25 July 2005

Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Concludes Thirty-Third Session, Stressing Need to Eliminate Stereotypes, Withdraw Convention Reservations

Experts Examined Reports of 8 States Parties to Convention

NEW YORK, 22 July (UN Headquarters) -- Concluding its thirty-third session today, the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women underscored the need for States to eliminate stereotypical attitudes, address the special needs of ethnic and rural women, and withdraw any reservations to the Convention.

Acting in their personal capacity, the Committee’s 23 members monitor compliance of the 180 State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women through country reports, which review developments in related legislation, gender stereotyping, political representation, education, employment, health, rural women and family life.

During the current session, the Committee examined reports from eight States -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Gambia, Guyana, Ireland, Israel, and Lebanon.  The Gambia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Lebanon, and Benin were reporting to the Committee for the first time.

Summarizing the session, the Chairwoman, Rosario Manalo of the Philippines said the Committee had found that discriminatory stereotypical attitudes, as well as persistent customs, practices and traditions had kept women in inferior positions in all nations it had examined.  Such attitudes could hinder women’s equal access to health, education, employment, and participation in decision-making, and were also reflected in the types or levels of education that women could achieve.

“Much still needs to be done to overcome such attitudes and practices through awareness-raising, sensitization of public officials and society at large, and improvement of the education system to foster understanding of gender equality in line with the letter and spirit of the Convention”, she said.

The Committee had also noted that certain groups of women encountered multiple forms of discrimination, which governments should counteract and eradicate.  Migrant and refugee women, women belonging to ethnic, racial or religious minorities, and especially rural women, who in some countries made up over 50 per cent of the population, consistently had lower levels of education, employment health and participation in decision-making than their sisters in urban areas or who belonged to predominant groups.

In addition, it had expressed concern over certain countries’ reservations to the Convention -- notably, Israel, Ireland, Lebanon, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she said.  Together, those States held reservations to articles 2 (general obligations under the Convention), 7 (participation in public life), 9 (nationality), 11 (work), and 16 (marriage and family relations).  Such reservations were incompatible with the Convention, and the Committee had urged States to keep them under review, narrow them, and set a timetable for their eventual withdrawal.

Also addressing the Committee, Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, noted that reporting countries shared such common concerns as violence against women, sexual exploitation, trafficking in women and girls, low levels of women’s participation in public life, limited resources for national machineries, lack of data disaggregated by sex, persistence of stereotypical attitudes and women’s disadvantages in the labour market.  The vibrant and constructive dialogue that had developed between Committee members and government representatives had provided a framework for better implementation of the Convention at the domestic level.

Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, said the Committee’s discussions had clearly highlighted links between implementation of the Convention and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which would remind governments of their legal obligation to protect and promote women’s rights.  Noting that the Committee had focused on government follow-up to the Beijing Platform of Action, she said attention to women’s human rights in United Nations policy discussions had increased significantly since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, underscoring the power of the Committee as an accountability mechanism.

Also today, the Committee adopted its report (CEDAW/C/2005/II/CRP.3), as amended; its report on the working group of the whole (CEDAW/C/2005/II/CRP.3); and its provisional agenda for the thirty-fourth session, which will be held from 16 January to 3 February 2006.  In its report, the Committee requested the General Assembly to extend its meeting times to three annual sessions of three weeks each.

Committee Membership

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

Committee Officers

The Committee’s bureau consisted of Rosario Manalo (Philippines), Chairperson; Silvia Pimental (Brazil), Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling (Germany), and Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria), Vice-Chairpersons; and Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia), Rapporteur.

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