International: Equality Now Hails Historic Creation of New UN Mechanism that will Focus on Eliminating Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice
"On 1 October 2010 at the 15th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), member states adopted by consensus a resolution to create a new mechanism to accelerate the elimination of discrimination against women in law and practice. “This is the culmination of the hard work of so many in government and civil society,” said Faiza Jama Mohamed, Nairobi Office Director of Equality Now. International human rights organization Equality Now has taken a leading role in systematically studying the pervasiveness of sex discriminatory laws across the globe and in 2005 it proposed the need for a new special procedure within the UN dedicated to eliminating discrimination against women in law.
“It has not been easy to achieve this new mechanism, but the adoption by consensus of the resolution by the Human Rights Council has given us confidence that governments around the world are taking the issue of women’s equality seriously. Through the course of this journey it was heart-warming to witness the support of so many nations from all regions of the world and the strong backing of a large coalition of non-governmental organizations. The groundswell of support has underscored both the universality of the problem of discrimination against women and a firm global resolve to prioritize a systematic end to it,” said Ms. Mohamed.
Mexico and Colombia have shown strong, collaborative leadership in moving this issue forward at the HRC and their efforts were joined by several other countries. Additionally, Rwanda and Slovenia have been promoters of the mandate from its inception, among other champions, notably Norway and France. “We are grateful to all the co-sponsors, which helped craft a mandate that is going to add significantly to existing tools to promote women’s equality,” said Ms. Mohamed. Particularly noteworthy was the support of a number of African nations that took a leading co-sponsorship role early in this initiative. This is especially fitting in light of the upcoming launch of the African Women’s Decade whose focus includes addressing legal discrimination. Many African women’s national organizations lobbied at home for this mandate and Femmes Africa Solidarite lent particular support at the Council itself.
2010 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Platform for Action adopted at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995 where governments pledged to rescind all sex discriminatory laws. In 2000, during the fifth year review of the Conference, governments set 2005 as the deadline for revoking all sex discriminatory laws. However, five years after the deadline, laws continue to explicitly discriminate against women or have a discriminatory impact on women in all spheres. For this reason Equality Now proposed the creation of strong additional measures within the UN whose goal would be to assist elimination of discrimination against women, including in legislation.
The mandate of the working group would include finding ways to help States to fulfill their commitments to eliminate discrimination against women. The experts will be appointed at the next session of the HRC in March 2011 and the group’s first report is scheduled for the 20th session of the Council in June 2012. “Since non-discrimination in law and practice is essential in guaranteeing women access to justice and equality, it is crucial that the HRC appoints strong mandate holders who will engage immediately with governments to accelerate women’s equality.” said Jacqui Hunt, London Office Director of Equality Now."