Fourth Annual International Law Conference on the Status of Women

Susan Kohlmann“I am honored to stand tall with all of you as together we stand up for women and girls around the globe and hold the world to account.” Hundreds gathered in the City Bar’s Meeting Hall in the spirit of these words from New York City Bar Association President Susan J. Kohlmann (left) at the 4th Annual International Law Conference on the Status of Women. The Conference commemorated International Women’s Day and the International Day of Women Judges in conjunction with the United Nations’ 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged our world for the past three years, a silent pandemic of violence against women and girls is also raging,” said Consolee Nishimwe (right), a women’s rights activist who gave the Conference dedication. “Make no mistake, violence against women results in significant costs to government, to victims, survivors and communities. Costs are both direct and indirect, and tangible and intangible. These costs are born by every one of us.”  Consolee Nishimwe

Representatives of over a dozen rights organizations spoke in panels at the conference to share the work that is being done to empower women around the world.

The first panel discussed the pursuit of justice for women who have been victims of atrocities in conflict zones. “Depriving women of choice and reducing them to objects with no agency over their own futures or their bodies is a form of violence. We are seeing this around the globe and even here in our own country,” said Hope Rikkelman, Co-Founder of the Yazidi Legal Network. She and her fellow panelists talked about how to drive representation at the highest levels so that women’s rights will be truly prioritized.

A second panel surfaced the often-overlooked intersection of gender justice and climate justice. Sandhya Taneja, a representative of the ABA International Law Section Women’s Interest Network, offered the reminder that “climate change is a threat multiplier, meaning that it escalates already prevalent issues in places experiencing conflict…when disaster hits, women are less likely to survive them because gender inequality doesn’t allow them to have the mobility or decision-making or the access to relief that many people take for granted.” 

Full Meeting Hall“We must recognize the unique struggles of trans women and girls,” emphasized Katie Sinderson, a Partner at Conference sponsor Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann. “It is no coincidence that many of the same regimes stripping away protections for reproductive healthcare are also attacking the rights of trans people to seek gender affirming care.” Her words echoed those of keynote speaker Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who spoke on the need to defend policy protections for women and girls around the world, and told those assembled that “I count on you members of the Bar Associations assembled here to ensure that these laws and policies are fully realized, that survivors receive the support and access to justice they deserve, and that perpetrators have no safe haven or hiding place.”

A third panel explored the opportunities and threats to vulnerable communities posed by emerging technologies. “We live in a virtual society where offline violence has extended to online, thus making it easier for people to commit violence without consequences. Women and girls are particularly susceptible to online violence, more particularly women with voices. For example, female politicians, journalists, activists, and above all the judiciary,” said Ugoji Adanma Eze, Barrister-at-Law of The Honorable Society of Grays Inn, declaring that “online gender-based violence is indeed an expression of ingrained gender inequalities in our society.”

Oksana Telepko and Halya Leskiv on the banduraThe Conference closed with a performance by Oksana Telepko and Halya Leskiv on the bandura (right), the national instrument of Ukraine, as well as with the presentation of the Epiq Women Award for Justice and Advocacy and the Huntington Her Hero Award Lifetime Achievement Award to some two dozen recipients.

To hear all of the speeches, panels and performances at the Conference, watch the full program below: