Gender and racial discrimination
Report of the Expert Group Meeting
21-24 November 2000
Historically, gender and other forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination, have been considered in parallel. However, interlinked and mutually reinforcing trends, including recommendations of United Nations conferences and summits, have increased the demand for a more comprehensive analysis of the dynamics of discrimination against women, including the intersection of the various different forms of such discrimination. The Fourth World Conference on Women provided the context for increased perception that various types of discrimination may affect women and men differently. The Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at that Conference, drew attention to the fact that factors such as age, disability, socio-economic position or belonging to a particular ethnic or racial group, could compound with discrimination on the basis of sex and create multiple barriers for womens empowerment and advancement. It also made clear that gender discrimination may be intensified and facilitated by these and other factors, and that without explicit recognition and focused monitoring of the different life experiences of women and men in private and public life, other forms of discrimination could escape detection and, therefore, appropriate remedy.
The combined effects of racial and gender discrimination on the advancement of women and their achievement of equality with men have attracted increasing attention, particularly in the implementation of the critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, and in relation to substantive issues such as migration, including violence against women migrant workers and trafficking in women and girls. The Economic and Social Councils agreed conclusions 1997/2 and preparations for the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001, have also given greater prominence to the combined effects on women of gender and racial discrimination. Thus, 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 (ICERD/C/56/Misc.21/Rev.3). The special session of the General Assembly on "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century" (June 2000) made several recommendations directed at the elimination of racially motivated violence against women and girls.
Recognizing that gender discrimination may combine with other forms of discrimination and present particular obstacles for women, the Commission on the Status of Women decided to consider the issue of gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as a priority theme in its work programme for the year 2001. The United Nations 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), organized an Expert Group Meeting on "Gender and Racial Discrimination" to contribute to further understanding of this issue, and provide input into the report of the Secretary-General to the Commission at its forty-fifth session, as well as to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The meeting was hosted by the Government of Croatia and took place in Zagreb, Croatia from 21 to 24 November 2000.
The meeting considered three topics: the intersection of gender and racial discrimination directed towards women and girls, such as ethnic based violence and trafficking; the disadvantages, obstacles and difficulties women face in the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights as a result of the intersection of racial and sex discrimination both in public and private domain; and measures to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and their specific effects on women and girls and provision of remedies and redress.
II. Organization of work
The Expert Group Meeting on "Gender and Racial Discrimination" was held in Zagreb (Croatia) from 21 to 24 November 2000. It was organized by 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). The Government of Croatia hosted the meeting, which was
attended by 13 experts from different regions, and 33 observers from Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations (see annex I for the full list of participants).
The documentation of the meeting comprised three background papers (one prepared by a consultant, one prepared by the Division for the Advancement of Women and one prepared by UNIFEM); twelve papers by experts; two by observers and one statement (see annex II). In view of their relevance to the issues under discussion, a number of United Nations documents and other reference papers were made available.
This report and all documentation of the meeting are available on-line at the DAW website:
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/ C. Programme of work
C. Programme of work
At its opening session on 21 November 2000, the meeting adopted the following programme of work as follows (see annex III):
Opening of the meeting and opening statements
Election of offices
Adoption of programme of work
Presentation of papers:
observers papers and statements
General discussionWorking group discussion on
Presentation of reports from working groups
Adoption of the report of the meeting
Closing of the Expert Group Meeting
D. Election of officers
At its opening session, the meeting elected the following officers:
Chairperson: Ms. Marsha J. Darling (United States of America)
Vice-chairperson: Ms. Ruth Manorama (India)
Rapporteur: Ms. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (United States of America).
E. Opening statements
The Expert Group Meeting was opened by Ms. Zeljika Antunovic, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and President of the Commission of the Republic of Croatia for Gender Equality Issues. She welcomed the participants on behalf of her Government and underlined the importance of the meeting and its recommendations for the advancement of women and the achievement of the goals of gender equality, particularly in the context of the forthcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. She emphasized the relevance of the meeting for Croatia as the Government had begun elaboration of its National Policy for Promotion of Equality for the period 2001 - 2005.
In her opening statement, Ms. Yakin Ertürk, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, placed the subject in the context of globalization which she noted was diversifying womens participation in the labour market across national boundaries and thereby increased the potential for women to encounter multiple forms of discrimination She indicated that the Beijing Platform for Action provided the framework for the recognition of multiple and co-existing forms of discrimination resulting in multiple disadvantage. She reminded participants that the combined effects of gender and racial discrimination on the advancement of women, and the achievement of gender equality have been considered in the context of three of the critical areas of concern identified in the Platform for Action: violence against women, women and armed conflict and the human rights of women. The intersection of gender and racial discrimination had also been of relevance in regard to trafficking in women and children and migration.
The Director of the Division indicated that the impact of gender and racial discrimination on women had not been subject to detailed and in-depth consideration at the international level, but that it was now attracting greater attention. In March 2000, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had adopted a general recommendation on gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination, in which it emphasized 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. The "outcome document" of the special session on Beijing+5 demanded that Governments take measures to address racism and racially motivated violence against women and girls and support for NGO programmes which address all forms of violence against women and girls, including that which was race or ethnic-based.
The Director of the Division expressed the hope that the expert group meeting would provide an opportunity to identify how racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance impact on women and girls, and the implementation of the recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action. She assured participants that the results of the meeting would be submitted to the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-fifth session in March 2001 where it would take up, inter alia, the thematic issue of gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Opening statements were also made by Ms. Madeleine Rees on behalf of the OHCHR, Ms. Roxanna Carrillo on behalf of the UNIFEM, and by Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women. Mrs. Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also welcomed participants in a video message.
F. Working groups
The Expert Group Meeting established two working groups to consider the issues of gender and racial discrimination and develop the recommendations for action at the national and international levels.
Working group I on definitional parameters of the intersection of gender and racial discrimination and its impact on women and girls was chaired by Ms.Vera Chirwa, (Malawi); Ms. Ruth Manorama (India) served as rapporteur. Working group II on the disadvantages, obstacles and difficulties women face as a result of the intersection of racial and sex discrimination and measures to eradicate them, including the provision of remedies, was chaired by Ms. Pinar Ilkkaracan (Turkey); Ms. Pragna Patel (United Kingdom) served as rapporteur.
III. SUMMARY OF THE DEBATE
Respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion is established in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations as one of the purposes of the Organization. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and a large part of the policy, normative and operational work of the United Nations has been directed towards the elimination of discrimination.
Many forms of discrimination continue to be practised worldwide: in all regions of the world, people are denied equal rights to franchise, political participation and the exercise of citizenship because of some real or perceived distinction. They may be denied equal rights to food, shelter, work, health care, education or credit. Discrimination is the most fundamental cause of human rights violations, and is frequently manifested and sustained through the use of violence. The many atrocities of the twentieth century, including genocide, testify to how distinctions can be manipulated to produce tragic results.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated that discrimination should be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property birth or other status, and which has the purpose of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing of all rights and freedoms. The categorization of others as inferior and undeserving of equal treatment or equal enjoyment of rights has been used to justify discriminatory behaviour and practice.
Efforts to eradicate discrimination have long been high on the agenda of the international community, in particular, the United Nations. Racism and racial discrimination were the subjects of the United Nations Declaration adopted in 1963, and a Convention, adopted two years later. Two Decades to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination followed, the first beginning in 1973, and the second in 1983, both of which included a World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. In 1993, the Third United Nations Decade on Racism was initiated and one year later a Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights. In 1997, the General Assembly declared 2001 to be the International Year of Mobilization Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and called for the Third World Conference to be convened during that year. Official preparatory committees for this Conference have met, and many associated events have been organized by the United Nations, other intergovernmental bodies, Governments and civil society, including non-governmental organizations.
United Nations efforts to address sex discrimination, or discrimination on the basis of gender, have proceeded on a separate, but parallel track. The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the General Assembly in 1967, and the Convention in 1979. In 1975, the First World Conference on Women was held in Mexico City which led to the United Nations Decade for the Advancement of Women (1976-85), followed by three World Conferences on Women in 1980, 1985 and 1995. The most recent of these Conferences, held in Beijing, attracted the largest participation of any United Nations World Conference, and adopted the Platform for Action, the comprehensive plan of action to enhance the social, economic and political empowerment of women. The Platform was reaffirmed and strengthened by the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly Beijing+5 in June 2000.
By drawing attention to the fact that factors such as age, disability, socio-economic position or membership of a particular ethnic or racial group could create particular barriers for women, the Beijing Platform for Action provided the framework for the recognition of multiple and co-existing forms of discrimination resulting in multiple disadvantage. The Platform also facilitated an understanding that the various categories of discrimination do not necessarily affect women and men in the same way.
In March of 2000, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted a
general recommendation on gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination, in which it
emphasized 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. The year before, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
had recognized the link between gender and racial discrimination by concluding that
genocide could be perpetrated through sexual violence. The "outcome document" of
the special session on Beijing+5 demanded that Governments take measures to address racism
and racially motivated violence against women and girls and support for programmes of
non-governmental organizations which address all forms of violence against women and
girls, including that which is race or ethnic-based. The Asia-Pacific Seminar of Experts
in Preparation for the World Conference on Racism: Migrants and Trafficking in Persons
with Particular Reference to Women and Children held from 5 to 7 September 2000 in
Bangkok, Thailand emphasized the interaction of gender and racial discrimination which
predicated that some women of certain racial or ethnic groups were subjected to abuses in
larger measure than other women, while particular forms of violations, such as trafficking
in women and girls frequently involved racist attitudes and perceptions, and were often
directed at certain racial and ethnic groups, indigenous women and migrants.
Discrimination emanating from categorical distinctions on the basis of sex and race have historically intersected in multiple and diverse ways, and have taken specific forms during particular historical conjunctures, such as in the contexts of slavery and colonialism. The dominant structures of power often relied on violence to sustain their patriarchal and racial boundaries.
Unlike the State formation of pre-industrial societies, contemporary States establish their gender and racial regimes through the "unmarked" discourse of citizenship which is defined along the principle of individual rights. The gender regime of the liberal State is firmly ingrained in the patriarchal household, with the male citizen as its head. The racial regime of the liberal State has been regulated mainly through immigration and naturalization laws. Through the construction of racialized and gendered citizenship, modern states have reproduced the historically established structures of domination albeit in different ways. Analysis of the phenomenon of citizenship within the modern national State reveals how notions of gender (the "nuclear family"), and race (the "other") are implicitly woven into the laws.
The role of the national State, as well as the issues of gender and race, are gaining new significance as the world becomes increasingly globalized. The political, social and economic forces associated with globalization have ended some of the long-lasting divides of the twentieth century (for example, the East/West blocks of the cold war era). However, exclusions and identity-politics based on racial/ethnic/religious differences have become more prominent and are increasing. Anti-immigration policies are now common in many countries, and racist activism, which often accompanies such policies, has reemerged. These factors are becoming more pronounced at a time when women of the South are being incorporated on a massive scale into the multinational labour force.
In contrast to the experience immediately following World War II, when developed economies imported "guest workers" who were predominantly male (women being perceived as dependants), it is now the women of the South who overwhelmingly constitute the labour for the more recent phenomenon of relocation of mass production industries to countries where unionization is weak and unemployment high. The increased trade in services, particularly in the area of domestic work, care giving, the entertainment sector, among others has also increased the opportunities for women of the South to engage in migrant labour. Similarly, women of countries with economies in transition have found temporary labour migration to be their only option for survival. The decline in the State provision of welfare services in an era when the populations of developed countries are ageing predicates that the demand for female labour from the countries of the South to serve as care-givers will continue and intensify.
As the global economy secures cheap and flexible labour through immigration and offshore production, sexism, racism and class prejudices become personified through the women who are entering the labour market as suppliers of cheap and unorganized labour. This process increases womens vulnerability to multiple forms of discrimination and subordination. At the same time, the global development of international human rights protection opens new spaces for womens individual and collective struggles against all and multiple forms of discrimination.
C. Intersectional subordination of women
Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination defines racial discrimination as "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life." In accordance with this definition, the terms "race," "racism" and "racial discrimination" may be used broadly to capture all forms of group-based discrimination including those based on formal racial distinctions, as well as those based on colour, ethnicity, caste whether by descent and/or occupation, national origin, and ancestry. Because the nature of group-based discrimination varies widely, there is no uniform way to name or describe the women who are victimized by racial discrimination. In some contexts, the term "women of colour" may be appropriate, in others, the term "ethnic women" or "minority women" may be more descriptive and in still others, none of these terms are appropriate. To capture all the ways in which some women are marginal relative to others within their societies, various terms may be used. These include the term "racialized women" and/or "marginalized women".
There is growing recognition that the failure to address the various "differences" that characterize the problems of different groups of women can obscure or deny human rights protection due to all women. While it is true that all women are in some way subject to gender-discrimination, it is also true that other factors relating to women's social identities such as class, caste, race, colour, ethnicity, religion, national origin are "differences that make a difference" in the ways in which various groups of women experience discrimination. These factors can create problems and vulnerabilities that are unique to particular groups of women or that disproportionately affect some women relative to others.
The consequences of the interaction of multiple forms of subordination, including gender and race discrimination, are often considered to be separate and mutually exclusive forms of discrimination. As a result, victims of multiple forms of discrimination may not have access to effective remedies for redress. Moreover, interventions designed to address racial or gender discrimination may not effectively address the situation of those affected by multiple forms of discrimination.
The consequences of multiple forms of discrimination have been variously described as compound discrimination, interlinking forms of discrimination, multiple burdens, or double or triple discrimination.
The idea of "intersectionality" seeks to capture both the structural and dynamic consequences of the interaction between two or more forms of discrimination or systems of subordination. It specifically addresses the manner in which racism, patriarchy, economic disadvantages and other discriminatory systems contribute to create layers of inequality that structures the relative positions of women and men, races and other groups. Moreover, it addresses the way that specific acts and policies create burdens that flow along these intersecting axes contributing actively to create a dynamic of disempowerment.
Intersectional subordination may be described by the metaphor of a traffic intersection. In this metaphor, race, gender, class and other forms of discrimination or subordination are the roads that structure the social, economic or political terrain. It is through these thoroughfares that dynamics of disempowerment travel. These thoroughfares are sometimes framed as distinctive and mutually exclusive avenues of power. For example, racism is frequently perceived as distinct from patriarchy, while patriarchy is, in turn, viewed as distinct from class oppression. In fact, the systems of discrimination or subordination often overlap and cross each other, creating complex intersections at which two, three or four of these avenues meet. Racialized women and other multiply burdened groups who are located at these intersections by virtue of their specific identities must negotiate the "traffic" that flows through these intersections to avoid injury, and obtain resources for the normal activities of life. This can be dangerous when the traffic flows simultaneously from many directions. Injuries are sometimes created when the impact from one direction throws victims into the path of oncoming traffic, while on other occasions, injuries occur from simultaneous collisions. These are the contexts in which intersectional injuries occur when multiple disadvantages or conditions interact to create a distinct and compound dimension of disempowerment.
Intersectional discrimination which results in subordination creates consequences for those affected in ways which are different from consequences suffered by those who are subject to one form of discrimination only, be it based on race, gender or some other form of discrimination, such as sexual orientation, age and class. The consequences of intersectional discrimination may remain unaddressed by prevailing human rights approaches because the specific problems or conditions created by intersectional discrimination are often subsumed within one category of discrimination, such as race or gender discrimination.
Thus, a problem or condition that disproportionately affects a subset of women may be framed solely as a women's problem. Aspects of the issue that render it an intersectional problem may be absorbed into a gender framework, and there may be no attempt to acknowledge the role that some other form of discrimination, such as racism, may have played in contributing to the circumstance. In this context, the full scope of problems that are simultaneously products of various forms of discrimination such as on the basis of race and gender escapes effective analysis. Consequently, efforts to remedy the condition or abuse in question are likely to be as incomplete as is the analysis upon which the intervention is grounded.
The issue of trafficking in women and girls illustrates how intersectional subordination can be ignored when abuses are subsumed under the category of gender discrimination.
Trafficking is usually considered to be a gender issue and the result of discrimination on the basis of sex. It is rarely analysed from the perspective of other forms of discrimination. For example, the United Nations Secretary-Generals report on the trafficking in women and girls submitted to the 55th session of the General Assembly in 2000 did not address the issue of whether race, or other forms of discrimination, contributed to the likelihood of women and girls becoming victims of trafficking. However, when attention is paid to which women are most at risk of being trafficked, the link of this risk to their racial and social marginalization becomes clear. Moreover, race and racial discrimination may not only constitute a risk factor for trafficking, it may also determine the treatment that racialized women experience in countries of destination. In addition, racist ideology and racial, ethnic and gender discrimination may create a demand in the region or country of destination which could contribute to trafficking in women and girls.
Domestic violence is another problem that is often perceived solely as a gender issue. However, for some racialized women, the right to live free from violence may be compromised by other restrictions on their autonomy which compound their marginalized status. For example, State policies may exacerbate the victimization of racialized women subjected to domestic violence, leaving them with no effective redress and denying them participation in decision-making within the family, community and society. Victims may face language barriers or cultural insensitivity. In many countries, moreover, the right of racialized women to State protection from domestic violence may be compromised by their immigration status.
Immigration policies in many countries require foreign spouses to remain married for a period of time, usually a year or more, before they are granted settled immigration status and are therefore free from deportation. In these cases, foreign spouses are liable to deportation if their marriage breaks down before the specified period. Immigrant women may be therefore faced with a stark choice: domestic violence or deportation.
In some countries, these restrictions have been modified to allow women who are able to demonstrate domestic violence immigration status. However, here the proof required may be a police conviction, caution or court order, a standard too high for many women. Racialized women may be afraid to report violence to the police because of fear of systematic racism which will affect them and their community, particularly if police and other authority figures are perceived to use coercive measures of enforcement in their communities. Such women may also have limited access to lawyers or legal aid.
In many instances, the interaction of legislation relating to immigration status, social benefits and housing may leave immigrant women with no access to basic welfare resources, including housing, prerequisites for most women who wish to leave a violent relationship. In other situations, racialized women may suffer because members of their community may seek to justify violence against women, including domestic violence, on the basis of traditional, customary or religious practices. Here the communitys purported shared racial, ethnic or cultural identity can be used by the State to excuse non-interference. The failure of many countries to recognize gender-based violence as a ground for refugee status is also frequently analysed as a gender issue, although the adverse implications of this disproportionately affects racialized women.
Intersectional discrimination can also be ignored where a condition or problem is specific to women within a racial or ethnic group, and unlikely to happen to men. In this context, problems faced solely by women of a specific racial group may not be readily identified as resulting from racial discrimination, as the fact that the burden involves gender discrimination may obscure the fact of racial discrimination.
An illustration of this under-inclusive analysis of racial discrimination is the sterilization, in some countries, of marginalized women, frequently without their knowledge or full or informed consent, and other coercive measures involving womens reproductive health. These coercive measures have often not been addressed as a race issue although when examined carefully there are usually race, class or other "risk" factors that distinguish which women are likely to suffer such abuses from women who are not. For example, Roma women have been subjected to involuntary gynecological examinations, while women in some parts of the global South have been encouraged to reduce their birth rates through various coercive measures. In some countries, racialized women have been the targets of involuntary sterilization, sterilization campaigns and the subjects of experimental reproductive technologies.
Just as the disadvantage women suffer may be analysed as the result of gender-based discrimination only, so also can a problem be perceived as resulting from racial discrimination only. Thus, an issue that disproportionately affects racially marginalized women may not be regarded as gender discrimination. Here, race or some other distinction may determine which women are subject to discrimination, but the problem may not be understood to reflect discrimination against women.
D. Types of intersectional subordination
Intersectional subordination sometimes results from abuses that are specifically targeted at racialized women. This can occur in the context of armed conflict and can be illustrated by recent events in countries such as Bosnia, Burundi, Colombia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. Here conflicts have been motivated by ethnically based acts of aggression in which women have been targeted and become victim of ethnically-motivated gender-specific forms of violence. In some cases women were deliberately impregnated to dishonour an ethnic group; in other cases women were sexually mutilated to make them incapable of reproduction. Rape and other forms of sexual violence have also been used as an instrument of genocide against particular racial or ethnic groups.
Incidents of racially motivated sexual abuses, including rape and other crimes, are sometimes preceded by another manifestation of intersectional targeted oppression: the propagation of explicitly raced and gendered propaganda directed against ethnic women, which frequently seeks to justify sexual aggression. For example, in Rwanda, racial and gender stereotypes fuelled gender-specific attacks on Tutsi women which formed part of the genocide.
Sexualized propaganda targeted at racialized women may also contribute to their political subordination, particularly in contexts relating to reproductive policies and social welfare. Justifications for policies and actions that compromise the reproductive rights of poor and minority women such as sterilization, forced birth control policies, and the imposition of economic penalties and other disincentives for childbearing are sometimes premised on stereotypical images of poor and ethnic women as sexually undisciplined.
Women are sometimes subject to discrimination because of their gender roles, and because they are members of racial or ethnic groups. This constitutes compound discrimination. For example, women may be excluded on the basis of race from jobs designated for women; at the same time, they may be excluded from jobs reserved for men. In effect, these women are specifically excluded as minority or ethnic women because there is no role for applicants with their particular ethno-racial and gendered profile. Women affected by compound discrimination may find that there are few avenues of challenge: they must bring claims on the basis of racial discrimination or discrimination on the basis of sex; they cannot challenge the compound discrimination resulting from the intersection of these forms of subordination.
For example, in some workforces, particularly those that are gender and race-segregated, racialized women may encounter compound discrimination because women are hired typically for clerical positions; while male members of racial or ethnic minorities are hired for manual work. In such instances, racialized women experience discrimination on the basis of race because the designated women's work is not perceived as appropriate for racialized women. They also experience discrimination on the basis of sex because the work designated for racialized men is deemed inappropriate for women.
Structural intersectional subordination occurs where policies intersect with underlying structures of inequality to create a compounded burden for particularly vulnerable women. Gender discrimination may occur within a setting in which some women are vulnerable because of their race and/or class backgrounds. In other circumstances, a particular policy, practice or individual act driven by racial, ethnic or some other form of bias may operate in the context of a gendered structure and affect women (and sometimes men) in a unique way.
For example, policing policies and practices may discriminate against racialized communities. Women in such communities may be drawn into criminal activities as a consequence of their relationships with men. For example, some women may be coerced into non-violent crime in support of the criminal activity of their partners. Courts frequently fail to recognize this coercion as a mitigating factor in criminal trials and sentencing, and may determine that this form of criminal activity, particularly if it involves women, is deserving of a strong response. Here, while their male counterparts may be much more involved in criminality and may also have access to information allowing them to negotiate for lower sentences, racialized women may be given harsher sentences. Incarcerated racialized women may also have less access to services than incarcerated racialized men. Such women may experience forms of gender discrimination in prison, which range from overpolicing to sexual abuse.
These criminalization patterns reflect structural discrimination in that the racialized targeting of racially marginalized communities constitutes a dynamic which intersects with the gendered relationship of women to men.
Another example of structural intersectionality results from the overlapping effects of background structures that interact with a policy or some other decision that creates burdens that are disproportionately affect marginalized women. What distinguishes this intersectional problem from the examples above is that the policy in question is not in any way targeted toward women, or toward any other marginalized members of the community; it simply intersects with other factors to create a subordinating effect. Examples of this kind of subordination can be illustrated by the burdens placed on women by structural adjustment policies within developing and transitional economies. Disparities in financial and material resources generated by increasingly austere public spending have transferred the costs of social protection, social security, and welfare from the public sector to the household. The combination of dwindling public sector support and the intensification of poverty have pushed low income women and their children into what is called the "feminization" of poverty. Studies have shown that while structural adjustment programmes have an adverse effect on women in general, they are particularly burdensome for poor women. Because of historic patterns of racial subordination, these women often belong to racially marginalized groups.
Intersectional subordination occurs in many contexts, but racialized women can be affected adversely by certain policies, global trends, and institutional circumstances.
The Expert Group Meeting recognized the importance of the development of multicultural societies and the role of antiracist policies, programmes and strategies that respect the rights of different collectivities in society. However, it cautioned against the risk of gender discrimination within a specific cultural community. The Group was concerned about the potential for misuse of racial equity policies (multi-culturalism) which purport to embrace tolerance on the basis of cultural difference. It was particularly concerned that simplification of multiculturalism may result in cultural relativism.
Often, community leaders seek to de-legitimize womens demands as western and therefore alien to the norms of the community. Like all women, women from particular racial or ethnic groups may wish to challenge certain aspects of their cultural or religious traditions which are harmful to them, such as arranged marriages or abuse within the family. However, these women may be denied the right to do so both because the State may accommodate the patriarchal and discriminatory practices of the community. In these cases, the fundamental human rights of minority women remain unmet as the State seeks to be culturally sensitive and tolerant to community values, but, in so doing, denies individual rights and protections to women of such minority groups. The danger inherent in this approach is that it accommodates the application of differential standards of human rights to those who are in greater need of State protection by virtue of their vulnerability and powerlessness within minority communities and in society at large.
The Expert Group Meeting discussed the increase in the rates of incarceration of racialized women in industrialized and developing societies. Incarceration policies have been addressed by racial justice advocates but this advocacy has focused predominantly on men. In many countries, racialized women, including indigenous women, represent the fastest growing segment of the prison population.
Further, women in prison tend to suffer multiple oppression. Many have experienced violence and other forms of abuse that contributed to their circumstances leading to their incarceration. Most are low income, and, unlike racialized men who may have been convicted of violent crime, many have been incarcerated for non-violent offences, such as welfare fraud. All women, and particularly racialized women, are more likely to be subject to custodial rape by police and other criminal justice personnel. They also run the risk of gender discrimination in the judicial process. Because the majority of female inmates are mothers, the effects of the increase of female incarceration will have long-term cumulative adversive effects.
Women who enter a country as domestic workers or illegally may be at greater risk of detention and are therefore vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse in that context. Immigrant domestic workers who become victims of rape can become re-victimized when they seek justice, as law enforcement personnel and judicial authorities may prefer to protect their male citizens, rather than the victim. In some situations, domestic workers who have been sexually assaulted have found that they are perceived as the offender, and have been incarcerated and put on trial. This can be particularly problematic when the penalties for illicit sexual relations are high.
Racialized women are often in situations that put them at risk of violence and abuse by police patrols. Migrant women workers may be subject to detention and often faced unwanted strip searches and/or sexual abuse and deportation at State borders. In these cases, the country of origin, as well as the country of destination may be unwilling to take responsibility for state violations perpetrated on these women.
The Expert Group Meeting drew attention to the critical and close relationship between the movement of people and all forms of discrimination, especially racial discrimination. Immigrant and refugee women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of gender, as well as race. They also face particular obstacles because of language and class factors. The new trends in global capitalism led to the increase of female migration in the past decade. Parallel to this, restrictive migration policies sometimes reflecting anti-racism sentiments. Such policies are not only based on existing racist stereotypes, but may also lead to the emergence of new forms of steretoypes.
An increasing number of migrant women are found in the service sector, including domestic work and the entertainment sector. Even in those countries where provisions exist to ensure the fair treatment of domestic workers, they may at the same time bind the worker to a particular type of employment and sometimes to a particular employer. In these cases, it is not uncommon for women migrant workers to lose their residence status on termination of their contracts with individual employers and to become illegal immigrants.
Dependence on the employer, isolated working conditions, long working hours and low payment and social isolation make migrant women workers very vulnerable to violence, including from their employers or their families.
Racism within the dominant culture makes it more difficult for immigrant women to confront gender discrimination within their own communities as immigrant communities frequently exert more pressure on women to maintain their traditional roles and to preserve patriarchal norms as "binding" elements for their community as a response to racism. In addition, racism may lead to an increased need for identification and solidarity with the community. Racialized women who suffer abuses or culture-specific forms of violations of their rights within their communities may also remain silent for fear of exclusion from those communities or because they know that they will be perceived as supporting racist ideas.
The Expert Group Meeting noted that trafficking in women has increased particularly in the context of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the widening gap between North and South and the financial and economic crisis in Asia.
Women have been especially affected by these economic and social changes as they bear the main burden of reproductive responsibilities of families. Further, they may not have the same opportunities in the labour market and may not fully enjoy the same access to education as men. These factors promote the demand of women to migrate to work. This makes them vulnerable to recruitment by traffickers, who often work within informal or emotional relationships. Criminal networks of traffickers also take advantage of the vulnerabilities of women, and the absence of avenues of legal migration, resulting from restrictive migration policies to exercise control over their victims and frequently trap women into forced labour and/or slavery-like practices.
Armed ConflictThe Expert Group Meeting expressed its concern about the grave human rights abuses faced by women in armed conflict, including systematic rape, forced pregnancy, sexual abuse and sexual slavery. The meeting particularly noted the vulnerability of racialized women to targeted violence in the context of ethnically motivated conflict. Women of discriminated or persecuted ethnic groups also deserve special attention, as they are the fastest growing group of refugees and internally displaced people
Gender discrimination frequently interacts with other forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination to deny racialized women their right to health. Population policies may be informed by racial considerations which encourage women to reduce or increase their birth rates. Women from particular ethnic or racial groups may be coerced or forced to use contraceptive methods, including sterilization. They may also be coerced or forced into multiple pregnancies in order to ensure survival of the group.
Racial differentiation also exists with respect to maternal and child mortality, with indigenous women in some countries experiencing higher maternal mortality than women of other groups. Indigenous and minority women may also be the subjects of clinical trials, often without their knowledge or fully informed consent. This is particularly in the case of reproductive health products and with respect to HIV/AIDs treatments. In this latter case, racialized women may be used to trial experimental drugs. When such drugs are eventually marketed, racialized women are unlikely to have access to them because of their prohibitive cost.
Women and the Economy
The Expert Group Meeting emphasized that minority, immigrant and indigenous women in developed countries, as well as women in developing nations, have limited employment opportunities. Many of these women hold jobs in free trade zones, the informal economy or unregulated sectors that operate in parallel to more formalized and protected sectors.
Export processing zones (EPZs) have a high concentration of immigrant women and attract multinational corporations that are exempt from many administrative and fiscal requirements, as well as statutory regulations protecting workers. Some countries have even promulgated special labour laws for EPZs, setting up more obstacles against unionization of workers than exists in the national economy.
Even in the formal economy, racialized women have fewer opportunities. For instance, the Special Rapporteur on racial discrimination has found that Black women in Brazil "receive the lowest salaries (four times lower than those of a white man), are employed in the most unhealthy locations, work a triple working day and face threefold discrimination".
The Expert Group Meeting indicated that international treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and national laws and regulations are designed to provide extensive protection against all forms of discrimination. So there is no need to develop any additional instruments to protect the rights of the victims of intersectional discrimination. However, the United Nations approach to discrimination addressed specific categories of discrimination, rather than taking a holistic approach. At the national level the interpretation of discrimination has also been narrow, capturing only one form of discrimination, and avoiding its intersection with other forms.
Therefore, the meeting agreed that there is an urgent need to develop an intersectional methodology, named by the experts as a "protocol", to identify intersectional discrimination and its effect on women and girls. Additionally this methodology should be designed to uncover ways in which various structures of subordination converge to the disadvantage of women and girls in both public and private life, and should also establish legal instruments for remedies and redress.
The Expert Group Meeting adopted recommendations directed at Governments and the United Nations system. These recommendations were not considered to be exhaustive, but rather were regarded as illustrative as to how Governments and the United Nations system can address intersectional discrimination. Recommendations were also addressed to the forthcoming Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001.
The Expert Group Meeting recalled that, as stated in human rights documents, the ultimate responsibility for the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of the human rights of all individuals and groups lies with the State.
The meeting recommended to:
The meeting agreed on the need for scrutiny and rethinking of immigration and refugee laws and policies at the international, regional and national levels.
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The meeting noted with concern the increasing rate of female incarceration, especially among marginalized groups of women.
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The meeting observed that the risk of discrimination on multiple grounds such as race, ethnicity, gender and class has increased with the feminization of migration
The meeting recommended to:
To the United Nations system
The meeting emphasized that United Nations approaches to the elimination of discrimination generally continue to address specific categories of discrimination, rather than taking a holistic approach.
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The Expert Group made specific recommendations to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. It recommended to:
To the Security Council:
The Expert Group Meeting welcomed the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women in armed conflict that recognized that the vast majority of those affected by armed conflict are women and children and the importance of involving women in the prevention and resolution of conflict.
The meeting recommended to:
To the Commission on the Status of Women
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To the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and special mechanisms
Noting the interdependence of United Nations human rights mechanisms, the meeting suggested that treaty bodies, in particular the Human Rights Committee (HRC), the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on Racial Discrimination (IICERD), the Committee against Torture (CAT) should call for a substantive analysis of violations occurring at the intersection of gender and race.
The meeting recommended that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women:
The meeting recommended that:
The meeting particularly recommended:
To the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance
The meeting recommended that:
The meeting also recommended to: