August Newsletter: Advocacy @ CAL

Sexual rights on the continent, the 20th anniversary of the Durban declaration and HRC38 – these are the topics that we will be covering in this edition of the newsletter which focuses on advocacy at CAL. 

We begin by announcing our new 3 part series on sexual rights in Africa. In part 1 we talk about anti-rights rhetoric and harmful policy.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action – what do the states who signed the declaration have to show? Spoiler alert – not much.

On the 1st of September AWID will be hosting Crear | Résister | Transform: a festival for feminist movements! The Sexual Rights Initiative will be hosting an event during the festival on the #EmptyChairs campaign, find the details below.

And finally we are so excited to launch the call for submissions for the 5th issue of the African Feminist Standpoint! In this issue we’re discussing how much is freedom really going to cost us?

Sexual Rights in Africa: Anti-gender rhetoric & harmful policy Part 1

We are pleased to announce that we will be producing and publishing a 3 part analysis on the status of sexual rights in Africa. Part 1, which focuses on anti-gender rhetoric and harmful policy can already be found on our website. Watch this space for part 2 and 3 in the upcoming months where we will explore more in depth the intersections of sexual rights with issues related to religious fundamentalisms, economic justice and freedom.

Part 1: a snippet

In the last decade we have witnessed a global rise in anti-gender and anti-rights movements and rhetoric in the public discourse that has been exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. On the African continent, anti-gender and anti-rights discourses have resulted in the promulgation of harmful laws and policy. CAL decries the impact of anti-homosexuality legislation in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria as they relate to sexual rights and the right to bodily autonomy and whose impact has far reaching effects for LGBTI people, sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS and communities at large.

‘That we can be injured, that others can be injured, that we are subject to death at the whim of another, are all reasons for both fear and grief… If we are interested in arresting the cycles of violence to create less violent outcomes, it is no doubt important to ask what, politically, may be made of grief besides a cry for war’  – Judith Butler

The continent provides the right set of conditions for conservative legislation to not only pass in one country, but be replicated in another. This is due to decades of neoliberalism and imperialism, resulting in compromised states that are grappling with authoritarianism, war and religious fundamentalisms.

While the 2013 Anti-Homosexuality bill was overturned by the Ugandan Supreme Court, the recent Sexual Offences bill adopted by the Uganda parliament is awaiting signature from the president. Ugandan lawmakers claim the bill is ‘progressive’ and protects victims of sexual violence by introducing specific clauses that speak to indecent assault, ‘sextortion’, the rape of children and human trafficking. The bill, however, reintroduces clauses on “unnatural offences”, that criminalise homosexuality and impact the lives of sex workers and persons living with HIV/AIDS in the country. While purporting to have a ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’ definition of consent, the Bill actually distorts definitions of consent by failing to distinguish between coercive and enthusiastic consent. Furthermore, the Bill recommends the removal of Clause 36 which effectively disallows the withdrawal of consent at any stage of sexual activity. The potential passage of this bill has led to increasing concern by CAL members and partners in Uganda of heightened discrimination and violence against people and communities challenging heteropatriarchal sexualities, and embracing non-normative gender identities and expressions.

To read part 1 in full click here

20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration

From 31 August to 8 September 2001 the United Nations held the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance – from this conference the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was born. The forward of the Durban Declaration notes “The Declaration represents the commitments arising from the complex global dialogue which took place. It addresses past manifestations as well as contemporary forms of racial discrimination”. The ‘complex’ dialogue refers to the language of the Declaration which was strongly debated amongst states – quite notably the United States and Israel that withdrew from the conference over objections to a draft document that equated Zionism with racism.

2021 marks the 20th year since the adoption of the Durban Declaration. 10 years ago, Dr Koku Adomdza, lawyer and development economist said, ‘If the UN is serious about the declaration, it must be seen to rapidly mobilise the oft-cited international community to end the causes of poverty, disease, discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation of all forms against Africa and Global Africans’. What we are observing, however, is a regression and inaction, and unfortunately as COVID has exposed, exacerbated racism and inequality.

The Durban Declaration notes:

Convinced of the fundamental importance of universal accession to or ratification of and full implementation of our obligations arising under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as the principal international instrument to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), however, and the United Nations at large, have done very little to instil confidence that they have any desire or will to uphold the Durban Declaration. On 17 and 18 June 2020 the HRC held an Urgent Debate, at the request of the Africa Group, on racial discrimination and police brutality. The urgent debate followed the killing of George Floyd by United States Law Enforcement. The family of George Floyd and the families of Black people who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States, over 600 civil society organisations, Special Mandate holders of the UN and the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent hoped the Urgent Debate would result in the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into racial discrimination and police brutality in the United States. Burkina Faso led the resolution negotiations on behalf of the Africa group, however, the resultant resolution was eventually watered down to a very general language and no longer contained specific references to police brutality and systemic racism in the United States or the call for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate historical and on-going cases of violence.

When Black people in the United States and the world over called for direct and specific action against racial discrimination and police brutality in the United States, the HRC did not respond.

In light of the above and many other cases, it is important that we continue to apply a Pan-African feminist analysis that works to challenge and dismantle racial discrimination and white superiority which manifest as profiling, surveilling and police brutality against Black people and people of African descent in the USA, or ethnic cleansing and colonial occupation in Palestine and many other examples we see across the globe.

CAL work related to racism at the UN

Statement: 20 year anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and the exacerbating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on these efforts

Statement: Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Press release: UN Human Rights Council Resolution on racial discrimination and police brutality

43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council: Urgent Debate on racism / police violence

HRC48 – What to look out for

The 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is taking place from  13 September – 6 October 2021. Here are some activities to keep an eye out for:

13.09.2021 | 10:00 GMT +2
Update on Afghanistan
Post the withdrawal of foreign forces, there has been increase in violence against women by the Taliban

15.09.2021 | 13:00 GMT +2
Interactive Debate with special rapporteur on water and sanitation
The right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment and establishing a Special Procedure on human rights and climate change

17.09.2021 | 15:00 GMT +2
Interactive Debate on the analytical report of the High Commissioner for human rights on the current state of play of the mainstreaming of the human rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations
Linked to Afghanistan and Ethiopia’s Tigray region

17.09.2021 | 15:00 GMT +2
Between 3pm and 6pm
Interactive Debate with special rapporteur on right to development 

21.09.2021 | 15:00  GMT +2
Interactive Debate with special rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes 
The right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment and establishing a Special Procedure on human rights and climate change

28.09.2021 | 15:00 GMT +2
Half-day panel discussion on deepening inequalities exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic

29.09.2021 | 15:00 GMT +2
Panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests 

29.09.2021 | 12:00 GMT +2
Interactive Debate with Secretary General’s report on reprisals

30.09.2021 | 12:00 GMT +2
UPR adoptions: Namibia and Mozambique 

1.10.2021 between 15:00 & 18:00 GMT +2
Report of the High Commissioner for human rights on allocation of water resources in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

4.10.2021 between 15:00 & 18:00 GMT +2
Interactive Debate with special rapporteur racism 

Keywords for CAL: militarisation, capitalism, VAWG, health, environment, decolonisation, SRHR, bodily autonomy and integrity, reparations

#EmptyChairs Campaign @ the AWID #Feminist Festival

#EmptyChairs is a feminist campaign seeking to transform the United Nations Human Rights System — starting with the Human Rights Council — into a body led and owned by ordinary people all over the world, who set the agenda and make decisions that are then supported and implemented by political leaders.
Join our #EmptyChairs event on 16 September 2021 16:00 SAST, at the AWID Feminist Festival Crear | Résister | Transform to find out more about the campaign :https://www.awid.org/get-involved/welcome-crear-resister-transform-festival-feminist-movements

The African Feminist Standpoint Issue #5: Call for submissions 

We are incredibly excited to launch the next call for submissions for Issue #5 of the African feminist Standpoint

Issue #5: The cost of Freedom

According to the internet an economy “is an area of the production, distribution and trade, as well as consumption of goods and services by different agents. In general, it is defined as ‘a social domain that emphasises the practices, discourses, and material expressions associated with the production, use, and management of resources”. At a glance, the ways in which goods and resources are produced, moved and then consumed may not be a common priority area for feminist activists – but on closer inspection, the values and rules of a consumer and capitalist culture are, or should be, very close to the heart of any decolonial politic because as we are all aware, money makes the world go round. 

“The intersection between neoliberal capitalism and the contemporary incarnations of patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy and colonialism and its resulting logic of free markets, growth and profit above people and the planet has been the key driver of the current global crises” – A Feminist Agenda for People and Planet 

Time and time again, we have borne witness to and experienced the [minuscule] value ascribed to human life against greed – the exorbitant accumulation of resources for the few at the cost of dignity, safety and livelihood of both people and planet. A phenomena that is not only admired but encouraged through continuous stringent world trade policies that benefit the already wealthy. 

We invite you to explore with us the cost of freedom in the personal and the political for our next issue. 

To read the full call, click here