VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN LINKED TO POVERTY, ARMED CONFLICT, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DISCUSSION OF WOMEN’S ISSUES CONCLUDES

11 October 2002
GA/SHC/3698

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN LINKED TO POVERTY, ARMED CONFLICT, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DISCUSSION OF WOMEN’S ISSUES CONCLUDES

11/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3698

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

16th Meeting (AM)

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN LINKED TO POVERTY, ARMED CONFLICT, THIRD COMMITTEE

TOLD, AS DISCUSSION OF WOMEN’S ISSUES CONCLUDES

As the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) concluded its consideration of the advancement of women this morning, delegations condemned all forms of violence and discrimination against women, including social injustices like domestic violence, rape, trafficking in women, and killing in the name of honour.  Many speakers highlighted the link between violence against women with poverty and armed conflicts.

Women continued to live in situations defined by absolute poverty, illiteracy, violence and armed conflict, said the representative of Ethiopia.  Further, globalization, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and protracted conflict had deepened poverty for women, particularly in developing countries.  Poverty was the main obstacle to the full realization of women's equality -- manifesting itself in poor health, low levels of education, lack of access to potable water, food insecurity and unemployment.

The representative of Syria said that there could be no advancement for women in conditions of foreign occupation and armed conflict.  During such conditions, women’s human rights were flagrantly violated on a daily basis.

“Women’s rights” were “human rights” said the representative of Ghana, as she stressed the need to raise awareness, educate, and challenge bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.  To stop the increasing spate of violence, it was necessary to change the mindset of entire communities in the social, political and cultural spheres.

Some argued that men and women could never be equal, as they were different physically and physiologically said the representative of Singapore.  However, gender equality was not about women beating men in a 100 meter sprint.  It was about letting women compete in the race in the same way as men -- about the right to chose.  There was no excuse for sacrosanct prejudice and bigotry.  In fact, values and norms were really about mindsets.  To achieve gender equality, one needed to heal the mind.

There had been much talk of the advancement of women, said the representative of Nepal; yet women still lacked equal rights.  Norms and values had been established to protect women; however they had not been satisfactorily implemented.  Implementation was costly and required adequate resources.  The international community must extend assistance to help national initiatives aimed

at gender equality, or there would be no advancement of women but only talk.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Pakistan, Croatia, Venezuela, Liechtenstein, Senegal, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Mali, Guatemala, Turkey, Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Uganda, Suriname and Argentina.

The observer of Palestine also addressed the Committee this morning, as did representatives from the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The representative of Israel and the observer of Palestine exercised their right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. to being its consideration of the promotion and protection of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to conclude its annual consideration of matters related to the advancement of women, as well as implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the outcome of "Women 2000".  For additional background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3697 of 10 October.

ISHTIAQ HUSSAIN ANDRABI (Pakistan) began his intervention by reading the vision statement of Pakistan's Commission for the Status of Women which, he said, reflected the country's commitment to the advancement of women and the promotion and protection of human rights.  Outlining the country's relevant strategy for the empowerment of women, that statement underscored that the dignity and status of women as equal citizens of Pakistan was a moral imperative and a constitutional obligation.  Pakistan had been among the first 50 countries in the world to set up an independent national women's commission.  That body was mandated to examine policy, programmes and measures taken by the Government towards women's development.  It reviewed gender equality initiatives as well as rules and regulations affecting the status of women.

He said promotion and implementation of the Beijing Declaration principles and the outcome of "Women 2000" were at the centre of the Commission's National Policy on Women.  That new policy had been announced last March and would serve as a guide to ensure women's equal access to all development benefits and social services.  The policy would also safeguard their human rights, enhance literacy rates and give women access to quality health care services, particularly primary health care.

He said that political empowerment of women was imperative for development.  Pakistan had taken a big first step in that regard by ensuring that women's representation in local bodies was at least at 33 per cent.  As a result, some 40,000 women counsellors had been provided political space.  The Government had also established a Women's Distress Fund for women in detention and to provide relief and free legal aid to victims of violence.

ANDREJ DOGAN (Croatia) said that according to various estimates there were approximately four million trafficking victims a year worldwide.  A large number of those were women and girls, violently deprived of their freedom and their right to a free civil life.  These crimes grossly violated the whole range of human rights of the trafficking victims.  Croatia was situated in the region where many countries had an unfortunate history in trafficking of women, especially for the purpose of prostitution, and as such, it was very much aware of the seriousness of this problem.  All States should set up national bodies for combating trafficking in human beings, which would coordinate all the necessary activities on the national, regional and international levels.

The problem of trafficking in women and girls was a very complex issue that had to be addressed by a whole range of institutions, mechanisms and organizations on all levels.  It was not enough to fight the crime itself, but one had to be aware of the root causes of trafficking.  His delegation welcomed the United Nations Development Programme’s work on anti-trafficking interventions in a number of countries, directed at reducing the trafficking in women and children by community based initiatives and socio-economic alternatives.   

ADRIANA PULIDO (Venezuela) said the foundations of genuine democracy must lie in equal rights for both men and women.  All citizens must be allowed to participate fully in the development of Venezuelan society.  That view was fully reflective of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and meetings of the past decade, which had all underscored the need to include women in national and international social and economic development strategies.  Venezuela was committed to implementing the Beijing Declaration and the outcome of "Women 2000", and had set up the National Women's Institute to coordinate relevant initiatives and strategies.  A national Office for the Defense of Women's Rights had also been created.  Special attention should promote and support Venezuelan women to develop their capacities and promote employment opportunities, particularly for female heads of households.

All Venezuela's initiatives on behalf of women and the positive results they had yielded made it difficult to accept suggestions in the Secretary-General's report (document A/57/169) as well as the report of the special rapporteur on violence against women (E/CN.4/2002/83) which continued to assert that were so-called honour crimes being committed in Venezuela.  That view was not compatible with the reality in Venezuela.  Since last year, Venezuela had sponsored the Committee's relevant resolution on that issue, she noted with some regret that the Secretary-General's report had not diminished doubts concerning that issue, but had in fact, seemed only to raise more questions.

She said the report noted that Venezuela still had some legislation that protected perpetrators of so-called honour killings.  In fact, however, that law had been abolished -- a fact which had been transmitted to the Secretary-General -- on the basis that it contravened basic constitutional principles of equal treatment for all citizens.  It was the Government's view that the law in question had nothing to do with honour crimes.  Still, Venezuela would reiterate its position that there should be a conceptual view taken of such a complex issue.  Reports of the Secretary-General should be formulated on an exhaustive study of all crimes committed against women as well as on crimes committed in the name of honour.

MYRIAM VORBURGER (Liechtenstein) said violence against women was still an issue of concern, and many forms of violence passed unheard, especially violence in the family.  Prevention was a key responsibility of States in eliminating domestic violence.  Liechtenstein was currently taking part in an interregional programme against violence in the family.  The programme aimed to bring to light cases of domestic violence as well as raise awareness on violence in partnership and marriage.  In this context, she stressed the need for an effective legal framework preventing and prosecuting violence against women within the family.

Concerning trafficking in women, she said it often included sexual exploitation, disregarding the right of persons to take decisions on their sexuality freely and in a responsible manner and thus contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Liechtenstein was mainly concerned as a potential country of transit or destination, although so far no such cases had been reported to the police.  In order to empower women, who might be victims of trafficking and suffering from sexual exploitation, a national “Program on AIDS-prevention for sex-workers” was currently being carried out.  Women experts visited women working in nightclubs, informing them of their rights and on the risks they were running.

MANKEUR NDIAYE (Senegal) said women faced severe discrimination at all levels and were most adversely affected by the ravages of poverty and other social ills such as domestic violence and honour crimes.  That discrimination also extended to access to basic services, decision-making, and social justice -- the list went on.  Senegal had been actively working to implement the Beijing Declaration principles and was harmonizing its national provisions with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  It had also been working with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to combat violence against women.  There had been an information and education campaign to raise awareness of the rights of women, both in cities and in rural communities.

Indeed there had been much progress in the areas of gender equality and the promotion of women's rights, notably in areas of land rights and employment.  Women had access to high positions in Parliament as well as local and community governments.  He emphasized the intensified cooperation between Senegal and Africa-Based United Nations agencies as well as civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) towards the implementation of internationally agreed commitments for the advancement of women and their empowerment.

ANZHELA K. KORNELIOUK (Belarus) said even through progress had been made in the legal field, gender inequality was still a reality for many women.  She stressed the importance of international instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the battle against gender inequality and welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the follow-up to Beijing and the action undertaken by the General Assembly.  In Belarus, gender equality was a priority in the development of society, and in May 2000 a second five-year plan to ensure equal opportunities between men and women had been approved.  Furthermore, gender statistics and research were being improved and intensified in Belarus.

She stressed that the elimination of violence and combating trafficking in women and girls were high priorities to Belarus.  In order to step up counter-trafficking approaches, Belarus had been working in cooperation with other CIS countries.  A round table meeting had been held on the implementation of the right of women to a life without violence.  Efforts aimed at prevention of trafficking in women included cooperation with neighbouring countries, strengthening of legal bodies, and the undertaking of awareness raising campaigns.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said among the 12 priority areas for action highlighted in the Beijing Declaration, Burkina Faso had noted ten as priorities for the country's overall development.  Those had been gathered under several broad strategies, including combating poverty, promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls, and advocacy of positive attitudes towards women.  The situation of extreme poverty was a serious constraint to any development opportunities.  In response, the Government had availed itself of many United Nations system programmes as well as devising its own national strategies.  Burkina Faso had also benefited from a programme aimed at reducing the debt of poor countries.  A ministry had been established to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls.

He said the Government had also initiated a programme aimed at purchasing equipment that would enhance women's skills training as well as reduce household burdens on them.  Despite efforts for the provision of water, women still had to travel long distances to get water.  The Government had taken that on as a high priority and had stepped up its programme of well-drilling throughout the country, particularly in rural areas.

On human resources, he said Burkina Faso's capacity-building initiatives had focused on training, particularly in computer technology, development management, gender development training and research on HIV/AIDS.  The Government was also encouraging women's access to decision-making bodies at all levels.  He knew that much remained to be done, however, and looked forward to more assistance and cooperation with international donors and partners.

LOH TUCK KEAT (Singapore) said some argued that men and women could never be equal, as they were not born equal, physically and physiologically.  Such differences existed; however, gender equality was not about women beating men in a 100 meters sprint.  It was about letting women compete in the race in the same way as men -- about the right to chose.  While science and technology in many instances had helped women break free of their physical constraints, many societies remained conveniently trapped in their time capsules of norms and values with regard to women.  There was no excuse for holding sacrosanct prejudice and bigotry.  Values and norms were really about mindsets.  To achieve gender equality, one needed to heal the mind. 

Each Government had a responsibility to ensure that all its citizens, regardless of race or gender, had equal access to education.  The Singaporean Government recognized that education was the key to progress and placed special emphasis on human resource development.  Women and men had equal access to education and training.  In fact, more women than men now progressed to tertiary education in Singapore.  Furthermore there were no restrictions on girls who wished to enter non-traditional fields such as engineering, science and technology -- the Government encouraged it. 

IFFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDURY (Bangladesh) said his country attached great priority to all issues concerning women, who made up half its population. Indeed, women were increasingly being integrated into society. Innovative home-grown ideas such as informal education strategies and microcredit schemes had vastly facilitated the empowerment of women. Women's participation in the country's most crucial industry for export earning -- garments -- had also increased. Empowerment was gradually being transformed into political power, and many major political parties were now headed by women. The famously active civil society in Bangladesh fervently advocated  and protected women's rights.  The actions of such groups and organizations had found support in the Government and in public bodies.

He said progress for women had not been achieved in a vacuum. It had flowed from certain values and principles that the wider society in Bangladesh held dear -- pluralism, democracy, good governance and human rights. In line with the principles of the Beijing Declaration, Bangladesh had elaborated legislation on such matters as Suppression of Immoral Trafficking (1993), Prevention of Women and Child Repression (2000), and Acid Crime Prevention (2002).  Those acts aimed at protecting women and girls form bias, prejudice and all forms of violence or discrimination.

Bangladesh was aware that challenges remained but believed it was on the right track, he said. Globally, there were also areas of concern that must be addressed, including the situation of women in armed conflict, violence against women and trafficking in women and girls. Further, Bangladesh did not believe that honour in any society could be advanced by acts of cruelty.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said that in Mali, women had always played a crucial role in national cohesion.  As strong a role as women played, they still faced problems.  Poverty had affected women more than men in Mali, as in many other developing countries.  That poverty was the result of misguided structural adjustment programmes and the foreign debt as well as the gradual deterioration of the environment.  The Government of Mali, however, was doing its utmost to promote the advancement of women in the social, political and economic fields.  

Mali had undertaken several initiatives to implement the recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Government was currently engaged in projects involving microcredit schemes.  These schemes had proved very useful and effective in the advancement of women, particularly in rural areas.  The Government had also undertaken projected training women entrepreneurs, and he also reported relative progress in the field of health, illiteracy, and school enrollment.  Through a public awareness campaign, the Government was encouraging rural women to bring their daughters to schools.  He stressed the importance of all Governments remaining committed to national and international promises to advance women.

CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA (Guatemala) said her country had submitted its combined third, fourth and fifth reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  It had sent a high-level delegation to report on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination  Against Women -- a testament to its commitment to the empowerment and advancement of women.  Guatemala had also ratified the Protocol to the Convention earlier this year and in April another important step towards the advancement of women had been taken with the adoption of the Policy for Social Development and Population.  That policy had integrated demographic considerations with social development strategies and outlined basic lines of action for the formulation of sectoral programmes and projects.  Those initiatives would be carried out in conjunction with the country's overall socio-economic development initiatives, with the active involvement of civil society.

She said another policy introduced had been the National Policy for the Promotion and Development of Guatemalan Women, and its correlative Plan for Equity in Opportunities (2001-2006).  The latter focused on several principle elements, including economic equity, integral health, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women and equity in education, among others.  That was the product of a consensus arising from a broad movement of women from civil society. Guatemala realized that much remained to be done, but the political decision to bring about the necessary change for the advancement of women in the country was at hand, and with the assistance of civil society, it would be possible to ensure that objective.

HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said his Government was continuing its efforts to achieve full gender equality.  Legislative measures had been taken to eliminate the remaining few elements of legal arrangements which might be considered as preventing full gender equality.  A constitutional amendment had been enacted in October 2001, which had redefined family as an entity based on equality between spouses.  Gender equality in the citizenship procedure of children born from mixed marriages had also been ensured through these amendments.  A new Civil Code had also been adopted, fundamentally improving the status of women and establishing full equality between men and women in the family.

These legal reforms constituted a major accomplishment towards the advancement of women and establishment of full gender equality.  However, legal measures alone were not sufficient to prevent gender discrimination.  Their implementation was of critical significance.  In this context he stressed the need for cooperation and said that in Turkey, awareness raising and information and education campaigns directed at ensuring gender equality, had been carried out by the media and civil society.

LULIT ZEWDIE G/MARIAM (Ethiopia) said in spite of the priorities for action outlined by the Beijing Declaration, women in many regions of the world, particularly in least developed countries, continued to disproportionately live in situations defined by absolute poverty, illiteracy and violence.  Further, globalization, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and protracted conflict had deepened poverty for and among African women.  In Ethiopia, poverty was the main obstacle to the full realization of women's equality.  It manifested itself in poor health, low levels of education, as well as lack of access to potable water, food insecurity and unemployment.  Further, women constituted the majority of the population living in rural areas, and they suffered the consequences of unsophisticated farming practices and inadequate power infrastructure.

She said one of the major development policies was the poverty reduction strategy within the framework of the country's Agricultural Development Industrialization Plan, that aimed to increase production and productivity, and, ultimately, economic growth.  The five-year Programme Cycle on Development, Peace and Democracy was focused on rural, people centred initiatives.  That programme also aimed to ensure accelerated and sustained economic growth by addressing chronic poverty through the reduction of food insecurity and creation of employment opportunities.  Education and health had also been given priority in Ethiopia's strategy for the advancement of women.  The 1994 Education and Training Policy had been designed with the main objective of reorienting the society concerning the role and contribution of women in development.

ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said gender equality was of utmost importance.  In United Nations conferences held in Madrid, Johannesburg and Monterrey, the international community had recognized the need to help women gain an equal footing.  Unfortunately, women still found themselves in grave situations of discrimination and violence.  This must be a source of concern to all countries.  Of particular concern to the Tunisian Government was the increasing rate of the feminization of poverty.

He stressed that the international community must take responsibility and act for the promotion and protection of women and their equal rights.  In this connection, he mentioned that the Government of Tunisia had been working on the creation of an international solidarity network for the world’s most vulnerable people, including women.

In Tunisia, the Government had created a system and strategy for the advancement of women.  Gender planning was important and must be one of the key priorities for all Governments.  He called upon on the international community to redouble its efforts to fight discrimination and promote a culture of non-violence, particularly within the family.

SAID SHIHAB AHMAD (Iraq) said despite various international efforts women faced tremendous obstacles as they struggled to obtain equitable and sustained development.  Those obstacles included foreign occupation, military aggression, lack of peace in some regions, deepening poverty and economic sanctions.  The international community should work in solidarity to mitigate the impact of globalization on developing and least developed countries.  Particular attention should be paid to ensuring the advancement of women.  His Government had stepped up its efforts to enhance the role of women in line with its accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Policies had been elaborated to promote the Convention and monitor its implementation.

However, the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq for the past 12 years had seriously hampered all the country's efforts to achieve overall development and had especially negatively affected Iraqi women and children.  Those sanctions had led to deterioration in all economic and social areas.  Women in particular had been forced to seek alternatives to meet the basic necessities of every day life.  Moreover, the lingering aftereffects of American and British depleted uranium and radioactive weapons had done serious damage to the environment that had exacerbated the already precarious general and reproductive health of Iraqi women. Sadly, cases of leukemia, breast cancer and other serious diseases were on the rise.  Iraq also drew attention to the grave humanitarian situation faced by Palestinian women living under Israeli occupation.  Those women suffered daily violence and degradation.  He called on the international community to ensure that Israel adhered to international human rights instruments and norms.

RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said women played a basic role in development of society, working side by side with men.  Accordingly, the Syrian Government treated women equally in terms of rights and opportunities.  The National Strategy had been implemented in the context of economic and social development plans, in accordance with the Beijing Platform of Action.  Achievements in Syria could be seen in the participation of women in political, economic and social matters.  Those achievements included equal job opportunities and salaries for men and women in Syria. 

In addition, the Government was assisting women in rural areas, and in both urban and rural areas, access to health care for women had improved.  Rates of illiteracy had decreased, and school enrolment had increased.  She stressed that the international community must implement all parts of the Beijing platform of action -- rights had to be enjoyed by all women, not only by some.  In this context, women under foreign occupation had their human rights violated.  Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian women living under Israeli occupation were suffering from the occupation of land and a policy of oppression.  Women’s associations in Syria would continue to follow the situation of women in the Syrian Golan.  The occupation must end, or the talk of advancement of women would seem rather pointless. 

NADYA RASHEED, observer of Palestine, said all women aspired to achieve the goals and objectives embodied in the plans of action adopted over the years by the international community.  Palestinian women were no different -- they held the same aspirations.  However, 35 years under Israeli occupation had seriously hampered efforts for their advancement and empowerment.  In addition, as the situation of Palestinian women had deteriorated even more severely in the past two years, any attempts to implement international objectives now appeared nearly impossible.  The situation on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, had degenerated at an alarming rate, impacting the social, economic, educational, health and cultural life of all Palestinian families.  Since 28 September 2000, the Palestinian people had been subjected to innumerable war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations by the Israeli occupying forces.

She said in light of all that, any hopes the Palestinian women had to pursue initiatives and national programmes geared towards their advancement and full participation in building the society in which they lived had all but diminished.  Moreover, women's organizations and charitable societies, like all Palestinian NGOs, had suffered considerable financial losses due to the policies and measures imposed by the Israeli occupying forces.  The denial of freedom and the right to self-determination was the major impediment to development of all Palestinians in the occupied territories.  One could not seriously address the advancement of the rights of women forced to live under such conditions.  The international community must take urgent action to bring an end to all Israeli crimes and actions against the Palestinian people and end the occupation.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said the Beijing Declaration represented a turning point in terms of women’s rights and gender equality.  All Governments had made efforts to ensure the advancement of women; however, many women were still subjected to discrimination.  It was necessary to provide resources for the advancement of women, and particular assistance was required for developing countries.  Official development assistance needed to be strengthened to ensure social development, including gender equality.

In Morocco, women were treated with respect, he said.  Respect for women was an integral part of the Islamic culture of tolerance.  Regarding achievements made concerning women’s civil and political rights, he said thirty seats in the parliament were now dedicated to women candidates.  The Moroccan Government was integrating and involving women in its five-year plan for the advancement of women.  This had included the setting up of a commission on women, which was to coordinate work on gender equality.  Morocco had also revised its national legislation so that it would be in accordance with Morocco’s international commitments.

OUNSENG VIXAY (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said his Government was committed to providing the women of the country with the opportunity to participate in economic, social and political life.  In that regard, it had adopted a Population Development Strategy as well as the Lao Women's Action Plan, which emphasized and recognized the importance of promoting the role and status of women in the country's development process.  The Lao Women's Union was the national mechanism for the promotion of equal rights and the advancement of women.  It also oversaw the implementation of the Government's relevant policies and programmes.  In light of those and other actions, the women of his country had become more aware of their rights and could now better protect their interests.

He said that in recent years, the number of women leaders had increased not only in the business sector but in public agencies as well.  In the national Assembly, for instance, the number of women parliamentarians had increased from 9.4 per cent in 1992 to over 20 per cent in 2002, and one was Vice-President.  The number of women in various government agencies had also increased.  On the issue of violence against women, the Government had undertaken various measures to eliminate that scourge.  Those included coordination training courses, the establishment of legal counseling offices and effective prevention measures, and providing assistance to victims.

MARGARET AWINO (Uganda) said Uganda was predominantly an agricultural economy.  Agriculture contributed 52 per cent of the gross domestic product and about 90 per cent of export earnings and employed 80 per cent of the labour force.  The economic structure had major implications for women mainly in rural areas, as they produced 80 per cent of the food and provided 70 per cent of the agricultural labour force.  It was interesting to note that there had been a transformation in Uganda with women moving from being principally confined to the unpaid subsistence sector to paid employment in the commercial and industrial sectors.  Nevertheless, a large percentage was still engaged in the non-monetary subsistence sector.  Efforts had been made to give women access to credit schemes through non-traditional financial institutions. 

Uganda still faced the challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and women were the worst hit, she said.  Even with the current drop in overall statistics, the proportion of women with HIV infection was still high.  There was currently a National Health Policy and Health Sector Investment Plan which aimed at preventive health, with emphasis on community based interventions in health promotion and disease control. 

SHAHID HUSAIN, Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said his delegation remained cognizant of the need to address the role of women in the development process, as exemplified by the latest resolution adopted by Ministers at the Conference's twenty-ninth session last June.  That resolution had indicated the OIC's conviction that the goals and principles of peace, justice and equality for all human beings could only be achieved through the participation of all Muslims, including Muslim women.

He said that Islam had long ago outlawed all forms of violence against women.  He added that it was important to ensure that the ways and means were found to ensure that the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) could be strengthened and stabilized.  Noting that the report of the Secretary-General on the status of women in the United Nations system stated that more work should be done to ensure 50 per cent gender balance, he said it would be helpful if future reports detailed the geographical distribution of the posts held by women in the Organization.

GEORGE TAOLISANU, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the plight of women affected by armed conflict had been the focus of significant attention in recent years, as manifested by numerous debates, resolutions and studies, both within the United Nations and beyond.  While so many women shared a common fate of deprivation, separation and violence, their experience of war was as diverse as their roles in war-torn societies.  Often, war forced them into unfamiliar roles where they developed remarkable coping skills.  This demonstrated that women could not be merely considered as passive recipients incapable of taking charge of their own destiny. 

He said women must be involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of programmes carried out in their favour.  This would help ensure that their specific problems and needs were taken into account and that they were not exploited or abused.  On the whole, the protection provided by the combined regimes of international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law, was adequate.  The main challenge lay in implementation and respect of existing norms.   

IRMA LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) said Suriname’s national gender policy included the participation of women in the development process.  Her country was committed to work on the various issues on the agenda of the Commission on the Status of Women, such as women’s human rights, the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, and the equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes.

She condemned the way older women were still being treated in many communities, often set aside, neglected, ripped from their savings and abused.  Older women in developing countries must be acknowledged, rewarded for their important contributions towards their children and their partners, and towards the social and economic development of their countries.  Most had been dedicated workers, with low salaries or even unpaid, as breadwinners and caregivers for the rapidly growing number of orphans as a consequence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

MAVIS KUSORGBOR (Ghana) said critical national attention was needed when looking at the reproductive health of women.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic remained a major challenge as it rapidly reversed the modest progress made in economic development.  A major source of concern for the Government related to the transmission of the virus, and the limited access of pregnant women to confidential testing and counseling for the protection of unborn children.  That was largely due to the lack of adequate resources to provide the requisite facilities and medication.

The increasing spate of violence against women globally was indeed worrisome, she said, condemning all acts of violence against women, as they constituted the violations of fundamental human rights.  To protect women’s rights, Ghana had incorporated some of the provisions of international instruments into national laws.  Awareness was being created about the recognition of “women’s rights” as “human rights”.  There was also a sustained local campaign to educate girls and women about their rights at the district and local levels, where the problem was pervasive.

MARIA FABIANA LOGUZZO (Argentina) said, regarding the Secretary-General's report on violence against women and crimes of honour (document A/57/169), that the report's allegation that "honour" could be used as a partial or complete defense in cases of alleged killings in her country was completely erroneous.  Indeed, Argentinean law severely penalized anyone who killed a parent, offspring or spouse in a premeditated manner.  The law referred to the state of violent emotion which could lead to murder, but such a state must always be demonstrated in a trial.  Argentina was struck by the ambiguity of the concepts used by the Secretary-General, as well as the sources of information, and regretted that those findings had been presented in his report.  She added that when Argentina had last been before the Committee reviewing compliance with the women's anti-discrimination Convention, that body had not highlighted any irregularities in the country's legislation.

AMAR RAJ JOSHI (Nepal) said even though there had been much talk of the advancement of women, women had not been given equal rights to men in several countries.  There had been an increased recognition of the need for the advancement of women, not only because it was their human right, but also because of women’s crucial role in social development.  Norms and values had been created; however they had not been satisfactorily implemented.  A gender-based strategic focus needed to be strengthened to truly advance women and their rights. 

According to Nepal, the education of women and girls must obtain the highest priority in the advancement of women, he continued.  Although women’s illiteracy was unfortunately far higher than that of men, women’s participation in political life had increased.  The Government had given priority in its programmes to domestic violence and trafficking in women and girls, but the international community must extend assistance to help national initiatives.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Israel recalled a recent incident in which a young women just 28 years old had been blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber with ten of her friends at a cafe.  That was only one example of a growing list of victims of Palestinian terror.  He added that the international community was witnessing a growing number of Palestinian women committing themselves to acts of terror and suicide bombing -- supporting death rather than life.  The world had also witnessed Palestinian mothers praising the efforts of those children that had been responsible for the killing of innocent civilians.  He would have expected the observer of Palestine to express an unequivocal condemnation of violence in her statement.  Sadly, that had not been the case. 

In reply, the observer of Palestine said not surprisingly, the statement of the Israeli delegation was full of distortion and inaccuracies.  The Palestinian people had always condemned all acts of terror against civilians.  By disregarding that position, Israel had taken the opportunity to continue its military campaign and cycle of violence that had overshadowed any attempts to move toward peace. Even in times of relative calm, Israel had continued its actions.  All had witnessed the killing of some 17 Palestinians by Israeli forces Monday -- many of them had been men and children.  Those actions had been condemned by the Secretary-General, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had called the action "a success".  She reasserted her position and conviction that a solution could be reached only thorough diplomatic negotiation.

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For information media. Not an official record.