UN expert worried about “decreasing space” for women in gender debate

The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls has raised concern about how women advocating for women’s rights are treated by society.

Reem Alsalem said she was concerned about a “decreasing space” where women could “express themselves peacefully in demanding respect for their needs based on their sex and/or sexual orientation”.

“I am disturbed by the frequent tactic of smear campaigns against women, girls and their allies on the basis of their beliefs on non-discrimination based on sex and same-sex relations,” Alsalem said. “Branding them as ‘Nazis’, ‘genocidaires’ or ‘extremists’ is a means of attack and intimidation with the purpose of deterring women from speaking and expressing their views.”

“Women and girls who emphasize the specific needs of women born female and who call for and engage in discussions around the definitions of sex gender, and gender identity and the interaction of rights derived from these for rights holders in any given society should therefore be able to express themselves and their concerns on these issues in safety and in dignity.”

The UN expert also highlighted that researchers and academic should be free to share their views.

“It is important that people, including researchers and academic, who express their views on “gender affirming” interventions including for children are not silenced, threatened, or intimidated simply for holding and articulating such views. This is particularly important given the implications for vital issues such as safeguarding, participation and consent by children, and sex education.”

“I find particularly concerning include reprisals such as censorship, legal harassment, loss of jobs, loss of income, removal from social media platforms, speaking engagements and the refusal to publish research conclusions and articles. These tactics have affected the ability to discuss issues related to sex, gender, and gender identity within universities and in society.” Alsalem said.

Alsalem also shared her concern about political party’s taking action against women who share their views on the issue, saying she was “aware of women politicians who have been sanctioned by their political parties, including through the threat of dismissal or actual dismissal. These actions have been accompanied by attacks and integrity, both online and offline, via smear campaigns and the incitement of hatred.”

The UN expert also said she had concerns about how hate speech laws in some countries in the “global north” were treating comments about gender expression and gender identity.

“Some such provisions are being taken to mean that any interrogation of the scope of rights based on gender identity amount to hate speech against non-binary persons and perhaps even incitement of hatred and genocide.” Alsalem said.

While the UN expert did not make reference to any specific country, Victorian MP Moira Deeming has confirmed that she has been in contact with the United Nations about how she was treated by her Liberal colleagues.

According to the ABC Deeming said the report was “cold comfort” after she was ousted from the parliamentary Liberal party.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t overturn what I consider to be unjust treatment,” Deeming said.

OIP Staff

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