Monday, July 2, 2012

Protecting Women's Rights During Political Transitions

A group of independent United Nations experts today called for urgent actions to advance women’s human rights during political transitions, stressing that their equal participation is critical for any democratic and lasting change.

Political transitions “offer unprecedented opportunities for progress on women’s human rights, despite there being a risk of regression and new forms of discrimination,” according to the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice.  “Good practice is evidenced where States take advantage of the opportunities to advance women’s human rights and avoid any kind of regression,” said Kamala Chandrakirana, who currently heads the group and presented its first annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The group voiced concern at reports that women who have been active in the fight for democracy and justice find themselves excluded from decision-making in new state-building processes. 

Countries in transition need to effectively take advantage of the ongoing legal, policy and institutional reforms to guarantee strong participation of women in all spheres of political and public life, especially at decision-making levels, and include them as equal partners in shaping the future of their country, they noted.

“Women’s full and equal participation in ongoing political transitions in many regions of the world is a prerequisite for any democratic and lasting change, and is critical to sustainable development, peace, and progress,” said Ms. Chandrakirana. “There is a window of opportunity to consolidate women’s involvement in politics as many have participated in and driven the civil movements in their countries and are poised to make further progressive contributions to their societies,” she added.

The Working Group also regretted that there were still too few women in politics and in decision-making positions despite decades of efforts, and underscored the importance of affirmative action and of the guarantees of freedom of expression, assembly and association to rectify this.

The Human Rights Council, which is currently holding its 20th session, appoints experts to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The experts work in an independent and unpaid capacity.

(UN Press Release)

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