14 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4070

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Domestic, Gender-based Violence Dominate Third Committee Discussion

 

as Speakers Urge Greater Participation by Women in Political Life

 


The need for amended national criminal codes to address domestic violence and the related crime of “femicide”, as well as calls for more women to participate in the political life, dominated discussion in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it continued its general discussion on the advancement of women.


“One of the most pervasive forms of violence against of women continues to be perpetrated in their homes by the people they love,” Zimbabwe’s representative said.  Domestic violence was an ill that “must be eliminated” if women were to enjoy an improved quality of life on the same footing as men.  The enactment of laws must be complemented by “aggressive awareness campaigns” to combat harmful stereotypes, which were the root cause of violence against women and girls, she added.  Zimbabwe therefore reiterated the necessity of involving men as agents of change in its efforts to fight violence against women, but also in its broader efforts to ensure their full empowerment.


Panama’s representative said her Government had been able to carry out several initiatives in combating violence against women, particularly through the Instituto Nacional de la Mujer.  It had organized national gatherings with the aim of sharing good practices and experiences relating to the prevention of domestic violence, providing, in particular, psychological care for female victims.  However, challenges persisted in different areas, such as the consolidation of mechanisms and entities for the eradication of violence, gender stereotyping, awareness-raising and effective tools for safeguarding women who reported violence.  Femicide remained one of the major challenges for Panama, she said, adding that procedures had been initiated to amend the relevant criminal code.


Norway’s representative called for additional resources to be made available to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a request reflected in a draft resolution put forward by her country on behalf of the Nordic countries.  Although 187 States parties had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, there was still a long way to go before it was fully implemented by all Member States, she pointed out.  She noted also that, although widely acknowledged as a success, the Millennium Development Goals had not effectively addressed the underlying structural causes of gender inequality.


Japan’s representative was among the many speakers who emphasized that the issue of sexual violence in conflict “must not be overlooked”.  For that reason, she called for close cooperation with UN-Women, the International Criminal Court and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  Japan planned to present a draft resolution titled “Natural disaster and gender” in March 2014, she said.


Algeria’s delegate said his country had placed women’s issues at the heart of national goals and strategies, adding that its efforts on those fronts had evolved in a positive way thanks to the contributions of the Government and civil society.  Women in the public sector accounted for 50 per cent of teachers, 53 per cent of doctors, 32 per cent of managers and 40 per cent of the judicial system, he said.


Other topics featuring prominently in today’s discussion included women and security, UN-Women’s leadership, the need for a human rights-based approach to development, the importance of including women in all aspect of life, and their access to justice and education.


Also participating today were speakers representing Finland, New Zealand, Iraq, United States, Mongolia, Egypt, Poland, Philippines, Turkey, Chile, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, Ecuador, Kuwait, Sudan, Netherlands, Brazil, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Ukraine, Monaco, Costa Rica, Australia, Maldives, Libya, Malta, Lithuania, Swaziland, Morocco, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Eritrea, Georgia, Suriname, Zambia, Peru, Viet Nam, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo and the International Organization for Migration.


Representatives of Israel, Qatar, Russian Federation, Syria and Georgia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 October, when it is expected to conclude its discussion of women’s advancement, and to begin its consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children and of the follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its general discussion on the advancement of women and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  For further background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4069.


Statements


YAEKO SUMI ( Japan) said her Government was strengthening efforts to address the issue of women.  As the Prime Minister had announced to the General Assembly recently, Japan was committed to building “a society where women shine”, and for that reason, it had allocated more than $3 billion in official development assistance (ODA) over the next three years for women’s social advancement and capacity-building, as well as women’s health care and protection, among other services.  Japan had served as Vice-Chair of UN-Women and donated $1 million to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.  The Government had also been developing an action plan based on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Emphasizing that the issue of sexual violence in conflict “must not be overlooked”, she said Japan encouraged close cooperation with UN-Women, the International Criminal Court and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  Following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Japan had submitted a draft resolution titled “Gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disaster” which had been adopted by the Commission on the Status of Women, and planned to submit a new text titled “Natural disaster and gender” in March 2014, she said.


JARMO VIINANEN ( Finland) said that equal access to justice was not only crucial for the realization of women’s human rights, but also a development concern.  Problems relating to inheritance and land rights as well as lack of access to birth registration hindered women’s opportunities and kept them in poverty.  They also needed access to decent paid work and to education, health and other services.  Too often impunity prevailed when women’s rights were violated, he said, emphasizing that “this has to stop”.  A human rights-based approach to development must be firmly integrated into the post-2015 framework.  “Without their full and equal contribution, there cannot be long-term sustainable development,” he added.


JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) declared: “Nothing we do here at the United Nations can be considered successful if it only involves half of the world, as one wouldn’t face a winter storm with a glove on only one hand.”  It was therefore only logical to include and empower women and girls in order to realize the international community’s full potential, he said.  Eradicating discrimination and actively supporting their full participation in economic, social and political life was essential to reducing poverty, promoting economic growth and democratic governance, and enhancing the well-being of women, girls and their families, he said, calling for the increased collection of targeted and progressively standardized data on women’s political participation.  Being disproportionately affected by humanitarian emergencies — both conflict situations and natural disasters — women remained excluded from many peace processes as well as those relating to preparedness, response and recovery, he said, calling for accelerated efforts to include and empower more women in decision-making processes on humanitarian action and disaster risk reduction.


ZAYTOON FARAJ ABDULLAH ( Iraq) said her Government was implementing the Millennium Development Goals relating to women’s empowerment and education, pointing out that Iraq’s constitution stipulated that their participation in elections should not be less than 25 per cent.  The Government had adopted a series of measures to counter family violence, including a programme involving police and social researchers.  It had also enacted a law against trafficking in persons in 2012.  The Government sought to build the capacity to improve gender parity through training in technical and vocational skills, she said, adding that the 2010-2014 National Development Plan focused on education.  The Government was also carrying out a campaign to change the image of women in the media while reforming the education system and curricula with a view to enabling women to participate in policy design.


DESIREÉ DEL CARMEN CEDEÑO RENGIFO ( Panama ) said her/his Government had been able to carry out several initiatives to combat violence against women, particularly through the Instituto Nacional de la Mujer.  It had organized operational plans and national gatherings with the aim of sharing good practices and experiences relating to the prevention of domestic violence and the care of women and their children, in particular, psychological care to women victims of violence.  However, challenges persisted in different areas, such as the consolidation of mechanisms and entities for the eradication of violence, gender stereotyping, awareness-raising and effective tools to safeguard women who reported violence.  Femicide remained one of the major challenges for Panamanian society, she said, adding that procedures had been initiated to amend the relevant criminal code.


LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS ( United States) said the small percentage of women serving in elected or appointed office was disappointing.  The scarcity of reliable data on their participation in elections was also a cause of concern.  Women must be able to live free of violence, not only for their physical well-being, but also in order to take advantage of new political and economic opportunities, and to be empowered to play a more prominent role in agricultural production and marketing.  Women’s equal right to a nationality was an ongoing priority for the United States, she said, noting that nationality laws that discriminated against women were a significant cause of statelessness.  According to recent research, that form of discrimination threatened family unity.  Stateless persons often lacked access to lawful employment, faced travel restrictions and were unable to pass on their nationality to their children.  Those factors increased their chances of being exploited and abused, including through forced migration and trafficking in persons, she noted.


VANGANSUREN ULZIIBAYAR ( Mongolia) said her country’s Government had enhanced and strengthened women’s access to education health care services, employment, including equal pay for equal work, social protection and economic empowerment at all levels with a view to reducing their vulnerability to violence and different forms of discrimination.  On women’s political participation, she said specific laws were in place to ensure that up to 40 per cent of positions in the different echelons of the civil service were occupied by women.  It specifically prohibited gender discrimination in relation to hiring, promotion, wages and access to education.  As for women in rural areas, she said they remained socially and economically disadvantaged, and called for further actions to address the factors behind inequality.


AMIRA FAHMY ( Egypt), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country supported the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 framework.  Education and economic empowerment remained indispensable and should have priority.  She also encouraged Member States to use the international momentum created to oppose violence against women to strengthen their national response mechanisms, in consistency with their international obligations.  At the national level, she highlighted the recent appointment of three female Ministers and a female adviser to the President, as well as the preparation of draft legislation to address violence against women.  She reiterated Egypt’s commitment to all international conventions on the protection of all human rights and the fundamental freedoms of women.


AGNIESZKA KOZLOWSKA-RAJEWICZ (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said that without an internationally recognized or agreed definition of the parameters of sexual and reproductive health rights or sexual and reproductive health services, States were free to define them under national law.  Poland objected to any interpretation of references to sexual and reproductive health rights or sexual and reproductive health services in international documents as including abortion on demand, she emphasized.  Polish law allowed abortion only when the mother’s life or health was endangered, when the foetus was severely malformed or unviable, or when the pregnancy was the result of a crime.  Access for all women to safe, affordable and appropriate family planning methods was crucial, she said, adding that her country was fully dedicated to improving the lives of all women around the world, and fully committed to the effective realization of women’s human rights, including reproductive rights.


ANA MARIE L.HERNANDO (Philippines), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), acknowledged that despite progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment, challenges remained, including those relating to women’s political participation, discrimination against rural women and violence and exploitation of female migrant workers.  “As we identify priorities for a post-2015 development framework, we should build on the strength of the gains we have already achieved and work on closing the gaps that hold us back from advancing gender equality and empowerment of women,” she said.  The Philippines supported the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into discussions on the post-2015 development framework and sustainable development goals, as well as calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment to be reflected as a stand-alone goal.


SELIN OZAYDIN ( Turkey) said that her country was among those that had mostly fulfilled the national commitments and goals set forth in the Millennium Declaration.  Turkey had found its place among the top 10 countries to have achieved the sharpest declines in maternal death rates between 1990 and 2008.  During the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Turkey’s delegation had proudly and actively contributed to the historic conclusions that had sent a clear massage in favour of combating and ending all forms of violence against women, she said.  Turkey had become the first State party to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Eliminating and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which constituted the first international convention on combating violence against women.  The Government was determined to make greater contributions to the work of UN-Women by hosting its regional office for Europe and Central Asia in Istanbul.


OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said his country had adopted several laws, including one on improving the working conditions of female domestic workers, another against discrimination, one on sexual and reproductive health, and one modifying the criminal code to include femicide.  The challenges ahead involved improving women’s participation in political and public life and in the justice system.  Chile had launched a programme called “Chile Acoge” (“Chile Cares”), designed to prevent violence against women within the family and by third parties.  Further, a draft resolution aimed at establishing a national institute for agricultural workers was under consideration, he said, adding that it took into account the fact that the number of women in agriculture had increased by 143 per cent over the last 20 years.


MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, emphasized that right to freedom enjoyed by Syrian women had been severely affected by terrorist activities in the last few years.  “Women and girls are the first sector to have paid the price,” she added.  The idea of “marriage jihad” promoted by the media in Qatar and Saudi Arabia was a sick religious notion because it forced women to accompany terrorists on the battlefields as the subject of their “pleasure”.  Authorities were documenting those crimes, which were a clear violation of fundamental human rights, and would hold the perpetrators accountable under Syrian law.  Urging Qatar’s representative to review document A/68/487 on the advancement of women, she also asked States hosting Syrian refugees to protect them from human trafficking and to help them live dignified lives.  Syrian women in the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied by Israel, were marginalized and subjected to rape, murder and aggression, she said.


AMIRA DALI (Tunisia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the “omnipresent discrimination against women” hindered not only women’s enjoyment of their rights, but also progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals relating to women and girls.  There could be no democracy or development without active participation by women, she stressed, noting that Tunisian women, particularly educated ones, had demonstrated that in recent years through their engagement in the democratic process, which only confirmed the essential nature of the right to education for women and girls.  However, they were still not fully present in certain professions and positions, particularly those entailing power and decision-making.  Government priorities for the years to come included combating violence against women and promoting women’s entrepreneurship as well as their participation in political and public life, she said.


AMJAD MOHAMMAD SALEH AL-MOUMANI (Jordan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country’s vision required women to be socially, economically and politically empowered, and to be represented in all areas of life.  The Government had put a national strategy in place for the period 2013-2017, based, among other things, on partnerships with civil society organizations, and aimed at guaranteeing women’s participation in decision-making.  Today, Jordan had a very high representation of women voters at 48 per cent, he said, adding that the number of women elected to local authorities was also high.  The country was particularly interested in increasing and strengthening women’s positions in politics, he added.


ROFINA TSINGO CHIKAVA (Zimbabwe), associating herself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said her country’s Constitution guaranteed equality between women and men, who had 50/50 representation in the Senate.  It was “disheartening”, however, that in most cases poverty continued to “wear a feminine face”.  The economic empowerment of women, therefore, lay at the heart of Zimbabwe’s gender policy, she said, noting that the Government provided them with lines of credit, market access and training.  The situation of rural women was particularly alarming.  For that reason, it was of critical importance to develop initiatives like the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, and to implement the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.  On violence against women, she said it was often “perpetrated in their homes by the people they love”.  Zimbabwe had made great strides in establishing a strong legal framework aimed at preventing violence and protecting women from it, she said, reiterating Zimbabwe’s support for calls gender equality and women’s empowerment as a stand-alone target in the post-2015 development framework.


TINE MORCH SMITH ( Norway) noted that, despite the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by 187 States parties, there was still a long way to go before it was fully implemented by all Member States.  In that regard, additional resources should be made available to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as reflected in the draft resolution put forward by Norway on behalf of the Nordic countries.  While the success of the Millennium Development Goals had been widely acknowledged, that framework did not effectively address the underlying structural causes of gender inequality, she said, emphasizing the need for a transformative goal on gender equality in the post-2015 development framework.  Norway strongly supported stand-alone status for gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as targets and indicators for all targets of the new development framework.


FATMA-ZOHRA MANSOURI ( Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country had ratified the Convention in 1996 and had placed women’s issues at the heart of national goals and strategies.  Efforts on those fronts had evolved in a positive manner, thanks to the contributions of the Government and civil society.  Following legislative reforms that had facilitated the advancement of women in decision-making bodies, the number of elected women in the National Assembly had risen to 31.6 per cent or, 146 out of the 462 seats, up from 8 per cent in 2007, he said.  In the public sector, women accounted for 50 per cent of teachers, 53 per cent of doctors, 32 per cent of managers and 40 per cent in the justice sector.


ANDRÉS FIALLO (Ecuador), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said his Government fostered a policy of gender equality, and had developed mechanisms to ensure the elimination of discrimination against women, with particular emphasis on ethnic and gender differences, among others.  The Government had drafted and implemented a national plan for the eradication of violence against women and girls in the last five years.  None of the progress in that area, however, could have been achieved without the “historical and persistent fight of indigenous and mixed-race women”, and those of African descent.  Ecuador had also launched the national campaign “ Reacciona, Ecuador: El Machismo es Violencia” (React, Ecuador: Machismo is Violence”.  On poverty eradication, he said the Government was implementing policies of economic redistribution, and had created the Intercultural Health Department, which aimed to promote the health of indigenous women in respect of their cultural practices.  Women had also increased their presence in national political life, he said, pointing out that since 2007, three women had been in charge of the Ministry of Defence, adding that the first international meeting of women defence ministers would take place in Guayaquil.


Ms. ALSARAYIE ( Kuwait) said her country was implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on the basis of Article 27 of its constitution, on equality and non-discrimination.  The Women’s Affairs Council was responsible for promoting and implementing international instruments on women’s rights, she added.  The Government offered comprehensive benefits and assistance to people with social problems, such as widows and women with disabilities.  The political rights of women were recognized and supported through various measures, and the position of women had improved in public services and decision-making at the Government level.  Kuwaiti women also thrived in different areas of the labour market and had left an indelible mark.  As a party to various international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Kuwait urged support for Palestinians living under foreign occupation, she said.


MOHAMED IBRAHIM ELBAHI (Sudan), endorsing the statements of the Group of 77 and China and of the African Group, noted progress in his country in women’s advancement in different fields.  For example, women received the same salary as men for equal work and they had enjoyed the right to vote since the last century.  Specific strategies and policies had been adopted to fight violence against women.  Women were increasingly present in the private sector, in some areas of the labour market and in the Government.  Currently, the country had 80 women judges and 67 women diplomats in the foreign services.  Among the initiatives to promote the advancement of women were the creation of administrative units dealing with women’s issues; the establishment of a fund for the development of women in the informal sector; the financing of women’s small economic projects, which benefited rural women in particular; the creation of the Ministry for Social Guarantees; and plans to address violence against women in Darfur.  Further, an independent commission had been created to ensure women’s rights against female circumcision.  His Government intended to continue its efforts to consolidate the position of women in the country.  Developing countries should lift their sanctions on other States, so that the latter could live up to their responsibilities.


JOSETTE DIJKUIZEN ( Netherlands) said that 860 million women, over a quarter of the world’s women, didn’t participate in the world economy, illustrating a global problem, but also an immense opportunity.  According to the World Bank, women invested 60 per cent more of their earnings than men in “social capital”, namely food, education and health care for their families, bringing benefits not only to their families but to entire societies.  Developing the enormous potential of women could therefore create jobs and bring economic prosperity to many countries as well as boost innovation, reduce poverty and promote well-being, making women “agents of change”.  Encouraging women to start their own businesses and participate in economic growth could lead to empowerment.  Women who had their own income enjoyed a stronger position, gaining respect by contributing to the family’s earnings.  Cognizant of the enormous untapped potential of women’s entrepreneurship, she called for barriers to be removed, role models to be deployed, and men and women entrepreneurs to work together to tackle global challenges.


JOSÉ RAPHAEL LOPES MENDES DE AZEREDO (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and with CELAC, noted that slightly more than half of Brazilians living in extreme poverty were women.  They were more cruelly affected by the lack of resources and access to public services. “But this is changing,” he declared, stressing that women were now beneficiaries of cash transfer programmes and housing credit.  Brazil would soon host two major events: the World Cup Soccer in 2014 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.  The Government had prepared measures to address any possible increase in violence against women, especially exploitation and abuse.  There would be no effective and sustainable responses to those challenges without the improvement of data collection on national and international violence against women and the establishment of a network of security and protection for women from violence that comprised Member States and civil society, among other measures.


Ms. MEUNLUANG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that gender parity was a pathway to national prosperity and success.  Since economic growth was interrelated to greater output per worker, women’s empowerment would enhance national productivity and poverty eradication.  Women’s education, health and nutrition would help reduce high maternal and child mortality rate, as well as gender-based violence, positively impacting children’s development and their future.  In light of this, the country had made strong national commitments to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women, ranging, inter alia, from laws criminalizing discrimination against women, to projects promoting political consciousness and parliamentary participation to improved education.  The country had exerted its utmost effort to improve public healthcare by introducing family planning, scaling up nutrition for mothers and children, and providing free medical treatment for pregnant women and infants.  Despite notable progress made, the country remained confronted with several challenges; among them gender disparity in higher education, and human trafficking.


Mr. ABDERRAHMANE ( Mauritania), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said women’s advancement was an international responsibility.  His country had, therefore, welcomed the establishment of UN-Women.  The President of Mauritania, recognizing the important role played by women in the society, was doing “everything possible” to involve women in the decision-making process.  He had adopted effective policies, which had enabled women to assume military, political and managerial functions, among others.  Currently, Mauritania had four female ministers and, in 2010, a Mauritanian woman had been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, a decision unprecedented in the Arab world.  Mauritania had ratified important international instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  Further, it was giving due attention to other important women-related issues, such as reproductive health.


YANA BOIKO (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said that according to the national legislation, men and women in Ukraine had full socio-economic, civil and political rights and freedoms as well as equal opportunities to exercise those rights.  In recent years the country adopted a number of sector and intersectoral programmes aimed at implementing the gender-related Millennium Development Goals.  The society’s perception of the role of men and women had changed and nowadays in young families there was more equal distribution of gender roles.  The population better identified gender-based discrimination, illustrating a raised awareness of gender rights.  Despite progress made, challenges remained, such as the further economic empowerment of women and enhancement of their participation in decision-making in the public and political spheres, including the Parliament.  Turning to the prevention and elimination of sexual violence in conflict, he welcomed the recent commitments of the G8 on enhancing efforts to address impunity for sexual violence in conflict, including the endorsement of an International protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of sexual violence in conflict.


VALÉRIE S. BRUELL-MELCHOIR ( Monaco) said gender quality was the foundation for poverty eradication and sustainable economic development.  With the international community in the process of defining the post-2015 development agenda, it was important to examine gender equality from all angles as it was a cross-cutting issue.  Her delegation would fully cooperate with the new director of UN-Women in discharging her duties.  Monaco would host the Mediterranean conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 28 to 29 October on the role of women in public, political and economic life.  The event would provide a forum for sharing best practices.  Her Government had also adopted a law in July 2011 to combat violence against domestic partners and children.  Monaco would continue to invest in women through national policies, job creation, international cooperation and other initiatives, including maternal health services and micro-financing.


EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica), endorsing the statements of CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, said that his country had enacted legislation related to several women’s issues, including women’s equality, responsible fatherhood, domestic violence and sexual exploitation.  Existing laws had been translated into public strategies, one of most crucial of them being the 2007 gender equality and equity policy.  The policy aimed at creating a positive shift in the cultural role of women in society by the year 2017 through several means, such as access to education, including sexual education for men and women; access to justice; and strengthening of institutions.  Gender equality and women’s empowerment were not only human rights imperatives; they were necessary conditions for generating development and combating social exclusion.  A gender perspective should be included in the work of the United Nations in areas as different as disarmament, decolonization and the budget.  A gender perspective had been already incorporated into the work of the Second Committee.  It was, however, anomalous that within the same Organization there were areas where such perspective was taken into consideration and others where it was not.  On femicide, national legislation and entities had been strengthened in Costa Rica in order to prevent, investigate, eradicate and bring to justice perpetrators of violence against women and girls.  His country also supported the draft resolution of the Economic and Social Council on the topic.


TANISHA HEWANPOLA ( Australia) said the crisis in Syria continued to worsen, with the population subjected to extrajudicial killing, torture, and horrific violations of rights.  It had been marked by the horrific targeting of women and girls, particularly through the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, as well as forced displacement, early and forced marriage, and exploitation.  The Security Council’s women, peace and security agenda remained highly relevant, as women’s contribution to conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding was fundamental to achieving lasting peace.  Preventing the pervasive use of sexual violence as a tactic of conflict must be at the centre of international peace and security efforts.  Gender inequality and gender based violence was not only limited to women in conflict situations.  Barriers preventing the full and effective participation of women had to be removed everywhere.  Race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, socio-economic status, geographic location, and sexual orientation could compound disadvantage, and specific efforts were needed to address this.


FATHIMATH NAJWA ( Maldives) said that although women constituted half of the world’s population, they comprised only 21 per cent of parliamentarians and held only 40 per cent of wage earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector.  The Maldives Constitution of 2008 guaranteed every person the same rights and freedom, and upheld the principles of equality and non-discrimination.  The recently approved domestic violence law included legal provisions to protect victims from domestic abuse through protective orders and improved monitoring mechanisms.  Despite progress made, women still faced de-facto discrimination, in the form of obstacles to gaining access to tertiary education opportunities, participating in the employment market, and surpassing traditional family roles.  Recently manifested conservative religious interpretations had introduced new practices such as under-aged marriages, non-vaccination of infants and decreased school enrolment of children.  In light of the persisting and wide-spread violence against women, the post-2015 development agenda should include a stand-alone goal on achieving gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment.


SAMIRA ABUBAKAR (Libya), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, noted that Libya had acceded to CEDAW and its protocol so that women in the country enjoyed the right to health services, education, equal wages, social security and pensions, as well as to ownership and economic and social activities.  Women occupied 36 of the 200 seats in the National Congress.  The Constitution-Drafting Committee had been formed, and it had female members.  The Constitution would promote gender equality. Turning to violence against women, the National Congress was soon to approve legislation to compensate victims of rape.  She also called for the protection of Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta), associating himself with the European Union, said his Government had clearly declared its political commitment to strengthening equality between women and men by supporting ongoing measures, creating new initiatives and implementing specific international obligations, those under the Convention in particular.  At the university level, women made up 60 per cent of graduates, he said.  Maternity leave had been increased from 14 to 18 weeks so as to facilitate women’s economic independence.  The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality intended to continue its work of raising awareness of the situation of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.  It would target women potentially at risk of female genital mutilation, he said, adding that a private member’s bill tabled in Parliament called for criminalizing the practice.


RITA KAZRAGIENE (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, said her Government had established the European Institute for Gender Equality, which contributed to regional exchanges of best practices in combating violence against women.  The obligation to mainstream gender equality in all policy areas was implemented under the National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, launched in 2003.  The Government was preparing a draft of the National Programme for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Provision of Assistance to Victims 2014-2020, with new goals and implementation tools.  But legislation alone, however good, was not sufficient to change the status quo, she stressed, noting that Lithuania had undertaken a series of practical actions, including the creation of centres providing specialized assistance to victims of violence.


ZWELETHU MNISI ( Swaziland) said his Government provided access to education and public infrastructure, sanitation and housing for women with disabilities through social protection mechanisms.  On rural women, he highlighted their domestic and civil roles in the community and underlined the programmatic interventions aimed at their empowerment.  Despite the progress made, however, the food, fuel and financial crises, coupled with the effects of climate change, continued to pose serious challenges to national development overall, and that of women specifically.


Mr. BELHAJ ( Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his Government had ensured an increase in the presence of women in the management of public affairs and in decision-making positions.  On violence against women, Morocco had a bill in place intended to amend the criminal code.  It envisaged, among other things, toughening sentences for those who committed violence against women.  The new Constitution contained provisions on equality and fighting all forms of discrimination.  The gender report of the Minister for Finance envisaged the inclusion of a gender perspective in the drafting and development of national budgets, with the aim of identifying both effective measures and of public policy challenges in the field of gender equality.


ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) recalled that just 12 years ago, Afghan women had been prohibited from going to school.  Confined in their homes, they had not been allowed a voice in the public sphere, but since 2001, through the Government’s commitment, 3 million girls had enrolled in school and women’s political participation had increased by 25 per cent.  In addition, Afghanistan had pursued meaningful representation of women in peace, security and conflict-resolution efforts.  However, numerous challenges persisted, namely poverty, low education levels, and unfamiliarity with related laws in remote and rural areas.  Regrettably, killings and brutality had been perpetrated against many women and girls, including women activists, non-governmental organization workers, police officers and even a member of the Government.  Violence against women was an intolerable breach of human rights, condemned by the Government, he said emphasizing that peace and reconciliation was crucial for helping Afghan women and girls to consolidate the rights gained over the past several years.


DER KODGA (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, recalled that in 2009, his country had put a national gender strategy in place which had led to concrete actions such as the “One woman, one birth certificate” initiative.  The path to women’s equality ran through economic empowerment, the eradication of poverty and inclusive economic growth, he said.  Despite all the progress made, however, further mobilization was needed in areas such as women’s participation in economic, social and political life, in the fight against gender discrimination and inequality, and against female genital mutilation and the spread of HIV/AIDS.


LISANDRA ASTIASARÁN ARIAS (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the marginalization of women remained a concern to her delegation and such challenges required an equitable international order since it was developing countries that bore the burden.  Unilateral measures, such as the embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States, were undermining efforts to advance the rights of women in her country, she said, urging the international community to reject the policy.  In addition, some brave Cubans had been unfairly detained in prison for more than 15 years in the United States.  Cuba worked hard for the advancement of women, she said, pointing out that among State parties to the Convention, it had been the first to sign the instrument and the second to ratify it.  About 67 per cent of Cuban women graduated from university and women led 10 of the nation’s 15 provinces, she said, stressing that the Government attached great importance to preventing violence against them.


ELSA HAILE ( Eritrea), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said nation-building could not be realized without the active participation of women.  “The heroic contribution of Eritrean women during the armed struggle for independence has rendered this belief to be entrenched in the Eritrean collective psychic,” she emphasized.  Their equality with men was constitutionally guaranteed without limitation, and the Government had adopted policies and programmes creating an enabling environment for the eradication of gender-based violence.  The 2007 proclamation that had made female genital mutilation punishable by law was one of the milestone legal measures taken to end violence against women.  Consistent with its long-standing crime-prevention laws, Eritrea also placed the protection of victims and combating trafficking in persons as priorities in its efforts to uproot the phenomenon by working closely with its neighbours, she said.


TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, underlined that her Government had adapted Millennium Development Goal 3 — promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women — to the Georgian context through two key targets:  ensuring gender equality in employment, and ensuring equal access to activity in the political domain and at all levels of management.  The establishment of liberal regulations for the employment of women, and of non-discrimination laws to protect citizens from all forms of discrimination, including those based on gender and sexual orientation, had resulted in a significant increase in women’s representation, including in the political and military fields.  Unfortunately, concomitant with progressive efforts, Georgia continued to face foreign military occupation of 20 per cent of its sovereign territory, which constituted a major challenge for the protection of human rights in those areas, she said.  Russian occupation forces had imposed further severe restrictions on the freedom of movement across the occupation line, extending even to the most vulnerable people — those in need of urgent medical assistance and expectant mothers.  Despite numerous calls by the international community, up to a half million internally displaced persons and refugees, among them several hundreds of thousands of women, remained deprived of their fundamental right to a safe and dignified return to their homes, she said.


MIRIAM MACINTOSH (Suriname) associating herself with the Group of 77, CARICOM and CELAC, said her Government had launched its gender work plan for 2013 by identifying priority areas, including education and training, the eradication of poverty and violence against women.  The plan would be implemented through a partnership among the different Government Ministries and in close cooperation with civil society, workers’ organizations and international partners.  It would also form the basis for further dialogue and for the creation of a gender policy for the period from 2014 to 2016, she said.


MIYOBA BERNADETTE KATONGO, Principal Counsel, Ministry of Justice of Zambia, associated herself with the Group of 77, the African Group and SADC, recalling that the gender empowerment message had been reinforced, defined and delivered through United Nations resolutions on women from the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women in 1946, through the Beijing Conference in 1995 to the present day.  “Fortunately, this means that we need not reinvent the wheel,” she noted.  The Government of Zambia had begun fully to domesticate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and intended to finalize the process upon the adoption of the new republican constitution.  It was also reviewing the National Gender Policy to expedite gender mainstreaming in all key structures, she said.


Ms. DOIG (Peru) associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said her country was a co-founder of the Equal Futures Partnership launched on 24 September, during the current General Assembly session.  Peru had achieved gender parity in its Cabinet, in which women led nine of the 18 ministries, including foreign affairs, labour, health and education.  The National Plan for 2012-2017 had placed gender equality at its core so that the country could achieve quality inclusive development.  The Ministry of Women had adopted new indicators to monitor and evaluate compliance in respect of gender issues, she said, noting that the law governing femicide had been modified.  Although Peru was no longer on the executive board of UN-Women, it would support the Entity through a contribution of $2,000, she said.


LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said his Government was implementing programmes and projects to improve the economic situation of women.  They ranged from data collection to gender mainstreaming of all laws to investing in gender-sensitive leadership.  Results included the employment of 78 per cent of Vietnamese women, accounting for 48 per cent of the labour force, a 92 per cent literacy rate among women and girls, and a high percentage of women in the national legislature.  However, Viet Nam still faced challenges, including limited numbers of full-time staff available to work on gender issues, especially at the provincial level, a limited budget to implement national programmes and low representation of women in influential political positions.


ANNE CHANTAL NAMA ( Cameroon), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country’s legislative framework had been strengthened through bills aiming to protect the rights of women.  The criminal code was also under review, envisaging the inclusion of crimes such as sexual harassment, genital mutilation and marital rape.  On the protection of women victims of violence, the Government had established hotlines and pilot shelters where women in distress could receive psycho-social assistance, among other services.  Awareness was also being raised among women, girls and their families concerning the dangers of cyber-marriage, which often disguised human trafficking, she said.


GASTON KIMPOLO ( Congo) said women constituted 52 per cent of his country’s population, and their contribution to political, economic and social life was undeniable.  Rural women played a special role, he added.  For those reasons, the Government had enacted several initiatives to improve their lives, including easing their access to reproductive health and literacy, integrating their concerns into Government policies, protecting them during conflict, strengthening their role in maintaining peace, and encouraging the exchange of experiences with rural women from other countries.


MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said women constituted nearly half of the world’s 232 million international migrants.  Moving increasingly on their own, they sought lives of security, opportunity, dignity and rights.  While on the move, they were more exposed to exploitation and gender-based violence, thereby facing dual vulnerability as women and as migrants.  On violence against women migrant workers, she called for an effective rights-based approach to migration, especially improved collection and dissemination of sex-disaggregated data, research and analysis on migration and violence against migrant women workers. Such data were essential for national and regional policies to address the vulnerabilities of women migrant workers.  Greater coherence between migration, labour and anti-trafficking policies was also required.  On improving the situation of rural women, he said their circumstances varied according to income, social status, education and local gender dynamics, which influenced their migration decisions, including recourse to unregulated recruitment agencies.  In collaboration with others, IOM facilitated safe migration for rural women as well as their access to reliable legal migration information, identity papers and travel documents.


Right of Reply


The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected as baseless the accusations against her country by the delegate from Syria.  The Syrian authorities were spreading lies and were committing horrific violations against their own women and girls, she said.


The representative of Qatar, also responding to a statement by her counterpart from Syria, stressed that the Syrian Government was desperately attempting to divert attention from its own crimes.  Its forces committed rape and other violations, and it must assume sole responsibility for the displacement of its people, for forced disappearances and for sexual violence.


The representative of the Russian Federation rebutted the statement by the delegate from Georgia, saying his country’s position had already been clearly stated during the current session and there was no need to repeat it.  Regrettably, Georgia’s delegate had found nothing better to do than spreading demagoguery, he added.


The representative of Syria said that Qatar’s delegate had reaffirmed her country’s errors by casting its responsibilities on Syria.  United Nations reports had Qatar’s role in financing terrorists in Syria, he said, adding that the Syrian opposition financed by Qatar was hindering the convening of the Geneva conference.  Qatar should be held accountable for inciting terrorism and sheltering terrorists, she added, emphasizing that she had proof.  As for the statement just made by Israel’s delegate, she said the Zionist regime had no qualification to speak about the rights of women when it was attacking Palestine women, girls and men.  Rape had been committed in prisons administered by Israel, according to international reports, and Syria therefore rejected claims by that fascist regime.


The representative of Georgia said her counterpart from the Russian Federation was trying to mislead the international community.  The territories at issue were integral parts of Georgia, based on borders recognized by the international community, she stressed, urging the Russian Federation to address the humanitarian issues in those territories because such responsibilities rested with the occupying Power.


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For information media • not an official record