”Reject the recently-issued draft electoral law, since it does not ensure equal gender representation in the Constitutional Assembly that will draft Libya’s new constitution”. This was the message from The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, LWPP, to all Libyans after the proposed law was presented in the end of May. A recently published report by Human Rights Watch also underlines the close connection between future women’s rights in Libya and women’s equal participation in the constitution writing process.
The draft electoral law is the work of a committee assigned by the Libyan General National Congress (GNC). It sets the rules for the popular elections that will be held to fill the 60 seats of the Constitutional Assembly that will be responsible for drafting the new constitutaion. LWPP has identified several areas of concern regarding the electoral law, among them the lack of adequate mechanisms to ensure representation of both men and women, and the simple majority vote system, which affects both female candidates and candidates from all kinds of minorities negatively.
“The electoral law of the Constitutional Assembly reminds us of the National Transitional Councils’ first draft of the electoral law of the GNC. Both mindset is basically exclusionist. Again this runs against the spirit of the 17th Feb revolution in which women and men fought together to foster equality, justice and democracy. Democracy entitles that all voices are represented, those of the majority as well as those of the minority especially if we are addressing the process of drafting the constitution which is basically the establishment of the social contract.” said Zahra’ Langhi, Cofounder of LWPP in a statement.
“Women’s voices critical”
Human Rights Watch’s report A Revolution For All – Women’s Rights in the New Libya is also adamant in its warnings about the consequences for gender equality in Libya if women aren’t equally represented in the constitution drafting process.
”Failure to deal with these issues (one of which is equal representation, editor’s comment) properly will set back the progress women have made over the past two years, and hinder respect for women’s rights in the future. (…) Women’s voices are critical to prepare a constitution that meets international standards for women’s rights” the report states.
Egypt warning example
Another recent report, Women and Equal Citizenship: Analysis of the New Constitution of Egypt by the Arab Forum for Citizenship in Transition, FACT, also focuses on the clear connection between the writing of constitutions and future equality. It examines the final draft of the Egyptian constitution that was signed into law last December. The report states that important rights regarding the status of women were muddled in vague text in the constitution and written with a conservative vision for the society. Subsequently Egypt’s constitution lacks proper mechanisms for the protection of women’s rights and has no mechanisms to address discrimination based on sex or mentions any creation of agencies to oversee such cases.
The report also states that these gaps in ensuring full equality among Egypts citizens, were the possible results of the clear lack of female voices in the constitution’s formation (there were only 6 percent women in the Constitutent Assembly).
More about consitution writing and women’s rights.
The Arab Forum for Citizenship in Transition has also releasead a report examining several draft constitutions in Tunisia: Equal Citizenship in Tunisia: Constitutional Guarantees for Equality between Citizens.
Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie launch G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The G8 have adopted a declaration on preventing sexual violence in conflict. “The declaration is an important signal from some of the world’s most powerful countries that the G8 take a leading role in preventing and combating sexual violence in war and conflicts, says Lena Ag, Secretary General of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Stockholm.
On April 11, the G8 agreed on stepping up action against sexual violence in war and conflict. Zainab Hawa Bangura, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, attended the meeting in London and welcomed the initiative.
The declaration reiterates the illegality of sexual violence in international humanitarian law, human rights and humanitarian law.
The Group of Eight is a forum for the governments of the world’s eight wealthiest countries. It brings together the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the U.S. Please find the full declaration text here
“The ministers make it clear that there is an explicit link to international security. The declaration stresses that there is a lot to do and that the work must be continued and intensified. The statement comes a week before the Security Council debate on the same subject, which is important,” says The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s Secretary General Lena Ag, and continues:
“The G8 recognize clearly the role of civil society, pointing out that women activists and human rights defenders, who often are the ones who alert about the abuses, also can be at risk of becoming victims of violence and abuse. Special efforts are necessary to protect them.”
The Declaration also emphasizes the importance of women being involved and represented in peace negotiations, peace building and conflict prevention.
“The G8 declaration was initiated by the conservative British foreign minister William Hague, who has shown great personal commitment to this issue. The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation hopes that the Swedish foreign minister will be inspired by his colleague and that we’ll soon see a Swedish initiative on the issue,” says Lena Ag.
Text: Karin Råghall
Translation: Katharina Andersen
Mallika Dutt. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Karin Raghall
Ringing a doorbell can save women from violence, at least momentarily. To bring about a sustainable solution to end violence against women worldwide, men need to be included in the process. “Male violence can only change when men change,” said Mallika Dutt, Indian-American social entrepreneur and human rights activist, during her visit to Sweden.
After thirty years of experience in the field of human rights and cultural change, she expressed her surprise and delight about the great number of young people protesting in India and globally against gender violence and gang rapes, following the rape and death of the Indian 23-year-old student in December. In her opinion it is the very first time that even many young men are joining in the protests. “What do we do with this important moment in history?” she asks.
Through the work with Breakthrough she tries to answer her own question. Breakthrough is a global human rights organization, founded by Mallika Dutt, that uses the power of media, pop culture and community mobilization to promote human rights values and to bring about change and empowerment.
Breakthrough’s campaign ”Ring the bell” aims at men, working for changing the way millions of men in India think about and respond to domestic violence. It urges neighbors and passersby to take a stand against physical abuse through simple acts – like ringing the doorbell.
The campaign has been adapted to other countries and on March 8, the next phase will be launched: One million men. One million promises. Men and boys around the world are called to promise to take concrete action to address, challenge, and end violence against women.
According to Mallika Dutt, it is time to talk about the connection between male violence and the underlying patriarchic culture and masculinity narratives, as the women’s right movement matures. “It is time to bring men at the table as allies, not only to focus on the situation after occurred violence, but on violence prevention,” she says. She believes the world is close to a tipping point concerning gender violence, and regards it as important to use the current focus and collective energy to generate a global shift in norms.
Some of the demonstrating men in India were wearing high heels – to show their solidarity, to express that they can imagine how it must feel to be a women in a misogynistic culture. A global shift in norms might teach more men to walk in women’s shoes.
Katharina Andersen | Afrah Nasser
The draft proposal of a new constitution for Egypt, has caused fiery protests from civil society and women’s organizations in the country. Last week several hundred people demonstrated in Cairo against the absence of women in the process and against the new Article 36, stating that women’s equal rights should be ensured ”without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence”.
Political and human rights activists in Egypt worry that the proposed wordings in the constitution will curtail women’s rights, since they open for different interpretations by Islamic scholars, reports the Egypt Independent.
The proposed Article 36 reads:
”The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic and social life, without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. The state will provide all necessary services for mothers and children for free, and will ensure the protection of women, along with social, economic and medical care and the right to inheritance, and will ensure a balance between the woman’s family responsibilities and work in society.”
Besides the connection to islamic Sharia law, activists also protest against the recent exclusion of former proposed writings, like setting a minimum age for a woman to be able to marry and banning trafficking.
Several demonstrations were held in the capital last week. On Wednesday representatives from civil society organizations, activists and politicians announced at a press conference that they will be drafting an alternative constitution.
- A constitution containing the phrase ‘not to be contrary to Sharia’ and a constitution that limits the rights of certain groups, such as Copts and women, will not be allowed, said Hussein Abdel Ghani from Popular Current, one of the organizations in the group, writes the Egypt Independent.
Women’s movement demanding equal rights
On Thursday women’s organizations organized a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace and handed over a statement in which they called for an equal dividing of seats between women and men in the Constituent Assembly, and for the new constitution to ensure women’s equal rights as citizens of Egypt.
Currently only seven of the Constituent Committée’s 100 members are women. The comittée’s constitutionality has been questioned and is currently being examined by a court.
The statement made by the Egyptian women’s movement
On women’s rights in the Constitution:
- First, women’s rights are part of the citizenship’s rights.
- Women gained their rights through historical struggling and they contributed to the 25 Jan revolution where they were scarred and died, just like the men.
- The constitution identifies the rights and the duties of all Egyptians (male and female ) so all should share in formulating it.
- Women have been marginalized in the mechanisms for achieving the objectives of the revolution, starting with the poor representation in the parliament and the Consultative Council, and ending with the founding of the constitution committee.
- There are many women who are in leading positions and teaching law and constitution at the universities.
Taking all of the above into consideration, and for a Constitution for all Egyptians, the Egyptian women’s movement, which is formed by people from all of Egyptian society and represented by the signatories (she/he) to this document, is demanding:
Considering the current Constituent Committée lost its legitimacy, since it is under consideration of the judiciary:
Restruction of the committee to represent all of the Egyptian people with membership divided equally between women and men. Adoption of objective and transparent criteria for membership, taking into account the names nominated by different spectra of society.
The articles of the constitution should:
- Reflect the equality between all Egyptians
- Confirm the international treaties, like the Elimination on all Forms of discrimination against Women
- Guarantee the full equality of women and men within each of the following rights: education, employment, health care, health and social insurance, housing, unemployment benefit, and the right of a healthy environment
- Make sure that the State and the political institutions empower of women in their political representation, in order to achieve a fair representation of women reflect their percentage in society
- Put proper control on the election law and process
- Confirm the equality between men and women regarding responsibilities within the framework of the family .
- Include articles to protect children’s rights, the environment, the rights of persons with special needs, and the rights of the elderly.
A lot of men, and not so many women, met to discuss Afghanistan at the NATO Summit in Chicago. Photo: NATO.
NATO will appoint a Special Representative ”for mainstreaming UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions into its operations and missions”. This was decided on the Alliance’s recent summit held in Chicago, USA. NATO also stated the importance of ”the full participation of all Afghan women in the reconstruction, political, peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan” and that this opinion is shared by the Afghan government.
The declaration released at the end of the summit, points out that the continued under-representation of women in peace processes, together with the widespread acts of sexual and gender-based violence, are severe impediments to building sustainable peace. NATO reaffirmed its commitment to UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions, but also claimed that they ”in line with the NATO/Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) Policy (…) has made significant progress in implementing the goals articulated in these Resolutions”.
Besides from appointing a Special Representative, whom the member country Norway offered to provide, the Alliance also endorsed a Strategic Progress Report outlining NATO’s implementation of UNSCR 1325 to date and required the North Atlantic Council to provide a report on the status of implementation prior to the next NATO Summit.
The international development organization Gender Concerns International, GCI, welcomed the statements from the declaration, but raised concern over whether the words would translate into actual benefits for, for example, the women of Afghanistan, since it nowhere was mentioned how much of the budget, of 4,1 billion USD for the Afghan National Security Force, that would be allocated to recruit and train women.
GCI also stated that: ”The false notion that peace and security has little to do with women is exacerbated by the fact that while heads of state discussed issues which have a disproportionate affect on the lives of women in Afghanistan, Afghan women themselves were relegated to raising concerns at a shadow summit also held in Chicago”.
United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has launched a new policy on gender equality and female empowerment. USAID has a budget of over 50 billion US dollars and works with programs on humanitarian aid, democracy, economic development, sustainability etc in over 100 countries in the so called developing world.
One of the countries where USAID is present is Pakistan. Here Nishta Jehan, living in the conflict-affected Swat area, is working on a sewing machine provided by USAID, to help her earn an income. Photo: Usman Ghani/USAID
When presenting the policy USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah said:
-We know that long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential. But today, women and girls continue to face disadvantages in every sector in which we work, and in other cases, boys are falling behind. With this policy, we can ensure our values and commitments are reflected in durable, meaningful results for all.
Promote women’s participation
The policy states that USAID investments, in order to achieve the gender equality goal, will be aimed at three outcomes:
- Reduce gender disparities in access to, control over and benefit from resources, wealth, opportunities and services – economic, social, political and cultural;
- Reduce gender-based violence; and
- Increase capability of women and girls to realize their rights, determine their life outcomes and influence decision-making in household, communities and societies.
It also specifically mentions USAID’s work in conflict-affected states and that it ”should promote women’s participation in all efforts to prevent, resolve and rebuild following conflict; prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence; and ensure that relief and recovery efforts address the different needs and priorities of women and men”.
Descriptions of implementation
But part from the equality goals in the field projects, one of the most promising things about the policy is the fact that it also contains detailed descriptions on how to get it institutionalized in all USAID’s missions, bureaus and offices. This should mean that the usual gap between talk and action when it comes to policy documents and their implementation, in this case should be able to keep significantly smaller.
When USA’s war on terrorism started it was accompanied by words like ”human rights” and ”democracy”. But, according to the report A Decade Lost, women and hbt persons have become the unseen victims.
More than ten years have passed since the attack on World Trade Center in New York, on the 9th of September 2001. The so called war on terrorism that followed has gotten a lot of attention from media and human rights activists, because of its violations of human rights, like torture and imprisonment without trials. Crimes committed by the US government on numerous occations. But when researcher Jane C Huckerby interviewed female relatives to Guantanomo prisoners, she realized that there were almost no material available on the affects of the war on women’s situation.
Lama Fakih and Jane C Huckerby. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Maria Zerihoun.
- We contacted the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Martin Scheinin, and encouraged him to write a report on gender and counter-terrorism for the UN, says Jane C Huckerby.
She and her team worked together with Martin Scheinin on the report, and in 2009 it was presented for the general assembly. The report suggested that women and hbt persons had become victims in the war on terrorism.
- To say that there were strong reactions is an understatement. Many governments were furious that Martin Scheinin had highlighted hbt persons situation and over the fact that he had used the gender concept in a way that didn’t concern biology but social stereotypes. Honestly I think they were mad just to hear someone with a counter-terrorism mandate speak about a gender perspective.
Study on USA’s counter-terrorism policy
But the research didn’t end there. For the last three years Jane C Huckerby and Lama Fakih have done an extensive study of USA’s counter-terrorism policy from a gender perspective, for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law.
To get information on how the war on terrorism has affected women on grass-roots level, they conducted workshops in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
- At the same time we devoted a lot of time to interviewing US government representatives, to get their thoughts about the gender perspective of their counter-terrorism work.
Fundamental violation of human rights
The combined results of these studies became the report A Decade Lost – Locating Gender in US Counter terrorism. It confirms that the counter-terrorism programs affects women’s situation in a negative way.
- The results were the same in all the cases we examined: women and sexual minorities had been the unseen victims of USA’s war on terrorism. So we call the report ”a decade loss”, because of the total silence surrounding this fundamental violation of human rights.
Increase of gender-based violence
“when it comes to negotiating treaties with terrorists and extremist groups, women’s rights are being sacrificed”
According to the report, the war on terrorism affects women in multiple ways. Gender-based violence has increased both in Afghanistan and Iraq, gender stereotypes have been reinforced and stricter border controls have rendered victims of human trafficing even more oppressed and vulnerable.
- Also, USA’s strict counter-terrorism laws have made it harder for both private persons and different types of bodies to support hbt and women’s rights organizations, since they often have to be small and secretive, and don’t dare to sign the counter-terrorism documents that USA demands.
The studies show that women are getting caught between counter-terrorism operations, acts of terrorism and states failing to protect them. And when it comes to negotiating treaties with terrorists and extremist groups, women’s rights are being sacrificed.
Aid focused on men
- Another thing we saw clearly was that the American aid has increasingly been focused on preventing terrorism, and men are seen as more likely to become terrorists than women. Therefore the resources have been put on programs for boys, even in places where girls’ needs are much bigger, says Jane C Huckerby.
The American military has engaged themselves in several non-military activities to make them more popular. Most of the time they haven’t consulted the women in the societies where they have been, but only the men in charge, thereby enforcing patriarchal structures instead of contributing to a democratic development.
- One example is when American military were building wells in a village in Kenya. They didn’t consult any women, although women almost always are in charge of fetching water. So the wells were placed at the wrong spots and then broke, causing the village’s whole water supply to dry up.
Surprised by the gender-blindness
Jane C Huckerby and Lama Fakih find it striking how gender-blind the war on terrorism has been.
- USA have constantly talked about democracy and women’s rights, but in reality women’s security has not been prioritized.
The researchers now hope that the US government will learn from the report. Their ignorance concerning the effects of the war on terrorism has been the most surprising finding in the studies, says Jane C Huckerby and Lama Fakih.
- But several of the officials we have spoken to, have realized their gaps in knowledge and shown interest in our report. We hope that this will lead to the use of thorough gender analysis in international actions. So they don’t continue to unintentionally punish women and hbt persons.