5 June 2006

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Adopts Report, Concludes Three-Week Headquarters Session

Considered Reports from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkmenistan, Guatemala, Malawi, Saint Lucia, Malaysia, Cyprus, Romania

NEW YORK, 2 June (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 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkmenistan, Guatemala, Malawi, Saint Lucia, Malaysia, Cyprus and Romania.

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 -- sometimes 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, 183 countries, or more than 90 per cent of the United Nations membership, have ratified the 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 15 May, the Committee 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 some reporting Governments the importance of signing on to the Convention's 1990 Optional Protocol, under which the Committee would 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.

Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women -- and speaking on behalf of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja -- said the high level of attendance of non-governmental organizations, United Nations organizations and other observers during the session had been a good indication of the importance accorded to the Convention and the work of the Committee.

She was heartened by the Committee's interest in the United Nations reform process, in particular those relating to gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Indeed, there had been increased recognition of gender inequality as a fundamental driver of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as shown through the high-level discussion on HIV/AIDS in the General Assembly. 

Ms. Hannan said the final document to be produced by the General Assembly as a result of that meeting was expected to include issues pertinent to the Committee, such as the need to:  promote responsible sexual behaviour among women and men; provide information counselling and services to pregnant and other women living with HIV; eliminate violence against women; provide women with control over matters relating to sexual and reproductive activities; enhance women's economic independence and empowerment; and eliminate of all forms of discrimination.  Mention would also be made of the equal responsibility of men and boys in bringing about gender equality.  She also told the Committee she had spoken at a high-level round table earlier in the week to raise the importance of the Convention as a critical accountability mechanism for promoting women's human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS. 

In her closing remarks, Committee Chair, Rosario Manalo, expert from the Philippines, said some time had been spent during the thirty-fifth session to prepare for the upcoming August session, when the Committee would meet for the first time in parallel chambers, and that States parties had been briefed on the working methods for the chambers and the modalities of the dialogue.  During that time, the Committee would consider the reports of 15 States parties. 

Meanwhile, discussions concerning the reform of the human rights treaty bodies had culminated in the adoption by the Committee of a statement on ways to create an integrated human rights treaty bodies system, rather than "focus solely on the proposal of a standing unified treaty body".  Three experts were expected to attend the fifth Inter-Committee meeting in June, who would carry the Committee's message to the other six treaty bodies.  Hopefully, all the treaty bodies could work together to broaden the range of viable options considered in the reform debate, she said.

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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