The Commission on the Status of Women is an intergovernmental body established in 1946 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Each year, the Commission focuses on a different theme, which then shapes the agenda of the intergovernmental body as well as the engagement of broader civil society organizations. So far, CSW has not recognized that the needs of women and girls include recognizing diverse sexualities or genders or the need to protect from violence based on these.
The 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) runs between 14 and 26 March, 2021 and is happening online this year due to COVID19 restrictions. It is time for the CSW to acknowledge the diversity of sexualities and gender that are part of the lives of over 135 million women and girls who are Lesbian or Bisexual, and of over 24 million transgender women and non-binary persons with female sex characteristics sex. The CSW needs to acknowledge that it is because of their gender and their sex that these persons face violence, discrimination, and other barriers that CSW exists to address.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women continues to ignore over 135 million Lesbian or Bisexual women and over 24 million transgender women and nonbinary persons with female sex characteristics.Tweet
These persons fall under article 1 of the CEDAW, the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The CEDAW mandate is to protect from discrimination on the basis of sex and cultural norms. It is time for the UN Commission on the Status of Women to recognize that diverse sexalities and genders exist and it needs to take decisive action to protect us in UN member states from sex-based and gender-based violence its silence on the matter cultivates.
The theme for this year is “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” It will also review a previous CSW theme on women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development.
Representing the entire planetary population, the scale of the work done in the U.N. scale is enormous. That’s why even a small human rights gain at that level is worth working towards. The Commission on the Status of Women works on the issues that concern 3.8 billion women and girls, and over 24 million trans and non-binary persons worldwide. If Canadians can help show that our trans liberation work is meaningful and helps brings benefits to all women to the point that it affects policy change at that scale, that’s a 200x multiplier on the number of people who benefit from it compared to Canadian scale.
I am one of the delegate with the BC Coalition for International Cooperation, BCCIC. BCCIC is an ECOSOC-accredited NGO participating in CSW65.
A 2020 Forbes Magazine report named 37 countries where it was either implicitly or explicitly a criminal act to be transgender.
“The latest Trans Legal Mapping Report, released by IGLA World today, also finds only 96 countries have processes to allow trans people to change gender legally. But crucially, only 25 are described as not having ‘prohibitive requirements.'”.“New Report Shows Where It’s Illegal To Be Transgender In 2020” Jamie Wharham, Forbes Magazine
Legally changing gender and living as your true self is still out of reach in at least 47 of the 193 UN member states, all of which have a vote at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. There’s left to do. #ActForEqual #UNCSWTweet
To some, global cooperative institutions seem to remain highly binary, highly sex-centric cisnormative and heteronormative organizations that make no space for diversity of sexuality or gender. In global cooperative contexts, change can be exasperatingly slow for those waiting for new measures to appear that would protect them.
Advocates are slowly (glacially slowly) changing hearts and minds at the global level when it comes to Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Sometimes the work is done one word at a time and it can be frustrating to those clamoring for change. When it comes to global organizations at the scale of the UN this can mean focusing on high-priority outcomes by waiting for the right time to put forward other goals of prioritized by Canadians.
Behind the scenes, the representatives of the 193 sovereign nations are now engaged in editing battles on the text of a common declaration by member states that will be released as the main outcome off the session.
Words carry meaning, and so-called “sticky words” that not enough countries agree on are being addressed one at a time until we get to a common declaration be accepted by the majority of delegations to be the agreement.
National delegations have been at it for some days now and Canadian stakeholders like myself have been pushing our delegation to protect the recognition of gender diversity that we want to see spelled out. We have been pushing for many things, and the topic that interests me greatly is the inclusion of gender as an explicitly called out form of discrimination the CSW calls on member states to protect women and girls from. We’ve been pushing for gender to be given an equal standing with sex in the wording and the recognition that gender and sex matter.
The UNCSW urging member countries to reach gender parity in decision making and leadership is a lofty goal but it is not enough. The goal should be for proportional representation of all genders and all sexualities.
The UNCSW continues to fall short and is failing many women and girls if it does not recognize the diversity of genders and sexualities that exist in our societies and need its support. #csw65 #ActForEqual #UNCSWTweet
Specifically, I am urging the Canadian government to ensure the declaration:
- recognizes the diversity of sex and gender,
- calls on states to protect everyone from discrimination based on sex or gender,
- calls on states to ensure that political representation reflects the electorate’s diversity,
- calls on states to take measures to protects all women and girls from gender-based as well as sex-based violence.
It is long overdue that our world bodies including the UN Commission on the Status of Women recognize that the protection of women of all sexualities or gender idenities is as important as the need for protection of women of all ages, of all ethnicities, of faiths, and of all abilities.
Canada and other states have demonstrated that protecting everyone from discrimination on the basis of their #sexuality or #gender strengthens society. It is time that the UN Commission on the Status of Women take action.Tweet
I write about inclusion and political issues while working to narrow the gap between the laws we took great pains to create and their real-world implementation.