This joint statement was delivered by Action Canada for Population and Development on 21 June 2023, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls at the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council.
Thank you, President. Action Canada makes this joint statement on behalf of Her Rights Initiative, AWID, and the Sexual Rights Initiative. We welcome the Working Group's report and see it as an important contribution to a human rights system that is often reluctant to challenge capitalism and class-based discrimination.
Feminists have long understood that poverty is the result of violent impoverishment and (neo)colonial economic exploitation.1 We know that economic justice is essential for the realization of gender justice - just as it is for racial, disability or climate justice. However, members of this Council continue to treat these issues in siloes, or even as competing human rights concerns.
We highlight the report's analysis on the many ways in which poverty and economic discrimination jeopardize the right to bodily autonomy, ranging from inaccessible services, to coercive practices such as forced sterilization, and to the classed and racist impacts of laws criminalizing abortion, sex work, homelessness or drugs.2
At the international level too, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people, corporations and States limits the resources available for women's rights.3 Yet the same Global North states voicing support for bodily autonomy and gender equality, or adopting "feminist foreign policies" also block resource redistribution efforts such as tax and debt justice, reparations for colonialism, racism and climate injustice, and the elaboration of binding instruments on the right to development and on transnational corporations - many of which were recommended by the Working Group.
We reiterate our call on States to ensure the material conditions necessary for the enjoyment of bodily autonomy for all. Without a radical transformation of our international economic order and transformative reparations, State support for gender equality and bodily autonomy is just lip service.
1 Report of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls: Gendered inequalities of poverty: feminist and human rights-based approaches. A/HRC/53/39, para. 21. See also the joint submission by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP) and the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) to the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls in October 2022, available here.
2 Report of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls: Gendered inequalities of poverty: feminist and human rights-based approaches. A/HRC/53/39, paras 41-43.
3 Ibid., para. 12.