28 August 2006

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Makes Recommendations On Promotion, Protection of Rights in 15 Countries as It Concludes Session

Experts Dealt with Challenging Volume of Work, Says Special Adviser; Director Hails "Significant Progress" on Migrants

NEW YORK, 25 August (UN Headquarters) -- Wrapping up its thirty-sixth session this afternoon, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women made recommendations on the promotion and protection of women's rights in 15 countries and adopted its draft report, as amended.

The Committee's experts made the recommendations with respect to Cape Verde, Chile, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Georgia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mexico, Philippines, Republic of Moldova and Uzbekistan.  To date, 184 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Often referred to as the "international bill of rights for women", the instrument sets a framework for national action to assure fundamental rights for women in the fields of education, politics, health care, economics, employment and property, as well as marriage and family relations.  Acting in their personal capacities, the Committee's 23 expert members monitor compliance with the treaty.

States parties to the Convention are committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.  The just-concluded session saw the Committee meet in parallel chambers for the first time ever, in order to reduce the backlog in its consideration of the country reports before it.

During the session, which began on 7 August, the expert members discussed a broad range of issues, with Government delegations presenting their compliance reports, including customary laws and traditional practices; prostitution and trafficking in human beings; women's participation in economic and political decision-making; rural women; and migrant women's rights.

The Committee also decided on the merits of two communications submitted under the Convention's 1999 Optional Protocol, by which the Committee can receive complaints from individuals or groups regarding violations of rights protected under the instrument, and initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women's rights.

In concluding remarks, Rachel N. Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the Committee had dealt with a challenging and significant volume of work.  Comments based on the constructive dialogues held with the 15 States would provide a solid framework for enhanced implementation of the Convention.  The consideration of reports in two chambers would be a model for future sessions, and the high level of attendance by non-governmental organizations had once again made a significant contribution to the Committee's work.

She noted that the Committee had also taken action to follow up on the Fifth Inter-Committee Meeting of Human Rights Treaty Bodies and the Eighteenth Meeting of Chairpersons of Human Rights Treaty Bodies.  Apart from working on a general recommendation on migrant women and on article 2 of the Convention, the experts had also drafted a statement on the situation of women in Lebanon.

That statement says in part:  "Both Israel and Lebanon are long-time States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (3 October 1991 and 16 April 1997, respectively) and have, thereby, accepted the obligation to implement the provisions of the Convention.  Both States have recently presented their periodic reports to the Committee."

Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, described the thirty-sixth session as "historic and extraordinary".  Through its decisions under the Optional Protocol, the Committee was enhancing State accountability for the protection and promotion of women's human rights.

Significant progress had also been made on the Committee's general recommendation on women migrants, she said.  Progress was also expected on a general recommendation on discrimination.  Those general recommendations were authoritative interpretations of specific provisions of the Convention and provided essential guidance to States parties.

Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani, expert from Algeria, the Committee's Vice-Chairperson, encouraged the 15 States parties to use the concluding comments as a basis for concrete and comprehensive follow-up action and to publicize the remarks widely to the public at large.

She said the Committee had benefited a great deal from the contributions by non-governmental organizations and acknowledged their pivotal role in the Convention's implementation at the national level.  As the role of the United Nations system in supporting its implementation was also critical, the system should support and encourage use of the Convention as a general framework for all national development efforts.

The Committee had also continued to strengthen its links with the Commission on the Status of Women, she said.  It welcomed the invitation to contribute to the discussion on the Commission's priority themes in 2007-2008.  The opportunity to enhance the links between the treaty-monitoring body and the intergovernmental body charged with the promotion of women's equality would no doubt strengthen international efforts for gender equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

In other business, the Committee adopted the draft report of the Working Group of the Whole, as amended, and the provisional agenda for its thirty-seventh session.  Dubravka Šimonović, expert from Croatia and Rapporteur of the Committee, introduced both reports.

The Committee's expert members are:  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 Šimonović (Croatia); Anamah Tan (Singapore); Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal); and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).

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