Stop safeguarding traditional values over women’s rights

For the first time in its history, the 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)–a global policy-making body meant to promote women’s rights–ended with no agreed conclusions. Not since Beijing (4th World Conference on Women in 1995) has there been such a stalemate between women’s rights advocates and religious/conservative forces. Once more, culture and tradition were invoked to stall progress on critical women’s rights issues and provoke a political deadlock.

The African Group, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Holy See, Caribbean Community and Common Market and several states worked to block progress on several key issues, including opposition to already agreed upon language in international texts, such as removing the term traditional from “harmful traditional practices”, lobbying to change “early and forced marriages” to the more ambiguous “child marriage”, and replacing “gender equality” with “equality between men and women” to refute the existence of any other genders. They also sought to advance “parental rights” and deny the right to comprehensive sexuality education and “reproductive rights and sexual health” as human rights.

In a joint statement, Say NO to safeguarding “traditional values” over women’s human rights!, women’s rights groups have expressed their outrage with the end result of the 56th CSW. The statement calls on governments not to put on hold the advancements of women’s rights because of political battles between states; says no to re-opening negotiations on already established international agreements on women’s human rights; and calls on governments to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and reject attempts to invoke traditional values or morals which infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law.

To see the full statement, click here.

To add your and or your organisation’s name to the list of signatories to the statement, click here.

They deserve it! They defied culture and religion!

Indonesian sharia police arrested more than 60 youth at a punk rock concert in the provincial capital Banda Aceh on Saturday night, and forced them to have their hair cut, bathe in a lake, change clothes and pray (definitely not the same as my extending a handshake in case you were wondering).

Now there are at least two responses to this. One very sad group of people will say the youth shouldn’t have defied Islamic culture and religion; they should have respected it; blah, blah, blah.

The rest of us, however, will side with the youth.

It’s not difficult to see that the side one takes is a matter of choice.

I know which side I’ve chosen but do you? (And you know who you are.)