Sexual Rights at HRC44

Published on July 20, 2020
  • Resolutions
  • Oral Statements
  • UPR Statements
  • End of Session Statement (TBC)
  • Survey on civil society participation at the 44th session of the HRC. If you participated in this session, please fill out this questionnaire prepared by HRCNet to assess challenges faced by organizations and activists participating remotely, especially those not in Geneva, and to make recommendations to improve remote participation in future sessions. Click here to fill out the survey (10-15 minutes)

Elimination of discrimination against women and girls - A/HRC/44/L.21 as orally revised

Led by Mexico, and co-sponsored by 63 States as of 17 July 2020, the resolution on elimination of discrimination against women and girls deals with multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by women and girls and the measures that States should take to address the same. The resolution pays particular attention to the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls. It also highlights that COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and structural discrimination including patriarchy, racism and xenophobia. Significantly, the resolution highlights the gendered impacts of the pandemic on health including the need to prioritise sexual and reproductive health information and services. In this context the resolution recognises sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights free from coercion and violence, the right to sexual and reproductive health and the right to bodily autonomy. The resolution also urges States to “repeal all laws and policies that exclusively or disproportionately target or criminalize the actions or behaviour of women and girls” and requests States to review their legislative frameworks using a gender-responsive and intersectional approach.

Key sexual and reproductive rights language achievements:

  • Acknowledging multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination 
  • Right to sexual and reproductive health
  • Full enjoyment of all human rights by all women and girls includes sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, free from coercion, discrimination and violence
  • The right to bodily autonomy
  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education

5 amendments to the text were put forward during adoption and all were defeated:

  1. Deletion of “girls” from paragraphs calling for for the full, effective, meaningful and equal participation of women’s and girls’ rights organizations, feminist groups and women and girls human rights defenders and expressing concern at the backlash they face (Russian Federation), rejected by 27 votes against to 8 votes in favor, with 11 abstentions.  Click here to see the voting chart.
  2. Deletion of “universal access to evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education” (Russian Federation), rejected by 26 votes against to 11 votes in favor, with 9 abstentions. Click here to see the voting chart.
  3. Deletion of “reproductive rights” from the ambit of women and girls’ right to sexual and reproductive health (Egypt), rejected by 36 votes against, 13 in favor and 7 abstentions. Click here to see the voting chart.
  4. Deletion of the “right to” bodily autonomy and the “right to” sexual and reproductive health; restriction of the scope of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights to 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; deletion of “evidence-based” sexual and reproductive health information and education (Egypt), rejected by 24 votes against, 12 in favor and 10 abstentions. Click here to see the voting chart.
  5. Deletion of “sexual and reproductive health information and services” from essential health services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (Saudi Arabia), rejected by 28 votes against, 11 in favor and 7 abstentions. Click here to see the voting chart.

The resolution was adopted by consensus.

You can watch the discussion and adoption here, and the explanations of vote on resolutions under item 3, including on this resolution, here. For more detailed updates of the discussions, please see our Twitter thread.

Click here to read the resolution

Elimination of female genital mutilation - A/HRC/44/L.20 

The resolution on female genital mutilation reiterates that female genital mutilation constitutes a human rights violation and a form of violence against women and girls and is mainly motivated and perpetuated by gender inequality and discriminatory social norms that jeopardize the  enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The resolution focuses on the need for a multisectoral approach to combat FGM and for policies and programmes that are based on  principles of accountability, participation, transparency, empowerment, sustainability, equality and non-discrimination, and international cooperation. Crucially, the resolution calls on states to ensure that national action plans and strategies on the prevention and elimination of female genital mutilation are adequately resourced and include projected timelines for goals and incorporate clear targets and indicators for the effective monitoring, impact assessment and coordination of programmes among all relevant stakeholders. It also calls on states to ensure the participation of relevant stakeholders , including affected women and girls, practising communities and non-governmental organizations, in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of such plans and strategies. The resolution urges states to address root causes which include gender stereotypes, unequal power relations and socio-economic inequalities, and mandates the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene a high-level panel discussion on the multisectoral prevention of and response, including the global response, to female genital mutilation. 

The resolution was adopted by consensus. 

You can watch the discussion and adoption here.

Click here to read the resolution

The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests - 

A/HRC/44/L.11

Led by Costa Rica and Switzerland, and co-sponsored by 46 countries as of 17 July 2020, the resolution recalls the recent resolution on the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers. It expresses concern about instances of repression, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as the criminalization and arbitrary surveillance of persons exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association. Critically, it underlines that the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association, and calls on States to promote a safe and enabling environment for the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association, both online and offline.

The resolution addresses the use and impact of new technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, referring to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report on this topic. It also requests the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to prepare a report on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations and to present it to the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2022.

While the resolution does urge States to pay particular attention to the safety and protection of women, girls and women human rights defenders, from acts of intimidation, harassment and gender-based violence in the context of peaceful protests, it does so from a protectionist perspective that calls for the protection of women and girls rather than the protection of their rights. It also misses the opportunity to meaningfully address the impact of white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, patriarchy and other oppressions on the rights of protesters and on their treatment by law enforcement, despite the urgency of this topic in the context of #BlackLivesMatter and other protests worldwide.

The Russian Federation submitted three amendments which were all rejected. The resolution was adopted by consensus. You can watch the discussion and adoption here.

Click here to read the resolution

Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights - A/HRC/44/L.22

Led by Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the resolution highlights South-South cooperation on the basis of solidarity and reiterates that progress in human rights goes side by side with international cooperation. The resolution emphasizes the importance of the UPR in line with cooperation and constructive dialogue. Furthermore, it recalls the UPR voluntary trust fund to facilitate the participation of developing countries and the voluntary fund for financial and technical assistance, requesting the OHCHR to broaden the donor base.

The resolution also addresses the impact of the COVID19 pandemic in economies, societies, and the health and livelihood of people. In doing so, it calls for “diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines to everyone in all States as global public health goods.” It raises concerns about the imposition of unilateral coercive measures that affects the well-being of the population. Finally, it calls on States to prevent and combat terrorism.

The resolution was adopted by vote. Click here to see the results of the vote.

You can watch the discussion and adoption here.

Click here to read the resolution

The central role of the State in responding to pandemics and other health emergencies, and the socioeconomic consequences thereof in advancing sustainable development and the realization of all human rights - A/HRC/44/L.23/Rev.1

Led by Namibia, Pakistan and South Africa, and co-sponsored by 24 countries as of 16 July 2020, the resolution calls for universal, timely and equitable access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable essential health technologies and products, including safe, affordable, effective and quality medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and other health products and technologies necessary in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including for people affected by armed conflict, extreme poverty, natural disasters or climate change. Importantly, it recognizes immunization against COVID-19, including vaccines once they are available, as a global public good. It calls for international cooperation without any conditionality and with full respect for the sovereignty and national priorities of States, while also recognizing the impact of high debt levels on States’ ability to withstand the impact of pandemics. Finally, it requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to assess the requirements for technical assistance and capacity-building for developing countries, in particular regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms in responding to pandemics, health emergencies, and their socioeconomic consequences, and to report on this during the 47th and 50th sessions of the Council (June 2021 and 2022). 

The resolution was adopted by consensus. You can watch the discussion and adoption here.

Click here to read the resolution

Other relevant resolutions included:

  • Human rights and climate change (led by Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam) - A/HRC/44/L.5
  • Freedom of opinion and expression (led by Canada, Brazil, Fiji, Namibia, Netherlands, Sweden) - A/HRC/44/L.18/Rev.1
  • The Social Forum (led by Cuba) - A/HRC/44/L.16
  • The Council also decided to extend the mandates of the following Special Procedures for another 3 years: the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (A/HRC/44/L.3), the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/44/L.13), the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (A/HRC/44/L.14), the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/44/L.6), the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity (A/HRC/44/L.15), the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/44/L.19), the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (A/HRC/44/L.2), the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members (A/HRC/44/L.4), and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education (A/HRC/44/L.1). 
  • Joint statement on behalf of 20 organizations delivered during the NGO meeting with the Human Rights Council President
  • Joint statement from the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) endorsed by SRI for the panel on COVID-19 and women’s rights
  • Joint statement by the Center for Reproductive Rights endorsed by SRI for the Panel on Accountability for Women and Girls in Humanitarian Settings