Special Rapporteur Briefs, as Ministers Outline National Strategies, Urge ‘Stand-Alone’ Goal for Women in Post-2015 Agenda
Protecting women and girls from violence and discrimination was the ultimate responsibility of the State, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences told the Commission on the Status of Women today, pressing Governments to better address the legal gaps in protection, prevention and accountability.
As the Commission moved into day two of its fifty-eighth session, Rashida Manjoo briefed participants on her work over the last year. Her thematic reports had focused on issues that warranted clarification — specifically through a women’s human rights perspective — covering such issues as reparations for victims of violence; multiple forms of discrimination; and gender-related killings of women.
She said her report to the Human Rights Council last June, for example, focused on State responsibility to eliminate violence against women. It found that for a State to determine what constituted fulfilment of its obligations, it must provide individual due diligence to victims of violence, as well as systemic due diligence, which required it to create a system to eliminate violence against women.
Her report to the General Assembly last year looked at the consequences of women’s incarceration, she said, stressing that there was a strong link between women’s imprisonment and violence against them. States were duty-bound to address the problem’s structural causes and encouraged to develop gender-specific sentencing alternatives.
On the health front, she said practices such as involuntary sterilizations, forced abortions and female genital mutilation constituted gender violence, and in some cases amounted to cruel and unusual treatment. Going forward, she called for evaluating the relationship between violence against women and sustainable development, and addressing the culture of impunity for such acts.
Throughout the day’s general debate, some 70 ministers and other high-level officials stressed the importance of guaranteeing a woman’s right to live free from violence. Many women still lived in patriarchal societies, they said, and were victims of violence in their families as well as outside. A change of attitudes and mind sets was needed, particularly among men and boys.
Governments also must do their part, speakers said, notably by including women in the design of policies and programmes that affected them. The Minister of Women’s Rights and Government Spokeswoman of France criticized Governments that denied sexual and reproductive rights, urging all to “say loud and clear in this place, sexual and reproductive rights should be protected everywhere”. Those rights were fundamental and universal, and allowed both men and women to make suitable choices, she said.
Pointing to gains made, the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda said her country had outlawed female genital mutilation, passed a domestic violence act to ensure that any violence against women was severely punished in the courts, and would enact a law to prohibit child marriages.
Going forward, a number of participants supported the creation of a stand-alone goal for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda. The Minister of Health, Social Services and Gender Equality of Spain, echoing the calls of many, favoured a framework that would consolidate gains and promote strategies to end gender-based violence.
Other speakers insisted that access to education was essential to achieving lasting development, arguing that while gender parity in primary education had been achieved in many parts of the world, secondary education was only an aspiration for far too many girls. That had severe economic consequences for growth, with women overrepresented in unstable sectors of the economy and denied the opportunity to contribute to society. Vowing to help change that scenario, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan said his country aimed to create “a society in which women shine”, as a key growth strategy.
Ministers and other high-level officials of the following countries contributed to the discussion: Kiribati (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Morocco, France, Spain, Nigeria, Mexico, Ghana, Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Mali, Netherlands, Bahamas, Samoa, Zambia, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Luxembourg, Egypt, Afghanistan, Lesotho, Slovenia, United States, Mozambique, Malaysia, Niger, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Benin, Nicaragua, Canada, Indonesia, Senegal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Australia, Bolivia, Sweden, Haiti, Cameroon, Kuwait, Denmark, Eritrea, Togo, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Norway, Turkey, Costa Rica, Latvia, Lithuania, Thailand, Portugal, Tunisia, Italy, Seychelles, Georgia, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, Philippines, Peru, Cambodia and Cuba.
The representative of Finland also spoke, as did the Minister of Women Affairs of the State of Palestine.
Also speaking was the Chair of the Non-governmental Organization Committee on the Commission on the Status of Women.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 March, to continue its session.
The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue the general discussion of its fifty-eighth session.
TANGARIKI REETE, Minister of Women and Social Affairs of Kiribati, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, said the group’s countries faced uniquely challenging environments that had made it difficult to realize the Millennium Development Goals, especially for women and girls, whose vulnerabilities were exposed by events such as natural disasters. Gains, especially in the area of education, were not leading to better job outcomes, due to gender barriers. Most women had limited access to the formal economy, and maternal health was not at desired levels. General lack of access to reproductive health services was a key barrier.
Despite those challenges, she said, some Forum countries had made progress. Political will was needed to achieve genuine equality, and countries had taken step in that direction with a 2012 declaration, which required action on developing gender-responsive programmes and policies. Forum leaders had also emphasized a focus on women and girls with disabilities, an issue that had not been specifically addressed in the Millennium Goals. Other priority areas to be addressed included discrimination and the availability of both sex‑disaggregated data and analysis.
PAAVO ARHINMÄKI (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, noted that in the past 20 years great achievements had been made in gender quality, including getting girls to school, increasing women’s life expectancy and bringing women into the labour force. However, despite those great achievements, serious gender disparities persisted. Maternal health was a primary area of focus for Finland, which was now among the countries with the lowest maternal and infant mortality rates worldwide. Women and girls could only be healthy and active participants in society if they had the right and knowledge needed to make decisions concerning their own bodies, sexuality and reproductive health. Finland urged more attention and resources to gender equality work, as its correlation to economic, social and environmental development was clear.
BASSIMA HAKKAOUI, Minister for Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, Morocco, outlined the various steps the country had taken to reduce the gender gap and guarantee women’s human rights. She pointed to programmes to aid undocumented female workers, provide sexual reproductive health care, slash maternal mortality and increase employment opportunities for women, among others. The National Plan for Human Development had played a major role in combating poverty, with its various training and education programmes. The Government also had set up an action plan and draft law to combat gender-based violence. It was due to be put to the vote next month in Parliament. Indeed, several legal amendments had been adopted to bolster women’s rights, including a bill to end underage marriages and to criminalize those that did not comply. Women accounted for 10 percent of business owners in Morocco, thanks to programmes to promote their entrepreneurship. She called for sex-disaggregated data and targets to benefit the most vulnerable women in society.
NAJAT VALLAUD-BELKACEM, Minster of Women’s Rights and Government Spokeswoman, France, said empowerment required development, health and rights. Despite considerable progress to enshrine gender equality in many constitutions, the differences between the sexes had never been greater. Many women still lived in patriarchal societies and were victims of violence in their families or outside. She criticized Governments that denied sexual and reproductive rights, urging all to “say loud and clear in this place, sexual and reproductive rights should be protected everywhere”. Those rights were fundamental and universal, and allowed both men and women to make suitable choice. They also gave women the right not to die in childbirth and to better access to education. Denying such rights was akin to accepting as inevitable the many women who died each year, she said, pointing to the 240 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in developing countries. It was high time the international community ensured access to safe abortion.
ANA MATO ADROVER, Minister of Health, Social Services and Gender Equality of Spain, said discrimination against women and girls continued to exist globally, raising risks of vulnerability to poverty and social exclusion. The Spanish Government’s domestic and global priority of reducing inequalities could be seen through national efforts addressing equal pay and support for women entrepreneurs. The latter includes a public and private initiative to establish a network of businesses for a society free of gender violence, with more than 1,000 victims of gender violence placed in jobs to give them and their children a new life. Globally, Spain fostered and supported innovative funds, such as the MDG Fund, providing more than 70 million euros for 130 programmes to reach 9 million people. “The work is hard, the road is long, but the efforts will have been worthwhile, because working for equality is working for justice,” she said.
HAJIYA ZAINAB MAINA, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as to the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. Nigeria had adopted an integrated maternal, newborn and child health strategy to reduce child morbidity and maternal mortality, as well as implemented the Millennium Goals Acceleration Framework on Goal 5 (maternal health), which had improved its referral system. It also had adopted the African Union roadmap on shared responsibility and global solidarity for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Expressing concern at the lack of accountability mechanisms, which had hampered achievement of the Goals, she recalled that their implementation was a joint undertaking among all development actors.
LORENA CRUZ SÁNCHEZ, President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico, said gender equality was a State policy, and the Institute promoted cooperation among the legislature, judiciary and executive branches, at federal, state and municipal levels. The Institute had the highest level of communication with all state governments and had recently agreed to set up a working group to position 32 mechanisms for women’s advancement. The President’s commitment to women was reflected in the national development plan 2013-2018, which enshrined gender as a cross-cutting strategy to be observed by all Government bodies. Mexico had solid legal, institutional and budgetary foundations guaranteeing equal rights, and general laws on equality and women’s right to live free from violence
NANA OYE LITHUR, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ghana, said inclusive, sustainable development was the way forward. Ghana was on track to achieve the first Millennium Goal of halving extreme poverty. The country had launched a national social protection strategy and a cash transfer programme helping 74,000 households, of which more than 60 per cent were headed by women. Ghana had made impressive progress in promoting education, but maintaining school enrolment remained challenging. It had achieved gender parity in schools, and the literacy rate for young girls had increased from 66 per cent in 2000 to 79.9 per cent in 2010. She pointed to improved enrolment of women voters and the election of women to local government posts, which had risen from 5 per cent in 1998 to more than 10 per cent in 2006. HIV had declined by more than 25 per cent between 2001 and 2011, and the country was on track to meet all the HIV-related Millennium targets. Still, stigma and discrimination against people with HIV remained high. Finally, lessons learned in women’s empowerment and gender equality should inform the post-2015 agenda.
CHO YOON-SUN, Minister of Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, said her country had promoted gender mainstreaming strategies of the view that “overlooking the differences between men and women could lead to discrimination”. It also had started using gender-responsive budgeting in 2010, efforts which had expanded to local governments last year. Women must be given the chance to participate in policymaking, yet their representation, especially at the executive level, was still very weak. The Government had introduced various measures to address that situation. Recalling the election of her country’s first female president last year, she described the launch of the Gender Parity Task Force, which would create focused missions to raise awareness about gender equality.
KAROORO OKURUT, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, said her country had achieved gender parity in primary education and that affirmative action had led to a critical mass of women in leadership positions. The country was on track to reduce child mortality by 2015 and had also increased access to safe drinking water and affordable drugs. While the maternal mortality rate had been falling, there was work to be done, especially among young mothers who accounted for many pregnancy-related complications. Another area of concern was the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which was higher among women than men. Uganda had outlawed female genital mutilation, passed a domestic violence act to ensure any violence against women was severely punished in the courts, and would enact a law to prohibit child marriages. The legal framework was in place to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.
ALEJANDRINA GERMÁN, Minister of Women of the Dominican Republic, said her country’s Constitution enshrined the principles of gender equality, the right of women to live free from violence and equal participation in the electoral process. The Government had carried out a cost exercise of 140 interventions in the context of Millennium Goal 3 (gender equality, women’s empowerment). The results had shown progress towards gender equality in primary education, she said, noting that in 2012, 95 girls for every 100 boys had attended primary school. The Family Health Insurance Plan had been expanded to 5.6 million beneficiaries, 52.2 per cent of whom were women. On the economic front, the proportion of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector had increased from 25 per cent in 1990 to 39.2 per cent in 2009. On the health front, risks to mothers during pregnancy and childbirth had declined.
OUMOU BA SANGARE, Minister for the Advancement of Women, Family and Children, Mali, said recent presidential and legislative elections had been transparent. Mali was turning a page in its history and moving on from human rights violations. Her Ministry had organized on 25 to 26 February a forum on reconciliation and the socioeconomic reintegration of women affected by the crisis. She thanked bilateral and multilateral partners for their efforts to find a solution and she endorsed the relevant recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report. She attached particular importance to all issues related to development of women and girls, noting considerable progress in girls’ education, maternal health, reducing infant mortality and women’s participation in decision-making. The 2012 crisis in northern Mali had greatly compromised the gains made for women and girls, many of whom were affected by massive displacements. The Government was working for the return and socioeconomic reintegration of children and for protection of their human rights. She encouraged the adoption of a post-2015 programme that would consolidate and further promote gains and strategies to end gender-based violence.
LILIANNE PLOUMEN, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Netherlands, said the world should celebrate brave, successful women, not just great political leaders, but also the women in Egypt and Syria fighting for their rights during war and the women in other countries who had stood up and refused to accept forced marriage at a young age. Empowering women politically and economically, combating violence against them, and promoting sexual and reproductive rights must be at the heart of any development agenda. She pointed to recent studies that showed that in 28 European Union countries, one in three women was a victim of some kind of abuse. It was imperative that women everywhere learned from each other’s best practices. She called for a stand-alone goal for gender equality and women’s empowerment and its integration into all goals and targets, as well as freedom of choice in all of life’s aspects, including sexual orientation.
HIROTAKA ISHIHARA, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the Prime Minister was working to create “a society in which women shine”, as a key growth strategy. Japan aimed to contribute to creating such societies around the world and would strengthen its assistance to developing countries to promote women’s participation. On the health front, he said: “We should shift our way of thinking from a disease-based mindset to a person-based mindset in promoting universal health coverage”, noting that Japan would help solve global health issues. After the earthquake three years ago, Japan learned about the need for gender-responsive disaster prevention and relief, and post-disaster reconstruction. It hoped to table a resolution on gender equality and empowerment of women in natural disasters, during the Commission’s session.
MELANIE GRIFFIN, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, Bahamas, pointed to several national initiatives to reduce the disproportionate burden of poverty on women and children. With the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, the Bahamas was carrying out a social safety net reform project. It aimed to break the cycle of poverty in families, many headed by single mothers, with the introduction of conditional, cash transfers. Bahamas had met the gender parity target in primary and secondary levels, and women continued to outnumber men at the tertiary level. The country maintained consistently low incidences of maternal mortality, and efforts continued to reduce infant mortality. The Bahamas mother-to-child transmission programme had been recognized as a best practice in the region. She called for greater efforts to improve women’s participation in meaningful decision-making, noting that Parliament had just removed the remaining discriminatory provisions against women in the Constitution.
TOLOFUAIVALELEI FALEMOE LEIATAUA, Minister of Women, Community and Social Development of Samoa, touched on progress in achieving universal primary education and reducing child mortality, acknowledging that gains made across the other Goals had varied. Parliament had recently passed a constitutional amendment act, which allocated 10 per cent of seats for women competing in national elections. While it fell short of the 30 per cent target, it was a “milestone” achievement, as Samoa was the first Pacific country to have passed such legislation. The Transformational Leadership Development Programme had been launched to facilitate a change in attitudes towards violence against women and facilitate their political participation. At the regional level, a “Gender Stock” initiative highlighted the elements for improved responsibility for gender in the public sector. With that, he called for renewed political will to achieve gender equality and the creation of a stand-alone goal on that issue in the post-2015 development agenda.
JO GOODHEW, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Zambia, said her country had reduced extreme poverty, increased primary school enrolment, improved primary school completion and was on track to achieve gender parity in literacy among 15 to 24 year olds. Child and maternal mortality were falling, as was HIV prevalence. Child marriages, however, were on the rise, which set up for a “bleak” future for children who prematurely dropped out of school. Her Government was committed to working on that issue with international support. She urged united efforts to devise “ambitious” targets for women in the post-2015 development agenda, voicing support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, as well as gender-specific targets formulated “without much debate” to protect the fundamental human rights of women and girls.
SANDREA FALCONER, Minister without Portfolio with Responsibility for Information, Jamaica, said several legislative initiatives, gender mainstreaming and activities to eliminate gender-based violence had been adopted to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in Jamaica. An anti-sexual harassment law was in the advanced stages. In partnership with UN-Women, the Government was revising its National Strategic Action Plan on Gender-based Violence. The National Policy for the Reintegration of School-aged Mothers into the Formal School System was approved in May 2013. Further action was needed to tackle negative gender stereotyping in order to give more women an equal stake in decision-making. Jamaica was committed to ratifying International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention no. 189. She pointed to Government programmes that had led to a decline in infant and maternal mortality as well as mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Ministries of Health and Education were streamlining laws and programmes to ensure sexual and reproductive rights for underage girls.
JO GOODHEW, Minister of Women’s Affairs of New Zealand, said the progress in closing gender gaps and empowering women must be celebrated, but there was still much to do. The session’s theme was timely and appropriate. Investing in girls and women paid off, she said, noting that her Government’s priorities focused on greater economic independence, more leadership roles and increased safety from violence. Given the growing diversity of her country’s population, with large growth seen in indigenous communities, she looked forward to the current session to work collectively on gender equality, identifying challenges, setting global standards and formulating concrete policies for women worldwide.
LULU XINGWANA, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities of South Africa, said her country ranked second on the 2012 Gender and Development Index of the Southern African Development Community, with a score only slightly lower than that of the top performer. In the National Parliament, women held 44 per cent of the seats; in the Cabinet, they held 42 per cent of the seats. However, in the private sector, they held just 5 per cent of the seats on corporate boards or as chairpersons, while 17 per cent of women worked in management or at decision-making levels. A bill on women’s empowerment and equality had been adopted and, once enacted, would speed implementation of other legislation, policies and strategies. On health, South Africa had reduced mother-to-child HIV transmission. She supported the creation of a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda.
HIJRAN HUSEYNOVA, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan, said gender equality and women’s empowerment had assumed an “important place” in national discussions on a post-2015 development agenda. To eliminate discrimination against women, the Government had reviewed its laws, policies, regulations and programmes, enacted laws on gender equality and combating domestic violence, and amended the family and criminal codes. Today, 69.2 per cent of working women were involved in the private sector, while 30.8 per cent were in the public sector. Special attention was also paid to rural women, with projects aimed at increasing their economic activities and vocational education.
EYGLÓ HARÕARDÓTTIR, Minister of Social Affairs and Housing of Iceland, said that without women’s full and equal participation, it would be impossible to make lasting progress on sustainable development challenges, such as ensuring education or building peace. In the Nordic countries, the revolution in women’s education and high female participation in the labour market had underpinned economic prosperity. Gender equality must be mainstreamed throughout the new development framework, she said, stressing the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, based on a “transformative” approach to tackling inequality’s structural causes. Iceland would focus on closing the gender pay gap, securing equal political and economic power, and eliminating gender violence.
LYDIA MUTSCH, Minister for Equal Opportunities of Luxembourg, said progress in poverty reduction, access to education and reduced child and maternal mortality must not lead to complacency in endeavouring to ensure a decent life for all. Gaps remained between women and men, and in developing countries, women often faced more obstacles than men in the labour market. Women played a key role in fighting poverty and their participation was essential to its eradication. Her country had, for the first time, adopted a programme with qualitative targets to be reached by 2019 for the underrepresented gender. To achieve the best results in terms of gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment, Luxembourg supported both a stand-alone goal on gender and its mainstreaming in all goals as foundational to the post-2015 framework. “International cooperation and solidarity are more than ever needed to make this world a fairer place,” she said.
MERVAT TALLAWY, President of the National Council for Women of Egypt, noted that a man had presided over today’s general debate, as well as the two round tables held yesterday, which she hoped would be corrected next year. The 1994 Cairo Declaration, the Beijing Platform for Action and other international instruments aimed to effectively address women’s needs. Some countries had used democracy and human rights, and the fight against terrorism as pretexts to intervene in State affairs, which Egypt rejected. The revolutions in January and June had toppled a regime that was not acceptable to the people, and women had been at the forefront of that effort.
HUSSN BANO GHAZANFAR, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan, said important gains had been made over the past 12 years towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, including the adoption of laws to safeguard women and enhance their political participation, education, health and economic empowerment. In the past, women simply did not participate in politics and governance, whereas today, they comprised 22 per cent of the Government and 27 per cent of the country’s General Assembly. In 2001, only 5,000 girls were attending schools, but at present, some 2.4 million were in school, with that trend continuously increasing. However, three and a half decades of imposed conflict and political uncertainty had created a violent environment, with negative traditional and customary practices in remote areas producing low literacy rates and poverty. Current challenges included a severe shortage of female specialists, lack of food, limited access to safe drinking water and health facilities in remote areas, and early marriage. The Government was implementing programmes aimed at higher gains, long-term plans and large-scale efforts.
THESELE MASERIBANE, Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation of Lesotho, said his country had made significant progress in levelling the playing field between women and men. Several policy interventions and pieces of legislation were now in place, and the Government prioritized efforts to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment into poverty reduction, democratic governance and sustainable development. The Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006 was aimed at removing the minority status of women and granting them equal access to economic resources and facilities. The Land Act of 2010 gave women and men equal access to property. Also enacted was the Gender and Development Policy in 2003, which sought to eliminate sociocultural barriers to education and ensure gender-sensitive career guidance at all levels of schooling.
ANJA KOPAC MRAK, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity of Slovenia, said that the economic crisis had strongly but differently affected the lives of women and men in the country. He acknowledged that, unfortunately, the gender perspective was not always taken into account when implementing measures. In 2014, his Government would adopt a new strategic document for promotion of gender equality in the next eight-year period. The National Programme for Equality between Women and Men would set further commitments to promote economic independence of women; overcome poverty and social inclusion; prevent and eliminate violence against women; encourage equal participation in decision-making; combat gender stereotypes; and reduce health inequalities between women and men and assure sexual and reproductive health, rights and education. Gender equality, empowerment and rights of girls and women should be a stand-alone sustainable development goal and mainstreamed into other goals as a cross-cutting issue with targets.
CATHERINE RUSSELL, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, United States, affirmed her Government’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, but said a careful review was needed of what had worked and what had not. She said she could not imagine a post-2015 development agenda that did not include gender empowerment as a goal, adding that gender-specific targets must be integrated into other relevant goals. Gender equality was critical to prosperity and peace and to advancing foreign policy. She outlined a number of plans recently launched by her Government, including a national action plan on women, peace and security in 2011 and a first ever plan to prevent and respond to gender violence globally. The Government also had continued to support programmes to improve the quality of clinical care for sexual assault victims in refugee camps and to benefit from best practices used in safe shelters, as well as the myriad programmes at the United Nations. Among other initiatives, her Government two years ago had launched in the General Assembly the Equal Futures Partnership, aimed at breaking down barriers to women’s political and economic participation.
RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said that her report to the Human Rights Council in June would highlight developments in the United Nations, as well as gaps and challenges identified by her mandate. In the first decade, the mandate focused on expanding recognition of the various manifestations of violence against women, whether in the public or private sphere. It examined State obligations to ensure that women’s lives were free of violence and focused on identifying implementation gaps.
During her tenure, she had deepened the work of her predecessors by submitting thematic reports, which drew attention to issues that had warranted clarification, specifically through a women’s human right perspective. Such issues included remedies and reparations for victims of violence; gender-related killings of women; violence against women with disabilities; and the consequences of the incarceration for women. Her reports provided frameworks for taking a holistic approach to addressing the violence as a human rights issue.
Indeed, violence experienced by women was rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequality, reflecting the subordination and repression under which many women lived. Violence was a barrier to the exercise of human rights, including the right to life.
Turning to her work over the year, she said that last June, she had submitted a report to the Human Rights Council on State responsibility to eliminate violence against women. Using the principle of due diligence, her report provided an overview of existing practices in respect of States’ duty to act. For a State to determine what constituted the fulfilment of its obligations, it must provide individual as well as systemic due diligence to victims of violence, which required the creation of a system to eliminate the gender-based violence.
Her report to the General Assembly last year looked at the consequences of incarceration for women, she explained, noting that women worldwide faced similar human rights violations, which led to their imprisonment and affected the conditions once inside. There was a strong link between violence against women and women’s incarceration. States had a duty to address the structural and root causes of both crime and victimization. Additionally, States were encouraged to develop gender-specific sentencing alternatives.
As for country visits, she said she had received positive replies from Afghanistan, Egypt, Honduras, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sudan and the United Kingdom.
She went on to say that the Millennium Development Goals had provided only a narrow set of economic and social indicators, none of which were rights-based and all of which had low quantitative thresholds. The creation of sustainable development goals was an opportunity to redress those shortcomings. Proposals for the post-2015 framework called for a transformative approach to gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment, notably through the creation of a stand-alone goal on those issues.
Calling the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development a “watershed” in recognizing women’s reproductive rights through a human rights lens, she said denials of certain of those rights, including forced abortions and female genital mutilation, constituted gender violence, and the denial of abortion, in some cases, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
In sum, she said the responsibility to protect women and girls from violence and discrimination was the ultimate duty of the State. The international community must examine the gaps in the international normative framework and specifically address the legal gaps in prevention and accountability. Nationally, a legislative and policy approach would not bring change if it was not implemented holistically in a way that dealt with the accountability deficit.
SOON-YOUNG YOON, International Alliance of Women and Chair of the NGO Committee on the Commission on the Status of Women, said events during the week would include training workshops and fairs and panels, with a march down Second Avenue on Friday to call for peace. Every year, the women’s movement contributed about $2 million to make the session a success. She hoped a range of issues would be addressed, including gender equality and the process of scaling and speeding up progress on universal health-care coverage.
IOLANDA CINTURA SEUANE, Minister of Women and Social Affairs of Mozambique, said the Commission’s examination of challenges and achievements was important, given the uneven progress. There had been gains in providing access to education for girls, but results lagged in Goals 1, 5 and 6. Her country put gender equality, including access to education, employment and health, at the centre of its efforts. Gender disparity had narrowed in education and gains were seen in training and health. Among ongoing projects were building housing for pregnant women and mothers, dissemination of information on health and, related to that, involving traditional leaders to eliminate practices that were detrimental to women’s health. The post-2015 framework should include gender equality and women’s empowerment, she added.
ROHANI ABDUL KARIM, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, said among the many successes in her country had been the mainstreaming of women into development processes. National projects included support for women, including widows and single mothers, and the elimination of discrimination. The number of women in decision-making positions had risen to 33.7 per cent in 2013. Their participation in the private sector had also increased, she said, adding that further efforts would be undertaken towards achieving Goal 3.
MAKIBI KADIDJATOU DANDOBI, Minister of Population, Advancement of Women and Child Protection of Niger, said that despite her country’s efforts to reduce poverty, targets were out of reach for the 2015 deadline and required increased financing. In education, enrolment had risen from 54 per cent to 80 per cent, yet girls represented only one quarter of university students and literacy rates were lower for women than men. Niger was facing many challenges, including negative perceptions and the lack of opportunities for women, yet it sought to promote women’s role in leadership positions through laws and policies related to the economic, social and cultural aspects of its society.
LYNNE FEATHERSTONE, Minister for International Development of the United Kingdom, said gains had been made, including on Millennium Goal 3, but gaps remained and everything must be done to reach the targets. The Millennium Goals had failed to capture gender equality. A future framework should include gender-specific targets, among other things. The dearth around the world of women in education, science and technology fields must also urgently be addressed. Women needed to be empowered, and she applauded role models such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female Head of State in Africa. Promoting the lives of women and girls around the world should remain a priority for all.
ZENEBU TADESSE WOLDETSADIK, Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs of Ethiopia, said raising the educational status of girls was a priority, and her Government was working hard in that sector, as well as in the provision of health services. With family planning, women had been exercising their reproductive rights, and HIV prevalence had dropped, including among pregnant women. Violence against women, including harmful traditional practices, had also been declining, and women’s participation in politics had increased. She called on all States to support a stand-alone goal for women in the post-2015 framework.
MARIE-LAURENCE SRANON SOSSOU, Minister of Family Social Affairs, National Solidarity and Disabled and Senior Citizens of Benin, said the global development Goals were based on principles of human rights and gender equality. Progress had been achieved, including in health, education and gender equality; however, many remained marginalized by, in part, the absence of a social safety net and the lack of rights to inherit or hold bank accounts. Her Government had taken a number of steps, which had yielded improvements across sectors, including reducing the incidence of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
ANA ISABEL MORALES MAZÚN, Minister of the Interior of Nicaragua, said the Sandinistas had worked diligently towards gender equality over the years. Today, women made up significant percentages in the Government; the majority of judges and half of city governments nationwide were comprised of women. By 2016, they would make up half of the national Government, she said, noting that women already made up a large portion of landowners in the country. Indeed, women had led her country in a revolution of love and were the heart and soul of Nicaragua’s virtues to promote life.
KELLIE LEITCH, Minister of Labour and Minister responsible for Status of Women of Canada, said her country aimed at putting women and children at the centre of a post-2015 development agenda. Canada had taken a strong stance against child marriage as a violation of human rights and was working with developing countries to deter that practice. She looked forward to discussions over the coming weeks, especially when addressing health issues for the future development agenda.
LINDA AMALIA SARI GUMELAR, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, said a stand-alone goal for gender equality in the post-2015 development agenda was “a must” and should also be mainstreamed into all goals. That approach would equip the new agenda with tools to better address the interests of women and girls. Her Government had made significant gains in reducing maternal mortality, addressing violence and exploitation of women and children, and ensuring broader participation of women in politics. Stronger and more collective action in a spirit of mutual respect could produce more progress.
ANTA SARR, Minister of Women, Family and Children of Senegal, said her country had made strides in improving health, education and bringing women into public life. Women now made up 43 per cent of parliamentarians in Senegal. Progress also had been seen in other areas, but such efforts must be strengthened through financing for development. Problems absent from the Millennium Development Goals must be addressed, including female genital mutilation. Women and girls should be at the centre of the next set of goals.
MARCELLA LIBURD, Minister for Health, Social and Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said after experiences of extreme oppression based on race, her country had decided to build a nation without discrimination of any kind. Women in leadership roles were common, and the Government was working towards similar results in employment and Parliament. Assistance for single parents, health and education reform, and legislative support for policies and programmes were among some of the Government’s initiatives. In looking to a future development agenda, women and girls must not be left behind. Men and boys must also participate in the dialogue, and the mistakes of the past must not be repeated.
MICHAELIA CASH, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women of Australia, said while progress had been made, results had been uneven. Inequality persisted worldwide in access to services and participation in government. Australia’s new appointment of an ambassador for women and girls was an important step, which aimed to, among others, broaden access to education and health. Violence against women and girls was another persistent challenge, and her Government was working to implement a national plan to prevent it. It had also worked to eradicate female genital mutilation and child marriage. Empowering women and girls was among the most effective ways of stimulating economic growth. She agreed with previous speakers that equality must be central to a future agenda.
CLAUDIA PEÑA, Minister of Autonomy of Bolivia, supported a transformative and integrated gender equality goal in the post-2015 agenda. The situation of women had resulted from structures and relationships that reproduced a certain form of domination. Policies based on a technical view of sexual health would not improve their lives. “We must deal with injustices,” she said, and question global power structures. The post-2015 agenda must address patriarchies and prioritize the right to a life free from violence and discrimination; it must eliminate non-paid work in the home and ensure respect for sexual and reproductive rights. Thirty per cent of ministries in Bolivia were headed by women. Between 2006 and 2012, Bolivia had significantly improved its global gender equality ranking. In South America, it ranked in second place.
MARIA ARNHOLM, Minister for Gender Equality of Sweden, said her country believed that the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment was a universal responsibility. There was not a single society in the world whose development was not negatively affected by the persistence of unequal power relations between women and men. In that regard, she wished to see a post-2015 framework that reflected the common insight that sustainable development could only be achieved with the realization of the full spectrum of women’s and girls’ rights. She called for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and the mainstreaming of gender-specific targets and indicators across all goals.
YANICK MEZILE, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights of Haiti, said significant reforms had been taken to protect women and to eliminate all forms of violence against them. A law on responsible paternity had been created. The Government also had criminalized rape, which had previously been considered a misdemeanour. The first gender-equality policy for the period 2014 to 2034 had been submitted to the assembly of the Council of Ministers. But access to justice remained limited, especially for poor and rural women. “Poverty is feminine,” she declared, noting that any change in women’s lives must include social and economic empowerment for the country.
ABENA ONDOA NEE OBAMA MARIE THERESE, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Family of Cameroon, said that women’s role was crucial in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Regarding women’s participation in decision-making, the national electoral code adopted in 2012 had taken into consideration the aspect of gender balance by setting a minimum quota of women in elections at 30 per cent. As a result, the number of women in the National Assembly had increased from 25 in the 2007-2012 period to 56 in the 2013-2018 period. Similarly, in the newly created Senate, women occupied 20 out of 100 seats. Reducing child and maternal mortality remained key targets for her country. The mortality rate for children under 5 years of age, which had averaged 144 per 1,000 live births between 1991 and 2004, declined to 122 during the period 2004-2013.
SHEIKHA LATEEFAH F. AL SABAH, Minister and President of Women’s Affairs Committee of Kuwait, said her country had made progress in the areas of education and health for women. It had reduced child mortality and worked to make women equal to men in both the private and public sectors. Through various initiatives, women had taken decision-making posts. Efforts should focus on protecting women’s human rights and preventing all forms of violence against them. At the international level, she encouraged development projects focused on women between rich and poor countries.
MANU SAREEN, Minister for Children Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs of Denmark, said the post-2015 development framework offered an opportunity to push the international commitment towards gender equality in a more progressive direction. A forward-looking outcome of that process must build on experiences in implementing the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, the Goals had not adequately addressed violence against women and girls, gender stereotypes, women’s equal access to assets and productive resources, or the gender wage gap. “This must be redressed,” he said, stressing the need to ensure a renewed political commitment so that all women and girls could fully enjoy their rights, including to sexual and reproductive health.
LUUL GEBREAB, President of the National Union of Eritrean Women of Eritrea, associating herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the African Group, said despite many daunting challenges and constraints, her country remained focused on its efforts to improve the livelihoods of women and girls, and was on course to achieve the Millennium Development Goals related to child mortality, maternal health and HIV/AIDS. Eritrea was also on track in terms of gender equality, universal education and the agreed environmental Goals.
DÉDÉ AHOEFÁ EKOUE, Minister for Social Action, the Promotion of Women and Literacy of Togo, said her country had implemented policies to strengthen the role of women, including in rural areas, increase school enrolment and improve maternal mortality. Women also occupied an increasing number of seats in Parliament and Government overall. Yet, the urgent need remained to strengthen gender equality. The post-2015 agenda should mainstream it in all the goals and include a dedicated gender-equality goal, for which a strong international political commitment for adequate financing was needed.
MOIJUE KAIKAI, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs of Sierra Leone, said that as a country that had recently graduated from a post-conflict to a low-income State, his had put in place gender-equality measures and policies to address inequalities. Gains had been made in poverty reduction, literacy and enrolment. The Government was also in the process of drafting gender equality and women’s empowerment legislation. However, greater support was needed for Sierra Leone to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
RABIHA DIAB, Minister of Women Affairs of the State of Palestine, said women had made gains in areas including decision-making. She was proud that there was a regional and national committee to tackle violence against them. She called for an end to the economic blockade on Gaza, whose people suffered greatly. She urged the international community to ask Israel to remove the blockades and settlements throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She also called for ending violence against women and making them partners in sustainable development.
ANA TRIŠIĊ BABIĊ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said “we have to work for the future”, for which political will was needed. To achieve the unfinished work of the Millennium Goals, it was crucial to place women and girls “front and centre” of the post-2015 agenda, she said, supporting a stand-alone goal on gender equality. The Commission and UN-Women should play a partnership role in that regard. Violence against women was universal and its root causes traced back to unequal access to education, cultural practices and women’s dependence on men. Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for supporting education and had become a symbol for millions of girls denied opportunities for success. Her country had worked to eliminate discrimination and ensure that all victims could seek remedy.
HANS BRATTSKAR, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said “we have to realize that gender equality will not follow automatically from poverty alleviation and economic development”. Rather, States had to start by recognizing that gender equality and women’s empowerment was a prerequisite for social and economic development. Basic rights to education, sexual and reproductive health, and freedom from violence must be ensured. Girls must be protected from early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, he said, stressing that if every girl completed primary school, there would be 64 per cent fewer child brides. Further, States must “get serious” about implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.
AŞKIN ASAN, Deputy Minister of Family and Social Policies of Turkey, said social development had raised awareness and sped activities to achieve gender equality. Turkey had made several improvements since 2000, having accelerated activities to increase educational opportunities for women and girls and eliminate female illiteracy. Girls’ enrolment in primary education, which had stood at 90 per cent in 2000, had risen to 99 per cent in 2013. Their enrolment in secondary and tertiary education also had risen. On the health front, maternal and child morality had fallen and Turkey was among the 10 countries with the highest such decreases between 1990 and 2008. At the same time, the number of beneficiaries of pre- and post-natal services had increased.
ISABEL BRENES PANIAGUA, Vice-Minister of Social Welfare and Vice-President of the Executive Board of the National Institute for Women of Costa Rica, said her country had adopted initiatives and laws that had driven forward gender equality and women’s empowerment. Among them were projects for the advancement of women in poor areas and the strengthening of women’s capacity to achieve economic independence. The Commission’s current session was an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment to women’s rights and to send a clear message on the need to include those issues in targets and indicators of the post-2015 development agenda.
IEVA JAUNZEME, State Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare of Latvia, said gender equality and women’s empowerment were essential prerequisites for peace and security, inclusive economic development, environmental sustainability and good governance. Despite substantial progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, challenges remained to achieving gender equality and women’s rights. The Goals’ framework had not been comprehensive enough to address the root causes of gender equality; the new post-2015 agenda should address those shortcomings. Latvia had worked decisively towards the Goals, implementing gender mainstreaming in legislative, policy planning and decision-making processes, covering areas such as employment and health. Discussions on the future development goals offered an opportunity to complete “unfinished business”.
GINTARAS KLIMAVIČIUS, Vice-Minister of Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, said his country’s long-term attention to women’s issues had led to small gaps in employment rates and pay and increased numbers of women in business and political decision-making. Today, women held two out of three of the highest State positions. Despite such progress, challenges to equality remained, requiring more rapid responses. Any kind of discrimination and violence against women impeded progress, and thus, policies to promote equality and measures to combat discrimination must be a priority in the post-2015 agenda.
VICHIEN CHAVALIT, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, said that over the years, his country had taken many initiatives to increase women’s participation in politics, and through collaboration among Government agencies and non-governmental organizations, there was an ongoing effort to establish a quota system to improve the ratio of women candidates in national and local elections. The gender quota system, once established, would be a ground-breaking development in terms of gender and political equality in Thailand, he noted.
TERESA MORAIS, State Secretary of Parliamentary Affairs and Equality of Portugal, said the country in 2013 had ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, having been the first European Union country to do so. Portugal also had invested significantly in preventing domestic and gender-based violence, and protecting its victims. It also had increased the capacity of emergency shelters for the victims and had created a safe and accompanied transportation system for them, as well as low-cost housing for women who intended to live independently of their aggressors.
NEILA CHAABANE, Secretary of State for Women and Family of Tunisia, said changes in her country had allowed women to become actors for social and economic liberation. Tunisia had adopted a ground-breaking law in 1956 and had ratified all related international instruments. In 2014, the Constitution was adopted, which protected women’s rights and promoted gender equality. Measures also had been taken to eradicate violence against women. Yet, gender equality indicators had shown that disparities existed between the development and implementation of laws. Noting that 65 per cent of women attended university, she said only 25 per cent were in the work force, stressing: “We need to empower women by working together, all sectors.” Tunisia had taken a consultative advisory approach to combating violence against women. With that, she urged an end to human rights violations against Palestinian women.
TERESA BELLANOVA, Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies of Italy, said 2015 would be a turning point in the framework of the commitments undertaken by all States, with the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals allowing the world to assess progress and shortcomings. Italy had made great progress, including drafting its first national action plan against gender-based violence and stalking. To achieve the goals of equality and development for all women and girls, a firm political will was needed backed by a common legal framework based on high standards of protection. Italy had worked hard to eliminate harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and forced marriages. A collective effort and global cooperation was needed to address those and other challenges to make gender equality a tangible reality for all women and girls.
LINDA WILLIAM, Principal Secretary for Social Affairs of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports of Seychelles, said her country had made significant progress in achieving almost all the Millennium Goals. Seychelles now ranked 46 out of 187 according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report. Yet challenges remained, as the financial crisis had driven up food and fuel prices. Substance abuse and non-communicable diseases were also seriously impacting society. Although women enjoyed power in many spheres, gender-based violence persisted. In looking beyond the post-2015 agenda there must be a convergence of goals, she said, emphasizing the need to include a green economy alongside a blue one, representing oceans and seas.
KETEVAN NATRIASHVILI, First Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, said to address the rights of women, the country had carried out a variety of measures that included construction of a legislative framework for laws against domestic violence and trafficking, as well as for gender equality. Corresponding action plans were set out to achieve greater gender equality. She raised her country’s concerns over what she termed “the foreign military occupation” of 20 per cent of its sovereign territory, resulting in the deprivation of the fundamental human rights of up to half a million internally displaced persons and refugees, the majority of whom were women and children.
GLORIA BENDER (Argentina) said the future development agenda should include goals on gender equality, such as eliminating violence against women, access to health care and reproductive rights. The new blueprint should reclaim the goal of equality and the many dimensions that notion implied. Gender equality was essential to achieving a lasting, equitable and inclusive economic growth, which was fundamental for poverty eradication and sustainable development. To build the post-2015 development agenda, a frank and realistic discussion was needed that set targets and quantitative indicators to foster international cooperation. Argentina, for its part, had achieved progress in, among others, protecting women’s work and preventing gender-based violence.
NOORA KHALEEFA AL SUWAIDI, Assistant Under-Secretary and Director of the General Women’s Union of the United Arab Emirates, said UN-Women played a crucial role in ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment at the international level. Women’s empowerment was crucial, and a propitious environment for that had been established with the adoption of key resolutions and international instruments. Her country had seen positive results, with women’s status improving. The Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates was a woman and the country had become a pilot country to reduce gender inequality
NAZGUL BEISHEEVA, Head of the Gender Policy Division, Ministry of Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, said the country had acceded to the main human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It had been among the first in the region to adopt a gender equality strategy, having identified education, access to justice and political equality as priorities. Kyrgyzstan also had reaffirmed a national action plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000). It was working to promote women’s entrepreneurship and taking measures to improve legislation. Following the global economic crisis, it had not been possible to implement gender policies in developing countries without joint efforts, she said, urging donors to support the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
BUNDITH PRATHOUMVANH, Member of the National Assembly, Vice-Chairperson of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Vice-President of the Women’s Union of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said her country had seen “remarkable” economic and social progress over the past two decades. Infant and under-five mortality rates had shown a steady decline. But “we cannot afford to be complacent”, she said, noting that reaching the poorest populations with services continued to pose daunting challenges. Remote communities would be unable to improve their status without changing certain behaviours, such as gender stereotypes. Nonetheless, her Government was determined to address such challenges in implementing the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.
MARGARITA R. SONGCO, Deputy Director-General, National Economic Development Authority of the Philippines, said the sharp increase in adolescent pregnancies, maternal deaths and economic marginalization of rural women were among the urgent challenges facing her country. More broadly, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls must be a stand-alone goal. Critical issues to be addressed in that context included women’s unpaid work, access to assets and productive resources, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. A gender perspective also must be integrated into all sustainable development goals, with targets and indicators disaggregated by age, sex and location.
MARCELA HUAITA, Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs of Peru, said her Government had focused on attaining true equality between men and women. Peru had a national plan to combat violence against women and a framework for monitoring and following up public policies. Despite those and related efforts, challenges remained, with women facing multiple forms of discrimination, especially in vulnerable communities. Full reproductive rights for all women must be realized. A stand-alone goal that centred on defeating gender-based violence and promoting gender equality must be considered in the post-2015 agenda.
SAMVADA KHENG, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development of Cambodia, said her country had made great strides towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. However, gender gaps persisted in education. Growing public investment in infrastructure had resulted in gains in maternal and child health, yet maternal mortality remained high compared with countries in the region. Women had increased roles in politics, the civil service and decision-making positions. Challenges remained, however, due, in part, to traditional social norms. Cambodia recommended that gender equality and women’s rights be a stand-alone goal and mainstreamed into all goals in the future agenda.
SURINA ACOSTA BROOKS, Member of the National Secretariat of Cuban Women’s Federation, National Mechanism for the Advancement of Women and Member of Parliament of Cuba, said despite the approaching 2015 deadline, many women still languished in poverty. All States must show the political will for a fair and equitable world. Cuba had worked hard to ensure that all the Millennium Goals would be met on time, despite the United States’ blockade against her country. Efforts included free health care, specialized services for family planning and other initiatives that addressed gender-related issues. Women also occupied a significant number of Government positions, earned pay equal to that of men and enjoyed equal rights in the workplace. Developed countries must fulfil their ODA commitments, which would guide development efforts.