Lyda Verstegen from Human Rights Council: Even judges are influenced by gender stereotypes

Lyda Verstegen, IAW representative to the Human Rights Council , reports from the current session of the Council in Geneva:

women_hr_defenders_intOn Monday 16 June there was a High Level Panel on female genital mutilation (FGM/C). Gender stereotyping is the cause of this particularly devastating example of violating girls’ human rights.
There was a surprising consensus in the general debate later that this practice must stop. The representative of WHO, happy as she was with all the pledges for prevention, asked for attention to the women who had already been cut.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navy Pillay opened the first session. She said that the outrageous kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria was yet another in a long line of attacks on women’s rights and dignity premised on deep stereotypes regarding women’s proper roles.
We all know that ending stereotyping is in article 5 of CEDAW , all states parties have to work against the notions of inferiority or superiority of either sex.

Simone Cusack
Simone Cusack

The main novelty in the panel was a report by Simone Cusack, an Australian lawyer, about judicial stereotyping, i.e. by judges. She has studied an enormous amount of jurisprudence. Her goal is to raise awareness that even judges sometimes apply stereotypes instead of facts. There have to be legal and policy reforms, advocates have to monitor decisions and challenge decisions by expert evidence, judicial capacity has to be built and good practices should be highlighted.

Later the same day there was a side event on the same subject, where it was stated that the training should start with police and health workers. Obviously judges are at the end of the line.
In the general debate afterwards it was amusing to hear the representative of Saudi Arabia say that in his country women were honoured as Mothers, Wives, Daughters and Sisters, thereby confirming the stereotypical notion that women are always dependent on someone and are not individuals in their own right.

The Panel on the Development Goals was opened by Ms Flavia Pansieri, deputy high Commissioner for Human Rights. She stressed freedom from want, among other things the stereotype of women as mothers rather than women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. Therefore it was shocking  when the representative of the European Union, in her enumeration of necessary goals, did not mention women’s sexual health and rights.