South African women's group, citing Trump policies, cancels New York plans

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 10 March 2017 23:45 GMT

Exterior view of the United Nations headquarters in New York in this 2005 archive photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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The women's group said it had "serious concerns about the far-reaching impact of the recent spate of executive orders"

(Adds State Department comment)

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, March 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A South African women's rights group has pulled out of key meetings next week at the United Nations in opposition to policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, especially those it says demean and endanger women.

The decision not to attend the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a show of support for women excluded due to the U.S. travel ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim nations, Masimanyane Women's Rights International said.

The CSW, which begins on Monday, is an annual two-week session when diplomats, advocates and others meet to discuss gender equality and women's empowerment.

A number of advocates hoping to participate in this year's meetings have been denied visas, including women from Ghana, Cameroon, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to the International Women's Health Coalition, a leading U.S.-based rights group.

"Some have been declined but it is not entirely clear what the reason is," a spokeswoman said.

U.N. Women said more than 8,000 people registered for the meetings, and "so far, we have not heard from anyone from these countries about visa issues."

"We trust that the U.S. as the host country of the U.N. will continue to enable the organization to carry out its critical work," said a spokeswoman for U.N. Women, the global body's entity that promotes gender equality and women's empowerment.

A U.N. spokesman also said: "So far the groups that are trying to attend the Commission on the Status of Women, as far as we're aware none of them have been denied entry."

A U.S. State Department official said visa records are confidential and that the department would not comment on individual cases.

The South African women's group said it had "serious concerns about the far-reaching impact of the recent spate of executive orders which serve to exclude, demonize and criminalize" women.

"We regretfully will no longer be traveling to New York, nor will we be participating in the panel discussion that we had planned for the CSW," said Lesley Ann Foster, executive director of Masimanyane, in a statement this week.

Trump on Monday signed a revised executive travel order, replacing a more sweeping ban issued in January that caused chaos and protests at airports.

The new order keeps a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It excludes Iraq, which was listed in the earlier order.

The earlier order was halted by a federal judge.

Some of Trump's other orders have also drawn criticism as rolling back women's rights - such as the so-called global gag rule that cuts funding to international women's health groups that mention the topic of abortion.

Last month, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said it would not attend the CSW session.

Iran's Entrepreneurship Development Foundation for Women and Youth also has said it would not attend, according to U.N. Women.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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