Women’s rights threatened by fundamentalism and the far right, study finds

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The rise of religious and far-right fundamentalism poses a serious risk to gender equality around the world, according to a new United Nations report.

Based on 54 submissions from governments, academics and non-governmental organizations, the report claims that extremist religious and non-religious agendas are undermining women’s freedoms around the world, including in Australia.

In a submission to the report, the NGO Australian Lawyers for Human Rights said mainstreaming extremist ideas into the nation’s public discourse was a threat to women.

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Professor Karima Bennoune, UN special rapporteur on cultural rights and author of the report, said Australian human rights lawyers had expressed particular concerns over the rise of “populist ultra-nationalism”.

Professor Bennoune said ISIS’s abuse of women’s human rights was the impetus for the report.

“But also… the backlash against people speaking foreign languages ​​in the UK after the Brexit vote, and the rise in hate speech after the US election last fall,” she said.

Disguise gender discrimination

The report notes that fundamentalist and extremist movements of all stripes reject notions of equality and universality of human rights.

For women, he says, this can translate into “modest dress” requirements, lack of reproductive rights, threats of discrimination or demonization for not conforming to gender stereotypes.

“In the report, I talk about how each year thousands of Iranian women are berated, arrested or prosecuted for the alleged crime of not wearing the hijab,” she said.

Two women wearing black burqas look at a cell phone.
Women in Saudi Arabia can be arrested for not covering their heads.(Getty images: AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine )

According to Professor Bennoune, who is also the author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, fundamentalist groups are not the only ones to impose discrimination – governments, educators and social media are also complicit.

The report notes that governments and human rights organizations accept human rights violations or forms of discrimination in the name of cultural relativism.

Governments that cite cultural practices while opposing women’s rights defenders “help and encourage extremism,” the report says.

The political practice of partnering with non-violent extremist groups is also seen as a source of concern.

A portrait of smiling woman with curly hair.
Professor Bennoune says fundamentalist ideologies – not just abuses – must be fought.(Provided)

“In many places where governments have strategies for what is called countering violent extremism or CVE, they sometimes base their strategies on partnerships with what they consider to be ‘moderate extremists’ or fundamentalists. from various walks of life – and I think that’s a terrible mistake, “says Professor Bennoune.

“Often these so-called nonviolent extremists espouse a discourse of discrimination against women which, in fact, ends up producing a lot of violence against women.”

Professor Bennoune said fundamentalist ideologies, and not just cases of abuse, must be fought.

“The international community recognized during the apartheid era that the problem was not just abuse, it was the ideology of racial superiority itself that needed to be overcome – and I think it was. what we see here, ”she explained.

The report’s findings were presented to the General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

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