The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon heard from representatives of non-governmental organizations on the situation of women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, South Sudan and South Africa, whose reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women will be reviewed this week.
The following non-governmental organizations spoke on Kyrgyzstan: an informal coalition of organizations working with women who use drugs, sex workers, lesbian, bisexual, trans* women and women living with HIV; Article 9; and Kyrgyz Family Planning Alliance and ADC Memorial.
The following non-governmental organizations spoke on the Russian Federation: La Manif pour Tous; and Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Organizations, Stichting Justice Initiative, Anna Center and Zona Prava.
The following non-governmental organizations spoke on South Sudan: Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa; Islamic Development and Relief Agency and Musawah; and Maat for Peace.
The following non-governmental organizations spoke on South Africa: HURISA on behalf of the South African Civil Society Organization Coalition; Women’s Legal Centre; Sisonke National Sex Workers Movement; Muslim Personal Law Network; Land Network National Engagement Strategy; and Embrace Dignity.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November. All the 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 at https://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 2 November to start its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Kyrgyzstan (CEDAW/C/KGZ/5).
Discussion with Non-Governmental Organizations on Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, South Sudan and South Africa
Civil society organizations from Kyrgyzstan said there were transgender people who had changed their birth certificates, but could not change their passports and had two different gender markers on different identification documents. Others noted that legislation and policies were not gender-sensitive, adding that there was a lack of measures to prevent violence and abuse against women in pre-trial detention facilities. Also, the State did not guarantee protection from possible persecution of women who complained of torture in detention facilities. Women’s right to work was restricted by law, with a discriminatory list of prohibited jobs, which under the pretext of caring for women’s health deprived them of professional choice. In rural areas, women were often restricted in their free choice by gender norms. Measures must be taken to protect migrants from discrimination, exploitation, and gender-based violence, as well as to abolish the list of jobs banned for women under the Kyrgyz Labour Code. Women were banned from engaging in over 400 professions, another speaker said, adding that some of them no longer existed, like steam engine drivers. It was mainly high-paid jobs which were forbidden to women, and civil society was continually working to annul the list.
Regarding the Russian Federation, speakers said surrogate mothers were subjected to slavery, and it must be prohibited. The Russian Federation should reinforce its draft law on surrogacy to strengthen the protection of the rights of women, and ban all forms of advertising of surrogacy companies. Another speaker noted that there was no domestic violence law, adding that the Russian Federation had actually reduced legal protections for survivors of violence against women. Battery had been decriminalized in 2017; turning it into an administrative offense only served to make domestic violence less visible. Women’s rights activists and non-governmental organizations faced increasing repression by the authorities, and the “foreign agents” law imposed risks and burdens on activists and kept them from working with public bodies.
On South Sudan, speakers noted that rape continued to be used as a tool to instil fear in many communities across the nation, and deeply entrenched impunity continued to be a driver for that pattern of violence in many areas across South Sudan. Women in South Sudan were afraid to be vocal on issues regarding peace and security, and the Government should include them in such processes as well as in conflict resolution processes. It should also engage in legal reform, in consultation with civil society, and enact a comprehensive national family law. South Sudanese women wanted a family law through which they could access rights to marry, divorce, gain custody of children, be protected from spousal abuse, and inherit marital property. Muslim women suffered from the absence of a comprehensive family law because a male guardianship system treated them as perpetual legal minors, another speaker noted. The Government should seek redress for all victims of sexual and marital violence, and stop using girls and women as weapons of war, and as means of pressure between conflict parties, others said.
As for South Africa, civil society organizations urged the State party to establish a permanent national body responsible for the coordination of periodic reports, concluding observations, and follow-up. Others recommended that the Government ensure accountability and parity in national minimum wage law for all workers, also recommending that labour inspectors should be empowered to conduct unannounced labour inspections in domestic settings. Speakers called for justice for sex workers who died at the hands of police, and those who died due to violence, stigma, discrimination, and harassment, also calling for an end to policing practices that harmed sex workers. There should also be further efforts to de-stigmatise sex work, and sex workers must have access to health services. Speakers also said the State embraced religious and traditional leaders but paid little attention to discriminatory traditional religious and customary practices, allowing the continued violation of women’s rights to equality and dignity in religious and traditional communities. South Africa must protect the individual land and property rights of rural women by giving full recognition of women’s land rights under customary law, it was also noted. The delay in tabling a bill on prostitution was of concern, as the vulnerability to exploitation had increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, gender inequality and violence.
The Committee Experts asked civil society organizations from South Sudan about how women were represented in transitional justice mechanisms, and whether they addressed violence against women? What was the employment situation in the country-was the Government working to implement quotas of women’s representation in the public sector? Civil society organizations from Russian Federation were asked about victim protection and assistance: how could civil society organizations help protect victims of trafficking? Could someone inform the Committee about the issues around nationality, statelessness and citizenship in the country? What kind of access did women have to entrepreneurship, compared to men? Experts also asked civil society organizations from South Africa about gaps between the laws and the implementation of laws. How did non-governmental organizations envisage society being informed about the rights of women and the details of the law?
The non-governmental organizations from the Russian Federation said the Foreign Agents law influenced the work of non-governmental organizations, and it needed to be removed for civil society organizations to help victims in the Russian Federation. Women were a minority in political life, but there were several initiatives to promote women in business.
South Sudanese civil society organizations said quotas for women in political parties were not fully implemented on the ground, although the Government continued to claim that they were. South Sudan was good at accepting things on paper, it was observed, but there was a lack of political will to implement international conventions it had signed on to. Quotas for women were not implemented due to the country’s patriarchal background, a speaker said, and women were still advocating for inclusion at all levels of leadership.
South African non-governmental organizations said a distinction needed to be drawn between formal equality and substantial equality, the latter of which needed to take into account the lived reality of women. The gap between living law and statutory law was increasing, another speaker warned, due to a lack of information at several levels. Communities marginalised due to apartheid remained so, and lacked access to education.