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Students from women’s human rights seminar present reports at UN

May 25, 2016

Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis’ Seminar on International Women’s Human Rights presented two reports to the United Nations (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women) on May 16. The Report on Mapping the Impact of Gender Equality Lawmaking and Constitutionmaking: A Comparative Perspective was submitted to UN Women. This report is posted on UN Women’s website. The Report on Countering Terrorism: The Transformative Potential of Gender Equality Lawmaking and Policy Reform was presented to the OHCHR. The research on topics relevant to the Secretary General’s National Action Plan on Counterterrorism 2016 will be cited in OHCHR’s report on counterterrorism and human rights mandated by the Human Right Council Resolution 30/15.

Penn Law student Natasha Arnpriester’s concluding presentation to the OHCHR:

In this report, we have analyzed how a gender perspective in lawmaking can work to counter terrorism, and provided recommendations that embrace gender equality, gender parity in law-making, and the protection of women’s rights and women’s empowerment. These recommendations recognize that the participation and leadership of women in this sphere, as well as constitutional and other legislative reforms that guarantee formal and substantive gender equality, can contribute to more sustainable and effective counterterrorism measures, leading to a more peaceful and safe world. While Governments are required to ensure the right to gender equality and non-discrimination as ends in themselves, a gender perspective is also integral to combating the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

In these papers, we provide fresh insight into the advancement of women and their human rights, and how in turn this advancement can both advance the world and also contribute to international peace and security. Our review spans the globe, investigating situations in Nigeria to Papua New Guinea, in Russia to El Salvador, as well as the current violence taking place in Syria and Iraq. In addition we have investigated substantive issues that affect women, or affect the world through women, such as socioeconomic rights, development, agency, civil and political rights, and empowerment. We have looked at the direct problems contributing to terrorism including radicalization, violent extremism, and the unfortunate manifestations of a twisted conception of religion, such as forced marriage and sexual slavery.

While most of the issues reviewed are not new, we do not take the opinion that new material or new research is always needed to solve existing problems. Sometimes it only takes a new approach, an innovative twist and a fresh look at different ways to solve the problem within an existing framework. This is what we have endeavored to do. Since January we have met weekly to develop new approaches to counter terrorism through a feminist perspective. Our approach was not to essentialisize women, but to transform the way the world interacts with women, and see the benefit for everyone in creating a gender equal world in all rights and in all ways, and how this will serve to decrease the terrorism that threatens society. We presented direct examples of how women’s rights can protect in areas where Security Council-named terrorist groups are operating, for instance Boko Haram and the Da’esh.

We are not recommending radical approaches, or even approaches that are difficult to implement. Instead, we are calling on States and the UN to facilitate the prioritization of securing women’s equal place in the world, in society, in the community, and in our homes. The CEDAW, a near universally ratified convention, places positive obligations on States to ensure equality for women. This is not a tall order. This is not even a small wish — and to view it as such removes the truth that this is an inherent right of all persons — regardless of gender — to be treated equal in dignity and rights. It must be stressed that these recommendations are not requests, for you do not request something that is owed to you. Equal access to one’s human rights, without discrimination of gender, is a duty owed to each of us. We can create a world that lives up to its commitments and obligations made not only in rhetoric, but also in law, that treats women equally, thereby contributing to society that can live more peacefully and justly.

Today, terrorism and violent extremism come in diverse forms. In the struggle to address this dynamic and complex issue, the need for a preventive approach is vital, and women, and women’s rights, can offer a significant contribution to preventative measures. We believe that the law is a good vehicle for this.

Within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG), in particular goal 5, on gender equality and empowerment of women; goal 10, on reducing inequality within countries; and goal 16, on peace, justice and strong institutions, we advocate that the interconnection amongst, and fulfillment of, these goals can be used as an effective measure to counter terrorism. The Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism calls for a comprehensive approach that focuses on systematic preventive steps that tackle the underlying factors that contribute to conditions conducive to terrorism, including the need to respect and strengthen human rights. As mentioned in the introduction, the role of women in international peace and security efforts was recognized in Resolution 1325. Security Council Resolution 1963 for the first time recognized that terrorism could not be defeated solely by military force, but also required human rights to be better protected and strengthened. Last year, in 2242 the Council called for the integration of a gender analysis on the drivers and impacts of violent extremism.

Resolution 2178 recognized that respect for human rights is “complementary and mutually reinforcing with effective counter-terrorism measures” and noted that “failure to comply with these…international obligations…is one of the factors contributing to increased radicalization.” The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy places human rights at the center of combating terrorism, emphasizing that “denial of human rights…in itself, creates conditions that are conducive to terrorism.” Acting on Chapter VII authorization, the Security Council encouraged States to address conditions conducive to the spread of extremism, including empowering women, and adopting approaches to counter recruitment through the promotion of social inclusion and cohesion.

We believe it is important to hear the voices of those across the lifecycle, and help to galvanize younger people to shape the agenda of the world they are inheriting. We are eager to share not only our knowledge, but also a different perspective, on the critical issues affecting women, affecting human rights, and affecting our world.