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Oral Intervention by Mary Jane N. Real Civil Society Representative for the High Level Segment, General Segment 16th session of the Human Rights Council, 2 March 2011
Mr. President and distinguished members of the Human Rights Council:
Speaking in my personal capacity as a women human rights advocate, the Human Rights Council needs to take decisive actions to support and protect women globally -- as they claim, exercise and defend rights. It needs to take into consideration developments on women’s human rights within other parts of the UN, and to ensure that it coherently and meaningfully integrates a gender perspective into its work.
We have witnessed powerful and compelling demands for respect for fundamental freedoms across the Middle East and North Africa. Women human rights defenders have been key to these actions, including as mothers who have been active in seeking justice for victims of the disappeared.
Far too often, the rights of women to participate in public life, including in promoting and protecting human rights, are violated. We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders focusing on the situation of women human rights defenders. Women human rights defenders are particularly targeted because of their identities – as women or as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people defending the range of human rights. Their vigorous defence of the universality of rights often have rendered them targets of attacks.
Protection of women human rights defenders is key. Reprisals against them and those cooperating with the UN and bodies continue, in some instances sanctioned by government officials, yet little progress has been made in developing an appropriate mechanism on reprisals.
Protection of women human rights defenders needs to go beyond responding to individual cases, and must extend to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination at the root of these violations. To this end, we welcome the establishment of the thematic mandate on the elimination of discrimination of women in law and practice, and look forward to the role women human rights defenders can play in assisting it.
It is disappointing that the review of the Human Rights Council has not resulted in establishing new tools or maximizing the body’s responsiveness to emergency situations to aid human rights defenders at risk on the ground. The Review process could also do more to assess the gender responsiveness of its current mechanisms, such as deepening the work of the Special Procedures on gender or ensuring a consistency in the inclusion of gender concerns in the Universal Period Review (UPR).
In her recent statement before the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is holding its session concurrent to the Council, the Under Secretary General of UN Women pointed to the lack of gender balance in the UN system. A relevant example is majority of those appointed as Special Rapporteurs are men. Beyond attaining a gender balance however, there is a now a critical opportunity for the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and UN Women to work together and learn from each other’s expertise.
Mr. President, we recommend that:
And as the Human Rights Council continues its integration of gender, for the OHCHR and UN Women to develop concrete channels of collaboration.
- The Human Rights Council ensure that the principle of universality be upheld and it must resist any attempts to replace it with notions of ‘traditional values’;
- It is also important for member states to ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
- The member states and other relevant bodies should take steps to carry out the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in her report and undertake measures to eliminate gender discrimination;