Overview of the 24th Session of the HRC

Published on October 03, 2013

The 24th Session of the Human Rights Council took place from September 9th until the 27th 2013. Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) partners participated in the session to ensure that sexual rights issues are included and advanced. SRI partners collectively advocated for the increased understanding and integration of issues related to sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality and human rights in resolutions, and through parallel events and oral statements.

 

Strengthening efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage: challenges, achievements, best practices and implementation gaps.

This resolution was the first resolution at the Council focusing specifically on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM). As such, it was presented as a short, procedural resolution, requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the subject and deciding to hold a panel on the subject at its 26th session in June 2014.

Negotiations: The SRI advocated for language recognising that CEFM affects women and girls disproportionately; that it violates reproductive rights and the right to have control over one’s sexuality; that gender inequalities, norms and stereotypes are a primary cause of CEFM; and the necessity of a wide range of efforts to address CEFM. The SRI also advocated for increased focus on the human rights dimensions of CEFM and the rights of those already subjected to this practice.

Gains were made regarding references to the recognition of the disproportionate impact on women and girls and State obligations towards addressing CEFM (PP5), and of deeply-rooted gender inequalities, norms and stereotypes as a primary cause of CEFM (PP6). References to enacting and implementing laws and comprehensive measures to end CEFM and strengthening multisectoral services programmes and responses to meet the needs of those subjected to this practice failed to be integrated (in PP9) as States did not want this resolution to elaborate on any actions to be taken by governments, especially legal reform.

References to sexual and reproductive rights were considered too controversial and not integrated in PP4.

Regarding next steps, the SRI calls on member states to:

  • The report and the panel should focus on defining child, early and force marriages, and examine their human rights dimensions, including the human rights violations resulting from these practices, the human rights of those subjected to these practices, human rights obligations of States in relation to these practices, and the application of a human rights based approach to address these practices.
  • The discussion of implementation gaps in relation to various State efforts and practices, in the report and at the panel, might point to the need for the human rights system to produce policy guidance for the application of a human rights-based approach to measures to address CEFM.
  • Any future resolutions must be grounded in human rights principles, build on the OHCHR report, and elaborate on the human rights implications of CEFM and the human rights obligations of States.
  • In terms of a broad approach to this initiative, it would be beneficial for it to be intersectional and not create a silo within the UN human rights system and development efforts.

 

The Council adopted a number of other important resolutions:

  • The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health –extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur
  • The Human Rights of Older Persons – deciding to appoint a new Special Procedure, an Independent Expert, for a period of three years
  • The Right to Development
  • Equal Political Participation (containing a focus on women, marginalized groups, minorities, and persons in vulnerable situations)
  • The Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and to Association
  • Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (containing a focus on intimidation and reprisals)
  • Civil Society Space

All resolutions can be accessed here. (Username: hrc extranet, Password: 1session).

 

Agenda item #3 (Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development): The SRI delivered an oral statement calling on member states to recognize that reproductive rights are human rights, and include the right to access safe and legal abortions. The decriminalization of abortion is a necessary step for human rights to become a reality for women worldwide. The statement reminded countries that it is vitally important that restrictive abortion laws be amended in order to make legal abortion accessible to all women. A video recording and written copy of the statement can be accessed here.

Agenda item #8 (Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action): The SRI delivered an oral statement highlighting that traditional values have been and continue to be used to justify violations of human rights by States and other actors on the basis of sex, gender, sexuality, gender identity, ability and disability, occupation, HIV status, caste and class, amongst others. This has been articulated in the report of the OHCHR on best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity. The statement called on member states to acknowledge the risks that the rhetoric of traditional values poses to the universality of human rights and to refrain from engaging with the issue or other similar concepts which attempt to undermine the human rights of all persons without discrimination. A video recording and written copy of the statement can be accessed here.

In addition to these statements, the SRI delivered six statements in collaboration with national level partners on the adoption of outcomes from the Universal Periodic Reviews of Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Russia and Uzbekistan. Video recordings and written copies of all statements can be accessed here.
 

Annual Discussion on the Integration of a Gender Perspective:
Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD), a member of the SRI, was represented on the panel for the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Annual Discussion on the integration of a gender perspective. The discussion took place as part of the official proceedings of the HRC’s 24th session. The topic of the discussion was “Civil society’s contribution to the integration of a gender perspective in the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.”

Ms. Neha Sood, Advocacy and Policy Officer for ACPD, discussed the SRI’s extensive contributions towards integrating a gender perspective into the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process and the SRI’s experience in raising human rights issues related to gender and sexuality in tracking Governments’ human rights records.

The opening statement was delivered by Ms. Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the discussion was moderated by Ms. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Secretary-General of the World YWCA. Sood was joined on the panel by Mr. Chaloka Beyani, Chair of the Coordination Committee on Special Procedures and Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Ms. Mozn Hassan, Nazra for Feminist Studies, and Ms. Penny Williams, Australia’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.

To read a full description of the event, click here.

 

On September 11th 2013, Member States, civil society organizations, activists, academics and UN agencies came together to discuss the impact of the Human Rights Council resolutions on maternal mortality and morbidity and remaining gaps in the realization of human rights, accountability and implementation in countries around the world. The event, co-organized by the SRI and Center for Reproductive Rights, with support from the Governments of Colombia, New Zealand, Burkina Faso, United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organization and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was timely as diverse stakeholders continue to identify the shape and scope of the post-2015 development agenda.

Widely attended by over 75 people, the event featured as speakers Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Alma Viviana Perez, Director of the Presidential Programme for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Lilian Sepulveda, Center for Reproductive Rights and Karolina Wieckiewicz, Federation for Women and Family Planning and the Sexual Rights Initiative. The discussion was moderated by Amanda Ellis, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN in Geneva.

To read a full description of the event, click here.

On September 17th, to commemorate the 2013 Global Day of Action for the Decriminalization of Abortion (September 28th), the SRI organized an event, together with the Governments of Uruguay, Finland and the Netherlands, Action Canada for Population and Development, the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, CREA (India) and the Center for Reproductive Rights, to discuss the realization of women’s human rights, specifically women’s right to access safe and legal abortion, including through the decriminalization of abortion. Being one of the first events on the topic at the Council, it represents a ground-breaking moment in its history. Attended by over 30 representatives from Member States – making up half of the audience, UN agencies, civil society, women human rights defenders and academics, they assessed the human rights implications of the criminalization of abortion and explored strategies to strengthen government accountability and responsibility in respecting, protecting and guaranteeing women’s reproductive and human rights.

The event was moderated by Neha Sood, representing ACPD and the SRI. Panelists included H.E. Laura Dupuy Lasserre, Permanent Representative of Uruguay, Professor Marleen Temmerman, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization, Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch, Research and Right to Development Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Krystyna Kacpura, Sexual Rights Initiative and Federation for Women and Family Planning (Poland) and Stuart Halford, representing the Center for Reproductive Rights.

To read a full description of the event, click here.