Post 2015 - Voice, Choice and Control for All!

rights women Homosexuality GBV
Monday, 10 March, 2014 - 12:50

8 March is International Women’s Day, a day which provides an opportunity for Africans to highlight human rights challenges faced by women and children, including victims of gender-based violence 

We observe International Women’s Day on 8 March 2014, which aptly sets the stage for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) held at the United Nations in New York starting on 10 March 2014. This year’s CSW also coincides with the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). Ironically and hypocritically, the fall of the ‘tragic hero’, Oscar Pistorius, will continue to garner undue resources and dominate international headlines, while these events and women’s everyday oppression will be merely deliberated and largely unheard.
 
When I ponder the significance of Women’s Day and CSW58, three issues come to my mind that render these events somewhat futile or at least a grand performance of hypocrisy.
 
The first issue is Israeli apartheid. The IAW campaign takes place in 250 cities worldwide annually during the months of February and March. Both CSW58 and IAW South Africa kick off on Monday, 10 March 2014. IAW is organised by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Like the international boycott and divestment campaign did during the 1980’s against apartheid South Africa, the BDS movement has gained a lot of ground in past few years. Numerous investors and companies have pulled out of Israel, some Israeli companies are being blacklisted and artists are refusing to tour Israel, in support of Palestinian people’s freedom.
 
As CSW58 goes ahead in New York, one simply cannot ignore the United States of America’s (USA) unbridled financial and political support of Israel. During CSW57 last year, Ambassador Ron Prosor presented Israel's statement that said, "Israel is also committed to ending the cycle of violence against women beyond its borders." Curious, considering the oppression and violence perpetrated against Palestinian people within their borders, as well as African residents and asylum seekers in Israel and the occupied territories. More than half of these people are women.
 
The second contention is widespread state sponsored homophobia. The recent and most renowned being Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, Gambia, India and Zimbabwe criminalising Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people, banning homosexuality and or any pro-LGBTQ activism and organisations. Many of these leaders have openly encouraged violence and hate crimes against LGBTQ people.
 
The USA has condemned Uganda’s recent signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the World Bank, Sweden, Norway and Denmark followed suit also suspending aid to the country. None condemned Uganda’s introduction of the Anti-Pornography Act, which among many problematic clauses, bans women from wearing miniskirts.
 
While countries of the West admonish anti-gay laws in Africa, they seem to forget that they were complicit in the creation and dissemination of this prejudice by introducing ‘Sodomy Laws’ when they colonised this continent.
 
While the West and the World Bank cut aid, they neither condemn nor sanction the American right-wing Christian evangelicals who preach hate and homophobia in Uganda. Furthermore, with the West assuming this hypocritical moral high ground, they tout themselves as ‘progressive’ and can continue to employ the colonial language that paints the global south as backward, barbaric and in great need of civilisation. Through this, they press on with their neoliberal agenda.
 
While cutting aid allows them to pull their neo-colonial strings more tightly, the LGBTQ in Uganda are left more vulnerable to discrimination and hate crimes. They will be the scapegoats for aid taps turning off. This will further entrench the flawed banal idea that homosexuality is un-African and only create more division. Ultimately, this approach will negatively affect all Ugandan citizens, but more so those who already face prejudice and poverty.
 
Finally, due to the homophobia prevalent in most parts of the world, many country delegates attending CSW are homophobic and the commission’s conclusions merely paper over the reality of many LBGTQ across the globe.
 
The third issue that comes to mind is the fact that for the 58th time, politicians, non-governmental organisations and technocrats will gather in New York to deliberate women’s status in the world. The call to end violence against women has been a recurring theme and fundamental objective since the birth of CSW in 1946.
 
While the international media continues with its sensationalist reality TV show-esque coverage of Pistorius’s trial, the media ignores, trivialises and normalises the pandemic proportions of femicide and domestic violence experienced by women across the world, most of whom will never see justice.
 
According to a Violence Against Women Baseline Study conducted in six Southern African Development Community (SADC) member-states, intimate partner violence is the most predominant form of gender-based violence (GBV) experienced by women and perpetrated by men. Rates range from 90 percent Zambia to 23 percent in Mauritius.
 
Lifetime prevalence rates of GBV sit at 89 percent in Zambia, 86 percent in Lesotho, 68 percent in Zimbabwe, 67 percent in Botswana, 50 percent in South Africa and 24 percent in Mauritius. One in three women across the world experience some form of gender violence in their lifetime.
 
Women continue to represent a disproportionate share of the poor and have little access to productive resources, income and education. Women still either lack access to or do not have sexual reproductive health rights at all. They continue to bear the brunt of HIV and will endure the worst of climate change.
 
At this year’s CSW, Gender Links and the Southern Africa Gender Alliance is calling for 5050 before 2015 and demanding a strong post-2015 agenda, to ensure voice, choice, control and equality for all.
 
South Africa may seem closer to this demand with its legislation that protects the rights of LGBTQ people, laws giving women the right to abortion and now its passing of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill on Tuesday, 11 March 2014. The WEGE bill, among other objectives, aims to ensure 50 percent representation of women in all decision-making structures in government and private entities.
 
However, the South African government’s commitment to gender equality remains questionable. South Africa’s incumbent government exercised its typical quiet diplomacy and failed to condemn the state-sponsored homophobia in neighbouring countries. The National Assembly passed the WEGE bill despite widespread criticism from many organisations and institutions. It seems that government’s sudden approval is an attempt to garner more votes ahead of the elections in May, and is being used as a smear tactic against the Democratic Alliance opposition party, for their ‘disgraceful rejection of the bill’.
 
Until South Africa, SADC and all member states attending CSW58 show real and incorruptible commitment to equality and freedom for all, the post-2015 developmental agenda will be as ineffective as those that came before. Until then, CSW will exist to its centenary, women will never have their day and we will not live to see gender equality.
 
- Katherine Robinson is the editor and communications manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service, offering fresh views on every day news. Follow Gender Links on Twitter and Facebook. Look out for our daily e-newsletter and coverage of CSW58 next week. #SadcProtocol

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