The 67th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) finally took place in person in New York from 6-17 March 2023 after three long years of physical absence. This year’s priority theme, ‘Innovation and technological change education in the digital age’, was the first time the issue of gender digital (in)equalities was addressed at international level and resulted in a 26 page outcome document: the Agreed Conclusions.
The CSW is the largest annual multilateral meeting on women’s rights, bringing together world leaders, ministerial delegations and women’s non-governmental organisations, all generating a hive of activity. The physical absence of three years, due to COVID-19, and the absence of many women’s grassroots organisations could still be felt and seen.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has been engaging in the CSW for many years and there is a consensus among members that the CSW is a strategic place to be. This year, the EWL delegation was composed of the Réka Sáfrány (President ), Konstantina Vardaramatou (General Secretary), Laura Kaun (Director of Policy and Campaigns) and Mary Collins (Senior Policy and Advocacy Coordinator). In addition, Malpuri Groth from the Swedish Women’s Lobby represented EWL in the EU Delegation.
The EWL organised a side event on the topic of addressing the full continuum of online violence against women and girls, which took place on 9 March 2023.
The event focused on the EWL’s key messages for the adoption of the proposed EU Directive on violence against women and domestic violence. Panellists and participants from EWL membership and international feminists discussed the current situation and the potential to make this proposed legislation together with the Istanbul Convention, a landmark for women and girls in Europe.
Along with EWL President, speakers included Lesia Radelicki, Member, European Commission, Cabinet of Commissioner for Equality Helena DALLI; Kalliopi Mingeirou, Chief, Ending Violence against Women, UN Women; Anna Ekstedt, Ambassador at large for combating trafficking in persons, Swedish Delegation to CSW67; Jenny Westerstrand, President, Roks, the National Organisation for Women’s Shelters and Young Women’s Shelters in Sweden; and Hon. Neema Lugangira, Member of Parliament, Tanzania.
Additionally, the EWL delegation held meetings with key stakeholders and took part in meetings organised by European Union delegations to consult with civil society representatives. Our representative was Malpuri Groth of the Swedish Women’s Lobby, one of the two civil society representatives invited as part of the delegation. She conveyed our key messages and urged EU decision-makers to influence leading tech companies and to use the current proposed EU directive on violence against women to prevent and combat different forms of violence in the digital sphere: the commodification of women’s bodies through prostitution and surrogacy, and threats of violence against female political actors.
The EWL also analysed the Agreed Conclusions, which reaffirmed that women’s rights are human rights and while technology can be used to promote women’s and girls’ rights in all areas, it can also be used to perpetuate gender stereotypes, negative social norms and the continuum of male violence. There is an urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective in the conceptualisation, development and implementation of digital technologies and related policies.
Women’s organisations and the feminist movement are the guardians of agreed language to ensure the universality of women’s human rights. The UN must remain the bastion of human rights and progressive policies. Therefore, it is crucial that the Agreed Conclusions, while non-binding, are taken home and governments are held accountable for the implementation.