causes of economic inequalities.

Equal right to inherit land—It is essential that governments state that the right to inherit land is a fundamental right. There is also a need to clarify that this right includes equal access and control over land and not just the ownership.

Families—Language on the family should be less restrictive. Governments should use the Beijing language, which includes issues such as diversity in families and the sharing of responsibilities.

Human rights and development—There is a need to mutually reinforce aspects of both. Development should include substantive equality and non-discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) should be the backbone of development policies for women. “Development is a matter of obligations.”

Inclusion of women’s rights organizations and feminist organizations—There is a need to recognize the work done by feminist groups on women’s human rights issues. They should therefore be included in decision-making processes that affect them.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights—There is a need to use this language and to include the definition of SRHR adopted in the 2013 Asia Pacific Population Conference, including child, and early age marriages.

Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)—Women of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities continue to face violence and discrimination that affect various areas of their life. The review of the International Conference on People and Development (ICPD) recognized this as an issue in 2013. There is a need to have a stand-alone paragraph on SOGI.

Unpaid care work—There is a need not only to recognize this issue but to have a commitment to redistribution for paid work and the reduction on the burden on women and the value of care work.

Women and climate change—There is a need for clear language on climate change. States should reiterate the Rio Principles and other key principles, such as differentiated responsibilities and binding agreements and comprehensive documents on negotiations on climate.

Women and conflict—The following strategic areas should be put forward by governments: i) participation of women in conflict resolution and decision-making processes; ii) limit on military expenditure; iii) sub-national conflicts; iv) violations and redress to women survivors of conflict; v) early and forced marriages.

Women and HIV—There is a need to address and protect the rights of women with female sex workers, who are most at risk in the region. There is continuing stigma and discrimination in health settings and existing compulsory HIV testing. Women with HIV are also subject to forced sterilization, contraception, and abortion. Women with HIV should have the right to control their own sexuality and decide freely and responsibly on issues of their sexuality.

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