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COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE IMPACT OF MULTIPLE AND INTERSECTING FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION ON WOMEN AND GIRLS

25 September 2017

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a panel discussion on the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls.

In her opening statement, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that for those affected by discriminatory practices, it was multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that created intricate webs of deprivation, and that women and girls were mostly affected. Debilitating stereotypes and bias among States’ officials, including the police and the criminal justice system, could result in violations of minority women’s and girls’ rights to equal treatment before the law, fair trial and access to remedies. The human rights violations that drove vicious circles of marginalization and exclusion had no place on a planet of peace and prosperity.

Maria Nazareth Farani Azevêdo, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, acted as the panel moderator. Panellists were Hilary Gbedemah, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women from Ghana; Carlos Augusto Viáfara López, Professor at the Department of Economy of the University of Valle, Colombia; Warda El-Kaddouri, Researcher and United Nations Youth Delegate for Belgium in 2015 and 2016; and Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination from Ireland.

Maria Nazareth Farani Azevêdo, Panel Moderator and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that the topic of the panel discussion was the impact of multiple forms of intersecting discrimination on women and girls. Ways to address the challenges had to be found.

Hilary Gbedemah, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women from Ghana, said that intersectionality meant when there were two or more kinds of discrimination creating inequality. Intersectionality was a basic concept for understanding the obligations of States under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Carlos Augusto Viáfara López, Professor at the Department of Economy of the University of Valle, Colombia, explained that discrimination was linked with the lack of equal opportunities for social attainment. It was not easy to always define discrimination on the basis of racial origin because education and other factors had to be considered. But often, social origins determined education attainment which would in turn determine job opportunities.

Warda El-Kaddouri, Researcher and United Nations Youth Delegate for Belgium in 2015 and 2016, spoke about the stereotype on Muslim women being in need of liberation. Wearing religious symbols did not necessarily compromise the neutrality of the State as an institution as long as the public servants worked in accordance with the rules of the particular State. Visible religious diversity was in fact the outcome of a neutral state. The forced absence of religious symbols could not be neutral as certain populist right wing parties proclaimed.

Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination from Ireland, noted that the Committee had played a pioneering role in studying the impact of racial discrimination on women. In 2000, it had adopted a general recommendation on the gender-related dimension of racial discrimination in which it called on States parties to more systematically study that phenomenon. The Committee was aware that insufficient attention was still paid by States to the Convention and other instruments looking at the junction between racism and gender discrimination.

During the ensuing discussion with the panel, speakers noted that the international human rights legal framework was sufficiently robust, but that implementation was still lacking. They called on all States to focus on the strict implementation of the existing agreements. Speakers noted that women and girls often lacked decent work opportunities. Some women were exposed to sexual violence and femicide. Gender inequality remained one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination against women and girls. Many women often faced additional barriers to their enjoyment of human rights, because of factors such as their age, race, religion, disability, ethnicity, social and economic status, or sexual orientation. Some speakers expressed concern about stereotyping against women wearing the hijab. Hate directed against women simply because of their choice of dress was outrageous.

Speaking during the discussion were Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Portugal on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, Colombia on behalf of a group of countries, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Spain, Israel, Montenegro, India, Pakistan, Ecuador, Greece, Bulgaria, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Holy See, Georgia, Libya, Canada, Bangladesh, Iraq, Bolivia, Tunisia, Maldives, Burkina Faso and Saudi Arabia.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Action Canada for Population and Development, Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux droits de l’homme, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education, and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Council will next meet on Tuesday, 26 September, at 9 a.m., to continue the general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It will then hold a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Opening Statement

KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, underlined that the distortions of opportunities and progress that discriminations introduced was never down to just a single dimension of our identities. For those affected by discriminatory practices, it was multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that created intricate webs of deprivation, of denial of rights which hindered, undermined and oppressed. In this sordid dynamic, particular groups of women and girls were mostly affected. Although the aggregated data tracking progress in the realization of women’s human rights showed important progress had been achieved when those welcomed outcomes were examined more closely in respect to other vital dimensions - racial or ethnic origin, nationality, disability, minority status – then deep inequalities revealed themselves. These inequalities intervened with multiple forms of discrimination to bind the feet and gag the mouths of millions of women and girls over the world. Women from minority groups were more likely to live in poverty. Being poor, of minority status and female: their socio-economic status infected every sphere of their daily lives – their access to health services, their progress in education, their right to shelter, to live free from fear, and their participation in their communities. These disparate and simply unfair outcomes were the bitter fruit of intersecting and diverse forms of discrimination and were to be found across regions.

Debilitating stereotypes and bias among States’ officials, including the police and the criminal justice system, could result in violations of minority women’s and girls’ rights to equal treatment before the law, fair trail and access to remedies. In conflict settings, women and girls from ethnic and religious minorities or indigenous populations faced additional grave attacks on their rights such as forced pregnancy, human trafficking, systematic rape, sexual abuse and sexual slavery. That these weapons of war were still being deployed was clear as the experience of human rights violations to which Yazidi women in Iraq testified and the grave violations against Rohingya women in Myanmar. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the most recent and authoritative reiteration of a longstanding call to ensure equality of opportunity and end mindlessness of discrimination. Quality, sufficient and appropriate data must be collected, disaggregated by all forms of discrimination prohibited under international law, so that policies impacting on women and girls could be based on sound evidence. The human rights violations that drove vicious circles of marginalization and exclusion had no place on a planet of peace and prosperity.

Statements by the Moderator and Panellists

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVÊDO, Panel Moderator and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the impact of multiple forms of intersecting discrimination had been chosen as a topic for the Human Rights Council. Ways to address the challenges had to be found, she said, introducing the panellists, who came from different backgrounds and regions. They thus had different approaches toward combatting discrimination. She then introduced the panellists, who were Hilary Gbedemah, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women from Ghana; Carlos Augusto Viáfara López, Professor, Department of Economy of University of Valle (Colombia); Warda El-Kaddouri, Researcher, United Nations Youth Delegate for Belgium in 2015 and 2016; and Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination from Ireland.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Ghana, said that in the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, they had agreed that intersectionality meant when there were two or more kinds of discrimination creating inequality. Intersectionality was a basic concept for understanding the obligations of States under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. States needed to legally recognize and prohibit such forms of intersecting discrimination. Action by States was crucial, she said, noting that to fully appreciate intersectionality, one had to go back to the definition of violence. It also included mental suffering, regardless of whether provisions mentioned violence. In concluding recommendations on the report of Brazil in 2003, she said recommendations had been made focusing on women in categories such as indigenous or otherwise vulnerable women. Appropriate measures should be taken so the rights of indigenous women were respected. The Committee had also made general recommendations, including one on migrant workers. In conflict situations, groups of women were often attacked as symbolic representatives of their community. States parties were asked to take active measures to ensure there were gender-sensitive interpretations. As an example, she noted the general recommendation that special attention should be given to the health needs of vulnerable groups. In the jurisprudence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, observations had been made to Brazil, Guatemala, and many others. The Committee had undertaken a ground-breaking inquiry on Canada. The Committee had found that grave violations had been committed against indigenous women. Recommendations were made, including one that asked for the establishment of an independent national inquiry to look into women who had disappeared.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO, Panel Moderator and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that available data showed that the majority of the world’s poor women and girls came from racial and ethnic minorities of migrant communities. Based on Mr. Viafara Lopez’s research, could he share how the cumulative disadvantages faced by women and girls from racial and ethnic minority groups affected their social and economic rights? What were the most effective ways to address these?

CARLOS AUGUSTO VIAFARA LOPEZ, Professor, Department of Economy of the University of Valle (Colombia), said that the aim of his presentation was to analyse discrimination against women of African descent in social stratification. A survey made in Colombia had led to the conclusion that social stratification intervened at every stage of people’s lives. Considering that all inequalities could be classified as discriminations, discriminations were linked to the lack of equal opportunities for social attainment. It was not easy to always define discrimination of the basis of racial origin because education and other factors had to be considered. Discriminations could happen in the area of education and in the context of migration. But often, social origins determined education attainment which would in turn determine job opportunities. Taking the example of school dropout among women and girls, it appeared that the probability of women and girls dropping out from school depended on their racial origin. For example, women of African descent were 66 per cent more likely to drop out of school than white women in early graduation years. The outcomes were similar at the university level. Women of African descent were 13 per cent more likely to access unskilled jobs than white women. Black women were more likely to not have access to the healthcare system and suffer from income poverty. Because of social stratification, they would face more disadvantages that would grow through life. The natural answer to these situations was affirmative action policies which would lead black women to break the cycle of cumulative disadvantages.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO, Panel Moderator and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, asked what were the impacts of the increase of racist and xenophobic acts and trends on women?

WARDA EL-KADDOURI, Researcher, United Nations Youth Delegate for Belgium in 2015 and 2016 (Belgium), said that she wrote an article about these impacts from a personal perspective when the European Court of Justice ruled that employers were entitled to ban staff from wearing visible ideological symbols. There was no other symbol that would affect hundreds of thousands of people in Europe. By stating that veiled women could simply take off their hijab, you implied that the empowerment of women to be in control of their own body and to make individual decisions was reserved for white women only. This was in line with the stereotype of Muslim women being in need of liberation. Many States made this request based on the principle of neutrality which implied not wearing religious dressing in public places. However, wearing religious symbols did not necessarily compromise the neutrality of a State as an institution as long as the public servants worked in accordance with the rules of the particular State. Visible religious diversity was in fact the outcome of a neutral State. Women of colour were among the most vulnerable segments of population and faced many forms of discriminations. The forced absence of religious symbols could not be neutral as certain populist right wing parties proclaimed. Islamophobic crimes had increased in the last years. The impact of these discriminations was twofold. First, there was a psychological impact which implied a feeling of alienation. The impact was also economic since structural discrimination might lead women to remain unemployed. This financial insecurity led to a state of stress and to the feeling of not being able to contribute to society. As a result, many talented women did not have access to equal opportunities in work and politics. It was worrying that year after year, academic studies showed that women from minorities had a low participation in the labour market. When they wanted to participate they were discriminated against on their skin colour and religious background.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO, Permanent Representatives of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Panel Moderator, asked the panellist about how racial discrimination differently affected women and girls, and how to use the Sustainable Development Goals to overcome those challenges.

ANSTASIA CRICKLEY, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination from Ireland, noted that the panel was a very timely discussion and she welcomed the fact that it was taking place on the second anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Ms. Crickley noted that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had played a pioneering role in studying the impact of racial discrimination on women. In 2000, it had adopted a general recommendation on the gender-related dimension of racial discrimination in which it called on States parties to more systematically study that phenomenon. Since 2000, the Committee had come up with three main conclusions. Firstly, it indicated the interaction between racism and gender discrimination, and it included that interaction in the follow-up and concluding observations. Secondly, the Committee was aware that insufficient attention was still paid by States to the Convention and other instruments looking at the junction between racism and gender discrimination. Thirdly, although studies remained scarce, information presented to the Committee had confirmed that sexual violence committed against women, abuse of domestic workers, and the stigmatisation of women victims of rape remained topical, and that in some parts of the world they had dramatically increased.

The Committee had devoted increasing attention to that intersectionality of gender and racial discrimination in the case of women of African descent and those belonging to minorities. It had also explicitly observed the vulnerability of migrant women to racial discrimination. As for the Sustainable Development Goals, Ms. Crickley said that it was important that the language of human rights remained at the core of the consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals. They provided a unique opportunity to address racial discrimination. It remained the case that the gender dimension needed to inform how each goal was implemented. In order to address that intersectionality, first and foremost its existence needed to be named and acknowledged, and relevant data needed to be collected. Finally, special measures needed to be taken in order to protect the most vulnerable.

Discussion

Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said regional and sub-regional organizations had adopted regulations aimed at mitigating intersecting forms of discrimination. The importance of appropriate responses was underscored. European Union said the international human rights legal framework was sufficiently robust, but implementation was still lacking. All States were called on to focus on the strict implementation of existing agreements. Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the topic was pertinent in the context of rising intolerance, and expressed concern about stereotyping against women wearing hijab. Hate directed against women simply because of their choice of dress was outrageous, and all needed to abide by their human rights obligations to remove discrimination against women and girls on the grounds of hijab.

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, welcomed the choice of the subject of the panel, and said the community had an unwavering commitment to fighting xenophobia and related intolerance. There was a need to mainstream gender in specific public policies for fighting xenophobia and related intolerance. Colombia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said racism, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance took particular forms when targeting women and girls. Women and girls often lacked decent work opportunities, and it was particularly concerning to see some groups of women and girls being exposed to sexual violence and femicide. Austria, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said gender inequality remained one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination against women and girls. Many women often faced additional barriers to their enjoyment of human rights, because of factors such as their age, race, religion, disability, ethnicity, social and economic status, or sexual orientation.

Italy said that one of its main goals was to ensure equal treatment for men and women. To this end, Italy had implemented constitutional, legislative and administrative measures with an impact on economic, social, cultural and political life. There was a need to better develop an understanding of the intersecting forms of discrimination. United Arab Emirates thanked the panellists for their valuable interventions. Practices had shown that overcoming inequality was key to eliminate racial discrimination, provided that effective laws against discrimination were implemented. In 2015, a federal law was passed increasing the sanctions for crimes of hate speech. Malaysia said it had sought to promote unity by strengthening various mechanisms provided for under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution to promote and protect all of its citizens, including women and girls. Malaysia had been actively addressing the issue of discriminations through the Global Movement of Moderates.

Spain welcomed the holding of the panel. A pre-requisite to achieve a world of peace was women and girls who were free to enjoy their human rights. Violence against women stemmed from pre-existing inequalities that needed to be addressed. Stereotypes based on a combination of factors exposed women and girls to risks of being targeted. Israel said that intersectionality captured the consequences of two or more combined systems of discrimination and addressed the manner in which they contributed to create layers of inequalities. Israel was implementing many initiatives to address discrimination and violence against specific groups. Montenegro attached great attention to fighting all forms of discrimination, particularly racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance while ensuring full enjoyment of women’s and girls’ rights. It had strengthened its anti-discrimination legislative framework.

International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism voiced concern that little action was being taken to gather information about the groups affected by racism. For example, very little data existed regarding Dalit and Buraku women and groups in India, groups that had been traditionally discriminated against. Action Canada for Population and Development noted that recently emerging violent nationalism and populism had followed the colonial legacy which had viewed “black bodies” as decadent. Black and migrant women were disproportionately affected by intersectional discrimination. It was important to recognize the role of black feminists in fighting for social justice and to include their voices in the work of the United Nations.

Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers highlighted the impact of intersectional discrimination in criminal justice systems. In many countries, women and girls from minority backgrounds were incarcerated at a higher rate, subject to disproportionate sentences and endured prison conditions that failed to respect the basic needs Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik drew attention to institutionalised discrimination in both law and practice against women, children, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, older persons, persons with disability, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, the poor and migrants in Iran. Early child marriage was widely practiced, and many girls were practically sold to pay back the loans of their fathers.

Remarks

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVÊDO, Panel Moderator and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that a lot of concern had been expressed on the manifestation of xenophobia, which had amplified gender-based violence. There were a lot of subjects to be commented on, she said, and invited Ms. Gbedemah to begin.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Ghana), observed that a question had been asked on the lack of awareness of the problem. She said that the Optional Protocol and its jurisprudence should be known among various groups of women. Whatever awareness-raising was being done had to be done on the basis of statistical evidence. In respect of legislation, she said that there should be attention paid to the de facto situation of women in the State. The situation of exclusion was concerning, and a recommendation had been addressed to Ecuador to ensure that women were engaged in decision-making processes.

CARLOS AUGUSTO VIAFARA LOPEZ, Professor, Department of Economy of the University of Valle (Colombia), wished to draw attention to some comments that had been made. A number of standards had been set to put an end to discriminations but forms of discriminations against black women continued to exist. Many States had made distinctions between a gender based approach and a racial based approach. The racial perspective was not mentioned enough, said Mr. Viafara Lopez. It was important to intertwine the two perspectives. Black girls should be encouraged to stay at school and access high quality education. How could the world improve their status if they did not have access to high quality education? How could the world hope to achieve a better social status for black women when they faced so many disadvantages? States had a key role to play in order to fight discriminations since the market would not automatically pursue these objectives. It was the role of the State to establish a more gender-balanced work place.

WARDA EL-KADDOURI, Researcher and United Nations Youth Delegate for Belgium in 2015 and 2016, said that the fight against institutional racism required changes at the educational level and by ensuring that girls had access to high-quality education. As for addressing Islamophobia, that phenomenon was a new one and thus Governments needed to invest in research of the issue. If Member States invested in research, they would find out what was going on in their countries. Responding to questions on the lack of implementation of the legal framework, Ms. El-Kaddouri observed that perhaps citizens did not know about relevant laws. States therefore needed to invest in human rights education.

ANSTASIA CRICKLEY, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, repeated that human rights belonged to all and that meant that everyone had the right to be free from racial discrimination. Lack of complaints meant that people did not know how to report them or that they were afraid to report them. As for filling the gap, it was really important that women who experienced discrimination had the right to participate in relevant decision-making. It was also important that each and every State gathered relevant data in order to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The realities of human rights needed to be much more clearly articulated by States. The special measures for vulnerable groups needed to be taken, such as for example, taking a much closer look at non-custodial sentences for women.

Discussion

India recalled that its Constitution provided relevant standards to address all forms of discriminations. India had also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and adopted schemes to promote no discrimination and gender equality. India asked how sexist violence against disabled women and girls could be further addressed. Pakistan believed that racial discrimination on any basis should be opposed and a structural framework should be adopted for the protection of women and girls. Pakistan had enacted legislation against discrimination of any sort. A number of acts had been enacted to end any form of gender discrimination and to facilitate the rights of women in Pakistan. Ecuador welcomed the holding of the panel and reiterated its commitment to fighting discrimination. Ecuador had deployed efforts to fight for the rights to equality and non-discrimination. Public policies in Ecuador incorporated gender, ethno-cultural and generational approaches to ensure that specific groups could fully enjoy their rights. The criminal code criminalized femicide.

Greece said that intersecting forms of discrimination often impeded the full enjoyment of human rights by women and girls. Tools such as the High Commissioner’s report were therefore particularly useful in addressing an issue which affected an ever-increasing number of women and girls around the globe. Bulgaria was pursuing a consistent policy aimed at preventing and eliminating any forms of discrimination and creating understanding and tolerance among persons belonging to different ethnic, religious or linguistic groups. Bulgaria took note of the need for equal treatment, especially for the most vulnerable groups, including victims of violence and trafficking. Mexico said that racism and intolerance required multifaceted measures. Mexico had developed institutional mechanisms to tackle multiple forms of discriminations using disaggregated data. There was an urgent need to implement policies targeting people of African descent. National plans and programmes for equality had been developed based on international standards.

Mexico stated that racism, xenophobia and intolerance against women and girls required multisector efforts in order to guarantee their rights. Unfortunately, people with fairer complexion in Mexico still had better educational and labour opportunities. Sierra Leone said that it was clear that groups suffering from multiple forms of discrimination, who were at the bottom of the ladder, needed to be given the greatest attention as the international community moved towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Disaggregated data played a great role in the implementation of those goals. Holy See noted that in the context of migration, women and girls were disproportionately affected by aggravated forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Education should accompany legislation in shaping mentalities and helping to shape consciousness that embraced a more comprehensive view of reality.

Georgia supported all relevant human rights instruments guaranteeing equal and full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls. Georgia had introduced numerous legislative amendments to improve domestic legislation in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. Libya reaffirmed its commitment towards the implementation the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Women had to be real partners in order to achieve sustainable development. Canada noted that women faced greater marginalisation and a higher risk of human rights violations and abuses when they experienced discrimination and violence based on multiple and intersecting identities. That was particularly true in the case of indigenous women and girls. Bangladesh maintained a zero tolerance approach to any form of violence or discrimination against religious minorities under any pretext and stressed the importance of the ratification of the migrant workers Convention to promote a safe and secure environment for all, particularly women migrants.

Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme drew the attention of the Council to the extremely worrying situation of women in Iraq and stressed the importance of stopping the support of Saudi Arabia to terrorism. International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education issued a call for help from the Arab women in Greek camps, and spoke of the suffering of Iraqi and Syrian women.

Iraq reiterated that the rights of women and girls were an integral part of human rights and that fighting for their rights was a priority for Iraq which was in the final stages of issuing a law on the protection of women from domestic violence. Bolivia spoke of the seminal studies of the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee which highlighted the multiple and intersecting discrimination against rural women, particularly indigenous women, and asked whether international legal developments had been effective in protecting them from such discrimination. Tunisia said that discrimination against women and girls remained in all societies and at many levels and stressed the need to increase cooperation to spread the culture of women’s rights and prevent discrimination and violence against women.

Maldives believed that the promotion of human rights for women and girls continued to be impinged by the acts of intolerance and discrimination against women and girls faced by the dark legacy of racial dominance. Maldives was concerned about the increasing pattern of discrimination, hate speech and forms of violence faced by women and girls in the context of racism. Burkina Faso said that the situation of women and girls was a concern for humanity, especially when violations of rights stemmed from racial discrimination. Racist and xenophobic practices continued to make the situation of women and girls even more worrying. Burkina Faso was engaged in combatting harmful customary practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation. Saudi Arabia thanked the panellists for their statements. Promoting and protecting girls and women’s rights was key to reach sound development. Saudi Arabia underscored that all segments of societies should participate in fighting violence against women and counter all types of harms against women and girls. Improving education tracks for women was crucial.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination recalled that racial discrimination was multifaceted. In many conflict situations such as in Myanmar and Iraq, violence against women had become the norm. States had to ensure that local and indigenous groups were systematically consulted. Training should be provided to police officers, judges and lawyers. Finally, men and boys should be included in the dialogue on women’s and girls’ rights.

Concluding Remarks

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Ghana), noted that awareness had to be raised at all levels about the pernicious effect of intersectional forms of discrimination. Women had to be involved in addressing that problem and involved in all levels of decision-making. As for the impact of intersecting forms of discrimination, it was clear that discrimination could not advance development and democracy. States’ obligations had to be monitored and complied with. There was a need for institutional strengthening and adequate resources had to be devoted to those efforts. Access to quality and affordable justice was key in fighting intersectional forms of discrimination.

CARLOS AUGUSTO VIAFARA LOPEZ, Professor at the Department of Economy of the University of Valle in Colombia, noted that his research results did not reveal gender discrimination as such. He only saw discrimination in the category of black women. A lot of discrimination targeted black and indigenous women in Latin America, and thus policies should be focused on them. Those left behind were not properly targeted. As for cumulative disadvantages, a holistic set of policies needed to be applied. Education and labour integration policies had to go hand in hand. While there was a robust legal framework to tackle racism and gender-based discrimination, awareness needed to be raised at the local level.

WARDA EL-KADDOURI, Researcher, United Nations Youth Delegate for Belgium in 2015 and 2016, said that intersectional or multiple discrimination entailed concomitant gender and racial discrimination. It was crucial to identify the groups of women who faced multiple forms of discrimination, and follow it up with data collection to know as much as possible about the problem, to be able to tackle it. Ms. El-Kaddouri stressed the importance of raising awareness and educating the public, and informing the people where they could turn for help and support if they suffered discrimination. Thirdly, it was crucial to involve the vulnerable social groups in policy-making.

ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Ireland), stressed that although data was important, it was also important to take action and address the lived experiences of racial and any other discrimination of individuals. There was no hierarchy of racial oppression and there were different forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination that women suffered in different parts of the world, and they did so against their personal social or any other background. But first and foremost, there must be the full implementation with the full political will of the existing international instruments - Myanmar for example was not one of the 178 States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and it should become one immediately.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVÊDO, Panel Moderator and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the debate was very moving and passionate and that it would leave a memory of encouraging observations of how governments were fighting the intersecting discriminations against women and girls. Many speakers mentioned challenges on the long road ahead, and stressed the primordial importance of including women and girls in society for the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/17/149E