Articles Tagged ‘CEDAW - Sayoni’

CEDAW Town Hall

CEDAW Town Hall

We gathered community groups and individuals for a consultation in preparation for Singapore's session before the CEDAW Committee this year.

Sayoni will be submitting a shadow report advocating for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LBTQ) women at Singapore's next session with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee this year. In particular, our CEDAW team will be highlighting the ways in which the government can do more to support LBTQ people. Hence, we wanted to hear from the community about LBTQ issues that hit close to home, whether experienced by you or by someone you know.

WHAT IS CEDAW?
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, was ratified by Singapore in 1995. This will be Singapore's fifth reporting cycle. By ratifying the convention, a country signals that it agrees with and commits to uphold the principles of equality, non-discrimination and state obligation.

WHAT ARE SHADOW REPORTS?
Shadow reports, submitted by non-governmental organisations, serve to fill in the gaps in the government reports and provide a more complete picture of the country situation. The Singapore government has historically excluded LBTQ women's issues in its reports to the United Nations.

You can find Singapore's current preliminary report to the Committee here:
https://www.msf.gov.sg/policies/Women-Celebrating-Women/International-Obligations/Documents/Singapore%27s%20Fifth%20CEDAW%20Periodic%20Report.pdf

Concerns at UN Review of Singapore's Gender Equality

AWARE, the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E.), Sayoni and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) express concerns at the UN review of Singapore’s gender equality.

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From left: Vanessa Ho from Sayoni, IWRAW intern Kari Rotkin, Malathi Das from SCWO, Braema Mathi from AWARE, Jean Chong from Sayoni, Nadzirah Samsudin from AWARE, Kelly Then from Sayoni, and Laura Hwang from SCWO

 

1. Gender equality experts from the CEDAW Committee asked more than 100 questions during an intense, five-hour Constructive Dialogue with Singapore’s State delegation at the 49th CEDAW session on 22 July 2011, in the New York headquarters of the United Nations.

Our CEDAW journey - Journal 1

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In this series, our CEDAW team over at UN will be sharing with our readers the journey they are undertaking, in order to present the Sayoni CEDAW Shadow Report  We wish all the luck to Jean, Kelly and Vanessa, for their presentation before the UN.

 

Sometimes, a little thing you start can take a life of its own. Sayoni's CEDAW project was one of those.


CEDAW is an international Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, for which States and NGOs make periodic reports about their countries. It is significant because it is one of only two international human rights treaty that Singapore has ratified and the State has asserted consistently that it would only ratify conventions that it is prepared to implement.


In 2008, AWARE started a series of workshops to prepare their CEDAW shadow report. Jean and I attended their training. Initially, we had planned to include our concerns as lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in AWARE's report. However, we later decided to prepare our own report in order to give the issues due prominence.

Our CEDAW journey - Journal 2

 

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In this series, our CEDAW team over at UN will be sharing with our readers the journey they are undertaking, in order to present the Sayoni CEDAW Shadow Report. They have already presented their report before the CEDAW Committee, and are now awaiting the government's presentation to the Committee. You may read the Government's report here.

We had the most difficult flight while on the way to New York. With multiple wailing babies on a long flight, we were convinced it was the government’s way of torturing us for the audacity of writing a country shadow report in CEDAW highlighting the plight of sexual minority women.


People often asked us why we are always dreaming the impossible. There were criticisms on the effectiveness of this human rights treaty and that better focus should be put on grassroot movements. At the same time, there was also a tremendous amount of support from the community and international friends.

 

Our CEDAW journey - Journal 3

 

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We have had so little time to write about our CEDAW journey here due to the frantic pace. I believe if we try, most of our sentences will be incoherent anyway due to the fatigue level we’re experiencing.


But we soldier on. We are doing everything we can because so many people are depending on us to speak up for them. The joke between us is that we have only seen a two-block radius of New York between the hotel and the United Nations.

Our CEDAW journey - Journal 4

 

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There were tears when I contemplated on all the things we have done at the eve of the Singapore government's session with the CEDAW committee. They were not of sadness or regret but a crescendo of the many emotions that swept us daily throughout the last week.


We spoke about the victims of violence we know of and the silence that surrounds invisible women. Or the many gay men and women we know that lingers at the edge of existence. We tried to put a name to the shame and pain that tortures our community endlessly and the insistent ignorance of those who claimed that they understand but know nothing. And did nothing.


With determination flashing in her eyes Kelly quietly said to me, "We have to make this happen. We must." That was the deciding tone when we raced down the stairways and corridors in the United Nations every day.

Our CEDAW journey - Oral Statement to CEDAW committee on the 18th of July

 

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Editor's note: This is the oral statement by Sayoni, delivered by Kelly, before the UN last week. Our team has completed their duties at CEDAW, and we await their return from New York so that we can congratulate them on a job well done.

 

Madam Chair,

I am from Sayoni and represent women in Singapore on sexual orientation and gender identity. The State has said that there is no discrimination against homosexuals in Singapore. Our research and experience show otherwise. The most pressing issues are:

In the Law

Legislation inherited from the British criminalises sexual intercourse between men. This criminalisation sets the stage and cascades. It condones discrimination against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and it prevents equality of access, opportunities and outcomes for us in public policy.

Singapore LBT's concerns debut at United Nations review (CEDAW)

Media advisory

13 July 2011

Singaporean lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s concerns debut at UN review

On 22 July 2011, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will review Singapore’s progress with eliminating discrimination against women during the 49th CEDAW session at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The State of Singapore and Non-Governmental Organisations have submitted reports and during the session, will engage in dialogue with the Committee. The Committee will then make its Concluding Observations, which identifies areas of concern and makes recommendations for progress.

For the first time, the concerns of lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women are represented by Sayoni during this process. Sayoni will highlight prevalent and systematic discrimination against women based on sexual orientation and gender identity across social, cultural, political and economic spheres of Singapore.

Successful Advocacy for Protection of LBTQ Rights in Singapore at CEDAW Session

CEDAW Committee having an exchange with Singapore officials.

In October 2017, Singapore government officials who were in Geneva, Switzerland, to report on gender equality in the nation met an unexpected barrage of questions on the situation of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other queer (LBTQ) women. In response, the officials evaded the questions, denied that there was discrimination, and insisted that LBTQ women were not discriminated against. But the women’s rights experts who asked the questions had clearly heard the voices of Sayoni and our civil society allies. Among their list of recommendations for Singapore, published a month later, was a section devoted to LBTQ and intersex women, recommending that the Singapore government put in place laws and policies to protect this group, including its media policies.

This was a landmark move from the group of independent experts, who are elected to serve four-year terms and convene to review the progress of states that have signed the treaty. The Singapore government ratified CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), a United Nations treaty, in 1995 and has regularly submitted reports on measures it has taken to implement gender equality within the country according to the CEDAW framework. 

However, LBTQ issues are not always included in Concluding Observations, and when they are, they are seldom given wide, overarching treatment. Hence, Sayoni is pleased that the experts were able to recognise our point that LBTQ women are subject to intersecting forms of discrimination and efforts must be made to specifically ensure protections for this minority group. We hope that the government is similarly able to acknowledge the discrepancies that need to be redressed and takes steps to equalise laws and policies for all women.

Sayoni engaged in a host of advocacy efforts leading up to the fifth review of Singapore in 2017. Five years ago, we documented evidence of violence and discrimination among LBTQ women in a multi-year project that we plan to release in report format. This evidence informed the shadow report that we submitted to the CEDAW Committee to supplement information from the government report. We were also proud to be part of a coalition of civil society groups (“Many Voices, One Movement”) that submitted a comprehensive coalition shadow report highlighting important issues to the CEDAW Committee, including the concerns of migrant workers, sex workers, and Muslim women.

In October 2017, representatives from Sayoni travelled to Geneva to personally lobby the CEDAW Committee, as we had done during the last cycle in 2011. Members of the committee were very receptive to our points and brought up most of them during the session with Singapore state representatives. These questions were further condensed for the final document in the form of recommendations for Singapore.

The following recommendations on LBTQ women are excerpted from the Concluding Observations:

Education

27.    The Committee recommends that the State party:

(c)    Address negative stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes with regard to the sexuality of adolescents.

Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women

40.    The Committee expresses concern that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women face discrimination in various areas of life, and that their situation is often exacerbated by the policies of the State party, including its media policy.

41.    The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women are effectively protected against all forms of discrimination in law and in practice, including by undertaking educational and awareness-raising campaigns to combat discriminatory stereotypes, including in its media policies.

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