Thursday, March 30, 2017

Women, Slums, and Urbanization

For women, the phenomena of urbanization and the growth of city slums have unique causes and unique consequences. The reasons why women move into informal settlements and the specific challenges they face once they arrive have been largely unaddressed by academic scholars, policymakers, and others.  Data on women and urbanization is limited [8].

The primary “drivers” for women’s migration to the cities include issues such as violence against women, forced eviction, and the feminization of poverty, meaning the phenomenon that women represent disproportionate percentages of the world’s poor. New trends show an increasing number of females are migrating on their own and that an increasing number of women are now the principal wage earners for themselves and their families. Women move to urban areas for a number of different reasons, such as to seek higher income, to flee conflict, to avoid environmental degradation, or to escape family problems, especially problems resulting from discrimination. These problems may also include coping with health-related problems, such like HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Women may also be isolated and financially destitute. Many hope for a quick acquisition of resources but this may be difficult for women with very limited resources and job skills. Many women end up in urban slums where they can be close to commercial areas and work opportunities [9].

For women living in informal settlements, housing and living conditions are especially harsh. Close to one third of the world’s women are homeless or live in inadequate housing and in many countries, a majority of homeless women have escaped from domestic violence [10].

Women and men should have equal rights to own, access and control over land and property, according to the international human rights (e.g. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Voluntary Guidlines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure) and national legislation of several countries. However, male-oriented practices and governance may imply that women’s security of tenure depends on their relation with male partners and family members (husbands, fathers, sons or extended family members). If or when the relation between the woman and that male figure is broken, such as in the case of divorce or death, women may become vulnerable due to through unfair distribution of assets, psychological or physical abuse, threats or other forms of discrimination and harassment. In many cases, they are forced to leave their homes and move to informal settlements. Women living in informal settlements are even less likely to have recognized land and property rights.

Patrimonial violence against women is often reported, including psychological and sexual abuse. However, due to the lack of alternative of urban shelter (e.g. emergency shelter, and affordable housing), many women may be forced to continue to live under the same roof with as the aggressor. This is not uncommon in overcrowded housing units shared by several families.

Women living in slums usually work in the informal sectors of the economy and tend to be the lowest income earners and lack job security and benefit, such as health insurance and retirement schemes. This financial gap tends to widen. Since women are usually responsible for taking care of the house, children, elderly and the ill or disabled relatives, women tend to have less physical and socio-political autonomy. Given many women’s informal and usually unstable sources of income, they often lack access to credits, loans and mortgages, either to seek their security of tenure and improve their houses or to improve their working conditions. Informal work conditions may also push women into less formal rental arrangements, often times for higher prices, and without adequate infrastructure or clean water [11].

Women are also under-represented in political and participatory processes of formulation and implementation of policies and programs. In some countries, even when women utilize accountability mechanisms, such as the justice system, they face severe discrimination [12].

In the urban planning and design field, for instance, “there is a tendency to view urban planning as gender-neutral field, not shaped by or in the interest of a particular sex. This assumes that both sexes are affected equally. In reality, what is ‘gender-neutral’ usually has a male perspective and is in men’s interest. The exclusion of women from urban planning means women’s daily lives and perspectives do not shape urban form and function. In other words, city planning as such overlooks the specific challenges and concerns that women and girls face, underlining the fact that the city is not inclusive and equitable in its design, infrastructure, facilities, and services ” [13].

In sum, there is an increasing recognition of women’s disproportionate struggle to fulfill their right of adequate housing living in cities and, in particular, their security of tenure. Women are the worst affected in forced evictions, resettlement schemes, slum clearance, domestic violence, civil conflict, discriminatory inheritance laws and practices, development projects, and globalization policies. Violence, rape, and sexual assault are sometimes used to forcibly remove women from their homes before and during forced evictions.

Focusing on women’s security of tenure is key to overcoming unequal ownership, access and control over property, domestic violence and disproportionate violence against women in cases of forced eviction from conflict, natural disasters, or large-scale land acquisitions.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Slum Upgrading

While urbanization is not inherently problematic, the pace and sheer scale at which it occurs has, in many places, far exceeded local government capacity or willingness to provide basic services to city residents. These services including adequate housing, water, electricity, and sanitation. This problem has been particularly pronounced in developing countries. As a result, urbanization in many places has led to the creation or consolidation of vast urban slums, where thousands and sometimes millions of urban residents live in sub-standard housing conditions, without access to even the most basic services [6].

Tenure insecurity in urban areas also impacts on the ability of informal dwellers to voice their concerns, since they may not  be officially recognized as urban/city residents. Informal urban dwellers’ often have limited access to services such as water and sewage, electricity, pavements, waste collection, among others. Across the world, large numbers of urban dwellers live under one of the following conditions:

Urban areas may lack of formal land and property titles. These areas may result from informal occupation of land and self-construction, or from the prolonged occupation of abandoned buildings. Some formal land and property titles may exist in urban areas, but documentation may be inadequate or incomplete. Informal settlements are often a consequence consequence of irregular or illegal land parceling and building processes, improper permitting or licensing procedures, and inappropriate building and land use regulations from planning departments or other administrative bodies.

Informal settlements can take many forms. Not all slums are illegal or unauthorized. Many are fully legal – recognized by the appropriate government authority – but have poor infrastructure and services or are lacking proper documentation. Others are located on land that the occupier purchased through appropriate legal channels, but the transaction is not recorded in a land registry or the land is not zoned for residential development. Each of these types of informal settlements may in some ways serve the needs of populations with various income levels, and represent a semi-effective strategy for accommodating urban populations. Understanding how informal settlements help the poor and marginalized cope with urban life is critical to understanding how best to upgrade settlements and integrate the poor into sustainable and livable cities [7].

Slum upgrading means improving living conditions of informal settlements in a responsible manner, and providing access to decent housing in the short term and in the long term.
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Urban Tenure

With the expansion of cities and urban infrastructure comes a growing need to better understand the relationship between people and land in urban and peri-urban areas.

Urbanization is a global phenomenon. Countries throughout the world are rapidly urbanizing, particularly in the developing world, and for the first time in human history the majority of people today live in urban areas [1]. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas. The most urbanized regions include Northern America (82% of the population living in urban areas in 2014), Latin America and the Caribbean (80%) and Europe (73%). In contrast, Africa and Asia remain mostly rural, but are urbanizing faster than the other regions and are projected to become 56 and 64% urban, respectively, by 2050 [2].

The causes of urbanization include natural population growth and rural-urban migration, which can result from under-employment in rural areas, poor agricultural conditions, reclassification of rural to urban land, conflicts in rural areas, and from the prospect of better economic opportunities in urban areas. The consequences of rural-urban migration include the densification of certain parts of the city, often resulting in informal settlements. Urban sprawl and the expansion of the urban footprint may also result—either through formal or informal processes.  

Urban population projections highlight the increasing demand for land, both for housing and food production, as well as for a variety of economic activities related to urban land.  However, since land is a limited resource and increasingly unavailable within cities across the world, intensified pressures on urban land can lead to a shortage of land and skyrocketing land values. To the urban poor, this means that access to land becomes increasingly difficult, be it for housing, food production, or trading. Lack of access to land can result in “informal” or unregulated land management and occupation.

Meanwhile, as competition for land intensifies, nearly 70% of land systems across the globe remain undocumented [3]. Particularly in developing countries, enormous surfaces are covered under social tenures, informal and overlapping rights. Land regularization is not a feasible option to the majority of informal dwellers due to financial, technical and judicial barriers. As a result, rapid urbanization is often associated with a decrease of tenure security, particularly for the urban poor. This can negatively impact millions of people.

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living acknowledged the increasing rates of forced evictions with impunity, the expansion of informal settlements (often without basic services like water, sewage, electricity or roads), the development of unaffordable rental properties, and the tenure insecurity of millions of people [4].

With security of tenure, people are more likely to invest in their families, homes, and futures [5]. When households and communities have secure tenure, they are more willing and able to engage in housing and settlement development processes. When land tenure is secure, land can be a cornerstone for economic growth and an incentive for investment, but when land rights are insecure, this can lead to conflicts, instability and the exclusion of vulnerable groups, such as women, Indigenous Peoples and the poor.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Draft agreed conclusions 8/8

Strengthening private sector role in women’s economic empowerment

 (cc) Establish and strengthen compliance mechanisms that hold the private sector accountable for advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment as articulated in the Women’s Empowerment Principles established by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the Global Compact; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (dd), CSW60 AC, para (h))
(dd) Increase the share of trade and procurement from women’s enterprises,
cooperatives and self-help groups in both the public and private sectors; (Based on
E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (ee))
(ee) Systematically undertake gender-sensitive value chain analyses to inform the
design and implementation of policies that promote and protect women’s rights and decent
work in global value chains. (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (ff))

14. The Commission calls upon Governments to integrate these actions for women’s economic
empowerment in the changing world of work into national sustainable development, poverty
eradication and sectoral strategies, policies and action plans at all levels. (Based on
E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (b), CSW 60 AC, para 25)

15. The Commission calls upon Governments to strengthen the capacity, resources and the
authority of national gender equality mechanisms so that they can support and monitor the
implementation of these actions and work effectively with all relevant national and local
institutions including labour related institutions in their implementation. (Based on
E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (b), CSW 60 AC, para 24 and 25)

16. The Commission calls upon Governments and all other stakeholders to significantly increase
and maximize targeted financing to accelerate the achievement of women’s economic
empowerment in the changing world of work at all levels through all sources of funding, public
and private, domestic resources and official development assistance. (Based on
E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (j))

17. The Commission encourages men and boys to take an active part in, and to engage fully as
agents and beneficiaries of change in the realization of women’s economic empowerment in
the changing world of work. (Based on CSW(AC) para 22)

18. The Commission calls upon the United Nations system, and especially UN-Women and the
International Labour Organization within their respective mandates, to support the
implementation of the present Agreed Conclusions and of the gender-responsive
implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It calls upon UN-Women to continue to play a central
role in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and in supporting
Member States, upon their request, in coordinating the United Nations system and in
mobilizing civil society, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders, at all levels, in
support of the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 48, and CSW60
AC, para 28)

19. The Commission calls on all stakeholders to make extraordinary, strong and unrelenting efforts
and investments and take special measures to accelerate the realization of, and make
measurable progress on women’s economic empowerment, their right to work and their rights
at work and to full and productive employment by 2020 as a milestone on the way to the
gender-responsive realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to
mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work Draft agreed conclusions 7/8

Strengthening women’s collective voice, leadership and decision-making
(y) Enact policies and special measures to ensure equal representation and leadership
of women in economic decision-making structures and institutions, as well as in enterprises
and on corporate boards; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (n))

(z) Protect the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining to enable
women workers, including informal and migrant workers, to organize and join unions and
participate in economic decision-making and design of policies for the world of work;
(E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (aa))

(aa) Support tripartite collaboration among Governments, employers and women
workers and their organizations to prevent and redress gender inequalities in the world of work;
(E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (bb))

(bb) Encourage and support women’s leadership in trade unions and workers’
organizations and urge all trade union leaders to effectively represent the interests of women
workers; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (cc))
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work Draft agreed conclusions 6/8

Managing technological and digital change for women’s economic empowerment
(v) Support women’s, particularly young women’s, access to skills and training in new
and emerging fields, especially science, technology, engineering and mathematical education
and digital fluency, by expanding the scope of education and training opportunities;
(E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (x))
(w) Ensure universal access to skills, knowledge, information and communications
technologies that are economically, geographically, linguistically and virtually accessible to
women workers, as well as increased broadband and mobile phone access for women;
(E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (y))
(x) Encourage productive technological change in support of decent, good quality
public and private sector jobs for women in the green economy, especially in the area of climate
change mitigation and adaptation; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (z))
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work Draft agreed conclusions 5/8

Addressing the growing informality of work and mobility of women workers
(r) Make women’s informal employment in domestic work, home-based work and
small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as other own-account and part-time work more
economically viable by extending social protection and minimum living wages, and promoting
the transition to formal employment in line with ILO Transition from the Informal to the
Formal Economy Recommendation, 2015 (No. 204); (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (t))

(s) Adopt national migration policies that are gender responsive, protect labour rights
and promote safe and secure working environments for women migrant workers, regulate the
role of private intermediaries and labour brokers in migration, and enforce laws against
trafficking; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (u))

(t) Strengthen synergies between international migration and development by ensuring
safe, orderly and regular migration policies that uphold women’s human rights in the context of implementation of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (General Assembly
resolution 71/1); (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (v))

(u) Improve collection and analysis of data on the informal economy, disaggregated by
sex, income, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other
relevant factors, using the ILO definition of informality; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (w))
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Draft agreed conclusions 4/8

Implementing economic and social policies for women’s economic empowerment

  (j) Implement and monitor the impact of macroeconomic policies and reforms for job creation and the promotion of women’s full, equal and productive employment and decent work; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (i))
(k) Create decent, good quality jobs for women in the care economy in the public and private sectors; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (k)
(l) Expand and reprioritize fiscal expenditures for social protection and care infrastructure, such as early childhood education and health care, as a means of addressing the motherhood pay penalty; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (l))
 (m) Establish universal social protection floors, in line with ILO Social Protection Floors recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), as part of national social protection systems to ensure access to social protection for all, including workers outside the formal economy, and progressively achieve higher levels of protection in line with ILO social security standards; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (o))
(n) Ensure that both women and men have access to maternity or parental leave allowances and are not discriminated against when availing themselves of such benefits; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (p))
(o) Undertake targeted measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work, through flexibility in working arrangements without reductions in labour and social protections, and the provision of infrastructure, technology and public services, such as accessible and quality childcare and care facilities for children and other dependents; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (q))
 (p) Systematically measure and incorporate the value of unpaid care and domestic work in the calculation of GDP and the formulation of economic and social policies; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (r))
(q) Prioritize the entry into and advancement in labour markets of young women by ensuring access to education and technical and vocational skills training and eliminating the barriers girls and women face in the transition from school to work; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (s))
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Draft agreed conclusions 3/8

13. The Commission urges governments, the relevant entities of the United Nations system, international and regional organizations, women’s and other civil society organizations, and the private sector, to take the following actions at the national, regional, and global levels: Strengthening normative and legal frameworks for full employment and decent work for all women 

(a) Achieve universal ratification without reservations and full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and relevant ILO conventions and recommendations; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (a))
 (b) Strengthen laws and regulatory frameworks that prohibit discrimination against women regarding entry into the labour market and terms and conditions of employment, and provide means of redress in cases of non-compliance; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (c)) 
(c) Strengthen and enforce laws and workplace policies that prohibit discrimination in the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in the public and private sectors, and provide means of redress in cases of non-compliance; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (d)) 
(d) Undertake legislative and administrative reforms to ensure women’s equal access to and ownership and control over productive resources and assets, such as land and other forms of property, financial resources, inheritance, natural resources and information and communications technologies; (E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (f))
 (e) Eliminate occupational segregation by addressing discriminatory social norms and promoting women’s equal participation in labour markets, education and training, and encourage women to diversify their occupational choices and enter jobs in emerging fields and growing economic sectors; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (e)) 
(f) Enact and enforce laws and regulations that uphold the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, in compliance with international labour standards, such as ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951, (No. 100), and provide means of redress; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (m)) 
(g) Ratify and implement ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), and enact and enforce laws and regulations that give effect to ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) and Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No. 156), and other relevant ILO Conventions for the realization of women's right to work and women's right at work; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 1, 49 (p) and para 49 (t)) 
(h) Strengthen and enforce laws and policies to eliminate violence and harassment against women in the workplace and support the development of an ILO instrument that provides an international standard to address violence and harassment against women in the world of work; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (g)) (i) Take special measures to ensure that women who experience multiple and intersecting forms of inequalities, discrimination and marginalization have equal opportunities for decent, good quality work in the public and private sectors; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (h))

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Criticism of the word “gender” is having an increasingly harmful effect on the protection of human rights, in particular on women’s and LGBTI persons’ rights in Europe

In recent years, both religious and secular critics of so-called “gender ideology” and “gender theory” have mounted a growing challenge against generally accepted human rights terminology and principles. During my country visits, I have even encountered objections to the very use of the word “gender”, particularly in the context of promoting the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). What should we in the human rights world make of this criticism? 

Before turning to the criticism, it is useful to recall that over the years the word “gender” has acquired different meanings depending on the context. The definition contained in the Gender Equality Glossary, recently published by the Council of Europe Gender Equality Commission, represents the mainstream understanding: while the term “sex” refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male, “gender shall mean the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men”. This definition is also used by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other UN mechanisms. It is this meaning that enters into play in the use of the expression “gender stereotypes”. 

The expression “gender equality” is increasingly replacing “equality between women and men”, be it at the UN, the Council of Europe or the European Union. Gender equality not only requires the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the basis of sex but also the achievement of substantive or de facto equality between women and men. The same meaning of gender prevails in terms such as “gender mainstreaming” or “gender gap”.

 As we can see, the word “gender” in its different meanings has for many years permeated international human rights texts and policy discourse. What manner of ills do critics associate with the term “gender”, “gender theory” or “gender ideology”? What could be so dangerous to work for the full achievement of gender equality? What could be so objectionable to examining the broader social context in which men and women interact?

 It seems that one core objection has to do with fears for the fate of a traditional society based on a cultural affirmation that gender is strictly and always binary and that men and women play (and should play) very different roles in public life and within the family. The first problem here is that some adherents of this vision of society justify limiting women to the stereotypical role of mothers, giving birth and staying at home to rear children. This vision cannot be reconciled with a human rights based approach that sees women (and men) as autonomous members of society who should be able to choose on an equal basis their own role in society and within the family. One of the five objectives of the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017 is to combat gender stereotyping that presents “a serious obstacle to the achievement of real gender equality and feed into gender discrimination”. 

Another problem with the traditionalist approach to society is that it is often used to justify sexism, which is the supposition, belief or assertion that one sex is superior to the other. Often, those critics defend, even if implicitly, the idea of the superiority of men over women. Sexist attitudes result in discrimination against members of the supposedly  inferior sex, just as racist attitudes do with members of the supposedly inferior “race”. Therefore, all states have international human rights obligations to take appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women. The European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) has also stressed that “gender stereotypes, such as the perception of women as primary child-carers and men as primary breadwinners cannot, by themselves, be considered to amount to sufficient justification for a difference in treatment, any more than similar stereotypes based on race, origin, colour or sexual orientation.”

 It seems that another fundamental objection has to do with diverging understandings of what constitutes a family. The jurisprudence of the Court as to what constitutes “private and family life” and deserves protection under Article 8 has evolved considerably in recent years. For many, this is the crux of the matter. The Court has progressively recognised that same-sex partners living in a stable relationship merit legal protection in the form of civil unions or registered partnerships, not necessarily “gay marriage”. Most recently, in Oliari and Others v. Italy, the Court concluded that granting such protection is a trend, as 24 of 47 Council of Europe member states have legislated on legal recognition of same-sex couples. Here, it seems that the human rights world and defenders of traditional family models will have to agree to disagree.

Another criticism has to do with recognition of gender diversity. Critics invoking “traditional values” mistakenly reduce the world into men and women alone, ignoring, for example, the existence of “intersex persons” – those who do not fit neatly into male or female categories because of their anatomy (earlier, such persons were sometimes called “hermaphrodites”). As I noted in a recently published Issue Paper, outside Europe recognition of indeterminate or third gender persons is in many places unremarkable. 

A particular object of criticism appears to be a growing recognition of the rights of transgender persons – those whose gender self-identification does not match the gender assigned at birth and who occasionally may choose to undergo gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatment. A human rights based approach insists that such persons should not be pathologised and that states should not make official recognition of the new gender subject to requirements such as divorce and/or sterilisation. As far back as 2002, the Court found that there was a trend towards increased social acceptance of transsexuals and the legal recognition of their post-operative sexual identity. 

A particular target of some defenders of traditional values has become the Istanbul Convention, which seems to crystallise in their view all the above-mentioned evils. Some ultraconservative critics try to justify or condone domestic violence (against women and children) by relabeling it private family “quarrels” or just punishment for disobedient children. In this conception, any attempt to prevent domestic violence constitutes external interference violating the sanctity of marriage and the family. To such unacceptable views, there can be only one answer: it is not measures taken to prevent and combat domestic violence that destroy marriages and families, but domestic violence itself. 

Other critics try to claim that violence in the family affects men as much as women and that a focus on women victims is in some way misleading or “discriminatory”. This flies in the face of data in every European country suggesting that women are the victims of family violence in the vast majority of cases. Some critics may even acknowledge that violence against women is a problem, but do not want governments challenging traditional gender roles and stereotypes through education and awareness raising, which the Istanbul Convention envisages. However, it is only logical that the above-mentioned general human rights obligation to combat gender stereotypes has become part of the measures required by the Istanbul Convention to prevent gender-based violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention rests on the presumption that violence against women is a manifestation of a broader pattern of inequality in power relations that must be addressed if the issue of violence is to be effectively tackled. This view is based on much scholarly research that critics would like to ignore. 

Other critics latch on to the list of non-discrimination grounds of the Convention, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Ratifying the Convention, in the eyes of these critics, would represent recognition of unacceptable identities. This ignores the fact that the Istanbul Convention is about combating violence against women and domestic violence and these provisions are listed among other non-discrimination grounds such as race, disability and age, in order to extend additional safeguards to LGBTI victims of gender-based violence, who may face particular difficulties to access justice and receive support.

 I am concerned that all this criticism of the word “gender” is having an increasingly harmful effect on the protection of human rights, in particular on women’s and LGBTI persons’ rights in Europe. The human rights world must engage more actively with critics and use evidence and scholarly research to debunk myths, distortions and fears. Secular and religious critics of so-called “gender ideology” or “gender theory” have the right to hold and express their own views, but they should not be allowed to impair individual rights in the name of their beliefs. Nor should they be allowed to stop progress in recognising and addressing gender inequality and ignore the reality of gender diversity or the evolution of European human rights law. In the end, it is not human rights that are transforming people’s understanding of their identities – human rights law is slowly adapting to the reality on the ground and the practical needs of diverse individuals and rainbow families. This does not mean that men, women and traditional families are being displaced; they are only being complemented by a rich tapestry of individual identities and partnerships that have gone unrecognised for a very long time.

by Nils Muižnieks
Commissioner for Human Rights
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Sunday, March 12, 2017

How the Istanbul Convention is helping to achieve full gender equality ?

Making women safe from fear, safe from violence – how the Istanbul Convention is helping to achieve full gender equality

GREVIO  (Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence ) seizes the occasion of International Women’s Day to recall the importance of the Istanbul Convention as the most comprehensive set of legally binding standards to ensure every woman’s right to a life free from violence.
GREVIO thus reiterates that the purposes and aims of the Istanbul Convention are to prevent all forms of violence against women, to protect and support victims, to prosecute perpetrators and to empower women through integrated policies. The Convention obliges states to ensure that measures taken in these four areas form part of a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach and encourages the participation of all members of society in achieving its ends. It is the first international treaty to define violence against women as a form of discrimination and to address it as a gendered phenomenon which women are exposed to for the simple reason that they are women. One of its ground-breaking features is the protection afforded to all women without any discrimination.
In this regard, GREVIO notes with concern the rise in misconceptions surrounding the Istanbul Convention related to the concept of gender. The debates that have emerged in some Council of Europe member states centre directly on the Istanbul Convention, criticising it for its supposed promotion of “gender ideology” and attacks on the notion of family. GREVIO underlines that it is violence which destroys the family and in this regard welcomes the observations and reflections set out in the 3rd Quarterly Activity Report 2016 of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights:  
Gender as defined in the Istanbul Convention is “the socially constructed roles of men and women”. GREVIO supports the view that the criticism of gender creates barriers to women’s human right to live a life free from violence. It is a reflection of the root causes of violence against women: the stereotyping of women, the notion of the superiority of one sex over the other, and the inequality between women and men.
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Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Draft agreed conclusions 2/8

7. The Commission recognizes that worldwide, gender inequalities in labour markets and the world of work persist. It also recognizes that the pace and scale of transformation towards realizing women's economic empowerment in a changing world of work has been unacceptably slow and has impeded the realization of women’s full potential and their human rights. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 9, 46 and 47)
8. The Commission expresses its concern especially about the continuance of significant gender gaps in labour force participation and leadership, wages and income, pensions, as well as occupational segregation, social norms and workplace culture, unequal working conditions and women’s burden of unpaid domestic and care work, gaps in social protection, and the growing informality and precarious nature of women’s employment (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 6, 9, 15)
 9. The Commission also recognizes that structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment can be compounded by multiple and intersecting forms of inequalities and discrimination in the private and public spheres, and that these barriers are exacerbated in conflict and postconflict, refugee and humanitarian settings, as well as disability. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 9 and 10)
10. The Commission also affirms that the acceleration of the transformation of the world of work and significantly enhancing the enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment will help achieve exponential economic growth, end poverty in all its forms everywhere and ensure the wellbeing of all, leaving no woman behind in the changing world of work. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 46 and 47)
11. The Commission recalls its consideration of “the empowerment of indigenous women” as its focus area at its sixty-first session. It also recalls its Multi-year programme of work for 2016- 2019 according to which it will consider “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls” as its priority theme at its sixtysecond session. (Based on E/RES/2016/3)
12. The Commission, in order to transform the world of work for women, considers it essential to: strengthen normative and legal frameworks for full employment and decent work for all women; implement economic and social policies for women’s economic empowerment; address the growing informality of work and mobility of women workers; manage technological and digital change for women’s economic empowerment; strengthen women’s collective voice, leadership and decision-making; and strengthen private sector role in women’s economic empowerment. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 47, and headers in para 49)
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Friday, March 10, 2017

Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Draft agreed conclusions 1/8

1. The Commission on the Status of Women reaffirms the Beijing Declaration and Platform for
Action, the outcome documents of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly
and the declarations adopted by the Commission on the occasion of the tenth, fifteenth and
twentieth anniversaries of the Fourth World Conference on Women. (CSW 60 AC, para 1)

2. The Commission reaffirms that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women and the Optional Protocol thereto as well as other relevant
conventions and treaties provide an international legal framework and a comprehensive set of
measures for realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and the full
and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all women and girls
throughout their life cycle. (Based on CSW60 AC, para 2) The Commission confirms the
importance of relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions for the realization
of women’s right to work and rights at work. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 1)

3. The Commission reaffirms the commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of all
women and girls made at relevant United Nations summits and conferences. (Based on
CSW60 AC, para 4) The Commission welcomes the contribution of the Secretary-General’s
High-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 4)

4. The Commission emphasizes that women’s economic empowerment is essential for the full,
effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
and the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
(Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 2, 46)

5. The Commission emphasizes that women’s economic empowerment including women's right
to decent work and full and productive employment is a critical means of implementation of
SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. (Based on
E/CN.6/2017/3, para 2)

6. The Commission affirms that the achievement of SDG 5 targets, namely: end all forms of
discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; eliminate all forms of violence against
all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and
other types of exploitation; eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced
marriage and female genital mutilation; recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work
through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the
promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally
appropriate; ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for
leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life; and ensure
universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences; are all vital enablers of women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work. (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 2, and SDG 5)
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Older women

Men and women experience old age differently. Older women tend to have stronger social networks than men and there is evidence that mothers are more likely than fathers to receive material and emotional support from their adult children.15 Older women are also more likely than older men to be caregivers of children or sick relatives, particularly in families affected by migration or illness. 
Men’s greater economic role means that loss of earning power can have negative consequences for their roles in society after they have retired. Traditional roles in the household can result in older men becoming more isolated once they retire from their jobs. 

Both older men and older women may face age discrimination. However, older women also face the cumulative effects of gender discrimination throughout their lives, including less access to education and health services, lower earning capacity and limited access to rights to land ownership, contributing to their vulnerability in older age. 

A combination of age and sex discrimination also puts older women at increased risk of violence and abuse. Despite significant progress in the development of international legal norms, standards and policies, data on elder abuse of women are very limited. In general, a lack of key indicators and data disaggregated by age and sex is a barrier to improving programmes and designing laws and policies that respond effectively to the different situations of older women and men.

Currently, in many countries, older women have lower levels of education than older men because as girls they were denied the opportunity to go to school or dropped out before completing their education. In developing countries, an average of 58 per cent of women aged 65 or over are illiterate, compared with 34 per cent of men in the same age group. Lower educational levels, particularly in older women, seriously limit the ability of older persons to obtain information, access services or take part in social, economic or political activities. For example, one study in Latin America and the Caribbean found that low literacy was associated with low levels of participation in cancer screening.

 Given the fact that the level of education of the current generation is higher than the previous ones, future generations of older persons are expected to be increasingly better educated, a very positive trend that will counterbalance the challenges created by a rapid increase in the aged populations. However, most developing countries, today and in the near future, will have to deal with a high proportion of illiterate older persons, particularly women. Improving literacy in the current generation of older women is an essential policy component, not only for their own well-being but also to enable them to better support the education of younger generations. There is an urgent need to incorporate older women’s and men’s health issues into health policies. Although, on average, women live longer than men, they are also likely to live more years in ill health.

Multiple pregnancies and inadequate support in childbirth, as well as inequalities earlier in life, such as poor access to health care, and lower educational and income levels, contribute to health problems in older age. Older women also face specific age-related health issues. Increases in life expectancy have led to more women living beyond the menopause, increasing the risk of hormone-related conditions such as osteoporosis which is associated with higher risk of fractures in older women. The loss of a spouse can also make women more vulnerable. Older women are more likely to be widowed than older men and are less likely to remarry than men who are widowed. As the status of women in many societies is linked to the status of their husbands, widows and unmarried older women can become particularly vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion. While the emphasis in incorporating gender concerns into policies and programmes related to ageing is typically on the vulnerabilities of older women, a more balanced perspective that recognizes gender as a potential marker of vulnerability for various aspects of well-being is needed to address both male and female disadvantages.
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Global Women's Call for Climate Justice

We are gravely concerned about the lack of just and sufficient action on climate change by the world’s leaders;
We are concerned about the increasing number of disastrous mega storms that are killing people, eradicating species, and destroying ecosystems and livelihoods;
We are concerned about sea-level rise and disappearing land masses, in addition to the serious environmental and human casualties caused by droughts, desertification, ocean acidification, water salination, crop failures, air pollution, oil spills, plastics and other pollution, glacier melt, record warm summers and cold winters, and out-of season cyclones and tsunamis;
We are concerned about all women and the communities and environments in which we live, including those of us from indigenous lands and oceanic societies who have contributed the least to climate disruption but who are suffering the greatest impacts first and most intensely;
We refuse to allow corporate control of our planet, our rights, or sanction a world that prioritizes growth and greed over human rights, decent and equal work, healthy ecosystems and a just distribution of wealth;
We are concerned that governments of the world are moving too slowly, with too little effort, and without the ambition, commitment or financing that it will take to stop and reverse our global climate crisis;

We refuse to allow corporate control of our planet, our rights, or sanction a world that
prioritizes growth and greed over human rights, decent and equal work, healthy ecosystems and a just distribution of wealth;

And we are stunned, upset and outraged that our future, and the future of our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and of all living beings and ecosystems is being abandoned for short-term self-interest and a lack of vision, leadership, and political will;
Finally and critically, as women and girls, we are not only facing severe impacts, but we are central to the implementation of real solutions that produce real results.
Women must be full and equal partners in the fight to combat global climate chaos!
Women of the world have had enough. The time for Urgent Action is now. 
We are speaking Truth to Power. We are Demanding Change.
Together, we are creating a mass movement for climate justice. Together, we pledge to take action. We call on all women, all girls and all of our allies to join us in this pledge, to join our Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice.
Women and girls will express our concerns and deliver our demands for meaningful and just action on climate change at every level and in all possible arenas – local, regional, national and global.
We will take action everywhere – in our homes, neighborhoods, village squares, agricultural gardens, fishing grounds, sacred places, worship sites, community organizations, workplaces and schools.
We will make our presence known at our Parliaments, embassies and local government buildings; in corporate headquarters of carbon polluters and energy companies; at the ballot box, in the news media, on social media, and at the front doors of ALL those with the power to change the trajectory of climate injustice.
We will talk, sing, shout, stand, and sit. We will lobby, hold vigils, protest, blockade, and barricade. We will take action in the smallest villages, the largest cities, the highest mountains, in the oceans.


·         System change not climate change
·         Avoiding a 1.5 degree global temperature rise
·         Ensuring gender equality and human rights in all climate actions
·         Keeping oil and fossil fuels in the ground
·         Transitioning to 100% safe and renewable energy
·         Implementing energy efficiency and conservation measures everywhere, by everyone
·         Dramatic and urgent reduction in production and consumption patterns by everyone, including and especially by those who have contributed the most to this problem from the developed world
·         Commitment by developed countries to take the lead in the fight to address the climate crisis and to provide developing countries with the means to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in a spirit of solidarity and justice.
We do not give up on our beautiful planet. We do not give up on a future for every species. We will never give up on our campaign for climate justice.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Strengthen international co-operation through continuously sharing knowledge, lessons learned and good practices on gender equality and mainstreaming initiatives 6/6

RECOMMENDS that Adherents strengthen international co-operation through continuously
sharing knowledge, lessons learned and good practices on gender equality and mainstreaming initiatives in public institutions.;jsessionid=2c11m3hrgeiqi.x-oecd-live-03
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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Take adequate measures to improve the gender equality in public employment.5/6

IV. RECOMMENDS that Adherents take adequate measures to improve the gender equality in
public employment. To this effect, Adherents should:
1. Promote the flexibility, transparency, and fairness of public employment systems and policies to
ensure fair pay and equal opportunities for women and men with a mix of backgrounds and
2. Develop both comprehensive and more cause-specific measures to address any gender pay gap in
the public sector and horizontal occupational segregation, as appropriate through:
i) enacting pay equality and equity laws and regulations, tools and regular pay assessments in
public sector institutions, including the identification of the predominantly female and male
job classes in the public sector, and the evaluation of compensation differences among them
and of the need for adjustments;
ii) performing regular and objective desk audits, targeting low-paid and/or female-dominated
sectors to ensure pay equality and equity, and implementing policy recommendations based
on their results; and
iii) ensuring effective channels of recourse for challenging the gender wage gap in the public
sector as appropriate, for example by considering independent complaint and legal recourse
mechanisms for non-compliance.
3. Promote merit-based recruitment; consider positive policies and practices to ensure a balanced
representation of men and women in each occupational group in public sector employment; and,
develop concrete measures to ensure the effective removal of the implicit barriers within hiring
and staffing processes, where appropriate and necessary.
4. Establish clear institutional roles and responsibilities for promoting gender balance in the public
sector, including independent recourse and appeal mechanisms, which should be adequately
funded, resourced, and linked to executive teams to ensure their effectiveness.
5. Raise awareness of gender equality considerations among public sector managers and enhance
management and executive accountability to ensure gender balance at all levels and occupational
groups, and deal with gender equality issues in workplaces, including through performance
management frameworks.;jsessionid=2c11m3hrgeiqi.x-oecd-live-03

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Consider measures to achieve gender balanced representation in decision making positions in public life 4/6

III. RECOMMENDS that Adherents consider measures to achieve gender balanced representation in decision making positions in public life by encouraging greater participation of women in government at all levels, as well as in parliaments, judiciaries and other public institutions.
 To this effect, Adherents should:

1. Embed a political commitment at the highest level to promote gender equality in public life, as
appropriate, by developing a comprehensive framework to encourage balanced representation of
women and men in public decision making positions by:
i) considering comprehensive (transitional or correctional) regulatory or voluntary measures to
promote gender diversity in parliamentary and executive bodies, including in parliamentary
committees and leadership posts. For example, based on good practices and as appropriate,
these measures can include disclosure requirements, quotas, voluntary targets, parity laws,
alternating the sexes on the party list and linking gender ratios in political parties to their
access to public funding. Considering penalties for non-compliance can be important to
ensure the effectiveness of such measures;
ii) introducing measures, as appropriate, to enable equal access to opportunities in senior public
service and judicial appointments such as disclosure requirements, target setting or quotas,
while ensuring a transparent and merit-based approach in judicial and senior public sector
appointments through open competition, clear recruitment standards and wide vacancy
iii) mainstreaming work-life balance and family-friendly work practices at the top level in
public institutions and promoting gender-sensitive working conditions, for example, by
reviewing internal procedures of public institutions, reconsidering traditional working hours,
developing schemes to support the reconciliation of family and professional obligations,
providing incentives to men to take available care leave and flexible work entitlements; and
iv) facilitating capacity and leadership development opportunities, mentoring, networking and
other training programmes in public institutions, promoting female role models in public life
and encouraging active engagement of men in promoting gender equality.

2. Systematically monitor gender balance in public institutions, including in leadership positions and
different occupational groups, through regular data collection, such as the use of employee
surveys, and reassess its alignment with overall gender equality objectives and priorities, taking
into account the results of evaluations (see also recommendation II.2).

3. Consider measures to tackle the root causes of barriers to women’s access to decision-making
positions, and to improve women’s image in society by developing information campaigns and
awareness-raising programmes about gender stereotypes, conscious and unconscious biases and
social and economic benefits of gender equality while addressing double or multiple
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