Statement on Discrimination Against Women

Mr. President,

We thank the chair of the working group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice for an excellent report on the persistent and ongoing discrimination against women in cultural and family life.

The working group’s report exposes how culture and religion is being used to justify different forms of discrimination against women and how women are seen not as survivors of such discrimination, but as persons who “violate” cultural rules and norms.

Women who do not conform to gender stereotypes are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, violence and criminalization. These women include, among others, single persons, widows, female heads of family, lesbians, bisexual and transgender women, women in prostitution and women human rights defenders.

We welcome the opinion of the Working Group that the understanding and legal definition of the family in national legislation should be extended to recognize different forms of family. The recognition of same-sex couples, for both women and men, and other forms of family is a step forward that a number of States have already implemented.

We also note that the Working Group calls for the elimination of practices that that discriminate against women, whatever the legal system, religion, custom or tradition. This refers to, among others, early and/or forced marriage, temporary marriage and polygamy.

We wish to thank the working group for its efforts to rectify the lack of a reference to gender equality within the family in Human Rights Council resolution 26/11 on the protection of the family, by bringing this unacceptable omission to the attention of the President of the Human Rights Council.

We would like to ask the chair of the working group to elaborate on how states should respond when culture and religion is persistently being used to undermine the legal rights of women and girls?