Source: United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
Discusses Situation of the Rights of Women in Bangladesh, Belarus and Sri Lanka
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with non-governmental organizations to discuss the situation of the rights of women in Bangladesh, Belarus and Sri Lanka. As part of its work, the Committee invites non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions to provide information and documentation relevant to the Committee's activities. This was the second of two meetings the Committee has held with civil society groups this session; the first meeting took place on January 17 when the Committee heard relevant information pertaining to the rights of women in Israel, Kenya, Liechtenstein and South Africa.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh noted that the Government had used its reservation to articles 2 and 16 to avoid its obligation to ensure equality and non-discrimination against women. This was especially critical considering the multiple forms of discrimination suffered by women including financial status, identity and access to resources. It was important to note that poorer women were especially vulnerable. Speakers requested that the Committee urge the State party to review all economic development policies and programmes from a gender perspective to ensure women's empowerment and economic growth at the national and rural levels.
Speakers from non-governmental organizations in Sri Lanka said that the country had one of the world's largest populations of internally displaced persons and within this context women faced routine discrimination vis-a-vis housing, land and property. Speakers also said that for many years the international community had repeatedly expressed its concern with regard to sexual violence perpetrated against women in the country. The existence and legal denial of sexual violence as a crime was an expression of gender-based discrimination and patriarchal systems that needed to be overcome. Speakers also drew the Committee's attention to violence and discrimination faced by lesbians and other sexual minorities in Sri Lanka as a result of an archaic British law that criminalized homosexuality.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations from Belarus said that during the reporting period there was no improvement in the status of women in Belarus and there was little progress towards the elimination of gender discrimination. Women continued to experience acute problems in Belarus such as poverty and discrimination in the labour market and serious challenges to participation in public life. The number of members in the women's movement had decreased and the movement itself had encountered significant institutional development problems. Violence against women was still widespread and the real scale of domestic violence was unknown because the problem remained largely hidden; there was a lack of action on the part of the police and impunity given to perpetrators.
Speaking during the discussion were representatives from the Bangladesh Citizen's Initiative on CEDAW, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, the Women and Media Collective, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Women's Independent Democratic Movement.
When the Committee reconvenes on Tuesday, 25 January at 10 a.m., it is scheduled to begin its consideration of the combined sixth and seventh periodic report of Bangladesh (CEDAW/C/BGD/6-7).