Commission on the Status of Women
6-16 March 2001
Agenda item 4 (b)
Thematic issues: gender and all forms of discrimination,
in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia
and related intolerance
Summary submitted by the Moderator of the panel discussion
on gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
intolerance (Ibra Denguène Ka)
1. At its eleventh meeting, on 13 March 2001, the Commission held a panel discussion followed by a dialogue on gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, one of the thematic issues before the Commission. The panellists were: Françoise Gaspard (France), Member on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Senior Lecturer, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris; Pragna Patel (United Kingdom), community-case worker at Southall Black Sisters, a legal advice centre; Philomena Essed (Netherlands), Senior Researcher, Amsterdam Research Institute for Global Issues and Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, and Visiting Professor, University of California at Irvine; and Mely G. Tan (Indonesia), Chairperson of the Research Institute, Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta, and Lecturer, Graduate School, Institute of Police Sciences of the National Police Force, Jakarta. The panel was moderated by Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal).
2. Participants in the panel discussion and dialogue indicated that the outcome of the dialogue would provide a contribution to the forty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status on Women and to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held from 31 August to 7 September 2001 in Durban, South Africa. They stressed the crucial importance of taking account of the intersectionality of gender-based and other forms of discrimination, including on the basis of race and other factors, such as age and disability, and the importance of addressing discrimination in multidimensional ways so as to address the discrimination suffered by all. It was pointed out that racism affected women and men differently, and that differences existed among women in their experience of racism. It was emphasized that certain forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia were directed against women because of their gender. Examples included sexual violence against women during armed conflict, in detention and in refugee camps, the forced sterilization of indigenous women and trafficking in women and girls.
3. Participants stressed the need for Governments to make clear that all forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination, was against the law through, inter alia, public campaigns and human rights education in schools and for specific sectors, such as law enforcement personnel, as well as in other contexts.
4. It was noted that the situation of migrant women and women and girls who had been trafficked was usually highlighted when the double burden of gender-based and racial discrimination was discussed. The point was made that in parts of the developing world, the majority of the female population experienced racial and ethnic discrimination, and that the situation of indigenous women and girls and those belonging to well-established national and ethnic minorities should also be taken into account. Special consideration and efforts should be made to view these women not as victims but as actors in efforts to combat racism.
5. Gender-based and racial discrimination affected women in various contexts, including in relation to domestic violence, the impact of immigration laws and in the context of the criminal justice system. Multiple disadvantages were created or perpetuated, with women being unable to access the criminal justice system and being subject to discriminatory policing practices, which was sometimes exacerbated by unsettled immigration status and fear of deportation. It was agreed that gender-based differences needed to be acknowledged in the development and formulation of policies and programmes, in particular in relation to the criminal justice system and immigration and asylum laws and policies.
6. Globalization and structural adjustment programmes were considered to have potential negative consequences for women, especially those affected by discrimination on the basis of race, age, disability or other status. These factors could result in poverty, which disproportionally affected marginalized women. Governments were urged to support gender-sensitive macroeconomic policies, including for rural women, to enhance womens empowerment and economic productivity and to address the link between unequal distribution of wealth and intolerance. Economic crisis and political instability could increase the vulnerability of marginalized and minority women to violence, and it was suggested that it sometimes lowered the likelihood that they would seek redress.
7. It was noted that failing to take account of the specific situation of women within their communities in the formulation of state policies, including to address racial discrimination, could compound the discrimination experienced by marginalized women. It was emphasized that laws and policies, including those aimed at achieving racial equality, should be analysed for their impact on women belonging to minorities and marginalized groups so as to ensure that they did not reinforce existing gender discrimination.
8. Cultural diversity was acknowledged to be an important value, but it was emphasized that violations of the human rights of women and the girl child, in particular harmful traditional and customary practices, could not be justified. The point was made that women might not report these and other abuses for fear of a backlash against their communities.
9. It was important that all women be provided with information about their rights in order to allow them to make informed decisions, including with regard to political participation in decision-making. In particular, migrant and indigenous women needed to be educated about their rights in order that they could be ensured access to redress against all forms of discrimination in all spheres of public and private life. Legal and other procedures should also be simplified to ensure wide access to remedies and relief. It was also emphasized that women should be seen not only as victims of the intersection of racial and gender discrimination but also as actors in combating racism and racial and other forms of discrimination. Groups of women who were particularly vulnerable to multiple discrimination should be provided with safe spaces or shelters. All efforts to promote racial equality also needed to integrate a clear commitment to gender equality in order to be effective.
10. Policies of multiculturalism had been introduced in a number of countries. While these policies were valuable, they needed to be based on the principle of equality as well as tolerance of diversity, and should take account of the dynamic, heterogeneous nature of minority communities. It was emphasized that such policies and programmes should also reflect the experiences of marginalized women in order to guarantee their full enjoyment of all human rights, with a special focus on their specific needs. It was noted that such programmes have proven to be particularly effective when designed and implemented with the participation of the women concerned, in particular indigenous and other marginalized women. Governments were urged to share information on effective programmes and good practices.
11. It was critical to understand the root causes of racism, including its links to social and economic instability, and to further study the consequences of racism for legal reform and the justice system, in particular with respect to gender-related violence, and the intersectionality of race and gender in approaches to diversity and addressing conflict resolution.
12. Participants recommended the collection of testimonies of women who had suffered from multiple forms of discrimination and the use of these testimonies in the development of concrete strategies and programmes to combat racism and racial and other forms of discrimination.
13. The need to combat racism, including subtle forms of racism and the importance of educating young people, was highlighted for all levels of education, including education for a culture of peace. It was also noted that the Internet had become a tool for disseminating racist material and images, but it was emphasized that the Internet could play an important role in anti-racism campaigns and as a tool to collect testimonies relating to multiple forms of discrimination.
14. Cooperation between the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other treaty-bodies, particularly the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, was regarded as critical, and further collaboration on the intersection of gender and racial discrimination was encouraged. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women took into account the concluding observations of other treaty bodies when considering State parties reports, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had adopted a general recommendation on racial and gender discrimination. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had also adopted a contribution to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
15. Many participants emphasized the important role of non-governmental organizations, in particular womens non-governmental organizations, in assisting women and girls who had experienced multiple forms of discrimination, and in raising awareness and educating against racism. Participants also emphasized the need for support, including adequate funding, for such non-governmental organizations.
16. Participants also emphasized the need to develop analytical tools to expose the intersection of gender and race discrimination and other forms of discrimination, and to develop gender-sensitive policies and programmes to protect and promote the human rights of all women. These methodologies needed to be integrated in the work of Commission on the Status of Women.