Can there be human rights without gender equality? This question is more important than ever as what is happening across the world remind us that global gender gains are under threat from growing conservatism.
- We are interconnected more than ever through digital platforms.
- But digital platforms like internet and social media have amplified real-life divisions even hatred.
- The world has more democracies than ever, but the latest Freedom House report also indicates that democracy and pluralism are under increasing attack.
- underpinned landmark global frameworks ever since the founding of the United Nations itself 75 years ago – from the UN Charter of 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, all the way to the Programme of Action that emerged from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo and, a year later, the Platform for Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
The collective and complementary vision of all of these guide the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, including Gender Equality.
Yes, gains have been made on several fronts globally, including in Asia and the Pacific, in recent decades.
But efforts to advance ICPD, the Beijing Platform and the SDGs are under sustained and concerted attack on multiple fronts in this age of escalating conservatism.
Universally agreed-upon language in UN and other global documents pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, as envisioned by ICPD, is being targeted by various actors seeking to turn back the clock, leading to damaging consequences for women’s health in the most resource-challenged countries.
Human Rights Without Gender Equality
The very concept of gender equality is under threat – and “gender” more than ever serves as a rallying cry for those who would perpetuate patriarchy, sexism and harmful practices against women at multiple levels of government and civil society.
These attacks take aim as well at the rights and well-being of individuals of diverse sexual identities, those living with disabilities and indigenous peoples – groups that have long been marginalized and excluded by society.
How Do We Counter All Of This?
We need governments to demonstrate genuine leadership and be held accountable – with ICPD, Beijing and the SDGs as the yardsticks to be measured and judged by. At the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit last November, 145 countries, including 26 from Asia and the Pacific, made commitments to achieving the Programme of Action, recognising how integral it is to the SDGs – but it’s just a start.
We need civil society and communities to be empowered and ever bolder and courageous, to do what is right for women and girls around the world. The #MeToo movement to combat sexual harassment, for example, has gained global traction, but far too many voices remain silenced.