1 June 2007


1 June 2007
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

791st Meeting (PM)



Next Session 23 July – 10 August

Having considered only initial reports for the first time in a long time, the thirty-eighth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had been special, as the submission of an initial report soon after ratification was a critical step in the practical realization of the equality of women and men, Dubravka Šimonović, the Committee’s Chairperson and expert from Croatia, said, as the Committee concluded its work this afternoon.

During its three-week session, the Committee considered the initial -- or combined initial and periodic reports -- of Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Syria and Vanuatu on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, often described as “an international bill of rights for women”.

Stressing the significance of having considered only initial reports, Ms. Simonvic added that the preparation of such a report was a unique opportunity for a State party to establish the baseline for its compliance with the Convention.  It also allowed the State party, in a consultative process that involved and mobilized many different stakeholders, to highlight how the treaty was not an abstract legal obligation, but a very concrete and practical tool for the State party to promote the rights of women.

The Committee had so far this year examined 23 States parties, she added, noting that, with the upcoming thirty-ninth session in July, it would have examined the reports of a total of 38 States parties in 2007 -- an unprecedented number in one year.  She also congratulated Vanuatu, which acceded to the Optional Protocol during the session, bringing the total number of States parties to the Optional Protocol to 87.  She hoped that that well-timed action would inspire other States parties scheduled to report to the Committee later this year.

Many of the States that had come before the Committee at the session had talked about their participatory consultative processes, she said.  Representatives from national non-governmental organizations from all States had also reported.  With the adoption of the concluding comments, and the momentum gathered in the process of preparing the country reports and “shadow” reports, all those stakeholders now had a strong basis for the next phase of implementation.  It was critical that that opportunity be used to the maximum extent, and she looked forward to receiving strong progress reports in a few years. 

Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, the Committee had decided to mark the occasion on 23 July, the opening day of its next session.  She hoped that the Secretary-General and other high-level guests would be able to honour the Committee with their participation in that event. 

In a closing statement, Rachel Mayanja, the Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, congratulated the Committee on the successful completion of its session, said the experts had engaged in a constructive dialogue with representatives of the States parties, which had further clarified the “real” situation of women and the status of compliance with the Convention.  Each of the reporting States was examined with care, and the many diverse and sometimes difficult questions and comments not only reflected the experts’ detailed knowledge, but also provided a framework for better implementation of the Convention at the national level in the reporting States.  The Committee’s concluding comments would provide a solid basis for further work by all States parties to enhance women’s enjoyment of their human rights.

The Committee, in accordance with its working methods, had examined the status of implementation under each of the articles, assessing, among other things, the constitutional and legal frameworks in place, and their relationship to the Convention, she said.  It examined the Convention’s status in the domestic legal system of reporting States, and its application and enforceability, as well as possible conflicts between the Convention’s provisions and statutory, customary and religious laws.  The Committee had highlighted that one reporting State, Mozambique, had a woman Prime Minister and also ranked among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of women parliamentarians.

On procedural matters, she noted that the Committee had confirmed its request for extending meeting time to three annual sessions as a permanent measure, as well as the need for parallel chambers during one annual session in 2008 and 2009 -- each to eliminate the backlog of reports.  Discussions continued on working methods and general recommendations on article 2 and on migrant women. 

Carolyn Hannan, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, also congratulating the Committee on the successful completion of its thirty-eighth session, said the Committee had made its first expert assessment of the progress within the countries and challenges that needed to be addressed in efforts aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and achieving gender equality.  Noting that she had not had the opportunity to address the Committee at its opening session, she also provided members with a preview of the Division’s work, especially in regard to the preparation for the fifty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women. 

She added that the session had held a particular satisfaction for the Division, and she was extremely pleased that Sierra Leone had presented its combined initial through fifth periodic report.  The Division had provided sustained capacity-building support to the Government since 2004, and it was grateful to experts who had worked on the technical cooperation programme to see the State party’s efforts result in a successful compliance with its obligations under article 18.  She hoped that similar support to Liberia and Haiti would also result in the completion of those States parties’ long overdue reports. 

The Committee’s report, which was adopted this afternoon was amended, contains the provisional agenda for the thirty-ninth session, scheduled to meet from 23 July to 10 August 2007.

Status of Convention, Protocol

To date, 185 countries, or more than 90 per cent of the United Nations membership, have ratified the Convention, which sets a framework for national action to assure fundamental rights for women in education, politics, health care, economics, employment, property and marriage and family relations.

With Vanuatu’s ratification of the 1990 Optional Protocol during the session, 87 countries have ratified that instrument, under which the Committee could receive complaints from individuals or groups regarding violations of rights protected under the Convention, and initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights.

Committee Membership

Current members of the Committee are as follows:  Ferdous Ara Begum (Bangladesh), Magalys Arocha Dominguez (Cuba), Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Dorcas Coker-Appiah (Ghana), Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia), Cornelis Flinterman (Netherlands), Naela Mohamed Gabr (Egypt), Françoise Gaspard (France), Ruth Halperin-Kaddari (Israel), Tiziana Maiolo (Italy), Violeta Neubauer (Slovenia), Pramila Patten (Mauritius), Silvia Pimentel (Brazil), Fumiko Saiga (Japan), Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling (Germany), Heisoo Shin (Republic of Korea), Glenda P. Simms (Jamaica), Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia), Anamah Tan (Singapore), Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal) and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).

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