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Roundup: Equality Now at CSW65

The UN flag is depicted in the foreground with the flags of other countries behind it.

Despite being fully virtual, CSW65 was a very active two weeks, full of interesting events, and good opportunities for high-level advocacy.

Equality Now staff spent March 15-26 learning, networking, and holding governments to account on women’s and girls’ rights. Here are some of the highlights:


Equality Now was invited to give an oral statement during an official member state session at CSW. Global Lead for Ending Sex Trafficking Tsitsi Matekaire highlighted the importance of legal equality, particularly in family law. She also spoke powerfully to the need for international standards and action to address online exploitation and abuse, made even more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic sparking an increase in online abuses and in women and girls’ vulnerability to them. You can watch the CSW65 closing session in its entirety, or if you prefer, you can skip straight to Equality Now’s statement by fast-forwarding to the 54 minute, 52 second mark. The video has closed captioning in English.


As a founding member of the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law, launched last year, Equality Now and our partners organized an official (virtual) side event, “Equality in Family Law: Committing to Reform”. Felt by many to be the best event at CSW this year, the discussion featured Ministers of State from Sweden, the Maldives, and the Dominican Republic, a Judge in the Ecclesiastical Court of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, UN experts, and civil society leaders, with fantastic moderation by international journalist Femi Oke. The discussion highlighted progress being made in family law reform, no matter the form of the family, as well as ongoing challenges. You can watch the full event here.


Cosponsored by the governments of Australia and Finland, Equality Now, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and expertly moderated by Carolina Henriquez-Schmidt of TrustLaw, this event took an in-depth look at the very real vulnerabilities faced by women and girls online, and the gendered, technological, and legal challenges in addressing the problem of online sexual exploitation and abuse. In the first part of the conversation, the Executive Director of Rights4Girls outlined the many legal hurdles and difficulties faced by victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse in securing protection and seeking justice, and Equality Now’s Global Lead on Ending Sex Trafficking spoke about the key findings and recommendations from Equality Now’s recent research on online sexual exploitation and abuse, highlighting the need for an international framework to inform national laws and responses, international cooperation and regulation of digital technology companies. In the second part of the discussion, Australia’s Ambassador to the UN, the Head of Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section of the UNODC, the Ambassador for Gender Equality in Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a member of GREVIO of the Council of Europe gave their perspectives on national, regional, and international approaches to addressing this complex and multi-jurisdictional issue. Watch the full event here.


Equality Now staff participated in, supported, and attended many other events during CSW aside from the highlights above. These included a Karama event with lawyers and activists in the Arab region who discussed the intersection of law and religion and the experience of Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco in gender-based violence (GBV) reform. There was also Generation Equality Forum (GEF) “curtain raiser” event in which Equality Now’s Global Executive Director Yasmeen Hassan gave a 2-minute personal reflection on the issue of transformative leadership and its relevance for the GEF preparatory process and post-Paris action plan. Global Lead for Ending Sex Trafficking Tsitsi Matekaire took part in another event alongside the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), where representatives from CSOs, UN Women, and survivors discussed ways in which governments can invest to end sexual violence and exploitation of women and girls, leveraging on their commitments under Target 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals Global Partnership. Finally, as part of the Global Platform to End FGM/C, Equality Now supported the side event “Partnerships to accelerate global action to end FGM by 2030”, featuring a diverse group of activists, experts, and survivors.


CSW 65 concluded with agreement by member states to continue to make progress on amending or repealing discriminatory laws and to tackle violence against women and girls in the digital space.  Immediately preceding Generation Equality Forum (GEF), it helped prepare both governments and civil society for further engagement on these vital issues. The elimination of discriminatory laws was well highlighted throughout GEF and will be a key component of the Action Coalitions’ work.