The Association for Women’s Rights in Development is pleased to make this statement on behalf of the Observatory on the Universality of Rights.
We welcome the powerful report of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women presented to this session, and we commend the Working Group on its brave, principled and resolute work over the past six years to strengthen and protect our fundamental human rights. For all who support gender justice and the universality of rights, this report is a necessary spotlight on the sometimes subtle, yet ongoing corrosion of our human rights system and its protections. For all of us - echoing the Working Group’s ‘new sense of urgency’ - it is a call to action.
Rising (mis)use of religion, culture, tradition and national sovereignty to justify discrimination and violence is having disastrous consequences for human rights today around the world. Gender justice and bodily autonomy and integrity are a key preoccupation and target of anti-rights movements. The bodies and lives of women, girls and gender and sexually non-conforming persons is often where the backlash lives.
Instrumentalization of culture and religion, cooptation of human rights language, and manipulation of discourses of ‘family’, ‘gender’, etc are being employed to bolster power, and to control bodies and impose a social order that privileges some at the expense of others. The goal of ‘opting out’ of human rights standards and gender justice is state impunity, to corrode the human rights system from within. The purpose is to break down the central principle of the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.
The anti-rights impacts we observe arise from interlocking oppressions, including rising authoritarianism; diverse and evolving forms of fundamentalisms; increasing inequality and corporate capture of the state; and white supremacy and neo-colonialism. These ideologies are founded on an ordering of society into us versus them; systemic discrimination is thus built in. Thus when we look to protecting and strengthening our system, we require a holistic and coordinated response that addresses multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
There is no excuse for discrimination, we hear affirmed daily, and yet this trend of deadlocks, retrogressions and backlash means that excuses not only abound, but that they are accepted.
We commend the Working Group for its progressive work and join in their call to all actors to take stock of the current moment, and unite in an effort to protect, promote and fulfil women’s equality and gender justice, fighting against the culture of impunity that descends stealthily upon us.
Our lives are worth the effort.