Gender Equality

 

  • ‘La presencia de mujeres en espacios de representación política es buena no solo para las mujeres sino también para la democracia’

    English

    En noviembre de 2017 Argentina aprobó una ley de paridad de género con el objeto de garantizar un 50% de representación femenina en su Congreso Nacional. CIVICUS conversa con Natalia Gherardi, Directora Ejecutiva del Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Género (ELA), una organización de la sociedad civil argentina que persigue la equidad de género mediante acciones de incidencia, trabajo en redes y el desarrollo de capacidades de actores políticos y sociales. Fundada en 2003 y basada en Buenos Aires, ELA es un equipo interdisciplinario de mujeres con trayectorias en el Estado, la práctica del derecho, la academia, los organismos internacionales y la sociedad civil.

    1. Según datos de laUnión Interparlamentaria, solo 12 países en todo el mundo tienen más de 40% de mujeres en sus cámaras de diputados o legislativos unicamerales. ¿En qué situación se encuentra la Argentina, y qué cambiará con la aprobación de la ley de paridad de género?

    Argentina fue un país pionero cuando en los años ’90 aprobó una ley que estableció una cuota mínima de mujeres en ámbitos legislativos. Esta reforma se hizo a través de la introducción en el Código Nacional Electoral de un cupo femenino del 30% en las listas partidarias para las elecciones de diputados y senadores nacionales. En los años que siguieron, todas las provincias argentinas sancionaron leyes similares paras sus legislaturas provinciales. Esa medida de acción afirmativa buscaba subir el umbral de incorporación de mujeres en el ámbito legislativo y ese objetivo se alcanzó, aunque no sin dificultades. Según un estudio que hicimos en 2011, las legisladoras nacionales pasaron de menos de 5% en 1983, cuando recuperamos la democracia, a casi 40% en 2011.

    Durante los 25 años que lleva de vigencia, sin embargo, fueron frencuentes las trampas en la implementación de la Ley de Cupo Femenino. Esto dio lugar a varios procesos judiciales por la impugnación de listas que burlaban el cupo de mujeres requerido por la ley. Todavía en 2015, el 10% de las listas presentadas en las elecciones nacionales incumplían de diversas maneras el mandato legal, sin que la justicia electoral ejerciera acabadamente su función de control.

    El proyecto de reforma electoral que el Poder Ejecutivo impulsó en 2016 podría haber incorporado medidas para mejorar la implementación del cupo, pero no lo hizo. En todo caso, ese hubiera sido un objetivo pequeño. El compromiso con una democracia de calidad exige bastante más: la paridad. El debate en América Latina ya se estaba formulando en estos términos. Por ese motivo, en Argentina las mujeres de diversos partidos políticos se unieron en torno de diversos proyectos de ley para incorporar el principio de paridad, hasta llegar en noviembre de 2017 a la sanción de la ley de reforma del Código Nacional Electoral.

    Como consecuencia de esta nueva ley, a partir de las elecciones de renovación legislativa de 2019 las listas que los partidos políticos presenten para las elecciones nacionales deberán incluir un 50% de mujeres, alternando la composición de la lista entre una mujer y un varón de modo de repartir en forma equitativa las posiciones elegibles.

    Esperamos que la aplicación de esta ley tenga impacto al menos en dos niveles. En un sentido muy práctico, implicará un aumento en la cantidad de mujeres en los espacios legislativos, y eso se traducirá también en mayor cantidad de mujeres en todas las áreas del Congreso. Pero además, la aplicación de esta ley contribuirá a profundizar el consenso social acerca de la necesidad de contar con mayor presencia de mujeres en todos los espacios de poder y en todas las áreas de la vida social, política, económica y cultural de nuestro país.

    1. En los últimos años hemos escuchado a muchos, casi indefectiblemente hombres, insistir en que ya no hay en Argentina discriminación y desigualdad de género desde el momento en que una mujer ha podido llegar a presidente. ¿Qué es lo que falla en este razonamiento, y cuál es la mejor manera de rebatirlo?

    Fue muy importante contar con una mujer en la presidencia (así como hoy en la gobernación de la provincia más grande de Argentina) porque abrió la puerta a un mundo de posibilidades. En estos años las mujeres han demostrado con creces que pueden ocupar lugares de poder en muy diversos espacios, no solo en la presidencia sino también en la Corte Suprema, en el Ministerio Público y en la gestión de las políticas universitarias. Estos cambios se fueron dando tanto a nivel nacional como en varias provincias. Se trata de modelos de rol que permiten ir transformando las miradas que la sociedad tiene sobre las mujeres (y que las mujeres -sobre todo las jóvenes- tienen sobre sí mismas) y los modelos de ejercicio del poder.

    Sin embargo, los detractores de las medidas de acción afirmativa se toman de los casos particulares para argumentar que las mujeres “lo han logrado todo”. Básicamente, sostienen que si una mujer ha llegado a uno de esos espacios, entonces las medidas de acción afirmativa ya no son necesarias. Sin embargo, justamente el hecho de que podamos nombrar a “la” mujer que ha accedido a la presidencia, a la Corte Suprema, la gobernación, el decanato de la facultad o la dirección de la compañía demuestra que esa mujer es la excepción antes que la regla. Si las podemos nombrar, las podemos contabilizar, y eso es porque siguen siendo pocas en comparación con los cargos disponibles.

    Los adversarios del cupo también argumentan que el establecimiento de una cuota o una regla de paridad socava el mérito como regla para acceder a los cargos públicos, e insinúan que no habría suficientes mujeres calificadas para ser legisladoras. Sin embargo, esto es desmentido por diversos indicadores. Por ejemplo, desde hace más de 20 años el 60% de los graduados de varias facultades de universidades nacionales son mujeres. En el Congreso Nacional, las mujeres que integran las cámaras tienen mayores credenciales educativas que sus pares varones: las mujeres con un título de educación superior superan en un 10% a los varones con similares títulos. Además, parecen ser más eficaces en su trabajo ya que a pesar de ser menos numerosas, impulsan más de la mitad de los proyectos de ley.

    Otros dicen que debemos ser pacientes ya que con el tiempo se desarrollarán liderazgos femeninos que podrán acceder a lugares de decisión sin necesidad de políticas que impulsen el proceso. Este argumento no solo soslaya los mecanismos de poder que operan en la confección de las listas partidarias por efecto de la limitada democracia interna de los partidos políticos (donde abunda el nepotismo, pero el tema solo parece preocupar cuando la nominada es una mujer) sino que además pasa por alto el hecho de que la participación de las mujeres en el Congreso lleva largo tiempo estancada. En 2001 entró en vigencia la reforma impulsada a partir del reclamo interpuesto por una dirigente de la Unión Cívica Radical ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH). María Teresa Merciadri de Morini había denunciado que el partido había violado la ley que establecía el cupo de 30%, ya que al conformar la lista de seis candidaturas electorales había colocado a dos mujeres en los puestos tercero y sexto, aunque el partido solo renovaba cinco cargos. Como consecuencia de la intervención de la CIDH el Estado nacional reformó la reglamentación vigente para resolver el problema que dio origen al reclamo. Desde entonces, hubo un aumento constante en la participación de las mujeres en el Congreso, que creció a un ritmo de 2,5 puntos por elección hasta 2009. Desde entonces y hasta 2015 la tendencia comenzó a decaer: la capacidad de promover la paridad a partir de la implementación del cupo del 30% se agotó hace casi una década.

    Otro argumento frecuente contra el cupo sostiene que las mujeres no tendrían interés en ocupar esos cargos de responsabilidad, y que por eso no persiguen oportunidades de liderazgo o las declinan cuando se presentan. De acuerdo con esta línea de pensamiento, las mujeres prefieren otras formas de desarrollo personal, principalmente ligado a la construcción de una familia a la que dedican gran parte de su tiempo y esfuerzo en el trabajo invisible de cuidado. Este es un argumento interesante, porque parte de datos ciertos. De acuerdo con la Encuesta sobre Trabajo No Remunerado y Uso del Tiempo, en la Argentina las mujeres dedican el doble de tiempo que los varones a las tareas de cuidado. El análisis de las trayectorias personales de los integrantes del Congreso Nacional muestra que las mujeres son en mayor proporción viudas, solteras o divorciadas y tienen (en promedio) menor cantidad de hijos que sus pares varones. Eso parece indicar que para aprovechar las oportunidades políticas (y otras) las mujeres deben tener menos responsabilidades directas de cuidado. Pero hay varios aspectos que deben puntualizarse: ¿todas las mujeres realizan las mismas elecciones? Esas elecciones ¿no están en determinadas en cierta medida por el contexto cultural? Y finalmente, ¿qué rol deben cumplir las políticas públicas para favorecer una organización social del cuidado más justa en términos de género, de modo que el trabajo no remunerado no recaiga desproporcionadamente sobre las mujeres? El Congreso mismo fue hasta hace poco tiempo indiferente a la necesidad de garantizar políticas públicas para responder a esta problemática generalmente relegada a la privacidad de las familias: sólo recientemente se reformó el reglamento para habilitar a las diputadas usar el jardín maternal de la Cámara de Diputados, cuando una diputada fue madre durante su mandato e hizo el pedido. Entonces, ¿deben retirarse las mujeres o debe cambiar el Congreso?

    Entender que las mujeres pueden y deben ocupar puestos de liderazgo como parte de su derecho a participar plenamente de la vida social, política y económica es un proceso en construcción. Por eso es importante no retroceder en los avances que se han logrado y responder a los argumentos falaces con que se trata de detener el proceso.

    1. ¿Por qué es bueno que haya más mujeres en cargos políticos? ¿Es bueno para las mujeres, o es bueno para la democracia?

    Asegurar la diversidad en la integración de los cargos públicos, y en particular en el Legislativo que es el ámbito deliberativo por excelencia, mejora la calidad del debate público y fortalece los valores de la democracia.

    La experiencia nos indica que en muchos casos –aunque ciertamente no en todos- han sido las mujeres quienes impulsaron políticas de igualdad, leyes contra la violencia de género y políticas para garantizar los derechos sexuales y reproductivos, entre tantos otros avances de las últimas décadas. Sin embargo no es esa la razón por la cual ha de promoverse a las mujeres a espacios de poder, ni tampoco deberían ser las mujeres las únicas responsables de promover la igualdad de género. Esta es una obligación derivada del compromiso auténtico con la democracia y los derechos humanos, y en tanto que tal debemos exigirla de todas las personas que ejercen poder en el ámbito que sea.

    Sin embargo, las estructuras partidarias siguen siendo en general poco abiertas a las mujeres. Es interesante preguntarse porqué. ¿Es por efecto de los estereotipos que afectan a las mujeres? ¿O porque esas estructuras son parte de un sistema que concentra el poder en pocas y siempre en las mismas manos? Porque lo cierto es que no solo las mujeres están excluidas de los espacios de poder: la falta de diversidad no tiene que ver solamente con el género.

    La paridad es un compromiso ético y político que parte de la convicción de que las mujeres deben estar presentes en los espacios de representación política porque eso es bueno no solo para las mujeres sino también para la democracia. El intercambio de ideas propio de todo proceso democrático se enriquece con la diversidad de miradas que aportan personas con distintas trayectorias y experiencias.

    A partir de esta convicción se conformó en Canadá un gabinete paritario: no porque así lo dispusiera ley sino porque eso es lo que demanda una sociedad moderna, integrada e igualitaria. “Porque estamos en 2015” fue la justificación espontánea de Justin Trudeau, el Primer Ministro canadiense, en la conferencia de prensa que siguió a la presentación de un gabinete que reflejaba la diversidad de Canadá más allá del género, ya que incluía a varones y mujeres, personas con discapacidad y personas de distinto origen étnico y distintas orientaciones sexuales.

    Hacia esa convicción debemos ir en Argentina y en América Latina.

    1. ¿Cuánto trabajo le insumió a la sociedad civil lograr que el tema fuera tratado y que la ley de paridad fuera aprobada?

    En América Latina varios países avanzaron antes que Argentina en la regulación legal de la paridad en los espacios legislativos. Tales son los casos de Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, México y Nicaragua. Los consensos regionales que surgen de las Conferencias Regionales sobre la Mujer de América Latina y el Caribe hace ya varios años que promueven las políticas de paridad como un compromiso ético y político que mejora la calidad de la democracia.

    En Argentina ya antes de 2015 había en el Congreso varios proyectos de ley que buscaban avanzar hacia la paridad. Así, cuando el Ejecutivo planteó la reforma electoral, muchas mujeres y algunos varones referentes de todas las fuerzas políticas se unieron para apoyar una propuesta ampliamente superadora del proyecto oficialista. Es importante destacar la colaboración de mujeres del oficialismo y la oposición, que trabajaron articuladamente entre ellas y con las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, el movimiento de mujeres y las feministas con un objetivo común. Las organizaciones de mujeres, académicas y de derechos humanos acompañamos el reclamo a través de la campaña #MujeresALaPolítica.

    Entre las estrategias que utilizamos para contribuir a instalar y sostener el tema en la agenda pública se cuentan la organización y participación en mesas de debate, la elaboración y difusión de estudios sobre el impacto de las mujeres en la política, la publicación de notas de prensa y artículos de opinión, la generación de espacios de intercambio permanente con mujeres de las diversas fuerzas políticas y las campañas en las redes sociales y en la vía pública.

    Así se logró avanzar en un dictamen conjunto que incluyó el principio de paridad en la reforma electoral que había presentado el Poder Ejecutivo, que la Cámara de Diputados aprobó en octubre de 2016. Al mismo tiempo avanzó y logró media sanción un proyecto independiente que buscaba incorporar el principio de paridad en el Código Nacional Electoral, y que fue aprobado por la Cámara de Senadores el mismo día de octubre de 2016. De ese modo se terminó ese año legislativo con dos proyectos de ley de objetivos similares: incorporar el principio de paridad en el Código Electoral. Paradójicamente, ninguna de las cámaras trató el proyecto iniciado en la otra, y ninguno de ellos logró convertirse en ley.

    En ese situación se inició el año legislativo de 2017. Ese año, diputadas del gobierno y la oposición asumieron el compromiso público de avanzar en la sanción del proyecto que ya tenía media sanción del Senado. Esto se hizo realidad, finalmente, en la última sesión ordinaria del Congreso, nuevamente gracias a la articulación inteligente de las mujeres de distintas fuerzas políticas. Una vez colocado el proyecto en el temario, la enorme mayoría de la Cámara acompañó la sanción de la ley.

    1. ¿El trabajo de ustedes ha terminado aquí, o anticipan que habrá problemas de implementación que tendrán que monitorear?

    No, el trabajo no termina aquí. La aprobación de una ley no es un punto de llegada sino el punto de partida de otro proceso complejo para garantizar su aplicación. Tal como sucedió cuando se reformó el Código Nacional Electoral para incluir el cupo femenino en los años ‘90, también en esta oportunidad los próximos años serán fundamentales para garantizar una adecuada reglamentación y aplicación del principio de paridad. Deberemos estar muy atentas a que la justicia electoral cumpla con su función de contralor. La provincia de Buenos Aires ya nos recordó la necesidad de mantener una mirada atenta sobre la implementación de los logros normativos, cuando la autoridad electoral emitió una resolución para eludir la aplicación de la ley de paridad que ya regía en la provincia. Contra esa resolución presentamos un recurso que todavía no ha sido satisfactoriamente resuelto.

    1. ¿Se ha vuelto más inclusiva la democracia argentina en los últimos años? ¿Hay perspectivas de progreso en esa dirección?

    La ciudadanía se ha vuelto más exigente con la democracia, y eso es muy positivo. Un proceso democrático no solo requiere que se respeten la formalidad de la votación cada dos años. Una democracia robusta requiere debates informados, acceso a la información, procesos de discusión con la participación más amplia posible. Y sí, también requiere la inclusión de la diversidad, y no solamente en términos de género.

    Avanzar en equidad de género requiere ir transformando la cultura y ese es un proceso lento que requiere consolidarse a lo largo del tiempo. En ese camino, contar con modelos de rol permite a una nueva generación de niñas y jóvenes verse en espejos distintos y proyectarse en una mayor variedad de posibilidades. Al mismo tiempo, ayuda a los varones valorar las capacidades de las mujeres con una mirada más igualitaria.

    Claro que para sostener ese proceso es imprescindible revisar atentamente los mensajes que los medios de comunicación contribuyen a modelar y difunden. Y también debe enfatizarse la corresponsabilidad en el cuidado, no solo de niños y niñas sino también de personas adultas mayores y de todas las personas en situación de dependencia. Este debe ser asumido por mujeres y varones en condiciones de igualdad, con políticas publicas adecuadas para reducir su impacto en términos no solamente de género sino también socioeconómicos. Ignorar este tema impacta no solo en la igualdad y el acceso equitativo al poder, sino también sobre el empleo y demás condiciones para el ejercicio de la autonomía.

    Espero que la incorporación del principio de paridad en el ámbito legislativo permita avanzar en la concreción del compromiso igualitario que da sustento a nuestra democracia. Además, espero que permita acercar al espacio de representación de los intereses del pueblo un reflejo más fiel de sí mismo, al tiempo que contribuya a establecer una conversación sobre la participación de las mujeres en otros espacios de decisión. En definitiva, la paridad de género se plantea como un principio rector de la democratización de las relaciones sociales entre los géneros.

     

     

    El espacio cívico en Argentina es clasificado como ‘estrecho’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con ELA a través de supágina web o su perfil deFacebook, o siga a @EquipoELA y a @NataliaGherardi en Twitter

     

  • CIVICUS @ CSW62

    Thousands of activists from around the world. Hundreds of parallel and side events. National delegations from every corner of the globe. The 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) takes place from 12 - 23 March 2018 in New York, and will focus on challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

    We hope to ensure that protection of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) as mentioned in the agreed conclusions at CSW. We also hope to see governments and people in general have a better idea of the vital role WHRDS play around the world, and the challenges facing them, to be able to address these issues in future policies.

    How you can get involved?

    1. Participate in Shrinking Space for the Feminist Movement side event in NY and online

    Will you be in New York for CSW62? Be part of the side event “Shrinking Space for the Feminist Movement with a Focus on Gender Activism in Rural Space” on 19 March 2018, organised by The Danish UN Mission, CIVICUS, Women Thrive Alliance, FEMNET. The event will be held 3-4:15pm NYC time, in the Express Bar at the UN Headquarters on the 3rd floor.

    This interactive event will bring together women human rights defenders working in rural communities from all over the world and their allies to discuss and share civic space challenges, concerns and solutions. We will invite governments and other actors who can work together to ensure civic space for gender activists working in rural spaces.

    Can’t be in New York?

    1. We'll be live streaming one of the event breakout groups and their conversations with our inspiring WHRD speakers.
    2. We’ll also be live streaming a live shooting of the Civic Stage podcast, hosted by Innovation for Change, featuring speakers from the side event and the innovative ways they’ve found to combat the closing of civic space in their contexts - from rural to urban
    3. Join us on Facebook and Twitter, via the hashtag #SheDefends and the handle @CIVICUSalliance! Tell us about the restrictions you and your partners face when working for gender equality in rural communities, ask questions, express your concerns and insights now and on 18 & 19 March. Questions will be responded to by speakers at the event.

    2. Join the campaign for women human rights defenders working in rural spaces

    This year’s campaign will focus on highlighting the issues faced by women human rights defenders working in rural spaces, and especially supporting their rights to organise and speak up.

    1. Step 1: Download and print the campaign posterfor this year, or handwrite your own! Use the “write in” option to send a message directly to your government, or the “general” version if you do not wish to call out your government directly.
    2. Step 2: Take a photo of yourselfholding your sign and post it on social media, making sure to tag @CIVICUSAlliance #SheDefends on Facebook or Twitter. Are you operating in a country in which this type of message could risk your safety or security? Then take a picture holding the poster in front of your face to maintain your anonymity and send it to CIVICUS at and we will post it on your behalf.
    3. Step 3: Participate in the Thunderclap Campaignhere. It allows people from across the world to share a collective social media message together at the same time. By signing up, Thunderclap will post directly to your Facebook and/or Twitter page at 8am EST on March 19th ahead of our event at CSW62. We think this is important because our voices are louder together! Please share the link to the Thunderclap with your coworkers, friends, and family. You’ll find more visuals and suggested posts here,

    3. Stay tuned in online

    Participate in the live broadcast of the Innovation for Change (I4C) Civic Stage Podcast on 20 March from 14:30 - 15:00via the CIVICUS Facebook page. Civic Stage explores how social change happens, and the new ideas and ways of working that are helping people and communities solve specific challenges.

    This month’s podcast is titled ‘From the village to the city, how women activists are innovating to strengthen and protect civic space.’ Show host Kara Andrade will focus on ways in which women activists are protecting sex workers and building rural women’s co-operatives, as well as #Metoo and global responses to sexual harassment.

    1.  Join us on Facebook and Twitter, via the hashtag #SheDefends and the handle @CIVICUSalliance

     

  • Gender @ CIVICUS

    Taking back spaces for the feminist movement

    Women human rights defenders and gender rights activists experience all the risks and threats that male activists do, plus some specific to their gender and the patriarchal systems they challenge. These include, but are not limited to, gender-based violence, attacks in the home from family or community members, threats to their children or families, rhetoric that they are bad wives and mothers, or other forms of slander, intimidation and exclusion.

    These attacks can come when women challenge conventional gender roles, when activism is not seen as a suitable role for a woman, when they work on socially controversial issues, or a combination of these.

    How this changed in 2017

    As our latest State of Civil Society Reportpoints out, patriarchy is coming under the spotlight.

    In October 2017, the #MeToo  hashtag spread through social media, and stories of sexual harassment flooded the internet. Every single woman who spoke out meant someone realising she was not alone and daring to break the silence.

    In January 2018, the Time’s Up campaign helped democratise the issue by encouraging and enabling women in more disadvantaged positions to report sexual harassment and seek justice. Sexual harassment and violence are increasingly inexcusable, and now they’re becoming a crucial part of the debate about gender inequalities, and power and wealth imbalances.

    Strengthening how we discuss gender @ Civicus

    Gender equality and diversity is important to us at CIVICUS.

    We believe it is our duty to strengthen the discussion and recognise overlapping inequalities and discriminations. We will use that strength to push for greater representation and remedies for the struggles faced by women from excluded groups, such as impoverished and immigrant women, disabled, indigenous and lesbian and transgender women, among others.

    Our task is to promote awareness, understanding and engagement around civic space - the right to speak out, organise, and take action - and gender, as well asadvocate for the protection of women human rights and defenders (WHRDs).

    Our internal diversity and inclusion group collaborates in safe space to share ideas, concerns and recommendations, and brainstorm constructive solutions to pressing challenges around gender, diversity and inclusion, in the context of civic space.

    Our membership-based Gender Working Group is undergoing a renewal process. If you want to keep up-to-date on the activities of this group as we develop the member networking elements of it, email us here.

    Recent gender and inclusion initiatives

    • Supporting the staff-wide Inclusion Audit   with Human Resources and the management team, who are working toward the best possible inclusion policies and practices for CIVICUS Alliance and the Secretariat, and sharing learnings and outcomes with the Alliance.
    • Supporting allies in Geneva at the Human Rights Council and with special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review process (see examples that relate to women's rights, Colombia, Egypt, Pakistan) and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), where we connected members working on gender equality, women’s rights, sexual orientation and gender rights issues, sexual and reproductive health and rights, girls’    education, and other key areas, with each other and with international processes and spaces.
    • Participating in and convening events for:
      • #16DaysAgainstGBV in November-December 2017,
      • Global Women’s Marches in January 2017,
      • 8th March International Women’s Day,
      • #ADayWithoutAWoman women’s strike,
      • Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 61,
      • International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia,
      • #SheDefends Women Human Rights Defenders Middle East/North A   frica campaign.   
    • Highlighting gender-related learnings through spaces like the Gender, Inclusion and the State of Civil Society webinar, and amplifying the voices of women and sexual minorities where media opportunities arise.
    • Coordinate joint statements with LGBTIQ groups at the HRC on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) debates and work with LGBTIQ groups on the severe attacks they face.

    Join the conversation

    Send us an email with some info about the work you or your organisation is doing, and we’ll keep you informed about gender rights work going on within the Alliance.

     

  • HUNGARY: ‘Trans people are having our rights being taken away’

     

    A new law in Hungary, passed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, prevents trans people from legally changing their gender. CIVICUS speaks to Krisztina Kolos Orbán, Vice-President of the Transvanilla Transgender Association, a Hungarian organisation that advocates for trans people’s rights. Founded as a grassroots initiative in 2011, Transvanilla is the only organisation registered in Hungary with an exclusive focus on transgender rights and gender non-conforming issues. It drives advocacy on gender recognition and trans-specific healthcare at the national level. It also monitors discrimination and violence based on gender expression and gender identity and facilitates community gatherings and other events to raise the visibility of transgender issues and transgender people in Hungary.

    Krisztina Kolos Orban

    What has been the situation of LGBTQI+ rights in Hungary over the past few years?

    In 2012, ILGA Europe ranked Hungary ninth among 49 European countries regarding the rights of LGBTQI+ people, but in 2019 we had regressed to 19th and in 2020 we have further dropped down to 27th. This past year Hungary’s rating has declined the most, and there are various reasons. In 2012 things looked pretty good on paper, but since then new measures were introduced as the human rights landscape has changed. Hungary has not moved forward or followed international recommendations. The other factor has been the huge backlash that we have experienced over the past couple of years. Previously this government had not taken rights away from people, although it had certainly tried, and we knew that it was not LGBTQI+-friendly. But now we are having our rights being taken away. 

    If we focus on transgender rights, gender identity is a specific ground mentioned in our legislation on both anti-discrimination and hate crimes, which appears to be rather good. But this only exists on paper, as no hate crimes based on gender identity have been taken to court thus far. Similarly, there have been very few cases focused on anti-discrimination because the law is not being implemented. There is no national action plan to combat discrimination based on gender identity.

    Therefore, transgender rights were never guaranteed by law. When it comes to legal gender recognition and trans-specific healthcare there were no laws or national guidelines. However, practices had improved. Since 2003, transgender people have been able to change their birth certificates, gender markers and first names based on a mental health diagnosis; no other medical intervention was required. Back then this was amazing. The government promised to create legislation but failed to do so. Until now, no government even addressed the issue. As a result, no legislation backed these administrative procedures, which were not even published on the government's website. But for the time being things were okay because the practice was reliable and procedures were rather trans-friendly. Those who provided the required documentation were able to change their birth certificates and it was relatively easy and fast. But the fact that the practice was not protected by legislation was not a minor detail. We see it now that the practice has become illegal. It has been a huge step backwards. 

    In 2020, new regulations that only recognise the sex assigned at birth and prevent transgender people from legally changing their gender and obtaining new documentation were passed by parliament by a 133 to 57 vote margin. They are contained in article 33 of an omnibus bill that was introduced on 31 March and approved on 19 May. Article 33 contradicts not just international and European human rights standards but also previous rulings by the Hungarian Constitutional Court, which has previously made it clear that changing your name and gender marker is a fundamental right for trans people. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights issued a report in 2016 and another in 2018 that stated that the authorities need to enact proper legislation because this is a fundamental right.

    This law change fits into the fight against gender led by the Christian Democratic party, which is part of the governing coalition. This party has already banned gender studies and has argued that there is no such thing as gender, as in the Hungarian language there are not even separate words for ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. But in the past year, it has resorted to using the word ‘gender’ in English so as to be able to attack gender as a concept. So this is part of a larger attack against so-called ‘gender ideology’. The protection of what the new law calls ‘sex at birth’ is a part of this. For the past six years we have worked to come up with legislation on these issues, and initially we thought the authorities wanted to tackle it as well, but after a while it became obvious to us that our initiatives were being blocked along the way. 

    It is difficult to engage with the authorities. We don’t get much information from them. We cannot get to those with decision-making authority; we can only talk to low-ranking officials, who are obviously afraid to give us information. There is no public discussion and civil society is not involved. We were not consulted regarding these specific changes to the Registry Act. The proposal came from the government, and specifically from the Christian members of the government coalition, and was supported by civil society organisations (CSOs) that promote so-called ‘family values’. Timing also raised a lot of questions. Why was it so important to address this issue in the middle of a pandemic? Why now, and why in this way?

    What are the main restrictions that the Hungarian LGBTQI+ community experiences on their freedoms to organise, speak up and protest?

    In Hungary there is an NGO law that requires CSOs to register if they receive foreign funding, if their income is above a certain amount. The threshold is relatively low, so many CSOs, including us, must register. There is a list of foreign-funded CSOs that is published and publicly available. It is no secret that we seek foreign funding because we cannot access funds in Hungary. The government refers to CSOs, and particularly to those that criticise the government, as ‘enemies’ of the Hungarian people. This has obviously affected LGBTQI+ organisations too. 

    This is not just rhetoric. In practice, the government does not consult with CSOs that are independent or that they don’t like, including us. Instructions to marginalise these organisations come from the top levels of government, and while some lower-level officials might want to try to engage with us, they are not allowed to do so. How can CSOs conduct advocacy or engage with the authorities if public officials are banned from any contact with us?

    Additionally, most media are controlled by the government, and the rest tend to have a neoliberal perspective, which usually makes them difficult to access for organisations that do not follow their agenda, like Transvanilla.

    Our freedom to conduct our legitimate activities is also being challenged. Last year, for instance, there were several attacks against events organised around Pride month. A speed-dating event for pansexual people that had been organised by Transvanilla was interrupted by far-right activists. We couldn’t continue the event and the police didn't protect us. Far-right activists video-recorded participants for over an hour and we were not allowed to close the door. They were obviously acting illegally but the police took no action against them. In other instances, venues were ruined or damaged by far-rights activists. This was a new development – in the past, our events had received police protection when such things happened. 

    Year after year there have also been attempts to ban Pride events, but the courts have declared that these events cannot be banned. It’s a constant fight. The authorities have fenced off Pride routes on the pretence of protecting marchers, but this was obviously an attempt to restrict their movement.

    How did the LGBTQI+ community react when the new law was passed?

    It was a traumatic event because it was a clear attack against us. This amendment only affected trans and intersex people who would like to change their gender markers and trans people who don’t want to change their gender markers but would still like to change their name, which is no longer possible in Hungary. But the whole community now feels like second-class citizens, like outcasts who the government does not respect. 

    Personally, as a non-binary person, it had a huge effect on me, because I was already far from being recognised in my documents and now I am a lot further away from that. Many of my friends who were in the process of changing their legal gender recognition are in a limbo.  At least a hundred applicants’ cases had already been suspended in the past two and a half years, as requests were not being evaluated. Those people have now lost all hopes. They are frustrated and devastated. 

    There is also fear because we don’t know what is next, what else is coming to us. Even though the law can be challenged, it might require many years. And even if we get rid of this law, the situation may not improve. Some people are suicidal, and many people want to leave the country. A big part of the community is just suffering silently and has no voice. While some activists have emerged from this situation and these activists are gaining visibility, the vast majority are suffering at home, alone. People were already isolated before, and it will not get any better. From now on, more people will hide their identity.

    Since 2016 there have been problems with administrative procedures, so increasing numbers of people who began to transition may look different from the sex registered in their documents. And if someone is openly and visibly transgender it becomes difficult to find a job; discrimination is part of everyday life. And now it is becoming more serious. We have seen a rise in discrimination, not just in employment but in everyday life. In Hungary you often must present your ID papers, so you have to out yourself all the time. People don’t believe you and you are questioned. For example, recently a trans person was trying to buy a house and the lawyer who was drawing up the paperwork raised questions about their ID document because it didn’t match their gender description.

    Given the restrictions on peaceful assembly imposed under the COVID-19 pandemic, what sort of lobbying and campaigning have you been able to do to stop Article 33?

    Transvanilla is very strategic: we only engage in activities that might have an impact. Therefore, we did not focus on the Hungarian context. In parliament the opposition is powerless because Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party, has two thirds of the seats and can thus win any vote. We also knew that we could not mobilise enough people – the masses would not be out on the streets because of the pandemic, so this wasn’t even an option. If this had not happened during the pandemic, other organisations might have tried to organise protests. Until the amendment was introduced, Transvanilla was not publicly highlighting the issue of legal gender recognition because we were doing silent advocacy. On 1 April, when we found out about the initiative, we called on international actors to raise their voices publicly and to engage in multilateral dialogue with our government on this issue.

    We grabbed international attention and many international voices were vocal against the proposal. In April 2020 we also turned to Hungary’s Commissioner on Fundamental Rights and we asked him to do whatever he could to stop the amendment. We of course engaged with international and national media. We launched a petition and managed to get more than 30,000 signatures. We now have another petition that is addressed to the European Union (EU) and we hope it will have an effect.

    So, we resorted to the ombudsperson, who could have intervened but didn’t, and we put international pressure on the government, which sometimes works but this time did not. The law was passed, and the day it came into effect we launched two cases at the Constitutional Court. The court could turn them down for whatever reason, but we hope that it will not. At the same time, we are putting pressure on the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights because he has the power to request the Constitutional Court to look into the law, and if he does, then the court must do so. Pressure is very important, and many international actors are helping, including Amnesty International Hungary, which has launched a campaign. We have 23 cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), all of which deal with gender recognition, and the applicants are represented by our lawyer. The government and the other parties involved were given time until June 2020 to settle these cases, and if they didn’t, the Court would move forward for a decision. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for the government was pushed to September 2020, which is not good news for us. But based on ECHR practice, we are confident that it will respect transgender rights. We will also take more cases to this court and represent people who are specifically affected by this law. We want to put pressure on the Court to make a decision as soon as possible.

    We also continue to engage with EU human rights mechanisms, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. We got CSOs to sign a statement to put pressure on the European Commission (EC), which so far has been silent on this. We want to make sure that what happened in Hungary doesn’t happen in other countries, so we have created a civil society alliance to convey the message that if other governments try to do the same, they will face huge resistance. And of course, we keep trying to engage with the ministries, although we have sent them letters and have received no response. 

    How can an increasingly authoritarian government like Hungary’s be held accountable for its actions? 

    We have tried to engage directly with the government to hold it accountable, but it has not worked so far. We represent a minority group and cannot fight this government alone. But international institutions do sometimes influence the government's actions. We hope that a court decision from the ECHR or the Constitutional Court would have an effect. 

    Unfortunately, what we have seen since 2010 is that the way it is designed, the EU cannot take definitive action against a country, especially if it is not alone. And this is the case here, as Poland and Hungary always back each other. People believe that the EU lacks political will to take action. We cannot repeat often enough that the EU should cut off funding, because Hungary is living on EU money and if it cuts off funding the government would start to behave differently. But the EU refuses to do it. 

    The EU should act not only on this specific legislation but also on other, bigger issues related to the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary. It should do something about its own member states, or else it should not pass comment on any non-EU country. The fact that the EC fails to mention Hungary explicitly is outrageous. When the Authorisation Act was passed in late March, giving Prime Minister Orbán extra powers to fight the pandemic, EC President Ursula von der Leyen made a statement that was clearly about Hungary, but did not mention it by name, and then Hungary was a signatory to the statement. The EC’s Commissioner for Equality was recently asked to condemn Hungary for the anti-transgender amendment and she refused to do so; instead, she decided to speak about trans rights in general. This is something that we cannot accept.

    The EU should not just speak up, but also act on Hungary and Poland. If the EC keeps refusing to address the situation on the ground, then we really don’t know where else to go. Thus far, the government has followed ECHR decisions, but it has stopped following Hungarian court decisions just this year, which is very worrying. In 2018 there was a Constitutional Court decision in the case of a transgender refugee that required parliament to enact legislation on legal gender recognition for non-Hungarian citizens, which it has not yet done.

    What support do Hungarian CSOs need from international civil society?

    It is important to attempt to unify the different movements and to act as bridge between them and I think international CSOs can play a role in this. As a trans organisation we are responsible for trans people, but trans people come in all sizes and shapes – there are migrant trans people, Roma trans people, disabled trans people – and we all have to come together. Also, while trans people are currently under attack in Hungary, we don't know which vulnerable group is next on the list, and I think international CSOs should focus on everyone. They also need to assist in raising awareness in international institutions – in Hungary, for example, international pressure is important because Orbán still sometimes cares about how Hungary is perceived. So the engagement that comes from the international community is helpful. International civil society can also assist in presenting good examples, because the better the situation is in other countries for trans people, the more shame it can bring to the Hungarian government. But if other EU countries start to follow Hungary, then the government will get away with this. Organisations like CIVICUS can bring CSOs together.

    Civic space in Hungary is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor. Hungary also currently features on our Civic Space Watchlist.
    Get in touch with theTransvanilla Transgender Association through itswebsite andFacebook page, or follow@Transvanilla on Twitter and@transvanilla.official on Instagram.

     

     

  • International NGOs should ensure women are at the centre of daily operations

    By Mouna Ben Garga (CIVICUS) and Ngozi Izuora (Innovation for Change- Hub Afrique)

    Many states are known for their strategy to exploit women’s rights for political purposes. But, the international community practices are not that different either–not to the same end for sure. If international NGOs (INGOs) keep using the strategies and approaches they are using now to fight against gender inequality, progress on gender parity will surely grind to a halt and we will need another 200 years to close the gap.

    Read on: Disrupt and Innovate 

     

     

  • LEBANON: ‘Change begins by handing over the mic to grassroots feminist organisations’

    In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of theBeijing Platform for Action, due in September 2020,CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the progress achieved and the challenges ahead. Focused on eliminating violence against women, ensuring access to family planning and reproductive healthcare, removing barriers to women’s participation in decision-making and providing decent jobs and equal pay for equal work, the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted at the United Nations’ (UN)Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. After 25 years, significant but unequal progress has occurred, not least as the result of incessant civil society efforts, but no country has yet achieved gender equality.

    CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) speak to Hayat Mirshad, a feminist journalist and activist and head of communications and campaigning withThe Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering (RDFL), a feminist and secular civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for women’s rights. Founded in 1976 and based on volunteerism, RDFL is one of the oldest feminist organisations in Lebanon. It advocates for the elimination of gender-based violence (GBV) and all forms of discrimination and seeks to achieve full citizenship for women. It has held many successful campaigns, including the #NotBefore18 campaign, launched in 2017, which led to the Lebanese parliament introducing a bill, currently under parliamentary consideration, to set the minimum age of marriage at 18.

    HayatMirshad

     

  • TUNISIA: ‘The official response has failed to consider the gendered aspects of the pandemic’

    In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of theBeijing Platform for Action, due in September 2020, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the progress achieved and the challenges ahead. Focused on eliminating violence against women, ensuring access to family planning and reproductive healthcare, removing barriers to women’s participation in decision-making and providing decent jobs and equal pay for equal work, the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted at the United Nations’ (UN)Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. After 25 years, significant but unequal progress has occurred, not least as the result of incessant civil society efforts, but no country has yet achieved gender equality.

    CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) speak to Ramy Khouili, director of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates, ATFD). Founded in 1989 by the autonomous feminist movement in response to state feminism, ATFD promotes gender equality in all areas, from the political sphere to socio-economic rights, including women’s sexual, bodily and reproductive rights, and fights against all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

    Tunisia Interview

    What is the situation of women’s rights in Tunisia? How much has been achieved so far?

    About a month after independence in 1956, the Code of Personal Status was enacted. Up until now, it is still seen as the most progressive and revolutionary personal status code in the region because it abolished polygamy, instituted civil marriage and abolished repudiation and many forms of degradation of women. Ever since then, we had a very peculiar situation, as state feminism prevailed in the public sphere. We lived under a dictatorship for almost 50 years, but Tunisia was always praised as a good example when it came to women’s rights in the region. That praise took women hostage, denying them the right to real equality. So an autonomous feminist movement was founded and it made it its mission to denounce that the situation was not as good as the regime presented, which caused it a lot of trouble.

    Following the 2011 revolution there was a comeback of Islamist and conservative groups, and women’s rights were thus threatened. Between 2011 and 2014, during the process to draft a new constitution, the Islamist majority tried to impose a new concept of ‘complementarity’, instead of equality, between women and men. It took a lot of efforts from civil society organisations (CSOs) and street mobilisations to challenge this. As a result, Article 21 of the Tunisian Constitution now clearly states that women and men are equal before the law and prohibits any form of discrimination.

    It took a social movement to come up with a Constitution that is widely hailed as the most progressive in the region. A last-minute addition, Article 46, recognises the role of the state in fighting violence against women, establishes that the state has a responsibility to promote and protect the rights of women and prohibits any regression in women’s rights.

    Since then we have achieved many further legal changes. An anti-human trafficking law was passed in 2016 and an anti-violence law was approved in 2017, which was the first of its kind in the region and was mostly written by civil society activists and feminist organisations. In terms of political representation, the law on political parties enacted in 2011 established that all electoral lists must have gender parity. 

    What challenges remain?

    On the ground, the situation is different from the law, as inequalities are still very present. Many discriminations persist in practice. Statistics are alarming. Half of all women have been victims of some form of violence. Socio-economic crises have worse impacts on women than on men. Among women, the unemployment rate is almost double the rate for men. Women’s access to land is limited: only four per cent of women own land, although they make up almost 90 per cent of the agricultural labour force. 

    For a long time, Tunisia was known as the good example when it came to family planning and reproductive health, as family planning and reproductive health programmes were established in the 1950s and 1960s, and women were granted abortion rights in the early 1970s, even before many European countries. But since the revolution, we have noticed that state authorities have taken a step back when it comes to social services, especially in the areas of education, health and sexual and reproductive health. Access to contraceptives and abortion is becoming more limited, and unmet needs in terms of sexual and reproductive rights are increasing, which is alarming.

    In 2019 we submitted, along with other Tunisian CSOs, a shadow report tracking progress towards the goals of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and laying out the challenges ahead. Our report presented a very different view from the Tunisian government’s. One of our biggest concerns is that Tunisia is a Muslim-majority country and that when the Beijing Platform for Action and Action Plan were adopted, the state of Tunisia submitted a declaration – common to other Muslim-majority countries – saying that it would not commit to any measures that might contradict the values of Islam. Article 1 of the new Constitution states that Tunisia is a Muslim country. That declaration is still in place. Although the state of Tunisia has lifted most of its reservations on the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, it didn’t lift its reservations on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. So challenges remain both in law and practice.

    How has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated those challenges, and what is civil society doing to address them?

    At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the ATFD issued a warning to the Tunisian authorities stating our concerns about the period of lockdown, when many women would have to stay at home with their aggressors. We were right, as the number of instances of gender-based violence kept rising under lockdown. The Ministry of Women Affairs said that the amount of calls received through the emergency phone line set up by the government had multiplied fivefold. In our counselling centres we also witnessed a peak, as the number of women who were victims of violence and sought our help increased. The situation got more difficult as people started getting more aggressive. But at the same time, it became much more difficult to go to a police station or seek health services, so access to services decreased. Women have felt isolated and compelled to continue living with their aggressors during lockdown.

    Most of the courts were also closed during lockdown and we had to lobby with the high council of the judicial system and the Minister of Justice to include cases of violence against women amongst the emergency cases they were tackling during lockdown. Fortunately, they accepted. 

    Access to sexual and reproductive health services was also affected because women could not get out and seek these services for fear of the virus. We had to collaborate with the Minister of Health and Women Affairs to find solutions for this situation and we are now trying to find a way to ensure the continuity of reproductive health services.

    In addition, the socio-economic rights of women have been further impacted upon. Due to the economic crisis that came with the pandemic, many women lost their jobs, or are not getting paid. Many women in Tunisia work in the informal sector so they could not continue their work and were left without any income. This is affecting their ability to take care of themselves and their families. We have been working with a group of women domestic workers on a study about the situation of domestic workers in Tunisia. The situation is really alarming because domestic workers cannot work during lockdown and have no other source of income. Although the informal sector represents a large part of the economy, the relief measures adopted by the government only apply to the formal sector. In addition, government aid was given to families, but according to Tunisian law it is men who are the head of the family, so money goes mostly to men. In cases of conflict, violence or separation, women won’t have access to government aid.

    We have done a lot of advocacy with the authorities because the official response has failed to consider the gendered aspects of the pandemic. We have worked with most ministries. We met with most ministerial departments to raise awareness. We sent policy papers and open letters. We continued to deliver services in our counselling centres, which are still operating. We also adapted these services to be delivered by phone. We launched a campaign on violence against women during the pandemic, which was followed by thousands of people and was a big success. As a result, the Middle East and North Africa region department of Facebook got in touch with us and now we are working in partnership with them to increase audiences for future campaigns. We will also establish communication channels with Facebook to report violence and hatred on social media.

    What restrictions on the freedoms to organise, speak up and protest have you faced during the pandemic, and what are you doing to overcome them?

    We haven’t faced restrictions from the government, although our presence in the public space has been affected because it is not possible to hold demonstrations. Demonstrations are something that we are used to doing, because it works to occupy the public space and say, ‘we are here and we are asking for this and that’. This is something we now cannot do, but we are moving to a new phase of the lockdown and it might soon start to get a little easier, so we are thinking of new ways to protest while respecting social distancing. We are reflecting on how to adapt our mobilisation tactics. We are focusing on social media as well as traditional media to communicate our messages and talk about the problems we face, to reach out to the highest possible number of people. We are also attempting to diversify our ways of communication to reach out to different categories of target groups.

    We are also establishing a coalition with the journalists’ trade union, the Tunisian League of Human Rights and other organisations to work on the human rights impacts of response to the pandemic.

    Many donors and partners have been very flexible because it was obvious that we could not continue acting as if nothing had changed. We had to adapt many of our activities, postpone others and relocate budget towards social aid. Most of our partners were very understanding and we have had good discussions with them to readjust our plans to the situation created by the pandemic. However, we also had issues with donors who decreased salaries for this period.

    Besides tackling the urgent issues, we are also in a process of reflection internally and with our partners and allies. We want to see some positive change as a result of the pandemic. We want a more just and equal society in which everyone feels included. The pandemic has revealed some underlying issues that the government chose to ignore for a long time, but that now will need to be addressed, such as a failing healthcare system.

    What support does Tunisian civil society need from the international community?

    The main form of support is to work together. We have to work together because we have the knowledge from the ground, while international organisations have bigger networks and are able to work in a variety of contexts and have access to international mechanisms and the ability to influence the international agenda. For an effective partnership, we must work together to influence both the national and the international levels. The pandemic has shown us that some of the big issues cannot be tackled at the national level, but that we should also work at the international level and in collaboration with regional networks. If the two are put together I think we can achieve greater impact. 

    Civic space in Tunisia is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with theTunisian Association of Democratic Womenthrough itsFacebook page and follow@atfd_tunisie on Twitter andfemmes_democrates on Instagram.

     

     

  • TURKEY: ‘If we withdraw from Istanbul Convention, it means we don't believe in gender equality’

    In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of theBeijing Platform for Action, due in September 2020, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the progress achieved and the challenges ahead. Focused on eliminating violence against women (VAW), ensuring access to family planning and reproductive healthcare, removing barriers to women’s participation in decision-making and providing decent jobs and equal pay for equal work, the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted at the United Nations’ (UN)Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. After 25 years, significant but unequal progress has occurred, not least as the result of incessant civil society efforts, but no country has yet achieved gender equality.

     

  • Why do we need to #RewriteHerStory?

    Female leaders in 2018 top films were 4 times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing. Did you notice? This is one of the striking findings of Plan International’s “Rewrite Her Story” research.

    Rewriteherstory

    This new report is the second phase of a research project looking at female leadership. It focuses on the role of media in shaping girls’ and young women’s ambitions and aspirations to leadership and includes an analysis of 56 top-grossing films in 2018 across 20 countries.

    The results resonate with our diverse experiences from across the world. We are a group of youth advocates advising Plan International on the Girls Get Equal campaign.

    In Malawi, for example, most of the award-winning movies are directed by men, and most are about the plight of women. We see sad movies sensationalising women’s poor plight, and even female directors perpetuating stereotypes such as the cheating man with a sad stay-at-home wife waiting for his return. There is no space for the reframing of storytelling of women and girls.

    In Bangladesh’s cinema industry, only one superhero movie featured a female protagonist. A similar picture is painted in Hollywood with only two blockbuster superhero movies featuring female protagonists in 2018.

    If so few women are in these powerful roles, then how can girls perceive women as equally powerful as men? To young people, power in superhero movies is defined in “making the impossible possible”, with simple mechanics like shooting lasers out of one’s eyes. Women who are not superheroes will never shoot lasers out of their eyes – or feel they can tackle the impossible. This perception is internalized while growing up.

    In Germany, decisionmakers in media tend to duck away from their responsibility to tackle gender inequality through ensuring equal gender representation. In Sudan, women with light skin tones, in passive roles, wearing a lot of makeup while serving as a background decoration are the preferred way to see women on screen.

    These are just a few examples from the countries where we are from. In all of these countries and many others, it is clear that media is often the creator of public opinion, and is a great vehicle to influence gender roles. However, this relationship is often not recognized as a responsibility by stakeholders. How does this gap emerge? If a problem arises and the solution is at your hands, why not act?

    Power-holders still attribute the responsibility to society and the consuming public itself. It is said that there is simply no demand for films with strong women but this is not true. The ‘Rewrite Her Story’ report shows that girls would love to see these inspirational characters. . We cannot expect change from consumers alone, it’s time to request it directly from the content creators.

    Apart from finally acknowledging the responsibility of all involved in the film industry and creation of media content, certain inclusion targets need to be set. As Justin Trudeau recognised: “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice”.

    For the media landscape to perform an overall change, governmental involvement and collaborations with media stakeholders is required. Policies and legislation need to ban the constant reinforcement of gender stereotypes and make sure that the stories of the millions of women and girls of the world are being told.

    Girls and young women need to be supported to create content and we need more women in media production roles. Let’s have more women superheroes and leaders and less obvious, stereotypical female characters. Media can be a very effective tool by intentionally breaking the stereotypes that diminish girls until it woman leaders and influencers are a realistic image for each and every girl.

    Women and girls around the globe are heroes who drive solutions, and we need to show this in media and entertainment.

    This Day of the Girl we are coming together in Stockholm for the annual Girls Get Equal Live summit where we will meet with decision-makers in the media and share these recommendations. We hope you tune in online and tell us how you want to #RewriteHerStory.


    By

    Kim from Germany, Memory and Matilda from Malawi, Razan from Sudan and Sifat from Bangladesh.

     

  • WOMEN’S RIGHTS: ‘At this pace, it will take us nearly a century to reach equality’

    In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of theBeijing Platform for Action, due in September 2020, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the progress achieved and the challenges ahead. Focused on eliminating violence against women, ensuring access to family planning and reproductive healthcare, removing barriers to women’s participation in decision-making, providing decent jobs and equal pay for equal work, the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted at the United Nations’ (UN)Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. After 25 years, significant but unequal progress has occurred, not least as the result of incessant civil society efforts, but no single country has yet achieved gender equality.

    CIVICUS speaks with Serap Altinisik, Head of Plan International’s European Union (EU) Office and EU Representative. Previously, in her role as Programme Director at the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), Serap led EWL’s 50/50 Campaign, ‘No Modern Democracy without Gender Equality’, across Europe. She also recently became a member of the CIVICUS Board.

    Serap Altinisik

    A quarter of a century later, how much of the promise contained in the Beijing Platform for Action has translated into real changes? What needs to be done now so that Goal 5 on gender equality of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is achieved by 2030?

    2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the most visionary agenda for girls’ and women’s rights. 2020 also marks the countdown of a decade left to achieve the SDGs.

    Over the past decades there has been some clear, measurable progress towards gender equality. For example, 131 countries have enacted 274 legal and regulatory reforms in support of gender equality, maternal mortality has decreased by at least 45 per cent, primary school enrolment for girls and boys has almost equalised and approximately 25 per cent of seats in national legislative bodies are held by women, a number that has doubled over the past few decades.

    However, 25 years after UN member states committed to achieving gender equality and five years into the SDGs, no country has fully achieved the promise of gender equality. If governments continue at this pace, it will take us nearly a century to reach that goal.

    To achieve SDG 5, I agree with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who has called for a decade of action on meeting the SDGs, and wants to make this the century of gender equality. Retrospectively, gender inequality is one of the things that will shame us the most about the 21st century.

    Governments have to invest in consistent gender equality, which consequently means not only enacting laws and regulations but also implementing gender-responsive budgeting consistently. Research shows that where investments are consistent, girls’ and women’s rights are on the rise. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. When adopting regulations and laws, governments need to use a life-cycle approach to address the specific needs of women in each stage of a woman’s life. If we wish to measure and increase progress and learn from data, then data has to be disaggregated according to age, gender, disability and ethnicity, among other things.

    Nonetheless, the most persistent factors that are holding back girls and women to lead, decide and thrive equally as boys and men are social norms, stereotypes and sexism. Studies and experiences of girls and women showcase that household-level practices in many countries subordinate women even when they are educated, even when they are in the workforce and even when they serve in government. Given that the personal is political, as the slogan from the feminist movement of the 1960s put it, gender equality and girls’ and women’s rights have to be a priority in politics, economics, practices and social norms – and this starts at home. It cannot be an add-on if the goal is to achieve the promise of gender equality fully by 2030.

    Looking back on 2019, what would you say have been the main successes and challenges in the struggle for gender equality and women’s rights?

    The rise of authoritarian leaders and the establishment of right-wing governments are preparing a fertile ground for violence and discrimination against girls and women. Therefore, we have seen pushbacks, with attacks on hard-won gains in girls’ and women’s rights in both the global north and global south in recent years. Conflict and humanitarian crises have become more complex and protracted over the past years, and women and girls have found themselves facing the most risks. Unfortunately, discrimination, poverty and violence are still in the lives of girls and women worldwide. It seems that misogyny accompanied with racism is on the rise, while the space for civil society is being increasingly crushed.

    Yet across the world girls and women are raising their voices, collaborating and showing solidarity, and are not willing to wait for change and gender justice any longer. In this, women’s rights organisations and feminist leaders are playing a vital role!

    I am aware that by only mentioning a few successes, I might not do justice to so many other success stories. Nevertheless, for me the main successes have been diverse and inspiring, such as, for example, the first ever woman leading the European Commission since its existence; Sudan's female protesters leading the pro-democracy movement; young women leading the environmental movement; girls and women resisting across the continents. They are challenging the status quo and are at the forefront in highlighting that another world is possible.

    Their actions are changing not only laws and regulations and bringing new deals to the centre – such as the European Green Deal by the EU and the ambition to have equal representation across EU institutions – but they are also shifting social norms and are contributing to the ‘new normal’ in which girls and women can shape the world, too.

    You have been personally involved in theFair Share initiative. What would be a ‘fair share’ of women representation and female leadership, and why is it important that we achieve it?

    Fair Share of Women Leaders is a civil society organisation that seeks to test and showcase new forms of governance that reflect feminist values and principles and overcome some of the pitfalls of power imbalance, hierarchy and bureaucracy of traditional governance mechanisms. We push for proportionate representation of women in leadership roles in the social sector – a goal that we want to achieve by 2030 at the latest.

    Although women make up nearly 70 per cent of the global social impact workforce, they hold less than 30 per cent of the top leadership positions in their organisations. This lack of diverse voices in key decision-making positions undermines the impact organisations have towards achieving SDG 5. In the wake of #MeToo and a number of sexual abuse scandals in civil society, many organisations have had to rethink their strategies. Our sphere needs to start systematically promoting women’s leadership as a lever of change.

    Of course, I have to acknowledge that a lot is positively changing within civil society. Some civil society organisations have committed to developing an organisational and leadership culture that values gender equal representation, diversity and participatory decision-making, but we have still ourselves a long way to go to achieve gender equality. We have to live up to our values if we want to be legitimately asking for positive change in the world. We have to be the change if we wish to see it.

    To push for this change, Fair Share monitors the number of women in leadership to hold civil society accountable, promotes feminist leadership and mobilises men and women to create feminist organisations, and seeks to create opportunities for women from diverse economic and social backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities who are currently less likely to be in leadership positions.

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