61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: Pushback Year

61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: Pushback Year

United Nations, New York City, March 17, 2017


Here at the United Nations in New York attending the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, someone reports receiving reactionary pushback against the pro woman agenda every 15 minutes: pushback about reproductive rights, pushback about home care, pushback about equal pay, pushback about just about everything. The delegates sent by conservative governments evidently have been instructed to object to everything.

In San Miguel de Allende people talked about resistance. But what was this resistance, resistance to what? I wondered all last month. It couldn’t be resistance to US President Trump or his administration exactly; it started before we even knew what he was going to do. Now I can link the terms. It is resistance to reactionary pushback. That pushback was why Trump was nominated in the first place.

It wasn’t just reactionary pushback in the USA. I saw it in rural Turkey in 2015, where one could not even get water, much less food, before nightfall during Ramazan (called Ramadan in Arabic countries). Local friends all reported the same: they did not want to fast themselves, but they were afraid of what their neighbors would say. In Istanbul the following week it seemed like things were much cooler and more diverse until a few thousand of us tried to march in the Gay Pride Parade. The parade is old and very popular in Istanbul. It had even been scheduled during Ramazan before. In 2015 we got gassed and water cannoned. Erdogan was doing a big reactionary pushback campaign.

The east evidently spread west. The British voted for Brexit, the Colombians voted against the peace agreements. Extremist hate groups have more than tripled in the United States, and that’s pretty far west. In the recent video Hate Rising, a representative of the Ku Klux Klan assures Univision reporter Jorge Ramos that he is inferior because of his race. One tactic of this pushback is exclusion. US President Trump has begun to deport even those Mexican Americans who have DACA deferred action status. He has excluded representatives of important newspapers and news agencies from his press conferences. He has forbidden travel to the US for everyone from six countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

We feel that travel ban here at the CSW.  Among the delegations absent from the NGO representation at the Commission on the Status of Women, we are missing the sisters from those six countries. But those are not the only ones. The Central Americans are not here either. I have not found even one NGO from El Salvador or Honduras represented, not even in the Caucus of Latin America and the Caribbean, not even in the events in Spanish.

Elizabeth Starcevic and I are here to represent the PEN International Women Writers Committee. We come from the PEN Center in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We thought we were here to monitor freedom of expression, our usual issue, and to learn more about the situation of women with respect to work, the highlighted theme for this year. W found that we had a completely different moral duty: to denounce the exclusion of our neighbors from the south. What is happening is a reduction of space for women, exclusion, margination, and repression. It is pushback against improvements in the lives of women.


Lucina Kathmann


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