viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2011

Tolerating marginalised participation of women in political transition: Is the EU neglecting women’s rights in Arab countries?

During a 3-day mission to the EU institutions[1] in Brussels on November 23, 2011, a delegation of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) composed of representatives of women’s rights organisations from Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Jordan, voiced serious concerns that Gender Equality was almost absent in the new EU approach[2] and stressed the lack of gender mainstreaming in this approach.

The EMHRN delegation regretted that, in its definition, the concept of “deep democracy” failed to enshrine women’s rights and full equal participation of women. The delegation further denounced that the concept showcased no clear benchmarks to tackle the pivotal role of women’s equal political participation in terms of democratic transition.

In meetings with EU institutional officials, members of the EMHRN delegation explained the situation of gender-based discrimination and gave an overview of the situation of women and the obstacles to their active participation in these countries, with a particularly sharp focus on times of political transition and reforms.

More specifically, the delegation members detailed the situation of Algerian women who are being subjected to discriminatory laws (i.e. the family law and other laws) and who are underrepresented both in the public and political spheres. Independent Algerian women’s rights organisations are also regularly hindered when they are trying to hold in-country activities due to the lack of freedom of association and assembly in the country.

As far as Egyptian women are concerned, the delegation updated EU officials on the systematic marginalisation of women’s participation in politics. The delegation also emphasised the fact that gender equality, non-discrimination and positive actions were nowhere to be seen on the agenda of the current transitional government. Recent cases of female demonstrators who went though virginity tests ordered by the Egyptian police (an act that qualifies as sexual abuse), have been documented by the media and strongly condemned by the international civil society.

Furthermore, human rights organisations operating in Egypt are harassed and subjected to dense defamation campaigns due to their documenting and publicising human rights violations by the Security Council of Armed Forces. 

With regards to the Jordanian situation, the delegation highlighted that no explicit gender equality was mentioned in the new constitutional amendments that took place recently in Jordan. While women were underrepresented in the National Dialogue Committee, not a single woman was to be found in the composition of the Royal Committee for Constitution Amendments. Jordanian women married to foreigners organised many sit-ins in front of the Parliament during the last months, in protest against discrimination in relation to passing on their nationality to their husbands and children, in a bid to claim their rights as full citizens.

In conclusion, the EMHRN delegation urged the High Representative of the Union for the Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission and representatives of EU member states to EU to step up their support for women’s rights and gender equality in the Mediterranean region as was the case in the framework of the Istanbul / Marrakech Process.

In particular, the EMHRN delegation is exhorting the EU to comply with the following:
  1. Integrating gender equality as a guiding principle in its relation with the countries in the Euromed region.
  2. Systematic mainstreaming of the gender dimension across the EU’s new response to a changing Neighborhood
  3. Including gender related benchmarks in the progress reports on which EU support will be based, such as: constitutionalisation of gender equality and non discrimination based on gender, lifting of reservations to CEDAW, signing of CCEDAW Protocole, abolishing discriminatory articles, establishing parity in electoral laws and processes and others positive actions oriented towards the promotion of gender equality and the eradication of gender-based discrimination.

[1]  External European Action Service, European Parliament, European Commission and European Council.
[2] “A new response to a changing Neighborhood” issued by the High Representative of the Union for the Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission in May 2011 

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