Connections, Commitments, And Clarity Of Direction: Takeaways From The 78th UN General Assembly – Equality Now

Efforts to ban child marriages in Maine, and at the UN General Assembly

Connections, Commitments, And Clarity Of Direction: Takeaways From The 78th UN General Assembly

The 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA) was a jam-packed couple of weeks (any New Yorker will tell you the streets most certainly were!) with heads of state and other high-ranking government officials from around the world, leaders of UN bodies, and representatives of civil society coming together to address the world’s most pressing issues. Equality Now and our partners were there reminding governments that the deadline for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is drawing near, so they have no time to waste to ensure legal equality for all women and girls, end FGM/C and child marriage, and ensure gender equality and human rights continue to be at the core.

Bringing a focus on legal equality

The expert-packed group of speakers in the “Accelerating Action toward Equality in Law for Women and Girls by 2030” virtual event on September 14th hosted by UN Women stressed the importance of galvanizing leadership, inspiring activism, and harnessing data in the push to repeal and revise gender-discriminatory laws.

Catherine Harrington of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (GCENR) outlined progress made in several countries, highlighted the activism of women in Malaysia affected by discriminatory nationality laws, and noted that remaining discrimination in nationality laws “creates unnecessary suffering”. Hyshyama Hamin of the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law (GCEFL) spoke about the Coalition’s achievements and noted how “important it is to ground activism nationally, regionally, and globally in the lived realities of how discriminatory family laws and practices impact women and girls…and that those most affected by the discriminatory laws and practices are the ones who lead the call for reforms.” She also recognized that these laws are among the slowest and most challenging to amend, repeal or codify because often culture and religion are used as a basis to keep these laws in their discriminatory state. The discussion closed on a hopeful note as panelists shared their strategies for continuing to hold governments accountable going forward.

Tools for addressing FGM in the United States

Later that same day, Equality Now, representatives of the US End FGM/C Network, activists, academics, law enforcement professionals, and survivors of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) came together in person to discuss the challenges and progress in the fight against the practice in the United States, and to share two essential new tools to map progress and combat the FGM/C through the law:

  • interactive state-by-state map, that highlights the states with and without laws against FGM/C in the United States. The map’s hover feature also provides the latest available data on the number of women and girls impacted by FGM/C in every state, as well as clickable links to the official legal text for each state law. In addition, for researchers and academics, a table with all of this information including best practice provisions is available on a separate webpage.
  • Training Manual for Legal Professionals on FGM/C in the U.S. which provides invaluable guidance to lawmakers, legal practitioners, and others in drafting, enacting, and enforcing laws to combat FGM/C. The manual will be available online soon. Sign up here to receive a copy.

Jill Thompson, Equality Now’s Regional Representative for North America and Global Lead on Adolescent Girls, who moderated the panel discussion, stressed the universality of the problem, noting that “FGM/C varies depending on the country in which it’s performed. But the one thing they have in common is that it has no health benefits and it’s intended to control women’s sexuality.” Caitlin LeMay, Executive Director of US End FGM/C Network, also highlighted the global nature of FGM/C – and of solutions – saying “As we launch the legal manual, some other countries are doing a lot better than we are, so the U.S. can learn from them in eradicating the practice.”

Attendees and panelists alike lingered well after the formal discussion had concluded, and expressed their excitement about the tools, and about the many opportunities they saw to connect and to continue working together to end FGM/C in the United States.

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