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With the in Geneva due to consider calls for re-eliminating laws discriminating against women next week, Faiza Mohamed urges Pambazuka News readers to petition their governments to support the mandate. Please read the full letter for details of how to contact your representatives.

Dear sisters and brothers,

This is an urgent call for action.

Informal consultations on the resolution re-eliminating laws that discriminate against women have concluded here (Geneva) at the Human Rights Council (HRC). The resolution must be tabled by the end of the day tomorrow in order to be considered by the full Human Rights Council next week; unfortunately very few African member states have been engaged in the discussion. We know there is a full programme at the HRC and that some missions don't have the capacity to stretch across many important issues. However, not participating in this important discussion to create a new mechanism to accelerate the pace of change of laws that discriminate against women is sending a message that this issue is not of importance to Africa.

Mauritius has engaged positively, but otherwise Egypt and South Africa are opposing, originally on the basis that an expert without local knowledge would not be able to tell whether a law discriminates against women or not. Now their arguments appear to centre around the claim that mechanisms already exist to deal with this issue, although the mandate specified in the resolution is for activities actually building on previous work and adds value to existing mechanisms. No other African member state has spoken at the meetings. We understand South Africa volunteered to act as coordinator to the African group on this issue, which others accepted including for reasons of capacity. That is not an optimistic sign. If consensus is not reached, it may well go to a vote.

Your immediate action is therefore very critical to encourage our governments to join in support of this new mandate. We urge you to press them to co-sponsor based on their commitments within the African Union (AU) and particularly through the AU's gender policy. I have attached relevant excerpts of this to support our arguments. I also attach a non-paper from the ICJ (International Court of Jurists) with some arguments, particularly on duplication.

South Africa has also presented a procedural issue. It is asserting that the idea of creating a special rapporteur on eliminating laws that discriminate against women was an initiative at CWS (New York) in 2005 and so with the Beijing +15 review coming up that is where it should stay. However, there are no moves at CSW to have a resolution and indeed CSW pushed it across to the HRC on the basis that CSW has no special procedures, whereas HRC does. Women's rights must not be made part of a political tennis match, nor must our needs be ghettoised in a place reserved for 'women' (for two weeks of the year) rather than mainstreamed in the Human Rights Council, the main body within the UN dealing with matters of human rights.

In any case, CSW has no special procedures and member states at that time expressed concern about having such a mechanism at CSW; in discussions, the suggestion was that the idea be transferred to its rightful place in Geneva. In addition, the servicing of CEDAW was transferred from NY (DAW) to Geneva (OHCHR) precisely in order to better integrate women's rights into human rights. The idea is to promote system-wide coherence within the UN system by integrating all mechanisms and bodies working on human rights under one office and to have them report to the council.

Please write urgently and in large numbers to the following representatives and encourage them to support the proposed resolution when it is tabled in council next week. This would send a strong message that women across Africa are watching what their representatives are doing (or failing to do) in their name. Most African governments have expressed support for this idea, they are just not speaking up. Please urge them to do so immediately. The best way to show their support would be by contacting the sponsor, Mexico, to offer their co-sponsorship. The sooner they do this the better. Time is running out and we are on the brink of a real concrete tool we can use to achieve at least legal equality for women, an essential first step. I know you will be swamped with work on other issues so I've taken the liberty of drafting a short letter which you may wish to use or adapt.

A list of the missions is attached (and the council members are provided below). I have already given personal contact info for some people who are key on influencing this. Great if you can target them.

Thanks and please give me a blind copy.

Best,

Faiza

Contact details are provided through this link:

http://www.unog.ch/80256EE600582E34/(httpPages)/8CEC446B720477DA80256EF8004CB68C?OpenDocument&expand=1&count=10000

South Africa
Sybil Matlhako
[email][email protected]
(She is very against setting up the manadate at the HRC)

Djibouti
His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Siad Doualeh
Ambassador
[email][email protected]

Zambia
His Excellency Mr. Darlington Mwape
Ambassador
[email][email protected]

Angola
Mr. Paulo Vazdac
[email][email protected]
[email][email protected]

Madagascar
His Excellency Mr. Guy Rajemison Rakotomaharo
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
[email][email protected]

Mauritius
His Excellency Mr. Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
[email][email protected]

Burkina Faso
His Excellency Mr. Prosper Vokouma
Ambassador
[email][email protected]

Cameroon
His Excellency Mr. Anatole Fabien Marie Nkou
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
[email][email protected]

Gabon
His Excellency Mr. Guy Blaise Nambo-Wezet
Ambassador
[email][email protected]

Nigeria
His Excellency Mr. Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
[email][email protected]

Ghana
Ms. Mercy Yvonne Amoah
Minister
Deputy Permanent Representative
Chargé d'affaires a.i.
[email][email protected]

Senegal
His Excellency Mr. Babacar Carlos Mbaye
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
[email][email protected]

Non-council memebrs
Kenya
Botswana
Zimbabwe
Ethiopia

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