Fear of feminism or mere cowardice at the 59th Session of the CSW?

2015 is the year we celebrate 20 years of the fourth women’s conference in Beijing and 15 years of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. But where do we, women and girls, stand today? While hearing and reading about advancements in terms of gender equality, how women´s rights are being mainstreamed in policies of all kinds, and how the world has gotten closer to attaining the Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality, I have never lost the feeling that women´s rights have nevertheless experienced significant setbacks in the last couple of years.

To some extent I believe that certain setback, like increasing violence against women in certain regions, is the result of women´s empowerment. Women and girls are proclaiming their rights and saying NO!, and a patriarchal system is reacting to it in the only way it knows how: violence. And this form of violence goes beyond the “usual” misogynist, who beats, kills and rapes. This violence is even more brutal. It is strengthened by the fear that some states have of women´s potential, some kind of “feminophobia”, but also by the cowardice of states that play along.

A recent article in the Guardian called attention to the reaction of many NGOs, women´s movements and some UN member states to this year´s political declaration on the occasion of the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. The article states that the draft declaration has been branded ‘bland and unambitious’.

As a woman, I say NO! The vague wording in this declaration is more than a disappointment; it is a violent act. It is a punch in the face of feminists who have played a leading role in asserting gender equality. Their contributions have been understated and thus undermined, so that member states would not be made too uncomfortable by adopting the declaration.

In the Guardian´s article I found again my home country, Nicaragua. Together with Russia, the Holy See, Indonesia and the African group, they have supposedly joined efforts, ironically to erase feminist movements from a declaration that, I believe, is precisely aiming at the advancement of feminist goals.

In my opinion, the CSW´s declaration is not just a piece of paper, and it isn´t a setback either. It is the reflection of parallel developments I have often seen in the struggle for women´s rights in Nicaragua. While feminist movements and discourses are getting stronger and are reaching more people, a vehement resistance against them has emerged. The setback caused by this resistance, or fear of a society where women can equally enjoy and demand their rights, is compromising many of the achievements in the advancement of women´s rights. The declaration at CSW confronts us with a ‘non-political’ political declaration, one robbed of strong wording or calls to action, one that disavows feminism. This censoring of the role of feminism is evidence that women are making states uncomfortable. For me this means that our voices are becoming a threat to a patriarchal system. And this is a good thing, since it signals that things are changing.


About Teresa Gruber

Teresa Gruber is deputy chief officer at UHRSN. She grew up in Nicaragua and is currently enrolled at the Vienna MA in Human Rights. During her internships at Stop AIDS Alliance in Brussels, UNHCR in the Dominican Republic and at the Austrian Foreign Ministry, she has focused on issues like statelessness, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women´s rights.

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