As Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s controversial comments about gender equality went around the world over the weekend, Mexico’s Ambassador to the UN, Socorro Flores Liera, delivered her own statement.
It focused on “ensuring accountability” for human rights violations perpetrated against women.
“Accountability requires prompt investigation into violations and punishment of perpetrators as well as legal, policy and attitude shifts in order to prevent future violations,” Ms Flores Liera said.
“This includes the removal of legal barriers and discriminatory measures, and the implementation of policies and legislation that respect women and girls’ right to bodily autonomy, guarantee universal access to education and protect their sexual and reproductive health and rights through access to information, care and services, including access to safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education.”
Ms Flores Liera was speaking on behalf of Mexico, Finland and 57 other countries who signed on to her statement. Australia was not one of them.
En este Día Internacional de la Mujer #Mexico y #Finlandia presentamos una declaración conjunta a nombre de 57 Estados en el #HRC40. La rendición de cuentas por violaciones de derechos humanos cometidos contra mujeres y niñas es fundamental @MisionMexOI @FinlandGeneva pic.twitter.com/kVWlP85hXZ
— Socorro Flores Liera (@FloresLiera) March 8, 2019
The Human Rights Law Centre says that was a mistake.
“Being able to make choices about our own bodies and access reproductive health are absolutely essential to achieving gender equality. No government can truly support gender equality and human rights without supporting access to safe abortions and reproductive rights,” said the centre’s legal director Edwina MacDonald.
“The Morrison government holds a really important role on the Human Rights Council, it should be using its voice at the UN to stand up for the rights of women all around the world. Instead we get hollow words here in Geneva and a failure to lift its game back home. It’s so disappointing.”
Australia is currently in the middle of a three-year term on the UN’s Human Rights Council, where it has addressed women’s rights. So far during that term, Australia has made 33 statements focusing on gender.
Those statements have addressed issues such as sexual orientation, gender identity, violence against women, reproductive health and female political participation.
On February 25, Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the 40th session of the Human Rights Council that gender equality was one of five “fundamental principles” guiding Australia’s advocacy there.
The other four principles were freedom of expression and religion, good governance, the rights of indigenous people and strong human rights institutions, in case you were wondering.
“Australia consistently advances gender equality and the rights of women and girls bilaterally, and multilaterally through the United Nations and other fora,” a DFAT spokesperson told news.com.au.
“This includes strongly defending sexual and reproductive health and rights language in the Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly, through the UN Commission for the Status of Women, and the UN Commission for Population and Development.”
It should be noted that Australia has previously signed up to the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action, which uses tighter language on abortion than Ms Flores Lieda’s statement.
“In circumstances where abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe,” the program reads.
This comes in the wake of Mr Morrison’s comments on International Women’s Day.
RELATED: PM’s International Women’s Day speech goes global
“We’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down and lift others up,” the Prime Minister said.
“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”
His words were picked up by international media outlets such as CNN, The Guardian and Buzzfeed.
“Morrison’s online detractors pointed out that just 22 per cent of sitting Liberal Party members across Australia’s two houses of parliament are women,” CNN wrote.
Mr Morrison was panned by some back home as well.
Equality means not having to suffer this nonsense. #InternationalWomensDay https://t.co/mOAgXBU6hZ
— Charlie Pickering (@charliepick) March 8, 2019
— Dee Madigan (@deemadigan) March 8, 2019
— Dom Knight (@domknight) March 8, 2019
The Prime Minister added to his remarks on Saturday, telling reporters he wanted “all Australians to support the advancement of women”.
“I’m just simply saying I want to see this agenda pursued with Australians working together to achieve it with men championing it as much as women championing it, because that’s my experience,” he said.
“As a father of two daughters — I have three wonderful women in my life with Jen and my two girls — and I’m a champion of women for them and have a direct self-interest, I’ve got to say, for all women across the country.
“And so what I was saying yesterday is I don’t want to see this agenda pursued by setting women against men. No. Australian against Australian. No. I want to bring all Australians together to focus on this. That’s what I’m fair dinkum about.”