Speakers at Commission on Status of Women Highlight Progress on Promoting Anti-Violence Strategies across All Spheres

7 March 2013

Speakers at Commission on Status of Women Highlight Progress on Promoting Anti-Violence Strategies across All Spheres

7 March 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-seventh Session

7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers at Commission on Status of Women Highlight Progress


on Promoting Anti-Violence Strategies across All Spheres


Expert Panel:  Post-2015 Development Agenda Must Challenge ‘Narrow’

Millennium Goals, Place Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment at Its Core

Despite shrinking budgets and often-conservative political agendas, Governments throughout the world were making significant strides in expanding multisectoral approaches to eliminate violence against women, characterized by a range of integrated services to prevent abuse and support survivors, speakers said today as the Commission on the Status of Women continued its general debate.

Those efforts, many delegates said, included improvements to legislation and police procedure, better mental health care, the creation of shelters — staffed by a diverse set of experts — 24-hour hotlines, and importantly, stronger punishment for perpetrators.  Given the magnitude of the problem, collaboration across sectors was vital for maximizing expertise and resources.  It also was critical to involve, throughout the process, civil society actors working at the frontlines, especially to tackle domestic abuse.

On that point, Rossana Hermoza, Vice-Minister for Women Equality and Non-discrimination in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Paraguay, said that in her country, a registry for victims of domestic violence interacted with the national police, as well as the ministries of women, health and justice, to process data on the incidence of violence.  A free, 24-hour “SOS” hotline also had been set up to ensure a rapid response to any complaint of abuse, while a residence for victims provided comprehensive psychological, legal, health and social assistance.

In a similar vein, Sheila Roseau, Executive Director of the Directorate of Gender Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, said her Government’s integrated, multi-agency approach linked the judicial, health and social services sectors, as well as the community, in responding to gender crimes.  With help from UN-Women, it was training police to exercise gender-responsive sexual assault and domestic violence protocols to ensure that survivors were provided with appropriate support from advocates and counsellors immediately after the reporting of crimes.

Sofia M. Simba, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, said a multisectoral strategy and response services had been established both on the mainland and in Zanzibar.  Within the police force, a female network now assisted victims of gender violence, while other programmes targeted women’s access to legal services.  In one unique initiative, an all-female team had recently completed the “Mount Kilimanjaro Climb” to urge an end to violence against women and girls through holistic polices, services, laws and public campaigns.

Providing a European perspective, the representative of Austria said his Government’s comprehensive approach focused in large part on domestic abuse, with a “Protection against Violence Act” that entitled police to evict perpetrators from the home shared with the victim.  “This law makes clear that domestic violence is not a private matter,” he said.  Intervention centres throughout the country then contacted victims to offer assistance.  A legal obligation also had been introduced to establish protection groups for domestic violence victims in hospitals.

Highlighting the right of girls to education — which many delegates said was critical to preventing abuse — Shaigan Shareef Malik, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Human Rights of Pakistan, said “Malala Day” would be celebrated annually on 10 November to honour Malala Yousafzai and her campaign to respect Pakistani girls’ rights to attend school.  While the “despicable” attack against her had “shaken the world’s conscience”, it also had shown the resilience of Pakistani society against such forces of despotism.

Also today, the Commission held a panel discussion that examined gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework, during which two experts discussed the elaboration — through various and simultaneous processes — of that framework and the related Sustainable Development Goals called for by “Rio+20”, the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

In the ensuing discussion, a number of delegations agreed that promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment must be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.  Many stressed that the current Millennium Development Goals had failed to effectively address the underlying structural causes of gender inequality, and called instead for ambitious, easy-to-comprehend and measurable gender-related targets post-2015.

Also speaking during today’s general discussion were ministers and high-level officials from Denmark, Angola, Azerbaijan, Greece, Czech Republic, Peru, Panama, South Sudan, Argentina, Cambodia, Sudan, Lithuania, Thailand, Qatar, Slovenia, Latvia, Vanuatu, United Kingdom and Indonesia.

The representatives Bosnia and Herzegovina, Japan, Switzerland, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Seychelles and Croatia also participated.

An official from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission addressed the meeting, as did a representative of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women.

The Commission will next convene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 11 March.


The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women continued its general debate today 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.)


MANU SAREEN, Minister for Gender Equality and Ecclesiastical Affairs of Denmark said that women’s rights were “under attack” at various levels due in part to conservatism and antifeminist agendas, and he stressed the need for a renewed political commitment so that women and girls fully enjoyed their rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights.  No region had yet freed itself from the plague of violence against women.  The systematic targeting of women in brutal sexual violence was a hallmark of modern conflicts.  While equality between women and men was guaranteed in the constitutions of 139 countries, inadequate laws and implementation gaps made such guarantees “hollow promises”.

For its part, Denmark had waged a determined fight to combat domestic violence, he said, with legislative and policy frameworks put in place to ensure protection and support for victims and prosecution of perpetrators.  The goal was to achieve zero violence against women and girls.  “We need to take action now,” he said, stressing that victims around the world deserved the international community’s full political commitment.  Institutions must be set up and debates on eliminating negative sociocultural attitudes must be initiated.  Efforts must be made to change cultures, practices, social norms and attitudes that condone violence.  Access to quality, integrated sexual and reproductive health services, and the engagement of men and boys, must also be a focus.

MARIA FILOMENA DELGADO, Minister of Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, said that her Government’s concern over gender-based violence had led to the drafting of the Law against Domestic Violence, which was unanimously approved by the Angolan Parliament in 2011, as well as the Plan for Combating Domestic Violence, being that the Family Action Plan and the National Gender Police were undergoing legal formalities.  Those actions aimed to criminalize the aggressors on the one hand, thus making violence a matter of public concern, and on the other hand to create the institutional mechanisms and financial and human resources to care for victims.  The Integrated Gender Indicators system was also created, which was an innovative tool that promoted more effective monitoring of the work of the country’s 27 Family Counselling Centres and seven shelters.

The Law on Domestic Violence had been implemented since the beginning of 2012, she said.  Since that time, Angola had developed an intensive agent-training programme that would work in the short and long terms, and had created a national department for the prevention and combating of violence against women and children, with the specific task of diagnosing the root causes of violence against women and sexual violence against girls.  It had also created an organ tasked with penalizing perpetrators of domestic violence, as well as dedicated premises within local courts.  Major campaigns known as “Zero Tolerance” and “UNiTE” had also been launched according to the recommendations of the Kampala and United Nations Declarations, respectively.

SOFIA M. SIMBA, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that her country was in the process of reviewing its Constitution with an eye towards eliminating all forms of discrimination.  Violence against women and girls had been mainstreamed in the national policy, and a related National Plan of Action had been developed.  Other national plans also existed, including one to eradicate female genital mutilation.  A multisectoral strategy and response services had been established both on the mainland and in Zanzibar.  Within the Tanzanian police force, a “female network” was in place to help deal with alleged victims of gender-based violence, while other programmes targeted women’s access to legal services and justice.

Several key entry points for assisting women and combating gender-based violence were social welfare services and maternal health centres, she continued, noting that violence could increase or be exacerbated during pregnancy.  The United Republic of Tanzania agreed with the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report and supported the strengthening of maternal and reproductive health centres, and it asked the international community to work together in that respect.  Despite recent strides, she said, a major challenge for her country was translating policy into practice.  Concluding, she thanked the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) for its work in her country, including its participation in the “Mount Kilimanjaro Climb” campaign, through which an all-female climbing team had recently reached the top of Africa’s tallest mountain in order to raise awareness about women’s rights.

AYNUR SOFIYEVA, Deputy Chair of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs of Azerbaijan, said her Government attached high importance to combating violence against women, acknowledging that adopting laws was not enough.  There was a need to work on implementation.  For its part, Azerbaijan had launched awareness-raising campaigns to improve coordination among State bodies.  The State Committee, in cooperation with non-government organizations, launched a project to empower women victims of domestic violence.

Also, the Government was focused on integrating refugee and internally displaced women into society.  They were offered a range of services, including efforts to improve their education.  Victim shelters had been created as part of a project that sought to create opportunities for women to exercise their rights and the Government planned to open such centres in each region.  In addition, children and family support centres formed part of a national action plan to increase the protection of human rights. It was impossible to sustain socioeconomic development without eliminating violence against women.

ZETTA M. MAKRI, Secretary-General, Secretariat for Gender Equality, Ministry of Interior of Greece, said gender equality was a fundamental human right of every democracy.  It was a lever for development, competitiveness and social cohesion in every country.  Despite her country’s “grave” financial situation, the Government continued its dual approach to gender equality.  On one hand, it implemented policies to empower women in sectors in which they were underrepresented, and on the other, it carried out cross-cutting interventions to tackle gender discrimination in every field.  Greece was also empowering women to develop entrepreneurial initiatives with a view to remaining in the job market.

To combat violence against women, Greece had a national action plan to combat such abuse, she said, which was comprised of a bilingual “SOS” hotline, counselling centres, hostels for female victims and their children, awareness-raising campaigns and cooperation with civil society.  Also, Greece had been among the first countries to adhere to UN-Women’s “Say No-UNiTE” campaign to eliminate all forms of violence against women.  Women’s participation in regional and local administration was being promoted through seminars and awareness raising efforts.  As regards gender mainstreaming, Greece was implementing an action plan to create methodologies and tools, and developing an Observatory to monitor implementation of gender equality policies.

JAN DOBĚS, Deputy Minister for Social Inclusion and Equal Opportunities of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that, in 2011, his Government had approved the Action Plan for the Prevention of Domestic Violence 2011-2014.  Domestic violence was one of the most common forms of violence against women in the Czech Republic, he said, therefore, the strategy aimed at systemic and comprehensive solutions.  It included several goals in areas such as legislation and research in that field, support for persons at risk, work with violent persons, education and interdisciplinary cooperation.

In addition, intervention centres had been created to provide psychological, legal and social assistance to endangered persons, and a bill on victims of crimes had been recently drafted.  That law would expand the rights of victims, including the survivors of violence against women, and the assistance provided to them.  Significant progress had also been achieved in the training of relevant actors, especially police officers, prosecutors and judges.  Primary prevention had also been strengthened and attention paid to education of children and youth in the field of non-violent conflict resolution, he said.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that, even though considerable progress had been made in developing a global framework to prevent violence against women and girls, the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century was far from reaching that goal.  It was necessary to recognize the changing nature and manifestations of the problem, and to consider why progress was still slow.  Despite the high number of countries that had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the goal should remain universal ratification, she stressed in that regard.

Progress had been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the area of systematic laws that prohibited discrimination and gender-based violence, and such laws were in line with international standards, she said.  However, that was only the “starting point” of tackling such issues, as the breadth and depth of the problem required a comprehensive approach.  Societies must take extra steps to stand up for the education of women and girls and their equal access to justice.  In her country, work had also been undertaken to defend the rights of Roma women — one of the poorest populations — in particular to meet their educational needs.  Roma women themselves had been involved in the designing of such programmes, she added.

MARCELA HUAITA, Deputy Minister of Women of Peru, said violence against women was a scourge with many causes and her Government had designed policies to face the problem in a multisectoral, comprehensive manner.  In such work, Peru focused on six areas.  In terms of legislation, a 1993 law to protect women against domestic violence outlined, among others, a road map for supporting victims.  The 2011 Penal Code criminalized femicide, while the national gender equality action plan for 2012-2017 addressed all forms of gender violence.  In the area of justice, the judiciary had adopted an agreement to integrate a gender perspective into its work on sexual crimes.  It also had a plan in place to protect victims, which included changing their names if needed.

Concerning specialized services, she said her Ministry had a programme to combat domestic violence, which provided multiple services for victims.  Some 175 emergency centres in 25 regions had been created, which had a care that integrated psychosocial services.  Peru also had joined the “We commit” campaign and, since October 2012, it had implemented a strategy for preventing family violence in rural areas, which involved community leaders.  Finally, she said Peru analysed the incidence of sexual violence.  Combating violence against women was a “gargantuan” task that must include multiple State and non-State actors.

ROSSANA HERMOZA, Vice-Minister for Women Equality and Non-discrimination, Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Paraguay, said her Government examined the design, creation and follow-up of women’s policies, as well as offered protection of women’s rights through the timely provision of services, especially for trafficking or domestic violence.  The President had stood by his responsibility to provide follow-up for actions to guarantee equality and eradicate violence.  Among the services provided to women, she drew attention to four regional centres, as well as two shelters that were being built in the country’s interior.

She went on to say that Paraguay had set up a free, 24-hour “SOS” hotline for female abuse victims to receive rapid response nationwide.  It also had built a residence for female victims that provided comprehensive psychological, legal, and social assistance.  A victim registry of domestic violence interacted with the national police, as well as the ministries of women, health and justice, to process data on the incidence of violence.  Moreover, two national campaigns were under way:  “Open your eyes”, was geared to men, while the “Anita campaign to prevent violence in all its manifestations” focused on professionals.  For trafficking victims, a national reference centre provided transitory shelter.

NIURKA PALACIO, Vice-Minister of Social Development of Panama, reiterated her State’s commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals and to defending the rights of women, as demonstrated through its support of various international agreements.  Panama enjoyed a national policy which provided women with access to work, education, health care, adequate housing and assistance to those at risk.  With the implementation of the Plan against Domestic Violence, 26 local networks had been established that contributed to preventing violence against women and linked better services for domestic violence victims.  The State also provided psychosocial support and reorientation, as well as assistance by social workers and legal and other specialists.

In addition, she said Panama was working with a number of organizations to integrate a gender perspective in its data collection and analysis tools, and was working with media to end discrimination against women.  Awareness-raising campaigns were under way under the slogan “Come together to end violence against women.”  Panama also joined all efforts to define policies and programmes to defend women who were victims of discrimination and rights violations, including indigenous women and Afro-descendents.

PRISCILLA JOSEPH MAKUACH, Deputy Minster for Gender, Child and Social Welfare of South Sudan, thanked all those who had supported her country in its long struggle for freedom, and noted that being a United Nations Member State came with a number of responsibilities and obligations.  Despite the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, a number of key issues had yet to be resolved in a clear manner.  In particular, Sudan’s military occupation of Abyei had displaced thousands of people, especially Dinka Ngok women and children, who were afraid to go back to their villages.  Displaced persons were now without shelter, and the humanitarian crisis was likely to worsen with the coming of the rains in the next two months.  There were also some 32,000 abductees — also mostly women and children — being held against their will by the Misseriya people, who were subjecting them to violence and other discriminatory practices.

Nevertheless, the interim constitution of 2011 stressed that women would be accorded full and equal dignity and rights with men, and had the right to participate alongside men in public life.  The Government also had in place a gender economic empowerment policy that was helping women to use social collateral to access loans.  South Sudan was interested in linking gender equality and women’s empowerment with the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, she concluded.

SHAIGAN SHAREEF MALIK, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Human Rights of Pakistan, said the Constitution guaranteed women’s full participation in all spheres of national life, adding that significant steps had been taken to eliminate discrimination.  Today, Pakistani women participated in agriculture, business, the Armed Forces and policymaking.  The country also boasted the first-ever female Prime Minister in the Muslim world.  Pakistan’s pursuit of women’s empowerment focused on reducing the feminization of poverty, ending violence against women and introducing legislation to empower women.  In terms of legislation, he drew attention to a bill passed in 2012 on the National Commission on the Status of Women, which provided for that body’s complete financial and administrative autonomy.

In other areas, Pakistan was promoting income-generating activities for marginalized women through a programme offering direct support to rural women, which sought to improve their employability.  It also provided interest-free loans.  Under another initiative, Pakistan had distributed land to landless farmers.  Despite such efforts, female literacy remained low, especially in rural areas.  While the “despicable” attack against Malala Yousafzai had shaken the world’s conscience, it also had shown the resilience of Pakistani society to such forces of despotism.  To honour Malala’s struggle for the right of girls to education, 10 November had been declared “Malala Day”.  He went on to say that the Commission was a watchdog to monitor and propose laws for the protection and promotion of women as equal citizens.

HIROKO HASHIMOTO ( Japan) said the Prime Minister had stated the aim to create a society in which men and women could easily reconcile work and child rearing.  Japan was making wide-ranging efforts to tackle the many forms of violence against women by formulating rules and regulations, including the Act on the prevention of spousal violence and the protection of victims, as well as the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality.  The “Eliminating Violence against Women” campaign was also held every year between 12 and 25 November, and included the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

She went on to say that Japan was creating institutions to protect female victims of violence, including through providing easier access to consultation on problems such as stalking.  Such efforts included providing more female police officers who could ask appropriate questions.  The Government also had launched new measures in areas affected by the 11 March 2011 earthquake, including a project to consult women about their concerns in disaster-affected areas.  To eliminate violence against women, Japan also was strengthening networks around the Greater Mekong subregions, notably by organizing regional seminars on preventing human trafficking in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

GLORIA BENDER, International Special Representative on Women’s Issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Argentina, said that her country had been deepening its work towards social inclusion, with a focus on the strict respect of all human rights.  It was also from that perspective that it had taken on the fight against violence against women and girls.  New legislation included a revised and broadened definition of “violence”.  Femicide and trafficking of persons were criminalized.  Argentina also had a number of integrated programmes to provide comprehensive assistance to victims, she said.

Further, the country had committed to establishing a single, unique registry for data on violence against women.  There were many challenges that remained to guarantee a life free of violence for all women and girls; however, Argentina believed that it was fundamental that plans to combat violence had the support of a diverse range of institutions and civil society.  It was in that vein that the country had committed to strengthening its institutions in the year 2013, she said.

SY DEFINE, Secretary of State, Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, said her Ministry had led the process of putting into place laws and policies on violence against women.  Cambodia, a signatory to the women’s anti-discrimination Convention and its Optional Protocol, intended to complete a report to that instrument’s monitoring body in October 2013.  Cambodia had subscribed and contributed to Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declarations on promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Successful initiatives for women survivors included a multisectoral approach led by her Ministry to increase access of survivors to services; psychosocial services in two provinces; a 2012 pilot programme for “one-stop-shop” service and the introduction of 137 judicial police agents nationwide.

The Government was also developing its 2013-2017 national Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women, consisting of five main pillars, namely primary prevention, legal protection and services, laws and policies, capacity-building and monitoring and evaluation.  As for capacity development, training on laws on violence against women had been implemented for government officials, police, legal professionals, local authorities, civil society organizations and the private sector.  A “Young People’s Tool Kit” designed to teach youth to foster non-violent, respectful behaviours towards gender equality, had been developed.  Various surveys had been conducted to collect key evidence to be used for better programme design.  The Government had also launched efforts to counter trafficking in women and girls.

KADIGA ABDUELGASIM HAG HAMAD, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Social Security of Sudan, said that the country’s Constitution had accorded women with all relevant social, economic and political rights.  There was a National Strategic Plan for women, which guided all work going forward.  Sudan fully supported the Commission’s choice of themes, as combating violence against women and girls was of common interest to all women around the world, and required that all national, regional and international actions be integrated.

It was critical that women play a heightened role in Sudanese society, she said.  In that regard, the country had created a Centre against Violence and passed a Presidential Decree on the matter.  It had also created a special police unit to protect women and children in all provinces.  In September, a report was adopted analysing the “pioneering experience” of combating such violence in Darfur.  Sudan also had a five-year plan to combat HIV/AIDS and a strategy for the prevention of the disease. On the political front, women in Sudan enjoyed an affirmative action plan; as a result, the number of women in parliament and in the country’s executive bodies had increased.  There had been a great expansion in the education of women, with the school enrolment of women reaching 68 per cent.  However, the sanctions against Sudan must be lifted in order for the conditions for women to truly improve.

ALVYDAS PUODZIUKA, Chancellor of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, said the new law on domestic violence that had taken effect in 2011 aimed to protect all victims, with particular attention given to women and girls.  The Law defined domestic violence broadly, covering both action and inaction with regard to intentional physical, psychological, sexual, economic or other effects, as well as persons incurring physical, material or non-pecuniary damage.  The Law established that a child who witnessed domestic violence or lived in such an environment was also a victim.  Perpetrators could be subject to immediate measures, such as removal from home, as well as the prohibition of approach, communication and contacts with the victim.

He went on to note that the Law also provided a framework for the creation of specialized assistance centres that offer integrated services to the victims, including psychological and legal help.  There were now 16 such centres in different municipalities.  His Government was also preparing its 2013-2020 National Programme for the provision of assistance to victims of domestic violence.  Considerable attention was paid to the promotion of parents’ responsibility for their children and the development of positive child-raising skills.  Within the year after the new law had come into force, the police had received about 19,000 reports of alleged domestic violence, with women the majority of victims.  They had led to roughly 8,000 pretrial investigations.  A positive trend was emerging, with the number of reports starting to decrease, he said.

RARINTHIP SIRORAT, Deputy Permanent-Secretary, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, said the Protection of Domestic Violence Act had been enacted in 2007 to guarantee comprehensive protection and assistance for victims.  The Act also imposed penalty measures on perpetrators.  “One-stop-shop” crisis centres had been set up nationwide to provide multisectoral services.  But challenges had remained, including the gap between legal framework and enforcement, as well as the general perception that violence against women and girls was a private matter, rather than a public one.  In addition, the patriarchal structure of the society with unequal power between women and men fostered violence against women and girls.

To respond to such matters, Thailand had focused on capacity-building, enabling law enforcement officers at all levels to understand related legislation and gender issues.  The Royal Thai Police had embarked on training programmes for their officers to ensure that victims get effective protection and that their cases are handled professionally.  The Police Academy had integrated human rights education into their courses and included female students in their roster so that women police cadets can serve mostly women and girl victims.  Thailand had placed the promotion of gender equality as the first pillar of the eleventh National Women’s Development Plan.  Since her appointment in 2008 as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, now UN-Women, Princess Bajrakitiyabha had been a driving force campaigning to end violence against women and girls.  As a result, the Thai society had become more intolerant of such violence.

JUHAINA SULTAN AL-EASA, Vice-President, Board of Directors, Supreme Council for Family Affairs of Qatar, said her country had acceded to the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  At a national level, Qatar’s Constitution underlined the need for equality of all citizens, irrespective of gender.  In light of that, a number of laws had been passed and others overhauled, including the family law and the law on trafficking of persons.  Further, practical policies were being implemented by specialized bodies, with the support of non-governmental organizations.

She went on to say that the Supreme Council often worked with other bodies, and that efforts were under way to increase the number of shelters in the country.  In addition, the national Human Rights Commission and a department in the Foreign Affairs Ministry were carrying out various activities, in line with Qatar’s obligations under international conventions, some of which specifically focused on women’s rights.  She also said a series of measures were in place to end violence against women, including a national commission for legislation on such abuse.

JANA LOVSIN, Director, Office for Equal Opportunities and European Coordination of Slovenia, said violence against women was high on her Government’s political agenda, stressing the importance of training professionals who dealt with such abuse.  Describing the national situation, she said almost 65 per cent of women were full-time employed and that 70 per cent of Slovenia’s judges were women.  Slovenia also had among the smallest gender pay gaps in the European Union.  A 2011 study on violence against women had revealed that, from the age of 15, many women had experienced intimate partner violence in their lives.  Special attention must focus on harmful traditional practices.

Research had shown that traditional gender roles in the family challenged gender equality in Slovenia, as women spent more time on household work and child rearing, and were more likely to be employed part time for childcare reasons.  She urged a focus on the equal sharing of responsibilities.  Globally, she voiced concern at reports of violence against women and girls in conflict situations, which too often went unpunished.  She urged full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000).  Slovenia also had called for referring the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court.  In closing, she urged an end to discrimination against women, both in law and practice.

SYLIVE DURRER ( Switzerland) called on States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol, and to increase their financial contributions to UN-Women.  To combat violence, it was necessary to address the root causes:  socioeconomic and cultural inequalities between men and women and the imbalance of power, as well as gender stereotypes.  Special attention must be given to situations of multiple discrimination — women that were discriminated against not only because of their gender but also because of their age, ethnic origin, religion or other factors.  The education of girls was also a precondition for the economic empowerment of women, she said, stressing that girls and young women had a right not only to primary but also to a secondary and tertiary education free from gender stereotypes.

“The prevention of violence also includes the right of free control over one’s body and access to comprehensive sexuality education, voluntary family planning and contraception,” she continued, adding that, no matter what the context, women and girls must have full access to sexual and reproductive health services. Switzerland recalled that all States had a duty to due diligence, and to carry out investigations and prosecutions in order to prevent the continuing phenomenon of impunity.  However, in many States, perpetrators of gender-based violence went unpunished even where laws existed.  It was increasingly clear that it was necessary to focus attention on such perpetrators.  In other words, socio-economic and therapeutic programmes must be organized to make violent individuals change their behaviour and prevent the often very high rate of recidivism.

ANGESE GAILE, Senior Adviser of the Department of Social Policy Planning and Development, the Ministry of Welfare of Latvia, said the Government’s Programme for Reducing Domestic Violence 2008-2011 had included three priority directions:  identification of domestic violence, prevention of such an act, and institutional cooperation in the provision of assistance and rehabilitation services.  The programme had significantly improved data collection, based on dedicated surveys, and inter-institutional cooperation.  As a result, it was stipulated by law that health and law enforcement institutions should work in a coordinated manner to identify and address the cases of violence.  After the expiration of the programme, further tasks had been included in the Guidelines for State’s Family Policy for 2011-2017 and the related Action Plan.

Women who had experienced violence could seek help in 36 crisis centres nationwide, she noted.  Social rehabilitation of children who had suffered from violence was financed by the State’s budget.  There was also a special Information Support System linking social, educational and law enforcement institutions to prevent potential cases of violence against children.  State support was available to victims of human trafficking.  In cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), activities had been conducted to train medical personnel on domestic and sexual violence issues.  To contribute the implementation of the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the Government, in close consultations with civil society organizations, had taken part in international projects on women’s empowerment and capacity-building in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.

DOROSDAY KENNETH LUI, Director, Department of Women’s Affairs of Vanuatu, outlined national efforts to combat violence against women and girls, saying that for the first time since 2010, gender equality was featured in the Priority Action Agenda 2012-2016, which targeted two areas:  a 30 per cent quota for women in Parliament, and mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all Government policy processes.  Eliminating gender violence was also a pillar of the national women’s machinery.

In the justice sector, Vanuatu would develop transparent and effective response systems for gender violence, she said.  In 2009, Parliament enacted the Family Protection Act, which criminalized all forms of gender violence, and provided access to protection orders.  A national task force had been created to advise the Government on the act’s implementation.  The Criminal Code had been on the reform agenda for a long time, while the family law was outdated.  Among other strategies, she cited the Vanuatu Women’s Centre and the Male Advocacy Programme.  In sum, she registered Vanuatu’s interest in contributing more to the Commission’s work through participation in its Bureau.

SHEILA ROSEAU, Executive Director of the Directorate of Gender Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, said that violence against women and girls occurred in all countries, contexts and settings, and her country was no exception.  “It is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights,” she added, noting that the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women was a priority area for the Government.  Legislation passed to prevent violence and exploitation included the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons law of 2010.  UN-Women, through its regional office in the Caribbean, had also supported the Government in the development of a National Strategic Action Plan to End Gender-based Violence, which was approved earlier this year.

“This progress comes as the nation mitigates the challenge of recovering from a global financial crisis, where tourism, the mainstay of Antigua and Barbuda’s economy, was greatly and adversely affected,” she said, as well as at a time when the country was grappling with an increase in crimes of violence against women.  The country was adopting an integrated, multi-agency approach to addressing gender-based violence, linking the judicial, health and social services sectors, as well as the community, in responding to crimes with the aim of achieving a violence-free society.  With the assistance of UN-Women, it was training police officers to exercise gender-responsive sexual assault and domestic violence protocols, which ensured that survivors were provided with the appropriate forms of support from advocates and counsellors, immediately after reporting crimes committed against them.  Further support and international cooperation was needed for the realization of that goal.  In addition, the Government had also involved men and boys as part of a strategy to eliminate and prevent violence against women and girls.  “A growing number of men are taking a stand against gender-based violence and for gender equality,” she said in that regard.

HELENE REARDON-BOND, Head of Policy of the United Kingdom’s Government Equalities Office, said that “violence against women and girls is an abhorrent crime”.  It exacted a huge toll on individuals, on society, on health services, on criminal justice systems and economies.  “It must stop,” she stressed.  England’s “Call to End Violence against Women and Girls” strategy had committed around £40 million as stable funding for specialist services.  It had piloted new ways of protecting victims of domestic violence and launched national prevention campaigns to tackle rape and relationship abuse.  There were also plans to criminalize forced marriage and commitments had been made to stop female genital mutilation, both at home and abroad.

“Gender inequality is at the heart of violence against women and girls,” she went on.  Accordingly, the United Kingdom was taking steps to improve women’s participation and challenge the wider inequalities that supported gendered violence.  In the present difficult times, it was more important than ever that women had a “seat at the table”, particularly on political and economic issues.  That was why the country was working with businesses to tackle the gender pay gap and to get more women into senior jobs, a well as enacting the groundbreaking policy of flexible parental leave so that men and women could share the job of caring for their children.

The representative of Chile, stressed that his country rejected violence against women and girls, which constituted a flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Chile had instituted plans and programmes designed to prevent and punish gender-based violence in all its forms, including the creation of new family courts and updated legislation on domestic violence.  Precautionary measures could now also be ordered, he said in that regard.  In 2010, Chile had adopted a law on femicide, which had reduced the number of instances of that phenomenon, including those murdered in teenage dating relationships.

In that vein, he stressed the need for early detection of violence in young people, and noted that, just yesterday, Chile’s President had signed legislation geared towards addressing that specific type of violence.  In addition, a 2011 law had been signed to combat human trafficking, and the first annual trafficking plan was in place.  He also highlighted the facts that the first sentence for domestic and international trafficking had recently been handed down, and that shelters for victims of trafficking and for their children had been established.  Regarding sexual violence, there were now three centres for survivors.  Urgent specialized care was also needed in situations of armed conflict, post-conflict and natural disasters, he stressed; for that reason, Chile had supported the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).

MARTIN SAJDIK ( Austria) said his Government pursued a comprehensive approach to eliminating violence against women, which focused on the protection against domestic abuse, prosecution and the improvement of victims’ rights.  Non-governmental organizations had made a decisive contribution in that regard.  Among the legislative changes, he cited the Protection against Violence Act, which entitled police to evict perpetrators of domestic violence from the home shared with the victim.  “This law makes it clear that domestic violence is not a private matter,” he said, noting that “intervention centres” set up throughout Austria contacted victims once perpetrators had been evicted and offered assistance.

To take the specific circumstances of domestic violence into account, the Penal Code had been amended in 2009, he said, to recognize prolonged infliction of violence as a crime.  A legal obligation also had been introduced to establish protection groups for domestic violence victims in larger hospitals.  In other areas, he said tradition, religion or cultural customs must never be used to justify violations of women’s rights.  Regarding trafficking, Austria had created an interministerial task force to develop three action plans, while a specialized institution had been in place for 15 years, emphasizing cooperation with neighbouring countries.  “Women’s rights are human rights,” he concluded.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ ( Cuba) urged an end to all coercive unilateral measures in order to protect women.  Such measures constituted an act of genocide.  He also denounced the suffering of women related to Cubans who were being unfairly held in United States prisons.  Describing the situation of women in Cuba, he said 65.6 per cent of Cuban professionals were women, while 56 per cent of judges were women.

On violence against women, he said Cuba was working in a multisectoral manner to end such abuse.  By way of example, he said a number of organizations coordinated their work, including the ministries of health, higher education, the interior and justice, as well as the Supreme Tribunal, the Prosecutors Office, and the Institute for Radio and Television.  Moreover, the Federation of Cuban Women was the main non-governmental organization working to promote women’s legislation, especially to bring the Criminal Code and Labour Code into line with the Beijing Platform for Action.  In sum, he said Cuba would continue working to empower women at all levels of society.

NESTOR OROSIO ( Colombia) said that his country had adopted a strong domestic legislative framework and a comprehensive mulitsectoral plan involving 17 Government institutions and the commitment of 32 provinces and 13 capital cities.  In recent years, Colombia had addressed the issue of the elimination of violence against women and girls with an integral and decided approach, based on the recognition of the contribution of unpaid work and the contribution of women to economic and social development.  Following the guidelines of the National Development Plan 2010-2014, the Government of President Santos had consolidated the national Policy for Comprehensive Gender Equity to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights of women and gender equality in Colombia, focused on three pillars:  prevention; integral and differentiated attention; and institutional coordination, which assigned specific responsibilities to the national and local authorities and to the private sector and civil society.

Colombia had also launched services and multisectoral responses for women and girl victims of violence.  “We have worked in order that these policies go beyond the immediate needs of women,” he said in that regard.  There were coordination mechanisms for the provision of services for women and girls, including in case of sexual assault; according to the nation’s laws, any person could report cases of such crimes.  Given the complexity and magnitude of sexual violence, the national Plan of Building Peace and Coexistence 2005-2015 was developing prevention, detection and treatment actions of different forms of violence.  The country had also supported the global initiative known as UN-Women “COMMIT”, he said.

MARIE-LOUISE POTTER ( Seychelles) said that, as an expression of its commitment, the Seychelles had joined the Secretary-General’s campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women”, as well as the African UNiTE programme and others.  It had launched the “Orange Day” campaign, which asked people to wear orange on the twenty-fifth day of every month in solidarity with women around the world who continued to suffer from domestic violence.  Too often, domestic violence was not dealt with the necessary seriousness and, therefore, the country was in the process of criminalizing the phenomenon.  Seychelles was making an effort to engage all stakeholders, including legal leaders, in that struggle.  Last year, a sensitization session had been held with police, judiciary and others.  The Seychelles had also developed a Gender and Law Manual, she said.

Research showed that as many as one in four women in the country had experienced some form of violence at the hands of an intimate partner, she said.  In 2008, the national strategy on domestic violence was launched, and in 2010, Seychelles created an action plan on gender-based violence.  Seychelles was currently in the process of developing a national strategy fully aligned with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) priorities. “There is no place for drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, human trafficking, or violence against girls, women and mothers,” she stressed.  Women needed to know that they had the full backing of the law.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said his Government was working continuously to improve its record on gender equality and create an environment devoid of gender violence.  Among its efforts, Croatia had signed, in January, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  Expressing support to the Commission as the principal political forum for exchanging good practices, he said Croatia was committed to fulfilling the objectives of both the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action.

Underlining the importance of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), he called for the adoption of national action plans for its implementation, adding that Croatia had adopted such a strategy in 2010.  Violence against women and girls occurred in all spheres of life, and far too often, went underreported and under-punished.  Especially vulnerable were women and girls who were victims of sexual violence during war, and special attention must be paid to protecting their human rights.  He also underlined the importance of mainstreaming gender within State administrative bodies, involving men in promoting gender equality and promoting education for women and girls, especially in war-affected and post-conflict societies.

SOON-YOUNG YOON, NGO Committee on the Status of Women, said more than 500 non-governmental organizations across the street from United Nations Headquarters were advocating on behalf of women worldwide:  women with HIV/AIDS, child soldiers, rural women, lesbians and migrant women included.  Her committee was dedicated to facilitating interaction between those groups and the United Nations.  On 3 March, more than 800 representatives of civil society, Governments, the United Nations and the media gathered for NGO CSW Forum Consultation Day.

She said three messages had emerged from that event, the first of which was that the global movement to stop violence against women and girls was taking hold.  To engage young women, as well as men, boys and girls, in such work, the media must be harnessed.  The Commission was the largest gathering of civil society concerned about women and girls in recent history, and she urged a jump-start for a global campaign with an “inspiring” outcome document.

HARKRISTUTI HARKRISNOWO, General Director of Human Rights Department of Law and Human Rights of Indonesia, welcoming the session’s priority theme, said that prevention would encourage positive action and underlined the need for a more inclusive strategy in that regard.  Indonesia hoped that this year’s discussion would take into account the needs of women and girls who faced multiple forms of discrimination, such as migrants, among others.  The country’s national action plans and laws on domestic violence had created the strongest platform ever for Indonesian efforts to combat violence against women and girls.  For example, more than 200 integrated service centres had been opened across the country to provide assistance and services to victims of violence.

About 20 per cent of Indonesia’s national budget continued to be allocated to education for both boys and girls, she said, and the national health system had been reformed to revitalize primary health care and community health centres.  Recognizing that poverty among women remained high, programmes had been implemented granting loans and cash transfers for poor women.  In the area of promotion and protection of women’s rights, collaboration between relevant stakeholders had been strengthened, including civil society and the media, and in order to overcome inequality between men and women, temporary special measures had been put in place calling for a 30 per cent female quota on executive boards.  In addition, Indonesia was granting free education to girl children and had implemented programmes aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labour.

ADRIENNE DIOP, Commissioner for Human Development and Gender of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, said that the priority theme of the current session was in line with ECOWAS priorities.  In the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the ECOWAS Commission focused on three important areas:  the promotion of democracy, good governance, human rights and peace and security; strengthening the economic empowerment of women; and women’s access to social services.  It paid considerable attention to ending conflict in the West African region, and had established the Women in Peace and Security Action Plan, she said in that regard.

There were efforts under way to integrate gender into the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and to provide support services to women and girls who were abused as a result of the conflict in that country.  As ECOWAS felt that one of the best ways to prevent violence against women and girls was empowerment, it was working to implement a number of activities, primarily for women entrepreneurs.  In that vein, the ECOWAS Commission had established a gender and trade programme that supported women in small-scale enterprises and cross-border trade activities.  It had also provided resources and support to women suffering from obstetric fistula, and held regional consultative meetings on gender and HIV/AIDS.

Panel on Gender Equality Issues for Post-2015 Development Framework

In the afternoon, the Commission’s panel featured two experts:  John Hendra, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programme, UN-Women, and Co-Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Task Force on Millennium Development Goals; and Anita Nayar, Executive Committee Member, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN).

Caren Grown, Economist in Residence, American University, and Senior Gender Advisor, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), served as the discussant, summarizing questions and comments during the interactive discussion.

Opening the discussion, Commission Vice-Chair, IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus), said a number of processes were under way among States, the United Nations, academia and civil society to reflect on the post-2015 development framework.  Today’s panel would provide an opportunity to exchange views on key gender issues to be included in the post-2015 agenda.  Questions focused on the principles that would underpin the post-2015 development agenda to ensure it was conducive to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as aspects to be captured in a gender equality “goal”.  How should gender equality be integrated into a sustainable development agenda?

Tackling some of those issues, Mr. HENDRA said the process was extremely involved.  “I don’t think we could have created a more complex process if we had tried to,” he said, noting that it involved an Open Working Group to devise a proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals; an independent High-Level Panel established by the Secretary-General, and 11 thematic global consultations facilitated by the United Nations Development Group.  Against that backdrop, he cautioned against moving too quickly to identify goals and targets.  The narrative had to come first.  “It must be compelling, aim high and take us forward from the principles set out in the Millennium Declaration,” he said.

It would be challenging to ensure not just procedural but, most critically, substantive convergence between the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda, he said.  There was a tension between those preferring a “MDG plus” approach that extended the existing goals, and those wishing to see a truly transformative framework.  Reflecting on the Millennium Goals, he said that, while their initial uptake had been slow, they had garnered considerable political and financial support.  They had been adapted to suit local needs and used as a measure of progress in many countries.  But they also had been criticized for relying on national averages, which obscured inequalities within countries.  Goal 3 (gender equality) was “quite superficial” as it did not include many aspects of discrimination experienced by women.

Going forward, he discussed the importance of a development framework that built on existing goals, responded to emerging challenges and had at its heart gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Consensus was emerging around a future agenda that was rights-based, built on existing normative agreements, universal and transformative.  The new framework and proposed gender goal must aim to end harm and eliminate violence against women and girls.  They must expand women’s choices and opportunities, including by ensuring access to education, resources, social protection and sexual and reproductive health and rights.  They must ensure that women fully participated in decision-making.  Better indicators must also be crafted.

Ms. NAYAR said that there were multiple, overlapping processes that would help elaborate the United Nations’ future development agenda.  Describing three of these processes, she first spotlighted the Expert Group Meeting on Gender Equality in Post-2015, convened by UN-Women in November 2012.  At that meeting, participants had agreed that the future agenda must move well beyond the current Millennium Development Goal 3, and should be situated in the human rights framework, with the full realization of women’s rights as a goal in and of itself.  It must include the elimination of all forms of gender-based discrimination and tackle macroeconomic policies at the global and national levels, and must also address deeper structural issues of power, accountability, sharing of resources and decision-making.

Second, at the Asia Pacific Dialogue on Post-2015, convened by DAWN, the Asia-Pacific Gender and Macroeconomic Network and UN-Women’s regional office in November 2012, experts drew on a recent report of the Asian Development Bank that named technological processes, globalization and market-oriented reform as the drivers of inequality in the region.  Third, she addressed the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“ Rio+20”), asking why Governments at that meeting had been resistant to addressing the links between human rights, sustainability and the macroeconomic policy environment.  Answering that question, she said that most States had concentrated on what they considered to be their “big ticket” items of finance, trade and aid with little interest to incorporate a gender analysis into those macroeconomic issues.

She also raised a number of key questions in that vein, particularly in relation to gender and agriculture, gender and climate change, gender and work, and sexual and reproductive health.  With regard to the latter, she said that in the power struggles over global economic justice issues at Rio+20, “sexual and reproductive health and rights was treated like a poker chip”.  There was no acceptable reason to trade women and young people’s sexual and reproductive right and health.  The post-2015 development agenda must challenge the narrow Millennium Development Goal agenda and reaffirm women’s fundamental rights to bodily autonomy and integrity.

The post-2015 agenda must also be relevant to current realities in the context of multiple, converging global crises.  Finally, she asked the Commission to consider who was benefitting from the current failed economic policies.  It was time to confront the inequitable distribution of assets and property, and to bring a human rights framework into addressing those inequalities.  Women’s organizations had a central role to play in those regards, she stressed, asking, “who else will ensure that Governments don’t suffer from amnesia?”

In the ensuing discussion, a number of delegations agreed that promoting gender equality and the empowerment of all women must be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, outlined their visions of that agenda and reacted to the panellists’ particular comments.  Many stressed that the current Millennium Development Goals framework had failed to effectively address the underlying structural causes of gender inequality, and called instead for ambitious, easy-to-comprehend and measurable gender-related targets in the post-2015 agenda, as well as for a strengthened overall approach to their achievement.

Specifically, speakers urged the adoption of targets on reducing violence against women and girls, increasing access to sexual and reproductive health care, improving political participation and ensuring better access to economic resources.  Indeed, some said, it was imperative that the post-2015 development agenda contain goals that would make a real difference in women’s lives.

In that regard, the representative of the Delegation of the European Union said that action must be taken to follow up on the “unfinished” Millennium Goals agenda on women’s education, health and participation, and that those issues must become core aspects of the new development agenda.  In addition, a new target was needed requiring stronger attention to the underlying causes of violence against women.

In a similar vein, the representative of the Philippines said that the Millennium Declaration had “missed the opportunity” of linking its targets with other goals and, therefore, called for gender equality to underpin all aspects of the post-2015 development agenda.

Other speakers focused on the issue of the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, stressing that, through the post-2015 development agenda’s targets, women must have full control over if, when and how many children to have.  Meanwhile, others focused on education in the post-2015 development framework.  In that regard, the representative of Thailand emphasized that, in recent decades, education alone had not solved the problem of gender inequality; in the future, education needed to be free of stereotypes, and should help all students to be analytical and to execute change.

A number of delegations also posed questions to the panellists, including the representative of Morocco, who asked which indicators could offer the best information about gender equality, and the representative of Israel, who asked the panellists which short-, medium- and long-term actions were needed to ensure that the most marginalized and vulnerable were taken into account in post-2015 plans.  Meanwhile, the representative of Zimbabwe — stressing that without economic power, women had “no voice or choice” in family or community matters — asked how much measurable improvement had been made in the economic empowerment and political representation of women.

Responding, Ms. GROWN outlined several strategic priorities that had been identified in the context of the Millennium Goals, noting that they echoed many delegations’ comments and concerns, and that some of them should be carried over into the post-2015 development agenda.  Those priorities included:  improving sexual health and access to reproductive rights; guaranteeing women’s and girls’ rights to own and inherit key assets; closing gender gaps in earnings and employment; increasing female participation in decision-making; and significantly reducing violence against women and girls.

In addition, she said, the post-2015 framework needed to be flexible and allow individual countries freedom in adopting those priorities, and it needed to focus on key results.  “It’s not enough to have nice rhetoric that’s summarized in a nice document,” she said; instead, real, measurable results were needed on the ground.  Whether those results were addressed in a single goal, a “twin track” approach or a “lens” through which to view other goals was for Member States to decide.

She further recommended the adoption of several particular indicators, including one on intimate partner violence — which was a good proxy for gender inequality — and another on the ownership of land and assets.

Mr. HENDRA agreed with many of the day’s speakers on the need for a more holistic agenda, as well as on the need to build upon synergies between different goals.  There needed to be a focus on “quality” versus “quantity”, and a stronger focus on accountability.  To the representative of Israel, who had asked about next steps, he said that the structural issues underlying gender inequality must be addressed, as well as issues of financing.  In terms of the format of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, he said there was very strong consensus to date on a “twin track” approach, which would combine a stand-alone gender goal with mainstreaming throughout the framework.

Ms. NAYAR echoed the assertion that “qualitative” indicators — those addressing such issues as the quality of education and the situation of adolescents and youth — were critical.  As speakers had said, gender equality and women’s empowerment must be a major focus, but so must women’s human rights.  In addition, she addressed comments about women’s economic empowerment, noting that the key questions in that regard were how to measure such empowerment and how to continue to measure poverty.

Also taking part in the discussion were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), South Africa, Malta, Italy, El Salvador, Australia, Switzerland, Iran, Nigeria, China, Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Brazil.  The representatives of a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations also participated.

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