Civil Society Organizations Brief the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Situation of Women in Brazil, Rwanda and Malaysia


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon heard from representatives of civil society organizations on the situation of women’s rights in Brazil, Rwanda and Malaysia, whose reports the Committee will review this week.

Non-governmental organizations speaking on Brazil raised topics including issues faced by indigenous women, barriers to abortion, and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women in the country.

A representative of the Public Defender of the state of São Paulo raised concerns about abortion rights.

Regarding Rwanda, non-governmental organizations raised issues about women and girls with disabilities, maternal mortality, and the stringent conditions around abortion.

On Malaysia, the Commissioner of the national human rights institution of Malaysia SUHAKAM raised concerns about citizenship of children born overseas, birth registration, as well as the representation of women in Parliament.

A representative of the Public Defender of the State of São Paulo spoke on Brazil, as did the following non-governmental organizations: CLADEM/Brazil, the Global Campaign for Equality in the Family, and other NGOs on Institutional Violence; Instituto da Mulher Negra on Mulheres negras e quilombolas; CONAQ – Coordenação Nacional de Articulação de Quilombos on Mulheres negras e quilombolas – Black and quilombola women; FOIRN – Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio of Negro on Mulheres indígenas; ANMIGA – Articulação Nacional das Mulheres Indígenas Guerreiras da Ancestralidade on Mulheres indígenas; ABL – Articulação Brasileira de Lésbicas on Mulheres lésbicas e bissexuais; and Conexão G on Mulheres trans.

The following non-governmental organizations spoke on Rwanda: Afro Ark;

Hope Single Mothers with Disabilities; RNADW Umucyo; and Centre for Reproductive Rights.

A representative of the national human rights institution of Malaysia SUHAKAM spoke.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-eighth session is being held from 13 May to 31 May. All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 May, to consider the sixth periodic report of Kuwait (CEDAW/C/KWT/6).

Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations from Brazil and Rwanda


Speakers on Brazil said despite the Committee’s recommendations, illegal abortion was one of the primary causes of maternal death in the country. Girls under 14 years old accounted for around 86 per cent of cases of rape. Inaccessibility of quality prenatal care disproportionately affected Afro-descendants and indigenous women. Political mechanisms hindered black women from accessing their rights, including access to legal abortion. Only a small portion of rape victims received legal abortions, forcing many to resort to unsafe procedures or carry unwanted pregnancies, perpetuating cycles of poverty.

The number of homeless women in Brazil had increased significantly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The private sector was not held accountable for violating women’s health and sexual integrity. Brazil had no appropriate public policies to protect women’s lives and combat violence, particularly in the border territories. One speaker said indigenous land was being invaded by illegal gold miners. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon had no appropriate health care which reflected their beliefs and traditions. It was important for the State to recognise the shamans and healers. Cervical cancer had taken many lives because indigenous women did not want to be treated by male doctors.

The Committee should press the State to legalise and ensure safe abortion for all, regulate mega-projects, and ensure training for all justice system workers. Political empowerment was vital to bring black women into the decision-making process. Shamans, healers and midwives needed to be brought into the State’s healthcare system, as well as female health professionals to treat indigenous women. There needed to be equal treatment for cis and trans women in Brazil, as well as safe social spaces, and the recognition of women as trans women. There should be a federal level law which recognised acts of violence against lesbian women as an official crime. There needed to be effective security measures so lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender women were protected in the favellas around Brazil.


Speakers briefing on Rwanda said systematic and structural barriers remained for women with disabilities, who were largely underrepresented in Government institutions and private entities. Rwanda should reform article 75 to allow for two representatives from the National Council of Persons with Disabilities in Parliament, and ensure the 30 per cent quota for women had at least a 10 per cent representation of women with disabilities. Sign language should be recognised as an official language of Rwanda and training should be provided for the certification of sign language interpreters. Rwanda should implement a law which ensured consent for women and girls with disabilities to decide on contraceptives. All health care services should be accessible for women and girls with disabilities in Rwanda.

Despite progress, Rwanda’s maternal mortality rate remained high at 203 deaths per 100,000 live births. Most of the cases of maternal mortality were preventable. The need for contraception was high. Stringent conditions remained for abortion, such as the requirement for services to be performed by a doctor and within a hospital setting, significantly limiting access to accessible abortion services.

The Government of Rwanda needed to urgently address preventable maternal mortality in the country by allowing mid-level health service providers to offer safe and legal abortion, including ante-natal care, delivery and postnatal care, particularly in rural areas.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked Brazil if there were legal restrictions on land titles? Had there been temporary special measures to benefit black women in Brazil?

Another Expert asked about the women dying from cervical cancer in Brazil; were there statistics to support this claim?

A speaker asked civil society representatives from Malaysia if the national action plan for gender-based violence was effective? Was civil society engaged in its implementation? Had there been any improvements on female genital mutilation since the last reporting?

Another Expert asked Malaysia what percentage of land was owned and used by rural women? How many women and girls were in detention centres, and what happened to them if they suffered from sexual violence? What were the main issues faced by women and girls with disabilities?

An Expert asked how living near the border in Brazil affected women’s rights? What was the situation of women’s human rights defenders generally in the country?

A Committee Expert asked Rwanda for information on trafficking cases and for an update on the national action plan to combat trafficking?

An Expert asked Brazil about the challenges for accessing nationality in the country? To Rwanda, had the national action plan for women, peace and security been effective? What were the top three challenges of the Convention?

Another Expert asked if there were any specific temporary special measures in Malaysia?

A Committee Expert asked if temporary special measures had been enacted in Brazil? Could more information on these be provided?

Another Expert asked Malaysia about the key problematic areas which could be addressed within the next two years?

Responses by Non-Governmental Organizations


Responding to questions on Brazil, a speaker said lesbian femicides were spread throughout the country. There was a record of cases from 2014 to 2018 on the lesbians who were killed in Brazil. A speaker said abortion in Brazil was only allowed in a few cases. The health professionals who offered services were being prosecuted, and there was an epidemic of forced pregnancy in girls. Many underage girls were being raped and had no access to legal services for abortion. The last Government had dismantled social services, and work was being done to re-establish the minimum baseline. Brazilian border territories were impacted by drug trafficking, and required increased safety measures. Indigenous peoples in these territories were at high risk. Only a handful of indigenous land territories were titled. There had been no specific measures targeted at black women in Brazil. Specific programmes which addressed the needs of black women should be adopted.


Responding to questions on Malaysia, a speaker said there was no data collection on cases of female genital mutilation. The burden seemed to be put on non-governmental organizations to collect this data, but they did not have the resources. The Government should promote the fact that female genital mutilation did not have any medical benefits; it was their responsibility. There had been no movement in regard to the law on marital rape, and there was little engagement with the authorities. There was no data on the land owned by indigenous women in Malaysia. Regarding citizenship, the amendment for Malaysian women and their overseas-born children left children’s existing status of citizenship vulnerable and at administrative discretion. The Government should proceed with aggressive amendments and hold off on regressive amendments.


A speaker said the lack of access to abortion services was caused by the law. The law stated that abortion could only be provided at hospitals, not health centres, which meant services could not be provided at the nearest facility. Only doctors were permitted to provide abortion services, but there were few doctors in Rwanda. Although mid-level service providers were trained in this regard, by law, they were unable to provide abortion services. Religion presented another barrier. Some 70 per cent of hospitals in Rwanda were owned by the Catholic church, and the remainder were owned by the Anglican church. This created a barrier to accessing reproductive health services. The national action plan on human trafficking had expired. Work on another plan was underway, but the Government should implement resources quickly to ensure there was a new action plan in place.

Statements by National Human Rights Institutions


DATO’ NOOR AZIAH MOHD AWAL, Commissioner of SUHAKAM, the National Human Rights Institution of Malaysia, said the Committee had influenced the enactment of legislation in Malaysia, including the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 2022. This showed the Government’s commitment to ensuring the provisions of the Convention were reflected in domestic law. Citizenship was a priority area in the country. The Government should remove barriers in this regard. Birth registration was important and should not be conferred with providing a nationality. While the institution acknowledged the positive steps taken by the Government to provide citizenship to children born overseas, concerns around citizenship remained, including that a foreign spouse would lose citizenship if their marriage dissolved within two years. The Government should adopt a holistic and consistent approach to addressing citizenship issues.

There was a pressing need to enhance women’s representation in parliament. Currently there were only 40 female parliamentarians in Malaysia. Increasing the quota from 30 to 50 per cent would foster gender equality and encourage laws and policies which were more gender sensitive and inclusive. Malaysian Muslims did not practice female genital mutilation, but rather female genital circumcision. The Ministry of Health and authorities were urged to undertake a more robust role on this issue by disseminating information. The income gap for male and female workers in the country was significant. The Government had introduced an incentive where the husband could transfer a percentage of his earnings to his wife. A plan had been introduced to combat child marriage, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years old for both male and females. The Government was urged to harmonise the law relating to marriage in Malaysia. It was hoped the Government would further strengthen the Convention principles in domestic legislation and policy.


TATIANA CAMPOS BIAS FORTES, Coordinator of the Centre for the Promotion and Defence of Women’s Rights (NUDEM), representing the Public Defender of the State of São Paulo, said despite Brazil’s assertion of efforts to maintain access to safe and legal abortion, findings revealed significant inconsistencies and barriers that prevented women’s rights. Legal abortion in Brazil was only permitted under specific circumstances: pregnancies resulting from rape or sexual assault, situations endangering the pregnant woman’s life, and foetal conditions rendering life unviable. However, investigations uncovered numerous barriers hindering the exercise of this fundamental right, including an inaccessible healthcare landscape. Data found that there was an annual average of 1,800 diagnoses of “abortions for medical and legal reasons “, which in 2019 represented 3 per cent of pregnancies resulting from rape. In visits to healthcare facilities across São Paulo, there was an absence of services equipped to handle legal abortion beyond 22 weeks of gestation, representing a barrier, especially for women in situations of greater vulnerability. From 2010 to 2019, more than 252,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth in Brazil.

Furthermore, the Federal Council of Medicine issued a rule which prohibited doctors, in cases resulting from rape, from applying foetal asystole in pregnancies over 22 weeks, making it impossible to perform legal abortion when this was the recommended procedure. Prior to this resolution, only three hospitals performed the procedure in pregnancies beyond 22 weeks. Another critical issue was the protection of women’s privacy and confidentiality. From 2017 to 2023, the Centre filed 37 Writs of Habeas Corpus with the aim of halting ongoing criminal proceedings against women for the alleged practice of abortion. In 25 of these cases, the criminal investigation and the legal process commenced due to a breach of professional health care confidentiality. It was crucial for Brazil to uphold and protect women’s reproductive rights by ensuring access to legal abortion services, safeguarding their privacy, and providing clear and consistent guidelines for healthcare providers.

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