SPEAKERS IN THIRD COMMITTEE CALL FOR END TO ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN, MEASURES TO ADDRESS GENDER IMBALANCE IN UNITED NATIONS

10 October 2006
GA/SHC/3851

SPEAKERS IN THIRD COMMITTEE CALL FOR END TO ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN, MEASURES TO ADDRESS GENDER IMBALANCE IN UNITED NATIONS

10 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3851
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Third Committee

10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

SPEAKERS IN THIRD COMMITTEE CALL FOR END TO ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION

AGAINST WOMEN, MEASURES TO ADDRESS GENDER IMBALANCE IN UNITED NATIONS

Draft Resolutions Introduced on World Social Summit Outcome, Ageing,

Trafficking in Persons, World Drug Problem, Strengthening UN Crime Programme

Despite national and international efforts to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment, violence against women remained widespread, several representatives told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today during the continued general discussion on the advancement of women.  The representative of Iceland said that the high incidence of violence against women should be considered a “human rights crisis”.

The representative of India said the need to end to all forms of discrimination against women was universally recognized, but had not been translated into reality.  Greater empowerment of women -- socially, economically and politically –- was urgent.

She noted that the United Nations should have taken a lead role in promoting the advancement of women, not merely in advocacy, but in implementing the goals of 50/50 gender distribution within its own organization.  India hoped that the United Nations would take suitable measures to redress the persistent imbalance.

Echoing that concern, the representative of Canada regretted that the percentage of women in professional and senior posts in the Secretariat and the rest of the United Nations system had remained static and, in some cases, had decreased.  That lack of progress, and even regression, in the last two years required a serious rethinking of current policies in order for the Organization to meet its gender-balance targets and to carry out its mandate.

The representative of the Philippines added that the report on gender mainstreaming within the United Nations had revealed that many bodies, including some of the Main Committees of the General Assembly, were not gender-sensitive in their work.  That was a “definite eye-opener”, she said, suggesting that there must be a conscious effort to ensure that gender sensitivity became a mandatory cross-cutting element of United Nations reform.

Many of the representatives speaking today noted that women increasingly occupied senior leadership positions in their countries, with women currently serving as the President of the Philippines, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, and the Foreign Minister of Croatia.  However, the representative of Jamaica noted that, even though one of the country’s most dynamic female leaders was now Prime Minister, it was still a novelty to see women reaching such political heights and much more had to be done.  Women’s equality and advancement could be realized only if other critical areas, such as poverty, education, health and full participation in decision-making, were addressed, she said.

Among the challenges cited by representatives was the prevalence of discriminatory social and cultural attitudes.  The representative of Zambia, for instance, noted that violence against women in his country was closely linked to strong patriarchal beliefs that reinforced the dominance of men and boys over women and girls.  In addressing such deeply rooted problems, it was essential to reach out to men and boys directly, said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.  She stressed that the Fund would continue to work with all partners, including men, to more forcefully address violence against women as a serious human rights violation and to end impunity.

Ms. Obaid also noted that the international community could not make poverty history, stop the spread of HIV, or build a world of peace and security until it put an end to violence against women and girls.  Some progress had been made, she said, including bringing national laws into compliance with international standards, providing a range of services to victims, and training police, armed forces, and United Nations peacekeepers.  What was needed at this critical juncture was bold leadership matched with the allocation of significant resources

Also making statements today were representatives of Cuba, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Syria, San Marino, Singapore, Libya, Kuwait, Japan, Yemen, Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Thailand, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Viet Nam, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Fiji, Qatar, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Myanmar and Malawi.

The representative of the Sudan also made a statement on the activities of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Observer for Palestine also made a statement.

The representative of Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply, as did the Observer for Palestine.

A representative of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women also spoke, as did a representative of the International Organization for Migration.

In other business, the Committee today heard the introduction of draft resolutions on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/61/L.5), on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/61/L.6), on improving the coordination of efforts against slavery and trafficking in persons (document A/C.3/61/L.7), on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme (document A/C.3/61/L.9), and on international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/61/L.8).

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., 11 October, to continue its debate on the advancement of women.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion on the advancement of women.

The Committee also heard the introduction of three draft resolutions on social development, including drafts on implementation of the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade (document A/C.3/61/L.4), implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/61/L.5) and follow-up to the Second World Summit on Ageing (document A/C.3/61/L.6).

The Committee also heard the introduction of two drafts on crime prevention and criminal justice, including on improving the coordination of efforts against slavery and the trafficking of persons (document A/C.3/61/L.7) and strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme (document A/C.3/61/L.9), as well as a draft on international cooperation against the world drug problem (A/C.3/61/L.8).

For further background, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3850 of 9 October.

Statements

MABEL REBELLO ( India) said fundamental equality between women and men, as well as an end to all forms of discrimination against women, was a universally recognized need that had not been translated into reality.  Greater empowerment of women –- socially, economically and politically -– had become more urgent.  The United Nations should have taken a lead role, not merely in advocacy, but in implementing the goals of 50/50 gender distribution within its own organization.  India hoped that the United Nations would take suitable measures to redress this imbalance.  In India, gender equality and the empowerment of women had consistently received careful attention, where the Common Minimum Programme of the Government recognized the empowerment of women as a top priority.

Violence against women was a global evil that respected no geographical boundaries, she said.  It had to be addressed urgently.  Last year the Indian Parliament passed legislation, which provided immediate and emergency relief to women in situations of domestic violence.  In the countryside, one third of the beneficiaries of the National Employment Guarantee Programme - which assures every rural household 100 days of wage employment annually - were women.  On peacekeeping, she said India had contributed women military and police officers to a number of United Nations field missions.  It was honoured to send the first-ever female police unit to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNIMIL).  This reflected India’s commitment to helping the Organization reach out to the vulnerable, especially women, in conflict and post-conflict situations.

JORGE CUMBERBATCH ( Cuba) noted that globalization had broadened the gap between the rich and poor, and contributed to the “feminization” of poverty.  He said women were the majority of victims of war, famine, preventable disease, and racism, and also suffered the most from the tragedies of domestic violence, trafficking, and forced prostitution.  Without firm political will it would not be possible to achieve the goals agreed to by the international community.  National efforts of developing countries required just and equitable international cooperation.

He said Cuba supported efforts to end gender discrimination and promote women’s empowerment.  Ever since the Cuban revolution, the country had made progress in that regard.  Women represented more than 45 per cent of the Cuban labour force.  Women representatives constituted 36 per cent of the parliament, putting Cuba in seventh place in the world for the number of female deputies.  This progress was noted last August, when Cuba submitted its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  The unquestionable steps forward had occurred despite the unjust economic embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States, which was the greatest form of violence against women.  Cuba would continue to cooperate with international efforts to secure the rights of women.

VUSALA ALLYEVA, Deputy Head of the International Relations Department at the State Committee for Family, Women and Children of Azerbaijan, said violence against women would not be eradicated without political will and commitment at the highest level.  Azerbaijan welcomed the findings in the Secretary-General’s study, which would certainly foster action at all levels.  In Azerbaijan, elaborating efficient strategies to prevent and eliminate violence against women had been a priority within the national gender policy.  The problem had been particularly acute in some rural areas, and also among refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, because of their particular economic and social insecurity and vulnerability.  Much remained to be done, however, to address shortcomings, such as ineffective work by law enforcement bodies; a lack of accurate statistics and a weak system of institutions responsible for protecting victims of violence.

She said cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United Nations system in the field of gender equality and empowerment of women had been strengthened as a result of a first-ever visit to Azerbaijan by Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).  A strong United Nations presence in the field was critical for ensuring support to national efforts, she added, and Azerbaijan therefore reiterated its support for strengthening UNIFEM’s presence on the ground.

KANG KUM-SIL ( Republic of Korea) said the advancement of women and women’s rights was indispensable to promoting and ensuring prosperity and human rights for all.  The Secretary-General’s report on violence against women helped countries gain a better understanding of the issue.  She said she also took note of the Secretary-General’s remarks on women suffering from discrimination because of race, sexual preference, disability and migrant status.

She said the Government of the Republic of Korea had taken steps to ensure migrant women were protected against domestic violence and sexual harassment on the job.  An inter-agency consultation mechanism, set up in April, offered direct support to migrant women in the country.  She supported inclusion of the August draft on disabilities as a separate article in the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Women’s participation in decision-making and management was essential to the advancement of women, she said.  In that regard, the Republic of Korea had appointed its first female Prime Minister and had taken other steps to enhance women’s roles in traditionally male-dominated fields like science and engineering.

HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) said he warmly welcomed the comprehensive report of the Secretary-General, whose recommendations constituted a clear strategy for Member States and the United Nations system to make measurable progress in preventing and eliminating violence against women.  His country believed that the level of violence against women deserved to be seen as a human rights crisis.  In armed conflicts around the globe, women were terrorized with rape and other physical violence.  The use of rape as a weapon of war was a phenomenon that the international community must address with greater vigour.

He said thousands of women and children had become victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution.  Much more needed to be done to combat this evil, he said, noting that Iceland had emphasized the role of regional institutions in combating trafficking in human beings, and had contributed actively to the anti-trafficking work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  His country supported the work of the UNIFEM and believed the agency should be given more weight within the United Nations system.  His country also strongly supported the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) as an important instrument to ensure the advancement of women.  In closing, he urged all States that had not yet done so to ratify as soon as possible the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol.

LEYSA FAYE ( Senegal) said sustainable development and a reduction in poverty could not fully be realized without the elimination of inequalities between women and men.  In Senegal, efforts regarding women in recent years had aimed at incorporating women in development activities.  Education had led to considerable improvement in the lives of Senegalese women.  Literate women were more visible in their actions, and had been demanding their place in decision-making.

There had been some progress regarding the reproductive health of women, he said, notably in the regression of taboos related to maternity and the social stigmatization of rape victims.  Rural women, meanwhile, had been very active in the transformation and marketing of agricultural products, livestock-raising and fishing.  In urban areas, women had been active in the formal and informal sectors.  The policy of the Senegalese President and his Government favoured the participation of women at the international level; women now were included in most official delegations.

WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said that gender equality was enshrined in her country’s Constitution and was a basis of its development policy.  While the Secretary-General’s report had taken up some very important issues, her delegation had hoped it would underscore the tragic consequences of foreign occupation, which had impeded the exercise of women’s basic rights.  The report was to have covered all causes of violence against women, including its root causes, she said.

Syria was working to implement the outcomes of the Beijing Conference, including through its five-year plan, she said.  The country had developed strategies for the development of rural women, for reproductive health and to strengthen citizenship.  The next five-year plan, for 2005-2010, would focus on reducing the gap in education for girls and women and increasing the number of seats held by women in the legislature.  Her Government had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and had submitted its first report on the progress made in implementation of the treaty.  Her country faced many challenges that impeded the achievement of national aspirations, including the ongoing Israeli occupation of Arab Territories.  The occupation had denied women basic rights to education, health and work.  Her delegation had reaffirmed its position that efforts to secure women’s rights would not be genuine unless measures were taken to address the problems of Arab women under foreign occupation.

NILLA BERNARDI ( San Marino) said that in her country, as in many European countries, the path towards gender equality and women’s empowerment had been relatively easy.  Thanks to favourable economic conditions, the level of participation of women had been important.  Currently, 7 out of a total 60 members of Parliament were women, and 2 of them were Government ministers.  A Minister of Gender Equality had also been appointed.  A significant number of women held medium-ranking and high-ranking positions in the public and private sectors, and women had also been very active in civil society.

Wage equality had been a consolidated achievement in San Marino, she said.  Education was available to all, was extremely high and diversified and offered a wide range of employment opportunities.  With regard to nationality, since November 2003, San Marino women could transmit their nationality to their children.  San Marino believed the United Nations could have a central role in levelling down gender inequalities and in redefining social and traditional rules which comprised a fair and balanced social order and the development of society.

CHARLES CHEW ( Singapore) began by noting that the continued perpetration of violence against women, despite worldwide efforts, was a tragedy.  Singapore did not tolerate violence against women, recognizing that women were half of the human capital of a small country.  He reviewed his country’s efforts to deal with the issue, noting amendments to the Women’s Charter in 1996, which provided greater protection to family members against violence, and the establishment of the Family Violence Dialogue Group in 2001.  He also highlighted the National Family Violence Networking System, a support network that links the police, prisons, hospitals, local non-governmental organizations and the women’s ministry, providing multiple access points for victims to get help.

Singapore also had acted to promote women’s rights through its membership in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), he said.  Two years ago, ASEAN had endorsed a declaration on the elimination of violence against women.  Next month, Singapore would host the meeting of the fifth ASEAN Committee on Women, which will consider the theme of economic empowerment.

SAMIRA ABUBAKER ( Libya) said the Millennium Development Goals could not be fulfilled without incorporating the Beijing Platform for Action on women.  There had been progress, thanks to a focus on human rights and health for women.  However, women still lacked an equal footing with men in terms of access to decision-making.  Political will was needed to overcome that hurdle, backed up by financial support.  Girls should be encouraged to pursue an education, as they would be the women of tomorrow who would have to be on an equal footing with men.

Libya was particularly concerned by the situation of women in Africa, she said.  It was also concerned by the plight of Palestinian women living under the yoke of Israeli occupation, as pregnant Palestinian women could not get to the hospitals, risking their own lives and those of their babies.  Trafficking of women, a violation of women’s rights, had to be criminalized through international agreements.  Libya had been one of the first States to accede to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and women now could be found in diplomatic and military positions in Libya and in the highest levels of the Government.  Libya was doing everything possible to promote women in all spheres to ensure full equality.

NELL STEWART (Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said the Secretary-General’s report on the study of violence against women closely corroborated the central finding of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, namely that a comprehensive, systematic collection and analysis of data on gender-based violence was urgently needed.  The limited availability of such data did not lessen States’ obligations to exercise due diligence to eradicate violence against women and girls, but the data was essential to improving policies and practices to prevent such violence.  Greater political will and resources were urgently needed to implement Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.  That resolution was adopted six years ago, but the perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence by State and non-State actors continued unabated and must be addressed.  He supported applying resolution 1325 to the work of the new Peacebuilding Commission.

She said she regretted that the percentage of women in professional and senior posts in the Secretariat, and the rest of the United Nations system, remained static, and in some cases had decreased.  That lack of progress, and even regression, in the last two years, required a serious rethinking of current policies in order to meet the Organization’s gender balance targets and to make credible the commitment of the programme managers charged with carrying out the mandate.

AISHA AL-DIKHEEL ( Kuwait) expressed great satisfaction for the Secretary-General’s in-depth study and hoped it would be a major reference for ongoing efforts to control violence against women.  She noted that all contemporary societies, irrespective of ethnic or religious background, sought to combat gender discrimination.  Kuwait was keen to translate the ideals of gender equality and women’s empowerment into reality.  The country’s Constitution enshrined the principle of equality, specifying that there should be no discrimination on the basis of gender.  Kuwait had acceded to the Convention, and had incorporated its provisions into national legislation.  The Government had provided the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women with four reports on legislative and judicial measures taken to enforce the treaty’s provisions.

Kuwait had worked to reduce illiteracy among women in recent years, which had dropped to 20.4 per cent, and her country had increased the number of girls enrolled in primary and secondary schools.  Also, there were greater numbers of women running for political office, from the municipal council to the national parliament.  Thirty-five per cent of women had participated in recent polls, which marked an important step toward realizing full democracy in Kuwait.  Last year, the first Kuwaiti woman had been appointed to a cabinet post.  She concluded by noting that the constant efforts to promote gender equality emanated from the values of Kuwaiti society and the teachings of Islam.

MIKIKO OTANI ( Japan) said her country believed that further efforts had to be made to achieve gender equality, so that women could fully realize their potential and play a wide range of vital roles in society.  In Japan, the revised Basic Plan for Gender Equality had set a target of 30 per cent women in leadership positions in all fields of society by 2020.  Japan had also revised its equal employment opportunity law to address detrimental treatment of women as a result of pregnancy.  Regionally, it had hosted a ministerial-level meeting of East Asian officials on the theme “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia”.

She said Japan warmly welcomed the Secretary-General’s study on violence against women.  Her country considered that UNIFEM had played an important role.  Japan had worked to integrate a gender-equality perspective in its Overseas Development Assistance and strengthened its assistance to efforts in developing countries to achieve gender equality.  In Timor-Leste, Japan had extended $5 million to enhance rural communities through a project that included income-generating activities such as weaving and basket-making that enabled women to contribute to community development.  In Afghanistan, it had supported a UNIFEM project and promoted the re-integration of female refugees and internally displaced persons.

MARIE YVETTE BANZON ( Philippines) said that gender equality and women’s empowerment were important pillars of her country’s development.  Work had been guided by the President’s Framework Plan for Women, which focused on the promotion of women’s rights, promotion of women’s economic empowerment and implementation of gender-responsive governance.  She noted recent legislative reform, citing the abolition of capital punishment and new laws to deal with violence against women and trafficking.  The “Magna Carta for Women” was in the final stages of review in the House of Representatives, and, if passed, would help promote gender equality.  Nearly one-third of Filipino women lived below the poverty line, she said, most of them in rural areas.  The Government had a launched a programme to address the practical needs of those women, working to promote employment and entrepreneurship.

She referred to the issue of gender mainstreaming in the United Nations.  To know that there were bodies in the United Nations, including some of the main committees of the General Assembly, which were not so gender-sensitive in their work, was a “definite eye-opener”, she said.  There must be a conscious effort to ensure that gender sensitivity became a mandatory cross-cutting element of United Nations reform.

ARIEL BOWEN ( Jamaica) described how Jamaicans had beamed with pride when it was announced that one of their most dynamic female leaders had emerged as Prime Minister.  However, the essence of this elation was the fact that, after so many years, it was still a novelty to see women reaching such political heights.  It was clear that much more had to be done.  Women’s equality and advancement could be realized only if other critical areas, such as poverty, education, health and full participation in decision-making, were addressed.

The Secretary-General’s study had reaffirmed what was already believed: violence against women was a global phenomenon.  Indeed, it was one of the greatest and most debasing violations of women’s human rights.  For some time, the Government of Jamaica had been seeking to address the issue of violence against women, including human trafficking and sexual abuse, through legislation and public education.  It had been encouraging to see that 184 countries had become State parties to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  However, translating commitments to the national level was an important goal in itself, and developing countries would need help in making the transition.

MOHAMED AL SADAH ( Yemen) said he commended Palestinian women for their courage as they lived in a tragic situation, due to Israeli occupation.  His delegation sought full implementation of the outcomes of the Beijing Conference and Yemen had a number of bodies dealing with the advancement of women, including the Supreme Council for Women and the National Organization for Women.  Since the State’s founding, the Government had worked to mainstream women’s issues into social, economic, and cultural life.  The Constitution enshrined women’s rights in accordance with sharia law.

Women in Yemen exercised full political rights without any impediments, he said.  They were represented at all levels of Government, with women in the Cabinet, Parliament, local councils, Supreme Court, diplomatic corps and police force.  The Constitution also enshrined the right of education to all.  Young girls were given free primary education in accordance with a recent decision of the Council of Ministers.  Yemen also had recently enacted a law prohibiting violence against women.  His country was ready to do more, recognizing that sustainable development was not possible without the equal participation of women and men at all levels.

ABDELFATTAH EL-KADIRI ( Morocco) said that, over three decades, the international community’s interest in improving the condition of women had never ceased to grow.  From Mexico to Beijing, via Nairobi and Copenhagen, the feminist movement had been structured and reinforced, thanks, notably, to the international community’s firm and irreversible commitment to gender equality.  Morocco had always worked with determination and perseverance to promote the role of women within its society.  That interest had been reinforced by the bold direction and decisions taken by King Mohammed VI, who had put the protection of the rights of women at the heart of his vision of a social democratic and modernist society.

In Morocco today, two women had been named to the Government, and there were 35 women elected to Parliament in the most recent legislative polls, he said.  Crucial importance had been given to harmonizing Moroccan legislation with international human rights instruments.  Penal code reform had reinforced the protection of women and children, including measures against child pornography and sexual harassment.  In the same spirit, and in a turning point for Morocco, the family code had been revised, introducing new structures such as the introduction of a judge responsible for marriages.  Besides legal measures, the country had adopted in May 2006 a national strategy for integrating gender equality into development policies and programmes.

TENS KAPOMA (Zambia) reiterated his country’s commitment to enhancing women’s participation in national development at all levels, so as to assure the attainment of equity and equality between the sexes.  Zambia had taken steps to ensure the speedy mainstreaming of gender into national development plans.  However, gender mainstreaming in itself was not enough.  With a lack of expertise and resources to fund gender training and gender-sensitive research and analysis, complementary strategies had to be developed to overcome inadequate institutional capacity at the ministerial, provincial and district levels.

He said violence against women in Zambia had been closely linked to the socio-economic status of women and to strong patriarchal beliefs, which reinforced the dominance of men and boys over women and girls, respectively.  While it could be said that patriarchal beliefs tended to predispose women and girls to various forms of violence, it was mostly the attitudes of society that tended to perpetrate this scenario.  Zambia had put into place a number of measures to eradicate violence against women, such as the establishment of a Sex Crimes Unit within the police service.  A review of the Constitution, meanwhile, provided a unique opportunity for gender issues to be mainstreamed into the primary law of the land.

KERIM URAS ( Turkey) said States, civil society and international organizations should work together to achieve success in countering violence against women.  For its part, Turkey pursued a comprehensive legal and social strategy to curtail such violence.  Legal measures included the Law on Protection of the Family, which facilitated the lodging of complaints by victims; the new Penal Code, which abolished any mitigating clause that might result in the reduction of sentences in cases of “honour killings”; and the new Law on Municipalities, which stipulated that municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants should establish shelters for women.

Education and awareness-raising programmes were equally vital, he said.  Special training programmes were being prepared for the security forces, healthcare personnel and other public servants who dealt with women who may be subjected to violence.  He also highlighted the work of non-governmental organizations in conducting research on violence against women, developing strategies for an effective response, and providing counselling services and shelter for women suffering from violence.  Turkey gave priority to the issue of violence against women and believed the issue deserved the same priority at the international level.

CARMEN MORENO, Director of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said violence against women had been, and would remain, a significant obstacle to gender equality, human security and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  INSTRAW’s work had shown that, unless the definition of security was re-conceptualized so as to include the human security of women, women would continue to live in situations of conflict and violence, whether or not their countries were at war.

INSTRAW had been looking at the impact of violence against women in several areas of its work, such as migration, she said.  It had also been carrying out several projects, such as the development of training tools to improve the ability of public security institutions to respond to violence against women.  The time had come to follow the example of the Millennium Development Goals, by setting a target and aiming for a 50 per cent reduction in violence against women, thus improving the quality of life for millions of men and women.  To meet such a target would require zero tolerance of violence against women.

THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), said she welcomed the Secretary-General’s landmark report on all forms of violence against women.  The Fund would continue to work with partners to more forcefully address violence against women and girls, as a serious human rights violation and to end impunity.  The international community could not make poverty history, stop the spread of HIV, or build a world of peace and security until it put an end to violence against women and girls.  The Fund worked to ensure that addressing violence against women and girls was an integral part of sexual and reproductive health programmes.  For millions of women around the world, a visit to a health clinic might be the only opportunity they had to get the services and support they needed.

The Fund fully agreed with the recommendation of the Secretary-General’s report that entities of the United Nations system and all other donors should provide increased resources for national action plans to prevent and eliminate violence against women, particularly in the least developed countries and in countries emerging from conflict.  She stressed that the world could never put a stop to violence against women until men were made partners in that effort.  Some progress had been made -- including in bringing national laws into compliance with international standards -- in providing a range of services to victims, and in training police, armed forces and United Nations peacekeepers. What was needed at this critical juncture was bold leadership, matched with the allocation of significant resources, she said.

ANKE STRAUSS, of the International Organization for Migration, said that more than half the world’s 195 million migrants were women.  Migration could have an empowering effect, particularly when female migrants found themselves in the position of decision-makers and breadwinners.  However, female migrants were also more prone to discrimination and abuse, because of their dual vulnerability as women and foreigners.  They often ended up in appalling working conditions and they were more likely than men to be exposed to forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution and other kinds of violence.  Many did not have information to help them fight against sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.

Some key recommendations had come out a joint IOM - United Nations Population Fund workshop on female migrants, held in New York earlier this year, she said.  One recommendation called for basic human rights to be afforded to female migrants in countries of transit.  Another said States of destination should help create an enabling environment for female migrants, encouraging host communities to accept them as contributing members of society.  Countries of origin could meanwhile provide essential support for returning migrant women. They had much to offer, but they could face stigma and discrimination if they were failed asylum seekers or if they had been smuggled or trafficked.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

The representative of South Africa introduced the draft resolution on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/61/L.5), as orally amended.  The draft highlighted the priority objectives of the Copenhagen Summit, namely poverty eradication, full employment and social integration.  Progress towards those goals had been slow and uneven, she noted.  The draft devoted special attention to the goal of poverty eradication, and also aimed to strengthen the Commission for Social Development.  It emphasized that poverty eradication policies should address the root and structural causes and that entrenched inequality was an obstacle to people-centred social development.  The draft reaffirmed that international cooperation was essential in assisting national efforts to implement the outcomes of World Summit for Social Development and welcomed innovative financing mechanisms.

The Chairman noted that a draft resolution on illiteracy (document A/C.3/61/L.4) would be introduced at a later stage.

The representative of South Africa then took the floor again to introduce the draft resolution on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/61/L.6), which aimed to strengthen national capacity on ageing issues.  The draft called for greater international support for national efforts to implement the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  It also called for a bottom-up review of the Plan and encouraged greater consultation with older persons, with the particular aim of eradicating poverty among older persons.  It further invited Governments to designate focal points for handling follow-up of national plans of action on ageing, and called on the international community to provide adequate support for research on ageing and to support the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing.  The Russian Federation joined as a co-sponsor of the draft.

Introducing the draft on improving the coordination of efforts against slavery and trafficking in persons (document A/C.3/61/L.7), the representative of Belarus, also on behalf of Nigeria, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam, noted that millions of trafficked human beings, mainly women and children, were denied their human rights daily.  The problem required a more concerted approach by the international community under the aegis of the United Nations, he said.  The draft resolution proposed the creation of an inter-agency working group on trafficking in persons that would serve as a mechanism for the coordination of work between international agencies involved in counter-trafficking efforts.  That was a cost-effective mechanism that would streamline the efforts of the international community without incurring additional expenses for the United Nations.  Adoption of the resolution would send a strong political and deeply humane message that the international community was determined to crush the problem.  Ecuador joined as a co-sponsor of the draft.

The representative of Italy introduced the draft resolution on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme (document A/C.3/61/L.9), with Panama, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Nigeria, Ecuador, Morocco, Guatemala and Benin joining as co-sponsors.  Italy wished to see the General Assembly play a more action-oriented role to improve the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  The draft took note of the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, and recommended postponing consideration of the issue until next year.

The Chairman noted that a draft resolution on strengthening the criminal justice programme (document A/C.3/61/L.2) would give rise to programme-budget implications and would be issued in the coming days.  He also referred to a draft resolution on international cooperation to combat kidnapping (document A/C.3/61/L.3).

The representative of Mexico, also on behalf of Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay, introduced a draft resolution on international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/61/L.8).  She noted that drug trafficking and drug consumption continued to have devastating effects.  The draft was based on the fact that, as the phenomenon knew no borders, there was a need for greater international cooperation.  Nigeria, Morocco, and Ghana joined as co-sponsors.

IDREES MOHAMED ALI MOHAMMED SAEED (The Sudan) referred to the statement made to the Third Committee on 4 October by Jean-Paul Laborde, Chief of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of UNODC, in which he said that UNODC intended to take part in a peacekeeping mission planned for the Sudan under United Nations auspices.  The Sudan believed that Mr. Laborde’s remarks went beyond UNODC’s mandate, as it gave a political note to its work.  He said there had been a private meeting two days ago with Mr. Laborde, during which he apologized for the reference and promised that a representative from the Office would appear before the Third Committee to request that the reference be removed.  So far, however, no such representative had appeared.  That called into question the credibility of the Office. The delegation of the Sudan would do all it could to stop UNODC from going beyond its mandate.

The Secretary of the Committee, responding, reassured the representative of the Sudan that his statement would be conveyed to the concerned Office, since no one from that Office was in the room.

ADE PETRANTO ( Indonesia) said gender perspectives were evident only among particular Committees of the General Assembly.  There were only limited references to gender in the work of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Committees.  That clearly indicated that stereotypes and segregation had worsened the gender deficit in various male-dominated areas of the United Nations work.  Everyone recognized that gender mainstreaming was a cross-cutting issue, but the United Nations should give it the emphasis it deserved.

Through its State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment, Indonesia had been intensifying the implementation of relevant national policies, he said.  Gender equality programmes had been conducted in seven of Indonesia’s provinces, covering networking, capacity-building and advocacy for gender-responsive policies.  Drawing lessons from the 2004 tsunami, the Government, in collaboration with other stakeholders, had quickly put into effect gender-sensitive humanitarian measures after earthquakes and tsunamis had hit several parts of Central and West Java.  Those measures had dealt with the provision of sanitation, clean water and reproductive health and counselling.  On another front, Indonesia had been upgrading the range of legal protections available to female migrant workers, who accounted for around 77 per cent of the 2.1 million Indonesians working overseas.

PAIMANEH HASTEH ( Iran) said the promotion of women’s rights could only be achieved in the context of peace and security, where relations among States were based on respect for the legitimate rights of all nations.  The enabling environment for the empowerment of women had been seriously constrained in countries experiencing or emerging from wars and armed conflict, where women and girls had been prime targets.  Prostitution and pornography were serious forms of violence against women, which resulted in the destruction of a woman’s personal identity and her right to live as a free human being in a civilized society.

Iran had established specific mechanisms and indicators in the field of women’s health, education and employment, she said.  Particular attention had been paid to vulnerable and underprivileged groups of women, such as poor women in rural and urban areas and those who were the sole supporters of their families.  The protection and well-being of the family had been identified by the Government as a priority issue.  In education, there were ample opportunities for Iranian women and girls to enhance their knowledge and education.  Iranian women were very active in science, particularly in specialized medicine.

KHANTHALASY SOUTHICHACK (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that in the decade since the adoption of the Beijing Programme of Action, her country had amended its Constitution to clearly stipulate the responsibility of all public sectors, society and the family to the advancement of women.  Legislation on the development and protection of women had also been enacted, setting out measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of women.  Efforts had been made, meanwhile, to change the perception of discrimination against women in various forms.  A project on gender resource information and development had been established under the Lao Women’s Union, with a mandate to promote gender mainstreaming.  Women occupied leadership positions at all levels; the number of women in the National Assembly stood at 29, after the 2006 elections. In a historical first, a woman from the Hmong ethnic group was a Vice President of the National Assembly.

Of those living in poverty in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, women and children were suffering the most, she said.  That prevented access to education and health care.  Traditional beliefs and ancient stereotypes, in which men were regarded as superior to women, had long existed in Lao society.  Women, especially in rural areas, bore a bigger workload in the family.  All those factors put obstacles in the way of women’s self-development.  Another challenge was an improper gender perspective in society.  The Government was taking steps to overcome those problems and challenges.

ANGELA CAVALIERE (Venezuela) said Venezuela’ National Constitution incorporated the principles of gender equality and equal rights for men and women regarding citizenship, marriage and family, politics, labour and social security. Article 88 recognized the economic value of domestic work and guaranteed social security for housewives. The Women’s Equal Opportunity Law and the Law concerning Violence against Women and the Family, further served to prevent, control, sanction and end violence and assist victims. The Chavez Administration was developing strategies and institutions to give poor women access to credit, education, training and information and communication technology. It was working to guarantee equal rights for, and treatment of, women in political, social, economic and cultural life, including through the strengthening of women’s organizations, particularly those serving indigenous women and local communities.

He echoed the assertion in the Secretary-General’s study on violence against women that high-level political will and commitment was needed to end that violence. Venezuela was indeed committed to that end. The “50/50 Government participation campaign” gave women greater access to high-level political posts. In 2004, the “0-800-Mujeres” toll-free hotline had helped 11,668 victims of violence, and the Government had set up nine Regional Women’s Institutes and 67 Women’s Houses to educate people on women’s rights and erase gender stereotypes through mass media campaigns and training. In 2005, the “Casas de Abrigo” had saved the lives of 123 women and children subjected to extreme domestic violence. Violence against women was a human rights violation. She condemned it in all its forms, including violence against migrant worker, traditional detrimental health practices, so-called “honour” crimes and domestic violence.

LULIT ZEWDIE G/MARIAM ( Ethiopia) said that, while she commended the United Nations efforts to incorporate a gender perspective into its activities, it was regrettable that the goal of 50/50 gender equality was far from being achieved.  The persistence of widespread violence against women -- despite the highly-ratified Women’s Convention -- was disturbing, and required strengthened monitoring and follow-up mechanisms.  Ethiopia remained committed to the fulfilment of gender equality in line with the Beijing Programme of Action, the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of the five year review of global commitments.

In that regard, different measures had been taken to create an enabling environment to promote the role of women in the country’s social, economic and political activities, she said.  In the area of education, female primary gross enrolment had increased from 37.4 per cent in 1996 to 70.9 per cent in 2004-2005, while the secondary gross enrolment ratio had increased from 13 per cent in 1996 to 23.1 per cent in 2003.  In the health sector, education on the gender dimension of HIV/AIDS, public awareness programmes on HIV/AIDS and the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to mothers living with AIDS were among the achievements made in that area.

To address discriminatory laws, the Government, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, had carried out studies that had resulted in revisions to the family law and penal code, she said.  According to the revised penal code, perpetrators of violence against women could receive up to 10-25 years of punishment.  The new family law had enabled women to enjoy inheritance, divorce and child custody rights. Ethiopia was committed towards the promotion and protection of the rights of women, she concluded.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said Palestinian women had borne the brunt of the illegal policies of Israel, the occupying Power.  For them, reality had been a constant and merciless assault of harassment and humiliation, violence and terror, punishment and discrimination.  As a result of home demolitions, women -- traditionally the central figures in their homes -- had suddenly found the centre of their existence pulled from underneath them.  They had been left relying on the charity of relatives or international humanitarian organizations to provide housing and food.  Such an environment had increased Palestinian women’s sense of anxiety, pushing them further into despair.

Restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods, with more than 600 checkpoints throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, had resulted in pregnant women giving birth at military checkpoints.  Since September 2006, at least 69 Palestinian women had encountered such a horrible fate.  Many of the mothers and their children had suffered grave complications, even death, and the psychological affect could not be understated.  The Palestinian Authority had established a Ministry of Women’s Affairs in 2003 in hopes of advancing women’s rights, but it was impractical to speak of any real advances when the entire Palestinian population was being denied the most basic human rights.  Real concrete actions had to be taken by the international community to end Israel’s 39-year occupation.

KHUNYING LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand), associating herself with the statement of South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Beijing Programme of Action, the outcome of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  He said that, in particular, the United Nations should be the engine for efforts to put an end to violence against women and for that purpose all organs and agencies working on gender issues within the Organization must coordinate closely.  In addition, the Peacebuilding Commission must address the manifold problems of victims of gender-based violence in conflict situations and assure that women contributed fully to post-conflict rebuilding.

Describing Thailand’s extensive efforts to promote the advancement of women and to tackle violence against them, she encouraged United Nations agencies to continue assisting States to develop relevant national laws through the exchange of best practices among countries.  Education and media should be at the forefront in the fight against gender violence.  Also, she expressed concern at the lack of progress in meeting staff gender-balance targets of the United Nations system as well as at the continuing feminization of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  To counter the latter trend, she advocated giving women full access to necessary medicines and reproductive health programmes.

CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA ( Guatemala) noted that despite considerable progress in her country, women were disproportionately affected by poverty, especially women in rural areas and in indigenous communities. Women were, however, increasingly represented in the political arena, including in local councils. The Government also had undertaken a number of legislative and institutional reforms to reduce family violence and address gender-based and ethnically based discrimination. Guatemala was working to improve access to reproductive health programmes and to reduce poverty by strengthening economic growth.

Violence against women was a major concern of the State and of Guatemalan society, she said. The Presidential Secretariat for Women had set up an office dedicated to improving coordination of efforts on that important issue. The Government also had established a commission on abortion in Guatemala, which included representatives of human rights and women’s organizations. She noted the recent visit of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the submission of Guatemala’s sixth periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. She suggested that UNIFEM and INSTRAW required sufficient resources in line with the responsibilities entrusted to them. In conclusion, she repeated Guatemala’s offer to host in 2007 the second ministerial meeting on the advancement of women.

BARLYBAI SADYKOV ( Kazakhstan) said his Government supported the outcomes of 2005 World Summit and “Women 2000”, which represented an important part of efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals and achieve progress towards overcoming wider development challenges. Indeed, throughout its transition period, Kazakhstan had demonstrated its commitment to gender equality and to the internationally-agreed-upon documents regarding the advancement of women. His country had also taken concrete measures to ensure gender equality in both practice and legislation, and its seven-year-old National Commission for Women and Gender Equality had nearly completed a relevant action plan and was also taking steps to implement a 10-year gender equality strategy developed in close cooperation with the United Nations country team, non-governmental organizations and other international organizations.

He went on to say that the country’s gender equality strategy would be based on the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and its main purpose would be to ensure equal distribution of powers and influence in society and to ensure equal obligations in families and freedom from gender-based violence. He also said that improving maternal and child healthcare, including adolescent health, and reducing maternal and child mortality were also priorities.

PHAM HAI ANH ( Viet Nam) noted the link between violence and discrimination against women and said that it was necessary to combat both to achieve gender equality and advancement of women.  Data collection played an important role in that process.  Violence against women was “one of the most serious challenges of our time”, he said, adding that “so shall be our determination and action”.  Viet Nam had made significant progress in empowering women politically and economically, as well as mainstreaming gender equality into socio-economic development plans.  A recent domestic violence survey of 2,000 people in eight provinces had revealed that physical, psychological and sexual violence still prevailed, due largely to poor development and education, ignorance of women’s rights and laws, and other social factors.

The National Assembly was focused on ending that scourge and was considering a draft law to prevent and combat domestic violence, he continued.  The bill aimed to strengthen the State’s role in preventing domestic violence; guaranteeing human rights, particularly of women children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups; and upholding respect for civil rights in domestic violence cases.  If passed, it would mandate education, advocacy and reconciliation to prevent violence as well as guarantee protection for victims, including restraining orders, health insurance, medical treatment, counselling and temporary shelter.  The bill, which he expected to be approved next year, would criminalize serious acts of violence.  Vietnamese legislators were also working to end trafficking in women and girls by revising the Law on Marriage and the Family, and several large-scale cross-border trafficking rings had been destroyed.  Viet Nam had signed bilateral agreements with Australia, Cambodia, China and other countries to protect the rights of Vietnamese citizens married to foreigners and to prevent and combat trafficking in women and children in the region.

HANAN KHALFAN ALMADHANI ( United Arab Emirates) said her country had enacted legislation that ensured the equality of both sexes in all fields.  New laws had also been enacted to protect women -– both citizens and resident expatriates -– against domestic violence, exploitation and trafficking. Perpetrators faced severe punishments.  In recognition of the important role played by women in the family, the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood had been set up in 2003 as an independent body to address issues concerning women and children at a high level.  To promote private investment by women, the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry helped in the establishment of investments worth about $4 billion, managed by 10,000 businesswomen.

In that empowering and supportive environment, women in the United Arab Emirates had been able to 83 per cent of girls were enrolled in primary education, for example, and the participation of women in the work force had grown to 66 per cent.  The United Arab Emirates was deeply concerned about the conditions of Palestinian women caused by the Israeli occupation, and called upon the international community to provide the necessary support and assistance to the Palestinian people while compelling Israel to end its aggression.

YVONNE WAMALWA ( Kenya) noted that the establishment of a Ministry of Gender, Sports and Social Services, and the creation of a National Commission on Gender and Development, were significant steps taken by her Government towards the advancement of women. The introduction of universal primary education had improved girls’ access to education, with Kenya now approaching gender parity in the enrolment of girls in schools. Despite those achievements, the Government faced considerable challenges in the implementation of the Beijing Programme of Action, including the persistence of archaic cultural attitudes and stereotypes that discriminated against women; the inadequate capacity of service providers; limited resources available to improve best practices for the promotion and protection of women’s rights; and high domestic poverty.

Women continued to bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. However, Kenya had worked to reduce prevalence from 17 per cent in 1999 to 5.7 per cent currently, she said. Kenya had put in place the necessary machinery and the enabling environment for gender equality, but lacked substantial resources to reach all people. It was only through collective action by Member States, development partners, civil society and other stakeholders that Kenya could build on the progress already made.

SIMIONE ROKOLAQA ( Fiji) said women had contributed greatly to nation-building.  They had the capacity to further the cause of peace and to contribute to the welfare of society.  However, despite national, regional and international efforts, it was discouraging to note that violence against women persisted in every country.  That was one of the greatest challenges facing the international community today.  Violence against women was violence against humanity.  It found its roots in the unequal balance of power relations between men and women.  It had to be addressed in the context of seeking to end all forms of discrimination, to advance gender equality and empowerment of women, and to create a world in which all women enjoyed all of their human rights.

In Fiji, he said, the Government had been supporting programmes and workshops that educated the community on violence against women.  It provided financial support to groups that helped victims of violence.  In 1995, the Fiji police had adopted a policy whereby all reports of violence against women were investigated, and cases were brought to the courts.  Also, the Government had been actively pursuing a programme of mainstreaming women’s issues and gender issues.  Gender equality was one of the pillars for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Fiji, therefore, placed great emphasis, focus and priority on that goal.

MS. ABOU AL ANEEM ( Qatar) said that Governance in her country was based on the rights of the citizen, irrespective of gender.  The economic development strategy in Qatar included the promotion of women through national plans and strategies.  Women held ministerial posts and represented 3.3 per cent of the leadership in local government.  They also comprised 40 per cent of the people active in the business sector.

A ministerial decree promulgated in 2006 had set out the Family Code, which contained measures necessary to counter violence against women, including domestic violence.  Qatar recognized that the advancement of women in the development sector was imperative.  Guaranteeing equality between men and women was the only means to create a viable and modern society, she said.

MIRJANA MLADINEO (Croatia), aligning her country with the statement made by Finland on behalf of the European Union, said that gender equality was a precondition for the functioning of a democratic society.  In that light, it was significant that the proportion of women in both the legislature and the judiciary had been increasing in Croatia.  Further improvement in that area should result from the amendment of existing electoral laws.

She said that the National Policy for the Promotion of Gender equality for the period 2005-2010 was meant to implement many principles of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in her country, including equal work opportunity; gender-sensitive education; harmonization of genders in decision-making; suppression of violence against women; better health care for women and strengthening of relevant institutions.  The Government had also formed partnerships with non-governmental organization s to promote women’s advancement and human rights.  She stressed that further advancement could only come from joint efforts and complete dedication on the part of the international community.

MARIELA SÁNCHEZ DE CRUZ ( Dominican Republic) said her country was committed to the advancement of women, and its goal was full implementation of the Beijing Platform.  Indeed, the status of women was a priority on par with the fight against poverty, HIV/AIDS and primary education.

The Dominican Republic had been hosting INSTRAW, she said.  It fully supported INSTRAW’s work and recognized the difficult tasks which it faced.  INSTRAW had produced a number of important publications, some of which had been translated into more than one language.  Its contributions were extremely important, and its work had not been duplicated by any other United Nations agency devoted to gender issues.  It was up to States to strengthen their support for INSTRAW.

DAW AYE AYE MU ( Myanmar) said that women in her country enjoyed equal rights with men in virtually all areas.  She noted that in 1996, the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs has been formed to implement the commitments of the Beijing World Conference on Women and had made progress in that regard.  Her country also hosted a number of women’s organizations.  She said Myanmar considered the problem of trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, as one of the worst forms of violence against women and a matter of national concern.  The Government had taken all necessary measures against trafficking in persons, including a national plan of action, legislation, and international cooperation.  Myanmar had acceded to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols on Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants.

Her delegation regretted that the Secretary-General’s report on gender mainstreaming included a reference to the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  The allegations regarding sexual violence against women from ethnic nationalities were fabricated and aimed at discrediting the Government, she said.

JANE ASANI NDELEMANI ( Malawi) said no policy would trigger an end to violence against women.  The international community, therefore, had an obligation to come up with policies and strategies that would deliver tangible results for women and girls who faced violence.  Malawi had adopted, in April 2006, a Domestic Violence Act, which criminalized all forms of violence against women.  Together with the establishment of “women-and-girl-friendly victim support clinics” in police stations, more women and girls were being encouraged to report gender-based violence.  Shelters had also been set up for psychological support.

The need to sensitize girls and women on their human rights was very critical, she said.  Many women, especially in remote parts of the country, did not know their rights.  That situation had been steadily changing, however, with non-governmental organizations taking it upon themselves to sensitize rural women and girls.  Education played a crucial role, too, and that was why Malawi had placed a lot of emphasis on education for girls.  Primary health services had, meanwhile, improved, with more women accessing ante-natal and post-natal services, family planning services and –- for pregnant women who were HIV positive -- anti-retroviral drugs.  Malawi remained challenged, however, by the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS.

Rights of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel responded to the statement by the representative of Palestine, saying it had been an attempt to shift the blame for the condition of Palestinian women onto his country.  Once again, the plight of Palestinian women was being exploited for political causes.  Regarding the Palestinian representative’s reference to Gaza, he said Israel had left Gaza a year ago, and that bold gesture had been met with Palestinian terror.  The election of Hamas meant that the future of Palestine was a matter of choice for the Palestinian people.  Within their own society, he continued, Palestinian women had been victims of violence, crimes and honour killings in increasing numbers.  Regarding checkpoints, if there was no terror, there would be no checkpoints.  Indeed, some Palestinian women had become terrorists and suicide bombers.

In response, the representative of Palestine said Israel was an occupying Power, and that Palestine would never allow Israel or anyone else to distort that fact.  Issues had to be viewed in the context of the occupation.  The biggest obstacle to peace was not terrorism, but occupation.  Regarding the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, no one could claim it was a step forward; rather, it had turned Gaza into an open-air prison, with Israel throwing away the key.  Israeli forces had gone back into Gaza and border checkpoints remained.  No one wanted peace more than the Palestinians, especially women, every day, every hour and every minute.

In response, the representative of Israel said his country cared about the plight of Palestinian women.  They were the daughters who could ensure a peaceful future, and the mothers who would raise the next generation.  With Hamas in control of the Government, however, their plight had not improved.  Nevertheless, Israel had not lost hope that Israeli and Palestinian women, working together, could help to resolve the conflict.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.