TACKLING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN MUST BE TOP PRIORITY, HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS TELLS "BEIJING + 5" PREPARATORY COMMITTEE
TACKLING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN MUST BE TOP PRIORITY, HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS TELLS "BEIJING + 5" PREPARATORY COMMITTEE
TACKLING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN MUST BE TOP PRIORITY, HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS TELLS BEIJING + 5 PREPARATORY COMMITTEE20000306
Women's rights were everyone's responsibility, and tackling violence against them must be a top priority, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, this morning told the Commission on the Status of Women acting as the third and final Preparatory Committee for the Beijing + 5 review in June.
Mrs. Robinson said that women worldwide had repeatedly raised the problem of violence against them. Women leaders, indigenous women, migrant women, trafficked women, business women and women working for peace had all raised the issue. Concerns raised related to domestic violence, violence against women in conflict, discrimination and exploitation of vulnerable women.
Following the statement by the High Commissioner, a panel discussion entitled "Outlook on gender equality, development and peace beyond the year 2000" was held. One of four expert panellists, Yoriko Meguro, Sociology Professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, said that enactment of a gender equality law was one thing; its enforcement was quite another. Equal participation tended to be more nominal than substantial. In most societies, women were still trapped in gender-specific activities.
Economist and researcher at the Center for Womens Studies in Santiago, Chile, Rosalba Todaro said that the globalization process had prevented governments from truly promoting women's advancement. The economic restructuring process under way in many countries had made crucial certain changes, such as the implementation of compensatory policies aimed at preventing the extremely adverse effects of restructuring. At the same time, governments must take advantage of the positive effects of globalization and promote a culture of equality, enabling people everywhere to develop their potential.
Panellist Krisztina Morvai, Assistant Professor of Law at Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary, said that, in order to assess progress made in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, it should first be made clear exactly who should implement it. To combat violence against women, for example, the Platform had targeted several responsible parties, including law enforcement and medical personnel, yet most probably had not even known about that important paper. Governments usually had well-established channels for the dissemination of international documents, but in the case of women's rights, those channels
Womens Commission Preparatory Committee - 1a - Press Release WOM/1189 3rd Meeting (AM) 6 March 2000
had not been developed, particularly in countries still learning the ways and means of democratic decision-making.
The fourth panellist, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i. and Acting Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Carolyn McAskie, highlighted the dramatic change in the nature of armed conflict, in which more civilians and relief workers were targeted. While both men and women had been affected, war had not been "gender neutral": 80 per cent of refugees and internally displaced peoples had been women and children. Caught in the midst of conflict, women had been severely marginalized.
Responding to the experts' opening remarks, the representative of Guinea said that some developing countries, such as his own, had been surrounded by war. As host to some 800,000 refugees over the past 10 years, it had been impossible to implement the Beijing objectives. Tasks such as restructuring its defences and covering the needs of the refugees in the areas of health and education had preoccupied the national agenda. Moreover, the persistent conflict at its border and the armed incursions across borders had caused unthinkable tragedies for women and children.
The representative of Ghana said she had been struck by the situation of girls who had been raped and become pregnant during armed conflicts. The special Assembly session should develop specific, concrete recommendations in that regard, especially for States which had restrictive rules about terminating unwanted pregnancies. In such countries, the girls suffered the double burden of having been raped and then bringing unwanted babies into the world.
On the subject of violence against women, the representative of Zambia said that advocacy was not the answer to the "invisible" violence -- sexual and psychological - affecting them. In developing countries, advocacy had done its part -- it was not more education that was needed, but new alternatives. Many women knew about gender-based violence and could diagnose it; what they lacked was the economic power and alternatives to change their lives. Unless the forthcoming Assembly review considered the challenges posed by globalization, that process would defeat any further gains made by developing countries.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Poland, Republic of Korea, Malawi, Cuba, Bangladesh, China, Dominican Republic, Israel, Croatia, and Sri Lanka.
The following non-governmental organizations also participated in the dialogue: Women and Armed Conflict, on behalf of Women and Peace; International Counsel of Women; Center for Womens Global Union; and Soroptomists International.
The Preparatory Committee will begin informal consultations this afternoon, including negotiations on the draft outcome document. It is scheduled to meet again on Friday, 17 March, to finalize preparations.Committee Work Programme
The Commission on the Status of Women, acting as the third and final Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly special session in June on Women 2000, met this morning to convene a panel discussion on "Outlook on gender equality, development and peace beyond the year 2000".
It was also expected to hear a statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Experts selected for the panel were chosen from the fields of study being discussed, taking into account equitable geographical representation and gender distribution. The experts are, as follows: Yoriko Meguro, Professor of Sociology, Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan; Rosalba Todaro, economist and researcher at the Center for Womens Studies in Santiago, Chile; Carolyn McAskie, Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i., United Nations; and Krisztina Morvai, Assistant Law Professor at Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary.
Statement by High Commissioner
MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Beijing + 5 review process coincided with the start of a new century, and was a timely moment to assess what had been done and what remained to be done in the movement to advance women's rights. Important steps had been taken towards the recognition of women's rights and those who had fought so hard to achieve their recognition should be saluted. AS High Commissioner for Human Rights, she had listened to the voices of women in many countries.
Particularly striking, she said, had been that all of the women -- women leaders, indigenous women, migrant women, women who had been trafficked, women working for peace or community development, or business women -- had raised the continuing problem of violence against women. Their concerns had ranged from domestic violence to violence against women in conflict, to discrimination and exploitation of vulnerable women. Women had also been concerned over the continuing stereotyping that had constituted discrimination against them, and about new stereotypes that had resulted in increased violence. Tackling the issue had to be the top of the review's agenda.
Despite a broad agenda, the rights of millions of women had continued to be denied, she said. While the fundamental right to equality had been repeatedly affirmed in conferences and other public forums, the laws in various countries had perpetuated discrimination in the areas of personal status, economic status, marital status and recourse against violence. Fundamental violations of the human right to equality had continued in a number of ways: unequal opportunity to education and employment; denial of property rights, inheritance and land rights; the exclusion of women from political representation; deprivation of sexual and reproductive rights; and the use of social forces and physical violence to intimidate and subordinate women.
Governments and societies must respect women's human rights in all of the diverse aspects of their lives, she said. Failure to respect the economic and social rights of women had caused profound inequality in terms of economic independence and health, as well as on the ability to assert other rights. Globalization had posed new challenges to women's economic and social rights, and inequality in that respect had made women vulnerable to abuse, particularly violent abuse, which had exacerbated the barriers to public and political participation. Indeed, all rights were integral, interdependent and indivisible. The historic division created between them had served women badly -- it must now be ensured that all rights were championed and defended.
She said the series of world conferences, including the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, had had profound implications for women, but it had been the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing that had most clearly elaborated the crucial links between the advancement of women and social progress worldwide. Indeed, the Beijing Conference had been a landmark event in the fight for women's rights. The Platform for Action had highlighted the global nature of human rights issues concerning women and signalled a strong commitment on the part of governments to international norms in gender equality.
The international community at Beijing had pledged to devise forward- looking strategies to integrate a gender perspective into policies and programmes and to bring about the full participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life. The 12 critical areas of concern had covered issues ranging from the right to education, health and reproductive rights to the right to life free of violence and poverty. To build on those achievement was the challenge faced by this meeting and the high-level plenary review in June. The agenda must be moved in practical ways. That had meant setting clear targets, benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms which would allow for a rigorous assessment of whether governments had lived up to their promises of five years ago.
The pace of ratification of relevant international conventions and treaties and international measures to advance women and remove discrimination must also be assessed, she said. Moving the agenda in practical ways had also meant evaluating the implementation of steps taken to tackle violence against women and poverty among them. Promoting the agenda in practical ways had also meant looking for new ways to change entrenched sexist attitudes, ensuring gender equality in the workplace, combating the evil of trafficking and the plight of women in conflict, and producing better health care for women. There should be no dilution of the Beijing commitment on sex rights, land rights and inheritance rights. Last but not least, budgets must be reconsidered by governments to cover the commitments made at Beijing.
The Beijing + 5 review presented an opportunity to reflect on how to implement a human rights-based approach to women's issues, a process which required the active participation of women themselves, she said. It was an opportunity to strengthen the language and thinking around the various treaty bodies and their role in monitoring the implementation of women's human rights. It was also a chance to underscore, within the international community, the importance of developing and implementing systematic performance standards to measure the extent to which States had met their obligations for the protection and promotion of women's rights.
She said the world had only begun to understand that true freedom was made up of a complex tapestry of rights, all of which must be equally addressed and protected. The international community gathered here today should spread the message that women's rights were everyone's responsibility. It should also reaffirm its commitment to moving the agenda forward with the aim of promoting and protecting the human rights enshrined in all 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform.
Statements by Non-governmental Organizations
A representative of the International Counsel of Women said that the word rights had been woven through discussions of empowerment for women like a golden thread for the last quarter century. And again, we are here discussing rights, she said. It was, therefore, important to recognize that women had achieved many rights, and, in fact, the United Nations system had played an important role in this area. But it was crucial to note within any discussion about rights and achievements that the highest numbers for global illiteracy, poverty and human trafficking could all, sadly, be attributed to women.
Will we continue to talk about womens human rights for another quarter century, she asked, or will we take the opportunity to act now? The framework for action in achieving gender equality was at hand - the Beijing Platform for Action. The United Nations had a dual role to play to ensure that the commitments of the Platform were implemented. First, it must be the conductor of the multifaceted orchestra of change. That was to say that it must be the coordinator of the work being done by the international community, civil society and world governments in the area of womens rights. Second, the United Nations must be the chief monitor for change; it must ensure that commitments and policies that emerged from world conferences were carried out in a way that was most beneficial for achieving global gender equality at all levels.
She went on to say that the international community must make the future a better and safer place for the worlds children and grandchildren. Education was the key. Formal and informal education should be education for human rights. Boys, girls, men and women were not the same; they had different needs, but they must all learn that they had the same human rights. In that regard it was most important to involve youth in the planning and development stages of achieving progress in the area of gender equality.
A representative of the Center for Womens Global Union, speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Caucus, said that fundamental human rights for women and girls were inalienable. The Platform was a comprehensive instrument to reaffirm the commitment of the international community to ensure these rights. The current review process must also reaffirm that commitment. It was also important to note that socio-economic rights were interrelated with civil rights. Women should have access to all rights, she said.
The main goal was to accelerate implementation of the Platform and measure progress, she said. Setting specific targets was most important in that regard. The Platform, despite the overall breadth of its focus, had very few specific targets. Setting such targets could enhance accountability for implementation, and she urged governments to move forward in that area. Targets must also be set in order for the international community to move toward universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to bring national laws in line with its commitments. Setting specific targets would also aid in adequate resource allocation and gender mainstreaming.
Effective and ongoing accountability was key, she said. In that regard, future global moments, such as planning other conferences and forums which would meet, set new goals and put pressure on the international community, were most important. It was hoped that the Committee would use this occasion to reaffirm quality of life, development and peace on behalf of human rights for men, women and girls.
YORIKO MEGURO, Professor, Department of Sociology, Sophia University, Tokyo, reviewed the progress of global endeavours to achieve gender equality through the past quarter century. She said that one of the outstanding landmarks had been the adoption of empowerment of women as a strategy concept for the advancement of women since the Third Word Conference of Women held in Nairobi. That concept was ideological in that it was based on the assumption that achieving gender equality was correct as a goal and a process of development. It was also an analytical concept in that empowering women in relation to men meant not only that women gained more power, but that the power relationship changed fundamentally, thus creating a new social system which inevitably challenged existing social structures and cultural values.
While we recognize that there have been achievements, even when a gender equality law is enacted, its enforcement is often another story, she said. Equal participation tended to be more nominal than substantial. In most societies, women were trapped in gender-specified activities, since the gender division of labour was believed to be connected with womens biological characteristics. Such a situation hindered womens access to resources for empowerment.
She then turned briefly to focus on population and fertility. Ageing, she said, was an undeniable global trend. Demographic changes demanded a restructuring of social systems, which meant that existing relationships also changed. It was, therefore, historically a good opportunity for engendering social systems. Women, in most societies, outlived men, and the problem of the aged was a problem for women under the existing engendered system. The introduction of the concept of reproductive health and rights had been a critical call for shifting the emphasis in demographic analysis from a macro to a micro approach in order to mainstream a gender perspective in population policies. What was needed was to connect the two approaches, since independent decision-making individuals lived in a demographic context.
She said that there was good evidence in the area of population and fertility to extract possible strategies for empowerment of women. One of the strategies that she was attempting to develop was the unintended outcome, or by-product analysis. The purpose of this strategy was to identify unexpected gender-related outcomes that had occurred during attempts to find ways to achieve gender equality. Another strategy was identifying womens bargaining power. Women needed to negotiate with those in power to change the existing gender-discriminatory system. Therefore, the purpose of this strategy was to identify the power that women had and utilize it as a resource for bargaining to gain more power.
Finally, she said that both those strategies had become clear when existing micro-data were re-examined from a gender perspective. Macro- demographic statistical data were not sufficient for gender analysis since related variables differed from society to society. Country-based and community-based studies were essential for identifying key variables in specific settings. Most importantly, the strength of those strategies was that they raised awareness of situations as they currently were so that existing resources could be used to make further advances.
ROSALBA TODARO, economist and researcher at the Center for Womens Studies in Santiago, Chile, said that the globalization process had prevented governments from fully promoting women's advancement. The conditions resulting from the economic restructuring process under way in many countries had made certain changes crucial. For example, compensatory policies had to be implemented in order to prevent the extremely adverse effects of restructuring. There should also be policies restructuring the women's agenda in keeping with the evolving changes in the world economic system. Gender equity should guide national policies in order to diminish the risk of further extending poverty, to which women were most vulnerable.
At the same time, she said, governments must take advantage of the positive effects of globalization and promote a culture of equality, in order to be able to grant opportunities enabling all people everywhere to develop their potential, decide the course of their lives, and have an impact on all aspects of society, thus making possible the benefits of diversity. Towards that goal, a synergy must be devised between women's movements, civil society, anti- discrimination policies, and international conferences and conventions.
CAROLYN McASKIE, Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i., Acting Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that her Offices mandate to coordinate United Nations assistance in humanitarian crises went beyond the capacity and mandate of any single humanitarian agency. Most of todays humanitarian emergencies were multidimensional and required the simultaneous response of a range of actors, including governments, non- governmental organizations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies. The role of an Emergency Relief Coordinator was to facilitate a coordinated response among those actors in order to ensure that there was a coherent framework and strategy for collective response.
She then turned to the affects of conflict on gender equality. The nature of conflict had changed dramatically, she said. Where in the past only a few civilians had been affected by war, now more civilians were not only involved, but also in many cases actually targeted. It was sad to note that humanitarian aid workers were also targeted. While both men and women were affected by conflict, crisis situations had a differentiated impact on them. Conflict and war were not gender neutral. Eighty per cent of refugees and internally displaced peoples were women and children. The fact that many women were in flight, adapting to life in camps or caught in the midst of conflict had an enormous effect on gender roles as they struggled to keep their families together under such difficult circumstances. There could also be a loss of identity for women in more traditional societies, where women alone had little protection and few identified human rights.
Civil rights and political rights, such as the right to life, and physical integrity were also at risk for both men and women during times of crisis, she continued. Conflict, however, particularly increased womens vulnerability to sexual violence and rape. Rape also increased the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, and unwanted pregnancies. In addition, it might also result in the victims rejection by and marginalization from the community, thus, requiring many specialized programmes of integration.
She said rape was not always a crime that occurred just once -- in some cases, women and girls had been taken and raped repeatedly for months at a time. That issue needed more attention from the international community. In that regard, Bosnia now defined rape as a war crime. She said that one of her goals was to publicize the issue of rape more dramatically. The international recognition of rape as a crime against humanity would acknowledge the gravity of such actions in conflict situations.
Other basic economic and social rights, such as access to health, food and education, were also affected in times of war, she said. For women, access to health care at such times was critical, particularly for their sexual and reproductive roles. In addition, nutritional needs of women and their babies or unborn children, as well as lactating mothers, were also affected as a result of discrimination in the allocation of resources.
Field practice had shown that gender-sensitive humanitarian assistance could mitigate the negative effects of emergencies on both men and women. In order to accomplish this, it was essential that relief personnel consult with men and women to get information on their particular needs. In addition, if the process of reconciliation was to be inclusive, it was imperative that both men and women have an equal voice in initiatives for peace and political reconciliation.
Moreover, she said, international involvement in crisis and post-crisis situations could be an opportunity to promote positive social change. The work of humanitarian agencies in the field could prompt positive change in the situation of men and women by adopting gender-sensitive measures. Some of these were: monitoring all forms of violence against women and recommending measures to counter them; consulting with both men and women in the programming and planning of camps for refugees and internally displaced persons and securing safe access to fuel and water supplies; registering men and women separately in order to help refugees and displaced persons deal with specific problems; and ensuring vocational training, income-generating skills and access to educational institutions in refugee camps. Increasing advocacy at local and international levels in order to raise awareness about gender issues was also important.
She said that humanitarian assistance was much more than distributing food and blankets -- it must include a gender sensitive component. In that regard, it was important to ensure the training and sensitization of United Nations humanitarian staff on gender issues. Women should not be seen as helpless victims in need of assistance, she said. In that context, she mentioned the Gender Training Modules for participants in Peace Support Operations currently being developed. The central objective of those modules was to focus attention on strategies to enhance peace operations by using a gender perspective.
KRISZTINA MORVAI, Assistant Professor of Law at Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary, said she had been asked to speak about gender and human rights in the context of democratic transition, such as that under way in her own region. In order to analyse progress made in implementing the Beijing Platform, it should first be made clear who exactly should implement it. According to the Beijing Declaration, the main "addressees" had been governments, civil societies and the international community. The actions to be taken under the Action Platform had contained a more detailed list of addressees.
Under the Beijing Platform, she continued, combating violence against women called upon the following addressees: governments and their specialized agencies and bodies, such as relevant prosecution services; law enforcement officials; police; medical personnel; and social workers. It had further indicated that those responsible for implementing those policies had been NGOs, and the public and private sectors. Her question, therefore, concerned how all of those addressees or target groups even knew about the existence of the Platform and its meaning. In her experience, most addressees on a national level had simply not known about the existence of that important international document, among others, in the field of women's human rights.
In the case of domestic violence, she asked, did the individual police officers or prosecutors know about their obligation under the Beijing outcome to act to protect women? Most international documents had been relegated to the foreign affairs departments of governments. Again, she wondered how information about the Platform, and its meaning had been disseminated among the different branches of government. It was extremely important that all branches of government, including local governments, be effectively informed about such documents and obligations. The process had been automatic in such areas as international security and the economy, but in an emerging field such as women's rights it had not.
Governments had well-established channels for the dissemination of international documents, but in the case of women's rights those channels had not yet been established, she said. Indeed, countries in her region were still learning the ways and means of democratic decision-making. Likely, several of the governmental bodies named as "addressees" in the Beijing Platform had not even known about it. Governments should be called upon to ensure effective communication about the existence and meaning of such documents. Implementation of the Platform had required multi-agency efforts by governments, and it should, therefore, be ensured that all responsible branches were informed about their specific responsibilities. Governments should also coordinate multi-agency efforts and monitor implementation.
She said that effective implementation of the Platform also required a contextual knowledge on the part of governments about women's rights. Even with effective dissemination within governments, effective implementation would not be possible without first understanding the spirit, meaning, and aims of those international instruments. Emerging democracies and societies had been very special in that regard, but in all regions more effective implementation required an exploration of the context.
In Western societies, gender equality had been motivated by grass-roots movements, she said. In the societies of her region, it had worked from the top to the bottom. The "women question", as it was called, was still considered a legacy of the communist past and an issue associated with State socialism. Indeed, during communism, it had been an alien ideology. Today, it was the international community promoting such norms. The societies in her region had usually had a love/hate relationship with human rights bodies, which had been alien and unwanted. At the same time, those societies would have no other choice in the future, but to join the international community and accept its norms.
The representative of Yemen said there was a link between education and the promotion of women's reproductive health. The high fertility rate in her country had been especially prevalent among illiterate and poor women, and 70 per cent of the poor in Yemen were women, and 60 per cent of the illiterate population were women. There was also a link between poverty and fertility, and early marriages often occurred in rural areas. Significant effort should be made to promote education for women, in order to enhance the possibility for gender equality. On the subject of violence against women, what measures should be taken by the international community to combat it, and how could the scourge of rape against women be suppressed?
The representative of Ghana said she had been struck by comments about girls who had been raped in armed conflicts and who had become pregnant as a result. The situation of those women, in particular, must be considered. Hopefully, the special session would develop specific, concrete recommendations in that regard, especially for States which had very restrictive rules about terminating unwanted pregnancies. In such countries, those girls had suffered the double burden of having been raped and mentally tortured, and then bringing into the world unwanted babies. Often, those babies were not accepted into the fold of the families.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the peace question had most attracted her attention. Despite the end of the cold war, peace had not yet been firmly entrenched, particularly in Africa where the victims were most often civilians. Moreover, the wars in Africa had not been met with the sustained attention of the European community. Recently, in the eastern part of her country, troops had not hesitated to use injections containing the HIV virus as a weapons of war. Those troops had also recently buried alive 15 women. Hopefully, the international community would increase efforts to punish the perpetrators. Above all, local peace movements and civil society should promote a culture of peace, human rights and tolerance. The representative of Jordan said the major challenges to implementation of the Beijing Platform had been the negative impact of globalization. Indeed, globalization and its impact on some countries had deprived governments of valuable assets, which could be used to promote its social and economic programmes. Hopefully, the recommendations adopted at Beijing and Cairo would not be forgotten. Allocation of the necessary resources had also been necessary. Poverty had been one of the reasons for a high fertility rate among women. Deleting the debt burden of some developing countries would help remove the obstructions governments had faced in implementing health programmes, including those related to HIV/AIDS.
Women in the Asian and Pacific region had been adversely affected by the economic crisis, the representative of Malaysia said. Globalization and the financial crisis had compounded discriminatory practices against women, including the dehumanization of and violence against women, and the feminization of poverty. That, in turn, had facilitated the expansion of illegal industries. She was also deeply concerned about the trafficking of women and children. Migrant workers, in particular, were tricked and forced into prostitution by unscrupulous agents.
The gender differentiated effects of globalization must be well understood, she said. Groups of people, such as illegal immigrants and refugees, had not had access to education, legal resources, or health and social benefits. Their well-being should be ensured by appropriate measures. Economic assistance by financial institutions, enabling the creation of jobs, was critical. The progress should not be eroded; a social safety net for women, among other measures, must be created.
A representative of the Women and Armed Conflict Caucus, speaking also on behalf of Women and Peace, said war had posed the greatest obstacle to implementation of each of the objectives of the Beijing Platform, yet that critical concern to women was usually ignored in international platforms or merged into others areas, such as violence against women. In all regions worldwide, women were making peace in the face of conflict.
She urged governments to undertake the following recommendations: convert military resources into peaceful development purposes, by setting concrete targets for the reduction of military expenditures; ensure women's equal participation in all decision-making processes of conflict and post-conflict reconstruction, by insisting upon their equal participation in all peace negotiations; ensure an equitable provision of material, physical safety and security to all refugees and internally displaced women and girls; ensure an end to impunity for crimes committed against women in armed conflict; and give women and women's organizations the necessary support and resources.
Clear time tables and effective monitoring mechanisms were crucial for those urgent changes, she said. It would not be possible to promote women's advancement as long as the world was beset by war.
Responding to the comment about the link between education and fertility, Ms. MEGURO said the importance of re-examining existing data was to determine the relationship among the various factors. Fertility might not be a direct consequence of education; she was not sure. In the differing contexts of each society, many factors had influenced the education/fertility equation. The entrenched patriarchal norm in rural societies, for example, had perhaps contributed to the higher rate of fertility and poverty among rural women.
Ms. Todaro addressed comments on restructuring and its effects on women. The steps taken to restructure the economy and mitigate the 1997 financial crisis had ignored the relationship between various policies. Overall policies that took into account the relationship between economic and gender policies were needed, yet in many countries those policies had remained separate. Long- term national policies accompanied by international regulations were also required.
Ms. Morvai reiterated the need to specify the addressees of the Platform and other international human rights documents, as well as those who were responsible for their implementation. It should also be ensured that the channels of information were working, and that those who had responsibilities under the Platform were aware of their duties.
Ms. Mcaskie said that the protection of women in armed conflict and from other forms of violence against them must be seen as a two-step approach: measures must be found to more broadly protect civilians during conflict; and the number of conflicts themselves must be reduced. That had been a multi- faceted task, and advocacy had been among the first tools. Combating the problem of rape must start with awareness and education. From the earliest stages, children should learn to respect male and female differences. The Security Council was presently discussing a whole series of recommendations concerned with the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
She said the functioning of the International Criminal Court would be a step in the right direction. One of the ways to fight crimes of conflict situations would be to make it clear that people could no longer get away with them. Another aspect involved the training of humanitarian workers. Fighting the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war must also be stopped.
In response to a statement made by Ms. Todaro, the representative of Mali said that restoring macroeconomic balance was certainly important, but at the microeconomic level families, and women in particular, were getting poorer. It was the responsibility of the international community to develop a strategy to help women experience fewer adverse effects to the restructuring of traditional societies in the wake of globalization and new technological advances.
The representative of Poland said that much larger parts of society could hardly make ends meet under current market-oriented models. Participation by women was important in that regard, but there was often a major discrepancy in employment opportunities. Women were, therefore, often paid lower wages, and were often unable to contribute significantly to their own development. The fact that few women sought employment in the economic and political fields was most likely due to the strains of the family and home life. Reinforced cultural practices and stereotypical attitudes also contributed to this, as well. It would be the goal of the international community to integrate women and a gender perspective into all areas of society. In response to Ms. Todaros suggestion about policies which might help counteract the negative aspect of globalization, the representative of the Republic of Korea said that it had been her countrys experience that such policies could only be created and enacted when gender mainstreaming already existed within the Government. In the past, her countrys governmental bodies charged with addressing the issue of globalization, only had male-centred tools and policies with which to work. Gender mainstreaming should permeate all areas of the Government.
She said that there also needed to be more protective measures for women who worked part-time or temporary jobs. Policies that would help restructure gender order, labour, and child care should also be included in national financial structures.
The representative of Malawi suggested that in order to improve the lives of women and children in developing countries, multilateral corporations operating in those countries should contribute to their socio-economic structures beyond providing employment. To that end, he called on the United Nations system and the international community to lobby those corporations and involve the participation of NGOs in raising awareness on that issue.
The representative of Cuba said she joined other delegations in recognizing and understanding the structural readjustment policies and their particular adverse affects on women. It was, therefore, vital that the Platform continue to be a challenge to world governments for the advancement of women in all areas.
In response to statements made by Ms. McAskie, the representative of Bangladesh said that women were most adversely affected by armed conflict. In that regard, it was important to monitor all forms of violence against women and recommend appropriate means to address such actions. She said that violence against women should be recognized internationally as a war crime.
The representative of China said that while progress had been made in the area of gender equality, old obstacles like poverty, violence against women and foreign intervention still existed. She went on to say that science, technology and globalization did not automatically benefit women. In that regard, she suggested that the international community should further strengthen international cooperation between governments, United Nations agencies and NGOs, and, most importantly, governments should reaffirm their commitments to the Platform in order to accelerate its implementation.
The representative of the Dominican Republic said that there must be a way to measure the value of unpaid domestic work in order that it might be included in the national accounting structures of all countries.
A representative of Soroptomist International said that trafficking in women and girls was a major concern. She called on the international community to condemn it as a violation of human rights and work with NGOs to eliminate the conditions that contributed to trafficking. There should also be increased cooperation between world governments in order to raise awareness, promote gender training and support. It was imperative that all States address this at the national, regional and local levels. If rights were to be protected, she continued, a concentrated effort must be made to identify traffickers and punish them and also to assist victims to regain their dignity and attain their rightful place in society.
Responding to comments from the floor, Ms. MEGURO said that the international community had not yet been able to identify a solution to the issue of globalization and its overall affects on gender equality. That would be a challenge for the future.
Ms. Todaro said it was instructive that there had been many comments and questions from delegates about globalizations effect on women. That showed that there was obviously a need to study the specificity of situations -- how each country dealt with the issue, the various measures taken, and how and when women would come into the process were extremely different.
She said that no policy for gender equality should be dealt with separately from other national initiatives and policies. There must be equality in education and health. Stereotypes were also an issue that had not been sufficiently dealt with.
She said that it was difficult to discuss the establishment of norms. While, on one hand, the practice was good at the international level, some of the least developed countries might feel that norms would be used as a new form of protectionism.
Finally, she said that there must be participation of all sectors, particularly NGOs.
In response to comments made by the representative of Bangladesh, Ms. McAskie reiterated that she fully endorsed severe punishment for perpetrators of war crimes, particularly rape. Bosnia had been a step forward, but the international community should see similar policies applied and brought before the various Tribunals or the International Criminal Court in other cases as necessary.
The representative of Guinea said the panel had not emphasized the "very negative" impact of globalization on developing countries, particularly on the lives of women. In those countries, women often had not had access to credit. Moreover, some of those countries, such as his own, had been surrounded by war. Guinea had been host to some 800,000 refugees over the past 10 years. The population of Guinea was comprised of 52 per cent women; the refugees were made up of 60 per cent women. The prolonged existence of refugees had made it impossible to implement the Beijing Platform.
He said his country had had to restructure its defences in order to protect itself and cover the needs of the refugees, specifically in the areas of health and education. Women and children had been kidnapped and endured unthinkable atrocities owing to the persistence of conflict on its borders and the persistence of armed incursions across its borders. One thing that women could do was to become better informed about neighbouring conflicts, and shape national policy. The representative of Israel agreed with the vital need for governments to see what was happening on the ground. Government officials should be taken to shelters and refugees, made to listen to hotlines and visit with victims of human rights abuses. Today, in many countries, the murder of women by their spouses was reaching epidemic proportions. Since Beijing, many more States had begun to address the problem, including her own where legislation punishing sexual harassment in the workplace and schools, as well as laws to prevent violence, had been adopted.
She said the European Union had adopted a community action programme in support of NGOs working to alleviate the plight of such women. Legislation continued to be important, but related programmes required adequate budgets. Gender-based violence was indeed the most obvious manifestation of traditional discriminatory attitudes. The time had come for governments and educational institutions to launch educational programmes for children geared towards gender equality and self-esteem for girls. Recognizing the first signs of the violent personality in a male partner had to be taught.
Since Beijing, she said that many countries had taken action against gender-based violence through treatment, legislation, and so forth. Perhaps the time had come to take the next step: a concerted effort to educate schoolchildren about gender equality for all.
The representative of Zambia said the globalization process would continue, not reverse itself. In view of its effects thus far, it would be far to say that the process would defeat any future gains of developing countries. International financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, had not really addressed the issue of improving the quality of life for women in those countries. Structural adjustment programmes that were retrogressive, and not progressive, should be defeated. Unless the Beijing + 5 Review considered such challenges, things would be worse five years from now.
Advocacy was not the answer to "invisible" violence -- sexual and psychological -- against women, she said. In developing countries, advocacy had done its part -- it was not more education that was needed, but new alternatives. Many women knew about gender-based violence and could diagnose it; what they lacked was the economic power and alternatives to change their lives. Programmes such as those of the World bank and the IMF had been making it worse for women. The present forum should broker peace in the emerging conflict between government and civil society.
The representative of Croatia commended the comments made by Ms. Morvai emphasizing the need to identify the addressees of the Action Platform. A more fundamental concern, in her region of central and eastern Europe, was the steep decline in the number of women participants in governments in transition. There had been some recent rays of hope, but the goals of the Platform were far from being met.
The representative of Sri Lanka said that a national committee on women had conducted a forum discussion on women and children affected by the armed conflict in that country. It had found that all relief and rehabilitation measures should be engendered, and that there had been very little coordination of humanitarian relief. She asked Ms. McAskie to what degree such assistance had been effective at the delivery end.
Regarding government agencies, she said she had been appalled to learn that at least eight agencies of the Government had been doing much the same task, without coordination, and had thus misused the existing scant resources. She urged Ms. McAskie to ensure coordination at the delivery end.
Concluding Remarks by Panellists
In her concluding statement, Ms. Morvai called on the government and NGO representatives to take into account in their deliberations that while they might belong to a country where the level of awareness of womens rights as human rights was high, there might be other countries where this was not the case. In that regard, the outcome document of the Committee should reflect the views of all levels of society.
There should also be an intense dialogue between all actors to see where they stood on the issue of violence against women and marital rape, she continued. She gave some examples of what the perceived attitudes were among some in the international community on womens issues.
She said that once she had heard a representative say that women would appreciate a little more violence from their husbands. She also said that she had heard other comments that women would use policies that punished violence against women as a tool to throw their husbands out of the home when they got angry with them. Sadly, these were the attitudes that had to be dealt with and overcome. She asked all delegations to exchange notes on where we stand now on the issue of womens rights. She also urged the Committee to take into account a minimum requirement standard with respect to gender equality, which would be applicable to all societies.
Ms. Todaro said that the representative of Zambia had made some striking comments. Political will could help in the area of gender equality, although that was often difficult to see. The international community must begin to take hope in the idea that political will could indeed counteract the negative forces of globalization.
In response to the comments of the representative of Zambia, Ms. Meguro said that economic development was needed, but not at the expense of womens rights. That was to be avoided at all costs. The idea of economic development must not just be approached from a budgetary perspective, but from a gender perspective, as well.
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