For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/1646
Release Date:   13 June 2000
Sad and Sobering Reality that Women Continue to Be Deprived of Basic
And Fundamental Rights, Special Assembly Session Told

 NEW YORK, 8 June (UN Headquarters) — It was a sad and sobering reality that women continued to be deprived of basic and fundamental rights because of measures imposed in certain countries, the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly was told this afternoon. 

 Stressing that systematic rape, torture and abuse continued to be weapons of choice in armed conflict, the Attorney General and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas, Janet Bostwick, said that at every opportunity, it was necessary to denounce those ills and demand universal respect for the rights of women.  She added that it was also necessary to take a closer look at many of the achievements, evaluating if they were broadly distributed, or confined to the countries which had already been making strides towards the advancement of women prior to Beijing. 

 As the special session -- "Women 2000:  Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century" -- continued its review of the implementation of the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), several speakers stressed the negative impact of armed conflicts on women all over the world.

 The Chairperson of the State Committee for Women’s Issues of Azerbaijan, Zahra T. Guliyeva, said that her region was currently besieged by conflicts and disputes.  As a result of the Nagorny Karabakh dispute with Armenia, Azerbaijan was "living in a state of neither peace nor war".  Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) had assisted in organizing a regional conference on women and armed conflict.  The outcome of that conference reflected the belief of women participants that in spite of the losses, pain and suffering, it was important to make compromises for a common future. 

 The Beijing Platform for Action had identified mainstreaming of women's issues as one of its priority areas, the Minister for Gender Equality of Denmark, Jytte Andersen, said.  Mainstreaming was not about integrating women into existing structures.  It was about changing those structures, for both women and men to participate on an equal footing in the development of society.  Partnership, or a new “social contract” between women and men, should clarify women’s contribution to the economy, as well as the contribution of men to family life.  Professional and family responsibilities must go hand in hand.

 Also addressing the role of men in efforts towards achieving gender equality, the Minister for Community Development and Gender Affairs of Dominica, Matthew Walter, said that men must become more engaged in the formulation of policy and implementation of programmes geared towards that end.  Such involvement would help men to acquire a more profound sense of the disadvantages encountered by women. 

 The Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, Bela Hejna, underlined the importance of increasing public awareness of the principle of gender equality and eliminating rigid ideas regarding the roles of women and men in society.  In post-communist countries, that task was complicated by the fact that the negative impact of forced female emancipation by means of almost 100 per cent employment in the 1950s still prevailed. 

 Ministers from Togo, Ethiopia, Botswana, Poland, Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Equatorial Guinea addressed the meeting this afternoon.  The Deputy Minister of Justice of Bulgaria; Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Argentina; Coordinator of the Social Cabinet of Nicaragua; and representatives of Saudi Arabia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Monaco and Georgia also spoke.

 Also this afternoon, the Assembly adopted without a vote a report of its Credentials Committee on the credentials of the representatives of the Member States attending the twenty-third special session (see document A/S-23/7). 

 The Assembly will continue its general debate at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 9 June.

Assembly Work Programme

 The special session of the General Assembly, entitled: “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century” was expected this afternoon to continue its general debate on the review and appraisal of progress in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and further actions and initiatives for achieving gender equality. 


 TEMBE ASHIRA ASSIH-AISSAH, Minister for Social Affairs and Advancement of Women of Togo:  The harmonious and integrated development of women could only be realized through the creation of an environment which provides more favourable opportunities for women.  The commitment of the Government of Togo to that purpose has been reflected in the development of a relevant national plan of action that recognizes that the promotion of the status of women requires the cooperation of men and partnerships with civil societies, as well as bilateral and multilateral collaboration.  Through that solidarity, better synergies for action have been initiated by the Government.

 The national committee spearheading the gender mainstreaming programme has linked with men and women of varying social and professional profiles, but progress in implementing the Beijing commitments has been insufficient.  However, the Government is optimistic and possesses the political will to fight the injustices women face.  The Government of Togo has placed the education of girls and special training for women at the forefront of the plan of action, and rural girls have recourse if their rights to education are violated.  The education policy is also beneficial in preventing early marriage.  Another positive outcome of the policy is that it aims to prevent early marriage and the Government is also making efforts to improve the quality of scholastic instruction in the country. 

 Violence in all its forms against women must be fought to preserve a climate of peace and security.  Therefore, the Government has adopted a law that bans female mutilation, a practice that affects more than 12 per cent of girls and women in Togo.  Information campaigns have been launched throughout the State in efforts to enforce the law.  An awareness campaign is also being carried out to fight against the trafficking of children and women.  In the area of empowering women in business, their access to microcredit is being improved, and in a related measure, the Government has established a support programme of cooperatives for savings and loans schemes. 

 TADELECH MICHAEL, Minister of Women’s Affairs Sub-sector, Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia:  The Ethiopian national priority that guided the formulation of the National Plan of Action is poverty alleviation, food security, education and health, and road sector development programmes.  Strategies have also been developed for a joint cooperation between the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), focusing on the area of gender mainstreaming, advocacy, capacity-building and supporting grass-roots women’s organizations and networking.

 At the current stage, mainstreaming gender in other sectoral development endeavours and promoting gender specific activities are equally important if the goal is to bring change in the lives of the majority of women.  Thus attention and support must be given for gender specific programmes.

 A form of poverty reduction adopted by the Government is the intensification of agricultural extension programmes through subsidizing appropriate agricultural inputs to small farm holders.  The disbursement of credits to the urban and rural poor is another step taken and 50 per cent of the beneficiaries were targeted to be female headed households and school dropout girls.  Similarly, NGOs organized under 10 micro-finance institutions are disbursing credit to the poor, and 55 to 60 per cent of the beneficiaries are women.  In view of the increased danger of HIV/AIDS, the Government, NGOs, religious organizations, women groups and the society at large are actively campaigning against the pandemic and providing the necessary support to women and children to protect themselves.

 We strongly believe that peace is a prerequisite for development and equality of people.  At a time when Ethiopia was fully engaged in development endeavours to bring to life a national economy that has been exhibiting a continuously declining trend for decades, it became a victim of naked aggression two years ago.  For over two years, Ethiopia has lived with humiliation, allowing almost half a million of its citizens, of which three quarters are women and children, to live under deplorable conditions, simply because it wanted to give peace a chance.  Nonetheless, Ethiopia, though betrayed by the implementers of international law today, as it was before, has managed to defend its sovereign territories through the sacrifice of the Ethiopian people.

 THEBE DAVID MOGAMI, Minister of Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana:  A new collaboration between the Government and civil society in my country has allowed us to identify critical areas of concern.  The Government has put in place poverty eradication policies and programmes to increase women’s access to productive resources, including credit and training.  On the issue of women in power and decision-making, Botswana has embarked on political education, social mobilization, lobbying and advocacy.  As a result of these efforts, representation of women in the Botswana Parliament has increased to 18.2 per cent in 1999, and in the Cabinet -- to 23.5 per cent.  The major challenges in this area are the limited resources for campaigns and political education, prevailing gender stereotypes and the absence of a comprehensive affirmative action plan focusing on promoting gender equality.

 Botswana is committed to the ideal of education as a basic human right, and a free 10 years of basic education.  Our national policy on education has been revised and vocational and technical education has been expanded to attract more women.  The main challenges encountered in this area include limited day-care facilities, teenage pregnancy and low enrolment of females in science and technical education programmes.  Some positive strides in the sphere of public health include revised family planning guidelines, HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and reduction of mother to child transmission of HIV.  Increased attention is being paid to adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

 Violence against women is one of the pervasive and escalating social problems in Botswana.  On the basis of a recent study of the problem, the Government has adopted a multi-sectoral approach.  Laws relating to rape have been improved; and a shelter has been established for battered women.  A special task force was created on domestic violence.  In 1997, Botswana commissioned a review of all the laws discriminating against women with a view to amending them.  New institutional mechanisms include the elevation of the national gender machinery to the level of a full-fledged department.  A national policy on women in development and a national gender programme framework have been promulgated, and efforts are being made to strengthen the Women’s Non-Governmental Organization Coalition and other civil society organizations dealing with gender issues.

 JERZY KROPIWNICKI, Minister of the Council of Ministers, Head of the Government Centre of Strategic Studies of Poland:  The Republic’s Constitution is rooted in the strong conviction that the law must protect human life from the moment of conception to the moment of matural death.  Hence, Polish law ensures medical, social and legal care for pregnant women.  The Government has created a national pro-family policy programme which is intended to strengthen the foundations of family life, provide health care at every stage of life and to educate young people with an emphasis on respect for natural and social human rights. 

 The national health programme is a holistic one which focuses on prevention of diseases and disability and additional programmes have been introduced to improve the effectiveness of women’s sexual and reproductive health care.  Some positive results have already been accomplished, such as the reduction of children born with low birth weight and a decrease in HIV/AIDS infections.

 The right to education is a fundamental human right, and the laws governing education in Poland ensure equal access to schools for all citizens.  Currently, more women than men reach the level of university education.  The education system in Poland is presently being reformed and, when it is completed, will provide students opportunities for comprehensive development of their personalities.  The Polish Labour Code is founded on the principle of equal rights in professional activity and the civil code guarantees equal rights for both sexes. 

 Positive changes in those areas are reflected in the increasing number of women who occupy managerial positions in economic and public life.  However, there are indications that equality in the labour market has yet to be achieved.  The Government is making efforts to improve that situation and the right of women and men to equal working conditions and to equal remuneration is being gradually adjusted according to European Union standards. 

 MARIA FERNANDA FLORES DE ALEMAN, Coordinator of the Social Cabinet of Nicaragua:  Gender equality is the logical consequence of the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Equal dignity and rights should result in the equality of opportunities for all, and surely this is a parameter of human liberty.

 In implementing the Platform for Action, Nicaragua, due to its limited resources, has given priority to six of the 12 critical areas of concern:  eradication of poverty, education, health, elimination of violence, institutional mechanisms, and the girl child.  We are working arduously to combat the feminization of poverty.  Mechanisms, plans and programmes have been enforced to seek women’s effective access, in equal conditions, to the means of production.  Education is a precondition for the beginning of sustainable development.  Nicaragua has established access to education for all girls and women, giving priority to the elimination of illiteracy. 

 As a result of attention to the integral health of women, primary outpatient care today reaches 82 per cent of the female population.  The Maternal Nursing Law guarantees mothers and infants during the period of nursing the conditions and the required time during working hours.  Nicaragua has worked diligently in the formulation of policies towards the gradual eradication of domestic violence, with special attention to women, adolescents and children who are victims of this painful problem.  It has also taken steps to recognize and protect the rights of girls and boys and has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is part of Nicaragua’s Constitution.

 JYTTE ANDERSEN, Minister for Gender Equality of Denmark:  Let me first of all express my Government’s full association with the statement made by Portugal on behalf of the European Union.  The Beijing Platform for Action is a strong forward-looking document, but we must keep moving forward.  No setbacks can be allowed.  Gender equality is still not a reality.  We must focus on action.  The political will to push the process forward is not strong enough.  We must try harder.  We must fight poverty, and we must focus on women, including the disabled.  Poverty will remain if women are kept from credit, land, property, education, or decision-making processes.  Women’s contributions and opportunities must be fully realized. 

 Mainstreaming is not about integrating women into existing structures.  It is about changing those structures, for changes are necessary if both women and men are to participate on an equal footing in the development of our society.  Partnership, or a new “social contract” between women and men, is necessary.  It should clarify women’s contribution to the economy, as well as the contribution of men to family life.  Professional and family responsibilities must go hand in hand.

 An area where progress is most important is trafficking in human beings.  Long-term development is needed to fight trafficking, but other tools must also be utilized.  International cooperation is essential to identify those behind the crimes.  Traders must be punished, and victims must be protected.  Negotiations on a United Nations protocol on trafficking are taking place in Vienna.  Let us make them a success.  Human rights instruments are imperative in the fight for women’s human rights, which include reproductive and sexual rights.

 I am pleased to announce that Denmark was the third United Nations Member to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The protocol is a political signal that women’s rights are human rights and vice versa.  Only by keeping women’s issues on the agenda will we be able to make progress.  Tomorrow we shall recommit ourselves to the Platform.  Let us demonstrate our political will in action and take important decisions tomorrow.

 ZAHRA T. GULIYEVA, Chairperson of the State Committee for Women’s Issues of Azerbaijan:  The region is currently besieged by conflicts and disputes and for those countries in the Nagorny Karabakh region, when considering the triad “equality, development and peace”, the latter predetermines efforts to achieve the former.  Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) assisted in organizing a regional conference on women and armed conflict.  That was the first time since the outbreak of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that representatives from Armenia came to Baku.  All women participants accepted the outcome of that conference, which reflected their belief that in spite of the losses, pain and suffering that affected thousands of families and a large number of refugees, women must make compromises for the sake of their common future and to achieve stability in the region. 

 Currently, Azerbaijan is in limbo as we are living in a state of neither peace nor war.  Its women believe that one of the most important directions for development in the country is through regional cooperation, and to that end they set in motion a plan to restore the Great Silk Road.  The Silk Road is a significant part of the past characterized by high levels of ethnic and religious tolerance, as well as cultural and economic cooperation.  The plan will pave the way for future development by using unique geopolitical opportunities of the Caucasus to create an economic, transportation and communication bridge between Asia and Europe. 
 However, those plans have not been sufficiently reflected in the real life of the women of Azerbaijan who face numerous problems common to all countries in transition.  Economic problems prevail, but women are in the majority in the education, public health and culture sectors.  They comprise almost 10 per cent in the management of municipal executive authorities and hold over 5 per cent of governments.  On the whole, women constitute 30 per cent of public administration services.  A 1998 report on the situation of women in Beijing notes that Azerbaijan has secured an equal rights policy for females at all levels.  Constitutionally and legislatively, women in Azerbaijan are equal.  Moreover, all legislative bills are being subjected to gender expertise and the State policy on advancement of women in the society is presently being implemented throughout the country.

 GLADYS GUTIERREZ, Secretary of State for Women’s Affairs of the Dominican Republic:  In most Latin American and Caribbean countries, significant changes have been carried out, like the adoption of laws against family violence.  The work carried out by the Special Rapporteur in this matter has been essential.  A remarkable victory has been the approval of affirmative action laws guaranteeing a larger participation of women in congressional elections as well as administrative positions.

 In the Dominican Republic, remarkable achievements have been obtained in the women’s human rights frame, including recognition of sexual and reproductive rights.  The Beijing Platform for Action has been a useful tool for improving women’s conditions and their prospects for growth.  The growing participation of NGOs has contributed to improving vital issues like health and education.  Maternal mortality has been reduced and awareness of violence against women has increased.  Dominican women have registered a remarkable advance in the economic field, through their incorporation into productive areas in the financial sector, food production, small businesses, and by working in special duty-free industrial zones.

 On the international level, it is important to move forward towards universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and of its Optional Protocol.  We also support the ratification of the statute of the International Criminal Court and the strengthening of national and international women’s tools, particularly the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women .  Maintaining the connection between the Platform for Action and the programmes derived from other world conferences that have contributed towards the empowerment of women is very important.  Also, we need a united political will to face up to the poverty in the world -- allowing women to enjoy the benefits of development is an essential requirement if we want to defeat it.

 JANET BOTSWICK, Attorney General and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas:  There has been obvious progress in the advancement of women consequent to actions taken by governments, the United Nations system and civil society.  The United Nations Secretariat has documented such advances, which include legislative improvements to conform with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; women’s access to justice; more responsive Government planning and policy-making processes; more sophisticated non-governmental advocacy work; and inter-governmental follow-up in multilateral deliberative forums on gender equality concerns. 

 Fortunately, the Bahamas are among the countries, which have demonstrated improvements in the status of women.  This was confirmed in the 1999 United Nations Human Development Report, which ranked the Bahamas number 13 out of 174 countries, as number one in Latin America and as the leading country in the developing world for the gender empowerment in economic and political spheres.  Of note are an increased number of polyclinics with free pre-natal and post-natal care; total Government funding for treatment of HIV-infected pregnant women; on-site day-care facilities and child care centres; free lunch programmes in all government schools; and full-time courts for child maintenance and domestic violence.

 A constitutional commission has been established in the country.  Expected changes in the Constitution will abolish discriminatory qualifications for the granting of citizenship to the spouses of Bahamian women and will confer citizenship on the children of those women, irrespective of their place of birth.  Inheritance legislation will be introduced, which will allow women to inherit equally with men.  The Government is also planning to introduce flexible working hours in the public sector. 

 Despite the achievements in many countries, we must take a closer look at them.  Who have, indeed, been the primary beneficiaries?  Are these achievements broadly distributed, or are they confined to the countries which have already been making strides towards the advancement of women prior to Beijing?  It is a sad and sobering reality that women continue to be deprived of basic and fundamental rights because of measures imposed in certain countries.  Systematic rape, torture and abuse continue to be weapons of choice in armed conflict.  The trafficking in women and children continues to grow.  At every opportunity we must denounce these ills and demand universal respect for the rights of women. 

 CRISTINA MUNOZ, Minister for Women’s Affairs of Paraguay:  The State is tenaciously fighting to consolidate its democratic institution by ensuring gender equality and uses that concept as a key for establishing gender perspectives and policies.  The international economic transition has determined that the State must embark on reform and modernization programmes, which sometimes produce negative effects.  Therefore, policies for compensation had to be designed to cushion the impact.  The result was an initiative culminating in a tripartite commission composed of representatives from Government and non-governmental organizations, as well as United Nations agencies. 

 The Government of Paraguay recognizes the right to life and that the protection of women is also a fundamental right.  Furthermore, a policy of equal opportunity is being implemented to ensure equal access to education for all citizens.  Several policies were developed, under the auspices of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, to combat poverty, particularly as experienced by rural women.  Progress was achieved in the area of reproductive health through programmes organized by the Ministry for Health.  The Constitution of Paraguay recognizes the right of life and special plans were geared towards the health of low-income mothers and children.

 Measures have also been taken to eradicate the scourge of violence against women and a law on domestic violence was recently approved.  An expansive scheme for educational reform, scheduled to be completed by 2020, would ensure enjoyment of that right by all and would eliminate gender stereotypes.  In addition, the participation of Paraguayan women in politics is guaranteed by a system of quotas but those are insufficient. 

 MATTHEW WALTER, Minister for Community Development and Gender Affairs of Dominica:  This meeting provides an opportunity to discuss and devise new strategies to deal with the impact of the new challenges projected by globalization, trade liberalization, onerous debt burdens and the continuous decline in official development assistance (ODA).  Women and poverty is one of the critical issues addressed by the Beijing Platform for Action.  In the Commonwealth of Dominica, as elsewhere, past practices did raise barriers to women’s equal participation in the country’s economic benefits.  The net result has been to relegate women to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

 In an ameliorative effort, the Government of Dominica, through its women’s bureau and other agencies, has embarked on a programme aimed at improving women’s access to economic resources.  The Dominica Rural Enterprise Project, for example, directs loan funds to women farmers and poor households headed by women in rural areas.  The amendment to the Title by Registration Act was one step in redressing the imbalance in the enjoyment of equal property rights as between spouses, thus providing an incremental measure of economic power and independence to women.

 However, the negative impacts of globalization and trade liberalization tend to increase poverty, among women in particular, seriously hampering our efforts at narrowing the economic gender gap.  The economic well-being of women in Dominica is seriously threatened by the World Trade Organization ruling on bananas, which has resulted in loss of income to farming and rural households.  Women-owned and operated farms constitute 21 per cent of the banana production base.  Women are further affected as spouses of male banana farmers.  We appeal to the international community to be mindful of the harm to people’s lives and economic prospects that can result from the actions of international bodies. 

 We believe that in our national effort towards gender equality men must become more engaged at the levels of policy formulation and implementation of programmes geared towards that end.  We believe that such involvement will help men to acquire a more profound sense of the disabilities under which women are forced to operate in our society, and thus better equipped to champion women’s issues.  As we strive to acquire a modicum of economic benefits for our people we must necessarily accept the validity of the proposition that “sustainable development cannot be realized without the full engagement and complete empowerment of women”.  Gender equality and the empowerment of women is not only the right thing to do; it is in our national socio-economic interest. 

 BELA HEJNA, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic:  My country is coming to the conclusion of a period of essential social and economic changes.  Now we must turn our attention to the impact of these changes on the enhancement of the quality of life.  The country is finalizing internal institutional mechanisms designed to promote human rights and strengthen the civil justice principle.  Both these processes have direct relevance to the question of equality between men and women. 

 The existing human rights institutions have been recently complemented by the creation of the Council on Human Rights, and the office of public human rights protector -- the ombudsman.  We can rightly expect that these two institutions will contribute to an increased civil awareness of legal safety and strengthened social sensitivity to injustice and discrimination.

 The Government is undertaking the process of improving the legal system.  One of the stimulating factors in connection with gender equality is the preparation of the country to accession to the European Union.  In April, the Parliament adopted an amendment to the Labour Code which contains a precisely formulated ban on employee discrimination on the basis of gender.  Also promoted are equal access to jobs and pension-insurance.

 It is important to increase public awareness of the principle of gender equality and to eliminate rigid ideas regarding the roles of women and men in society.  In post-communist countries, this task is complicated due to the fact that there still prevails the negative impact of forced female emancipation by means of almost 100 per cent employment in the 1950s.  For a long time, women were compensated for these conditions by artificial protection and artificial relief of benefits related to child care.  Sudden restriction of women’s rights might become a sensitive issue, aside from the fact that it is a very costly affair which leads employers to prefer male job applicants.  This seemingly deadlocked situation might be tackled by implementing a consistent policy of equal opportunities, including the principle of equal treatment.

 MARIA SERKEDJIEVA, Deputy Minister for Justice of Bulgaria:  Since the Beijing Conference, Bulgaria has achieved considerable progress in the development of civil society and in building democratic institutions.  Women’s equality is necessary for democratic growth.  Therefore, the Government, in conjunction with civil society actors, has concentrated its efforts towards accomplishing the Beijing goals parallel to similar actions being undertaken, both nationally and internationally. 

 The present Government has significantly increased the participation of women in decision-making processes by integrating them in the higher levels of public administration.  Women now comprise more than 60 per cent of the executive staff of ministries and about 30 per cent of the senior positions in the State administration in Bulgaria.  Simultaneously, methods are being devised to involve men in eliminating obstacles to equality such as stereotyping and prevailing power structures. 

 The Bulgarian Constitution does not allow for limitations of rights based on gender distinction, neither are spheres of activities reserved for any specific gender.  Women and men enjoy equal civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights and the Penal, Civil, Family and Labour Codes guarantee equality of all persons before the law, as well as their equal opportunity to defend their rights in court if their rights are violated.  However, the Government has always been sensitive to the specific needs of women.  In that light, an inter-governmental group, working in collaboration with several women’s non-governmental organizations is currently drafting a law on gender equality.  Also, specific provisions, applicable to women, are included in national legislation including a pension law and a segment of the Labour Code.  The Government is also mindful of vulnerable populations, particularly those liable to multiple discrimination, such as Roma women. 

 The Government of Bulgaria is aware that good legislative solutions and practical measures are insufficient to resolve problems relevant to the advancement of women and the attainment of gender equality.  Those problems were global and Bulgaria is committed to participating in international and regional cooperation to prevent and eliminate trafficking in women and forced prostitution, which are forms of violence against women and which are a part of organized crime. 

 ENRIQUE CANDIOTI, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Argentina:  The new Argentinean Government has as its priority to strengthen the achievements of the international achievements of the last decades so far as human rights are concerned.  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has become an important instrument.  The signing of the Optional Protocol confirms Argentina’s intentions to safeguard the rights of women.

 The Government’s position is inspired on the most precious values:  life, freedom and dignity.  This includes safeguarding of human life from birth to death, protection of the family, protection of parental rights in education of their children and the basic responsibility of the State in building a democratic, humanist and just society.  Public policies in support of the family is a priority of the Government.  Promotion of women’s rights requires that priority is given to education.  The federal law on education establishes the educational policy, which includes effective equality for all and elimination of all discrimination and all types of stereotypes.  Poverty affects women in particular.  There is a need to guarantee their access to credit and means of production.  In my country, recent legislation has established a register of data for failure to pay alimony.

 Particular mention must be made of adoption.  Argentina encourages and facilitates adoption.  My country also encourages equal responsibility between men and women in a way that guarantees participation of women in government.  The quota law requires that 30 per cent of the candidates on the election lists are women.  The rights of women also include their sexual and reproductive rights.  The National Council of Women has drawn up guidelines that go beyond outdated concepts of women.  It formulates policies from a gender perspective and promotes conditions that guarantee women full access to their rights.  Other objectives are the prevention and eradication of sexual exploitation of girls, training unemployed women in non-traditional activities and combating violence against women. 

 FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia):  Saudi Arabia embraces the Holy Koran as its constitution and its precepts as its principles, and Saudi Arabian women have been granted rights and duties equal to men as stipulated in the Koran.  Women in Saudi Arabia are able to preserve their rights and dignity without deprivation of physical and psychological attributes and importance is attached to their role in building the family.  The Government also considers the cultural and social advancement of women to be very important.  Consequently, it provides for equal access to education, and ensures scholarships and housing for female students.  Saudi Arabia has allocated 25 per cent of its national budget to the education sector. 

 Women also enjoy equal access to jobs in all sectors and to equal remuneration.  Also, medical care is guaranteed to women in both the urban and rural areas and, through a number of social security programmes, they are also assured of a decent lifestyle should they become disabled or separated from their families.  In addition, women are empowered by State measures to own businesses and property.  These rights are all granted in accordance with Islamic shari’a, which provides for equal and legal rights in all social spheres.  The Government of Saudi Arabia would like to ensure that all its women enjoy all rights and duties, and that the State protects their freedom in accordance with the Islamic shari’a.  In a time when conflicts prevail, nations should observe each other’s religious values, which would lead to overcoming the domination of man over his brother, and would remove commercial exploitation of women and ultimately, the disintegration of the family and the social structure.

 The Consultative Council met on 8 May in Saudi Arabia and it was decided that we will sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

 LI HYONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea):  The law on gender equality was proclaimed in our country in 1947 and it heralded fundamental change in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.  The State’s socialist constitution and family law are also important legislative measures which further specify that women can freely participate in political, social and economic life.  Presently, a number of women occupy senior positions in the Supreme People’s Assembly, army, as scientists and managers of enterprises and farms and are performing commendably. 

 The Government places emphasis on the issue of violence against women and is concerned about its effects on vulnerable women, in particular, who are suffering from the negative impact of globalization, armed conflicts, political pressure and economic sanctions.  An international appeal has been given for greater attention to the plight of such women, but it has not yet borne fruit.  A great crime against humanity was committed when a large number of Asian and European women were forced into serving as sex slaves in the Japanese army. 

 A solution is needed to ease the plight of those women and an apology and compensation are prerequisites to ending the problem.  Unless that incident and other similar ones are fully resolved, international efforts to denounce and prevent violence against women, including sexual slavery in armed conflict, can never be effective. 

 JACQUES L. BOISSON, Chairman of the Delegation of Monaco:  Women in the year 2000 are more often confronted with poverty, with traditional constraints and with difficulties in access to education and especially to political and economic power.

 Monaco authorities strive to take legislative, economic and social measures to reinforce recognition of the rights of women who live and work in Monaco.  Internationally, particularly with financial assistance, humanitarian associations and NGOs try to improve the condition of life in countries in the Southern hemisphere and the advancement of women and girls with disabilities.  The educational policy of Monaco, established for many years, includes compulsory primary education without discrimination and is free of charge.  Many women today occupy important positions at the political level.  Monaco’s major is a woman and several ministries are headed by women.  On a day-to-day basis, women are closely tied to the elaboration of policies. 

 Women play an important role in civil society, in particular in humanitarian societies and charities.  With respect to employment, men and women have the same rights and receive the same remuneration.  Moreover, women receive extra protection since they are not allowed to participate in dangerous work.  Women also enjoy prenatal and postnatal holidays.  Financial support is provided to those who break out of professional activities to raise children.  The Government of Monaco also provides regular assistance to improve the situation of women and girls around the world who are destitute.  On a voluntary basis, it supports several programmes of the United Nations and numerous NGOs have their headquarters in Monaco. 

 EKA EBRALIDZE, Head of the Division of Demography, Protection of Women and Children, and Family Development of Georgia:  In addition to passing new gender-neutral legislation, the Government of Georgia has taken a number of steps specifically directed at promoting gender equality and the advancement of women, including the establishment of a State commission to elaborate the policy for the advancement of women and a national plan of action for improving the condition of women. 

Georgia’s priorities from the Plan of Action are based on the problems of poverty and internal conflict.  Presently, 250,000 internally displaced persons from the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions are living in temporary accommodations throughout Georgia.  More than half of those are women and children and their health is at serious risk.  Therefore, the Government has made health assistance to refugees a top priority. 

 In 1999, the President of Georgia issued a decree on measures to strengthen the protection of women’s rights in the country.  It obliges different ministries to work towards eliminating discrimination against women, embark on gender analysis of Georgian legislation and textbooks, and develop special programmes for assisting refugees and internally displaced persons. 

 Legislation has also been adopted to combat the various forms of violence against women and the Government is considering establishing gender-specific units in its various structures.  However, progress has been slow because of budget constraints.  The Government is committed to developing a society in which everyone has equal rights, but steps for equality in power-sharing have also proven unsatisfactory. 

 TERESA EFUA ASANGONO, Minister for Women’s Integration and Social Affairs of Equatorial Guinea:  The history of discrimination against women is ancient.  The problem is more structural than practical, more global than local.  This does not mean, however, that the causes are the same in every country. 

 In our country the problems of women are connected with the paternal society.  Our country does not have institutionalized discrimination, but suffers from attitudinal discrimination.  Therefore, the Government has introduced a new way of socializing boys and girls and has reinforced policies of equal access for women to basic social services, education and health, equal pay for equal work, equal protection under the law, and equal rights in every area of public life.  Those efforts are nonetheless insufficient and need to be accompanied by measures at the national and international level. 

 With the objective of structural reform, the Government has adopted a medium term economical strategy in order to strengthen good management administration and to provide resources for the improvement of quality of life.  Matters related to the economic development of women are a priority, with the objective being to advance human development through the promotion of a gender approach, to improve the status of women and their rights and to give them full and fair access to economic resources, including rights to inheritance and land ownership.

* * * * *