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First Day at UN Women UK CSW68: Backlash United Across Borders



My first day as part of the UN Women’s UK delegation at CSW68 proved to be an eye-opening experience. The event titled “How is backlash weakening the institutional context for gender justice globally?” brought together powerful voices from Lebanon, Bangladesh, and Serbia. While the delegate from India couldn’t join, the common thread across regions was deeply concerning - the rise of actors actively suppressing not only women’s rights but also LGBTQ+ rights.


This resonated strongly with my work at Outright International, the UN secretariat for LGBTIQ issues. The event highlighted a critical challenge: when the very institutions designed to protect rights are infiltrated by those seeking to undermine them.


A Global Phenomenon:

This phenomenon isn’t unique. Research by the Countering Backlash program: https://counteringbacklash.org/ consistently reveals a troubling pattern. Governments and institutions tasked with upholding rights are increasingly becoming breeding grounds for anti-gender and anti-LGBTQ+ actors.


Impact on Advocacy:

The consequences of this are dire. It creates a chilling effect on those seeking to report abuse or claim their rights. Imagine a woman experiencing domestic violence needing to navigate a police force with officers who hold discriminatory views. Or an LGBTQ+ individual seeking asylum having their case adjudicated by officials hostile to their identity.


Strategies for Moving Forward:

Despite these challenges, the fight for justice continues. Here are some key strategies employed by activists working in such hostile environments:


  • Building Solidarity: Strengthening networks and coalitions between women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights organisations fosters a united front.

  • Shifting the Narrative: Advocacy efforts framed around broader societal benefits, like economic empowerment and security, can garner broader support.

  • Documentation and Monitoring: Rigorous data collection on rights violations exposes the tactics of oppressive actors and strengthens legal challenges.

  • Engaging with Allies: Identifying and collaborating with progressive officials within these institutions can create pockets of support and accountability.


The Road Ahead:

The fight for gender justice and LGBTQ+ rights is a global struggle. My experience at CSW68 underscores the need for a united front across borders and identities. By acknowledging the interconnectedness of these movements, fostering solidarity, and employing strategic advocacy, we can counter the forces of backlash and create a more just world for all.


For further research:

  • The Countering Backlash program publishes reports and resources on the global rise of gender backlash.

  • UN Women also produces research and data on the intersection of women’s rights and institutional challenges.


 

With over 25 years of dedicated leadership in the corporate, feminist, and LGBTQ+ realms, with a profound commitment to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, I’m thrilled to be recognised by the British Diversity Awards. I stand ready to support, consult, educate, and advise on your next diversity challenge. Your journey towards inclusivity begins with a conversation. Reach out to me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com with any inquiries.

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