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Bahamian advocate elected to Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur of UN Human Rights Committee on Women & Girl’s Rights

Bahamian advocate elected to Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur of UN Human Rights Committee on Women & Girl’s Rights

FEBRUARY 18, 2023, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: During the 84th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), esteemed Bahamian human rights expert and attorney, Marion Bethel was elected to the position of Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur of the Committee. In June 2016 she became the first Bahamian to be elected to a UN Human Rights Treaty Body.

The current election, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, 6th February, marks another milestone for the global leadership of Bahamian women and further exemplifies Ms. Bethel’s lifelong commitment to advancing the rights of women in The Bahamas, the Caribbean and around the world. Now a senior member of the influential Committee, Ms. Bethel’s election demonstrates her colleagues’ confidence in her exceptional service. Her term ends in December 2024. 

“I am absolutely privileged to serve on the Bureau of the CEDAW Committee as Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur with my other colleagues. I intend to do everything within my power to protect, advance and fulfill the human rights of women and girls, paying particular attention to vulnerable and marginalised women and girls who live at the intersections of social class, race, ethnic and sexual orientation. These include women with disabilities, ethnic minority women, elderly women, women living in poverty, sex workers, lesbian bisexual transgender women and refugee women who all face discrimination,” said Ms. Bethel.   

Her election is timely for another reason, being the first Bahamian and the eleventh recipient of the prestigious CARICOM Triennial Award for Women in 2014. This past week, another distinguished Bahamian woman, Dame Janet Bostwick, was formally presented with the same award during the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in The Bahamas. Dame Janet was the 2021 recipient of the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women. She was also the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General when The Bahamas ratified the CEDAW Convention in October 1993. Dame Janet’s leadership in championing The Bahamas’ ratification of CEDAW paved the way for Ms. Bethel’s participation as an elected member of the Committee.

Ms. Bethel will serve on the Bureau of the CEDAW Committee with Ana Palaez Narvez (Spain), Chairperson of the Committee, along with three other Vice-Chairpersons, Genoveva Tisheva (Bulgaria), Hiroko Akizuki (Japan) and Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia (Nigeria), each representing a regional group of the UN. As Rapporteur, Ms. Bethel is responsible for reviewing Minutes of the Bureau meetings at every session and reporting on the proceedings of the CEDAW sessions at its public closing ceremonies. The Committee is comprised of 23 members elected by CEDAW States Parties.

“My colleagues are all talented and accomplished persons (22 women and one man) who are absolutely committed to the advancement of women’s human rights. Our Chairperson, in particular, is a fierce advocate and inspiring leader who demonstrates empathy and positivity in all areas of our work and we are fortunate to have her at the helm. She is a sight impaired woman whose appointment is historic for the inclusion of women with disabilities. I am excited about the next two years serving as Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur and look forward to giving it my all,” said Ms. Bethel.

Over the past six years on the CEDAW Committee, Ms. Bethel has served as Chair of the Working Group on Inquiries in the Committee (2019-20). The inquiry procedure empowers the Committee to make a site visit to a country and investigate grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the rights contained in the Convention. She also served as a member of the Working Group on Communications (2021-2022) under the CEDAW Optional Protocol. This Committee sits as a quasi-judicial body to consider the Complaints of individual women whose rights may have been violated by the State party and the Committee may even recommend payment of compensation. Ms. Bethel has had carriage of two of these cases.   She is also actively engaged on the Committee in working on the issues of women’s economic empowerment, gender-based violence against women, gender stereotyping, women in leadership & decision-making positions and women, peace & security.

CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that focuses explicitly on the rights of women. In countries that have ratified the treaty, CEDAW has proved invaluable in challenging and transforming the effects of discrimination, which include gender-based violence against women and girls, the feminisation of poverty, the lack of nationality rights to transfer citizenship to children and lack of constitutional and legal protections, child marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and girls, the gender wage gap along with the low representation of women in governance and decision-making positions, denial of  inheritance, property rights, access to credit and land and sexual and reproductive health rights.

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