|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Work of Committee on Elimination
of Discrimination against Women
Governments worldwide had made significant progress in overturning discriminatory laws and reforming legal codes to better protect and promote women’s rights, but their track record in putting those rules into practice remained unsatisfactory, a women’s rights expert said during a Headquarters news conference this afternoon.
“The gaps between the de jure and de facto are substantive,” said Nicole Ameline, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, who spoke to reporters shortly after briefing the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) on recent developments in the work of the Geneva-based body, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Ms. Ameline said there were marked improvements in women’s involvement in the political arena, but she warned of serious deficits in education, health care and physical safety. For example, women comprised two thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults but every minute, one woman died from pregnancy or childbirth complications. Sexual violence against women, including female genital mutilation, continued. And every year, an estimated 10 million girls under the age of 18 were forced to marry.
Women living in conflict zones were particularly affected, she said, citing Mali and Syria as among the worst offenders. She said that, during his recent visit to Mali, Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and head of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), had observed that women were the main victims of that country’s internal strife.
The 23-member expert body she chaired was focusing on two general recommendations to States parties, she said. The first, on the rights of women in conflict, would be discussed in the coming months. The second, on women’s access to justice, which would help combat impunity for perpetrators of violence against women, was in the pipeline. Additionally, the Committee was active in the ongoing process of reforming the Organization’s human rights treaty body system, she said. It was working to expand cooperation among States parties and United Nations agencies, especially the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), in that regard.
To date, 187 States parties had acceded to the Convention and 104 to its Optional Protocol, she said. Since its inception in 1982, the Committee had reviewed 400 country reports and adopted 28 general recommendations.
Asked about the Committee’s outreach to countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that practised sharia, Ms. Ameline said the Committee was committed to developing closer links and exchange with all regional organizations and to eliminating harmful gender practices and stereotypes. The Committee did not believe sharia was contrary to the Convention. Rather some ways in which it was interpreted and practised in some parts of the world violated the treaty.
Pressed about the Committee’s advocacy work in countries where women’s rights were limited or even non-existent, she said States parties must honour their treaty-related obligations. Overall, States parties had shown their commitment to develop legislative and normative frameworks for women’s rights. Lack of implementation was the real problem. That was why the Committee was working hard to develop the operational capacity of UN-Women.
Asked about countries that restricted women’s ability to drive, she said the Committee raised that and other concerns during mandatory evaluation sessions with each State party, in which the latter was required to report in detail on progress in implementing all of the Convention’s articles.
As to whether the Committee gave financial support to help African and other States attend its three annual review sessions in New York and Geneva or whether it had plans to hold sessions in other regions, she said there were no plans to change the location of the Committee’s annual sessions. It was important to hold at least one of them in New York in order to forge strong links with UN-Women, which was based in New York. But she also recognized the need to hold regional consultations and meetings to evaluate implementation of the Convention.
* *** *