EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON GENDER AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
(Zagreb, Croatia, 21- 24 November 2000)
The Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), will convene an expert group meeting on the theme of "Gender and racial discrimination", which will be hosted by the Government of Croatia in Zagreb, Croatia and take place from 21 to 24 November 2000.
The results of the meeting will be made available to the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-fifth session which meets in March 2001where it will take up, inter alia, the thematic issue of gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It is also anticipated that the recommendations of the expert group meeting will be integrated into the preparations for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, as well as the World Conference itself which will be convened in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 7 September 2001.
The recommendations of the expert group meeting should also be of value to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and other treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as they elaborate the obligations of States parties to these instruments to ensure that women are not affected by the double burden of sex and racial discrimination and are free from the effects of xenophobia and related intolerance. In addition, the recommendations should inform the work of the Commission on Human Rights, including that of the thematic and country-specific rapporteurs and working groups.
There is an increasing perception that various types of discrimination do not affect women and men in the same way. The Beijing Platform for Action drew attention that cross-cutting factors, such as age, disability, socio-economic position or belonging to a particular ethnic or racial group, when compounded with discrimination on the basis of sex, create particular barriers for women who frequently experience multiple disadvantages. It noted, for example, that indigenous women often faced barriers both as women, and as members of indigenous communities, and older women and women with disabilities were frequently subjected to double discrimination.
The Commission on the Status of Women considered the human rights of older women as an emerging issue at its forty-second session, and under the item on the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women at its forty-third session. Disability was a priority theme of the Commission at its thirty-fifth session.
The combined effects of sex and racial discrimination on the advancement of women and the achievement of their equality with men have been considered in the context of several meetings hosted by entities of the United Nations system. These, for example, include expert group meetings convened by the Division for the Advancement of Women such as the Expert Group Meeting on Refugee Women and Children in 1990 and the Expert Group Meeting on Gender-based Persecution convened in collaboration with the Centre for Refugee Studies, at York University, Canada in 1997. Some of the effects of racism and racial discrimination on the empowerment and advancement of women and girls, especially in the context of violence against them, were also addressed in the "Further initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action", adopted by the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly in June 2000.
The intersection of sex and racial discrimination and its consequences have not been subject to detailed and in-depth consideration. New and emerging manifestations of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the difficulties that women might encounter in that respect have not been analysed substantively. Accordingly, the Commission on the Status of Women decided to consider the issue of gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance at its forty-fifth session in March 2001.
The purpose of these initiatives has been to give new momentum to the political commitment to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of all, without distinction. However, the overall protection and promotion of human rights do not ensure womens equal enjoyment of these rights and fundamental freedoms. If this goal is to be achieved, international human rights instruments, policies and programmes must be devised and applied in such a way that various forms of discrimination against women should be considered through a gender lens.
In the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted in Beijing, the Governments also committed themselves to the promotion of active and visible policy of gender mainstreaming into all policies and programmes, including the human rights of women. This was further emphasized by the ECOSOC in its agreed conclusions 1997/2 on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system.
At its fifty-sixth session in March 2000, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted a general recommendation on gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination (CERD/C/56/Misc.21/Rev.3). The recommendation acknowledged that racial discrimination does not always affect women and men equally or in the same way and that there are circumstances in which racial discrimination only or primarily, affects women, or affects women in a different way than men.
In addition, it is important to ensure that the forthcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and The Related Intolerance in 2001 and the International Year of Mobilization against these ills would pay specific attention to the issues of gender in considering its themes.
Various types of discrimination do not always affect women and men equally or in the same way. Moreover, gender discrimination may be intensified and facilitated by racism, such as sexual violence against women of particular racial groups especially during armed conflicts. Xenophobia and immigration status might further aggravate economic disadvantages faced by women in the labour markets, particular in the informal sector, as in the case of migrant women domestic workers who frequently lack job security and are denied labour related rights. In addition, the structural imbalance of power between men and women and the low participation of women in decision-making at all levels and areas, including the law creation, reflects disproportionately the experience of men and excludes the needs, interests and concerns of women, particularly indigenous women.
Without gender analysis of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, violation of the human rights of women escapes detection. Remedies to address racism may also fail to meet the needs of women and girls, and accordingly the effects of racism for them may persist.
The topics to be considered at the meeting will include:
- ethnic/gender based violence against women, including sexual violence, in situations of armed conflict or perpetrated against women refugees and those who are internally displaced;
- traffic in women and girls and the exploitation of prostitution;
- the situation of migrant and indigenous women workers in the labour market, including in the informal sector.
The recommendations of the expert group meeting will be directed to Governments, the United Nations system, intergovernmental and regional bodies and civil society. They will aim to refine and expand the "actions to be taken" at both international and national levels outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as the further actions identified by the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5.
IV. Background documentation and profile of participants
The documentation for the meeting will consist of:
Eight to ten experts will be appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to participate in the expert group meeting. They will be chosen on the basis of their professional standing among national, regional and international human rights institutions, academe and research institutions. Participants will also include practitioners and non-governmental organizations concerned with human rights, development, refugee and humanitarian issues. In selecting the experts, criteria of geographical and gender-balance will be respected. In addition, observers from United Nations entities, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, research organizations and interested Governments will attend.
The meeting will be organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Development Fund for Women.
The meeting will meet in plenary and in working groups. In an opening plenary meeting, a background presentation will create a conceptual framework for the discussion. The plenary would be followed by an in-depth discussion on specific issues in working groups where the participants would also present their short papers. On the last day of the meeting the participants would adopt the final report that would contain the main conclusions and recommendations of the meeting.
VI. Administrative arrangements
The meeting will be conducted in English. The costs of participation of experts invited by the Secretariat will be covered by the United Nations (travel cost in economy class and daily subsistence allowance). The government of Croatia will provide logistical support.
All correspondence should be addressed to:
Ms. Jane Connors
Chief, Womens Rights Unit
Division for the Advancement of Women
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Two UN Plaza Room DC2-1226
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 963 3162
Fax: (212) 963 3463
Ms. Natalia Zakharova, DAW/DESA
Two UN Plaza Room DC2-1246
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 963 8134
Fax: (212) 963 3463