Successful Launch of Equal and Indivisble at CEDAW

"[U]niversality is not the opposite of diversity ... intersectionality is the only road to universality.
~Charlotte Bunch at IGLHRC's launch of CEDAW guide

On July 23, 2009, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was joined by the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, CoC Netherlands, and Center for Women’s Global Leadership for the New York launch of Equal and Indivisible: Crafting Inclusive Shadow Reports for CEDAW.

Equal and Indivisible is designed to assist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) prepare shadow or alternative reports that incorporate issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression for the Committee that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is a treaty about women’s human rights.

A PDF version of Equal and Indivisible is available here To obtain a hard copy, please email


“Twenty years ago, our organization was founded on the principle that LGBT people were entitled to the same set of human rights as all other people; with the publication of this guide, we take a major step forward in achieving this goal.”

Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director, IGLHRC

“For us as women human rights defenders working in countries where women are constantly being told, if you profess love for another women or if you profess that you are unsure [about your sexual orientation], you are abnormal, you don’t have the right to be treated with dignity… and you often become victims of ruthless discrimination and violence.”

Sunila Abeysekera, Executive Director, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

“Many LBT women in Japan are forced to live with invisibility, marginalization, silent prejudice, stigmatization all their lives. We are often subject to discrimination in education, employment, housing and health care. We are victims of family rejection and community ostracism. For those who are doubtful that the CEDAW Convention covers lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people, Equal and Indivisible gives us inspiration.”

Azusa Yamashita, activist from GayJapanNews, Japan

"I believe that the CEDAW Convention and Committee are an international home for human rights where women discriminated on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity can request protection... Our committee is a laboratory of diversity, which should be used in a constructive and modern manner to protect and safeguard rights of women… The solutions to problems cannot be found by ignoring the problems nor by ignoring the differences... I look forward to strengthening partnerships between NGOs and the CEDAW committee to deliver concrete results, to make state parties accountable to lesbians and minorities due to gender identity.”

Violeta Neubauer, CEDAW Committee member, Slovenia (speaking in her personal capacity)

“This year was the first time a shadow report from an LGBT group was submitted from our country… When I was preparing the report, I was told that we would run into problems with the government and I would personally have issues. But I don’t think those things are important because everything we do gets us a step closer to realizing our rights.”

Nigyar Naghiyeva, activist from Gender and Development Social Union, Azerbaijan

“I evaluate that this Guide will be extremely helpful for civil society, state parties, UN treaty bodies, especially the CEDAW committee, and women’s groups across the world… It enriches the debate in our community, increasing our chances for positive change towards sexual orientation and gender identity... I work for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression not only to address the pain of millions of people fighting against discrimination and intolerance, but also to contribute to a very positive strategy of promoting the idea that sexual rights are to be respected by all everywhere.”

Silvia Pimentel, Vice Chair CEDAW Committee and Committee member, Brazil (speaking in her personal capacity)

“I can only say that for you as GLT community, this is your time… The CEDAW Committee is a microcosm of society, and not everyone believes that gays and lesbians have rights, so this conversation is still something we need to have. You need to engage us… there will be a time when we will say, rights are rights for everybody! They are inter-related, universal and indivisible.”

Dorcas Coker-Appiah, CEDAW Committee member, Ghana (speaking in her personal capacity)

“This publication is so important because it is a very good illustration of human rights as universal, intersectional and indivisibile… Many of us have struggled to understand that universality is not the opposite of diversity and that intersectionality is the only road to universality… Like race, ethnicity, age—sexuality is another way of how women experience violation of their rights… This is not a new issue. I encountered resistance to it in Mexico City in 1975, when the press responded to lesbian rights by saying. ‘Do they want to proscribe their pathetic irregularity on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?’ The answer is yes, we do."

Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director, Center For Women’s Global Leadership
Photo Credits: Hossein Alizadeh