The world’s largest gathering dedicated to the support of women and their rights has finished. The 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (hereinafter “Commission”) took place from 6 to 17 March 2023. Thousands of representatives of UN Member States and non-profit organisations met at UN Headquarters in New York to raise critical questions concerning the promotion of gender equality. The Czech Republic actively participated in the debate and brought the topics of integration of women and particularly vulnerable persons and prevention and elimination of gender-based violence in cyberspace on the table.
Rape as a weapon of war
A theme that resonated across the Commission’s agenda of the session was Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and related violence. Eight million Ukrainian citizens, mostly women and children, have crossed borders and fled from their country. Within Czechia, almost 500,000 temporary protections have been issues to Ukrainian citizens, which was the highest number of temporary protections in the EU per capita in 2022. In this context, the Czech Republic, in cooperation with Ukraine, organised a side event on the role of the non-profit sector in the integration of refugees. Representatives from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Ukrainian, Guatemalan and Czech governments, and the non-profit sector took part in the discussion.
Marian Jurečka, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, summarised the Czech government’s actions and priorities in terms of integrating Ukrainian women into the labour market and highlighted the work of the non-profit sector in the immediate response. While surveys conducted in Czechia demonstrate that the majority of Ukrainians who have fled to Czechia intend to return to Ukraine, the Czech Republic is putting effort into the integration of children in the education system and the parents in the labour market.
Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková stressed we should all take into account the human rights and gender dimensions of migration when integrating refugees. She specifically emphasised the vulnerable position of migrant children.
Kateryna Levchenko, Ukraine’s Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy, recalled the scale of the refugee wave, which numbered 14 million people who had left their homes and more than half of them left for abroad. Kateryna Levchenko sees her main task in pushing a gender perspective into Ukraine’s National Recovery Plan and providing help for survivors of sexual violence as a result of the war.
Carla Maria Rodriguez Mancia, Guatemalan ambassador put the crisis in Europe in a global context, reminding the world to stand behind Ukraine and condemn Russia’s actions. She appreciated the efforts to develop psychological assistance. People do not only come with injuries to the body but also to the soul. Psychological assistance for survivors of sexual violence and other traumas must be part of the integration of women.
Speakers from the UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee and the OECD agreed on the need to support local organisations that are led by women and specialise in helping women and their families fleeing conflict. IRC’s Ganna Dudinska said that funding remains one of the main obstacles for these organisations. Magda Faltová shared her experience from the frontline of helping refugees and refugee women as the head of a non-governmental organisation in the Czech Republic and stressed the need to decrease the administrative burden connected to subsidies.
The side-event also featured a presentation by Emma Olsson, a Swedish prosecutor, who shared her experience in prosecuting cyber-violence cases. Stéfania Chiru, Director of the International Department of the Ministery for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, shared her experience in policy-making in this area. Finally, Alyssa Ahrabare, Vice President of the French Women’s Lobby, gave a presentation on raising awareness about non-consensual sharing of intimate photos and videos.
The situation concerning human rights and gender equality varies from country to country, and the United Nations is the unique and most important forum for overcoming these differences and finding consensus solutions. As UN Member States, we share a number of challenges. The Czech Republic will take a lot of inspiration, contacts and expertise with it into its future work on the promotion of gender equality. We wish the same to other delegates.