47th Session of the Human Rights Council
Agenda Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences
Action Canada for Population and Development
Action Canada makes this statement on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, IWRAW Asia-Pacific and CREA.
We welcome the report’s recognition that the absence of consent must be central to laws defining rape and gender-based violence. However, we are concerned that the report does not take an intersectional approach and consequently, does not address the harms of approaches that rely on protectionism, criminalization, punishment, and incarceration.
Gender norms and stereotypes are not the only ones at play for many women who are also subject to racist, xenophobic, ableist and classist systems of oppressions. As we expressed in *our joint submission, all of these shape interactions with the criminal legal system, which operates to target and monitor the oppressed and the non-conforming, including through criminalization of activities such as sex work and migration. Relying primarily on the criminal legal system to eradicate gender-based violence ignores the negative human rights impacts of excessive criminalization, particularly the disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, which have long been called out by Black feminists, sex worker activists and migrant activists and should have been part of the report’s analysis.
We are concerned about protectionist discourses and approaches in this **report, this Council and beyond, which place emphasis on protecting oppressive systems rather than protecting human rights, and often disregard women and girls’ agency and autonomy by treating them as victims. These have very real consequences, one of which is the harmful conflation of sex work and trafficking and the denial of sex workers’ rights and bodily autonomy under legal regimes and practices criminalizing sex work.
Finally, we deplore the systemic underfunding of the UN human rights system and the drive for so-called efficiency, including the cancellation of general debates in June, which are a vital part of the agenda by which NGOs can address the Council without restrictions. We call for the reinstatement of general debates at all sessions, with the option of civil society participation through video statements.
* Joint submission by the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI), the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), and the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific).
** For instance, through assertions that “criminal law... should protect all persons without discrimination,” (A/HRC/47/26, para. 72(a)) without addressing the documented discriminatory, racist and classist roots and operation of criminal legal systems around the world.