UN Commission urges equal representation of women in decision making

Kashish Jain

The United Nations Commission called for a sharp increase in the number of women in the global decision-making arena. The premier global body fighting for gender equality did so in a hotly debated final document which was subsequently adopted. This saw a major resistance against women’s rights and a blatant refusal to address issues of gender identity. The Commission on the Status of women reaffirmed the blueprint to achieving gender equality adopted half a century ago in the Beijing Women’s conference and brought into the spotlight some major issues we still face. These issues include the imbalance of power between men and women in the public sphere and growing violence against women and girls, especially in the digital world. The gathering witnessed diplomats negotiate over language on women’s human rights defenders, gender-based violence, and earlier on reproductive and sexual health and rights up until the very last minute.

Western Nations were unsuccessful in their attempts to get the commission to recognize gender non-conforming and transgender women, yet the closest they got was to a point where they saw a reference to women and girls who experience multiple intersecting forms of discrimination, face diverse situations and conditions. The European Union wishes to see more ambitious language in the 23-page document. It was quick to note the systematic attempts made by delegations to derail the process and question the international commitments and obligations on gender equality. It declares this to be a major example of the pushback women’s rights continue to receive.

EU diplomats have reported the behavior of Russia as disruptive, as Russia could be seen being vocal in pushing for language that is regressive and sought to deny women of their rights. China, in tandem with Russia, opposed any reference to women’s human rights defenders. The Agreed Conclusions were negotiated by the 193 U.N. member nations and adopted by consensus by the commission’s 45 members at the end of a two-week meeting. The U.N. women’s agency said more than 25,000 members of a civil society registered to participate in the partly in-person but mainly virtual meeting that saw 200 side events led by member states and more than 700 events by civil society representatives.

Saudi Arabia stressed that any reference to gender means women and men and to marriage as between women and men. China said it would not join the consensus on the role of women human rights defenders.

In the document, the commission supports the important role of civil society in promoting and protecting the human rights and freedoms of all women, including women human rights defenders. U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka urged member states to use the recommendations as a building block and to outperform what is contained in these Agreed Conclusions.

“The commission recognized that despite some progress women have a long road to reach equality with men in elections or appointments to decision-making bodies and administrative posts”, she said.

And it recognized that temporary special measures, including quotas, substantially contribute to increasing women’s representation in national and local legislatures, and called on all governments to set specific targets and timelines to achieve the goal of 50/50
gender balance in elected positions. On violence against women in the digital world, Mlambo-Ngcuka said the commission has
taken cognizance of the severe lack of preventive measures and remedies. She believes member states should take action to encourage women’s digital participation and protect them, including from cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying.

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