WOMEN'S EQUALITY NOT ACHIEVED SOLELY BY DECLARATIONS, LAWS; CHANGES OF ATTITUDE NECESSARY, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

30 October 1996
GA/SHC/3370

WOMEN'S EQUALITY NOT ACHIEVED SOLELY BY DECLARATIONS, LAWS; CHANGES OF ATTITUDE NECESSARY, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

30 October 1996

Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3370

WOMEN'S EQUALITY NOT ACHIEVED SOLELY BY DECLARATIONS, LAWS; CHANGES OF ATTITUDE NECESSARY, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

19961030 Committee Concludes General Debate on Women's Issues; Hears Introduction of Draft Text on Smuggling of Aliens

Women's equality could not be achieved by a stroke of the pen, declarations and legal measures. It was a process which began with the way women viewed themselves in society, the representative of Nicaragua said this morning. She was addressing the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it concluded its general discussion on advancement of women and the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).

Speaking on behalf of the Central American States, she said changes in attitudes towards women's role had begun in many industrialized countries. However, in her region, women faced the difficult problem of rebuilding their societies and healing wounds following decades of conflict. They had to work to ensure their very survival and often all they had was courage. The Beijing Platform would have to be implemented gradually, in keeping with domestic realities, including the often scant resources available for women's advancement in many countries.

The representative of Peru said women had to become more aware of the opportunities available to them in order to promote their advancement and gender equality.

Several speakers again stressed the need for international cooperation to address violence against women, abuse of women migrant workers and the trafficking of women and children. The representative of the Philippines said a draft resolution sponsored by her Government would address the human rights of women migrant workers. Most were involved in low status occupations and were often not protected by local laws and customs. The draft did not intend to address the reasons why women migrated or the benefits they received for working abroad.

Angela King, the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women appealed to governments to supply copies of their national plans of action to implement the Beijing Platform, so they could be used to help other countries

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design their own plans. In conjunction with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Division was designing a site on its home page titled "Women Watch", which would revolutionize how women communicated on important issues. If the modest funding was made available, the site would be available next year.

Also this morning, the representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on measures for prevention of the smuggling of aliens by sea.

Israel spoke in exercise of the right to reply.

The representatives of the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Poland, Mali, Guinea, Kazakstan, Libya, Qatar and Azerbaijan, as well as the observer for Palestine made statements. The representative of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also addressed the Committee.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 31 October, to discuss the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions. It will also take action on a number of draft resolutions on crime and criminal justice.

Committee Work Programme

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its consideration of the advancement of women and the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3365, of 24 October.)

It also had before it a draft resolution sponsored by Cuba on measures for prevention of the smuggling of aliens by sea (document A/C.3/51/L.7). By the terms of the text, the General Assembly would condemn the smuggling of aliens in violation of international law or other agreements between States and without regard to the safety, well-being and human rights of migrants. It would also call on States, relevant agencies and international organizations to take into account socio-economic factors and to cooperate at the bilateral and multilateral levels in addressing all aspects of the problem. The Assembly would urge States to take appropriate steps to frustrate the objectives and activities of smugglers of aliens, by amending criminal laws, if necessary, to encompass the smuggling of aliens.

The Assembly would ask States to share information, coordinate their law-enforcement activities, and cooperate to prevent smugglers illegally transporting third-country nationals by sea. It would also ask States to cooperate to ensure fuller the stricter application of the law by making laws and regulations on travel documents stricter, enhancing the control of borders, improving the requirements for registration of vessels and applying the relevant international agreements. States would be asked to cooperate in the interest of safety of life at sea, increase efforts to prevent the smuggling of aliens, and to ensure that prompt and effective action was taken against the practice.

The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice would be asked to give special attention to the problem at its sixth session next year in order to encourage international cooperation on the problem. The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to transmit the draft text to Members, specialized agencies and international organizations, and report on their measures to combat the problem.

Introduction of Draft Resolution on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba), introducing the draft resolution on measures for prevention of the smuggling of aliens by sea, said the need for such a resolution had become an unpostponable imperative. Throughout the world, unscrupulous traffickers denied people the most valuable right, their right to life. The main object of the resolution was to promote bilateral, multilateral, regional and subregional cooperation to provide security in the movement of legal migrants.

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Statements

MIGUEL BARRETO (Peru) said measures taken at the Beijing Conference improved the integration of women in and promoted their full participation in society. Peru was dedicated to the eradication of existing prejudices and promoting equality. Steps had been taken to include women in the labour market and to avoid all forms of violence and discrimination against women. To fully promote the advancement of women involved raising the awareness of women to the opportunities available to them. Peru's Ministry for Promotion of Women had been established to design and promote programmes for the equality for women in accordance with the Government's general policy for harmonious social development.

JULIA T. ALVAREZ (Dominican Republic) said her Government would cooperate fully to support the follow-up on the Beijing Conference. However, for inter-institutional cooperation to be more fruitful, United Nations institutions -- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- must receive appropriate financial support.

In order to overcome obstacles to the full participation of women on the basis of equality in sustainable development, her Government had adopted a series of measures to be implemented. These draft reforms sought to: eliminate all types of normative discrimination in civil, penal and labour law; establish equal rights for women in relations between spouses, in matters regarding nationality, inheritance, employment, labour rights of domestic workers and the prevention and punishment of domestic and sexual violence; develop educational programmes together with civil society to promote a culture of equality and equity; review and revise and reconceptualize models of growth to promote equality and to eliminate all forms of discrimination; implement measures of equal pay for equal work; uphold basic obligations to women with respect to family health and social functions; and establish social security for ageing women. Other measures called for special conditions for persons with handicaps in health and education services without discrimination, access to employment for disabled women to assure them non- discriminatory incomes, and the establishment of the Office of Secretary of State for women to ensure implementation of national legislation to promote the advancement of women and a culture of equality for men and women, she concluded. MONICA MARTINEZ (Ecuador) said her Government was aware of the need for specific, concrete actions to reduce the existing differences and inequalities between men and women. Prior to the Beijing Conference, a series of research projects had been carried out which resulted in the diagnosis of the situation of Ecuadorian women. The differences were manifested in the fields of education, health, human development and political participation, and with wide gaps in the conditions of rural and urban women.

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In the legislative sphere, Ecuador had enforced a law against violence against women, she said. Ecuador believed that necessary efforts should be made to support the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the legal and social status of women. The Government also paid tribute to the important work undertaken by the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women and UNIFEM in the advancement of women. Women's matters were closely linked to the survival of millions of women and children and constituted the centre of the world's concerns.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the social changes of the modern world were marked by the growing role of women. Poland was in the process of implementing the Platform for Action of the Beijing Conference. The process involved the participation of government and non-governmental agencies, and a government programme based on the experiences and proposals of team of experts and specialists focusing on equal status of both sexes.

Poland's comprehensive approach in solving women's problems included the help of social partners, she said. Complete and effective implementation of the programme also called for many the integration of a gender perspective. The State administration was expected to create a legal framework for the implementation and structures for the promotion and protection of women's rights. Effective implementation of Poland's national action programme would be monitored and evaluated, and all relevant agencies would be held accountable for their actions. The plan would contribute to better implementation of women's rights, creation of a democratic society, elimination of social barriers, more efficient use of human potential, and the eradication of violence against women.

LETICIA RAMOS SHAHANI (Philippines) said her Government's commitments following Beijing included: integration of the Platform for Action in the key result areas of all agency and departmental heads; inclusion of a women's budget statement in the national budget to guarantee substantial resources were allocated for women-specific programmes and projects; allocation of at least 20 per cent of the national budget to social programmes and services; access to training and credit for rural women; negotiations with receiving countries to forge bilateral agreements to protect the rights of migrant women workers; more stringent penalties for trafficking, illegal recruitment and undocumented migration, as well as laws that shifted criminal liability from prostitutes to pimps and procurers; support services for women migrant workers, especially the victims of violence and trafficking; access to health services, including family planning for all women; affirmation of couples' reproduction rights and affirmation that abortion was not a government- recognized family-planning method; and implementation of the plan for gender- responsive development, a 30-year framework for pursuing full equality and development for women and men.

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She said her Government had worked actively within the United Nations for international action against the violence and abuse of women migrant workers and the trafficking of women and children for prostitution, clandestine labour and the mail-order bride business, as well as illegal adoptions. The draft resolution her Government would introduce did not intend to address the reasons why women migrated or the benefits they received for working abroad. The issue was the human rights of women migrant workers who were vulnerable to abuse because they were women and because of their migrant status. Most were involved in occupations which were low in many countries' social hierarchies and were often not protected by local laws and customs.

ILLALKAMAR AG OUMAR (Mali) said his country's Constitution recognized the rights of all its citizens without distinction for race, ethnicity or sex. Women had the right to choose their partners in marriage, to divorce, to gain custody of their children and pensions. Women also had the right to receive equal pay for equal work. However, the low enrolment of girls in school was a serious impediment to their employment and advancement. Only 5 per cent of public servants were women and they were rarely appointed to high posts. That factor had a big impact on their image and their ability to exercise their decision-making capacities. Furthermore, women were the ones most affected by downsizing. In order to deal with the situation, responsibility for the advancement of women had been entrusted to the Prime Minister. Although national structures had been set up to advance women, there was a lack of personnel and resources for the institutional machinery, which made it difficult to implement measures.

The Government had adopted a new national action plan to promote women and covered the period from 1996 to the year 2000, he continued. The commission on the advancement of women would seek to make them the main players in their fate. Efforts were being made to improve their access to health care, education, work and reproductive services. And there had also been action to prevent and reduce violence against women, including the establishment of legal advisers to help them. There were also efforts to have more women candidates in government and to involve women in the protection of environment and eco-systems.

MAFOULA SYLLA (Guinea) said her Government had galvanized all sectors of society in the implementation of the Beijing Platform For Action. Its decentralized economic policy made it possible for all women to take part more fully in economic activities. With the cooperation and assistance of non- governmental organizations and women's groups, there had been investment in education, health, agriculture and commerce. It was important to promote the economic role and activities of women so that they could participate more fully in development.

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She said her Government supported proposals to increase the working time for the Commission on the Status of Women. It had held regional and national workshops to mobilize resources and partners to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. The elimination of poverty was essential to achieve gender equality. Human and sustainable development must take the gender factor into account.

AKMARAL ARYSTANBEKOVA (Kazakstan) said her Government's efforts to implement the Beijing Platform for Action included the establishment of a council on women's affairs which helped to define priorities to achieve women's fuller participation in society. It was also working to improve the social and legal system and promote the role of women. To further analyse the role of women and children, the Government had established a national report on women and family for the years 1990 to 1995. It had implemented a national programme on women and children and begun a labour programme to promote better working conditions for women. The restructuring of the local economy and efforts to deal with employment problems would also have a positive impact on women's working conditions.

Her Government was grateful to UNICEF for its project in the Ariel sea region which had been devastated environmentally. The deteriorating environment was a threat to the health of citizens. There were a number of environmental disaster areas in the country and the effects of that, as well as other social and economic factors, had a direct impact on women and children's health and well-being. The infant mortality rate was 26.8 per thousand, and there was also a high level of maternal mortality. The Government had improved health centres to preserve women's reproductive health. Work was also under way to improve family-planning services, and there had been symposia, workshops and training sessions and a manual on family planning. Increased efforts were being made to involve women in the transitional period and increase their access to decision-making. Unfortunately, women were underrepresented in Government.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, observer for Palestine, said women and their advancement comprised one of the main factors in the development of any society, because women played an essential role in the achievement of justice, peace, prosperity and the enhancement of social and economic health. The Beijing Platform for Action was a powerful tool for the empowerment of women and a concrete measure for their advancement. It would also strengthen the integration of gender perspectives into the policies of nations. Currently, sufficient determination to effectively implement the Platform for Action was the most important issue. Women's affairs should be linked to the highest decision-making positions, with the necessary mandates, financial resources and follow-up among the various institutions of governments and non- governmental organizations. United Nations bodies and relevant international organizations should also take more direct action to achieve the goals and objectives delineated in the Platform for Action.

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Palestinian women still suffered the consequences of the Israeli occupation and faced particular problems and difficulties within the context of the obstacles faced by the Palestinian society as a whole, she said. Contrary to early expectations raised by the peace process, the situation had worsened. Israel's oppressive policies and practices had increased and continued to impede the efforts of Palestinian women for advancement and any attempts to improve their condition and status. The plight of Palestinian women had been on the agenda of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Division for the Advancement of Women for more than a decade. The Palestinian Authority hoped that more concrete action would be taken to address and improve the situation of Palestinian women in the near future towards the achievement of their national and social goals. SUAAD OMAR A. ANNBAR (Libya) said women in many developing countries had not witnessed any substantial advancement because of many factors, including unemployment and inadequate educational and health services. Women continued to be deprived of full enjoyment of rights, equality and improved health despite efforts to advance, emancipate women and eliminate violence and traditions standing between them, and equality and human rights. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UNIFEM and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women played an important role in removing barriers standing between women and equality and peace, but the Libyan Government believed goals needed to advance women in public life had not been met in many societies. With international cooperation and political will, the governmental machinery to follow up on the Beijing Conference should provide an adequate platform to address the advancement of women. The Beijing Platform required countries to provide financial and material means for implementation of its goals.

The Libyan Government had undertaken many measures to safeguard the advancement of women in economic, social and political fields and protect their rights in marriage, divorce, and child-rearing, she said. There were no occupational fields closed to women nor were they barred from equal access to education. Despite gargantuan achievements made in the field of the advancement of women, unjust sanctions and coercive actions caused by Security Council resolutions had caused great suffering to women, mostly in the form of an inadequate supply of medicines and medical care.

AHMED SAIF AL-MIDHADI (Qatar) said his Government allowed women to participate effectively side by side with men. All Member States should take into account the questions raised by the Beijing Conference, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and attempt to seriously seek remedies to those questions and problems which impeded women's advancement in society. The recommendations and decisions of Beijing reflected concerns and preoccupations of the international community and its search to change the situation of women in most parts of the world. However, these mechanisms should take into account the principles of religions, law, values, customs, traditions, and conduct that vary from one country to another.

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Qatar had accorded special importance to the advancement of women and their constructive role in the process of social development, he said. The Government encouraged women to devote themselves to education and to work in the government and the public section. Women had achieved equality with men in the fields of education, health and culture, among others, and Qatar had made great efforts to provide services to uphold and strengthen the role of women in society. The Government believed that it was premature to initiate discussion of the globalization of the phenomenon resulting from the migration of some migrant workers who had been subjected to some violent acts. Such a question should be addressed first through bilateral or multilateral agreements. Each State had the sovereign right to refer to its local laws in the context of migrant workers. In Qatar, an already existing penal law prohibited violence in all its forms.

FIKRET MAMEDALI PASHAYEV (Azerbaijan) said the Beijing Platform for Action would determine the strategic orientation for the advancement of women throughout the world. Its most important feature was the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in development measures and strategies in advancing women's equality. Transition countries considered the advancement of women in all fields to be extremely important; however, the acute lack of financial and other resources prevent not only necessary commitments to advance the role of women, but also to help find solutions to many social ills. The UNIFEM and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women should pay greater attention to supplying technical assistance to countries in transition, especially those that were suffering from the dire consequences of being involved in armed conflict.

Securing the release of women and children taken hostage and imprisoned during armed conflicts -- which was one of the most extreme examples of violence against women and children -- had been the subject of past resolutions, he said. The need was now for parties in conflict to provide information and unimpeded access, so a speedy release of all citizens being detained could be achieved. However, Armenia still refused to allow international representatives to visit areas and suspected places of detention where Azerbaijan citizen who were taken hostage were imprisoned. According to government figures, as of 1 March 1996, 4,674 citizens of Azerbaijan were missing or being detained, including 314 women.

GRETHEL VARGAS (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Central American States, said it would be difficult for women in developing countries to make advances unless the problems of environmental degradation, military expenditures, hunger, violence, extreme poverty and underdevelopment were addressed. Despite the evolution in awareness of women's needs in many countries, the goals of Beijing were far from reality. In Central America, poverty for mothers, war and underdevelopment had been among the main concerns. Women in the region faced the difficult problem of rebuilding their societies and healing the wounds following decades of conflict. They had to

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work to ensure their very survival and had a different set of problems from women in industrialized countries.

She said the Beijing Platform would have to be implemented gradually in keeping with domestic realities, including the scant resources available for women's advancement in her region. Women in Central America were particularly concerned with poverty and the rehabilitation of their societies. Women's role in preventing and resolving of conflict had been emphasized during the debate, and she noted the problem of women refugees. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had helped greatly. In Central America, there must be a change in traditional attitudes about women's role in society. Although many industrialized countries had achieved such changes, in her region the process of change had to begin with women themselves and their attitudes. Equality could not be achieved by a stroke of the pen, declarations and legal measures. It was an entire process which began with the way women viewed themselves in society. Many times all they had was their courage.

EIGIL PEDERSEN, representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that one month after the Beijing Conference the General Assembly of the International Federation passed a decision requesting its Secretary-General to revise its Plan of Action on Women with special emphasis on: integrating a gender perspective into all operations; developing income-generating aspects; and responding to violence against women, especially in refugee and conflict situations. The successful integration of a gender perspective in the context of Red Cross/Red Crescent work should maximize the success of the Federation's relief and development programmes by recognizing the differences between men and women in situations of vulnerability. Staff and volunteers in National Societies worldwide were being trained to design and manage programmes that meet their different needs.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent were especially concerned about the great numbers of women and their dependants who were among the estimated 100 million international economic migrants, he said. That figure included more than 16 million refugees and more than 29 million displaced within their own countries. These migrants faced violence, deprivation, environmental degradation and economic hardship every day. One third of those who appealed to the Red Cross and Red Crescent for disaster relief were people fleeing their homes, or already far from them, because of conflict or economic pressures. Aiding these migrants, refugees and displaced persons accounted for 70 per cent of all disaster-relief expenditures.

Right of Reply

The representative for Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the issues of the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Beijing Conference were important and complex enough by themselves. But the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) observer had

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taken the floor twice with the expressed purpose of bashing and attacking Israel and discussed subjects better suited to other forums.

Therefore, Israel recommended that the PLO observer take her concerns expressed in the Third Committee to the Palestinian Authority, and it, in turn, could take up those concerns during the current ongoing bilateral negotiations.

Statement

ANGELA KING, Director of the Division of the Advancement of Women, asked Members to provide the Division with copies of their national action plans as soon as possible, so they could be used in the follow-up to the Conference. The plans would also be used in the preparation of the report for the forty- first session of the Commission on the Status of Women and to assist other countries to draft their own plans. Many delegates had also referred to new or revamped institutional arrangements designed to promote the empowerment of women. The Division was updating its directory of national machinery and had asked countries to complete a questionnaire by 15 October on the topic. However, to date only 25 replies had been received. She asked Member States to complete the questionnaire, copies of which were available at the Division.

She noted the concern expressed during the debate, at the links between the office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on gender issues and the Division. She said the Division worked closely with the Special Adviser, Under-Secretary-General Rosario Green. It acted as the secretariat for the newly established Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Inter-agency Committee on women and gender issues, which had replaced the previous ad hoc committee and had the advantage of reporting directly to the ACC. The Division was organizing three expert group meetings before the end of the year and information on them could be found on the Division's home page on the Internet and directly from the Division. She drew attention to the Division's publication Women 2000, which focused on women and the information revolution.

The Division, in cooperation with UNIFEM and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women would establish a joint internet space called "Women Watch", she continued. If the modest funding needed could be found, the page would be available next year. The interactive media would revolutionize the way women could communicate on important issues.

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For information media. Not an official record.