29 July 2011
Press Conference

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

Press Conference on Conclusion of Forty-ninth Session of Committee

 

On the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

 


While many Governments were actively pursuing reforms to dismantle legal barriers holding back women’s empowerment, millions of women still faced an uphill battle in the struggle to undo negative stereotypes, lock down property rights and successfully confront sexual harassment in the workplace, the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said today.


At a Headquarters press conference, Silvia Pimentel of Brazil highlighted those and other vital issues relating to the fundamental rights of women and girls as the Committee’s forty-fifth session approached conclusion after meeting since 11 July.  During the session, she said, the Committee had seen improvements in policies and programmes aimed at bolstering access to health care and education — especially for girls and women in rural areas — as well as criminalizing violence against women.  (See also Press Release WOM/1876 of 29 July)


The 23-member expert body, based in Geneva, is charged with monitoring worldwide implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Over the past three weeks, it reviewed compliance reports submitted by Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Italy, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Zambia.


“In all we do, we are doing our utmost to protect and promote the rights of women everywhere,” said Ms. Pimentel.  “After all, women hold up half the world and are entitled to the same equality enjoyed by men.”


Accompanying her at the press conference was Pramila Patten, expert member from Mauritius and Chair of the Committee’s Working Group on the Human Rights of Women in Armed Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations.  Several other members present spotlighted the key concerns raised during the Committee’s discussions with the delegations of countries under review.


After pointing out positive trends, Ms. Pimentel turned to the Committee’s concerns, including the persistence of stereotypical and conservative attitudes that had an impact on the advancement of women’s rights.  Furthermore, inequalities still existed in the spheres of education, employment and marital rights.  In some country reports reviewed during the present session, the Committee had noted high maternal mortality rates and lack of access to reproductive health services, she added.


Ms. Pimentel went on to note that discriminatory laws governing property, inheritance rights and family relations remained on the books.  Trafficking in women and children was also a common concern, as were such troubling practices as early marriage, marriage by abduction and female genital mutilation.  The Committee was also concerned about women’s limited participation in decision-making in business, public life and government.


She said the Committee was drafting several “general recommendations” relating to articles of the Convention or thematic issues, to provide States with clear guidance as to their obligations.  It had also concluded a “very successful” general discussion on the human rights of women in conflict and post-conflict situations.  Noting that the Committee would be completing a general recommendation on “access to justice”, without which women could not demand their human rights, she said the Committee was working on its first joint recommendation — with the Committee on the Rights of the Child — dealing with practices considered harmful to women and girls.


Reporting on the activities of the Working Group on the Human Rights of Women in Armed Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations, Ms. Patten said the panel was in the “very initial stages” of the drafting process.  On 18 July, it had convened a “very successful” general consultation on the matter, with cooperation from UN Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


She went on to say that the event had included presentations from senior United Nations officials including the Secretary-Generals and his Special Representatives on Children and Armed Conflict, and on Sexual Violence and Conflict.  The Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteurs on violence against women and on torture had also attended the consultation, as had representatives from a large number of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, she said, stressing the importance of collecting inputs from a large number and wide variety of stakeholders.


The Working Group had emerged from the Committee’s long-held concern over the disproportionate impact of conflict on women, she said.  Indeed, even though fighting had an impact on all civilians, it exacerbated existing inequities for women and vulnerable groups.  Additionally, even after the official cessation of hostilities, transitional mechanisms often contained few or no plans to redress the full range of human rights violations faced by women.


Ms. Patten noted that the Working Group’s title would be changed to mention “conflict” rather than “armed conflict”, so as to address not only the full range of challenges, but also to prevent States from taking cover behind international laws governing the treatment of civilians during active fighting.  Thus, the Working Group’s scope would cover, among other things, internal conflict, international conflict, cross-border fighting, extreme violence, protracted conflict and political unrest in pre- and post-election periods.  It would also focus on sexual violence as a tactic of war, access to justice, and women’s access to post-conflict peacebuilding activities


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For information media • not an official record