Wellington, 15 March 2019 – Today marks the global launch of ‘The Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights’.
The Declaration is the output of a global feminist movement to put pressure on the UN to reaffirm women’s existing rights. It is a clear call to law and policy makers to retain the sex-based biological definition of woman, and suggests ways that states should promote and protect these rights. The launch of the Declaration will be marked with a series of grassroots events around the world, starting in New York today, where world-renowned feminist scholar, Sheila Jeffreys, will deliver the keynote speech. Heather Brunskell-Evans, spokesperson for the Women’s Human Rights Campaign, the organisation behind the Declaration, says: “Current international laws and policies on women’s rights are being threatened by governments and organisations within countries that are trying to change the definition of woman. The Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights is a statement on the importance of keeping the current sex-based definition of ‘woman’. Women’s rights, set out in the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and subsequent international agreements, are based on our sex, defined by the UN as ‘the physical and biological characteristics that distinguish males from females’.” In recent years, organisations have been quietly trying to replace the idea of biological sex with the idea of ‘gender identity’ in human rights documents; and to include men who say they have a female ‘gender identity’ in the word ‘woman’.” Many women’s rights are related to our biologically female bodies e.g. the right to abortion, and maternal rights. Other women’s rights are aimed at eliminating discrimination against women in public life, for example, women’s rights to education, political representation, work and equal pay. Further, women’s rights are to protect us against violence or harmful practices such as rape, FGM and forced marriage, which is of particular concern in developing countries.” A key way women and girls are denied rights is by ‘gender’, also known as ‘sex role stereotyping’ (e.g. girls should help at home while boys go to school). The UN recognises this is harmful and works for ‘the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.’ Ani O’Brien, spokesperson for Speak Up For Women, said: “We support transgender people in gaining protections for their gender identity and expression – no one should be subjected to abuse or discrimination because of what they believe or how they present themselves. However, these rights must not come at the expense of existing sex-based rights of women and girls. The Declaration has been being translated into multiple languages, and, ahead of its official launch today, has already been signed by over 1,350 people from 45 countries, including: Argentina, Australia,Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guernsey, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, USA, Wales.