June 30, 2017

The Sexual Rights Initiative, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the International Women’s Health Coalition welcome the adoption on Thursday June 22, 2017 by the Human Rights Council of the following resolutions on: Accelerating Efforts to Eliminate Violence against Women: Engaging men and boys in preventing and responding to violence against all women and girls (VAW), Eliminating Discrimination against Women and Girls (DAW), and Child Early and Forced Marriage in Humanitarian Settings (CEFM).

Despite hostile amendments put forward by some States and resistance around sexual and reproductive health and rights throughout the drafting process, all three adopted resolutions address critical issues facing women and girls and strongly urge States to fulfill their human rights obligations to women and girls, particularly in relation to their sexual and reproductive rights and their rights to be free from all forms of discrimination and violence at all ages.

We especially welcome the Council’s re-affirmation of women and girl’s autonomy, the importance of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and the human right to have control over all matters related to one’s sexuality through these resolutions. We also congratulate the leadership of States in bringing forth new language that strengthens sexual and reproductive rights by condemning patriarchal norms, urging the repeal of laws that exclusively or disproportionately criminalize actions or behaviours of women and girls, and recognize the heightened risk of sexual and reproductive rights violations in humanitarian settings.

Despite these important gains, we also regret that sexual and reproductive health and rights, although they have been reaffirmed as key human rights by United Nations experts of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies, by United Nations Special Rapporteurs and by several Human Rights Council resolutions, are still being questioned, challenged and perceived as contentious issues. Particularly, inaccurate assertions regarding sexual and reproductive rights, rights related to sexuality and gender and women’s rights more broadly continue to be instrumentalized to polarize and divide the Council. This was exemplified by the introduction of hostile amendments to the Violence Against Women and the Discrimination Against Women resolutions to delete references to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and women human rights defenders (WHRDs), despite this being agreed language in several resolutions of the Council. Moreover, an attempt to weaken the Discrimination Against Women resolution by replacing the word ‘gender’ by ‘sex’ was similarly put forward in a last minute oral amendment, contrary to established rules of procedure. All amendments to both resolutions were resoundingly defeated and the resolutions were adopted by consensus.

We thank all States that supported these important resolutions and especially civil society that mobilized quickly and effectively in their respective countries to ensure the successful adoption of the texts. We also urge all states to take stock of the work of UN experts on sexual and reproductive health and rights and of the Vienna Declaration which states that “it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Lastly, we urge members of the Human Rights Council to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, as agreed by all UN member states in UNGA resolution 60/251.

Click here to read the full statement.

Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré / UN Photo.