The ACT Alliance oral statement was delivered by the Regional Representative – Asia/Pacific, Anoop Sukumaran (photo) to the 61st session of the Commission on the status of Women in the United Nations General Assembly hall.
Respected Chair, your Excellences, thank you for this opportunity in a growing environment where the space for civil society is increasingly shrinking.
I represent the ACT Alliance, a coalition of 144 churches and faith-based organizations working together in over 140 countries. The Act Alliance works on Humanitarian Action, Development, Advocacy and human rights. The alliance is committed to respect, and protecting the dignity, intrinsic worth and human rights of every woman, man, girl and boy.
The ACT Alliance recognizes commitments to gender equality and justice in existing international instruments and development frameworks such as the CEDAW; the Beijing Platform for Action and resolutions on Women, Peace and Security; the call for systematic transformational change for women and girls’ well-being in the roll-out of Agenda 2030.
Gender equality is not only a basic right, it is also essential for achieving sustained socio-economic growth. Legal frameworks are necessary and crucial for the achievement of gender justice, however, parallel legal systems based on custom or religion are excessively influential in many countries which negatively impact upon women’s legal rights and economic empowerment. Child marriage, and other harmful practices, which are often upheld by customary law practices, hinder education and sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. A re-engagement with the parallel legal systems and re-interpretations of religious narratives is crucial for ensuring women’s and girls’ economic empowerment, and can lead to effectively challenging and ultimately dismantling patriarchy.
ACT Alliance emphasizes the positive role that faith, and communities of faith, can play in achieving gender justice. ACT is a progressive faith voice advocating globally on gender justice to counter the misuse of religion by certain groups that undermine the rights of women and girls.
Collaborative efforts to empower women as actors in the political sphere must also include engagement of men and boys to address harmful and discriminatory social norms and practices. Furthermore, we need to recognize the need for women to have an equal social and legal status so that we, as women, can powerfully participate in the full realization of human rights and in the fulfillment of Agenda 2030.
Maternal health and sexual and reproductive health are basic rights for all. Access to sexual and reproductive health rights is a prerequisite of girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment. A reduction in the number of maternal deaths will not be achieved without fulfilment of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights. Act Alliance believes that the inclusion of family planning, age-of-consent minimums, access to sexual and reproductive health care and context-appropriate comprehensive sexual education are all essential elements that need further consideration. We know these are expressed in Goal 3 and 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, and advances this dialogue, but more action is required, and the time is now. Controversy over the social, religious and cultural dimensions of sexual and reproductive health rights and subsequent inaction in addressing them has had a detrimental impact on social equity and sustainable development.
We welcome the increased interest of UN delegations in listening to the breadth of religious voices present at CSW and beyond.
We urge CSW to work to:
- Depoliticize women’s health and provide equal access to health systems, including sexual and reproductive health rights.
- Support and implement policies and legal frameworks of prevention and response to gender-based violence.
- Equal access to an enabling environment for civil society organizations in general and specifically those addressing the issues regarding equal rights and participation of women.
A short video of the ACT Alliance oral statement that was delivered by the Regional Representative – Asia/Pacific, Anoop Sukumaran to the 61st session of the Commission on the status of Women in the United Nations General Assembly hall.