Fifty-sixth General Assembly
16th Meeting (AM)
ELIMINATING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, INCREASING THEIR POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED, AS THIRD COMMITTEE DEBATE CONTINUES
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on items related to the advancement of women this morning, many speakers emphasized the need to not lose sight of the critical areas of concern outlined in the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women -- among them eradicating violence against women, particularly migrant women, and greatly increasing female participation in governmental bodies.
On violence against women, the representative of Bangladesh said no country in the world was free from the scourge, and stronger efforts had to be made. Women migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to violence. Both documented and undocumented immigrant women frequently had limited access to legal remedies in cases of discrimination and exploitation, and could thus find themselves criminalized in cases where they themselves were the victims. Also, the interface between migration and trafficking needed to be explored, to the root of the problem. To learn more on the issue, Bangladesh was undertaking a study with the International Organization of Migration (IOM).
The representative of the IOM said trafficking had become one of the most troubling growth trends in migration during the past decade, and it was unfortunately affecting women disproportionately. Every year, tens of thousands of trafficked women were denied free choice and basic rights, and they found themselves treated as commodities and brutalized far from their home countries.
One path to combat trafficking, he continued, was prevention -- which began with improved information, alerting women in countries of origin to the ruses and the channels used by traffickers.
Concerning women serving in elected office, the representative of Cyprus said the participation of women in political life was an important aspect in their empowerment. Although the country had not yet met the Beijing goal of a minimum of 30 per cent representation in government legislative bodies before 2005, he said, the political will existed for moving in that direction.
Women in Sri Lanka, meanwhile, were already playing a significant role in their political and economic decision-making, the country’s representative said. That was in their history. From the basic family unit to high political office -- Sri Lanka, in 1960, had the first woman Prime Minister -- women enjoyed a high
degree of equality and visibility in the public sphere. Women provided key
Third Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/SHC/3460
16th Meeting (AM) 19 October 2001
financial inputs, including in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, he
All efforts by global partners that aimed to enhance the status of women would fail without the substantive participation of women, the representative of Liechtenstein said. It was time to stop looking at women and girls solely as victims. They had to be seen as actors, participants and contributors. She added that the appointment of women as special representatives and envoys could play a catalytic role in that regard. The United Nations could and should live up to its special responsibility.
Representatives of Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Andorra, Malaysia, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iceland, Madagascar, Paraguay, and Kuwait also participated in the debate. The observer for Palestine also spoke.
Exercising rights of reply were representatives of Israel, Iraq, Kuwait and the observer for Palestine.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 22 October, to conclude its deliberations on the advancement of women.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue consideration of issues related to the advancement of women, including implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of "Women 2000", the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. (For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3637 of 17 October.)
DEMETRIS HADJIARGYROU (Cyprus) said eliminating discrimination against women was an integral part of the struggle for social development and justice. His Government would fight discrimination with policies leading to a gender-sensitive society and ultimately full equality.
One area important for the empowerment of women in society was their participation in political life, he continued. Although in Cyprus the goal of a minimum of 30 per cent representation of women in government legislative bodies before 2005 had not yet been met, the political will existed for moving in that direction. The President of Cyprus, as well as political party leaders and women's organizations, declared their full support for more balanced participation in decision-making and politics, in order to meet that goal. Some measures the Government had taken were the appointment of women in high ranking political posts, and the launching of public campaigns to support women candidates.
The women of Cyprus had been particularly active in conflict resolution and the peace process, he said. Those women, having suffered the tragic consequences of military conflict, displacement and foreign occupation for 27 years, were particularly sensitive to matters of conflict resolution, human rights and the peace process. Cypriot women's organizations had been very active in the last two years, as they had been very active since 1974. The Federation of Women's Refugee Association, for example, was established in 1999, and had been at the forefront of the campaign to raise awareness on political problems, and the specific problems of refugee women. His country remained committed to ensuring that women enjoyed human rights and were equal partners in the economic and social development of the country.
DHARSHANA PERERA (Sri Lanka) said women, who made up half of Sri Lanka’s population, had historically played a significant and active role in the country’s social, cultural and even political development. From the basic family unit to high political office -- Sri Lanka appointed the world’s first woman Prime Minister in 1960 -- women enjoyed a high degree of equality and visibility in decision-making. In the economic sphere, women provided key financial inputs, including, in agricultural and manufacturing sectors, as business professionals and academia.
He said that, despite those achievements some problems persisted, although they were not necessarily isolated to Sri Lanka. The Government remained fully committed to addressing those issues, mainly through its efforts to ensure the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of last year’s Assembly special session, “Women 2000”. Indeed, pursuant to Beijing, Sri Lanka formulated a National Plan of Action to address women’s advancement. That Plan has been reviewed periodically and updated to take into account new challenges.
He said that violence against women was at the core of persistent gender-based inequalities. Indeed, violence had far-reaching consequences, affecting women’s development, health, and mental and physical well-being. Aware of that, the Government continued to address the situation through policy, particularly with Penal Code amendments that covered sexual harassment and marital rape, and that prescribed heightened punishment for offenders. Among other initiatives were community awareness programmes on violence, which encouraged reporting incidents of abuse and incorporating gender awareness in police training. It was important to note, however, that as Sri Lanka’s programmes expanded, more resources were required to strengthen and promote women’s rights and economic opportunities.
ATSEDE KIDANU (Ethiopia) said in any society women were the key contributors to the economy and to combating poverty through both remunerated and unremunerated work at home, in the community and in the work place. Moreover, as the maintenance of peace and security was a precondition for economic and social progress, women’s full participation in decision-making, conflict prevention and resolution, and all other peace initiatives was essential to the realization of lasting peace.
She said the efforts made within the United Nations in integrating gender-oriented programmes and activities were encouraging, and stimulated governments to take measures that would enhance the full participation of women in the economic, social, cultural and political activities in their countries. Despite those efforts, however, many remained victims of poverty, sexual harassment, violence and employment inequality. In addition, their health and their livelihood was threatened by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. The United Nations and the international community should, therefore, intensify efforts towards the implementation of the outcome of the Beijing Conference, as well as the special sessions on women and HIV/AIDS.
She said Ethiopian women suffered from violence of various kinds emanating from diverse sources -- many of which had social and cultural roots. The Government was taking concrete legal measures to address all sorts of violent practices against women, and to raise the awareness of the public with regard to the constitutional rights of women. Further, women's associations and other concerned bodies had been campaigning for tougher actions to be taken with regard to any form of violence committed against women.
CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said that commenting on the advancement of women before the Committee for the past several years had always left her feeling ambivalent. On the one hand, there was some frustration at the pace agreed goals were being implemented; on the other, there was some encouragement in learning about important new developments. Difficult as it might be, the international community must remain energized as it sought to fulfil the difficult, but immensely important goals outlined at Beijing.
She went on to highlight the importance of the recent Assembly special session devoted to HIV/AIDS as perhaps the most important United Nations event for women this year. She expressed particular satisfaction that the participants at that conference had agreed on the need to empower women to make decisions on their sexuality freely and in a responsible manner. That notion was at the core of a truly successful response to the AIDS pandemic, she said. While there were other encouraging developments, particularly in international law, it was important to remember that with the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the convention’s monitoring must be strengthened.
She was pleased to announce that she would deposit her country’s instrument of ratification of the Optional Protocol on 24 October, United Nations Day. Turning to other concerns, she said that gender-mainstreaming must come from an understanding that overall equality was a major element of humanity’s success. Women must be involved out of a sense of enlightened self-interest. Nothing the international community was striving to achieve could be done without the participation of women. So, perhaps it was time to stop looking at women and girls solely from a “special needs” or “victim” perspective. Those notions must not be forgotten, but it was time that women and girls be seen as actors, participants and contributors. She added that the appointment of women as special representatives and envoys could play a catalytic role in that regard.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said the Government was undertaking several efforts to improve the status of women. It had implemented laws against domestic violence, and it had reformed the national judicial system to further protect women and girls from violence in the home. The law concerning the National Institute for Women established an institution that covered policies relating to gender equality. Another law that addressed the special needs of poor women had also been approved, as had legislation requiring at least 40 per cent female participation in local and regional governments. Laws were also passed that made it easier for single mothers to prove paternity through DNA sampling. The law reversed the burden of proof -- the father would now have to prove he wasn't the father.
He said Costa Rica agreed to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. Costa Rica was committed to eliminating the obstacles that slowed the progress towards gender equality. The promotion of gender equality, and respect for the dignity of all genders, was a prerequisite for the respect of human rights. No country could hope to achieve development if half of its population was denied education and other rights, and was always exploited.
NADYA RASHEED, observer of Palestine, said the international community must now intensify its efforts towards meeting the challenges facing women. Global actors should also mobilize new resources to ensure the protection of women’s rights and the realization of women’s advancement. Palestinian women were at the centre of international discussions on the issues of: women and poverty; violence against women; and the situation of women in armed conflict or living under foreign occupation. As those women strove to implement internationally agreed goals concerning gender equality and the advancement of women, they continued to struggle to achieve overall freedom, peace and prosperity under the harsh reality of continuing Israeli occupation.
At the same time, she said, Palestinian women also continued to fight inequality and discrimination, so that they might play a more active role within their own society. Again, the main obstacles impeding their efforts were oppressive Israeli policies, which deprived Palestinian women from developing their socio-economic potential. Those policies also hampered efforts to promote a viable plan of action for women’s empowerment. Despite those and other obstacles, including the confiscation of land and water by occupying forces, attacks against civilians and indiscriminate use of force against the Palestinian population, women continued to pursue initiatives towards the goal of empowerment.
She said the Palestinian National Authority adhered to the principles and purposes of all relevant conventions and outcome documents when establishing progammes aimed at assisting Palestinian women. The women themselves had worked to establish the foundations for social, economic and institutional development for the long overdue Palestinian State. Overall, Palestinian women continued to strive for a peace that would ensure both their national rights and their rights as women.
ROSER SUNE PASCUET (Andorra) said after the special session on women and equality, Andorra worked toward implementing those recommendations. The Government established the Secretary of State of the Family, which aimed to advance the equality of women in all aspects of society. Meanwhile, the Government also presented a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention. Andorra recognized that it had to make improvements, and the Secretary of State for the Family was working with officials from the Department of Justice, as well as other members of civil society and non-governmental organizations, on such projects as eradicating violence against women. In the workplace, Andorra gave significant attention to the advancement of women managers.
The special session on HIV/AIDS, she said, paid particular attention to the way women had been affected, and the Durban Conference against racism recognized that racial discrimination against women was doubly harmful. At the ageing Conference, the same recognition should be given to women, considering how challenging it could be for an older woman later in life. Andorra extended solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and girls. She hoped that they would be given the opportunity to make decisions about their future.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said the twelve critical areas of concern identified and prioritized for action at Beijing were not solely women’s issues. Rather, they were development issues that reflected the problems women throughout the world were experiencing and it must be said that those problems were largely due to gender inequality and prejudice. Those points of concern were borne of the persistent subordination of women, manifested by, among others, the lack of equal access to education and employment. They constituted important challenges for both men and women, if the overall objectives of equality, peace and development were to be achieved.
He went on to say that, six years after Beijing, although some progress had been achieved, inequality between men and women, and prejudicial attitudes towards women and girls, remained. Women continued to be marginalized from mainstream development and, therefore, a large majority of them were living in poverty. Recognizing that the empowerment of women was critical to the overall development of society and eradication of poverty, Malaysia had focused its efforts on creating effective micro-credit programmes.
He said that those programmes, in Malaysia and around the world, had shown that when provided with even small loans, poor women had been able to pursue creative ways to use their skill, or even develop new skills, to earn income. An effective mirco-credit programme, could lead to women’s self-employment and, importantly, their self-reliance. Data from impact studies on micro-credit institutions had shown that income in the hands of poor women was more likely to be used to meet immediate basic needs, such as food, shelter and improved healthcare for children and family members. After two or three successful loan cycles, a majority of those women were able to move their family members out of the grip of poverty.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) said six years after the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, the global strategy of mainstreaming the gender perspective into all areas of social development was still valid and needed sustained efforts at all levels to make it a success. Its implementation required accelerated interventions at national, regional and international levels with clear linkages between actions at each level. Eritrea welcomed the collaboration demonstrated by the United Nations system and other international organizations in trying to push forward the cause of women, as well as the decisions and resolutions of the Commission on the Status of Women.
He said that owing to the complexities surrounding the issue of gender and its link to cross-cutting factors -- such as age, disability, socio-economic status, ethnicity and race -- the need for coordinated and speedy intervention by the several actors identified by the Platform for Action must continue. The issue of equality between men and women was a question of human rights and, when fully respected and protected, it served as a building block for sustainable development in a just society. The mainstreaming of women's perspectives into national policies and programmes, therefore was essential and must be intensified.
Although the gender gap remained, he said, there had been some additional developments in the improvement of the status of Eritrean women since the Beijing Conference. Women currently occupied three of the 17 ministerial positions. Women held 33 of the 150 seats in the national parliament, and 122 of 398 in the regional assemblies. That was a result of the Government's policy that reserved 30 per cent of the assembly seats for women. In the public sector, during 1999 alone, women held about 17 per cent of the administrative posts, and 30 per cent of the professional and technical jobs. In the private sector -- in trade, manufacturing and industry -- women held a 30 per cent share of the labour force.
MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said Indonesia supported the efforts that were made during the recent substantive session of the Economic and Social Council on the advancement of women. In particular, the devotion of the coordination segment to the issue of access to and transfer of knowledge and technology was both timely and necessary. Women suffered the impact of globalization in a disproportionate manner and, therefore, it was essential to ensure that they had access to and knowledge of the use of new information and communication technology (ICT). Further, the use of ICT was important for empowering women, reducing their inequalities and for ensuring their speedy access to a wide range of information from women's rights to modern technology.
He said progress had been made in addressing the problem of violence against women migrant workers, both at national and international levels. As the Secretary-General's report usefully summarized, a number of activities had been undertaken within the United Nations system on the issue. Indonesia would like to particularly note the work being done by several special rapporteurs on behalf of women migrant workers and their safety. Further, it should be reiterated that the conclusion of the report said that better work was needed to explore the link between immigration and trafficking.
GRETA GUNNARSDOTTIR (Iceland) said full gender equality did not exist in practice in any country. While progress had been made, as reflected in the outcome document adopted by the twenty-third special session on women, held in June 2000, serious obstacles were also correctly identified. The elimination of all discrimination against women was, first and foremost, a question of genuine political will. Much could be accomplished already by governments through enacting legislation, banning all discrimination against women and ensuring their rights. That applied, for example, in securing their freedom of movement and their equality before the courts.
In Iceland, she said, the focus was on finding ways to achieve, in practice, the objective of equal pay for equal work between men and women, and how to increase the number of women in high-level decision making positions, including in politics. There was also a challenge in figuring out how to encourage men to take on equal responsibility towards their children and family. To that end, legislation was passed last year that granted parents equal rights to maternity and paternity leave, and parental leave.
In addition, she continued, discussions continued in Iceland on how to reduce violence in general, and against women in particular. Icelandic non-governmental organizations played a very important role in that field. The government had also taken various measures, including the establishment in 1993 of a Rape Trauma Service at one of the city hospitals. The Service was open 24-hours a day for victims of sexual violence, with specially trained nurses, doctors, social workers and lawyers. It was free of charge, offering support, care and advice, together with medical and forensic medical examinations and treatments, as well as regular follow-up. The purpose was to minimize the trauma and, thereby, reduce the future need of health services for the victims. The Service had excellent cooperation with the police and members of the judicial system, and its existence had helped increase the understanding of the serious health consequences of sexual violence. The information provided by the experience of the Service had already been used successfully for education and preventive work in schools.
HELENA RAJAONARIVELO (Madagascar) said that strengthening the empowerment of women in areas that affected the daily management of their lives, particularly in decision-making and peace processes, was very important. In that regard, it was also important to consider input from civil society actors and organizations. Such groups could assist governments in creating policies that would more effectively address the strategic and practical needs of women.
Madagascar’s Constitution, she said, prohibited all forms of discrimination. On rural women, she noted that policies must take into consideration men in any effort to improve the participation of rural women in decision-making, as well as more productive economic and employment spheres. Also equal access to education for women and girls must be ensured, particularly those living in rural areas. Men should also be involved in reproductive health efforts. She hoped that all States would intensify efforts to provide the necessary resources for the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
Martha Moreno (Paraguay) said at the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, Paraguay reaffirmed its commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action. Gender equality had to be the chief focus in achieving the aims of both conferences. In recent years, the Government had made progress in adopting legislative reforms, and adopting plans for equal opportunity. Women had been given greater access to education and health. It was not enough to protect women; it was also necessary to encourage their presence in all areas of society.
The Government had a national plan to prevent violence against women, she said. Great progress had been made. A national centre of support for women had been established where they could receive care, support, guidance and advice. Those mechanisms were supported by the valuable work of non-governmental organizations and other members of civil society. Education also had an important role in ensuring gender equality and in recent years there had been improvement in the rates of women earning diplomas at all levels of education. Regarding health, the Government had achieved some success in reducing the rates of maternal and infant mortality.
Studies had shown that in the areas where women played an important role, the poverty index was less, she continued. The challenge was to enhance the role of rural women. Paraguay was also involved extensively in the regional activities for the advancement of women. Women in industry, labour, security and health were the main topics among Latin American countries, and Paraguay participated in many activities and conferences.
DALAT AL-HAZZA (Kuwait) said his country’s Constitution ensured equality and non-discrimination at all levels. The Government was actively working to harmonize the laws of the country with various relevant international conventions. It was also working to ensure women’s social and economic development.
Women in Kuwait did suffer, particularly those who had lost husbands, sons or brothers to war, he said. The Government had noted that many of those men were captives being held in Iraqi prisons. It was time for the international community to give priority to that serious humanitarian issue. Women the world over suffered from violence. He paid special tribute to Palestinian women, who continued to struggle for survival under the inhumane political policies of occupying Israeli forces.
SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said poverty eradication had to remain a primary concern. One way women and poverty had been addressed in Bangladesh, and in other developed and developing countries, was through the provision of micro-credits. In Bangladesh, micro-credits were used to provide shelter and livelihood for women. It was combined with health care, education, nutrition, family welfare services and community development in a comprehensive anti-poverty initiative. But, efforts could only yield results through the collective efforts of the Government and civil society partners.
Bangladesh's development partners, including the international financial institutions, must also provide effective assistance and develop a helpful policy framework, he said. Bangladesh shared the conclusions of the expert group on the situation of rural women in the context of globalization. That group had stated that an appropriate support system was crucial in rural women's efforts to cope with rapid changes in patterns of employment and labour mobility, as well as the diversification of livelihood in a more competitive economic environment.
Violence against women had to be fought, he said. The “Group of 77” developing countries and China said that the ultimate sin of all forms of violence against women was the subordination and exploitation of women. No society was immune from that evil, and no country could remain passive to it. Women migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to violence. Both documented and undocumented immigrant women frequently had limited access to legal remedies in cases of discrimination and exploitation, and could find themselves criminalized in cases where they themselves were the victims. The interface between migration and trafficking needed to be explored, to get to the root of the problem. It was limited knowledge that prevented the international community from addressing the issue effectively.
He added that the situation of women in conflict situations across the world remained a concern. Women were not only the victims, with their human rights violated in numerous ways in times of conflict, but they were also the harbinger of peace, as was seen in conflict situations from Africa to the Balkans to Asia to Latin America. Both the Beijing Platform for Action and the Beijing + 5 outcome document detailed actions that could help women whose rights had been violated, as well as end impunity for the perpetrators and enhance the contributions of women in peacekeeping and peace-building.
ROBERT PAIVA, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said one of the most notable trends in international migration over the past decade had been what was commonly referred to as the "feminization" of migration. That term had a two-fold meaning. First, it meant that women accounted for a growing percentage of migrant populations. But, it also meant that women were migrating independently -- as labour migrants -- in much greater numbers than was the case in the previous generations. Those two factors presented considerable challenges for migrant women, for governments, for international and non-governmental organizations, and for society at large.
The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing addressed the physical, sexual and psychological harm that irregular migration imposed on migrant women, he said. Their susceptibility to abuse and violence increased because, given their irregular status, they had limited access to employment in the structured sectors, and limited access to the guarantees of social protection. That often left them at the mercy of those seeking to take advantage of their labour or their person. And their vulnerability was triple -- as women, as foreigners, and as persons without legal residence status.
Another issue, he continued, was trafficking in women. Trafficking had become one of the most troubling growth trends in migration during the past decade, and it was unfortunately affecting women disproportionately. Every year, tends of thousands of women around the world suffered the fundamental abuse of free choice and basic rights that defined trafficking, finding themselves treated as commodities and brutalized far from their home countries. The IOM had made trafficking, as it related to the international movement of women, in particular, a priority focus of its research over the past several years. The IOM was firmly committed to promoting greater global awareness of what trafficking was, and supported effective action to counter it. One path was prevention -- which began with improved information, alerting women in countries of origin to the ruses and the channels used by traffickers. The IOM also focused on providing assistance to
those suffering the consequences, helping with protection, return and reintegration programmes.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said a delegation had accused Israel of fighting Palestinian women. Israel was not fighting Palestinian women, or people, for that matter. It was fighting Palestinian terrorism, and it was doing so in self-defence. The Palestinian Authority was responsible for all the violence in the last year and it had achieved nothing. They turned down a very generous negotiated deal last year at Camp David.
In right of reply, the representative of Iraq said Kuwait’s representative had mentioned Kuwaiti prisoners in Iraq and the suffering that caused among Kuwaiti women. That comment was in error -- there were no Kuwaiti prisoners in Iraq. Iraq had returned all prisoners after the 1991 ceasefire. He said that there were, however, Kuwaiti’s who had been identified as having disappeared. Iraq was working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and with other neutral actors, as well as within the framework of the League of Arab States in order to find a solution to that serious issue.
He said it was important to note that there were Iraqis that had disappeared in Kuwait. That was a matter that should be examined, as well. Kuwait continued to use for political ends, that same allegation of prisoners being held in Iraq. The discussions today were about the advancement of women, but Kuwait had used the opportunity once again to divert international attention to that issue.
In a right of reply, the representative of Kuwait said it was the resolutions of the Security Council that referred to the disappeared people and prisoners in Iraq. Iraq said they had taken initiatives to cooperate, but Iraq's initiative consisted of avoiding the relevant resolutions. They had not abided by the resolutions of the Security Council with regard to the prisoners and the disappeared people.
In right of reply, the observer of Palestine said the slanderous and false information presented to the Committee by Israel must be addressed, particularly the assertion that Israel was a peaceful country acting in self-defence. The representative of Israel had also suggested that the Palestinians had refused suggestions of peaceful negotiation and continued to engage in violent activity. The truth was that, while the Palestinian Authority had condemned violence, the Israeli Government had continued its acts of State terrorism and acts of indiscriminate killing and violence. That Government’s actions contravened all efforts at peaceful negotiation or implementation of the Mitchell recommendations. Israeli actions had perhaps even hampered recent international efforts to form a coalition against terrorism.
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