GENEVA (19 June 2020) – UN experts* today expressed concern over proposals to substitute Guatemala's highest-ranking institution on women's rights and urged the Government to uphold its international human rights commitments on gender equality.
Guatemala has proposed substituting the Presidential Secretariat for Women (SEPREM) with a lower ranking institution, which the experts said would undermine the nation's compliance with the CEDAW and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"SEPREM has taken the lead role in advising and coordinating public policies for equality between men and women, and has played a fundamental role in the last 20 years for the protection and promotion of women's rights in the country," said Elizabeth Broderick, Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.
"The substitution of this institution by another one with lesser rank and functions, contradicts Guatemala's international human rights commitments, and is a step backwards in terms of compliance with SDG 5 on gender equality, and SDGs 16 on strong institutions," Broderick said.
Both the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action have called on States to establish high-level, effective, adequately resourced national institutions and mechanisms for the advancement of women and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in government policies.
CEDAW has recommended that Guatemala strengthen the Presidential Secretariat for Women by giving it the status of a ministry, and a bill to elevate the institution has been pending in Congress since 2016. "We regret that there has been no political will to adopt it and that, on the contrary, the replacement by a lower rank institution has been announced," Broderick said.
The experts also said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the discrimination and inequality women and girls already face.
"We are at a time when, more now than ever, Guatemalan women and girls need strong institutions, which allow for the inclusion of a gender perspective in crisis responses and public policies," Broderick said. "We encourage the government to consult with national women's organisations to better understand the needs of women in the country."
(*) The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls was established by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. It is comprised of five independent experts: Ms. Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane, Ms. Ivana Radačić, and Ms. Melissa Upreti
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