31 January 2005

Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Concludes Thirty-Second Session, Having Examined Situation of Women in Eight Countries

NEW YORK, 28 January (UN Headquarters) -- Concluding a three-week session this afternoon, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women adopted its draft report, as amended, making recommendations on the advancement of women in Algeria, Croatia, Gabon, Italy, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Paraguay, Samoa and Turkey.

Acting in their personal capacities, the Committee’s 23 expert members monitor compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, the Convention entered into force in 1981, faster than any other previous human rights treaty. To date, 179 countries -- over 90 per cent of the United Nations membership -- have ratified the Convention.

During the session, which began on 10 January, the Committee -- the only international human rights treaty body that deals exclusively with women’s rights -- focused on a broad range of issues, including constitutional and legislative reforms; customary laws and traditional practices; women’s participation in economic decision-making and political life; rural women; immigrant women’s rights; and access to health care and education.

Also during the session, the Committee released the findings of its first inquiry under the Optional Protocol, which allows for individuals or groups of individuals, having exhausted national remedies, to petition the Committee. 

The first-ever inquiry focused on the murders and disappearances of more than 320 women in the Ciudad Juarez area of Chihuahua, Mexico, since 1993 and included a visit to Mexico in October 2003 by two Committee members.

By adopting the draft report today, the Committee decided that its thirty-third session would be held from 5 to 22 July 2005, during which it would consider the reports of Benin, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Gambia, Lebanon, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Israel and Ireland.

The document adopted today also contained the Committee’s statement on the occasion of the Beijing review and appraisal, which it was submitting to the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-ninth session, and a statement containing suggestions in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the tsunami-affected areas.

Highlighting the achievements of the session, Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, congratulated the Committee on its contribution to the upcoming review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action. In the 10 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Committee had consistently reminded States parties that the implementation of the Platform contributed to the Convention’s implementation.  While remarkable progress had been made since the adoption of the Platform, much needed to be done to meet long-standing and emerging challenges, including the impact of structural adjustments and globalization, trafficking in women and violence against women at home and in the work place.

There was a strong sense among the members of the Commission on the Status of Women that the 10-year anniversary of the Beijing Conference must not be “business as usual”, but an occasion to clearly reaffirm the Platform’s goals and objectives, she added. The upcoming session would provide an opportunity for sharing national experiences and best practices and exchange lessons learned.

Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, congratulated the Committee on the outcome of its session, saying that the experts’ concluding comments concerning the eight States parties considered during the session would make a significant contribution to the advancement of gender equality in those countries. The decisions adopted during the current session showed that the Committee remained at the forefront of promoting human rights. It was also important for the Committee to be present and visible at the upcoming forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which would present an excellent opportunity to engage various players in a systematic discussion on the Convention and its role in the implementation of important international objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.

In concluding remarks, the Committee Chairperson and expert from the Philippines, Rosario Manalo, said that, during the session, the Committee had been able to identify a number of common elements for States to make progress in ensuring women’s enjoyment of their human rights. In no State had women’s de jure equality been achieved. All governments also had significant additional work to do to abolish and eliminate prejudices, customs and practices that cast women in positions of inferiority, constituted discrimination against women and curtailed their enjoyment of their rights.  Women remained insufficiently aware of their rights. Even if mechanisms were in place to address grievances, women often did not know about them, or lacked the resources to use them. Insufficient progress towards equality in the eight countries reviewed had also been noted in the fields of employment and participation in decision-making.

Regarding the field of employment, she said that women’s participation in the labour force was lower; they were paid less; and they were prominent in the informal sector and in unpaid agricultural work. Women’s participation in public and political life left much to be desired. The Committee had also continued its work under the Optional Protocol and had adopted a statement as input to the Beijing 10-year review. Disappointed with the lack of action by the General Assembly on its request for additional meeting time, the Committee had agreed to take up the matter once again in July 2005.

Committee Membership

Current members of the Committee are as follows:  Magalys Arocha Dominguez (Cuba), Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria), Dorcas Coker-Appiah (Ghana), Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia), Cornelis Flinterman (Netherlands), Naela Mohamed Gabr (Egypt), Françoise Gaspard (France), Huguette Bokpe Gnacadja (Benin), Salma Khan (Bangladesh), Tiziana Maiolo (Italy), Rosario G. Manalo (Philippines), Krisztina Morvai (Hungary), Pramila Patten (Mauritius), Silvia Pimentel (Brazil), Victoria Popescu (Romania), Fumiko Saiga (Japan), Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling (Germany), Heisoo Shin (Republic of Korea), Glenda P. Simms (Jamaica), Dubravka Šimonovic (Croatia), Anamah Tan (Singapore), Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal) and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).

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