Commission for the Status of Women (CSW65) 2021
The 2021 theme for the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women – CSW65 (15-26 March 2021) was, “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world were invited to attend the session. Side events were held by Zoom.
Members of Catholic Women’s League Australia participated via Zoom.
Report from National International Secretary, Clara Geoghegan
Unlike last year which, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw the cancellation of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in 2021 the gathering took place in a hybrid form, with most participants involved through various virtual meeting platforms. This meant that most sessions took place while we in Australia were asleep. Meetings began at about 11.pm AEDT and ending at the time we Australians on the east coast were having breakfast. I did manage to stay up late a few nights and set the alarm to participate in some sessions of particular interest both to me and to the CWLA. It was a struggle to participate in the webinars and juggle a full-time job.
CSW65 considered two themes:
Priority theme: Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls;
Review theme: Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development (agreed conclusions of CSW60)
While much of the focus of the CWS is from a feminist perspective, there are some inconsistencies in the approach to women’s issue. While the UN’s official line tends to favour minorities, especially LGBTIQ+ minorities there are considerable points of difference amongst women on many issues and these are mostly evident in the NGO forums.
Interesting alliances – surrogacy, prostitution, slavery and trans-genderism
The UN makes for some unlikely alliances. Not all women agree that trans-women should be grouped with women. This view is particularly strong in both Christian and radical feminist circles. There are similar views on issues of prostitution where again, the Christians and radical feminists, agree that prostitution is always the exploitation of women. The divide is evident again with surrogacy to provide children for the childless, and same sex male couples.
The most significant workshops I participated in were on Human Trafficking and Surrogacy.
Human Trafficking and slavery
One of the women who gave evidence in the webinar was a displaced person due to the economic crisis in Venezuela. She crossed a number of state borders with her young daughter and found herself prostituted for meagre food rations and a roof over her head. The vulnerability of women in these situations cannot be underestimated. To think that this is not also happening in Australia is naïve. The Sydney Archdiocese’s Taskforce on Modern Slavery reveals that there are some 15,000 people in slavery, or slave-like conditions in Australia. Some of these are in brothels, or working as domestic staff without proper hours or remuneration. The legalisation of brothels, with poor monitoring of conditions, makes this situation a reality in most Australian cities.
Surrogacy and slavery
The webinar on surrogacy was very encouraging. To hear so many women, mostly from Nordic countries, explain the exploitation of women through surrogacy. They concluded, that surrogacy is no different from prostitution – a woman is objectified and becomes a commodity for the gratification of others and is then discarded. It seems the opposition to this practice is much stronger in Europe, where in some countries all forms of surrogacy – commercial and altruistic – is banned. From my experience, working as a researcher in this area for a number of years, there is a tendency to ‘soften’ legislation against the provision of surrogacy in many state governments – much of it driven by the desire of male same-sex couple to have a child. If surrogacy becomes sanctioned by law, there is a real danger that the modern slavery and surrogacy will come together. Just as overseas students are often lured into prostitution, the same can happen with surrogacy.
Further Information on UN and associated materials
The outcome of the Commission’s consideration of the priority theme during its 65th session takes the form of agreed conclusions, to be negotiated by all Member States. The Commission on the Status of Women adopted agreed conclusions on “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” on 26 March 2021. [Reference. CSW65 (2021) | Commission on the Status of Women | UN Women – Headquarters ]
Overview of CSW65 Outcomes, by Family Watch International.
Discrimination & Violence: Femicide in India & China Continues. 18 March 2021. There was a very important zoom presentation held at the CSW, as a parallel event, discussing the issue of female gendercide in India and China.
Watch that videoconference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVNiH_JC1NA
Reggie Littlejohn’s Report to the CSW
Forced Abortion, Gendercide, Genocide, and the Abandonment of Widows under China’s Two-Child Policy; Campaigns to Empower Rural Women and Girls – Statement by Reggie Littlejohn.
Co-Hosted by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and the Women’s United Nations Reporting Network (WUNRN) 18.3.21
“Where Do UN Delegations Really Stand on Life and Family?” Centre for Family and Human Rights, 1 April 2021 https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/where-do-un-delegations-really-stand-on-life-and-family/
Summaries from CSW United Nations New York
Catholic Women’s League of Australia’s National International Secretary, Madeleine Bannister, has summarised her attendance at CSW 63 New York.
For two weeks in March 2019, more than 9,000 representatives from civil society organisations (along with 193 Member States) attended the annual meeting of the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW).
Held in New York, CSW, as it’s often called within the halls of the UN, is the largest gathering of activists, academics, government officials, and policy makers to take stock of gender equality progress, renew their collective purpose, and chart a new roadmap forward.
The 63rd CSW session, 11–22 March 2019, was convened under the theme, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
In March 2018, Catholic Women’s League of Australia’s National International Secretary, Madeleine Bannister, was accompanied by CWLA’s Research Officer, Sonia Di Mezza.