Did you miss it? Here’s what happened at HRC 47!

Published on July 15, 2021

The 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from June 21 to July 14, 2021. Below you will find information on some of the key sexual rights-related:

  • Resolutions
  • Panel Discussions
  • Oral Statements
  • SRI Side Events                      

Civil society demands reinstatement of general debates at all sessions of the Human Rights Council

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, a vital part of the agenda where NGOs can address the HRC without restrictions.

Several civil society organizations (CSOs) denounced the continued restrictions to civil society participation, including during HRC47. In different statements delivered during the session, organizations decried the cancellation of general debates in June and called for the reinstatement of general debates at all sessions, with the option of civil society participation through video statements. 

Online side event on forced sterilization

The Sexual Rights Initiative, Her Rights Initiative, and the Women’s Legal Centre hosted a conversation with activists and women human rights defenders organizing against forced sterilization in a variety of national contexts and movements. The event sought to address the legacy of eugenics, colonialism and population control within reproductive politics and to highlight the interconnectedness of struggles for bodily autonomy and reproductive justice within different movements. The event also explored how the UN human rights system has addressed this issue and further opportunities to hold States accountable.

Read more about this event below in the SRI Side Events section.

A recording of this event will be available soon.

  • Resolution on violence against women and girls with disabilities

Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls: Preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls with disabilities A/HRC/47/L.18/Rev.1

Led by Canada and co-sponsored by 56 other countries as of July 14, 2021, the resolution as orally revised was adopted by consensus.

The resolution focused on violence against women and girls with disabilities, highlights the specific manifestation of violence against women and girls with disabilities, including forced sterilization and abortion. The resolution highlights the multiple and intersecting forms of violence faced by women and girls with disabilities in public, private, and in family settings. Crucially, the resolution highlights the need to incorporate a human rights-based approach and particularly by reviewing laws and policies that use the charity and/or medical model of disability.

While the resolution falls short of affirming independent living, by condemning all institutionalization, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, it nevertheless calls for repealing laws and provisions that restrict legal capacity and permit involuntary medical procedures, including forced sterilization and abortion. The oral revision includes a footnote on intimate partner violence.

The oral amendment to the resolution resulted in a footnote on intimate partner violence and two written amendments to the resolution were defeated. The amendments were:

  1. Adding 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 as adopted by the General Assembly following “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” by the Russian Federation. The amendment was defeated by 22 against, 12 for, and 10 abstentions.
  2. Deleting of comprehensive sexuality education, by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The amendment was defeated by 23 against, 13 for, and 9 abstentions.

You can watch the discussion and adoption here, and the explanations of vote on resolutions under item 3, including on this resolution, here.

  • Resolution on human rights and HIV

Human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS A/HRC/47/L.15

Led by Brazil, Colombia, Portugal, Mozambique, and Thailand, and co-sponsored by 21 other countries as of July 14, 2021, the resolution was adopted by vote with five abstentions. No state voted against it.

The resolution follows the High-Level Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS adopted in 2021 and builds on the commitments and implementation contained in the declaration. It calls for a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in consultation with governments, civil society, community-led organizations, and other stakeholders, describing the actions being taken to meet the innovative targets on societal enablers, as recognized in the Political Declaration. It also recommends actions to be intensified or initiated to address the remaining gaps.

A total of 10 amendments were tabled by the Russian Federation, which were all defeated. Some of the amendments included:

  1. Deleting references to the political declaration on HIV/AIDS and removing “facilitate the voluntary transfer of financial resources and technology…” The amendment was defeated by 27 against, 5 for, and 12 abstentions.
  2. Deleting references to “restrictive and discriminatory laws and practices.” The amendment was defeated by 26 against, 5 for, and 13 abstentions.
  3. Deleting “in decision-making processes” when ensuring participation of persons living with HIV. The amendment was defeated by 26 against, 5 for, and 13 abstentions.
  4. Adding a qualifier to key population language, in particular that, “each country should define specific populations that are key to their epidemiological and social context”. The amendment was defeated by 24 against, 10 for, and 10 abstentions.

Watch the discussion and adoption here, and the explanations of vote on resolutions under item 3, including on this resolution, here.

  • Resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity

Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights A/HRC/47/L.23/Rev.1

Led by Colombia, Estonia, and New Zealand, and co-sponsored by 71 other countries as of July 14, 2021, the resolution was adopted by consensus.

The resolution focused on maternal morbidities based on the report by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. It acknowledges the significance of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and the underlying determinants of health to the elimination of maternal mortality and morbidity.

While the resolution fails to affirm sexual and reproductive health and rights, it calls upon States to strengthen the capacity and resourcing of healthcare systems and the health workforce; to provide essential services needed to prevent and treat maternal morbidities, including, through increased budget allocations for health, sexual and reproductive health-care service. It also calls upon States to address underlying determinants of health including gender discrimination, poverty, and malnutrition. It asks States to ensure continuity of sexual and reproductive healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of six amendments were tabled which were all defeated. Some of these included:

  1. Three amendments adding 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 as adopted by the General Assembly following “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” by the Russian Federation.
  2. Deletion of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) by Egypt, Eswatini, Pakistan, Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia. The amendment was defeated by 21 against, 13 for and 11 abstentions.
  3. Deletion of “girls” by the Russian Federation. The amendment was defeated by 24 against, 10 yes, and 10 abstentions.

You can watch the discussion and adoption here, and the explanations of vote on resolutions under item 3, including on this resolution, here.

  • Resolution on menstrual hygiene management, human rights, and gender equality

Menstrual hygiene management, human rights, and gender equality A/HRC/47/L.2

Led by the Africa Group, and co-sponsored by two other countries as of July 14, 2021, the resolution was adopted by consensus.

The resolution calls for a panel discussion on menstrual hygiene management, human rights, and gender equality. It takes the first step in highlighting the stigma around menstruation and its impacts on women and girls. Furthermore, it calls on States to provide affordable, safe, and clean water, adequate sanitation, hygiene and washing facilities with soap, elimination of taxes on menstrual products, and the creation of awareness campaigns to eliminate stigma.

You can watch the discussion and adoption here, and the explanations of vote on resolutions under item 3, including on this resolution, here.

  • Resolution on the human rights of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers

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 through transformative change for racial justice and equality A/HRC/47/L.8/Rev.1

Led by the African Group, and co-sponsored by four countries as of July 14, 2021, the resolution was adopted by consensus. 

The resolution establishes an international independent expert mechanism to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to work in close collaboration with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and other relevant mandates.

You can watch the discussion and adoption here.

  • Civil society space: Covid-19: the road to recovery and the essential role of civil society (led by Ireland, Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone, Tunisia) - A/HRC/47/L.1
  • Realization of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl (led by United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) - A/HRC/47/L.3
  • The right to education (led by Portugal) - A/HRC/47/L4/Rev.1
  • The negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights (led by Morocco, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Poland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) - A/HRC/47/L.5
  • Elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks (led by the Group of African States) - A/HRC/47/L.9
  • Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (led by the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries) - A/HRC/47/L.10/Rev.1
  • New and emerging digital technologies and human rights (led by Republic of Korea, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco, and Singapore) - A/HRC/47/L.12/Rev.1
  • Human rights and international solidarity (led by Cuba) - A/HRC/47/L.16
  • Human rights and climate change (led by Viet Nam, Bangladesh and the Philippines) - A/HRC/47/L.19
  • The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet (led by Sweden, Brazil, Nigeria, Tunisia, and the United States of America) - A/HRC/47/L.22
  • The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights (led by China) - A/HRC/47/L.24
  • The human rights of migrants (led by Mexico) - A/HRC/47/L.26
  • Impact of arms transfers on human rights (led by Ecuador and Peru) - A/HRC/47/L.27

High-level panel discussion on the multisectoral prevention of and response to female genital mutilation

The Council held a high-level panel discussion on multisectoral prevention and response, including the global response to female genital mutilation (FGM). The panelists discussed how FGM must be eliminated, outlining the wide range of laws, practices, and policies their governments introduced to make this a reality.

Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women

Following the mandate of resolution 6/30, the Human Rights Council held an annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights.

Panel 1: Violence against women and girls with disabilities (Monday, July 5, 2021, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

The panel discussed how women and girls with disabilities continue to face persistent discrimination based on stereotypes and stigma, which puts them at increased risk of gender-based violence. The panelists highlighted that women and girls with disabilities continue to suffer disproportionately from violence and abuse, they are rarely reflected in disaggregated data, and rarely addressed by national measures.

Panel 2: Gender-equal socioeconomic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic (Tuesday, July 6, 2021, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m)

The panel sought to address gender-equal socioeconomic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, following the 2020 panel on the impact of Covid-19 on women’s rights. The panelists discussed women’s economic insecurity given the gender unequal care economy, macroeconomic and fiscal management for the advancement of gender equality, and the unequal impact of the pandemic on women’s participation in decision-making.

Statement on the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Statement during the dialogue with the working group on the discrimination against women and girls.

Statement during the dialogue with the working group on the discrimination against women and girls from SRI partner the Federation for Women and Family Planning.

Statement during the annual discussion on women’s rights, panel 2, gender-equal socio-economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

UPR outcome of Georgia: joint statement with the Association HERA XXI. 

Joint statement with IWRAW Asia-Pacific, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), and CREA during the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Joint statement by GIN-SSOGIE, COC Netherlands, AWID, Akahatá, and SRI during the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.

The statement could not be delivered orally during the dialogue but it is available and you can watch it here.

Joint statement by ISHR on the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the report on systemic racism (implementation of HRC resolution 43/1).

Joint statement by CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Plan International, AWID, and SRI during the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education.

1. Online Side Event on Forced Sterilization

The Sexual Rights Initiative, Her Rights Initiative, and the Women’s Legal Centre hosted a conversation with activists and women human rights defenders organizing against forced sterilization in a variety of national contexts and movements.

The event sought to address the legacy of eugenics, colonialism, and population control within reproductive politics and to highlight the interconnectedness of struggles for bodily autonomy and reproductive justice within different movements. The event also explored how the UN human rights system has addressed this issue and further opportunities to hold States accountable.

Rupsa Mallik (CREA) moderated the event.

The panelists were:

  • Sethembiso-Promise Mthembu (Her Rights Initiative)
  • Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health)
  • Alisa Lombard (Semaganis Worme Lombard Law Firm)
  • Camila Lozano (Colombian activist and self-advocate )

We extend our gratitude to the event’s co-sponsors:

  • The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  • The International Disability Alliance (IDA)
  • ProBono.Org
  • Docip
  • CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality
  • The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
  • The Center for Reproductive Rights

A recording of this side event will be available soon.

2. From Exception to Expediency: Feminist Perspectives on Sexual Rights Violations During Covid-19

As the events related to the pandemic unfolded over 2020, the members of the Sexual Rights Initiative captured some of the key developments in the areas of sexual and reproductive rights of women and members of LGBTIQ+ populations – from restrictive measures and moral policing to the force of protests rocking many parts of the world.

The SRI partners discussed the exceptional circumstances of the last 18 months and their impact on SRHR developments, especially among marginalized groups of people; also, the ways in which these events and the responses to them allow us to deepen our understanding of the logic of expediency that is perhaps not that exceptional.