OutRight’s Executive Director Joins CSW Reflection Panel at SIPA

Following the 2016 UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in conjunction with their United Nations Studies Working Group (UNSWG) and Gender Policy Working Group (GPWG) hosted a panel to reflect on CSW results.

The panel consisted of five experts, including OutRight’s Executive Director, Jessica Stern, who also works as an Associate Adjunct Professor at SIPA. The event was moderated by Professor Yasmine Ergas, Director of the Gender and Public Policy Specialization at SIPA.

Other panelists included; H.E. Ambassador Antonio Patriota, Chair of the CSW and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN, Ms. Maria Vaeza, Director of Programmes for UN Women, Ms. Raquel Lagunas, Senior Policy Advisor for Gender Maintstreaming in UNDP, and Professor Eugenia McGill, Director of the Economic and Political Development Concentration at SIPA.

Yasmine Ergas wanted to generate discussion about the tension points and promises surrounding the 2016 CSW and the integration of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (SOGIE). Although discussion of SOGIE has been less prevalent at CSW in the past, this year was thought to be a bit more inclusive.

Jessica Stern was asked to make some comments about the ways in which she felt pleased with the CSW outcomes and about what she believed needed a greater effort and visibility. Focusing on the language of the CSW this time around, Ms. Stern noted that there was a sense of hysteria from her colleagues who were mobilizing in the LBTI caucus because, before negotiations even started, there was an assumption that those who were fighting for a reference to SOGIE and sex characteristics (in the document of agreed conclusions) would ultimately, lose.

“We assumed that after sixty years of the CSW it was still too soon to get a reference to SOGIE because we haven’t yet figured out that intersectionality actually means everybody...it’s tough to show up to a fight like that.”

Overall, however, Ms. Stern remarked that there was actually a lot to be excited about in the document of agreed conclusions. This included a reference to feminist groups and sexuality, and a lot more references to human rights than anticipated. Additionally, Ms. Stern made mention of an incorporated stand out line, “acknowledging the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination throughout women’s life cycles,” which is considered very important and crucial language for further integrating discussion about sexual and gender minority women.

There were also a couple setbacks that Ms. Stern felt were important to mention. First, in a section of the conclusions that make reference to the family, it is clear that the actual text is not doing justice for the immense diversity of families that exist. Ms. Stern noted that, although the UN space should be all about proclaiming and emphasizing the diversity of the family, as of now, there is a clear narrowing of the scope and definition of the family.

The other set back, which Ms. Stern noted is often overlooked, is that the working group on communications from the CSW has a responsibility to produce a report that reflects the communication they have received from people in crisis and from civil society organizations; however, although there were reports submitted to the working group about LBTI rights violations, there is no mention of these violations in the working groups outcomes report.

This is, of course, problematic because it shows that rights violations of LBTI individuals are still dangerously sidelined or rendered invisible when it comes to reporting on women’s rights.

Read the 2016 agreed conclusions, have a look and let us know what you think!