Another great read. Thank goodness for long flights – I can finally catch up on all this important stuff! This time it’s ESCWA’s Gender Justice report.
Gender justice is one of those terms we sprinkle around often these days, perhaps without fully understanding the term. ESCWA uses a robust definition that moves beyond merely (merely!) eliminating gender-based discrimination. It also includes mechanisms for accountability and redress for the seemingly-insurmountable gaps between the sexes.
Accountability is critical, especially with all the discussion about it these days. So, what would this mean for the Arab region? We are sandwiched between rising conservative, patriarchal Islamists on one side and progressive female and youth-driven movements on the other. It’s an interesting moment for the region. And, given that Arab states have a significantly high young population, it is interesting to see how these polarized forces will fare.
An environment for gender justice needs to be built at the legal, policy, and social levels. There are building blocks in the region that can be put to use. The Muscat Declaration of 2016 includes accountability in its understanding of gender equality to ensure mechanisms that eliminate these deeply-rooted discriminations.
The Beirut Call to Action – a joint product of ESCWA and the Institute – embeds gender justice in all stages of conflict and peace. This was the product of the 2016 conference “Prioritizing Women, Peace and Security on the Arab Agenda” and takes specific note of the effects of conflict and post-conflict on gender equality, gender justice, and access to justice.
The ESCWA report highlights the discrepancy between international obligations that Arab states have committed to, and their application in domestic legislation. And a further disconnect regarding the actual implementation of these obligations. National laws remain in outright contradiction of these international obligations. An example is Lebanon’s ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the failure to ensure a uniform minimum age of marriage in the country.
Firstly, there needs to be a legislative review to eliminate existing discriminations. And then, the state needs to embed in national law the international obligations to which it is bound, particularly those obligations related to gender equality. And most importantly, states need independent monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance. These monitoring mechanisms need to be transparent, institutionalized, and fully resourced.
Combined, the above are building blocks for gender justice mechanisms. These will also foster a culture that condemns gender-based discrimination. Both government and non-governmental actors need to work together to bring this to fruition.