TWS|| Nicholas Waigwa
As the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of women gathers momentum at the United Nations Headquaters in New York to focus on among other important issues the Beijing Declaration and current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and women empowerment, Co-Chairs of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) are calling for the immediate release of young feminist activists including China’s GCAP coordinator Wang Man.
A statement signed by three GCAP Global Co-chairs has termed the arrest of Wang Man and the other activists a violation of the basic rights of speech adding that it mocks Premier Xi Jinping’s declaration that china would uphold gender equality as one of his country’s basic national policies.
GCAP – China’s Coordinator and other four women were arrested on 6th March 2015, in mainland China, 2 days before the International Women’s Day as they prepared for coordinated actions against sexual harassment in public places, in time for Beijing+20 celebrations.
Arrested alongside Wang Man are prominent activists; Li Tingting in Beijing, Wu Rongrong in Hangzhou and Zheng Churang in Ghuangzhou.
The arrests are said to have been triggered by the five young women preparing stickers printed with sentences in Chinese such as “stop sexual harassment, let safety be with you me and her” and “run police run, arrest those who commit sexual harassment”
The campaign by the five women had been scheduled to coincide with the All – China Federation of workers submission of Bills to the National People’s Congress and Chinese Peoples Congress regarding sexual harassment in the work place.
There is a growing concern in Asia, according to GCAP, on the rise of repressive laws and tightening democratic spaces for civil society actions as is evident in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and China.
GCAP Philippines notes that the arrest of the five was the second time in the first quarter of 2015 that GCAP National coordinators are being arrested while fighting for peoples’ rights.
In February, GCAP Pakistani coordinator was arrested by Pakistani authorities for allegedly being anti-nationalist when he organized an election of youth leaders in local communities in Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is in New York to attend the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
The Commission is expected to undertake a review of the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995
The 10 days session bringing together representatives of Member States, UN agencies, Economic and Social Council (ECOSO) and Civil Society organizations is also expected to discuss opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda.