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HLPF 2019: Women’s and Girls’ Rights must be Central to Sustainable Development

Flags of various countries and the United Nations flag

Equality Now participates in the UN’s annual High Level Political Forum to push UN member states to protect and advance the human rights of all women and girls.   

Each year for two weeks in July, United Nations member states and civil society organizations like Equality Now take part in the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). These groups come together to review progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to making recommendations to governments on women’s and girls’ rights, we take part in several panel discussions and side events throughout the HLPF period, and often organize and co-sponsor events ourselves.

This year, the primary concerns outlined in our recommendations were:

Reducing sexual violence in schools: 

Governments must ensure all school settings are free from sexual violence and ensure holistic programming to prevent and address sexual violence. Also, pregnant girls must have the right to continue their education.

Elimination of all discrimination on the basis of sex:

Governments must prioritize their compliance with international legal obligations, as well as their own national obligations, to ensure equality and fulfill their commitments under the SDGs.

Delivering justice for girls: 

Governments ensure all women and girls have access to legal systems to seek justice and obtain redress for human rights violations. This includes ensuring that laws prevent violence against women and girls, end practices that are harmful to women and girls and deliver legal equality. Laws concerning child marriage, female genital mutilation, and sex trafficking must not only be enacted but enforced through strong rule of law.

Their justice systems should ensure that offenders are prosecuted and punished and survivors are supported and protected.

Comprehensive laws to end FGM: 

Governments must enact and support the implementation of laws that criminalize the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), including clearly prohibiting the medicalization of FGM and enforcing penalties against those medical practitioners who perform FGM, including suspension or withdrawal of their medical licenses.

Ending human trafficking and exploitation

Governments must continue to push for progress towards an end to human trafficking. We call for strategies that address the often interconnected aspects of human trafficking and exploitation. We also urge the implementation of strategies that center both survivors and girls and women who are at risk of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, by investing in social and economic rights and support (including access to justice and legal redress) and promoting gender equality to reduce their vulnerabilities. Special emphasis must be placed on protection for adolescent girls who face unique vulnerabilities, especially in the context of gender inequality, exploitation and inadequate protection.

The full text of our statement can be found here.

Where you can find Equality Now at the HLPF: 

Tuesday 16th July: Use of ICTs to Combat Trafficking in Persons

We’ll be speaking on a panel about online sexual exploitation, where a clip of the new film Saving Zoe will also be shown. If you have a UN grounds pass, you can join us at 3 PM – 4:30 PM EST in UNHQ Conference Room 8.

Wednesday 17th July: Enhancing the multi-sectoral approach: Driving SDG 5 Accountability in Kenya

We’re hosting a panel discussion about a multi-sectoral approach to holding governments accountable for addressing the societal and structural issues that deprive women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities.  Speakers include: Ben Kimani, State Department of Planning, Kenya and Adelina Mwau, Deputy Governor of Makueni County, Kenya as well as our Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director, Judy Gitau, Regional Coordinator Africa and Naitore Nyamu Mathenge, Programme Officer, End Sexual Violence. It’s open to the public, and will take place from 1PM – 3PM EST in the Governor’s Room of the Millennium Hilton Hotel at 1 UN Plaza in New York City.

Wednesday 17th July: Saving Zoe Screening 

Finally, on Wednesday evening, we’ll be at a full-length screening of the film Saving Zoe, which will be followed by a panel discussion about the making of the film and the issue of online sexual exploitation with stars Laura and Vanessa Marano, and Saving Zoe author Alyson Noel. 

Check back soon for our full round-up and report of our learning from this year’s High Level Political Forum.