UN-Women’s Director Tells Commission ‘This is Not Just One More Session, Not Just One More Year’, as People ‘Take to the Streets’ in Defence of Women’s Rights

4 March 2013
WOM/1940

UN-Women’s Director Tells Commission ‘This is Not Just One More Session, Not Just One More Year’, as People ‘Take to the Streets’ in Defence of Women’s Rights

4 March 2013
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1940
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-seventh Session

1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

UN-Women’s Director Tells Commission ‘This is Not Just One More Session, Not Just

One More Year’, as People ‘Take to the Streets’ in Defence of Women’s Rights

Women’s Commission Is ‘Strong Arm’ of United Nations in Standing Up for Right

Of Women, Girls to Live Free from Fear or Violence, Says Deputy Secretary-General

With the scourge of violence against women and girls still rampant around the world, the international community must “rise to the occasion” and lay out concrete plans to tackle that long-standing, deeply entrenched crisis, stressed high-level speakers as the Commission on the Status of Women opened its historic fifty-seventh session today.

“This is not just one more session — this is not just one more year,” declared Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), as she addressed the largest meeting ever convened on ending violence against women — the two-week session’s priority theme.

Over the past few months, she said, women, men and young people had taken to the streets with rallying cries in defence of the rights of women, including in solidarity with a young Pakistani woman, Malala Yousafzai, who had been shot demanding access to education.  In that context, she urged delegates to rise “just as people all over the world are rising” and to ensure the realization of human rights and human dignity for all.

“We are here today … because every person has the right to live free of violence and discrimination,” she said.  The world could no longer afford the social and economic costs — or the costs in pain and suffering — of violence against women.  For more than six decades, the Commission “has pushed us forward, promoting the advancement of women and the realization of women’s rights as human rights”.  It was up to it to provide those international norms and standards to prevent and eliminate that violence, and indecision must not block progress.

“We are here today to channel our outrage into action,” agreed Jan Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, adding that it was time to declare that every woman and girl had the right to a life free from fear and violence.  The Commission, as the lead champion in the global fight for women’s empowerment and the “strong arm” of the United Nations family in standing up for that goal, had long been at the front lines of the glaring injustice of discrimination.

Today, he said, women were fighting back, and the Secretary-General proudly stood with them in leading that cause by bringing gender equality to the centre of the United Nations’ work on human rights and sustainable development, as well as in other areas.  “Women’s empowerment is picking up speed,” he said in that regard.

Nevertheless, he urged, more must be done together, as any violence against women was a matter of life and death.  Millions of women and girls suffered from that global scourge, even in refugee camps and hospitals.  Their stories were heartbreaking, but their spirits had never been broken, he said, citing women in camps in Darfur or women in northern Mali.  The problem was prevalent even in the most stable and developed regions, he added.

Also in opening remarks, Ferit Hoxha ( Albania), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, stressed that efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment were central to global economic and social development.  Indeed, he said, “we are keenly aware of the intrinsic linkages between gender quality and the realization of human rights and development goals, as well as the maintenance of peace and security”.  The United Nations would be less effective without a more determined, proactive and sustained implementation of the commitments it had made to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and he outlined the special attention the Council would pay to those issues in 2013.

“The eyes of the world are upon us”, Commission Chair Marjon V. Kamara ( Liberia) told delegates, adding that “we have assembled here with a clear mandate:  to create a world where gender equality is never in question and discrimination and violence against women and girls are a thing of the past.”  Solid and firm political commitments from all States were needed, as were clear, specific actions to take back to countries and regions “a blueprint for change”.

During the present session, as the Commission examined ways to effectively prevent violence against women and girls, it must ensure that the words spoken in condemnation of such violence were transformed into new and systematic actions that created real and meaningful changes in the lives of women and girls.  Looking towards the post-2015 development agenda, she said it was critical that key gender equality issues be included.  That topic would receive focus as the Commission’s priority theme in 2014, she added.

Nicole Ameline, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that combating violence against women was part of the Committee’s raison d’être and a cross-cutting theme in its recommendations.  The 1979 Convention, monitored by the Committee, had been a milestone in the advancement of women’s rights.  It established obligations for its 187 States parties to adopt measures for eliminating discrimination against women, and provided guidance for strengthening the States’ legal frameworks.  It was important to strengthen the Committee’s means and visibility, especially in New York. 

Presenting her oral report, Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, recalled that, in 2011, she had prepared a thematic report on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against women, while her thematic report in 2012 on gender-related killings had analysed the prevalence of the problem.  This year, her thematic report to the Human Rights Council would focus on State responsibility for eliminating violence against women.  The principles of equality, non-discrimination and good faith in international law underlay that responsibility, she said, urging States to meet their obligations to respect and protect all human rights.

As the Commission opened its annual general discussion, representatives of the major regional groups of States generally agreed that violence against women and girls remained “far too hidden, under-reported, under-prosecuted and under-punished”, with many urging action to finally provide women and girls with the protection and support they deserved.  Indeed, some stressed, it was the duty of States — regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems — to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including by eliminating violence against women and girls and gender discrimination.

A number of delegates, recalling that almost two decades had passed since States had committed to achieving the strategic objectives and actions set out in 1995 in the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, said considerable progress must be made to fulfil the promise of those instruments.  With 7 of 10 women experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, implementation of those tools were “woefully” deficient, said delegates.  Some urged a “whole of society” approach, with the full engagement of civil society, men and boys, and young people, to challenge the social norms that perpetuated that violence.

Also today, the Commission held two high-level round-table discussions, where ministers and other senior Government officials described specific national policies and programmes related to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as to the elimination of violence against women and girls.  Led respectively by Commission Chair Marjon V. Kamara (Liberia) and Vice-Chair Carlos Garcia Gonzalez (El Salvador), the round-tables heard about wide-ranging national programmes, such as commitments signed by religious leaders to eradicate female genital mutilation, grass-roots women’s political gatherings and efforts to debunk the myths of female subservience and innate male aggression.

In other business, the Commission adopted the provisional agenda for the session (document E/CN.6/2013/1/Add.1).

Also participating in the general discussion were high-level officials from the following countries:  Fiji (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Chad (on behalf of African States), Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Gambia, Belgium and Egypt.

The representatives of Uruguay (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)) and Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States) also spoke.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 March, to continue its work.

Background

The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women opened this morning with discussions around its priority theme — the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.  For more information, see Press Release WOM/1938 of 4 March.

Opening Remarks

Opening the session this morning, MARJON V. KAMARA ( Liberia), Commission Chair, said that the delegates had gathered today to showcase achievements and to speak frankly about gaps and challenges still facing women and girls.  “Most importantly, we are here to deliver results for the women and girls from around the world,” she said.

This year, more than ever, she said, “the eyes of the world are upon us”, in particular because the Commission was slated to focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.  Solid and firm political commitments from all States were needed, as were clear, specific actions to take back to countries and regions “a blueprint for change”.  New and improved partnerships were also needed to work together towards that common goal in a purposeful manner.

She said that the struggle to end the scourge of violence against women and girls was at the core of the gender equality movement everywhere.  Such violence persisted around the world, and “we have a common responsibility to act”.  Indeed, from the various forums that had prepared the current session, a clear message had emerged:  “The current situation of violence against women and girls is unacceptable.”  Together, stakeholders could find solutions and bring about change.

While some progress had been made, there was much more to be done, she said.  During the session, the Commission would examine ways for more effectively preventing violence against women and girls; it must ensure that words spoken in condemnation of such violence were transformed into new and systematic actions on the ground to create real and meaningful changes in the lives of women and girls.

Looking towards the post-2015 development agenda, she said it was critical that key gender equality issues be included.  Following the preliminary discussion at the present session, that topic would receive focus as the Commission’s priority theme in 2014.  Strides must be made in evaluating progress in implementation of the Commission’s previously agreed conclusions, thereby enhancing accountability for compliance.  The Commission would also examine progress made in the equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS, and obstacles would be assessed.  The official programme would also be enriched by a number of side events.

“We have assembled here with a clear mandate:  to create a world where gender equality is never in question and discrimination and violence against women and girls are a thing of the past,” she said.

FERIT HOXHA ( Albania), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, stressed that efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment were central to global economic and social development.  Indeed, he said, “we are keenly aware of the intrinsic linkages between gender quality and the realization of human rights and development goals, as well as the maintenance of peace and security”.  The United Nations’ work would remain less effective without a more determined, proactive and sustained implementation of the commitments it had made to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Economic and Social Council fully recognized the Commission on the Status of Women in helping the United Nations comply with its common responsibility in that area.  One example of that “catalytic role” was the Commission’s input to the Council’s Annual Ministerial Review, which, this year, would focus on the topic “science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals”.  Action-oriented recommendations from the Commission would enrich those ministerial deliberations and action in July.

Starting this year and moving forward, he said the Economic and Social Council would devote special attention to the review and assessment of the provisions of the resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Review of the Operational Activities of the United Nations, including those pertaining to the enhancement of gender mainstreaming, across and within the United Nations system, and to improving institutional accountability mechanisms to provide more coherent, accurate and effective monitoring, evaluation and reporting on gender equality results.  Commending the Commission on its plans to examine key gender issues in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, he stressed that such an agenda “should encapsulate a gender equality goal, as well as integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment across all aspects of the agenda”.  It was also critical to stay focused on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he added.

Sharing several thoughts on strengthening the Economic and Social Council, he said that the Council should have strong thematic focus areas and should tap into the expertise of its functional commissions and specialized agencies.  It  could review the work of those commissions with a view towards integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development, highlighted at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).  For example, the Commission on the Status of Women could focus on the gender perspectives of economic, social and environmental issues, and provide clear recommendations and technical guidance on how the Council could integrate gender perspectives in the larger framework of sustainable development.  A stronger Council should engage in regular dialogue with it various bodies, which could entail more systematic involvement of Chairpersons in intergovernmental meetings and joint meetings of functional commissions.

JAN ELIASSON, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said it was a singular honour for him to be invited to speak today, as the Commission on the Status of Women was the lead champion in the global fight for women’s empowerment and the “strong arm” of the United Nations family in standing up for that goal.  One week ago, he and the Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) had attended the inauguration of the first woman President of the Republic of Korea, and in fact, northeast Asia, with a “particular sense of achievement”.

He could “already feel the passion in this room for getting things done”, he said, recognizing that participants in the Assembly Hall today had been at the frontlines of the glaring injustice of discrimination for years.  Women were fighting back, and the Secretary-General proudly stood with them in leading that cause by bringing gender equality to the centre of the United Nations’ work on human rights and sustainable development and other areas.  “Women’s empowerment is picking up speed,” he said.

But, more must be done together, he urged, as any violence against women was a matter of life and death.  Millions of women and girls suffered from that global scourge, even in refugee camps and hospitals.  Their stories were heartbreaking, but their spirits had never been broken, he said, citing women in camps in Darfur camps or women in northern Mali.  The problem was prevalent even in the most stable and developed regions.

He said that, on 14 February, he had taken part in the “1 Billion Rising” movement to combat violence against women, where the event’s leader noted that every day, women were beaten by their partners, had acid thrown in their faces and were raped in parks on the way to the market.  She had described a situation that today’s participants understood all too well.

However, knowing was not enough, he said, stressing:  “We need to end this blatant abuse of human rights” by providing help to those affected, as well as funding and counselling to allow the victims to reclaim their lives.  “We must empower victims, prosecute criminals and trigger a fundamental change of minds.  Violence against women simply must come to an end.”  A culture must be created in which shame around those crimes was solely directed at perpetrators.  He also was grateful to see that authorities were being held accountable for their promises.

He went on to say that violence against women pervaded war zones and stable communities, alike.  The international community must respond everywhere, on every level, including by encouraging men and boys to say no to violence against women.  Everyone had a responsibility and could do something.  Quoting a well-known football player from Cameroon, he said:  “Be a champion.  End violence against women.  It is as simple as that.”

Until the end of the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2015, momentum to end violence against women must be prevail well into the future.  The Millennium Development Goal concerning sanitation had fallen off track, with 2.5 billion people lacking toilets, many of whom were women — forced to seek privacy outside their communities, which exposed them to danger.  The same was true for the pursuit of peace.  Women were far too often subjected to unspeakable atrocities during conflict.  Victims of sexual violence must be protected.

He said it had been a year of shocking headlines about violence against women worldwide.  He urged delegates to imagine the pain of the victims, their families and friends.  “We may not know them, but they are members of our common human family.  We suffer with them,” he said.  “We are here today to channel our outrage into action” and declare that every woman and girl had the right to a life free from fear and violence.  Now was the time to act.  “Let’s go to work,” he said.

MICHELLE BACHELET, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN-Women, said that “this is not just one more session — this is not just one more year”.  Over the past few months, women, men and young people had taken to the streets with rallying cries in defence of the rights of women, including in solidarity with a young Pakistani woman who had been shot demanding access to education.  Indeed, it was an understatement to say that the priority theme of the present session was timely.  “We are here today … because every person has the right to live free of violence and discrimination,” she said.  The world could no longer afford the social and economic costs — or the costs in pain and suffering — of violence against women.

She shared the stories of several women around the world who had faced the challenges of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, including that of a young woman from northern Mali who had been raped by soldiers, and of an economically exploited woman from Viet Nam, and a trafficked woman from Moldova.  “The violence needs to stop,” she stressed, calling for strong commitments by all stakeholders.  For more than six decades, the Commission “has pushed us forward, promoting the advancement of women and the realization of women’s rights as human rights”.  Since it first opened its doors, the Commission had welcomed the participation of non-governmental organizations and women’s groups; this year, a record 6,000 representatives from civil society were registered.  The current session held historical importance, as it was the largest international meeting ever held on ending violence against women.  Progress had been made in that area, but violence remained widespread, and impunity remained the norm rather than the exception.

Intimate partner violence, she said, accounted for between 40 and 70 per cent of women’s murders in some countries; thousands suffered the negative effects of female genital mutilation, millions of women were trafficked, and rape was commonly used as a weapon of war.  “Violence against women appears everywhere, and we know that ending [it] requires a strong chain of justice and the rule of law,” she said.  Women in many places searched for justice in vain, and many were punished themselves while their perpetrators walked in freedom.  In that respect, she cited the case of the recent attack of the 15-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, which had elicited global outrage.

“We must come to a strong, action-oriented agreement” to prevent and eliminate violence against women, she emphasized.  With the establishment of UN-Women two years ago, the United Nations system had made ending violence against women one of its top priorities.  She also noted the work of the Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, as well as the Secretary-General’s campaign to end the violence and the new “COMMIT” initiative, through which 41 countries had recently made concrete commitments towards that goal.  The United Nations, as a standard-setting organization, must lead by example in terms of women’s participation and representation.  However, their high-level participation had increased only marginally, and thus, greater parity was needed at the professional levels.  Moreover, she stressed, “ending violence against women is the missing [Millennium Development Goal] that must be included in any new development framework”.

She briefly introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2013/6); Proposals for priority themes for future sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women (document E/CN.6/2013/7); Multisectoral services and responses for women and girls subjected to violence (document E/CN.6/2013/3); and Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls (document E/CN.6.2013/4).  She also highlighted several key goals for forward action:  the need to strengthen implementation of national laws, policies and programmes and place greater emphasis on prevention; enhanced cooperation among the international community towards a coordinated strategy to send a strong signal that violence and discrimination would not be tolerated; establishment of comprehensive and multisectoral services; and reliable data, including strong monitoring and evaluation, to ensure the effectiveness of programmes on the ground.  It was up to the Commission to provide international norms and standards to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, and indecision must not block progress.  “Just as people all over the world are rising, let us also rise to the occasion” and ensure the realization of human rights and human dignity for all.

NICOLE AMELINE, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, introduced that body’s report and stressed that significant achievements had been made, thanks to States’ efforts in all regions of the world.  That progress was a direct result of the obligations accepted by States when they became party to the Convention.  Combating violence against women was part of the monitoring Committee’s raison d’être and it was a cross-cutting theme in its recommendations.  She recalled the Committee’s landmark adoption of general recommendation 19, in 1992, which said that gender-based violence impaired or nullified women’s enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Committee was prepared to participate in the discussion of a global implementation plan on violence against women, she added.

Turning to individual communications, she said the Committee had adopted Views on four cases over the last year, which had been increasingly influential in the creation of international women’s rights jurisprudence and were being used in regional human rights courts.  Despite that, “women and girls continue to face discrimination in all spheres of public, economic and social life”, she said, adding that they were also the primary victims of conflict, instability and poverty.  The Convention required States parties to protect women from violence, and was strongly committed to a “shift of paradigm”, by overcoming stereotypes.

The Convention, she declared, was a milestone in the advancement of women’s rights, and it was a human rights, development and empowerment instrument, as it established obligations for its 187 States parties to adopt measures for eliminating discrimination against women.  In monitoring implementation, the Committee provided guidance for strengthening the States parties’ legal frameworks.  In that context, it was important to strengthen the Committee’s means and visibility, especially in New York.  One annual session should continue to take place at Headquarters.  She wished to renew the Committee’s structural links with UN-Women and to organize an event on women’s rights and development.

Concerning working methods, she said that the Committee had incorporated the guidelines on independence and impartiality of treaty body experts, and further, integrated a number of proposals made in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on strengthening the United Nations treaty body system.  It also had decided to reduce the length of its concluding observations and to webcast its dialogues with States parties on a trial basis to make the Committee’s work more accessible to national actors.  Still, the Committee faced a backlog of State reports, and must find ways and means to increase the efficiency of its reporting procedure. It had resolved to request an extension of the annual meeting time and membership of its Optional Protocol Working Group.

Aware of the financial implications of such requests during difficult times, the Committee, she said, and, thus, such requests were made without prejudice to the Assembly’s intergovernmental process on treaty body strengthening.  At the same time, there was a contradiction between the difficulty in making the human rights treaty body system work and the proposals for new human rights instruments, such as the current discussion on a new treaty on violence against women.  In her view, that could fragment the normative framework.  The Committee had reviewed more than 400 reports and adopted 29 general recommendations, and it was elaborating further its recommendations on women in conflict prevention, among others.

She recalled that 2012 marked the Committee’s thirtieth anniversary of the Committee, and assured delegates that its experts attached great importance to cooperation with all partners, in a renewed perspective and with a view to promoting and protecting women’s rights.

RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, presented her oral report, recalling that the adoption of the twentieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna was a landmark for women’s human rights, as it triggered important initiatives related to standard setting and monitoring in the field of women’s rights.

Describing her work over the past two years, she said that in 2011, she had prepared a thematic report on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against women, which argued that the human rights discourse regarding violence was indivisible from the violence perpetrated against women.  It proposed a holistic approach to treat all rights as universal and indivisible, as well as to situate violence on a continuum that spanned interpersonal and structural violence.  That same year, she presented her first written report to the General Assembly, arguing that States’ efforts to comply with their obligations required addressing individual and structural causes that led to violence against women.

Her thematic report in 2012 on gender-related killings of women reviewed the evolution of terms describing such acts and analysed the prevalence of the problem, including as a result of intimate partner violence or in the name of “honour”.  Such violence could be understood as intersecting concentric circles, which included structural, institutional, interpersonal and individual factors.  Impunity for such killings was a global concern.  When a State failed to hold perpetrators accountable, impunity not only intensified the powerlessness of the targets of violence, but also sent a message that violence against women was both acceptable and inevitable.  A holistic approach to prevent such killings must be emphasized in all State measures to investigate.

Also in 2012, she presented her report to the Assembly on the issue of violence against women with disabilities, which argued that, although such women experienced many of the same forms of violence as all women, it had unique causes and results.  Women with disabilities, she said, were at higher risk of being victims of domestic violence, to experience abuse over longer periods of time and suffer more severe injuries.  The report argued that, in addressing that problem, States must ensure an “empowerment” perspective, as opposed to a “vulnerability” perspective and apply a social model of disability as opposed to a medical or charity model.  It also had been difficult to assess the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This year, her thematic report to the Human Rights Council would focus on a study on State responsibility for eliminating violence against women, she said, adding that efforts were under way to collect country experiences on the interpretation, application and effectiveness of the due diligence standard as a tool for eliminating violence against women.  Further, regional expert meetings had been convened.  As for country visits in 2011, she had visited Jordan, Italy and Somalia, whose mission reports had been presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2012.  This year, she would present reports on visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.  She had recently received a positive reply to visit India in April, and South Africa was considering suggested dates for a mission in the coming months, as well.

In conclusion, she paid tribute to the tireless efforts of individual women and civil society in the fight against discrimination.  While States were obliged to protect women and girls from violence, their responsibility must include cooperation and collaboration with non-State actors.  She had received numerous complaints from victims with regard to the lack of adequate responses from schools, courts, shelters, prisons, hospitals or work places.  The principles of equality non-discrimination and good faith in international law nurtured State responsibility for observing the normative framework through which accountability emanated.  States must take steps to meet their responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations.

General Discussion

JIKO LUVENI, Minister for Women and Social Welfare of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that UN-Women’s country data on the priority theme showed that 7 out of 10 women in the world experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.  “This data shows how prevalent the problem is, and that it respects no barrier irrespective of income, class or culture within all societies,” she said.  The Group was deeply concerned about the different manifestations of violence against women and girls, which also exacerbated the impacts of economic crises, armed conflicts and natural disasters, and worsened the vulnerability of women and girls to unemployment and poverty.  Member States must act with due diligence to address the root causes of such violence in a holistic and systematic manner.

She said that ending poverty was the greatest global challenge facing developing countries today.  Sustained and inclusive economic growth was essential for eradicating poverty and hunger.  National efforts should be complemented by an enabling environment and genuine international cooperation aimed at expanding the development opportunities of developing countries.  The Group stressed the importance of ensuring equal access for all women, including in rural areas, as vital “development agents”, to resources, opportunities and public service, and stressed the importance of promoting and facilitating their increased political participation, including in decision-making positions.  National experiences should also be shared for the purpose of building upon progress already made, she said.

Effective remedies must be found to eliminate specific forms of violence against migrant domestic workers, women and girls with disabilities, as well as rural and indigenous women and older women, she said.  There was also a need to remove structural impediments to access to the justice system, and equal service and legal protection should be provided to all citizens.  It was also critical to address the structural roots of poverty in the international system.  Prevention strategies should be integrated into the broader policies, including those related to gender equality, education, employment, poverty eradication and health.  Family programmes were important in preventing violence against women and girls and that should be raised in the discussion on the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda.  International cooperation in eliminating gender-based violence should be enhanced, including through fulfilment of commitments on official development assistance (ODA), debt relief, market access, financial and technical support, and capacity-building.

AHMAD ALLAM-MI ( Chad), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said legislation was the foundation for a holistic approach to addressing violence against women and girls.  Women’s poverty and lack of empowerment, as well as their exclusion from social, economic and political policies placed them at risk of violence and impeded development.  While African women’s marginalization was rooted in a historical and cultural context, their rights had been a priority in Africa, with the African Union’s Assembly of Heads of States and Governments at the forefront in championing gender equality.

He said instruments, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), provided the basis for holding Governments accountable for advancing women’s rights.  Recognizing that all human rights were universal, indivisible and interdependent, he stressed that while the significance of national and regional particularities must be borne in mind, it was the duty of States — regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems — to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in eliminating violence against women and girls and gender discrimination.

To realize the implementation of prevention measures for violence, he urged expanding referral mechanisms between sectoral services, implementing information sharing protocols that respected the safety of survivors, and establishing victim support services.  With that, he called on the international community to implement commitments made, including the transfer of ODA technology, and to increase market access.  He reaffirmed the Group’s support to end violence against women and girls, recognizing the role of the family in that regard.  He also encouraged formal and informal education programmes to modify social and cultural conduct in order to promote respectful relations and to eliminate prejudice.

KATHLEEN LYNCH, Minister for State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that violence against women and girls “remains far too hidden, under-reported, under-prosecuted and under-punished”.  It was time to admit that “we are not yet able to provide women and girls with adequate support and protection”, and it was time to act.  Almost two decades had passed since States had committed to achieving strategic objectives and actions through the Beijing Platform for Action.  “We must accelerate progress towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls and towards gender equality,” she stressed, reaffirming the European Union’s strong support for the Platform for Action and to its full and reinforced implementation, follow-up and regular monitoring.

She held that gender equality could not be achieved without guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive heath and rights.  She strongly condemned all forms of violence against women as violations of women’s full enjoyment of human rights and stressed that “neither custom, tradition, culture, privacy, religion nor so-called honour can be invoked to justify violence, or to avoid the obligations of States with respect to its prevention and elimination, and effective prosecution of perpetrators”.  Supporting human rights defenders was a long-standing commitment of the European Union’s foreign policy, she said, noting that those had been identified as one of the groups most at risk from violence, prejudice and exclusion as compared to their male counterparts.  States should take all necessary measures to ensure their protection, including through improved training and awareness of State officials.  Appropriate measures were also needed to address impunity for attacks, threats and acts of intimidation committed by State and non-State actors, particularly in cases of gender-based violence.

Indeed, “violence against women is certainly the most brutal manifestation of discrimination”, she continued, urging all Governments to promote gender equality and to break down gender roles and stereotypes in order to attain societies based on respect and non-violence.  The European Union had put in place comprehensive policies aimed at equal participation of women in political, economic and social life, among other goals. “Only by eliminating the root causes of inequalities, including the unequal share of power between women and men, can we successfully fight violence against women and girls,” she said.  The State had the primary responsibility in combating violence against women, at both internal and external levels.  She paid tribute to the thousands of civil society groups worldwide working to protect women’s rights and promote gender equality.  She also firmly supported ongoing global efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation, she said, welcoming the African Union’s leadership on that issue.

JENNIFER WEBSTER, Minister of Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, said violence against women and girls was among the most widespread human rights violations.  The priority theme on eliminating and preventing it commanded high priority in her region.  “Women play a critical role in the socio-economic and political development of the Caribbean,” she said.

While reaffirming her region’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, she said “considerable” progress must be made to fulfil the promise of those instruments.  As pointed out by the Secretary-General, 7 in 10 women experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.  That spoke to a “woefully” deficient implementation of the Declaration and Platform for Action.  Of great concern was domestic violence, she said, recognizing that the endemic culture of violence demanded intensive and extensive strategic action, as well as multi-layered intervention.  Human trafficking was also a concern, as victims were mainly women and girls.

She went on to say that the engagement of civil society, men and boys and young people was necessary to challenge the social norms that perpetuated violence against women.  Touching on several regional and national initiatives to promote an end to violence against women, she urged adopting a “whole of society” approach to ending such abuse.  The media must also play a responsible role in sensitization of that issue, while standards for gender equality must be reflected in the policies of all related sectors.  Teaching respect for women must also be reinforced in the home.  In sum, there was an urgent need for stronger legislative measures, coupled with a greater civic responsibility.

JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and joining with the Group of 77, reaffirmed the Group’s commitment to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action and related international agreements.  There was multilateral consensus on the importance which must be given to gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said, adding that it was critical to expand the participation of women in public positions, including at the highest levels.  Since MERCOSUR was created, women had been elected president in Argentina, Brazil and Chile, and the theme of gender had been included in high-level meetings.

He expressed concern at the situation of migrant, rural and indigenous women, among others, and at the lack of access of some women to health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.  Family responsibilities must be shared by women and men alike.  The bloc welcomed the priority theme of the session, as well as the Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women, which was of critical concern in achieving equality and peace.  Violence against women and girls was closely related to several other key issues, including human trafficking, the feminization of poverty and HIV/AIDS, food security, humanitarian assistance, and crime prevention.  Moreover, ending the violence was indispensible to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the Group was committed to redoubling its efforts to achieve those goals.

Speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, MAUREEN CLARKE, Minister of Women’s Condition of Costa Rica and President of the Council of Ministers of Women of Central America, said her group promoted policies designed to transform women’s positioning in the region and adopt sustainable gender equity strategies.  The 2009-2013 strategic plan had three pillars:  women’s autonomy; women’s political participation; and strengthening gender institutions, bearing in mind cross-cutting strategies regarding violence.

She recalled that the 1994 Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women recognized that the violence was a manifestation of unequal power relations.  The treaty had opened doors for change in the region; it had guaranteed women’s right to live free from violence and discrimination, and States’ obligation to ensure that stereotypes did not impact their education.  It had also defined the crimes of gender-based violence and helped States to identify them as such.  The instrument was linked to the Beijing Declaration, which said that the violence — in its many forms, from sexual and domestic violence to trafficking — kept women subordinate to men.

She also voiced concern at the high degree of impunity regarding such crimes, as well as the weak legal responses, especially in terms of reparations.  She urged transforming power relations between men and women, stressing the importance of enhancing mechanisms for women in legal and budgetary terms.  “We must move forward to eradicate the stereotypical roles of men and women,” which had greatly impacted the development of women and girls.  In closing, she emphasized the importance of establishing and strengthening intergovernmental evaluation and follow-up mechanisms for women’s protection.

RODOLFO REYES ( Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed the importance of compliance with the Women’s Convention.  Almost 18 years had elapsed since the fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, and consensus now existed that priority must be given to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a prerequisite for development.  CELAC members, convinced that the achievement of development and full democracy were possible only in the context of true equality, promoted the increased representation of women at the highest levels of Government and in all decision-making processes.  Accordingly, its members had undertaken national initiatives and policies towards women’s advancement, and had sought to improve legal and regulatory frameworks to that end.  They strongly supported UN-Women, and welcomed the progress made in the implementation of its strategic plans and regional architecture.

However, “much remains to be done”, he said, as emerging challenges reflected a new global reality.  Violence and trafficking, the feminization of poverty and HIV/AIDS, and the disproportionate burden on women who cared for those suffering from non-communicable diseases were of great concern, as were the situation of specific groups of women, such as migrants, rural women, those with disabilities and those of African descent. The bloc advocated for more international dialogue and cooperation, including regional, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, for meeting the challenges created by the financial crisis, inequitable market access, among others.  It called for the adoption of preventive and punitive measures and for programmes supporting women victims of violence.  Through the Brasilia Consensus, adopted at the eleventh Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, it was agreed that training activities should be carried out and public policies created towards the achievement of gender equality.

The Group was strongly committed to eradicating the scourge of violence against women, and it had played a leadership role in the development of regional and international instruments to prevent and eliminate it.  Priority must be given to the eradication of poverty and hunger, and to ensuring universal access to food and housing, health services, including for reproductive health, and employment, including equal pay for equal work.  Social protection must also be provided.  He also urged Member States to adopt a comprehensive, systemic and multisectoral approach to the reintegration into society of women victims of violence.  CELAC would continue to fulfil all of its international commitments, including the Millennium Development Goals, and looked forward to the establishment of the post-2015 agenda and the adoption of a gender mainstreaming approach therein.

LINDA AMALIA SARI, Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said the session’s theme was timely and important, as violence against women and girls occurred around the world.  Against that backdrop, she reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to eliminating and preventing violence against women, citing the 1975 ASEAN Women Leaders’ Conference as evidence of the region’s efforts.  The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, adopted in 2012, also recognized women’s rights as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

She expressed her region’s full support for the use of national policies and programmes as part of a holistic approach to strengthening gender mainstreaming and eliminating violence against women.  Ongoing efforts included the formulation of mechanisms in four areas to help female victims of violence:  service provision for survivors; appropriate responses against perpetrators; an understanding of the causes of violence against women; and work to change societal attitudes.  ASEAN also had prepared a road map to attain the goals of “zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths”, as adopted in 2011 in Bali.

Of the numerous trends adversely affecting women, poverty was by far the main obstacle to their progress, she said, noting that ASEAN was committed to assisting Member States in accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Recognizing the importance of incorporating a gender perspective in different areas of development, ASEAN continued to support gender mainstreaming as essential for securing human rights and social justice for both women and men.  She fervently hoped that the Commission would take a lead role in ensuring the centrality of women’s issues in the post-2015 development agenda, emphasizing the urgency of addressing gender concerns in both developed and developing countries.  The fact that the Women’s Convention had not been ratified by all States was an obstacle for the protection of women’s rights.

ISATOU NJIE-SAIDY, Vice-President and Minister for Women’s Affairs of the Gambia, said that, due to data paucity and the non-reporting of incidents in her country, statistics on violence against women and girls were difficult to come by.  However, anecdotal evidence indicated that a significant number of women and girls in the country experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.  Such violence had serious consequences, especially for girls’ and women’s physical, sexual and mental health, as well as implications for the well-being of their families and communities.  The Government continued to create an appropriate legal and policy framework that was protective of women’s and girls’ rights, she said, citing several laws and codes to those ends.

As a result of the Government’s unwavering commitment to addressing violence against women and girls, she said, the country continued to register positive results.  Among those results were the increased knowledge on the harmful effects of such violence, decreasing levels of domestic violence, especially wife battering and decreasing incidences of child abuse and corporal punishment in schools.  However, challenges remained.  Key among them was the lack of adequate resources exacerbated by socio-cultural constraints that were inimical to the well-being of women and girls.  The Gambia, therefore, continued to count on its development partners to complement the Government’s efforts in that regard.

JOELLE MILQUET, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior and Equal Opportunities of Belgium, said the fact that States were a long way from success in establishing women’s equality was among society’s greatest failures.  Violence against women showed the urgency of combating that problem at national and international levels.  States must be united in action to denounce behaviour that suppressed women.  “We need to hear the world say:  ‘That’s enough!’” she declared, pressing Governments to be more united in that work.  Violence against women was a global urgency equal to the pursuit for peace or combating poverty and it, thus, must be approached with a new commitment to the global governance agenda.

She went on to stress that no tradition, custom, culture or religion could justify such abuse, noting that combating it meant defending all women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  Domestically, combating all forms of violence against women must be carried out through cross-cutting national action plans and men’s involvement.  Belgium’s plan brought together all Government and civil society actors to address factors, from education to awareness-raising.  It aimed to strengthen assistance to victims and included new measures to address forced marriage, honour killings and female genital mutilation.  In sum, she urged that combating violence against women be a binding foreign policy priority.  She also said that in conflict, States were obliged to protect women and include them in peace negotiations, underlining that resolution 1325 (2000) must be respected.

PAKINAM AL SHARKAWI, Deputy Prime Minister and Special Assistant to the President for Political Affairs of Egypt, recalled that women had stood proudly alongside men during the recent Egyptian revolution, calling for freedom, dignity, democracy and justice, and had participated in many related popular and political activities.  The post-revolution democratic Egypt was committed to preserving the gains that Egyptian women had made over many years.  To that end, the 2012 Constitution underlined the rights of women as full-fledged citizens and criminalized any practices that humiliated or attacked the human being.  That new framework had enabled women to gain more political independence, and they now stood ready to contribute more effectively.  That would ultimately support the mission of the United Nations and its specialized agencies to “truly embody the world with its diverse races, religions, peoples and cultures”, she added, welcoming the regional office of UN-Women in Cairo.

She said that the problem of violence against women was one of today’s major global challenges.  Egypt was currently promulgating a law that criminalized all forms of violence against women and girls.  There was a need to address the root causes of such violence on the international level, with the participation of civil society.  Egypt was keen to develop more effective policies for women’s advancement and to combat all forms of violence against them.  She hoped the Commission would achieve its goals in reaching “balanced and specific” formulations, without imposing definitions of concepts that were not agreed and that went beyond the scope of the session.  She urged international support for all women under occupation and in conflict situations, and, in particular, support Palestinian women’s right to decent life.

High-level Round Table A

Launching the round table, Commission Chair Ms. KAMARA said the objective was to discuss this year’s priority theme:  “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.  There could be no doubt that such abuse carried significant social, economic and productivity costs, and impeded the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.  Its elimination must be a central part of the post-2015 agenda.  While much had been achieved by Governments and civil society, “we all are falling far short of implementing the commitments that we have made to women and girls everywhere for a life free from violence”, she stressed.  She encouraged delegates to share national experiences and good practices and discuss the remaining challenges.

In a round of questions and comments that lasted the entire afternoon, delegates vociferously outlined national measures to prevent and combat violence against women, especially domestic violence, urging that victims be supported, perpetrators held to justice and root causes thoroughly addressed.  Belgium’s delegate said his country had a national platform for dialogue on domestic violence, which sought to create a holistic approach and establish interdisciplinary collaboration.  Belgium provided training to physicians, encouraging them to view violence as a possible diagnosis, and was working to change young people’s behaviour through theatrical performances in schools.

Many delegates also drew attention to the practice of female genital mutilation, with Portugal’s speaker noting that her country was host to migrants from 12 countries where that behaviour was practised.  To address the issue, Portugal had created a health data platform to register such cases and would soon launch as study on prevalence.   Mauritania’s delegate said prevalence had fallen in her country, thanks to a national strategy that involved religious leaders, who passed fatwasprohibiting that “nefarious” practice, which had no religious origins.

Widening the scope, Ghana’s delegate said harmful traditional practices also included forced and child marriages, abduction and customary servitude — behaviour that was widespread in West Africa.  Protecting women and girls — and prosecuting perpetrators — had proven difficult, due to customs and culture.  She urged consideration of alternative rites of passage and leadership models.  Acknowledging that such behaviour persisted on “false” religious or cultural grounds, Bahrain’s delegate urged efforts to change attitudes about women.

On that point, Finland’s representative, to a burst of applause, said that preventing violence against women must start with involving men and boys.  He asked about countries’ experiences in providing new perspectives on masculinity.  Switzerland’s delegate asked specifically how to change the behaviour of violent men, and further, ensure that men were involved in countering domestic violence.

Taking up that call, several delegates offered potential ways forward, with South Africa’s delegate urging a focus on “primary prevention” of the values that fed male superiority.  That ideology taught men to use violence as a way to deal with problems, which in turn, legitimized violence in societies.  Samoa’s delegate said her country was engaging men and boys through village-based fathers and sons programmes.  In a similar context, the representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic urged a focus on “inherited” violence and changing the mindset of community elders, particularly in ethnic minorities.  “They are the ones who can say:  ‘This is inadmissible!’”

Delegates also emphasized the urgent need to help women and girls affected by armed conflict, especially women who had been raped or experienced other forms of sexual violence.  Ending armed conflict could not be left solely to the men perpetrating wars.  In her country, the representative of the Philippines said, women were at the frontlines of peacemaking, sitting at the peace table in talks with the Moro Liberation Front.  The national peacemaking office was led by a woman.  “We already see the difference made,” she said, citing the landmark 2012 agreement outlining women’s rights to political participation and protection against violence.

New and emerging problems were also raised, with delegates recognizing that violence against women and girls was often perpetrated through use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).  They asked for best practices to reduce exposure to pornography, sexually suggestive texts, cyber bullying and stalking.

In the final comment of the discussion, the representative of the Council of Europe said that body’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence — or the “Istanbul Convention” — outlined legally binding definitions for domestic violence and recognized that the “reality of abuse against women” — including rape — was not limited to dodgy back alleys in the dark of night.  Many times, it occurred at home and was repeated over time.  The Convention addressed the root causes of domestic violence and aimed to improve the responsiveness of justice systems.  “We must promote a change of mindset, through education and the media, so violence against women is understood as a human rights violation,” she declared.

Responding to the day’s comments, LAKSHMI PURI, Deputy Executive Director of the UN-Women, said participants had recognized that violence against women was a pandemic, despite the laws, policies and commitments to “zero tolerance”.

In her closing remarks, Ms. AMELINE, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, underlined the importance of legal frameworks and of updating provisions on violence against women.  The Committee was working on general recommendations on women and conflict, women and climate change, and harmful practices.  National machineries also were very important.

Also speaking in today’s discussion were the representatives of France, Turkey, Finland, Norway, Kazakhstan, Solomon Islands, Brazil, India, Denmark, Nigeria, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Uganda, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Côte d’Ivoire, Uruguay, Sudan, Guinea, Spain, United States, Niger and Jamaica.

A representative of the European Union also spoke, as did an observer for the State of Palestine.  A representative of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.

High-level Round Table B

The Commission held a parallel roundtable discussion, which was led by Vice-Chair Carlos Garcia Gonzalez ( El Salvador).  Among other speakers, it featured Ivy Josiah, Executive Director of the Women’s Aid Organization in Malaysia and Regional Council Member of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; and Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.

Opening the discussion, Mr. GARCIA GONZALEZ said that violence against women and girls had serious consequences for all countries.  It was having a negative impact on development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and defeating it must be an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda.  While much had been accomplished, he said, “we are falling far short of implementing the commitments we have made” to women and girls.  Political will, leadership and resources were required, and a “comprehensive and coordinated approach” was urgently needed.  He asked panellists and other high-level participants to share their experiences and discuss remaining gaps and challenges, as well as ways of overcoming them, and to respond to the points made by other speakers.

A number of delegates then outlined their national plans aimed at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Among those — which included programmes to prevent violence before it occurred, supporting victims of repeat violence, and holding offenders to account — was the creation of new legal norms and more inclusive definitions of gender-based violence, the establishment of task forces in such specific areas as family violence, and quotas for the representation of women in politics and other decision-making sectors.  They also described strong grass-roots initiatives, such as national gatherings of women representing all national political parties.

The delegate of Cameroon spotlighted a commitment signed by a number of Cameroonian Imams and Islamic Affairs dignitaries to help end female genital mutilation.  Organizations of the wives of traditional elders in her country were also working to influence changes in their communities.  The General Secretary of GenderEquality of Greece said that telephone hotlines, counseling centres, awareness-raising programmes and sensitization campaigns were the hallmarks of his country’s gender equality and women’s empowerment policy.   Greece, like a number of other countries represented today, was also part of UN-Women’s “Say No — UNiTE” campaign.

A number of delegates highlighted the crucial role that could be played by men and boys.  As long as there was resistance to that, the violence would persist, some said.  The delegate from Bangladesh laid the blame at the door of patriarchy, saying that the unequal gender relations that persisted at all levels were the root cause of violence against women and of gender inequality.  He said it continued to feed such practices as child and arranged marriages, dowries and discrimination against homosexuals.  He said engagement with the youth was a vital part of his country’s strategy, which aimed to increase sensitivity about gender equality.

Along those lines, Zambia’s delegate drew attention to her country’s engagement of chiefs in partnerships, aimed at promoting positive cultural practices and the elimination of negative ones.  Discussions had already taken place on issues including child marriage, the speaker said.

In Bolivia, said its envoy, the fight against violence against women was integral to the country’s Constitution, and the integration of women in the political sphere was vital.  Twelve laws had recently been passed to tackle the problem and those aimed at ensuring the participation women in political decision-making.  Women made up the majority of senate members, and there was parity in the President’s cabinet.  Women’s political participation was only possible if guarantees against future violence were ensured at all levels, including in the Constitution and the legislative fields, she said.

Nevertheless, many speakers drew attention to gaps and challenges facing the realization of the rights of women and girls in their countries.  Indeed, some said, it was the sad truth that, all over the world, there was “silent consent” for violence against women.  A number of myths existed, including that women should suffer for their families, that women with careers could not take care of their families effectively and that aggression was part of the innate nature of men.  Such long-standing misconceptions must be rooted out in order for gender equality and women’s empowerment to truly take hold, stressed delegates.

Some speakers also pointed to specific conditions that were exacerbating the negative situations of women and girls around the world.  Instability in Egypt, said that country’s delegate, as well as a dire economic situation worldwide, had led, in many cases, to the perpetration of violence against women.  In that regard, she called for a comprehensive policy and political will to create an atmosphere conducive to women’s participation across the country.  Around the world, “women are still the slaves of the dark ages,” she said, calling all States and the United Nations system to work to reverse that long-standing trend.

Ms. JOSIAH said a young activist had asked her about the impact of the Women’s Commission over dinner the night before.  The question reminded her of the value of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which had been implemented faster than most international conventions in history.  Taking up the oft-mentioned theme of dismantling patriarchy, she agreed that that was vital and underlined the need to back it up with political will and financial resources.

She said women needed to be sure that they could go to courts or police stations and expect justice.  She had lobbied for such a law in Malaysia and, after its passage, a 200 per cent increase in the number of women making complaints had been recorded.  However, such laws required effective implementation, and that meant constant monitoring and evaluation.  In the Republic of Korea, she noted, laws were reviewed every three years.  The approach to their implementation should be multi-sectoral and be the responsibility of many agencies, and not just of women’s ministries.  Nevertheless, Governments should elevate the role of women’s ministries and adequately resource them.  Instead, they tended to be diluted, subsuming responsibility for “children” and “welfare”, or becoming more general “ministries of gender affairs”.  The focus needed to remain on women.

Ms. Gilmore said the session showed the widespread global commitment to eradicating violence against women and girls.  It was important to remember that gender-based violence was ultimately “a question of global suffering”.  At its heart was the inherent human dignity of each and every person and the “sovereignty of the body”.  At the heart of the United Nations were individual human beings who were members of families that made up the citizenship of the communities of each of the body’s Member States.  As such, families could not become places where individual human rights were disrespected or where human dignity was attacked.

She said the Commission was asking cultural, political and traditional leaders of all stripes across all countries to understand that there could be no neutrality on the issue of violence against women.  Women hoped for something very simple and straightforward, for which people could be held clearly accountable, namely, that violence against women needed to end.  There should be no place where the woman or the girl child’s body could be violated.  The view that the Commission had expressed through the speakers who had taken the floor needed to become a clarion call to the United Nations Member States that they would no longer tolerate violence against women.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives from Canada, Australia, Egypt, Botswana, Cameroon, Angola, Italy, New Zealand, Morocco, Poland, Zimbabwe, Luxembourg, Iran, Greece, Mexico, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Panama, Chile, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Qatar, Georgia, Argentina, Mozambique, Cambodia, Estonia, Thailand, Belarus, Ecuador and Japan.

A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke.

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