11 March 2013

Men, Boys Must Speak Out, Take Action to End Gender-Based Violence, Delegates Tell Commission on Status of Women

11 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

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)

Men, Boys Must Speak Out, Take Action to End Gender-Based Violence,


Delegates Tell Commission on Status of Women


Men had a crucial role to play — as fathers, brothers, husbands and public advocates — in both speaking out against violence against women and girls, and in defying the destructive stereotypes that served to normalize gender inequality, delegates stressed today, as the Commission on the Status of Women moved into week two of its fifty-seventh session.

“Men have to engage men to speak out against this scourge,” said Yvonne Towikromo, Manager of the National Bureau for Gender Policy, Ministry of Home Affairs of Suriname, one of several delegates to underline the importance of changing male attitudes, whether towards physical abuse, psychological control or domineering decision-making. 

Domestic abuse, several speakers noted, was generally perpetrated by male partners.  Too often, such behaviour was met with silence and tolerated by men themselves.  “Silence is the best friend of impunity and it needs to be broken,” Iceland’s delegate declared, stressing that men and boys must be powerful change agents.  “They have a responsibility to take the lead and influence their peers.”

Offering mixed records, delegates repeatedly cited national statistics showing, on one hand, gains made in women’s representation in parliaments or as business owners, for example, and on the other, evidence of systematic abuse.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said that nearly two thirds of married women in his country suffered violence inflicted by their husbands or partners, abuse that persisted alongside multiple other human rights violations perpetrated through customary practices, such as polygamy and bride payments for women and girls.  Papua New Guinea was committed to entrenching gender equality and women’s empowerment into its legal system through the drafting of a family protection bill to criminalize domestic violence.

In a similar vein, Germany’s representative said 40 per cent of German women suffered physical or sexual violence after their sixteenth birthday; one in four women had suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner; and 58 per cent of women had experienced sexual harassment.  In 2012, the Government had conducted its first report on the support system for women affected by violence and their children, which would be the basis of efforts to enhance the system.

Catherine Embondza-Lipiti, Minister for the Promotion of the Woman and the Integration of Women in Development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said 61 per cent of young Congolese women had been victims of sexual harassment and 3 per cent had been raped.  Physical and psychological violence were a daily affront in school, at work and at home.  Violence against women and girls was found in all social strata and in both in urban and rural areas.  As such, the Government had launched the “Zero Tolerance Now” campaign.

Focused on solutions, delegates also outlined national measures taken in support of the Secretary-General’s “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign, including Naomi Shaban, Minister of Gender, Children’s Affairs and Social Services and Member of Parliament of Kenya, who drew attention to the “Million Fathers” campaign, launched in July 2012, which engaged men, as fathers, brothers, sons and friends, to advocate against gender violence.

In Barbados, that country’s representative said, the Government and civil society had held a “white ribbon” campaign, enabling boys and men to speak out against gender-based violence and show they would not engage in such abuse. 

Also today, the Commission heard presentations by Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and Frances Raday, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice.  During an interactive dialogue that followed, a number of delegates stressed that trafficking of women and girls was “the slavery of our time”, and asked the special mandate holders about good examples of legislation, in particular to ensure the better identification of victims and to connect them with redress and recovery services. 

Responding, Ms. Ezeilo underscored the need to ensure recovery and compensation at the national level, saying that States should review their provisions in that regard.  They should also be looking at non-repetition as a major goal, as well as ensuring non-conditional assistance.

Ms. Raday agreed that trafficking was a form of modern day slavery, warning that destination countries that had not prevented trafficking into their territories must take due diligence, as victims frequently could not return to their countries of origin.  “States must take strong measures to investigate, prosecute and punish those who establish the demand,” she said.

Also speaking in the general debate today were ministers and other senior officials of Burkina Faso, Honduras, Nepal, Togo, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea and Belarus.

The representatives of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Myanmar, Iraq, Monaco, Sri Lanka, Israel, Uruguay, Mozambique, Malaysia, Republic of Moldova, Venezuela, Armenia, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Malta, Tunisia, Ukraine, Libya, Portugal, Georgia, Swaziland, Jamaica, Republic of Korea, China, Republic of Macedonia, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Lebanon, Timor-Leste, Syria, Algeria and Kuwaitalso spoke.

An observer of the Holy See also spoke, as did representatives of the following organizations:  International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions (AICESIS), International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), International Labour Organization (ILO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Regional Economic Commissions, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Working Group on Girls and the European Women’s Lobby.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Azerbaijan, Japan, Syria, Armenia and the Republic of Korea.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, 12 March, to continue its work.


The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue and complete its general debate segment.  (For more information, see Press Release WOM/1938.)


NESTORINE SANGARE, Minister for the Advancement of Women and for Gender of Burkina Faso, said that, in spite of many international efforts, the question of gender equality remained a major concern in many societies.  Unfortunately, most societies either hid or tolerated violence, even when cultural values and laws decried it.  At the same time, however, recent social mobilization all over the world demonstrated that there was some hope of seeing the eradication of the phenomenon.  Her country was pleased with the General Assembly’s adoption on 20 December 2012 of a resolution condemning female genital mutilation, and hoped that the United Nations system would continue to work towards its implementation.

Burkina Faso had presented its sixth country report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said, and it had established a national gender policy, as well as a council to combat excision and another to combat violence in schools.  There were efforts to alter existing legislation to better protect women and girls.  The Government had also called for strong actions to reduce inequalities related to gender, in order to ensure equitable human development.  Programmes were in place to establish jobs for women and youth, and concrete plans to improve the economic self-reliance of women and support women in business were slated for 2013.  In addition, a joint programme to combat violence against women had been developed by the Government and the United Nations system, and its implementation had begun last year.

MARIA ANTONIETA BOTTO DE FERNANDEZ, Minister of the National Institute of Women of Honduras, said that her country had approved a State programme for gender equality for the period 2010-2022.  It had incorporated an office for women in each part of the country, and had established food security centres in local governments.  It had increased women’s roles in local elections to 40 per cent.  Furthermore, Honduras was working towards the certification of business equality in health, the environment, and had a programme devoted to the eradication of violence against women.

She said that Honduras’ Office of the Prosecutor for Women was committed to improving care for victims of violence from the time of reception of the complaint through medical services and follow-ups.  The President had established the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and the reform of the penal code, which established femicide as a crime, was under way.  “This is an achievement — a historic milestone for our country”, she said, adding that the national plan against violence was also in its final review stages.

BADRI PRASAD NEUPANE, Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal, said gender empowerment could not be achieved without guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive rights.  For its part, Nepal had created one-stop crisis centres and put in place free legal aid programmes, while a fund for gender-based violence also had been established.  The Government’s five-year national strategy on gender empowerment and ending gender-based violence outlined “zero tolerance” for such abuse.

He went on to say that the Domestic Violence Crime and Punishment Act, among other laws, obliged Nepal to enhance work to end violence against women and girls, while fast-track courts sought to better handle domestic violence.  Among the first South Asian countries to develop action plans based on Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), Nepal also had prioritized increasing women and girls protection from gender violence and ending impunity.  Limited resources were a challenge, but Nepal was promoting partnerships with civil society and development partners, including United Nations agencies. 

NAOMI SHABAN, Minister of Gender, Children’s Affairs and Social Services and Member of Parliament of Kenya, recognized violence against women as among her country’s most pervasive crimes.  National statistics showed that one in five Kenyan women had experienced one form of violence, most between the ages of 15 and 49 years.  Meanwhile, incidence of female genital mutilation continued to drop.  Kenya had strengthened its legal systems to deal with gender violence through legislation.  The Constitution protected women against harmful cultural practices.  The Sexual Offences Act, the counter-trafficking act, and the prevention of female genital mutilation act all had enhanced the national campaign against sexual violence. 

In addition, Kenya had created an enabling policy environment to address the root causes of such abuse through its “Vision 2030” development agenda, she said, citing also action plans for reproductive health; for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000); and for countering trafficking in persons.  Kenya also had launched the first national gender action plan on HIV/AIDS.  Gender machineries had been revamped to provide normative and policy guidance, while the “Million Fathers” campaign, launched in July 2012, engaged men as fathers, brothers, sons and friends to advocate against gender violence.  Challenges included a lack of data on the magnitude of violence, illiteracy, poverty, and harmful traditional practices.  She emphasized the need for strong political commitment and implementation of laws.

AYAWAVI DJIGBODI DAGBAN-ZONVIDE, Minister for the Advancement of Women of Togo, said that her country had established an institutional framework to combat violence against women and girls.  There was a national programme to combat female genital mutilation, and Togo had set up centres for the prevention of violence, which had cared for some 263 women in 2012.  The country’s 1992 Constitution conferred gender equality and more measures had been added in 2012.  In addition, the national penal code had been modified, calling for measures to outlaw sexual harassment, violence between spouses and other specific forms of gender-based violence.

She said that a draft law on gender equality, as well as a national strategy to combat gender-based violence, had been updated in 2012.  There was work under way to mobilize heads of villages and other community leaders in support of violence prevention, and female excision had been rejected.  A 2010 study had revealed that many different kinds of violence were present in Togo, including psychological, domestic, physical and institutional, among others.  However, recent efforts had resulted in encouraging results, she said, and the plea to continue to mobilize the will of the people and eradicate the plague of violence was clear.

SHIRIN SHARMIN CHAUDHURY, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs of Bangladesh, said that violence against women had enormous direct and indirect costs for survivors as well as the social sector in terms of health, police and legal expenditure.  Such violence originated from discrimination and inequality, she said, adding that it was the obligation of States to respond to and protect women and girls from such violence as part of a human rights framework.  “States are required to take comprehensive measures to prevent violence from taking place on the one hand and responding to incidents of violence on the other,” she said.

Combating violence against women required effective legal frameworks wherein laws treated violence against women as a crime with appropriate penal provisions; institutional frameworks, including women-friendly administrative mechanisms and coordinated, multisectoral efforts; and the engagement and building of partnerships with men and boys, as well as community leaders, at the grassroots level.   Bangladesh had adopted a number of multisectoral services to prevent and protect women and girls from violence, including police and justice response, necessary laws, shelter, psychological counselling, a 24-hour helpline and reintegration.  One-stop crisis centres were operating throughout the country and rendering coordinated support to victims of violence.  In addition, the country had adopted a Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act in 2010 and a National Women’s Development Policy in 2011.

BAHIYA JAWAD AL-JISHI, Vice President of the Upper Chamber of Parliament and Member of the Supreme Council for Women of Bahrain, said that the Supreme Council was created 10 years ago, as women’s empowerment was a top priority.  To provide women with needed skills and to defend women’s rights, Bahrain had acceded to the Convention in 2002. Since that time, a national committee had reviewed laws to eliminate gender discrimination and a number of laws had been enacted to safeguard the Convention’s implementation.

In that context, she said one particular act was being reviewed so as to better protect abuse victims, work in which civil society was involved.  The education ministry was revising school curricula to reflect women’s gains in various sectors.  In addition, the President of the Supreme Council had dedicated a prize to any Government or private body that advanced work to end violence against women and enhance gender equality.  “Our message, in the long term, is to provide women with skills and knowledge of her rights, to be the first advocate of her own rights”, she said, stressing that silence in the face of abuse was one reason why it persisted.

RASHIDA NAUBETOVA, Secretary of the National Commission on Family and Demographic Policy of Kazakhstan, said the President provided all types of help to implement women’s initiatives, stressing that Kazakhstan was the first Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to establish a national mechanism for women’s rights.  She also cited a strategy for 2006-2012 and a law for equal opportunities for men and women in that context, stressing that Kazakhstan was among the most successful States in advancing gender policies.  To that point, she said that in 2012, Kazakhstan ranked 31 among 135 countries in terms of gender equality, an increase of 18 places.

She went on to say that Kazakhstan was the only post-Soviet country to have established a unit to protect women against violence.  Crisis centres had been created, while a comprehensive programme that supported female entrepreneurs had led to women representing 52 per cent of all independent business owners.  Women’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) was 40 per cent.  Moreover, the number of female members of Parliament had increased 1.4 times during the last elections, while there were now more women in management positions in the Government.  Last month, three women were appointed to political offices, and this year, more women would be elected to the Agricultural Council, which she hoped would lead to more women taking political decisions.

ANTONINA MIKO MIKUE, Counsellor of the Presidency of Government on the Advancement of Women of Equatorial Guinea, said her country had ratified almost all international and regional legal instruments regarding gender issues, upgraded the Secretary of State for the Status of Women to a Ministry, developed the National Action Plan to promote multisectoral gender equity, and modified national legal instruments to harmonize with international standards.  The Government also had created the Family Court and juvenile offenses to prosecute gender violence and “everything concerning customary marriages”, among others.

She went on to highlight several actions undertaken by Equatorial Guinea, including a study on domestic violence in the Demographic and Health Survey of 2011, which had shown “the phenomenon of violence”, as well as a study on the socio-economic status of women in that country.  The Ministry of Education had launched a programme to train teachers at primary and secondary schools on human rights concerning all aspects of family life.  Awareness raising activities were under way in schools.  A regular sensitization workshop had been conducted to educate heads of base communities as well as members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Government.  Despite all those efforts, a lot more still needed to be done, she said.

YVONNE TOWIKROMO, Manager of the National Bureau for Gender Policy of the Ministry of Home Affairs of Suriname, said that the prevalence of violence against women and girls, as described in the Secretary-General’s report, should serve as an impetus to scale of up efforts towards the prevention and complete eradication of gender-based violence.   Suriname had adopted multifaceted strategies to those ends, in close collaboration with many stakeholders.  It had put in place a number of legislative measures, including anti-trafficking laws and the criminalization of rape within marriage.  A draft law on harassment in the workplace had been presented to parliament.  Various awareness-raising campaigns were under way, including an essay contest known as “let’s put an end to violence against women” and related television programmes.

Suriname had a steering committee working to combat domestic violence, she went on, which comprised leaders from various sectors working together on a platform of gender-based violence prevention.  “We cannot overestimate the importance of data on violence” against women and girls, she added, and changing attitudes was particularly crucial. “Men have to engage men to speak out against this scourge,” she stressed.  Suriname believed that support for victims and survivors must be part of a comprehensive strategy to combat violence against women, including access to justice, access to health care and special telephone hotlines.   Suriname expected that the Commission’s present session would conclude with a document containing commitments from all stakeholders to take concerted action towards the eradication of violence against women around the world, she emphasized.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) said that that his country was aiming to make “deep changes” in the area of gender quality and women’s empowerment, in particular in the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women.  The President had appealed to all public institutions and to society as a whole to combine efforts to provide all women with a violence-free life.  Briefly describing the status of Salvadorian women, she said that data revealed that a woman as the victim of femicide every 24 hours.  There had been an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence, with some 235 cases occurring per month.

As a result, the efforts in accordance with El Salvador’s international commitments had intensified.  The country had a comprehensive law for a life free from violence, and femicide had been criminalized.  Campaigns were under way with mass media.  In addition, he stressed, the issue of citizenship for women was fundamental.  El Salvador had created consultative councils for “social controllers”, including hundreds of women who acted as local leaders, and it had instituted multisectoral programmes that ensured that women did not suffer from re-victimization.  There were also four women’s centres benefitting 110,000 women, and a specialized technical commission was in place for to follow up on the implementation of all relevant laws.  Access to justice was also fundamental; in that regard, female justice officials were key to eliminating impunity for perpetrators of violence against women.  Women’s rights must become a “living reality”, he stressed in conclusion.

Gréta Gunnarsdóttir (Iceland) voiced concern at the number of reservations that had been made to the Convention, calling on those States that had initiated them to immediately withdraw them.  Violence against women could not be condoned.  It came with a price — both for the women concerned and society as a whole.  For its part, Iceland had followed Austria’s model of providing police with authority to remove domestic perpetrators from the home and issuing restraining orders.

Men and boys must be powerful change agents, by speaking out against violence against women.  “They have a responsibility to take the lead and influence their peers”, she said.  “Silence is the best friend of impunity and it needs to be broken”.  As for women in conflict zones, she drew attention to women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and women living under foreign occupation, calling for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Iceland emphasized the importance of comprehensive sexual education.  Iceland’s “Get to Yes” campaign, launched in high schools, urged respect for young peoples’ rights to decide their own sexual and reproductive rights.  It aimed to counter gender violence and the effects of increased exposure to violence porn.  On that topic, Iceland was looking into placing restrictions on the distribution of violent and degrading pornography.

IRINA VELICHKO, Department of Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, focused on one of the most “disgusting and shocking” forms of violence against women:  human trafficking.  The limited policies of some countries for migrant women to stay and work, coupled with gender inequality, created fertile ground for human trafficking.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data showed that, as of December 2012, women accounted for 60 per cent of human trafficking.

Human rights and justice for victims must be at the centre of partnerships between States and non-governmental organizations.  Belarus had adopted new laws, she said, calling for financial support to victim support groups.  Also, the Fourth State Programme to Combat Illegal Migration called for measures to fight trafficking.  On the international level, she said that, on 13 May, the General Assembly would hold a high-level meeting to review the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and she looked forward to the active participation in that event of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).  A world without violence against women and girls was an ambitious goal.  To achieve it, “we need to move forward together, with a clear view of the problems and ways to overcome them”, she said.

JOSPEH GODDARD ( Barbados) said the session’s theme was particularly apt, as violence against women and girls was a scourge present in every country of the world, including his own.  Barbados was revising various national laws on gender-based violence, especially domestic violence, and it was working to ensure that all perpetrators were held accountable.  Among other measures, it had instituted an operations protocol for domestic violence, aimed at guiding the work of the various relevant national agencies.  Legislative measures and their effective implementation sent a “clear message” that gender-based violence would not be tolerated and that there would be no room for impunity, he stressed, adding that there was a need to change unacceptable cultural norms and conduct.

In Barbados, one of the primary activities to highlight and combat gender-based violence was the annual “16 days of Activism”, which was held with strategic partners, and continued to grow every year.  The Government and civil society had implemented a “white ribbon” campaign to enable boys and men speak out against gender-based violence.  In addition, Barbados provided psychosocial support and other services to victims of violence.  However, there remained a number of challenges and obstacles in the implementation of the Beijing action plan, in particular in the context of the global economic and financial crisis.  Therefore, he called on the international community to assist Barbados in creating an environment in which women could live free from the threat of violence and discrimination.

EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica) said that the Commission’s conclusions should be robust and based on a human rights framework.  The body’s fifty-seventh session provided Costa Rica with a good opportunity to take stock of achievements made in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as the remaining challenges.  Prevention was an area that required new approaches and strategies, involving men and different sectors, including social security, health, education and others.  Costa Rica had made strides in women’s rights and gender equality.  In addition, it had recently adopted legislation that identified new crimes, such as trafficking.

The Government encouraged public policies for the prevention and care of victims of violence against women.  In 2012, it had launched a national programme encompassing emotional health, sexual and reproductive health, gender identity and human rights, among other elements.  There had been a significant decrease in the incidence of femicide from 40 cases in 2011 to 18 cases in 2012.  However, adequate protection of physical integrity and security for women continued to be a great concern.  In response, the country had instituted a new plan for its prevention.  He said that there was also a need to better address the threat of organized crime and drug trafficking, which affected women in particular as the lowest link in those chains.

KYAW TIN ( Myanmar) recalled that the Beijing Programme of Action was adopted almost two decades ago, and while “significant” progress had been made in drawing attention to its priority issues, gender inequality persisted.  In Myanmar, women enjoyed equal rights, in both tradition and law.  The ongoing democratic transition had created a more conducive environment for vulnerable groups, whose rights were enshrined in the new Constitution.  Respect for women’s rights, in particular, was seen in women’s increased participation in the newly created parliamentary system, as well as the increased number of women in the executive and legislative branches over last year. Myanmar was also preparing to submit its combined fourth and fifth report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. 

The Government’s cooperation with women’s groups had contributed to its efforts to tackle women’s issues.  Turning to violence against women, he said that as Myanmar moved towards an open society, the media had been afforded greater freedom to report on human rights violations.  The best way to ensure women’s protection in armed conflict was to end such conflicts.  On that front, Myanmar had worked to achieve a permanent peace and national reconciliation with all but one of the armed groups.  On human trafficking, he said the Government was cooperating with its neighbours in the Mekong region. It also had enacted anti-human trafficking laws and its third three-year plan (2011-2013) to combat trafficking.

HAMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq) said the new Constitution guaranteed the protection of the family, which Iraq considered the foundation of society.  Thus, the Government paid special attention to violence in the Iraqi family.  In 2009, a family protection committee was created, which recommended the establishment of family protection departments in the Ministry of Interior. There were now 16 such departments in all provinces, staffed with female police officers, social workers and legal personnel.

In terms of regulations, he said Iraq had passed an anti-trafficking law and created — for the first time — a safe place for victims.  The Ministry of Women had presented a law to regulators on the protection from family violence, as well as presented a number of amendments to the penal code and the strategy to combat violence against women.  The Department for Women’s Rights in the Ministry of Human Rights monitored the situation of female prisoners and detainees.  Regarding the Kurdistan region, he said many institutions guaranteed women’s rights, including the High Council for Women’s Affairs and the Women Rights Monitoring Council.

ISABELLE PICCO (Monaco) said that discriminatory attitudes against women needed to be corrected, and a zero tolerance policy should be instituted on gender-based violence.  Monaco fully subscribed to the relevant Francophone Action Plan, which had been reaffirmed at the organization’s meeting in Kinshasa last year.  States had reaffirmed their commitments to ensuring equal access in such critical areas as education and employment.  Those elements were essential to defining a global and systematic approach and to providing prevention and the mobilization of all partners — including men, boys and religious leaders.  It was also critical to establish concrete support services for victims in the short, medium and long terms, and to guarantee the implementation of criminal sanctions to put an end to impunity for perpetrators.

“It’s time for an evolution of mentalities and behaviours,” she stressed, in particular in combating the practice of female genital mutilation.  The General Assembly’s decision last December to adopt a resolution in that regard, as well as the testimony of women who had been subject to the practice, were proof of the centrality of that aim.  Monaco supported the efforts of the Secretary-General in his “UNiTE To End ViolenceagainstWomen” campaign, as well as the “Halt Rape” campaign and the work of UN-Women, and had signed on to the European Commission Convention on the prevention of domestic violence.

PALITHA T.B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that Sri Lankan women had been empowered since 1931, the date when they began to enjoy universal adult suffrage. It was therefore no surprise that the country had produced the first democratically elected female prime minister in the world in 1960.   Sri Lanka’s macropolicies had ensured transformational change in the lives of women, with constitutional guarantees for gender equality.  Sri Lanka was involved in “synergistic” interventions for women in areas such as health, rural infrastructure development and other areas, and women had a 97 per cent literacy rate in Sri Lanka.  In that vein, he said, the contribution of women — especially rural women — in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals had been significant.

In addition, rural women’s functional literacy and other skills had allowed them to avail themselves of many services, including microcredit opportunities for their economic empowerment.  The Government had been expanding the legal framework to create gender-sensitive laws and to bridge implementation gaps in the area of gender-based violence.  A National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights further consolidated work in those areas, he said, adding that gender focal points had been established in every Government ministry to ensure a gender perspective in the implementation of national policies and programmes.  Due to its history, Sri Lanka was particularly sensitive to the role of women in post-conflict situations, and recognized the need to return the lives of women in conflict to normalcy as quickly as possible.

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said research had shown that 40 per cent of German women had suffered physical or sexual violence after their sixteenth birthday.  One in four women had suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner and 58 per cent of women had experienced sexual harassment.  Women with disabilities faced an even high prevalence of violence versus the general female population.  Efforts to end such abuse could only be successful if integrated into a gender equality approach and human rights policy that respected women’s right to health.  On a regional level, Germany was among the first States to sign the Convention to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.

He went on to note the Government’s first report on the support system for women affected by violence and their children, published in August 2012, would be the basis for discussions to enhance the system.  In December 2012, Germany had set up an action plan for coordinating the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), while on 6 March 2013, a national telephone help line had become operational, providing anonymous counselling for women affected by violence.  In sum, it was of utmost importance for the United Nations to continue its work to counter violence against women and Germany was confident that the Commission would produce a “powerful” outcome document on its priority theme.

RON PROSOR ( Israel) said Jewish tradition held that “our daughters are the cornerstone of society”, as they held together families and built strong communities.  Gender violence was a global pandemic, as 70 per cent of women experienced physical and sexual violence at some point in their lives — a statistic that should set off “alarm bells”.  Regardless of its form, violence against women devastated families and undermined communities.  “A community that is not safe for women is not safe for anyone,” he stressed.

Recounting the experience of Efrat Golden, an Israeli woman who was abused by her father as a child and later beaten by her husband, he said that, in Israel, women like her could find assistance through a comprehensive support system that included a 24-hour support hotline offered in five languages, social workers in police stations and a network of shelters for women and children to find protection.   Israel also sponsored rehabilitation programmes for abusive men, including therapy programmes in prisons, while across borders, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) organized training to 120 professionals from 25 countries.  In closing, he urged changing both policies and mindsets.

JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay) said that international instruments and documents on gender equality and women’s empowerment had supported the development of his country’s national policies, including the right to sexual and reproductive health, the elimination of degrading punishment, a code of rights for children and adolescents and the criminalization of rape, human trafficking, sexual harassment, and other violations.  In Uruguay, the response system included prevention actions, care services, access to justice, information systems and the training of operators.  Information and mobilization campaigns, decentralized programmes and strong measures on the ground had encouraged early detection and provided access to multisectoral response services, he said, adding that there was a national hotline service and special programmes for lesbians and transsexuals, among others.

In the area of justice, Uruguay had trained specialized judges on domestic violence, and had put in place an ombudsman.  It was also undertaking actions to improve the collection and registry of data on gender-based violence.  However, despite such progress, the country recognized that a great deal remained to be done, in particular to reduce “fragmented and partial responses. . In that regard, Uruguay was working to make its policies holistic and comprehensive, he said.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique) said his country was making progress in many areas of women’s empowerment.  The nation had met and surpassed the target set under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development of women representing 30 per cent of parliament seats by 2010.  The rate had reached 40 per cent, and the Speaker of the Parliament was now also a woman.  The goal was to reach 50 per cent by 2015.  Remarkable progress had been recorded in the participation of women in the Government at central, provincial and district levels.  High-profile posts, such as those for mineral resources, justice, local administration and environment coordination, were held by women, let alone women affairs. 

In addition to domestic violence, usually perpetrated by their male counterparts, women were also victims of many other economic, social and cultural ills that placed them in situations of poverty and illiteracy.  Furthermore, he said that Mozambique was facing a heavy burden of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which disproportionately affected women and girls because of their socially engendered status.  The Government was putting in place broad-based institutional and legal mechanisms to address these social ills.  The Government had also been working in partnership with media, community and religious leaders to implement all adopted instruments.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) noted that the status of women had undergone “a profound change” since his country’s independence in 1957.  National policies had been developed for women and children with the aim of continuously ensuring the advancement of women, as well as their survival, development and participation in society.  Increased access to education, employment opportunities and changes in their socio-cultural environment had “transformed our women and girls from becoming a part of the development agenda to becoming a partner of Malaysia’s Vision 2020 nation-building agenda.”  The Government was so serious in overcoming violence against women that the matter had been made one of the 13 key sectors under the Plan of Action on the Advancement of Women.  Amendments were made to the Penal Code, Employment Act and Domestic Violence Act to broaden the priorities and rights of the victims of violence.

In 1996, he said, one-stop crises centres had been established in all general and Government-run hospitals nationwide so that survivors of violence could receive comprehensive treatment and services at one centralized location.  A 24-hour-a-day help line had been created to enable early intervention in cases of domestic violence, child abuse and natural disasters, as well as social woes and criminal activities.  Government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the corporate sector had developed women-friendly programmes, such as assigning special train coaches and employing women taxi drivers to serve women passengers, as well as allotting women-friendly parking space at shopping malls.  Regarding the conclusions in the draft document, his delegation called on Member States not to impose their values on others, to focus on the important issue of violence against women and girls and not to be side-tracked by elements that were not universally accepted.

ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea) said that the diverse nature of his country, where the population practiced thousands of unique traditions, had impacted immensely and often profoundly on the way of life of its people, including particularly violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.  That was clearly manifested in domestic violence, institutional sexual harassment, sorcery-related killings, denial of opportunities to advance women’s and girls’ aspirations, and violence and human rights violations perpetrated through customary practices such as polygamy and bride payment for women and girls.  Nearly two thirds of Papua New Guinea’s married women suffered violence inflicted by their husbands or partners, he cited.

The recent sorcery-related murder of a 20-year-old mother burnt alive, which outraged the nation and international community, “symbolizes the savagery” of some of the forms of violence women and girls faced today, he said.  Therefore, his country was committed to combating gender-based violence and entrenching gender equality and empowerment, and was in the process of drafting a family protection bill that would criminalize domestic violence. In addition, it was working to repeal the Sorcery Act of 1971 in its entirety, which would make all sorcery-related killings a criminal offense.  It was also committed to working with all sectors of the community to raise advocacy, educate against such killings, and strengthen law enforcement capacity to adequately address these issues.  He welcomed constructive criticism and said Papua New Guinea was open to working with multilateral and bilateral development partners, the private sector and civil society groups, who would add value to the effort of combating gender-based violence.

VLADIMIR LUPAN (Republic of Moldova) said violence against women went hand-in-hand with a lack of moral education and countered the idea of human equality.  He was pleased that consensus had emerged at the United Nations — and in world capitals — on the need for collective progress to counter such abuse.  Too often, violence against women occurred alongside malfunctioning justice systems, human trafficking and a lack of family and societal education, as well as a loose interpretation of the rule of law.  For its part, the Republic of Moldova had taken a number of actions, from legal to educational and law enforcement efforts.

In that context, he drew attention to the law on preventing and combating family violence, which offered an “excellent” foundation for increasing access to justice for domestic abuse victims.  With such legislation, Moldova had become one of the first countries in the region to address domestic violence in both the civil and criminal systems.  It also was among the first to include provisions for a multisectoral response to domestic violence.  Moreover, last year, Moldova approved joint guidelines regarding the intervention of social assistance, law enforcement and medical care bodies in cases of domestic abuse.  Noting Moldova’s political will to adjust national provisions to international and European standards, he drew attention to measures to combat human trafficking, including a plan that incorporated a number of actions outlined in a Council of Europe report.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO ( Venezuela) recalled that recently deceased President Hugo Chávez was “feminist by conviction” and had supported women around the world in their just aspirations.  He had been decisive in his achievements for the full enjoyment of human rights and women’s dignity, having inspired radical changes, particularly for the Constitution, which was written in a non-sexist language and guaranteed women’s rights.  Further, twenty-first century socialism, led by President Chávez, was “feminist in scope”, and the President had been convinced that gender equality was an essential part of democratic transformations.

Thanks to President Chávez’s moral and political legacy, Venezuelans had a feminist legal and institutional framework, he said, noting that during the leader’s tenure, numerous acts had been adopted, including the organic law on the right of women to a life free of violence, the equal opportunities law and the law on responsible parenthood.  The national Ombudsman for the rights of women also was established, while a national observatory for gender equality tracked gender indices.  Further, 50 per cent of public offices were held by women and, of the five Government branches, three were headed by women. On 8 March 2012, on International Women’s Day, President Chávez said:  “Oh women of my life, women of my homeland!  I infinitely love you and all of me belongs to you!”

GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia) said that gender equality was both a goal in itself and a prerequisite for achieving other development goals.  His country’s Action Plan aimed at the fulfilment of both international and national commitments.  Indeed, over the past two decades, States had undertaken a range of measures, including strengthening policy and institutional frameworks.  However, despite such efforts, violence against women persisted in both public and private spheres, and in times of conflict and peace, and new forms of violence against women were emerging.  As a country that was host a large number of refugee and internally displaced women, gender equality and the empowerment of women were critically important to Armenia.

She said that her country was committed to the expansion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.  In that vein, the EuropeanPartnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh supported the wider participation of women and conflict-affected people.  She reiterated the call made by many other delegations that neither culture, tradition nor the concept of “honour” could be invoked to justify harmful acts or violence against women.  In addition, there needed to be greater political will and action to end societal tolerance of violence, she said, adding that the international community must “seize all opportunities at national, regional and local levels” and build a strategic partnership that would help the international community move forward in the eradication of all forms of discrimination and violence.

ARAYA DESTA ( Eritrea) said that women and girls still faced many forms of violence during peace or war, at school, at work, in public spaces and others.  Whatever shape violence against women and girls assumed, collective conscious should compel the international community to end that violence “as we are talking about half of humanity”.  Eritrea attached great importance to the elimination of gender-based violence.  Any form of violence against women was a criminal offense punishable by law in Eritrea.  “Domestic and sexual violence against women and girls is unacceptable,” he said; the active participation of women during the 30 year struggle for independence and their resolve to be treated equal to men had contributed to transforming their place and role within society.  In the post-independence era, the Government had put in place specific policies and legal frameworks which provided the basis for addressing violence against women and girls.  Rape, for example, was punishable by law with a maximum sentence of imprisonment of up to 15 years.

The Government had also enacted a law that banned the practice of female genital mutilation and underage marriage.  Moreover, consistent with its longstanding laws on human trafficking, Eritrea had also placed the protection of victims and combating trafficking in persons as a priority in its agenda by working closely with its neighbours to uproot that phenomenon.  In addition, he stressed, the economic, political and social empowerment of women and girls was another important step to reduce the risk of violence against women and girls.  In that regard, the Government’s laws — which guaranteed the full rights of women to own land and property and to receive equal pay for equal work — had been instrumental.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) voiced particular concern at increased domestic violence, polygamy, early marriage, and trafficking in women for sexual and labour exploitation, stressing that each State must develop a strategy to combat such abuse and support the global campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women”.  His Government was strongly committed to enhancing global cooperation to eliminate all forms of violence against women, including through the creation of a new and integrated approach, legislative and regulatory measures and timely medical and legal assistance for victims.

In line with the national strategy for sustainable development for 2013-2017, measures would be taken to reduce the number of early marriages, he said.  The third national action plan for gender equality (2012-2014) had been elaborated, while the national strategy for gender equality until 2020 marked the first such long-term measure.  It sought to enhance women’s economic and political empowerment.  In 2012, Kyrgyzstan presented its fourth periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, while on 18 February 2013, it approved its first action plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Such gains had been made thanks to the UN-Women office, which opened last year, and creation of multisectoral collaboration with donors.

CHRISTOPHER GRIMA ( Malta) said his country had strengthened its stance to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls, primary through work on domestic violence, which was covered by the domestic violence act and the equality for men and women act.  Further, the national action plan based on the Council of Europe campaign to end such abuse consisted of legal and policy measures, data collection and awareness-raising.  In May 2012, Malta had signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.  Through its Commission on Domestic Violence, Malta had participated in the drafting of that document, a milestone in its commitment to “zero tolerance” of such abuse.

He went on to say that cooperation among stakeholders was fundamental for the holistic protection of victims and prosecution of perpetrators, outlining in that regard measures, including a network of emergency shelters and a 24-hour helpline to intervene in crisis situations.  On sexual and reproductive rights, he said that while strongly reaffirming support for the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, Malta reaffirmed that any discussion and references to reproductive rights, services and commodities could not take place outside of the right to life.   Malta did not perceive any terms or recommendations that implied practices condoning abortion as acceptable.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia), calling violence against women a “scourge throughout the world”, said that aggressive behaviour had spread to women in all communities.  Such violence reflected “immoral and inhuman behaviour”, and decisive action was needed to eradicate that scourge and to prevent attacks against women.  Tunisia had ratified all international conventions to eliminate discrimination against women and was working to fulfil its national responsibilities in that regard.  The country based its work on political will and pursued a policy of tolerance and dialogue, and it aimed to ensure social cohesion in the family and the community.

Along those lines, national efforts were based on a careful policy and efforts to institute changes in the community.  Priority was given to efforts aimed at rooting out sexist behaviour and raising awareness of the seriousness of the issue.  Tunisia was also using social media to fight violence and to bring assurance to women from a psychological standpoint.  Tunisia also stood behind Palestinian women, who were subjected to discrimination by Israelis occupying their land.  That situation required the international community to take decisive action and put an end to Israeli violations of human rights, she stressed.

CATHERINE EMBONDZA-LIPITI, Minister for the Promotion of the Woman and the Integration of Women in Development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the Commission offered an annual platform for States to express their commitments and assess progress made to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In her country, violence against women and girls was a form of discrimination found in all social strata and in both urban and rural areas.  Some 61 per cent of young Congolese women had been victims of sexual harassment and 3 per cent had been raped.  Indeed, physical and psychological violence were a daily affront in school, at work and at home.

The Congolese Government had been working to publicize legal instruments, train all segments of society, empower women’s economic activities and develop legislation on sexual violence, among other activities.  It had joined the Secretary-General’s campaign against violence against women and was launching the “Zero Tolerance Now” campaign.  There had also been a proposal to review the discriminatory provisions of a number of national laws, she said.  Of course, the process leading to the eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls was still a challenge all over the world.  Nevertheless, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was invested in the fight, and there was new proof that the will of the people in that regard was becoming more strongly affirmed.

YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said his Government implemented a policy for eliminating discrimination, in line with the Convention.  Having also adopted laws — such as those on the prevention of domestic violence, and on social work with families, children and youth — Ukraine recognized its obligations to eliminate violence against women.  Non-governmental organizations and international donors shared successful practices, especially as related to support for family violence centres, work with offenders and hotlines for abuse victims.  Amendments were being made to national legislation to improve the system of combating abuse.

In 2011, Parliament adopted a law to combat human trafficking, he said, noting that a number of legal acts also had been adopted to prevent domestic violence.  One such act outlined a mechanism for combating that abuse and protecting victims.  Outlining other efforts, he said Ukraine had been among the first States to support the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, and had adopted a national action plan to stop such violence.  Ukraine also had signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic abuse.

IBRAHIM O.A. DABBASHI (Libya) said violence against women stemmed from cultures that scorned women and did not respect the moral norms reflected in the monotheistic religions.  Libya was committed to all international women’s rights agreements that did not counter the precepts of Islam.  The Government was against the trading of women and girls, especially condemning rape and other forms of sexual violence.  In that regard, dozens of Libyan women and girls had been victims of systematic rape at the hands of the Qadhafi security agents, who used it as a weapon of war during the 2011 revolution.

He went on to say that the Ministry of Social Affairs was training social and psychological specialists to work with female victims.  Addressing such issues in a traditional society was a challenge.  Libya was working to bring justice to perpetrators and to restore rule of law in the new Libya.  Domestic violence was somewhat limited to individual cases handled by the courts.  Civil society was reviewing legislation to propose amendments for better protecting women and punishing criminals.  Libya refused to link violence against women to any social condition or religious precept.  It was an immoral activity that could never be explained as a manifestation of a society or religion.   Libya also refused to tolerate attempts to impose non-agreed concepts that would be counter to Islam.

TERESA MORAIS, Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Equality of Portugal, describing her country’s Governmental programme with regard to gender equality, said that one of its critical elements dealt with violence against women.  There was also a Programme for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.  Last year, Portugal invested in the prevention of domestic and gender violence and in the protection of victims.  It had also strengthened the means of intervention on the network of public support structures, and established new financial provisions to create emergency shelters and to promote the empowerment of victims when they left those shelters.  To help women who could not return to their homes, the Government had also established partnerships with the municipalities aiming to facilitate access to low-cost housing.

The current financial and economic crisis, which had affected Portugal, had forced greater efforts in the critical area of women and the economy.  In that regard, actions were under way to support women with low qualifications and single-parent families by providing support to employers who contracted them.  The same solution had been adopted to increase employment for women and men in sectors where each group was underrepresented.  The persistence of gender stereotypes in society justified increased investment in their elimination, she said, which should be a priority in the education system.  Girls and boys must have the same choice in their school lives and in their careers, and they must build their lives in accordance with their true skills, free of prejudices.

Briefings and interactive dialogue

This afternoon, the Commission heard presentations by two special procedure mandate holders — the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and the Vice-Chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice — which was followed by an interactive dialogue.

Speaking first, JOY NGOZI EZEILO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said that people trafficking remained not only one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world, but was also a serious breach of human rights, in particular of women and girls.  Trafficked victims were economically and sexually exploited and held in sexual slavery, domestic servitude and other similar abusive conditions that constituted violence and violated their human dignity and rights.

She said that the root causes of violence against women were similar to the root causes of trafficking in persons.  It had been recognized that the relationship between poverty, gender inequalities and violence was a mutually reinforcing one.  There was a longstanding failure to protect women from gender-based violence.  Nonetheless, she stressed that the international community must address economic, social and cultural issues, particularly gender inequalities, that caused gender based violence and made women and girls vulnerable in order to effectively combat human trafficking.

In discharging her mandate as the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, she had been consistently advocating for a framework based on:  “5 Ps” — protection, prosecution, punishment, prevention and promotion of international cooperation; “3 Rs” — redress, rehabilitation/recovery and reintegration of trafficked persons; and “3 Cs” — capacity, coordination and cooperation.  Addressing the root causes of trafficking in persons, such as poverty, unemployment, lack of human security, gender-based discrimination and discrimination based on other grounds such as ethnicity, caste, and social origin, was of paramount importance.  Trafficking in persons entailed the movement of people by fraudulent or coercive means for exploitative purposes.

There was a strong causal link between restrictive immigration policies and trafficking, she said, adding that, with trade liberalization, immigration policies had become increasingly restrictive, particularly for certain individuals such as young women and girls.  States should therefore apply the concept of “safe migration” in accordance with human rights principles and standards.  Raising public awareness about the risks associated with trafficking was also an essential part of prevention strategies.  However, some awareness-raising campaigns resulted in stigmatizing certain groups of trafficked persons and potential victims of trafficking, she warned.

The Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted that strategies aimed at preventing trafficking should address demand as a root cause, she said.  In that regard, she would present her annual report on demand that fostered exploitation of persons, which provided an analysis of existing international, regional and national legal policy and frameworks for addressing the demand side of trafficking.

In addition, throughout her work as Special Rapporteur, she had consistently advocated the importance of the right to effective remedies for trafficked victims.  Such remedies were often inaccessible to victims, despite the numerous human rights violations they had suffered.  Trafficked persons rarely had access to information, legal assistance, regular residence status and other assistances necessary to seek compensation.  She also referred to the draft Basic Principles which she had presented to the Human Rights Council to provide States with useful guidance on implementing the right to effective remedy.

FRANCES RADAY, Vice-Chairperson of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice, said that the Group’s mandate was to identify good practices and to make recommendations for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Taking the view that violence against women could not be understood or addressed outside the context of the broader issues of gender-based discrimination and unequal power relationships, the Working Group was looking at violence against women as a cross-cutting issue in its four thematic areas:  public and political life; economic and social life; family and culture; and health and safety.  It regarded the elimination of gender-based violence in all those spheres as crucial for women’s empowerment.

The Working Group wished to add to the current discussions the additional dimension of violence against women in the public sphere, she said.  The limitation of such violence was a crucial prerequisite for achieving their equal access to the political and economic space and their equal participation in decision-making.  The Working Group would be presenting its first thematic report at the Human Rights Council in June, which would focus on that issue, with a focal point on political transitions.

In some regions, women political leaders or candidates and women human rights defenders had been the target of gender-specific violence, such as verbal abuse based on their sex, sexual abuse or rape.  Some were the victims of intimidation, attacks, death threats or murder, and, in some regimes, women experienced police or judicial harassment.  The phenomenon of such violence against women had been evident in the political transitions in North Africa and the Middle East, she said.  While the revolutions had been imbued with great hope for equality and democracy, women, recognized as vital players in the non-violent revolutions, had been met with violence by both State and non-State actors.

However, there were a number of good practices, she went on.  There was an encouraging example of legislation in the Latin American region which prohibited gender-based harassment and violence directed at women candidates, as well as pressure on a female candidate’s family.  In the new constitutions of the African region, there were many specific references to violence against women.  The Working Group invited the Commission on the Status of Women to emphasize the due diligence obligation of States to prevent, investigate and protect women from acts of violence.

The importance of securing women’s capacity to participate, free from violence or the threat of violence, in decision-making processes, professional activities and civil society was essential both for women’s equality of opportunity and for the thriving of their States and communities, she said, adding that a new public and political space had been created by information and communications technologies.  Those could be agents of change, enabling women to participate directly in public and political life, she said.

During the ensuing dialogue, a number of delegations stressed that trafficking of women and girls was “the slavery of our time”, and asked the special mandate holders about good examples of legislation, in particular to ensure the better identification of victims and to connect them with redress and recovery services.  The representative of Belarus, in particular, raised the question of the emerging crime of trafficking in human tissue, cells and organs, and asked what kind of measures could be undertaken to protect potential victims.

Ms. EZEILO responded by stressing the need to ensure recovery and compensation at the national level.  States should review their provisions in that regard, she said.  At the substantive level, they should also be looking at non-repetition as a major goal, and ensuring non-conditional assistance was also very important.  She recalled the draft Basic Principles which she had presented to the Human Rights Council — aiming to provide States with useful guidance on implementing the right to effective remedy — and for which she was currently undertaking regional consultations.

In addition, she said, her next report to the General Assembly would deal with the removal of organs for the purpose of transplantation.  To date, the statistics around that crisis were “non-existent”.  However, it was an increasing problem, and she hoped that a set of best practices could be established soon.

Ms. RADAY agreed that trafficking was indeed a form of modern day slavery.  She warned that countries of destination which had not succeeded in preventing trafficking into their territories must take due diligence, as victims frequently could not return to their countries of origin.  She also stressed the need to focus on the demand side of trafficking, including for prostitution and organ transplants.  “States must take strong measure to investigate, prosecute and punish those who establish the demand” in that respect, she said.

Also speaking during the interactive segment were the representatives of the European Union and China.


The Commission then returned to its general debate, with MANANA KOBAKHIDZE, First Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and Chair of the Parliament’s Gender Equality Council, agreeing with the main conclusions in the draft agreed conclusions of the session.  Georgia had been advancing steadily towards the elimination of violence against women and girls in its country, she said, and the country had committed to join the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible.  It had also adopted laws and action plans in the area of combating violence against women.  In that regard, Georgia was working to harmonize its national laws with the Istanbul Convention and other international agreements.

At the very moment the Commission was meeting, she said, the Government, with the support of UN-Women, was building new shelters for victims of gender-based violence.  In 2006, Georgia had passed a Domestic Violence Law, and it had also set up the Fund for Assistance for Victims of Trafficking.  The country was also part of UN-Women’s cross-regional programme, being implemented in eight countries, and it had shared its national experiences through that programme.  Finally, she expressed her country’s hope that the Commission’s agreed conclusions would ultimately provide a timely opportunity and platform to strengthen global norms and standards for ending violence against women and girls.

KHANGEZIWE MABUZA, Principal Secretary at the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office of Swaziland, said that in her country, gender-based violence was one of the social challenges disproportionately affecting women and girls.  A 2010 survey had found that among women aged between 15 and 49, one in five was beaten by her husband or partner, compared with 1 in 200 for men in the same age group.  Several legal, legislative and policy initiatives had been put in place to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence.  The recently enacted Child Protection and Welfare Act sought to deal with issues relating to children and ensuring that they were protected as a vulnerable group in society.  The bill affirmed their protection against early marriage and betrothal marriages, among other things.  The draft bill on sexual offenses and domestic violence currently before Parliament for approval would definitely provide weight in dealing with those issues.

Another legal instrument was the draft bill on marriage that sought to address “marital power” within the marriage regime.  She went on to note that institutional reforms towards combating violence included:  the establishment of the Child Protection Unit within the Department of Police, as well as provision of specialized training for some police officers on issues of violence and how to handle such cases when reported; and the establishment of a child-friendly court to provide specialized trials of children’s cases within the judiciary system.  Swaziland was piloting an age appropriate and culturally sensitive programme on sexuality education for adolescents and youth.  The programme was aimed at empowering young people in all areas of their lives, including in identifying and reporting violations perpetrated against them.

SHORNA-KAY MARIE RICHARDS (Jamaica) recalled that during the General Assembly’s most recent general debate, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had stated that “issues that affect women and children must be central to the decision-making process.”  Human trafficking, which was a form of modern-day slavery that rendered women, girls and boys as chattel, posed a dastardly threat to their welfare.  “We must never accept, excuse or tolerate any acts of violence against our women and girls,” she said, stressing that the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls was at the heart of all gender equality commitments and remained a priority for Jamaica.

“We must move beyond plans, resolutions and agreements to action,” she continued, noting that Jamaica was working determinedly on public education, institutional strengthening, shelter services and promotion of sustainable livelihood.  Furthermore, strategic partnerships must be brokered between Government and civil society, and between the public and private sectors, to ensure greater cohesiveness and effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation of polices and programmes.  During times of limited recourses, it was essential to establish and promote partnerships to share best practices on combating gender-based violence and to enhance capacity in tackling that scourge.

SHIN DONG IK (Republic of Korea) stressed that the Government’s role in the intervention, prevention and punishment of violence against women was vital, noting that the Republic of Korea had been working in a comprehensive manner with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.  A series of laws had been introduced to combat sexual and domestic violence, including the 2010 act on the prevention of sexual assault and protection of victims thereof.  In addition, the Government had strengthened employment restrictions on high risk sex offenders, as well as deterrence measures, including the use of electronic tracking devices.

In other areas, he said the revised act on the protection of children and juveniles from sexual abuse had come into effect, while the comprehensive plan to prevent domestic violence was introduced in 2011, which aimed to enhance the initial response taken by law enforcement personnel in such cases.  An effective policy response to violence against women required analysis and data collection.  As such, the Government conducted national surveys every three years on domestic violence, sexual assault and prostitution.  The Government was also fully committed to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and establishing a national action plan to ensure more systematic implementation.  It was expected to include measures to support “comfort women” victims of military sexual slavery during the Second World War.

WANG MIN (China) said the Beijing outcomes had increasingly found their ways into national action plans.  While women had seen improvements in their living conditions, their right to development and their social status, various crises also had impeded women’s overall development.  The year 2015 would mark the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the United Nations should take actions focused on women in the run-up to that year.  With that in mind, more attention should be paid to promoting women’s development, as women were the poorest group among the world’s poor.  The post-2015 development agenda would not only chart the future development path but also bear on women’s development.  As such, it should prioritize poverty eradication to promote women’s development.

He said no effort should be spared to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Declaration, as well as the outcome document of the special session of the General Assembly.  The coherence of the United Nations work should be further strengthened.  In that context, he supported the Commission’s work to improve its working methods, increase its efficiencies, and provide guidance to the Executive Board of UN-Women.  He urged the international community to eliminate violence against women, adding that China paid special attention to the protection of labour employees, efforts which included provisions to prevent stalking within the workplace.

SANJA ZOGRAFSKA-KRSTESKA (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) noted that the causes of the problem were historically much older than the policies and the actions now undertaken to address it.  However, by no means should that serve as an excuse for not achieving better results.  The aggravating factor in violence committed against women and girls was its ubiquitous character, and the phenomenon was exacerbated further amid economic downturns.  There were many “sad cases” around the world where women breadwinners had to struggle with the scourge both at home and in the workplace.  Her Government had committed to addressing domestic violence through effective implementation of a national policy through 2015, the leading role in which was played by a multisectoral national coordinating body to be established with representatives from the line ministries. 

This year, she noted, the Government was seeking to enhance the legal and institutional framework for countering all types of domestic violence by, among others, strengthening the rule of law.  Last August, the national strategy on gender-responsive budgeting was adopted, which provided for a more inclusive approach to addressing gender gaps and inequalities, and in January this year, the Government adopted a national action plan on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  It was also working actively at national and global levels to boost women’s participation in decision-making.  She felt that systemized data collection would lead to a deeper understanding of the problem, while use of social media could raise awareness of the problem.  Concluding, she said “only those countries that fully unlock the potential concentrate in their female population and stimulate its further development can advance fast”.

PHAM VINH QUANG ( Viet Nam) said women and girls were among the top priorities of his Government, noting that it had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.  The elimination of violence against women was outlined in the civil code, penal code and the law on marriage and family.  Most recently, the law on preventing and combating domestic violence, approved in 2007, was a sound tool for addressing such abuse.

Moreover, the Government had taken numerous measures to eliminate violence, he said, including with the national strategy on gender equality for 2011-2020, which aimed to ensure such equality in family life and eliminate violence.  The provision of health care included counselling and life skills for women to cope with violence.  Clubs for “happy families” and clubs for “gender equality, marriage and family” also were operating in the country and had received international support.  Despite such gains, women and girls were still subjected to violence, mostly in the form of domestic abuse in rural areas.  Many men and women accepted patriarchy, and thus confused gender equality with gender stereotypes.  As such, Viet Nam was stepping up awareness-raising measures.

EVGENY ZAGAYNOV ( Russian Federation) emphasized that all Governments had the right to develop their own strategies to fight violence against women and girls.  For its part, the Russian Federation’s policies were being developed in line with the Convention, the Beijing Platform for Action and other international agreements.  In its work, the country was also considering the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  It had created a Coordination Council for its work in those areas, he said, and was elaborating a federal bill on the elimination of family-based violence.

The Government was also focusing on social protection from violence and providing protection and civil remedies for victims, he continued.  It had established 23 State Crisis Centres, as well as non-governmental networks and a nationwide hotline, and was training law enforcement officers and related personnel.  There were many different agencies created to prevent gender-based violence throughout the county, as well as comprehensive centres for women and children.  In 2012, the Russian Federation had signed on to the voluntary protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with regard to child prostitution and child pornography.  The country had also been re-elected to the Executive Board of UN-Women, he recalled.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said that gender equality should be in the core of the preparations for the post-2015 development agenda.  Significant progress had been achieved since Beijing.  Yet, violence against women and girls was still occurring as a universal phenomenon, irrespective of income, class and culture.  Some situations further increased the vulnerability of women and girls, such as economic crises, armed conflicts and natural disasters.  The benefits of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) had yet to reach most women in conflict and fragile settings.  “Sexual violence remains the least condemned war crime and rape continues to be used unabated as a weapon of war,” she said.  The elimination of impunity was without a doubt the most effective tool to fight such crimes.

Prevention of violence remained a relatively new area, requiring the identification of underlying causes of violence against women and girls, through evidence-based and multisectoral strategies involving men and boys, she noted.  In Lebanon, guided by the principle of equality of all citizens before the law, enshrined in the Constitution, public agencies were working in close cooperation with civil society and international institutions.  The priority fields of action included education, health services, and political participation ahead of next June’s parliamentary elections.  Lebanon, with a complex and diversified society, understood more than any other country the challenge of finding the thin line between promoting social values, respecting religious beliefs and preserving cultural identities on one hand, while on the other insuring the full respect of fundamental human rights for all.

IDELTA MARIA RODRIGUES, Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, Timor-Leste, said national statistics in 2010 indicated that 38 per cent of Timorese women had experienced physical violence since age 15 and that the main perpetrators were husbands or intimate partners.  Domestic abuse was the most common form of gender-based violence.  Additionally, only 27 per cent of women could rely on family members for shelter for a few nights, if needed, and even less — 20 per cent — could rely on their families to financially support them if needed.  It took 10 years, but a law against domestic violence entered into force in July 2010.  In the ensuing years, extensive national and district consultations had been held, including with key actors such as the Church. 

The final bill took into account the pertinent general recommendation of the women’s anti-discrimination Convention and, among others, provided for legal protection and remedies and the establishment of shelters and support services for the victims.  Its broad definition of domestic violence encompassed physical, sexual, psychological and economic forms, and applied to acts committed in a family context, with or without cohabitation.  Its wide net included children and domestic workers, and also defined the Government’s responsibilities, which included establishment of a hot line and specialized hospital and police services.  Anyone, even those not directly involved could report the crime, whose root causes were being studied, as was the symbolic value of the “bride price”.

MONIA AL-SALEB (Syria) said women played an essential role as “agents of development” in her country, noting that Syria had been among the first countries to adopt laws protecting women from violence.  A range of programmes had helped women enjoy their rights, notably the creation of a centre for women entrepreneurs.  To reduce the impacts of the current crisis on women, efforts had been made through the humanitarian assistance programme, which had focused on women and children.  Unfortunately, such efforts were insufficient, due to the policies of “certain countries”, which placed pressure on Syrians’ right to development.

She went on to say that Syrian women were the largest victims of such economic measures, noting that such attempts interfered with Syria’s sovereignty.  Those interfering States had supported terrorist armed groups, knowing that those groups supported a Wahhabist and Salafist agenda.  Decrying violence against women, especially sexual violence, she said women now constituted the majority of refugees, appealing for an end to the intervention of those States.  In the Syrian Golan, Israeli occupation was preventing the establishment of institutions to help women, she added.

BAKHTA SELMA MANSOURI (Algeria) said that the ratification of the Convention in 1996 had reformed its legal framework to enhance women’s rights through a series of laws to eliminate discriminatory provisions.  The Constitution was amended in 2008 and since then, in 2012 a law had been adopted that guaranteed for women one third of seats elected in national assemblies.  To ensure a sustainable solution to the problem of violence against women, a multiyear national strategy to eliminate such abuse ensured adequate measures.  A national strategy through 2014 was developed.

She went on to point out that the results had been reflected in various sectors.  In education, for example, 2011 had seen 97.3 per cent of girls in school.  Women’s employment had increased in the public sector.  In the judiciary, women’s representation had reached 37.5 per cent of total judges.  Rural women’s literacy programmes had been carried out.  Female victims of violence were now accommodated by various public institutions and could benefit from psychological support.  In sum, she reaffirmed Algeria’s commitment to the full implementation of the Beijing outcomes, as well as to the outcome of the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session on women.

ALIA ABDULLAH A Y ALMUZAINI (Kuwait) said that violence against women was one form of discrimination, and that its elimination was essential to making headway in overall development goals.  Global efforts were needed to target violence against women and girls, and prevention measures were crucial.  Kuwait, in line with its principles of social equality, had instituted awareness-raising campaigns with an eye towards a “strategic vision”, and had set up related partnerships with civil society.  In addition, she stressed the need for education and the establishment of a “culture of tolerance”.

It was also important to reinforce the role of observatories and to carry out systematic studies on violence against women and girls, she said.  Furthermore, Kuwait condemned any attempts to link violence against women with specific religions, as it was a global phenomenon.  She also agreed with the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of Palestinian women, and expressed concern with the situation of women living in Syria under harsh conditions as a result of the actions of the Syrian regime.  In conclusion, she said Kuwait hoped that the Commission’s outcome would present efficient measures to put an end to violence against women, while taking into account cultural diversity.

Ms. ALVARE, observer of the Holy See, underlined the tragic reality of the continued victimization of women and girls around the world by myriad forms of exploitation and violence, ranging from, among others, sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, trafficking, rape, and domestic abuse.  Many women and girls, from the moment of conception until their death, faced an array of immoral and dehumanizing acts of violence.  It was widely recognized that the more the dignity of the women was promoted and protected, the more so the family, the community and society as a whole benefitted.  On the other hand, every time a woman was subjected to violence, it was the whole community and society that suffered.

In many parts of the world, women were the first victims of reductive ideologies that postulated and glorified a conception of the human body and of its sexual availability.  Advertising proliferated around the world was an example of how the human person, particularly women, was “demeaned and sexualized” into an object for others’ perversion and lust.  She called on the international community to promote a culture where the most defenceless were protected.  In regards to abortion, she said that it could never be considered as a right solution to any of the “plagues” that targeted women; rather, it compounded violence with violence and increased trauma and violence within society.  It was crucial to educate men and boys at every level of society and in their every role — including as husbands, fathers, employers, teachers, and public officials — regarding women’s equality.

PAOLA MANACORDA, Councillor of the National Council of Economy and Labour of Italy, on behalf of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, said the recent financial crisis was changing the way violence and care were positioned as they related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  While more men had lost jobs in developed countries, women workers had also been affected.  The point was that women had the more disadvantaged positions in the labour market.

Mainstreaming greater equality required that women be considered in any post-2015 development framework, with gender sensitive targets and indicators, and sex disaggregated data set under each goal.  Policy instruments to produce greater equality should include:  macroeconomic policies to ensure that sufficient productive work was created to absorb new entrants into the labour force, widely accessible cares services, and wealth redistribution through gender- and child-responsive budgeting.  She also urged efforts for stimulating women’s participation in the political process, not only as voters but as activists.

ANITA DEFRANTZ, Olympic athlete and member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that sport was a valuable tool to address and improve self-esteem, body control, leadership and assertiveness, all of which were key elements that could contribute to tackling gender-based violence.  The Olympic Games had been providing a global stage for women athletes to defy gender stereotypes since 1900.  Women Olympians served as powerful role models for young girls around the world, even those who did not intend to pursue a career in sports.  They proved that girls could overcome societal expectations and achieve their dreams in spite of the obstacles in their way, she said, adding that some athletes returned from the Games as national heroes in countries that rarely celebrated achievements of women.

The 2012 London Games were a significant milestone toward the goal of gender equality because for the first time in Olympic history, women had completed in every Olympic sport.  More than 44 per cent of the competitors were women, and with the inclusion of women from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei Darussalam, every National Olympic Committee sent women to the Games.  The IOC was further involved in empowering women and girls through sport at the grassroots level by supporting community-based programmes and efforts by National Olympic Committees to bring more women into leadership roles in sport.  Since gaining Observer status at the United Nations in 2009, the IOC had expanded and strengthened its partnerships with the Organization’s agencies and programmes, including its projects that used sport to discourage sexual and gender-based violence in Uganda, Panama, Venezuela and Kenya.

AJAY MADIWALE, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), stressed the need to focus on the effects natural disasters had on women and girls, including the gender-based violence that often followed in camps, shelters, homes and on the streets.  The effect of such violence was not limited to the devastating physical and mental impact on its victims but also had social and economic repercussions for individuals, families and communities.  That was not an issue that could be overlooked, he warned, adding that the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters called for an increase in efforts by the international community.

The IFRC called on all stakeholders engaged in emergency response and early recovery to prioritize violence prevention, to respond rapidly when incidents occur, and to strengthen community-based social support structures.  Whether providing shelter or health care, delivering clean water and food, or helping to create livelihoods, violence prevention needed to be part of the responsibility, the vision, and the action of all responders.  He said that disaster risk reduction had long been a male dominated affair, despite the disproportionate impact of disasters on women and girls, and the critical role they played in increasing the resilience of their communities.  In too many cases, women did not have a say and did not participate in disaster risk management processes and decision-making.

FIAMMA ARDITI MANZO, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said that the Beijing outcomes had the ability to empower women in all spheres of public and private life.  The Order, along with its worldwide relief organization for humanitarian aid, Malteser International, was determined to promote women’s rights and further eliminate discrimination against women worldwide.  In north-eastern India, Malteser maintained a project that enabled women to develop their leadership skills and demand rights.  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence accompanied conflict and rape was often used as an instrument of war, the Order had health centres that provided medical care tailored to these horrific acts against women, including medical and psychological treatment.

She stressed the effects that HIV/AIDS had on the health of young women and girls as they were disproportionately affected by the disease — women were often incapable of advocating for their protection against the disease.  Female children were often burdened with the task of caring for sick parents or younger siblings and women carrying the disease often found themselves caring for sick infants when they were unable to prevent transmission during pregnancy and childbirth.  In Myanmar, for example, the Order ran a program that allowed HIV/AIDS infected people to live an independent life, creating a support system that lessened the burden on female children with sick parents or siblings to care for.  Additionally, the Order operated retroviral dispensary clinics and HIV/AIDS testing facilities in over 60 countries, predominantly located on the African continent, but also in Latin America and Asia.

MARGARET MENSAH-WILLIAMS, speaking on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said that she was also the Deputy Speaker of the National Council of Namibia.  She outlined the outcome of the “very interactive and constructive” annual parliamentary meeting held last week, which had focused on how parliamentarians could enhance the role they play in the global effort to end violence against women.  She highlighted the fundamental role of legislative change in stopping violence against women, adding that legislation was at the “heart” of parliamentary action.  To be effective and really change lives, laws needed budget allocations.  Therefore, parliaments had to scrutinize the budget to ensure that adequate financial and human resources were allocated to effectively implement legislation.

Violence against women was a human rights violation that affected families and communities and concerned everyone.  In that regard, involving more men and boys in preventing and ending violence against women was critical.  She emphasized the role of media, including social media, which spread reports faster than ever before, causing more and more people to be outraged by these crimes, and demanded action to end impunity.  The parliamentary meeting had also addressed the distinct nature of political violence against women, which was used as a weapon in conflict situations and also during election processes.  She stressed the need to devise concrete solutions so that women everywhere could vote, run for elections, and serve constituents in full freedom and security without being harassed and threatened.

AMIERAH ISMAIL, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Secretary General of that organization had convened the first Ministerial Conference on Women in 2006 in Istanbul, Turkey.  Since then, the Organization had hosted conferences on women every other year, and had also established the Women’s Development Organization in Cairo, Egypt.  Outlining other measures taken, she said eliminating all violence against women and girls must begin with eliminating discrimination, stressing that Governments were obliged to ensure women and girls could access educational and professional opportunities without fear.

In other areas, female genital mutilation was among the many cultural practices disguised as religious tradition, she said.  Child marriage and other negative acts were often misidentified as comprising Islamic tradition, however, they were part of local tradition.  Efforts should be made at the local level to delink those practices from religion.  With that, she urged everyone to organize public awareness campaigns about female genital mutilation.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that while sex disaggregated data was scarce, some available facts say that between 40 and 50 per cent of women in European Union countries experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, while small surveys in Asia-Pacific countries indicated that 30 to 40 per cent of women workers reported some form of verbal, physical or sexual harassment.  Gender-based violence in the workplace represented an obstacle to development and implied significant costs for developing and developed country economies alike.

Coherent and effective labour laws and enforcement mechanisms were needed so that proactive policies as well as individual complaint-based mechanisms dissuaded gender-based violence.  In addition, he called for consistency between labour codes and criminal, civil or family laws and other bodies of law covering not only sanctions, but also incentives to “buy into” the fight against violence at work based on the sex of the worker.  He emphasized the need for Governments to remove obstacles to women’s access to justice, including labour justice.  No other form of sex discrimination violated so many fundamental human rights as violence against women.  Workplace violence and sexual harassment presented a significant barrier to women accessing and progressing through the labour market.

JANTINE JACOBI, Chief, Gender Equality and Diversity Division, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that both violence against women and HIV were rooted in persistent gender inequality, discrimination, and the social and economic power imbalances between women and men.  Violence against women and HIV were also mutually reinforcing:  women who were subjected to violence were at increased risk of HIV, and women who were living with HIV might experience stigma, discrimination and gender-based violence.  Globally, about half of all adults living with HIV were women.  In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most severely affected by the epidemic, women constituted 58 per cent of people living with the disease.  There, each minute one young woman acquired HIV, accounting for 22 per cent of all new infections, with sexual transmission being the dominant cause. 

She pointed to strong evidence that gender inequality more broadly, and violence against women in particular, influenced women’s vulnerability.  The intersections between HIV and violence against women were multiple and complex.  For example, such violence compromised the ability to refuse sex or drugs, or to negotiate condom use.  Women and girls who experienced forced sexual intercourse might be exposed to elevated HIV risk, and the sexual violence perpetrated against them could lead to risk-taking behaviours later, which also increased their vulnerability to HIV.  Sexual violence was widespread in conflict and post-conflict situations, and women in certain populations, such as sex workers, drug users and transgender women, were also at greater risk.  Violence against women and girls and HIV were typically addressed separately; that gap should be closed via integrated interventions, and efforts should be aimed at empowering women and girls and, among others, transforming unequal social and cultural norms.

CAI CAI, Chief of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Section of the Social Development Section of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), speaking on behalf of the five United Nations Regional Commissions, said that violence against women and girls was a global development issue that required collective and bold responses.  While the past year had been “haunted” by headlines of brutal attacks on women and girls, innumerable incidents had gone unnoticed.  “Women and girls continue to live under a constant threat of violence,” she said.

As the regional arm of the United Nations Secretariat, the Commissions provided a critical platform for Governments to evaluate regional trends, share national experiences, identify priorities, and translate global commitments into policy responses that effectively address national challenges, including with regard to the needs of women and girls living under threat of violence.  Reviewing a number of such trends, as well as the related work of the individual regional commissions, she reiterated their commitment to working in close partnership, cooperation and coherency with UN-Women, and said that they would continue to support Member States in monitoring the progress made and challenges encountered in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and “Women 2000”.

MOHAMED ELKEIY, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that gender inequality remained deeply entrenched in every society under various forms, from labour segregation and gender wage gaps to gender-based discrimination in asset ownership and huge differences in responsibility for house and care work.  Economic policies had to be proactively shaped to achieve gender equality and social inclusiveness.

Trade policies, specifically those that were aimed at fostering market integration and liberalization, tended to have important redistributive effects within the economy, which could either magnify or reduce existing disparities among groups based on factors such as gender.  He said that it was evident that economic policies impacted different segments of the population, including men and women, in different ways.  Only if policymakers consciously take into account these horizontal differences can economic policy play a critical role in narrowing the gender gap.

AISA KIRABO KACYIRA, Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) said that just over half of the world’s people lived in urban areas, and that percentage would rise to 70 per cent by 2050.  Some 60 to 70 per cent of all urban residents in developing countries had been the victims of crime, and as women made up the majority of the urban poor, they were more exposed to risk.  “Whether on city streets, in public spaces and public transportation or in their own neighbourhoods, women and girls are subjected to various types of violence and abuse,” she said.  Such daily occurrences limited the rights and freedoms of women as equal citizens to enjoy their neighbourhoods and cities, and to exercise their rights to mobility, education, work, recreation, collective organization and participation in social, economic and political life.

Gender specificity was often ignored in urban design and planning, and in the management and governance of cities, neighbourhoods, public spaces and transport initiatives, and that failure had created major impediments to gender equality and sustainable urban development.  In addition, local authorities and urban planners might be unaware of violence against women, and did not appreciate the role that they themselves could take in tackling the issue.  Indeed, there was a great need to address violence in public spaces by taking a gendered approach to urban design, planning and management.  Those could all help to minimize risks as well as to change perceptions of insecurity, she said.

SUSANNA LINA CAMUSSO, of the Italian Confederation of Labour, said that, in Italy, while the overall murder rates were falling, the rates for the killing of women had remained the same.  Measures taken to date had not been enough to curb violence.  Women must feel themselves protected, or they would have strong fears about reporting violence.  Women also needed dignified work, safety and empowerment.  She was concerned about the issue of violence against women perpetrated at home or in the workplace.  As a union, the Italian Confederation of Labour demanded the urgent adoption of international plans to draw up a strategy to root out such violence.  A binding world action plan was also needed in that respect, she said, and the global economic and financial crisis must not be invoked as a justification to do away with jobs.  Legal protection must also be provided, as well as support to victims of violence.  “Violence against women represents a failure for everybody,” she stressed.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to a point raised earlier by the representative of Armenia, who had referred to refugees and internally displaced persons living on its territory.  That statement was just another unsuccessful attempt to confuse the international community, which rightly only recognized the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.  That “culture of denial” on the part of Armenia could not conceal such serious forms of aggression, including violence against women and girls and “ethnic cleansing” against Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan itself was hosting 600,000 internally displaced as a result of the conflict, he said.

The representative of Japan, replying to the statement made by the representative of the Republic of Korea, said that national action plans based on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) related to national measures on women, peace and security.  With regard to the issue of “comfort women”, Japan was deeply pained that those women had experienced pain and suffering.  However, it considered that the issue should not develop into a political or diplomatic one.

The representative of Syria, responding to allegations made by the Kuwaiti delegate, said that if Kuwait was concerned about the welfare of women in Syria, it should have exerted pressure on non-State entities in its own country in order to put an end to heavily armed fighters entering Syria from Kuwait.  In addition, she was concerned about the situation of Kuwaiti women and the exercise of their legitimate rights.  It was well known that Kuwaiti women were subjected to terrible forms of violence.

Armenia’s delegate, responding to the representative of Azerbaijan’s “unacceptable and provocative” references, regretted that country’s policy of “repeating lies”.  It was a known fact that Azerbaijan had forced 10,000 defenceless women and girls to leave their homes, becoming internally displaced persons.  Azerbaijan’s aggression had had unpredictable consequences for Azerbaijan itself.  It was in everyone’s interests to advance the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process in order to protect civilians.  Instead, he had heard “militaristic” rhetoric, which was harmful to the establishment of confidence between parties and peoples, and created a hostile atmosphere in which new generations of children were being raised.  He urged Azerbaijan to focus on the priority theme.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, focusing on the issue of “comfort women,” said he had explained domestic measures taken under a national plan.  The issue of comfort women had not been settled and Japan’s legal responsibility remained.  Radhika Coomaraswamy, then Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and Gay J. McDougall, Special Rapporteur on systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict, had recommended that Japan accept those responsibilities and pay compensation to the victims.  He called on Japan to take appropriate measures that were acceptable to the victims, as recommended by the international community.

Japan’s delegate said he had explained his Government’s position on the issues raised by the Republic of Korea, noting that reparations, property and claims from the Second World War had been legally settled with the parties to the San Francisco Peace Treaty, as well as bilateral and other peace accords.

The representative of the Republic of Korea reiterated that the issue of “comfort women” had not been settled.  That could only be done through Japan’s legal acceptance of its responsibilities.  Japan’s actions could constitute crimes against humanity, an issue which had not been addressed in the 1965 agreement on property and claims between the two countries.  The Special Rapporteurs had confirmed that neither the San Francisco Peace Treaty nor other bilateral treaties concerned issues of military sexual slavery.  In line with their recommendations, and those by multiple human rights treaty bodies, he reaffirmed that the issue of comfort women remained unresolved, urging Japan to uncover the historical truth and prevent the recurrence of such inhumane acts.

Azerbaijan’s delegate said the conflict had not been started by Azerbaijan.  As a result of the conflict, Armenia occupied Azerbaijan’s territories and had conducted “ethnic cleansing”.  In addition, there was a “big” difference between the attitude towards ordinary Armenians and the policy of occupation and aggression promoted by the Government of Armenia.   Armenia could not expect a positive meaning by Azerbaijan, because his country was still living with the grave consequences of the conflict

Armenia’s delegate said the comments made by Azerbaijan’s delegate had nothing to do with the Commission’s work.  Rather than attempting to disguise its gross human rights violations against Armenians, he urged Azerbaijan to promote gender equality by educating rural and underserved populations in his own country, since domestic violence, human trafficking and early and forced marriages were among the challenges women faced.  That Government should also concentrate on cases of illegal marriage between men and girls as young as 12 years old, which were accepted as legal by local officials.  If Azerbaijan was keen to find solutions to domestic problems, it should not waste energy on provocative statements in the Commission.

CHRISTINA SELBY, of the Working Group on Girls, said that, for too many girls, violence was an inescapable part of life.  An estimated 100 million children worldwide were denied the right to go to school, while millions of girls were able to begin school but not to finish.  Through education, girls could become role models for their communities.  “We … demand education for girls and boys above all else,” as well as access to school resources, such as supplies and sanitary products.

Educated parents could also better understand that their daughters could be just as productive as their sons, she said.  Education also helped to lower the incidence of other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.  It was because of financial instability that girls were considered an object to trade between her parents and future husbands, she stressed.  In addition, if a girl was educated, she might also escape the cruel cycle of human trafficking.

PIERRETTE PAPE, of the European Women’s Lobby, an umbrella organization representing a total of more than 2,000 organizations from the European Union, cited the current “worrying context” of increasing attacks on women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  Violence against women and girls was one of the most obvious manifestations of those attacks.  No perpetrators, regardless of the context, should go unpunished, including sex buyers, she stressed.

There had been progress since 1995, “but we need more than words”.  Many declarations existed, but women’s organizations on the ground were still waiting for concrete measures.  There was lack of consistency between various mechanisms and a lack of prevention measures and support for victims, as well as gaps in funding.  Moreover, there was an anti-feminist “backlash” and an overall lack of political will.  “We must build on the existing good practices and go beyond their piecemeal nature, she said, calling on the Commission to become the platform for such important action.

* *** *

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