Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Transitional governments should ensure women get their full rights

Copenhagen, Amman 7 March 2012, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) commemorates International Women’s Day. The celebration comes in the context of uprisings for democracy in the Southern Mediterranean region and the economic crisis in Europe. The network congratulates the continuous and persistent aspirations and struggles for dignity and freedoms in the Southern Mediterranean, commending in particular the central role of women in the movements against oppressive regimes. 

The EMHRN is, however, concerned by the backlashes and frustrating setbacks on the situation of women in several of these contexts which threaten a real promotion of women’s rights and gender equality in the transitional processes in the Southern Mediterranean, as well as in a Europe, in particular Southern Europe, struck by financial and economic crisis.

Even though women, as much as men, have played a key role in the revolutions , the transitional period following the Arab uprisings is characterized by a tendency towards their systematic marginalization  and almost complete absence of their priorities and concerns  from  the transitions’ agendas. Women fear the seeming strong intentions to deprive them from enjoying their full citizenship rights.

The EMHRN welcomed the parity provision in the Constituent Assembly elections in Tunisia yet regrets that no real parity was achieved on the ground and that in the end women were far from equally represented.  It also welcomed the gender equality provisions in the amended Moroccan constitution yet remains worried that they were not activated. The EMHRN regrets that the Egyptian women has been excluded from the transitional bodies and decision-making processes. It is deeply concerned with the campaigns aim to distort the image of female activists who are involved in peaceful demonstrations and political movements. EMHRN particularly condemns the subjugation of some women activists to compulsory medical test on their virginity and the brutality used by the Egyptian military and police against women demonstrators. In the occupied Palestinian territory, Palestinian women continued to be victims of violence resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, the disadvantaged situation of Palestinian women continue to be

exacerbated by weak rule of law and gender-based discrimination that remains embedded in legislation, regulations and policies.
In Europe women are the first to suffer the effects of the economic crises such as job loss, unemployment, precariousness, policies of budgetary austerity that affect public services of education and health and mounting populism and right-wing extremism that normalize the idea of compromising women’s right to control their fertility. Moreover, EU member states gender equality measures are being cancelled or delayed as a part of the response to the challenges of the crisis, directly or indirectly affecting gender equality progress throughout Europe.

Throughout the Northern as well as the Southern Mediterranean regions, it thus seems that the dominating patriarchal culture is reproducing its values more strongly backed with the raising of conservative religious approaches and the seeming diminished political will and decreasing commitments of the governments to the promotion of gender equality. Women are subjected to increasing   discrimination and violence due to the prevailing non secure transitional periods.

We recall the expressed commitments of these states to CEDAW as well as UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which were both reiterated in the joint Euro-Med policy for promotion of women’s rights, the 2009 euro-med ministerial Marrakech conclusions, in particular articles 4 and 15 underlining the crucial importance of equal participation of women in all spheres of life for democracy and sustainable development.

We also refer to the Council of the European Union’s Conclusions of 1st of December, 2011 on the European Neighbourhood Policy that reiterates that “women’s rights, gender equality and women’s participation in the political processes are essential components of a democratic society and important for inclusive economic development”.

Women in the region want and deserve democracy and citizenship based on the fundamental principles of equality between men and women, freedom, dignity, physical and psychological integrity, access to resources, health, education and power of decision on their own bodies and lives.

Therefore, EMHRN calls on: 

Governments, provisional governments and transitional bodies in the Southern Mediterranean
1.    To confirm the principle of citizenship based on equality between citizens and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnic or religious affiliations or beliefs, or social class, and other forms of discrimination.
2.    To adopt the principle of precedence of international human rights conventions over national legislation in the newly established constitutions and consider them as primary source for legislature.
3.    To adopt principle of gender equality and non-discrimination against women in the newly established constitutions and legislations and those recently amended, and to abolish all discriminatory articles in laws, adopting the CEDAW definition of discrimination.
4.    To ensure the equal participation and representation of women in legislative, judicial and executive bodies and decision-making positions, in the democratic transitional period and onwards by adopting affirmative measures like parity provisions, quota, empowerment programmes, providing financial support and gender mainstreaming of all policies and projects, etc.
5.    To establish mechanisms guaranteeing the fight against impunity for the violation of human rights of women and girls and the gender based violence.
6.    To assure the participation of women in all stages of conflict prevention and resolution, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
7.    To ensure Palestinian women’s full and equal participation in conflict-resolution and mediation efforts as well as in the statehood dialogue, so that they, along with men, shape the future direction of their society in accordance with the global commitments set out in instruments such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009) and 1960 (2010).

European governments
1.       To never bargain with women’s rights and gender equality in the face of economic crises, but to attentively keep women issues at the centre of the political agenda.
2.       To fully include women in the decision-making processes in the political, economic, financial and social spheres.
3.       To address the gender dimension of the impact of and solution to the economic and social crises in national recovery plans.
4.       To strengthen the programs of combating the violence against women, which should be considered unacceptable in democratic states.
5.       To ensure women’s access to their political, economic, social and cultural rights, including their right to reproductive and sexual health.
   The European Union (EU) and Mediterranean countries
1.       To respect their commitments taken in the Euro-Mediterranean 2006 Istanbul and 2009 Marrakech ministerial conferences and therefore fully integrate gender equality in the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), in particular in all aspects of bilateral relations between the EU and Mediterranean countries such as the EU human rights country strategies, the ENP annual progress reports, political and technical dialogues as well as future ENP Action Plans.