March 23, 2019

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)—the largest annual gathering on women’s rights—ended yesterday with Agreed Conclusions that reaffirm states’ commitment to women’s human rights. The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) welcomes the outcome as a significant achievement for women and girls worldwide.

“This hard-fought victory shows the strength of feminist movements,” said IWHC Director of Advocacy and Policy Shannon Kowalski. “Despite unprecedented attacks led by the United States and ideological allies like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, the outcome document shows that momentum toward gender equality is unstoppable.”

In the face of an aggressive agenda that opposes women’s bodily autonomy, for the second year in a row, the Agreed Conclusions displayed a broad consensus on the need to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, and realize reproductive rights, as well as the right of individuals to control their sexuality. Member States additionally reaffirmed the rights of young people to sexuality education, gender-responsive universal health coverage, the responsibility of the state to protect women’s human rights defenders, and the need for policies that address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

This year’s theme—“social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”—plays a key role in efforts to achieve gender equality and make progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. The Agreed Conclusions provided a roadmap to not only center the rights of women and girls in these systems globally, but to additionally address the structural barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing public services and protections.

While the Agreed Conclusions represent a strong victory, challenges remain to realizing the human rights of all women and girls. Member States failed once again to commit to address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, and fell short of making commitments that would fully meet the needs of migrants and survivors of gender-based violence.

“Though governments reaffirmed that women’s human rights are universal, indivisible, and interrelated, too many still want to pick and choose which rights, and whose rights, to uphold,” said Kowalski. “IWHC and the global feminist movement will continue efforts to ensure that the rights of all women and gender diverse people are realized, everywhere.”

Contact: Liza Kane-Hartnett; (+1) 917.498.3346

Photo: UN Women/Amanda Voisard