The 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from 19 June to 14 July. Below you will find information on some of the key sexual rights-related:
Autonomy v/s Protectionism: Critical Considerations for Human Rights Council on Sexuality and Gender
Protectionism views women, girls, and other marginalised individuals as inherently vulnerable and in need of state and patriarchal protection. However, these policies sacrifice autonomy and freedom and do not address systemic inequality and root causes of discrimination and violence. This side event delved into the underpinnings and impact of protectionist policies and proposed alternative frameworks, including prioritising bodily autonomy. Missed it? Watch the full recording here.
Child, early and forced marriage: ending and preventing forced marriage – A/HRC/53/L.3/Rev.1
Led by Netherlands, Argentina, Canada, Honduras, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay and co-sponsored by 71 other countries as of 13 July 2023. The resolution was adopted by consensus. The resolution focused on forced marriage, and it calls on the High Commissioner to draft practical guidelines to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage. The resolution recognises that forced marriage can be the inability of one of the spouses to provide their full, free and informed consent or when one is unable to leave a marriage. The resolution also recognises the impact of systemic, structural discrimination, including patriarchy and poverty, global economic crises, and austerity measures. The resolution reaffirms the need to address root causes, including gender inequality, eliminate discrimination, including discrimination against all women and girls in all matters relating to marriage and its dissolution and promote women’s and girls’ equality in law, and ensure the equal rights of all women and girls with regard to the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property and inheritance, right to sexual and reproductive health and the right to bodily autonomy. The resolution rightly highlights the critical need for education and social protection services necessary to prevent and eliminate forced marriage.
A total of 6 amendments were tabled. One was withdrawn, and the other five were defeated. The amendments are provided below:
- Inserting ‘and with appropriate direction from parents or legal guardians, with the best interest of the child as their basic concern’, tabled by Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, and rejected with 15 in favour, 21 against and 10 abstentions.
- Qualifying the outcome documents of the review of the conference of the ICPD and Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with ‘as adopted by the General Assembly, tabled by Russia and rejected 10 in favour, 21 against and 14 abstentions
- Replacing ‘domestic and intimate partner violence with ‘domestic violence and intimate partner violence where addressed separately in different legal systems, tabled by Egypt and rejected with 13 in favour, 21 against and 11 abstentions
- Deletion and/or qualifying paragraphs dealing with sexuality of women and girls, property and inheritance, as well as the right to freely choose a spouse and enter into marriage, tabled by Egypt and rejected with 10 in favour, 22 against and 14 abstentions.
- Deletion of ‘bodily’ and replacing it with ‘personal’ autonomy in several paragraphs, tabled by Iraq and rejected with 11 in favour, 23 against and 12 abstentions.
- Qualifying OP3 dealing with the sexuality of women and girls, tabled by Russia, which was withdrawn
Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls: preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls in criminal justice detention – A/HRC/53/L.5/Rev.1 as orally revised
Led by Canada and co-sponsored by 72 other countries as of 14 July 2023. The resolution was adopted by consensus. The resolution focused on preventing and eliminating violence against women in criminal justice detention. The resolution reaffirms and adds to the Bangkok Rules, Mandela Rules and Tokyo Rules in regard treatment of persons in criminal justice detention settings. The resolution acknowledges the disproportionate incarceration of women and girls for crimes related to poverty and disproportionate policing and criminalisation of Indigenous women and girls and women and girls belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups. The resolution also highlights the impacts of denial of sexual and reproductive health services in prisons. The resolution underlines the need to review and repeal or adjust, as appropriate, all laws and policies that exclusively or disproportionately target or criminalise the actions or behaviour of women and girls and laws and policies that are discriminatory against them and measures to divert women and girls from criminal justice detention, designing and implementing comprehensive pre- and post-release reintegration programmes and Ensuring that there are adequately resourced independent, external monitoring bodies. The resolution further reaffirms the right to sexual and reproductive health, bodily autonomy and comprehensive sexuality education.
A total of 4 amendments were tabled. One was withdrawn, and three were rejected. The amendments are provided below:
- Qualifying the outcome documents of the review of the conference of the ICPD and Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with ‘as adopted by the General Assembly’, tabled by Russia and rejected by 11 in favour, 21 against and 13 abstentions.
- Deletion of ‘bodily autonomy’ and inserting ‘including, but not limited to’ before ‘sexual and reproductive rights’ and replacing ‘rights’ with ‘health’ after reproductive, tabled by Iraq and rejected by 22 against, 13 in favour and 11 abstentions.
- Deletion of ‘sexuality’ in ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ and inserting language stating that ‘in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning’, tabled by Egypt and rejected by 22 against, 16 in favour and 8 abstentions.
- Inserting a new preambular paragraph on migrant women, refugees and women in detention, in situations of armed conflict or in territories under occupation, being more vulnerable to violence, tabled by Egypt, which was withdrawn.
Civil society space – A/HRC/53/L.13 as orally revised
Led by Ireland, Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia and co-sponsored by 49 other countries as of 6 July 2023. The resolution was adopted by consensus.
The resolution highlights the significant role of civil society. Crucially the resolution calls on states to address limitations for civil society participation, including in the UN, and to “institutionalise meaningful online participation in hybrid meetings” and “to put in place transparent, fair and gender-responsive accreditation processes.” It requests a report by the OHCHR on challenges and best practices in assessing civic space trends with recommendations to enhance information-gathering on civic space.
Russia tabled a total of 3 amendments. Two were withdrawn as they were incorporated in the oral revisions, and the third, tabled by Russia to delete ‘underrepresented parts’ of civil society, was not adopted by the council as it did not have the support of any member states of the HRC.
The incompatibility between democracy and racism – A/HRC/53/L.14
Led by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and co-sponsored by 23 other countries as of 7 July 2023. The resolution was adopted by consensus.
The resolution calls for an intersessional high-level panel discussion at the 56th Session on the incompatibility between democracy and racism to identify good practices and challenges on the national, regional and international levels to the meaningful, inclusive and safe participation in public and political affairs. It also calls for States to develop comprehensive intersectional approaches grounded in international human rights law to counter all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including by extremist political leaders, parties, movements and groups, through solid legal frameworks.
Other relevant resolutions
- Human rights and climate change (Phillippines, Bangladesh and Viet Nam) - A/HRC/53/L.9
- Trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Phillippines, Argentina, Germany, Jordan) - A/HRC/53/L.12
- Human rights of migrants: prevention and accountability for human rights violations in transit (Mexico) - A/HRC/53/L.18
- Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (Azerbaijan on behalf of the Movement on Non-Aligned Countries) - A/HRC/53/L.19 as orally revised
- Impact of arms transfer on human rights (Ecuador, Peru) - A/HRC/53/L.22 as orally revised.
- Countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence (Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation) - A/HRC/53/L.23 as orally revised.
- Implementation of Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36 (Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation) - A/HRC/53/L.24/Rev.1
- The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights (China) - A/HRC/53/L.26 as orally revised
- New and emerging digital technologies and human rights (Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco. Singapore) -A/HRC/53/L.27/Rev.1 as orally revised
- The right to a nationality: equality in nationality rights in law and in practice (United States of America, Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Slovakia) - A/HRC/53/L.28/Rev.1 as orally revised.
- The negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights (Morocco, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Poland, United Kingdom) - A/HRC/53/L.29
Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women
Morning panel: Gender-based violence against women and girls in public and political life
The panel discussed the current trends in gender-based violence against women and girls in public and political life, a structural barrier to women’s participation. It highlighted legislative, policy, judicial, and institutional measures adopted by States to address gender-based violence in political and public life to prevent, investigate such violence and promote women’s political participation.
Afternoon panel: Social Protection: Women’s Participation and Leadership
The panel discussed the role of social protections in addressing gender-based discrimination and the need for meaningful and active participation in decision-making processes. Significantly the panel reflected that crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate emergencies and related emerging conflicts, and increasing inequality have revealed and exacerbated gender inequality as well as how intersecting forms of discrimination have particularly negative impacts on women and girls’ enjoyment of the right to social security.
Interactive dialogue with the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls
The discussion addressed the Working Group’s report, which examines the right to be free from poverty in the context of individual and collective rights to substantive equality, and positions poverty and inequality as the results of deliberate patriarchal economic policy choices. The Working Group, therefore, calls for a feminist and human rights-based economy and overall approach to poverty. Our joint statement with Her Rights Initiative, AWID and IWRAW Asia Pacific was based on a previous submission to the report.
- Statement for the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, commenting on her new report on digital technologies and the right to health. Watch the discussion on UN Web TV, our video statement with captions on Youtube and see our live coverage of the dialogue on Twitter.
- Statement by SRI partner FEDERA during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants, commenting on his visit to Poland. Watch part 1 and part 2 of the dialogue on UN Web TV, watch the video statement with captions on Youtube and see our twitter thread.
- Statement with SRI partner Akãhatã on the visit to Argentina of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. Watch the dialogue with the Working Group.
- Statement for the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism, commenting on her vision-setting report. Watch the statement being delivered and the first and second parts of the dialogue on UN Web TV.
Joint oral statements
- Joint statement with Her Rights Initiative, IWRAW Asia Pacific and AWID during the interactive dialogue with the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, commenting on their new report on feminist and human rights-based approaches to poverty. Watch the statement being delivered on UN web TV and see our live coverage of the dialogue on Twitter.
- UPR outcome of Argentina: joint statement with Akahata. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Ghana: joint statement with Youth Action Movement Ghana. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Guatemala: joint statement with the PACT, Red Juvenil de Asociación de Mujeres Gente Nueva. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Switzerland: joint statement with SANTE SEXUELLE SUISSE, Alliance JUSTICE4NZOY, la Permanence juridique pour les jeunes personnes migrantes non accompagnées, l’AJP, Collectif Afro-Swiss. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Zambia: joint statement with Accountability Advocates Zambia. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Pakistan: joint statement with Forum for Dignity Initiatives and Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Pakistan: joint statement with the PACT and Hi Voices. Watch the adoption.
- UPR outcome of Japan: joint statement with Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP) and partners. Watch the adoption.
Autonomy v/s Protectionism: Critical Considerations for Human Rights Council on Sexuality and Gender
Protectionism views women, girls, and other marginalised individuals as inherently vulnerable and in need of state and patriarchal protection. However, these policies sacrifice autonomy and freedom and do not address systemic inequality and root causes of discrimination and violence. Protecting (as well as respecting and fulfilling) women's rights instead of women would require that women be considered agential subjects entitled to make choices about their bodies and their lives instead of being treated as objectified wards of the patriarchal state or the patriarchal family. It is an important reminder for all of us at the Human Rights Council that equality and non-discrimination can only be fulfilled when laws, policies and programmatic interventions are focused on protecting women’s and girl’s rights and freedoms. The side event delved into the underpinnings and impact of protectionist policies and proposed alternative frameworks, including prioritising bodily autonomy.
Anthea Taderera, Sexual Rights Initiative
Lobna Darwish, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Shalini Singh, CREA
Carrie Shelver, Sexual Rights Initiative
Events co-sponsored by SRI
A holistic perspective: Palestinian women and girls under Israel’s settler-colonialism & apartheid regime
This event highlighted the violence and oppression faced by Palestinian women and girls due to Israel’s military occupation, apartheid regime, and settler-colonial project while discussing the responsibility of the international community toward accountability.
Read more about this side event.
The Right To Health And The Use Of Technological Innovation: Opportunities And Challenges
The side-event explored good practices and challenges experienced in different countries resulting from the growth of technological innovation. The panellists discussed specific examples where legislation, policies and practices can be replicated and reflected on the existing gaps at the international level to ensure the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, leaving no one behind.
Countering anti-rights movement: from mapping to action
Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this event aimed to highlight that global human rights architecture must include the rights of all people to guarantee dignity and justice for all. The side event highlighted that women human rights defenders and feminist movements responding, stepping up, and putting their bodies and resources at the frontline of the backlash against human rights and gender equality are bearing the brunt of these developments. Women human rights defenders and activists, and leaders are targeted as a means to push them out of decision-making spaces at all levels, especially when they advance gender equality and promote feminist agendas.
Side-Event on Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and COVID-19
The side event highlighted the impact of the pandemic on sexual and reproductive rights and on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and upholds and reflects existing human rights standards on Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and SRHR and global health guidelines. The side event reaffirmed the issue of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity as a human rights issue that needs to be addressed by the Human Rights Council.