6 February 2006

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Concludes Three-Week Session; Experts Examine Convention Compliance of Eight States Parties

Situation of Rural Women, Importance of Convention Reference in National Legislation among Recurring Issues Highlighted

NEW YORK, 3 February (UN Headquarters) -- Wrapping up 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 promotion and protection of women's rights in Australia, Cambodia, Eritrea, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mali, Thailand, Togo and Venezuela.

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 -- often referred to as the "international bill of rights for women" -- entered into force in 1981, faster than any other previous human rights treaty.

To date, 180 countries, or more than 90 per cent of the United Nations membership, have ratified Convention, which sets a framework for national action to assure fundamental rights for women in education, politics, health care, economics, employment, property, and marriage and family relations.

During the session, which began on 16 January, the Committee -- the only international human rights treaty body dealing exclusively with women's rights -- discussed a broad range of issues with Government delegations presenting their compliance reports, including, among others, customary laws and traditional practices; women's participation in economic and political decision-making; rural women; and immigrant women's rights.

The Committee also encouraged several delegations to remove their respective reservations to the Convention, and stressed to a few other reporting Governments, the importance of signing on to the Convention's 1999 Optional Protocol, under which the Committee could receive complaints from individuals or groups regarding violations of rights protected under the Convention, and initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women's rights.

In concluding remarks, Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, congratulated the Committee on its work and careful, comprehensive look at the condition of women in a diverse group of countries.  She noted that, while plans and programmes aimed at securing women's fundamental rights differed greatly in the eight countries under review, there had been some serious recurring concerns, including the persistence of stereotypical attitudes, women's disadvantages in the labour markets, continued lack of sex disaggregated data, and the situation of rural women.

She said that, in her work away from the United Nations during the past year, she had stressed renewed commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and other global development targets calling for the full promotion and protection of women's rights and reducing gender gaps worldwide. She stressed that women's progress in many parts of the world continued to be held hostage by deep discrimination, which was often enshrined in national laws. She congratulated the Committee's experts for the good work they continued to do to promote the rights of women worldwide.

Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, joined Ms. Mayanaja in congratulating the Committee for the successful completion of its thirty-fourth session, which had moved forward the cause of women's equality with men. She also highlighted the changes in the Committee's working methods that would make it possible for the experts to hold three sessions this year, and to take up the reports of 31 States parties, as opposed to 16. She also noted the Committee's upcoming informal meeting in Berlin, where it would further refine its working methods.

On other events that had occurred during this session, she noted that there had been two additional accessions to the Optional Protocol: the United Republic of Tanzania (12 January) and St. Kitts and Nevis (20 January). Turning to the upcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women, she said that that body would examine the question of women's participation, a topic which had and continued to receive the expert's considerable attention. The Commission would also address the question of an enabling environment for achieving enhanced participation of women in development, in particular in relation to health, education and work.     

In concluding remarks, Committee Chair, Rosario G. Manalo, expert from the Philippines, recapped the Committee's work during the past two weeks and thanked her fellow experts, as well as the eight reporting delegations, on the work that had been accomplished. She hoped the Committee's concluding comments would give impetus to national-level plans targeting women's advancement, and also called on non-governmental organizations and civic actors, who had, once again, played an important role in the Committee's work, to intensify their local and community-level action on behalf of the world's women.

She said that, in its discussion with reporting delegations, the Committee had, as always, identified positive aspects, as well as principle areas of concern. The experts followed up their issues of concern with concrete recommendations States parties could use to boost their efforts to improve women's rights. She highlighted the Committee's concern about the generally disadvantaged situation of rural women worldwide, and urged States parties to step up their targeted efforts.

She went on to share the experts' concern that, in many countries, there was little or no reference to the Convention in national legislation or constitutions. She urged States parties to ensure that the tenets of the Convention were reflected in national legislation, and the national judicial officials were trained in the Convention. She added that the Committee called on States parties to make the Convention and the Optional Protocol better know throughout their general populations. She joined Ms. Hannan in highlighting the importance of the Berlin meeting, as well as the holding of a third session (15 May - 2 June), which would effectively double the number of reports that would be reviewed this year.

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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