Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways actively participates in UN processes and mechanisms, international women’s movements and international advocacy and networking efforts. We believe that working on local, national, regional and international levels and sharing experiences and progress in all these spheres is of great significance to the advancement of rights. We participate in UN processes both to transmit our efforts and demands for gender equality and women’s human rights on the local, national and regional levels to the international arena, and to contribute to the advancement of women’s human rights and human rights globally. On the international level, WWHR-New Ways works in numerous areas spanning from coalition building to advocacy, and actively participates in various activities such as initiating or joining international movements; building bridges between national and international spheres; initiating or partaking in solidarity and advocacy networks.
WWHR–New Ways has assumed a leading role in advocacy at the UN level for the advancement of women’s human rights through processes like CEDAW and Beijing +5, and also for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights on the international and regional levels through processes like ICPD +10, Beijing +10 and the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) with the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR). It has also participated in mechanisms such as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Commission on Population and Development (CPD), and is currently engaged in the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals process, ICPD +20 and Beijing +20 processes with the international women’s movement.
We have submitted three CEDAW shadow reports for Turkey’s periodic country reviews by the CEDAW Committee in1997, 2005 and 2010, and lobbied the Committee and Turkey’s Government Delegations during the review sessions. The analysis and demands put forth in our shadow reports have been included in the Committee’s concluding comments, which we have used successfully on the national level to put pressure on the State for the advancement of women’s human rights in Turkey. WWHR-New Ways has served on the government delegations of Turkey in processes such as Beijing +5, Beijing +10 and the 50th, 51st, and 55th Sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Since 2004, the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) has been actively partaking in UN processes to advocate for the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at the international arena and pressure their governments. Since NGO participation and visibility from our regions is conventionally low at the UN level, our efforts have been further significant in paving the way for increased participation in global advocacy, in particular in the domain of SRHR. We have been able to effectively influence government delegations from the regions on many issues, and publicly declare progressive views and determined advocacy efforts to promote SRHR, thus challenging the conservative approaches and asserting alternative views from the region. Through the work of strong NGO delegations at process like ICPD + 10, Beijing+10 and UNGASS, we have succeeded in challenging the alliances of conservative Muslim and Christian governments, prevented the inclusion of regressive language in outcome documents, and presented our demands for the recognition of sexual and bodily rights as human rights at the international level. NGO statements we have issued at meetings like ESCWA, Beijing +10, and UNGASS have been acclaimed as some of the most progressive statements in these processes.
The Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) was founded as a solidarity network in 2001 by organizations, activists and academicians advocating for sexual and bodily rights as human rights and working actively in this field in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2004, organizations working in this sphere from South and Southeast Asia also joined the coalition, which since carries out its activities in both regions and is currently comprised of over 35 organizations and academic institutions from Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, the Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen. Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways is one of the initiators and co-founders of CSBR and has worked as the international coordination office of the coalition between 2001 and 2011. Since 2011, WWHR-New Ways serves on the advisory board of the Coalition.
CSBR believes that sexual, bodily and reproductive rights are fundamental human rights for all human beings, and maintains that everyone has the right to decide freely on matters related to their bodies, sexuality and reproduction without being subject to discrimination. CSBR takes an inclusive and affirmative approach to sexuality, recognizing its pivotal role in private, public and political life. The coalition has played a leading role in establishing and expanding the notion of sexual rights, breaking taboos and has strengthened the work of its members by breaking the isolation and building bridges over regions, themes and methodologies. Our work in this field over the years has shown that culture and religion are often misused as powerful tools of control over women’s sexuality in law and social practice and are employed to legitimize human rights violations. While conservative political forces and movements propagate customary practices in the name of religion, socio-political conditions, militarism and war, growing fundamentalist religious and nationalist movements restrict and violate our human rights, including our sexual, reproductive and bodily rights. Our experience as CSBR has demonstrated that we can only overcome these violations, promote sexual and bodily integrity and freedom through solidarity and joint determined advocacy efforts, countering national and global conservative politics and developing our own discourses around sexuality.
CSBR is founded on the basic principle that all human beings have the right to sexual and bodily integrity and autonomy, and the right to decide freely on matters related to their sexuality and reproduction, irrespective of gender, citizenship, class, age, religion, marital status, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, mental and physical capacity.
CSBR’s Core Values are as follows:
- Sexual and bodily rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity and equality of all human beings.
- Sexual and bodily rights are central to the realization of women’s human rights and gender equality.
- The advancement of these rights is crucial for advancement of democracy.
- It is the duty and responsibility of all governments to develop, adopt and implement laws and other measures to eliminate all harmful traditional or customary practices that restrict or violate women’s human rights, such as female genital mutilation, crimes committed in the name of honor or in the name of passion, abduction and sale of children and women, early and forced marriages, dowry related violence and deaths, acid attacks, restriction of the right to mobility and temporary marriages.
- It is the duty and responsibility of all governments to develop, adopt and implement laws and other measures to protect women and girls from all forms of violence, including sexual violence, such as rape, marital rape, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking in girls and women and repeal all laws that lead to the re-victimization of women and girls who have been subjected to sexual violence.
- Women’s sexuality and bodies belong to themselves. The principle that laws must first and foremost protect the individual’s rights and freedoms rather than the public order and general ethics must be reflected in all legal change processes. All laws and policies that legitimize customary practices which put women’s bodies and sexuality at the disposal of men, family and society must be repealed.
- All individuals have the equal right to enjoy a sexual life in accordance with their values. This entails not only the right to determine one’s sexual behavior, but also the right to sexual pleasure and desire.
- All individuals have the right to sexually associate freely. This includes the right to decide freely whether to be sexually active or not, make free decisions on whether to marry or not, the right to divorce, and the right to sexual orientation.
- All individuals, including adolescents, have the right to equal access to the highest attainable standard of safe sexual and reproductive health care and quality services, as well as adequate and affordable sexual and reproductive health information and comprehensive sexuality education.
- Women and adolescents have the right to freely decide on matters related to their fertility and to access safe, effective and affordable methods of regulating their reproductive life.
CSBR’s areas of work include organizing meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops and trainings on sexuality and sexual rights; publications and research on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR); developing and conducting advocacy campaigns for sexual rights in Muslim societies; supporting efforts and campaigns on the national levels and participating in international movements and efforts to promote SRHR as an international solidarity network; initiating and participating in advocacy efforts for legal reform in the domain of sexual, reproductive and bodily rights; advocacy at the UN level for SRHR.
Key achievements of CSBR up to date include:
- Assuming a leading role in the realization of legal reforms in countries like Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia on issues like the Civil Code, Penal Code and the right to safe abortion.
- Pioneering the very first high level international meetings on sexual and reproductive rights in countries like Lebanon and Tunisia where previously sexuality was not an issue to be talked about.
- Mobilizing unprecedented advocacy efforts for SRHR by activists from Muslim societies at numerous UN processes, which have led to significant achievements despite the alliance of conservative Christian forces like USA and Vatican with Islamic conservative states such as Egypt, the Sudan and Pakistan that employ religion to attack the human rights of women and girls and LGBT;
- Rendering the efforts and gains of the struggle for sexual and bodily rights in Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia visible for the first time at the United Nations (UN) and international platforms;
- Initiating and supporting international campaigns in numerous countries such as Malaysia, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Palestine, Iran, Iraq on issues including human rights violations, freedom of association and sexual rights;
- Organizing the annual CSBR Sexuality Institute, the first international training program on sexuality and SRHR in Muslim societies with a comprehensive curriculum and in-depth discussion on the linkages between research and practice, offering a holistic interdisciplinary program combining history, theory, research and politics of sexuality with applications of advocacy and fieldwork;
- Organizing the historic simultaneous “One Day One Struggle” Campaign for sexual, bodily and reproductive rights in Muslim societies, in which NGOs, academic institutions and activists in countries across the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia hold diverse advocacy and awareness raising events in their national contexts to assert that sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights, make the struggles of SRHR advocates in Muslim societies visible at the international level, and show the strength of our solidarity across continents.
b. Post 2015 / Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
At the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2010, world leaders put forth an ambitious action plan. This plan was a road map outlining the necessary measures to be taken until 2015, which was established as the target date, to achieve what is referred to as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals included ensuring “girl children are able to complete a full course of primary schooling”, “improving maternal health”, and “increasing the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments”. Even though there has been some progress made in these narrowly defined fields related to women and girl children, unfortunately these advancements fell short of eliminating rights violations resulting from gender inequality around the world.
Presently, there is a worldwide discussion around the new global development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015 at the UN level. At the UN Sustainable Development Conference Rio +20 held in 2012, it was decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and at the UN General Assembly in September 2013, it was announced that the SDGs would replace the MDGs in the sustainable development agenda after 2015. This process is referred to as Post 2015.
Since 2013, the Open Working Group (OWG), consisting of 70 country representatives is conducting meetings to develop a report and proposals for SDGs. NGO representatives are also participating in these meetings to advocate for their priorities and demands in the making of the post 2015 agenda. The OWG, which has held meetings until February 2014, is currently working to propose recommendations for the SDGs at the UN General Assembly to be held in September 2014.
As Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, we are one of the NGOs actively working in this international process. We participated at the Open Working Group meetings until February 2014 as part of international advocacy efforts for the inclusion of a “stand alone gender equality goal” and the integration of gender equality and women’s human rights in all other goals through much more holistic policies and measures. Since February, we have been continuing our advocacy efforts for a “stand alone gender equality goal” to be included among the OWG’s proposals.
More information on the SDGs and the process is available here.
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 11(II) of 21 June 1946. CSW is the principal policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women within the UN. The aim of CSW is to prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women’s rights and gender equality in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. The Commission also makes recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights. Following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing Conference), CSW was also mandated to integrate into its program a regular follow-up and monitoring process to the Conference, regularly reviewing the critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action.
The Commission is an intergovernmental body and consists of one representative each from 45 Member States elected for a period of four years. The member states of CSW meet annually in March at the UN Headquarters in New York to discuss advancements and problems in the sphere of gender equality and develop concrete recommendations for the advancement of gender equality and women’s human rights around the world. CSW sessions focus on a particular priority theme each year (In 2014, the priority theme of the 58th session of CSW was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”). You may access the official website of CSW here.
Each year, CSW issues Agreed Conclusions putting forth the priorities identified by the Commission and recommendations for state parties and other stakeholders. Governments participate in these annual sessions with delegations comprised of the relevant ministry and representatives of related government bodies. However, in many countries it has also become a tradition for these official delegations to include independent NGO representatives. Turkey had been including experts from independent women’s human rights organizations in its official government delegations and assuming a progressive role in terms of the advancement of women’s human rights through the contribution of these experts, until very recently. We are concerned about this change in the policy of Turkey regarding this this tradition. This practice needs to be put in place again.
WWHR–New Ways has assumed a leading role in mobilizing participation and advocacy efforts for CSW from Turkey and Muslim societies, and collaborates with CSBR and the international women’s movement to this end. WWHR has served on several official government delegations to the CSW from Turkey; facilitated NGO participation from other women’s organizations at the sessions; worked extensively for the inclusion of progressive language in CSW outcome documents including Agreed Conclusions and other resolutions.
d. International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) +20
The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 has been a milestone conference with many significant decisions not only concerning population and development, but also women’s human rights. Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been put forth as a global priority at this meeting and women’s human rights has also been recognized as a universal human right, as well as a key issue for the eradication of poverty. Women’s access to reproductive health and rights is important both for women’s empowerment as individuals, and also for sustainable development.
The ICPD Program of Action signed by 179 member states set out to:
- Provide universal access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights;
- Deliver gender equality, empowerment of women and equal access to education for girls;
- Address the individual, social and economic impact of urbanization and migration;
- Support sustainable development and address environmental issues associated with population changes.
ICPD Program of Action is available here.
The ICPD Program of Action (PoA) entailed 20 year targets. The Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the Program of Action of the ICPD, adopted at the 5 year review of the Conference (ICPD +5) also addressed issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights under 4 main headings: education and literacy; reproductive health care and unmet need for contraception; maternal mortality reduction; HIV and AIDS. These issues have also served as a guideline for SRHR in Millennium Development Goals.
At ICPD +15 in 2009, the UN General Assembly has taken a decision to extend the Program of Action and review the progress at the 2014 General Assembly.
Since its foundation Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) –New Ways has been advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights both in Turkey and the international level with great commitment, and has been working with the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) on these issues at international, regional and national levels since 2001. In this framework, WWHR-New Ways has engaged in numerous ICPD and CPD (Commission on Population and Development) processes together with the international women’s movement, including advocacy at CPD sessions; putting pressure on the government of Turkey for a progressive and rights based approach to health and population issues; mobilizing NGOs working in this field in Turkey for engagement in international processes. CSBR has participated in the ICPD +10 processes during the regional review in 2004, issuing a groundbreaking NGO statement calling on governments in the region to reaffirm and fulfill their international commitments.
Currently, we are undertaking advocacy efforts with the Cairo +20 and SDGs Platform we initiated in 2012 to ensure that more progressive steps are taken in terms of the impact of the PoA in Turkey and the world, and working on the ICPD +20 process for the advancement of women’s human rights and SRHR in the international arena.
The 2014 ICPD + 20 review process, currently underway, is an important opportunity to influence population and development policies at the national, regional and universal levels. In this framework an independent ICPD +20 High-Level Task Force has been formed, bringing together experts on SRHR from around the world. WWHR-New Ways founding president Pınar İlkkaracan has been invited to be a member of the Task Force in 2012 for her longstanding work in this field and continues to serve in this expert group.
More information on ICPD processes from UNFPA is available here.
e. Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995
The United Nations has organized four world conferences on women since 1975 bringing together member states, experts and civil society: Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995).
The Fourth Conference on Women, Beijing 1995, has been realized with extensive participation, both on the governmental level, and in terms of experts and women’s civil society organizations. The outcome documents of the conference, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 12 critical areas of concern identified in these documents have played a key role in determining the women’s human rights agenda at the UN after 1995.
The 12 critical areas of concern underscored in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action are:
- The persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women
- Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to education and training
- Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to health care and related services
- Violence against women
- The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation
- Inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources
- Inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels
- Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women
- Lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of women
- Stereotyping of women and inequality in women’s access to and participation in all communication systems, especially in the media
- Gender inequalities in the management of natural resources and in the safeguarding of the environment
- Persistent discrimination against and violation of the rights of the girl child
A Special Session was held five years later in 2000 (Beijing +5) to evaluate what governments have done to fulfill their commitments following the Fourth World Conference on Women, and to develop forward-looking strategies. The outcomes of this meeting, commitments and critical areas of concern have also been reviewed in subsequent Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) sessions. WWHR-New Ways played a crucial role in Turkey’s participation and efforts during Beijing +5, ensuring women’s NGOs’ participation in the official delegation; a progressive and active stance by the government delegation; advocacy during the review, and follow up activities regarding the outcomes including a publication in Turkish and a national meeting. Through the work of Turkey’s delegation and our joint efforts with the international women’s movement, forced marriage and honor crimes were included in a UN outcome document for the first time, marking a significant step forward in the recognition of violations of women’s rights in the so called “private” sphere.
In 2015, which will be the 20th anniversary of the Conference, the CSW is expected to conduct a review of the conference (Beijing+20) in its 59th session, with the participation of member states, UN bodies, and NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status to evaluate the achievements in the implementation of the Platform for Action.
In addition to the current challenges in the implementation of the Platform for Action, the Session will also include a review of opportunities for the advancement of gender equality and women’s human rights in the framework of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Prior to the review during the 59th session, national and regional review meetings and activities are expected to be conducted. Detailed information on the CSW 59th Session is available here.