18 October 2004
Speakers Reaffirm Millennium Declarations Call for Womens Empowerment, as Third Committee Concludes Discussion of Advancement of Women
Many Agree on Need for Womens Access to Resources, Opportunities for Progress in Poverty Eradication
NEW YORK, 15 October (UN Headquarters) -- Amid emerging consensus that the road to achieving the Millennium Development Goals ran through Beijing, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today concluded its consideration of advancement of women and implementation of the commitments undertaken at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and Women 2000, the General Assemblys follow-up special session.
Many of the delegations addressing the Committee during its four-day discussion reaffirmed the Millennium Declarations call for womens empowerment as an inalienable component of sustainable development and -- in particular -- the global quest to push back the frontiers of poverty and hunger, noting that it drew upon the recognition, enshrined in the Beijing Platform for Action, that poverty could not be eradicated through anti-poverty programmes alone, but would require democratic participation and reform of economic structures to ensure access for all women to resources, opportunities and public services.
Several of todays speakers detailed policies and programmes that had been elaborated in line with the need for such reform including the representative of Malaysia, who, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the ASEAN Committee on Women coordinated implementation of the Regional Programme on Women and Skills Training, and was in the process of preparing a work plan on womens advancement and gender equality to address gender integration, research and policy development, promoting the employability of women, and preparing women for the challenges of globalization.
Venezuelas representative said that Government had established a broad and solid platform from which women could exercise their rights and pursue development and participation. Among other initiatives, the Government had implemented a series of measures including establishment of a microfinance fund, community kitchens, a network for the supply, distribution and sale of staple foods at a low cost and an inner-city mission to give comprehensive medical care to the poor, among others. The National Institute for Women had implemented a programme of economic rights for women and had highlighted the value of production, training and technological training and employment for them.
The representative of Burkina Faso said her country had adopted a national policy for promotion of women (2005-2015), which served as a guideline for action by the Government, and all its partners, to empower women. Among its aims were stabilization of womens social and legal status and promotion of their access to decision-making, education, technical expertise, health and poverty reduction. Implementation of the national policy was to be monitored and executed through action-oriented plans and the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in sectoral policies and programmes.
Malis representative said measures taken by his Government to improve the economic status of women included the development of facilities to grant credit to women to enable them to conduct income generating activities. Hundreds of women were being trained in the agri-food industry, and a national committee had been established to eliminate harmful practices to mothers and children and programmes initiated to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria. Efforts were also under way to eliminate illiteracy and increase the enrolment of women and girls in schools, and legal clinics had been created in various administrative regions aimed at promoting and protecting womens rights.
Gender equality was connected to development and the eradication of poverty, agreed the representative of the Philippines. For that reason, her Government had mainstreamed gender issues in all areas called for in the Beijing document, and in the context of the Millennium Goals. The 30-year Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development had been translated into an operational plan, and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, in collaboration with Government agencies, NGOs and academia, had been tasked to oversee implementation of commitments in three major areas: promotion of economic empowerment, protection and fulfilment of womens rights, and promotion of gender responsive governance.
Yet, despite these and other examples of progress in womens empowerment, the consensus remained that full implementation of the Beijing objectives for gender equality and advancement of women had yet to be achieved. The occasion of the 10-year review must be seized as an opportunity to identify obstacles impeding implementation of the commitments undertaken at Beijing, and its five-year review, and to formulate an integrated national and international strategy for their realization.
In concluding remarks, Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, noted that several topics had recurred throughout the Committees discussion on advancement of women, including the need for increased attention to gender perspectives in peace and security; the challenges faced in relation to increasing womens participation in decision making; and the need to identify gender perspectives in poverty eradication initiatives, and throughout the review of the Millennium Goals. She now looked forward to finalizing preparations for the 10-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, promising that all the points raised would be taken into account.
Also addressing the Committee today were the representatives of Djibouti, Uganda, Myanmar, Iran, Zambia, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Ethiopia, Peru, Botswana, Guatemala, Guinea, Kuwait, Morocco, Syria, Jamaica, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Armenia, Nepal, Egypt and Uruguay.
Representatives of the International Organization for Migration, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Inter-Parliamentary Union and International Committee of the Red Cross also addressed the Committee.
The representative of Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
At the meetings outset, the representatives of Qatar (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China) and Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group) also spoke today to introduce resolutions regarding Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons and the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders respectively.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 18 October, to begin its general discussion of promotion and protection of the rights of children.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its general discussion of the advancement of women and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century. For additional background information please see the introductory statements contained in Press Release GA/SHC/3782 of 12 October.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/59/L.14), noting that several amendments had been made to the text since its drafting.
Introducing a draft resolution on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/59/L.21), the representative of Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, also made note of amendments to the text and said that the African continent remained grateful for the continued support for the Institute by the United Nations, donor Governments, agencies and the private and civil sectors.
Statements on Advancement of Women
IMERIA NUNEZ DE ODREMAN (Venezuela) said the Government of President Hugo Chavez had established a broad and solid platform from which women could exercise their rights and pursue development and participation. Among the Governments priorities in this area, focus had been given to improving access to production resources for women living in poverty, to improving womens social protection and involvement in decision-making, and to broadening the legal framework for gender equality and equity. An ombudsman for womens issues had been created, and the National Plan of Equality for Women had been established to insure the inclusion of gender perspectives in all Government offices.
To help curb impoverishment among women, she added, the Government had implemented a series of measures for gender equality with initiatives for the establishment of a microfinance fund; community kitchens; a network for the supply, distribution and sale of staple foods at low cost, and an inner-city mission to give comprehensive medical care to the poor, among others. The National Institute for Women had implemented a programme of economic rights for women and had highlighted the value of production, training, technological training and employment for them. In the education sector, equitable access for all remained a high priority; education remained free for both men and women at all levels, while the Robinson mission aimed to increase literacy training, and the Rivas mission secondary school education.
The national law on violence against women and the family sought to protect women from domestic violence, she continued. The Government had also established a domestic violence hotline, which provided psychological care and information to victims of domestic violence. Shelters for women in imminent danger of family violence had also been created. Moreover, all trafficking in persons had been outlawed and made subject to penalty, and Venezuela had ratified the Protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime on trafficking in persons.
AYEID MOUSSEID YAHYA (Djibouti) said tangible results had been accomplished, but the road ahead was still long, and international community efforts must continue to overcome obstacles. In order for those endeavours to be successful food security, job security, health security and access to education must all be guaranteed. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had 174 ratifications but major challenges remained for the advancement of women, especially in areas of the world where there was great disparity.
He said the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action was intrinsically linked to the implementation of Millennium Development Goals because poverty affected women in particular. It was urgent and imperative to mobilize financial resources at national, international and multilateral levels especially for the least developed countries that were already overwhelmed with debt. Women also suffered especially from armed conflict and terrorism. His country welcomed the strategies of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to promote womens participation in peace-building processes. Security Council Resolution 1325 and ECOSOC resolution 2004/12 were crucial in this regard.
Trafficking in women and girls was another threat to the weakest segments of society, he added. This phenomenon was gaining momentum in situations of conflict. Yesterday Djibouti had ratified the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol. The international community must redouble efforts to eliminate that scourge.
AHMAD SHABERY CHEEK (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said ASEAN had continued to pursue greater efforts to implement regional programmes for the advancement of women in the region. The ASEAN leaders were expected to consider further areas of action and cooperation on the issue, including the development and implementation of an ASEAN work plan on womens advancement agenda in politics and action to promote increased participation of women and youth in the productive workforce. Another priority was reducing social risks faced by children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
He added that the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), which coordinated the implementation of the ASEAN Regional Programme on Women and Skills Training, was in the process of preparing a work plan on womens advancement and gender equality. This work plan would address priority areas on gender integration, research and policy development, promoting the employability of women, and preparing women for the challenges of globalization.
CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said the Uganda Action Plan on Women, adopted after the Beijing World Conference, increasingly had enabled the Government to provide social, economic and political rights to women. Priorities in that regard included poverty eradication, income generation, reproductive health rights, legal frameworks, decision-making and girl child education. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development had undertaken to implement the constitution -- a gender sensitive document -- and the Parliament had been instrumental in enacting the Constitutions provisions.
Women were increasingly involved in Ugandan political and public life, she said, particularly in the Parliament and Government. In the work place, equal pay for equal work had been guaranteed, and the standard retirement age set at 60 years for all workers. Enrolment in primary schools was based on non-discrimination between boys and girls. Women had been empowered to inherit property, including land, and to engage freely in trade; this had enabled them to supplement family incomes, further enabling whole communities to sustain themselves. And while the Constitution had formally provided a legal framework to implement equality in marriage and family life, a new Domestic Relations bill had been introduced in Parliament to outlaw polygamy and battery.
DAW MAW MAW (Myanmar) said her Government recognized that violence against women was a serious concern for womens health and their advancement, and Myanmar authorities had taken integrated measures to prevent and reduce such violence. Studies had been carried out to determine the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures. Counselling training workshops had been held, and support centres established in various states. An education campaign had also been launched to inform the public about violence against women and laws protecting them.
She said Myanmar had been seriously tackling the issue of trafficking in persons through a comprehensive framework comprising national legislation, a national plan of action, and bilateral, regional and international cooperation. At the national level, a draft law against human trafficking was being drafted in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. To address that issue more effectively, a Working Committee to Prevent Human Trafficking had been formed in August 2002. During the period from July 2002 to June 2004, 388 trafficking cases had been reported. The maximum punishment for trafficking in Myanmar was life imprisonment.
PAIMANEH HASTAEI (Iran) said promotion of womens human rights and womens empowerment were essential prerequisites for development in all societies. Womens empowerment constituted the key element in pushing back the scourge of poverty, which menaced more than one billion people -- mostly women in developing countries, yet statistics and various human development indicators revealed that women continued to suffer political, social and economic disadvantages throughout the world, including with respect to illiteracy, malnutrition and insufficient health care. Strategies to empower women must include awareness-raising, confidence-building, employment, economic independence, education, training, and provision of health, nutrition and welfare services. Womens issue could only be dealt with comprehensively, as a mainstreamed component of an integrated national and international strategy.
Violence against women also continued to be a cause of concern, she said. Womens lives and potentials were endangered by a wide range of violations, including trafficking in women and girls and sexual abuse. Thoroughly eliminating such violence remained contingent on effective cooperation between governments and civil society; failure on the parts of governments to deal effectively with the issue would undermine the policies and measures for advancement of women and promotion of their rights. As globalization continued to transform the world, manifold issues, including gender, had become interconnected. Gender issues must be addressed from many angles; the cultural, political and social aspects of globalization must be properly directed to avoid jeopardizing national, cultural and social assets of nations.
MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said that, in preparation for the review of the Beijing Conference and Millennium Summit, among other milestones, it must be recognized that, despite advances in political commitments, legislative frameworks, policy development and institutional mechanisms, much remained to be done in implementing those tools for womens advancement. Women continued to be underrepresented in decision-making processes and to suffer from discriminatory laws on marriage, land, property and inheritance. They lacked access to reproductive health services and remained the victims of violence and poverty. Trafficking in women and girls, their targeting in armed conflict and their increasing rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence remained problems requiring global attention.
Exploiting the full potential of Zambias human resources continued to be constrained by gender disparities, he said. Among the priorities his country must address were reversing high rates of female illiteracy, strengthening affirmative action to promote gender equality, changing attitudes towards female leadership in politics and government, increasing awareness of gender and development issues and reducing school drop-out rates due to pregnancy, early marriage and domestic chores.
The Government had established a Gender in Development Division in 1996, he noted, and had adopted a National Gender Policy in 2000. A Gender Management System had also been created, as a holistic and system-wide approach to gender mainstreaming. A number of policies had also been put in place to combat violence against women, including the establishment of a Permanent Human Rights Commission and a Victim Support Unit, as part of the police service reform programme. The penal code remained amenable to prosecution of offenders.
MOHAMED SAMIR KOUBAA (Tunisia) said his Government had made promotion of the role of women and their participation in development a crucial component of its model for society. Measures had been taken to ensure that womens rights were equal to those of men and to protect the family as a basic unit of society. His country was working to strengthen society and to increase womens participation in the economy. Socio-economic transformations were under way, but the family continued to play a crucial role in development and was important in promoting the well-being of individuals and society. It was incumbent upon governments to develop family policies and to take measures to ensure family cohesion and prevent family breakdown. Bilateral, regional and international cooperation must buttress those efforts.
He said migrant women in particular were living under precarious situations. Tunisia called on the international community to step up efforts to protect the rights and well-being of migrant workers through bilateral, regional and international cooperation. Palestinian women living in the occupied territories were especially vulnerable, and their rights must be protected according to international human rights and humanitarian law.
JACQUELINE OUBIDA (Burkina Faso) said her country had made efforts to empower women and to ensure their full participation in the national development process, including through the establishment of a Ministry for the Advancement of Women, ratification of several international instruments on womens rights and participation in many national and international gatherings, among other initiatives. The national policy for the promotion of women (2005-2015) had been stabilized, based on the vital need for an ongoing struggle against the inequalities confronting women.
The national policy document served as a guideline for action by the Government, and all its partners, to empower women, she stressed. Among its aims were stabilization of womens social and legal status, promotion of their access to decision-making, promotion of education, technical expertise, health and poverty reduction. Implementation of the national policy would be monitored and executed through action-oriented plans and the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in sectoral policies and programmes. To that end, harmonization of national policy tools with goals for womens empowerment remained necessary, and the third General Assembly on national coordination of the plan of action for advancement of women would take up the subject.
Among efforts to combat poverty, womens associations and groups had been provided with appropriate resources for production and transformation, she added, and had been trained in management techniques. Advocacy work had also been conducted with political and trade unions, to encourage womens access to decision-making circles. A great deal remained to be done for real advancement, including for dissemination of information on education, communications and advocacy for sustainable development based on gender equality. Womens know-how must be promoted, as well as agrarian and land reform, and efforts to step up affirmative action to raise levels of education and literacy must continue.
FARAH ADJALOVA (Azerbaijan) said gender equality was a priority direction of Azerbaijans development policy. It had signed all major international treaties on women and had worked towards the mainstreaming of the Beijing agenda into the state policy at national and international levels. Her Government was currently implementing a number of programmes to raise awareness on womens human rights and gender equality, elimination of violence against women, reproductive health and the rights of women, access to health and education for women, and their increased political and economic participation. The State Committee for Womens Issues worked closely with a network of gender focal points appointed by the Government in various regions to raise awareness and strengthen the economic and social status of women in rural areas. Azerbaijan was also working to establish the necessary national legislative framework in the field of gender equality and domestic violence. Despite all those efforts, she added, Azerbaijani women still faced serious problems arising from their economic insecurity, vulnerability and forced displacement as a result of armed conflict with Armenia.
She said trafficking in human beings, particularly in women, had been a subject of public debate. Workshops to discuss the issue had been held with the participation of Government, civil society and international organization. Azerbaijan had signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two protocols. It recently had adopted a National Counter-trafficking Plan of Action and cooperated closely with the International Organization for Migration, Organization for Security, Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other relevant United Nations agencies to address the problem of trafficking. After proceeding with the law on gender equality, her Government would pursue the adoption of national legislation on violence against women.
KHUNYING LAXANCHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand) recalled that a high-level intergovernmental review of regional implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action had been held in Bangkok, Thailand, in September 2004, and that the Bangkok Communiqué had set forth the achievements made over the past ten years and identified gaps remaining to be filled. Those gaps included the need to increase the accessibility, availability and affordability of quality reproductive health services; to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS; to support and institutionalize gender mainstreaming as a systematic approach to ensure gender-responsive implementation of programmes and policies; to reduce poverty and to support community and independent media attempts to counter negative and stereotypical portrayals of women and girls as sexual objects.
Reaffirming her Governments commitment to the advancement of women, she said that poverty eradication remained a top priority, and continued efforts had been made to implement programmes at the grass-roots level for womens income generation. Such programmes included poverty mapping and nationwide village funds, peoples banks, microcredit facilities, farmers temporary debt suspension schemes and the One Village, One Product programme. Such programmes had proven beneficial to women in rural areas, empowering their role in the community. On education, she said that while there was a small gender gap at the primary level, that situation was reversed at the tertiary level as girls tended to perform better in higher education. The Millennium Goal regarding education had been accomplished.
On trafficking, she added, Thailand had undertaken various measures to tackle both domestic and cross-border sex trafficking in partnership with other government and international agencies and non-governmental organizations at the national, regional and international levels. On family and health, she said that attention had been given to working with men and boys in programmes addressing violence against women. Family development centres had been established to give advice to women and men. The issues of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and increasing prevalence rates among young women had also been highlighted.
FESSEHA TESFU (Ethiopia) said it was important to ensure that developing countries, and particularly African countries, be well represented in the review of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of the General Assembly entitled Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century. A balanced and truly global outcome was possible only when the voices of marginalized groups were heard.
He said Ethiopia wished to emphasize the importance of concluding bilateral agreements to ensure the protection of victims and prosecution of offenders. International assistance in the area of enhancing law enforcement capabilities of developing countries was also critical. Ethiopia had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1981 and had made it an integral part of its Constitution. The minimum age for marriage had been raised from 15 to 18, and common property in marriage was administered co-jointly by the spouses and not by the husband alone. Legislation had been drafted to include among other things provisions that outlawed female genital mutilation as well as abduction and domestic violence.
Despite such improvements, he added, women in Ethiopia still lived in a state of extreme poverty. Ethiopia hoped that global partnerships would enhance its domestic efforts to build on its progress and address the task of ensuring gender equality.
ROMY TINCOPA (Peru) said her country had worked at the national, regional and international levels to fulfil the commitments it had undertaken for the advancement of women. At all levels, the development of peoples could only be achieved through the strengthening of democratic society by emphasizing social equity and gender equality. It was vital to give women a central role in the development and implementation of strategies for priorities such as the eradication of poverty, and to ensure their involvement, on an equal basis, in all spheres of national life. Her Government also felt it was important to encourage young people to take an interest in politics, and had developed programmes for political and leadership training, especially for women, youth and ethnic groups.
Noting that 2004 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the General Assemblys adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she lamented the incomplete status of the Conventions implementation. The mistreatment of women and girl children continued, including through trafficking, sexual abuse and domestic violence. Thus, Peru wished to underscore the importance of the work of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). Moreover, like many other developing countries, Peru confronted many challenges in the build-up to next years review of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals. However, the fight against poverty remained one of the nations highest priorities. Peru also approached the HIV/AIDS pandemic - particularly as it related to women and girls - as needing a comprehensive solution, and had implemented awareness-raising, prevention and treatment campaigns.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), noting that women made up 51.2 per cent of Malis population, said women faced difficulties caused by illiteracy, lack of skills, professional training, and precarious health care coverage. Despite the Constitutions recognition of gender equality, women in Mali still suffered from an unfavourable status. Additionally, international factors such as agricultural subsidies also had a negative impact on women.
He said measures taken by his Government to improve the economic status of women included the development of facilities to grant credit to women to enable them to conduct income generating activities. Hundreds of women were also being trained in the agri-food industry. A national committee had been established to eliminate harmful practices to mothers and children and programs initiated to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria. Efforts were also under way to eliminate illiteracy and increase enrolment of women and girls in schools. Legal clinics had been created in various administrative regions aimed at promoting and protecting womens rights. Mali was currently drafting a code on women and family and was developing a plan of action to eliminate violence against women. Efforts were also under way to train and carry out advocacy work to increase womens participation in Government.
TEBATSO FUTURE BALESENG (Botswana) said next years review of the Beijing Platform for Action should serve as a tributary to the mainstream review of the Millennium Development Goals, and should contribute to making a difference in the lives of women and girls across the globe that yearned for empowerment and equality. The emerging international consensus on ways to enhance the implementation of existing commitments, rather than renegotiating commitments already made, was welcomed, and all were encouraged to explore further innovative ways to intensify such implementation.
Despite concerted international efforts to eradicate all forms of violence against women, gender-based violence had increased in many parts of the world, she noted. Of particular concern was the potential of gender-based violence to aggravate the spread of HIV/AIDS in countries with high prevalence rates. Her country continued to work hard to eliminate all forms of violence against women, mounting advocacy campaigns to educate men and women on the need to eradicate such violence and taking legislative measures.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women served as a source of inspiration and encouragement to those considering accession to it, she concluded. As the Conventions twenty-fifth anniversary had been marked this week, it was important to recommit to its full implementation, to ensure translation of the goals contained therein into concrete national policies and legislation for universal gender equality.
SUSAN CHRISTOFIDES, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said various factors had allowed trafficking in women to become one of the fastest-growing criminal activities in the global economy. Those included poverty, lack of opportunities, gender discrimination, social and political violence and demand for services that victims of trafficking provided in other countries. At the outset, she said, traffickers abducted, coerced, deceived, kidnapped and took advantage of the discriminated and subordinated status of women and girls in their countries of origin. Once trapped, these women were at the mercy of the people they worked for and faced severe violations of their human rights and human dignity -- suffering long-term physical problems, including sexually transmitted diseases, psychological trauma and difficulty in reintegration into society.
She said changing patterns and trends made the prevention of trafficking a daunting task. Trafficking rings adapted quickly to measures taken by concerned Governments, and they had also begun to raise the standard of living of their victims, thereby ensuring their total control over victims, reducing their attempts to escape or to make police reports. To curtail this situation her Organization had developed and implemented a threefold strategy comprising prevention; protection and assistance to victims; and capacity-building for agencies concerned.
She said, prevention measures included such activities as organization of information campaigns, while assistance and protection included sheltering and accommodating victims, and providing them with medical and legal counselling and help in returning to their countries of origin. Capacity-building included training in the provision of emergency, legal, medical and other social services to victims, as well as enhancement of efficiency and effectiveness in prosecution and criminalization of those implicated in the trafficking process. The International Organization for Migration had also developed a Counter-Trafficking Handbook covering ethical principles in caring for trafficked persons; security and personal safety; screening of trafficking person; referral and reintegration assistance; shelter management; health concerns for beneficiaries; staff law enforcement cooperation; and data management.
S. SHAHID HUSAIN, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said Islam taught that men and women were Gods principal creations on earth, and that they were equally created with capacities for different roles and functions. Accordingly, the attainment of equality before the law, and in all other aspects of social and economic life, remained a principled aim of national policies and development efforts of the OIC member States. Any anomalies to be found in national legislation should be seen as reflecting the degeneration of societal or communal values, which had occurred and remained neglected, especially during periods of colonial rule. Such anomalies were new being identified and remedied, even if the process remained slow due to hardened societal practices and economic and other constraints.
Welcoming the discussion of violence against women in the report of the Secretary-General, as well as the planned in-depth study on all forms of violence against women, he said that government should be helped to accelerate the process of preparing comprehensive legislative frameworks to criminalize all forms of violence against women. It was also important for governments to put adequate penalties for perpetrators in place and to work with national and societal groups -- especially womens organizations, religious bodies and research institutions -- to improve the quality of support services for victims of violence and for preventive and corrective measures against such violence.
At its ministerial conference this year, he said, the OIC had reaffirmed its intention to convene a ministerial conference on women to devise a plan of action for enhancement of womens role social development in its members. The General Secretariat had therefore been mandated to coordinate development of sustainable relationships among womens associations. That was an area in which support and cooperation from the United Nations and its relevant funds, programmes and specialized agencies would be welcomed.
CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA (Guatemala) said her Government had created the Presidential Secretariat for Women (SEPREM) in 2000 as a mechanism for coordinating and advising on the policies, plans, programmes and actions for the advancement of women. Guatemala was now working on a strategy for promoting security for women, and SEPREM had initiated a study to diagnose cases of murder of women and would devise a strategy for preventing such crimes. Violence against women was on the rise in her country, and a number of institutions had been set up to combat this trend.
In the health sector, Guatemala had established a National Programme for Reproductive Health and a National Plan for the Reduction of Maternal Mortality, she continued. Laws and amendments of existing laws were being prepared to protect the life, health and integrity of women and to promote respect for their rights, particularly in the area of sexual harassment, discrimination, and trafficking. Only by bringing an end to discrimination and exclusion of women would it be possible to achieve the integral development of Guatemalan society and the consolidation of the rule of law.
PAUL GOA ZOUMANIGUI (Guinea) said the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly had reaffirmed the international communitys commitment to implement the Beijing Platform for Action and had underlined the need for political will at the national, regional and international levels to that end. The progress reported by the Secretary-General, as well as that of Member States, was welcomed and should serve to aid preparations for the 10-year review of the Beijing Conference, to be held next year.
At the subregional level, he noted, Guinea had participated in the first meeting of the technical committee of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which had been tasked to consider the transformation of the West African Womens Association into the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre. It had also participated in the subregional meeting for the 10-year evaluation of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, at which a qualitative assessment of progress had been made, and obstacles to further implementation identified. Guinea had also participated in the seventh African Regional Conference on Women, for which a national report on implementation of African and international commitments had been prepared. That document would also be submitted to the United Nations.
NAWAF N.M. AL-ENEZI (Kuwait) said it was important for States to continue to cooperate to advance the status of women and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had given importance to that struggle. Kuwait endorsed the convention and had acceded to it in 1994. His Government had taken various measures to combat the high illiteracy levels among women and had also recently acceded to the protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding prostitution.
He said Kuwait was fully convinced that women should be able to participate in the electoral process and there was a draft law to allow women to vote and run for election. Women had always been involved in politics and the field of development, but high illiteracy had kept women from the right to elect and to run for election. Women now made up more than 36 per cent of the active working population and were now directly involved in designing policies in various sectors. They were being appointed to high positions, a trend that was on the rise. Womens associations played an important role in civil society in Kuwait and women were also involved in post-conflict development in various regions of the world.
Violence against women was a clear violation of basic political rights and was an infringement of international human rights, he said. He especially condemned Israels continued policy of repression in the occupied territories which had presented grave obstacles to the advancement of women there.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said obstacles to womens full participation in social life and the political arena must be removed. Many women continued to live in circumstances of extreme poverty, armed conflict, discrimination, violence and illiteracy. Thus, the 10-year review of the Beijing World Conference must serve as an opportunity for the international community to recommit to the promotion of equality, development and peace for women, enshrined in the Beijing Platform for Action. He also reaffirmed the importance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in improving the situation of women worldwide over its 25 years.
The new Family Code, which had been introduced into the Moroccan Parliament last year, had been unanimously approved this year, he said. The Code emphasized the equal status of wives and husbands, including with respect to responsibilities within the family, and had abolished the practice of Wilaya. It had also set the age of marriage at 18 for both sexes, provided for consensual divorce, made polygamy practically impossible, provided for division of property acquired during marriage between the spouses, simplified marriage procedures for Moroccans living abroad and strengthened protection of the rights of the child.
Other legislative reforms had also been undertaken, he added, to harmonize Moroccan law with international commitments. The Work Code had reaffirmed equal pay for men and women, and the Penal Code had been reformed better to protect womens rights, notably with respect to domestic violence and sexual harassment. Moreover, the new electoral code had enabled the election of 35 women to Parliament in 2002.
RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said that Syria had sought through national legislation and plans of action to assure womens equality with men. The empowerment of women in urban and rural areas has been a priority in national plans for economic and social development. Subsidiary committees for women and trade unions had been established as part of the national efforts to combat the negative aspects of globalization. To meet this challenge, economic reform was being accelerated. There were efforts to improve womens access to information and technology without discrimination. National and regional conferences and workshops had been held with the aim of promoting the advancement and empowerment of women.
She said Syria hoped the international community would strive to implement all the recommendations included in the Beijing platform of action in full and without double standards. Womens rights should be realized for all women, without exception to women living in occupied territories. Foreign occupation violated the basic rights of human beings and ran counter to all international laws. Syrian women and Palestinian women in occupied territories were deprived of all basic rights. Discrimination was used against them in the most heinous manner by the Israeli occupying forces. Syria wished to stress that the advancement of women would be incomplete without an end to occupation.
MARIE YVETTE BANZON (Philippines) said her country was deeply committed to gender equality, which was connected to development and the eradication of poverty. For that reason, the Philippines mainstreamed gender issues in all areas called for in the Beijing document, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. The 30-year national strategic plan for women, the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development, had been translated into an operational plan. The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, in collaboration with Government agencies, NGOs and academia, oversaw the implementation of commitments in three major areas: promotion of economic empowerment, protection and fulfilment of womens rights, and promotion of gender responsive governance.
In her countrys programmes to eradicate poverty, she said, a major pillar consisted of strategies to address the development concerns of women. For example, 98 per cent of the microfinance beneficiaries were women, and 94 per cent of women were literate. To combat growing forms of violence against women, in 2003 the Congress passed the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act setting penalties for traffickers and protections for trafficked persons. In addition, the Anti-Violence against Women and Children Act passed this year, provided protection in the context of marital, dating and common-law relationships. Mens assistance in preventing violence against women had also been enlisted.
At the international level, in addition to previous measures, the Philippines had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, she said. Efforts were being pursued to increase womens participation in decision making and governance, and strategies to enhance the gender responsiveness of institutions were being improved. All such strategies needed to be refined so that the most pressing concerns of women were targeted and all groups of women were reached.
ARIEL BOWEN (Jamaica) said that the United Nations continued to play a pivotal role in advancing the welfare, human rights and social and economic development of women, and in reducing the disparities that existed between the genders. Jamaica regarded the attainment of near-universal ratification of the womens anti-discrimination Convention to be one of the Organizations most significant achievements. The Beijing Platform for Action was also an important mechanism for the advancement of womens rights.
Turning to the situation in his region, he recalled that Jamaica had recently received a significant number of women refugees -- some of them in advanced stages of pregnancy -- who had fled their country in small fishing boats, travelling for days at the mercy of the elements. Those tragic circumstances had been clear remainders of the negative impact armed conflict had on women and the importance of a stable democratic society as the core socio-political framework within which the advancement of women could be achieved. He also noted the continuing ravages of HIV/AIDS, stressing that the Caribbean now had the second highest infection in the world. The need for serious international action against the disease could not be overstated, as Caribbean women and children were the ones suffering most.
He said that violence against women and girls remained at an intolerable level, and national efforts, supported by the international community, must take a zero-tolerance approach. The issue of trafficking in women and girls, for prostitution and cheap labour had recently emerged as a serious issue in the region. Jamaica, believing that such practices were serious violations of womens dignity and human rights, stood ready to ready to speedily bring the situation under control. On his Governments policies aimed at ensuring womens advancement, he said that immediately following Beijing, Jamaica had restructured its Bureau of Womens Affairs, and that agencys mandate had been revised to create opportunities for the full integration of women into the countrys social, economic and cultural development. Jamaica was also aware that national legislation was important to the establishment of institutional measures and mechanisms to advance gender equality.
ELIZABETA GJORGJIEVA (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said it was not sufficient to have formal recognition of the principle of equality in the Constitution. What was needed were measures to achieve de facto equality. The most efficient way of eliminating gender discrimination was gender mainstreaming as a strategy for mobilization of all factors in society in promoting gender equality. In this context, two areas were of particular importance -- education and empowerment of women. These two areas must be key priorities in the struggle to promote effective equality and must be the core of political engagement.
She said her Government attached great importance to the gender equality and gender mainstreaming, both at the national and international levels. As a result of the introduction of legal measures, there had been progress in womens education and health care and in womens participation in political life. The Criminal Code had also been amended to include domestic violence.
She said her Government also prioritized the fight against trafficking in human beings, which was a contemporary form of slavery. It had established a National Anti-Trafficking Commission which cooperated close with non-governmental organizations and international organizations in her country. There was also a special task force within the Commission to deal with trafficking in children. This segment of the trafficking issue would be included in the National Action Plan for Children which was currently being drafted.
MARINE DAVTYAN (Armenia) said the comprehensive and objective review of the Beijing Platform for Action had become particularly important in light of the major event of 2005 -- the five-year review of the Millennium Development Goals. Gender equality and womens empowerment had been universally recognized, not merely as goals in themselves, but as prerequisites for sustainable development. Therefore, it was essential to ensure that the gender dimension was incorporated into the overall review of the Millennium Goals, as a cross-cutting issue.
Armenia continued to work for improvement in the situation of women, she said. A National Action Plan (2004-2010) to improve the status of women and enhance their role in society had been adopted earlier this year, and the post of Adviser to the Prime Minister on womens issues had been established. The Government also continued to work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on regional initiatives to identify local and regional gender problems, develop programmes of regional activities and improve the regional strategy on gender promotion.
Violence against women continued to be an area of concern, she added. Trafficking in women had increasingly affected the region, and had led the Government to adopt a National Action Plan on prevention of trafficking (2004-2006). That Plan envisaged short- and long-term measures regarding legislative reform, public awareness-raising, victim protection, return and reintegration.
GIRI BAHADUR K.C. (Nepal) said his Government believed the key to promoting womens rights lay in their economic, social and political empowerment. Women continued to suffer from poverty, illiteracy, disease, discrimination and violence around the world and still had a long way to go. Sustained investment was critical in providing education to women, in improving access to health care, drinking water and economic resources for empowerment. The lack of adequate financial resources had been the main cause for not achieving such comprehensive development.
He said the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was absolutely critical in empowering women and integrating the gender perspective in the development process. His Government had approved the CEDAW Action Plan, which served as a common platform of action for all development partners.
Trafficking in women and children was a major cause of concern and Nepal was greatly concerned that the scourge of trafficking was on the rise, he said. His Government called on the international community to protect the human rights of trafficking victims by providing them temporary shelter, humane treatment and facilitating their safe return to their countries. For its part, Nepal had a National Human Rights Commission that was coordinating activities in this area and had appointed a Rapporteur on Trafficking at the national level.
MAI TAHA MOHAMED KHALIL (Egypt) said her country had undertaken various measures to empower women and ensure their equal rights, including new family legislation granting women the right to divorce and to pass their nationality to their children. The Egyptian Constitution guaranteed equality of the sexes, and efforts had been made to ensure womens equal access to employment, including in the Government. An office of the Ombudsman had been established to hear complaints submitted by women and to provide them with legal advice.
On violence against women, she said additional data was needed. However, the Government had begun efforts to analyze the spread of the problem and to provide additional training for the police regarding domestic violence. There had also been legislative reform criminalizing rape -- closing the loophole by which a perpetrator could avoid punishment if he married the victim. These and other legislative reforms envisaged creation of a situation in which women were ensured of all their human rights.
As recognized by the Secretary-General, there was also a need to integrate womens issues into all development questions, especially poverty eradication, she concluded.
SUSANA RIVERO (Uruguay) said her Governments recent accomplishments had included progress in the dialogue between State powers and civil society and in regional and international cooperation to consolidate the advancement of women. Positive results had been achieved in the plan for advancing womens equality. The universalization of national primary education was another important achievement.
Progress had also been made in promoting womens rights. Her country had adopted the optional protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Government had been able to accomplish projects that would not have been possible without this important cooperation. There was a growing awareness among women, and women would not waver in protecting the rights granted to them.
ANDA FILIP, Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to the United Nations, said that a balanced participation of men and women in the management of public affairs was central to any democracy, and parliament had a crucial role to play. Her organization was committed to securing parliamentary awareness of the Beijing objectives. The 111th IPU assembly had conducted an evaluation of the implementation of Beijing from a parliamentary perspective, and had adopted a resolution that sets out a series of measures for the advancement of women in the political, economic and social fields, placing specific focus on human security, conflict resolution and the girl child. Underpinning that resolution was the fundamental role of parliaments in achieving gender equality.
In enhancing that role, she said, two issues must be addressed: the very low presence of women in parliamentary assemblies and the enhancement of parliaments capacities to address gender issues. The latest statistics showed that, on average, women accounted for 15.4 per cent of parliamentarians in both lower and upper houses. Encouragingly, the last decade showed a continuous increase and this years figures were the highest to date. Only 15 countries, however, had met the 30 per cent threshold, considered by the United Nations to be a level at which women could have significant impact. The IPU was committed to improving that situation through awareness-raising campaigns, technical assistance programmes, and the dissemination of research results. It also recognized that affirmative action measures such as quotas were useful tools; and that a supportive environment for women in Parliaments was essential.
CATHERINE GENDRE, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that while it was important to acknowledge womens suffering in armed conflict, suffering did not tell the whole story. Women were not merely passive victims in todays conflicts; most of the time they demonstrated the resilience to hold families and communities together in the face of adversity. In recognition of the multiple roles played by women in armed conflict, the ICRC had pledged to promote the respect that must be accorded to women and girls, with a special emphasis on sexual violence, and to assess and address their needs. As a first step in that process, the ICRC had carried out an in-depth study of the needs of women affected by armed conflict and the adequacy of international law to respond to those needs.
The study had provided the foundation upon which to improve operational response, she said. As a follow-up, the ICRC had recently elaborated a practical manual for those working in the field, which addressed the needs of women affected by armed conflict. The task now was to ensure implementation of that documents conclusions, which reflected the ICRCs two-fold approach: to cultivate a planning reflex to better analyze, address and integrate the specific needs of women into operational planning and strategies, and to develop specific programmes in response to those needs. In its prevention activities, the ICRC endeavoured to integrate womens needs and the prohibition of sexual violence into discussion seminars for armed forces and armed opposition groups.
Statement in Exercise of Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, said Israel was doing all it could to improve the situation of Palestinian women by providing them with assistance in health services and education. Israel strove to protect the civil and human rights of Palestinian women as much as possible, while still protecting its own people. The best way to improve the lives of Palestinian women was to end Palestinian acts of terror. Only through a return to peace could the lives of Palestinian women truly improve. As to the misleading accusations that Israel was occupying part of south Lebanon, he said, as confirmed in a recent Security Council Resolution, that the only foreign military force existing on Lebanese soil was the one maintained by Syria.
Concluding Statement on Advancement of Women
Wrapping up the Third Committees general discussion on advancement of women, CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, expressed gratitude for all the support expressed for the work of the Secretariat during the four days of discussion, particularly relating to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. She also welcomed broad participation in the forthcoming Security Council discussion on the anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. Moreover, the keen interest evinced in the 10-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, to be held during next years Commission on the Status of Women, was also appreciated, as was the support evinced for revitalization of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
Apart from the issues specifically before the Committee, she had noted several topics recurring throughout the discussion, she said, including the need for increased attention to gender perspectives in peace and security; the challenges faced in relation to increasing womens participation in decision making; and the need to identify gender perspectives in poverty eradication initiatives, and throughout the review of the Millennium Goals. She now looked forward to finalizing preparations for the 10-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, promising that all the points raised would be taken into account.
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