Lithuania reports in front of CEDAW Committee

This is our third day at the 41st CEDAW Session.  Today Lithuanian governments is answering the questions of the CEDAW Committee. The session will take the whole day and the questions range from the rights of Roma women to sexual rights which Lithuania is violating due to putting restrictions on abortion and limiting young people’s access to information about sexuality.

It is amazing to see a situation when government is put through the international embarassment on the rights of people whom they usually consider unimportant. The process takes about 4-5 hours and questions asked are very detailed and sometimes they are very embarassing. Yesterday Yemen government had the floor and they could hardly respond to some of the questions.

Kyrgyz government will be presenting in the end of October and we are preparing for it with effort and zeal.

41st CEDAW session in New York and Kyrgyzstan

It has been over a month since I wrote last time. I have been very busy with a vacation and working on moving my commitments to a more international level. Right now I am preparing two reports on two Central Asian countries on sexual and reproductive health which is an interesting endeavor.

And right now I am sitting in the UN building in New York and listening to the Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He is now welcoming the participants of the 41st Session of the Committee on the Conventional on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). During this session Yemen, Nigeria, Tanzania, Finland, the UK and Lithuania will present their reports. The structure of reporting allows NGOs to present their shadow reports in response to the official government reports.  The Committee will consider both reports and make recommendation to the governments on what needs to be done to improve the situation of women in their country.

Kyrgyzstan is presenting in October 2008 and I am here to learn about the process and to prepare for presenting Labrys report on the situation of lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people. Kyrgyz government has submitted their report already and Kyrgyz women’s NGOs are working on preparing their shadow reports. Council of Women’s NGOs, Forum of Women’s NGOs, Labrys and possibly sex workers organization Tais Plus are drafting reports.

Writing shadow reports on CEDAW

Today I acutely felt the differences between mainstream gender NGOs and gender NGOs working with stigmatized communities like sex workers or lesbian women.  CEDAW reports that come from Kyrgyzstan hardly include the latter groups and the people working for putting together the reports usually come from mainstream NGOs e.g. working with ‘normal’ women. A normal woman would be a young woman, probably married, probably with one or two or three children and probably in need of support in terms of a mini-credit or legal support in case she is divorcing or shelter/consultation in case she is living with an abusive partner. The usual approach to this ‘normal’ woman is victimizing, she does not sound like an agent in the reports but rather as somebody who is a recipient of care and support.

The ‘other’ women are not present in the mainstream reports or discussed in one sentence because it is a requirement (‘the number of sex workers under 16 years old has increased due to harsh economic situation’ or ‘criminal code mentions forced lesbian sexual contacts as grounds for longer rape sentence’).

This post is rather a short though on the larger reports, I will be looking at the texts soon and posting more in detail about some of the interesting mismatches in the reports.