MINELRES: UN Independent Expert on minority issues calls for 'gender lens' to focus on minority women

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Mar 11 10:32:48 2006

Original sender: Erik Friberg <EFriberg@ohchr.org>


The following news release was issued by the UN Independent Expert on
minority issues of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:

The Independent Expert on minority issues of the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights, Gay McDougall, has stated that new and
urgent attention must be given to the rights of women facing multiple
forms of discrimination, exclusion and violence. Amongst the most
disadvantaged and vulnerable are women from minority communities, she
suggests, who face problems compounded by their uniquely disadvantaged
positions in society. Such women face discrimination both because they
belong to certain minority communities, and also because they are women. 

In a statement marking International Women's Day, Gay McDougall called
for all actors at the community, national and international levels, to
rise to the challenge of improving the security, opportunities and life
chances of such women. The Independent Expert has called for action to
protect and promote the rights of those women whose lives have become
defined by discrimination, exploitation and violence, and whose voices
have been silenced by patriarchal ideologies and the fear of speaking
out. The effects of poverty and conflict, she stated, that deeply impact
on minorities, create conditions in which minority women are further

Stressing the need for research and analysis to expose the reality of
situations facing minority women, Ms. McDougall comments that: "In order
for policies and programs to be effective, the gender lens must be
adjusted to reveal the dynamics of colour, ethnicity and religion."

Using examples including Roma women, Afro-descendents and women affected
by caste discrimination, Gay McDougall said the 'hidden victims' of
discrimination "are often the most disadvantaged from birth until
death". Women from minority groups "often fight the patriarchy within
their communities along with the patriarchy and racism of the larger
community". She stated that action which challenges harmful cultural,
religious or traditional practices is vital, yet should not be seen as
an attack on the cultural or religious identity or heritage of minority

"The protection and promotion of the rights of women in disadvantaged
communities provides a means to realize the full potential that exists
within those communities as a whole, in the abilities and efforts of
both their men, and their women – equal in rights and in dignity."

Ms. McDougall, a human rights lawyer and previously UN Special
Rapporteur on the issue of systematic rape and sexual slavery practices
in armed conflict, calls for action which reaches into communities
themselves as well as addressing discrimination manifested in larger
society. Confirming that she would pay particular attention to the needs
of minority women within her mandate, the Independent Expert urged
States to take greater steps in the field of legislation and access to
justice for women. 

"National legislation, sensitively conceived, actively promoted, and
vigorously applied, can pave the way for social progress, and for real
change to the lives of disadvantaged women. Community based awareness
raising and practical initiatives also have a role to play in the
empowerment of women to achieve their potential and to enable them to
claim their rights with confidence."

Ms. McDougall highlighted the role of education as key to improving the
situation of minority women. 

"Crucially, girls and women from minority communities must have full and
equal access to quality education. Education must extend beyond the
classroom, to reach deeply into the fabric of society with a strong and
pervasive message of human rights, equality and understanding, which
enriches all lives." 

For the full statement by the UN Independent Expert on minority issues,

For further information on this statement, please contact Graham Fox at
the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Geneva) at:
GFox@ohchr.org, tel: + 41 22 917 9640. 

To visit the website of the UN Independent Expert on minority issues,
please see

Erik Friberg
Special Procedures Branch 
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson 3-016
CH - 1211 Geneva
Phone: + 41 (0)22 917 9645
Fax: + 41 (0)22 917 9006

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