A war of words worth fighting - UN Commission on the Status of Women

Over the last two weeks, women have been defending their rights at the United Nations 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. While negotiations over the minutiae of wording in the final agreement may seem a million miles from most women’s real lives, this is a war of words that's worth fighting.

The final document, agreed early on Saturday morning, is a central part of efforts to create a future framework which makes the world a better, safer place for women and girls.

Protecting women's human rights

The final agreement covers a number of areas of critical importance to women’s rights, including:

  • Violence against women
  • A focus on women human rights defenders
  • Funding for women’s rights organisations
  • Sexual and reproductive rights

The final agreement also reaffirms key pillars in the women’s human rights architecture from the Beijing Platform for Action to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the international bill of rights for women.

More important than ever

This year CSW was more important than ever. It was a fiercely fought battle in the campaign to ensure that women’s rights are at the heart of the new global agreement on development and human rights, the so-called 'post 2015 framework', a framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. It is due to be finalised over the next few months.

Crucially, the final agreement from CSW calls for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s rights. We now need the global community to follow this lead and ensure this commitment is at the heart of the new framework.

Global backlash against women’s rights

The CSW meeting was held at a time when we're seeing a powerful global backlash against hard-won gains for women’s rights – fuelled by failures in the global economy; the rise of fundamentalisms; and an increasingly hard-line approach from many conservative governments globally, from Russia to Uganda. 

The violence experienced by women at home and in conflict continues around the world.  Research released last week confirmed high rates of violence experienced by women across Europe, including 44% of women in the UK, and the systematic violence experienced by women in situations of conflict, from Afghanistan to Syria, goes on.

As in previous years, the biggest battles at CSW were over issues of sexual and reproductive rights and sexuality, with forces, including the Vatican, pushing back hard against the rights enshrined in core global agreements.

Litmus test for women’s rights

The final agreement is a litmus test for women’s rights globally. The hugely significant inclusion of violence against women, sexual and reproductive rights and a standalone goal on women’s rights brings hope.

However, the battles continue, particularly to protect sexual and reproductive rights and to redouble our efforts for sexual orientation and gender identity to be at the heart of future global agreements. 

As we move towards a new global framework for development and human rights in 2015, we must fight ever harder to ensure that we succeed in securing the full range of women’s rights for all of the world’s 3.5 billion women. 

This is more than a war of words – between the paragraphs and the punctuation, lives are at stake. Every word counts.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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