‘Landmark’ Promises, Political Will Must Translate into Much-Needed Action to Protect, Promote, Advance Women’s Rights, Delegates Tell Third Committee

GA/SHC/4134
13 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

‘Landmark’ Promises, Political Will Must Translate into Much-Needed Action to Protect, Promote, Advance Women’s Rights, Delegates Tell Third Committee

While 2015 had seen renewed commitments on the advancement of women, States must go beyond political will and adopt concrete measures for gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today during the second day of its thematic debate.

The long struggle for the advancement of women and gender equality must continue with the necessary concerted and coordinated drive, from local to international levels, required to level the playing field for men and women, delegates said.  Such efforts should indeed be bolstered, as 2015 was a landmark year, with the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the fifteenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Speakers noted with satisfaction the considerable progress achieved at the international level for the adoption of norms addressing gender issues.  Many shared national successes, from increasing the number of female parliamentarians to raising enrolment rates for girls.

Despite those achievements, however, women continued to face violations of their rights, discrimination and violence in all parts of the world, speakers said.  Women aged 15 to 44 were faced greater risks of being raped and becoming a victim of domestic violence than they did from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined, Liechtenstein’s representative said.

Women also suffered discrimination in access to employment, education and health, as well as under-participation in the public sector and decision-making processes, delegates said.  The speaker from Honduras acknowledged that women had suffered from income inequality both in the rural and urban areas.  Similarly, a speaker from Maldives recognized that conservative and traditional extremism continued to restrict young women from pursuing economic opportunities.

Several delegates insisted on the particular vulnerability of groups from rural areas and indigenous communities, the elderly and those with disabilities.  A speaker from the Netherlands, expressing concerns about persistent violence against lesbian, bisexual and transgender and intersex persons, stressed the importance of letting all women “feel protected and safe, to be able to lead happy and prosperous lives”.

To address those challenges, concrete actions were needed to implement international commitments taken by States, many representatives agreed.  Kenya’s speaker considered that the 2030 Agenda was a golden opportunity to right wrongs and correct past imbalances, while Kuwait’s delegate emphasized the importance of the follow-up on and implementation of the Beijing Declaration, and noted the important role of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) in that regard.  New Zealand insisted that, with regard to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016, States should not lose sight of the gender element of disaster management. 

Examples of how to achieve concrete action on the ground were presented throughout the day-long debate.  Delegates presented national efforts to combat violence against women, including sexual violence, harassment and trafficking.  Others mentioned laws that would guarantee equal pay for equal work or enhance women’s representation through affirmative action programmes.  Bolivia’s representative underlined the importance of tackling the root causes of gender inequality, the patriarchal system and the subordination of women.  Lithuania’s speaker said her Government was implementing programmes to address domestic violence, with an emphasis on result-oriented measures aimed at developing intolerance towards domestic violence and improving help provided to victims.  In Panama, women’s centres and shelters had also been set up to address the needs of victims of violence.

Speakers also expressed their commitment to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, with many underlining the importance of the implementation of that agenda.  Weighing in, Jordan’s delegate said the tensions and armed conflict in the Middle East had negatively affected the ability of women to fully achieve the promotion and protection of their rights.  Representatives of the State of Palestine, Ukraine and Georgia referred to the particular vulnerability of women living under foreign occupation.  According to Qatar’s speaker, it was necessary for United Nations reports to give particular attention to women living in conflict areas with a view to finding urgent solutions.

With regard to post-conflict peacebuilding and democratic transitions, Sri Lanka’s representative underlined the vital role that women would have to play to make the process in the country inclusive, attract wider political and social acceptance and contribute to a sustainable peace.  Providing an example, Tunisia’s speaker highlighted the important role that women had played in the elaboration of her country’s Constitution.

Several speakers offered suggestions for improvements within the United Nations.  A representative of the Holy See encouraged the Organization to recruit more women for preventive diplomacy, mediation efforts, peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding processes.  Ecuador’s speaker expressed his delegation’s support for the nomination of a female United Nations Secretary-General.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Iraq, Jamaica, Turkey, Switzerland, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Namibia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Dominican Republic, Japan, Viet Nam, China, Italy, Eritrea, Indonesia, Mauritania, Australia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Comoros, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Sudan, Myanmar, Burundi, United Republic of Tanzania, Cambodia, Malaysia, Suriname, Malta, Tajikistan, Madagascar, Mongolia, Congo, Mozambique, Haiti, Gabon, Cabo Verde, Zimbabwe and Romania.

The delegate of Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 October, to conclude its discussion on the advancement of women and take up its agenda item on the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee met this morning to continue consideration of its agenda item on the advancement of women.  For more information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4133.

Statements

AHLAM RASHID ALSALAMI (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective thorough its Sustainable Development Goals.  As the Security Council was holding a debate for the anniversary of its resolution 1325 (2000), she announced that her delegation would host on 14 October a special event on the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  The United Arab Emirates had taken part in regional efforts to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, she said.  Her country had achieved progress in that area, including through the adoption of a national strategy to empower women, the establishment of a council for gender equality and the inclusion of women in the elaboration of development strategies.  Her country was also was committed to increase its aid and special assistance in conformity with the Beijing Declaration.

ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ PINEDA (Guatemala) welcomed initiatives taken at the international level to celebrate the anniversaries of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and of resolution 1325 (2000).  She underlined the importance of promoting the participation of women in all decision-making processes and highlighted the specific vulnerability and risks women continued to face in all parts of the world.  High quality education was a particularly important right as it empowered women.  Discrimination on the basis of gender stereotypes had negative effects on women’s access to justice, which was essential for them to enjoy their other rights.  With that in mind, she acknowledged the work undertaken by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on access to justice.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said the Government was fully committed to the issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Government had undertaken various measures, including passing laws to prevent violence against women.  Nicaragua had established a policy based on gender equality as a means of deepening inclusive democracy and building a just and developed society.  Further, women had equal access to all spheres of society with men such as health, education and political representation.  Despite progress made over the years, the delegation acknowledged that more needed to be done.

ZAYTOON FARAJ ABDULLAH ABDULLAH (Iraq), aligning with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Government had adopted several national strategies and undertaken initiatives to empower women and promote and protect their rights.  The strategy included the establishment of a women’s unit in the Ministry of Social Affairs.  It was unfortunate that criminal terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), had seized territories in the country, imposing strict rules on women under the so-called Islamic faith.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said women migrant workers and women in rural areas faced considerable challenges, while violence against women continued to be widespread.  He welcomed the firm inclusion of achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls throughout the 2030 Agenda.  Presenting Jamaica’s efforts to achieving gender equality, he explained that great progress had been made in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, reducing maternal and infant mortality, achieving gender parity in primary and secondary education and increasing women’s participation in decision‑making processes.  Jamaica’s National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence was currently being finalized and would focus on prevention, protection, prosecution, punishment and redress, with protocols for coordination and data protection.

YIĞIT CANAY (Turkey) said his country’s Constitution had enshrined gender equality and the rights of women, encompassing some of its efforts and cooperation in that regard at global and regional levels.  He underlined the importance of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention), which Turkey had been the first country to ratify.  On the domestic level, action plans had been adopted to ensure the implementation of Turkey’s international commitments.  Moving to the humanitarian situation, he expressed Turkey’s commitment to provide shelter and protection to Syrian women who had sought refuge across the border, including their access to health.

LAETITIA KIRIANOFF (Switzerland) said achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment were key factors to achieving sustainable development.  Drawing attention to sexual violence against migrant women, she underlined States’ responsibility to protect women and children from such acts.  She also called on all Member States to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 on decent work for domestic workers.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said twenty years after Beijing, achieving equality between genders was still far from the reality.  Lebanon reaffirmed its support for the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and other subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security.  Noting that her country was hosting 1.5 million refugees, Lebanon had continued to work with all public institutions and civil society to promote and protect the rights of women.  The Government’s efforts had also focused on improving migrants’ living conditions in the country, including the establishment of support units.

FOROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) said the world was at a turning point for the advancement of women, but challenges persisted in many places.  Violent extremism and “takfiri” ideology had been spreading rapidly, presenting an imminent threat to the life and rights of women and girls.  Violence against women was rampant in all corners of the world and included the arbitrary deprivation of women from their liberty.  An example was the disproportionate number of women prisoners in the United States belonging to racial ethnic minorities.  The Government of Iran was determined to ensure a more central role for women and it was working towards an enabling environment that strengthened the family institution, expedited their empowerment and provided greater access to education, economic resources and employment opportunities.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan) said 2015 had been a landmark year in the long struggle for women empowerment and gender equality.  Significant progress had been made in Pakistan through the adoption of legislation designed to protect women from violence and harassment at home and at the workplace, and the establishment of autonomous commissions on the status of women and of women development departments at the provincial level.  Efforts had also been made to ensure their representation at the parliamentarian level and to enhance economic empowerment through the establishment of the Women’s Bank alongside quotas in public services and microfinance.  Enrolment rates were increasing for girls, he said, and women were joining the public and private sectors in growing numbers.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, of the Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, was concerned that the social and economic situation of Palestinian women was deteriorating every day as a result of the military occupation by Israeli forces.  The Israeli occupation was preventing women’s progress and impeding their empowerment.  The occupation was also obstructing the implementation of national plans and policies seeking to benefit women.  The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, had worsened during the past weeks, particularly owing to activities by illegal settlers.  The situation could not continue as such, she said, calling on the international community to demand respect of international law in the region for the protection of Palestinian women.

KALLIE AULTMAN of the Observer Mission of the Holy See said the reports of the Secretary-General had illustrated significant positive results on the advancement of women.  Women, however, still represented a disproportionate number of the world’s disadvantaged.  In both urban and rural areas, it was far more common for women to lack access to basic services, including education, health care and social protection.  Further, women and girls in conflict situations continued to be exposed to many types of abuses.  The Holy See was pleased that the 2030 Agenda highlighted women and men as equal agents and equal beneficiaries of sustainable development.  The delegation encouraged the United Nations to recruit more women for preventive diplomacy, mediation efforts, peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding processes.

WILFRIED I EMVULA (Namibia) acknowledged that the advancement of women was key to a country’s overall socioeconomic development and the achievement of gender equality.  Women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development agenda gave them the platform to enjoy the “fruits of socioeconomic advancement in all spheres of life”.  Namibia had seen a remarkable increase in the representation of women in the National Assembly to 47 per cent in 2015 from 24 per cent in 2009.  However, the country continued to be concerned about violence against women.  To prevent such incidents, the Government had established partnerships with civil society and relaunched a revised “Zero Tolerance” media campaign to eliminate gender-based violence.  Furthermore, the Government had established the National Advisory Committee on gender-based violence, which advised ministries and key stakeholders on policies, legislation and other actions undertaken on the issue.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said gender equality and women’s empowerment were enshrined in the Constitution.  Since the social and political empowerment of women was integral to inclusive and sustainable growth and development, a gender perspective had thus been mainstreamed in India’s national planning and legislation across all sectors, especially at the rural level.  The political mobilization of women in India could be seen in the more than 1.5 million elected women representatives in local bodies.  India had also the world’s largest national poverty eradication programme and cash transfer schemes, ensuring that half of all jobs that had been generated were reserved for women, who had equal pay to men.  Legislation had also been adopted to universalize access to quality education and health services and to protect women from violence and human trafficking. 

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) welcomed efforts by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) in sensitizing the international community to women’s empowerment and the promotion of their rights.  Tunisia celebrated in 2015 the fifty-ninth anniversary of the Code of the Personal Status, which had given women an important place in society.  Tunisia had since evolved into a tolerant society, with women participating actively in the drafting of articles in the new Constitution enshrining gender equality.  She assured the Committee of Tunisia’s commitment to pursue efforts for the advancement and protection of women and to address remaining challenges, such as inequalities facing rural women, through the creation of institutional mechanisms and plans of action.  To conclude, she paid tribute to women surviving and fighting for their rights all over the world, and particularly Palestinian women.

SUYAPA CARÍAS (Honduras) said that since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, her country had achieved significant progress on the advancement of women.  National initiatives had targeted the elimination of gender inequality and had seen a higher representation of women in all spheres of life.  Like many other countries in the region, Honduras had suffered from income inequality between genders both in the rural and urban areas.  Also, the rise in domestic violence was worrying.  To reverse those trends, the Government had undertaken various measures in line with its 2013-2020 National Plan addressing violence against women and created a National Gender Policy in the health sector.  Concluding, she said Honduras would continue to generate new efforts to ensure that gender equality was promoted and achieved.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) summarized the significant results in the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women in his country, where gender equality was a constitutional priority.  Particular attention had been paid to protection of women, with the criminal code amended to toughen penalties for domestic violence and bride kidnapping.  A quota of 30 per cent had been set for women’s representation in parliament.  In the next five years, Kyrgyzstan was aiming at further enhancing the economic and social rights of women, especially in rural areas.  With regard to the 2030 Agenda, implementation mechanisms, as well as human and financial resources, were needed in order to address its gender equality goal.

AHMAD AL-DOUWELAH (Kuwait) emphasized the importance of the follow-up on and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and noted the important role of UN-Women in that regard.  He called for UN-Women to be given the necessary budget to perform its mandate.  Reaffirming Kuwait’s commitment to continue its efforts for gender equality, as enshrined in its Constitution, he said laws had ensured equal pay for equal work and had made women active participants in the public life.  The number of women in the diplomatic and police corps had also significantly increased in recent years.  As a testimony of its commitments to women’ rights, Kuwait had ratified a number of related international instruments.  Concluding, he expressed support to Palestinian women and called on the international community to enhance efforts to end their suffering.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), endorsing statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed her country’s commitment to achieve gender equality and eradicating violence against women, as demonstrated by its constitutional and legislative provisions on those issues.  The Government had taken measures and adopted policies to empower women, including those living in rural areas, and had enhanced their inclusion in the professional market.  The Dominican Republic had also endorsed the principle of equal pay for equal work and had adopted a comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment as a cross-cutting issue thorough its domestic legislation and budget allocations.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said as 2015 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, his country had designed a national action plan with the cooperation of domestic civil society groups.  Despite progress over the years, the advancement of women’s status was still a critical challenge in Japan and throughout the world.  To that end, in August, Japan had enacted a new law to promote the active engagement of women in society.  By realizing a society where women could fully exercise their abilities, Japan would be able to build a vibrant country.  Concluding, she said Japan would continue to work with the international community and realize “a society in which women shine”.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya) said the 2030 Agenda was a golden opportunity to right wrongs and correct past imbalances with regard to the advancement of women.  It resonated with Kenya’s development blueprint, Vision 2030.  Sadly, an unacceptably high number of women still bore the brunt of discrimination, poverty, unemployment, violence, HIV/AIDS and lack of access to education and essential services.  Four policy imperatives were guiding the women’s empowerment agenda in Kenya: representation in government, a progressive legal framework, access to opportunities for women to develop their entrepreneurial capabilities and gender‑responsive budgeting whereby women were guaranteed market access to supply goods and services to the Government.  That fourth element represented $2.1 billion of “real money” being put into women’s hands and spurring their entrepreneurship.

NGUYEN DUY THANH (Viet Nam) said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda provided a strong momentum for States to translate commitments into concrete actions.  He said women in Viet Nam actively participated in policymaking and legislative processes and were an essential driving force of the country’s economic and social development.  Viet Nam had put in place a legal, regulatory and policy frameworks to provide women with equal access to economic and political opportunities, education and health care, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Viet Nam’s Constitution prohibited gender-based discrimination and laws, and national strategies had focused on gender equality and awareness-raising activities including men and boys.  To conclude, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to working closely with United Nations agencies and collaborating with human rights mechanisms on those issues.

LUIS XAVIER OÑA GARCÉS (Ecuador), aligning with the Group of 77, said his Government promoted harmony between people, including men and women, as well as women’s equal access to work, education and health.  The Government had taken measures to empower women and promoted the recognition of unpaid activities of women in the household.  Particular attention had been given to women’s participation in the public life, he said.  Special courts and legal units had been established to address domestic violence.  Ecuador had also adopted laws protecting minorities and recognized the important contribution of indigenous women to the country’s economy.  He was concerned about the vulnerabilities of migrant women and those with disabilities and with HIV/ AIDS, calling for strengthened efforts for their protection.  Finally, he expressed his delegation’s support for the nomination of a female United Nations Secretary-General.

WANG MIN (China) said since the Beijing Conference, his country had been implementing policies based on gender equality.  The Government had taken multiple policy measures in economic, legal and administrative areas together with the mobilization of public opinion to safeguard women’s legitimate rights.  The Government would continue to incorporate gender equality in legislation covering poverty reduction, education, health, employment and many other fields.  It would also continue to improve existing mechanisms on enhancing women’s status, strengthen their role in decision-making and management, and foster a social and cultural environment conducive to gender equality.

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia) said gender equality would not be strengthened only by implementing the existing policies.  It was also necessary to tackle the roots of gender inequality, dominance of patriarchal system and the subordination of women.  Stressing the effects of climate change, she highlighted the key role and contribution of women to finding solutions.  Unfortunately, recent global crises and climate change had had negative impacts on achieving the full realization of the rights of women and girls.  Accordingly, she called upon all international organizations to take necessary steps to address the challenges women faced.

GIOVANNA MARTELLI (Italy) said gender issues and women had a transversal value.  Studies had shown that countries were more prosperous, efficient, peaceful and balanced when more women were involved in political and productive processes, and when they were better protected.  Gender-based violence, including sexual and domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage, was an obstacle that must be tackled.  Gender polices were an integral part of international development programmes that Italy had funded.  At the international level, Italy would invest €50 million towards gender balance; domestically, it had adopted a national plan against sexual and gender-based violence that it offered other States as a blueprint of best practices.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), aligning with the European Union, said her country had spared no efforts in developing the highest possible standards for the full protection of women’s rights.  Women should be given the opportunity to exercise their full potential through education, political participation and economic empowerment.  She welcomed that women stood at the centre of the 2030 Agenda both as a stand-alone and cross-cutting issue.  National gains included reforms undertaken to bring legislation in line with international standards, including the adoption of the anti-discrimination law and several related action plans.  Georgia was also strongly committed to the advancement of the women, peace and security agenda, she said.  The protection of women’s rights, however, remained a serious challenge in the Georgian regions illegally occupied by the Russian Federation.  There, women continued to suffer from grave violations of international human rights standards and their humanitarian situation remained critical, as no international monitoring mission had been allowed to enter the occupied regions.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), also aligning with the European Union, said gender equality was an integral part of national policies, which had incorporated provisions of international instruments into domestic legislation.  He welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its references to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  A national policy on combatting violence and ensuring gender equality had also been adopted on the basis on European Union’s strategies on those issues.  Despite improvements relating to the participation of women in public issues, he recognized that progress remained to be achieved to increase their empowerment.  With regard to the women, peace and security agenda, he said a national action plan on the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) was currently being developed and would focus on, among other things, promoting their participation in peace processes and protecting them in armed conflicts.  Ukraine would continue its efforts to protect women, despite the Russian Federation’s illegal aggression in Ukraine, he continued, calling for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners, including women, detained by the Russian Federation.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), aligning with the Group of 77 and the African Group, welcomed the inclusion of Goal 5 in the 2030 Agenda.  Gender equality was a serious impediment for development.  Over the years, Eritrea had adopted a number of initiatives regarding women that had focused on land ownership and targeted under-age marriage and female genital mutilation.  The Government was also undertaking programmes and projects to improve the economic and financial status of women.  Despite achievements so far, women in Eritrea were challenged by a number of factors, including the prevailing occupation of their sovereign territory and by unjust sanctions imposed on the country, both of which constituted a denial of their rights to development, and to live in peace and security.

IRENE HEMELAAR (Netherlands) said that on 27 September, over 80 world leaders had reconfirmed their commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action and called to step up for gender equality so that the world would have substantive equality by 2030.  Regarding the advancement of women, the world definitely had encountered challenges in ending gender-based violence.  Violence against lesbian, bisexual and transgender and intersex people had continued to persist.  Men raped women, assumed to be lesbian, trying to “cure” their homosexuality.  In many countries, even in the Netherlands, intersex children were subjected to unnecessary surgical procedures with the purpose of making them either a boy or girl.  Further, transgender individuals faced a higher risk of HIV infection.  Due to stigma and discrimination, they were often unemployed and forced into sex work.  Now was the time for all to step up for the advancement of all women, whether they were heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex.  She said “let them feel protected and safe, to be able to lead happy and prosperous lives.”

MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia) said women and girls constituted half of the world’s talent pool, yet trappings of poverty had hampered their development.  The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals had allowed for all countries to unleash the potentials of women and girls.  Certainly, the progress in their implementation had brought benefits to the societies around the world.  Despite all the important achievements, women remained the majority of the world’s poor.  Lack of health care and education had diminished their chance of acquiring quality employment.  Their lack of choices due to poverty had also affected them in in the face of economic crises, natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies.  The adoption of an ambitious new set of goals and an agenda for sustainable development, in that regard, should be the driver of a steadfast commitment to empower women and girls and achieve inclusive development.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein) said the “advancement of women” was increasingly out of sync with other advances in the world.  Women earned less for the same work as men, made up only one in five legislators, and there were more male chief executive officers named John than women in that job position.  Women aged 15 to 44 were at greater risk of rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined, and 38 per cent of murdered women had been killed by their partners.  Countless documents had been adopted by United Nations bodies, including the Third Committee, she said, asking what it would take to do what really needed to be done.  Although the Millennium Development Goals had failed to sufficiently include women, the Sustainable Development Goals were a great opportunity to do better.  The culture of impunity surrounding violence and sexual crimes against women was unacceptable, with under-reporting seriously contributing to that alarming trend.  A paradigm shift was needed to stigmatize perpetrators, rather than the victims, and it was up to States to construct ways to eradicate domestic violence and rape, she concluded.

M’HAMED GUELAYE (Mauritania), aligning with the African Group and the Group of 77, expressed his Government’s commitment to mainstreaming gender issues at all levels.  He stressed the importance of women’s participation in decision-making and economic fields.  Mauritania had ratified a number of international and regional instruments related to the advancement of women.  Its Constitution enshrined gender equality and respect for all women’s rights, including their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  The Government had adopted policies allowing women to actively participate in public life.  A number of women had become ministers and headed diplomatic missions’ abroad.  Women were also increasingly represented in the military and judiciary.  He concluded by underlining the importance of women’s empowerment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

PENNY MORTON (Australia) said violence against women was unacceptable, and her country was committed to contributing to international efforts to prevent and respond to violence against them.  Globally, including in Australia, more than one in every three women had been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knew.  Gender inequality was at the heart of violence against women and the international community must address the structural and attitude barriers that prevented women from living in a world free of gender‑based violence.  For its part, Australia was undertaking a broad range of activities to eliminate that scourge through its National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.  Accordingly, the Government had announced a $100 million package of measures to provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence.  The package would improve front line support and services, leverage innovative technologies to keep women safe, and provide education resources to help change attitudes to violence and abuse.

ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) welcomed the unprecedented global movement for the advancement of gender equality over the past decades, leading to the 2030 Agenda and renewed commitment to the matter.  Women and girls, however, continued to be subjected to the horror of violence, including slavery, sexual violence and harassment.  For its part, Maldives had committed to gender equality through numerous national and international initiatives, including affirmative action provisions in its Constitution to ensure equality.  Due to Government efforts, that principle was a right that women were able to exercise in all spheres.  The Government was finalizing the gender equality bill, further strengthening national standards consistent with international provisions.  Similarly, Maldives had enacted legislation that acted as safety nets to prevent violence against women and girls, including migrants.  Conservative and traditional extremism, however, continued to restrict young women from pursuing economic opportunities.  With gender parity in education, that trend had resulted in a gap between education and employment with respect to girls and women.  The Government had responded to those challenges with policies to empower women economically and with awareness-raising initiatives.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country had seen significant progress in social and economic indicators with regard to women in such areas as education, health and economic empowerment.  The maternal mortality rate had declined, but unsafe abortions, unintended and teenage pregnancies remained a problem.  In that regard, the Government had recognized the importance of reproductive education in schools.  The Government was also addressing the problem of unemployment among rural women with a number of initiatives that included microcredit.  Mindful of the economic contribution of women migrant workers, the Bureau of Foreign Employment had developed programmes to encourage saving income with a view towards self-employment and other economic ventures.  With Sri Lanka entering a crucial phase of post-conflict peacebuilding, women had a vital role to play to make the process inclusive, attract wider political and social acceptance and contribute to a sustainable peace.

SYLAPHET THINKEOMEUANGNEUA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said empowerment was one of the Government’s top priorities, as reflected in the principle of gender equality being included in national legislation on labour, the family and the protection of women.  The Government’s commitment to gender equality was also reflected in a number of policy documents, including those on population, health and human resources.  Furthermore, the Government had approved a development plan for women that included goals and programmes to promote their legal awareness and improve their education, skill levels, health, nutrition and income-generating opportunities.  With regard to implementation, a national commission had been established to carry out those policies along with national strategies.  His country had also made gains in enhancing women’s participation at political and local administration levels, as well as in achieving universal primary education.

MOHAMED SOILIHI SOILIH (Comoros), associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, recognized the importance of the gender perspective and the full participation of women in the development process.  Comoros had made progress on several fronts since the Beijing Declaration, including a partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to address malnutrition among children.  Unlike many other societies, women in Comoros were owners of their family home and retained the conjugal home and children in the event of separation or divorce.  They managed the family budget and oversaw the education of their children.  Comoros would spare no effort to confront social disparities, violence towards women and girls, illiteracy, hunger and poverty.

MARIAME FOFANA (Burkina Faso) expressed concern over the diverse challenges that were the daily lot of women, particularly those with disabilities, who with courage and determination tackled activities that had been handed to them by tradition, including housework and collecting firewood and water.  Regarding female genital mutilation, the continued engagement of Burkina Faso’s Government had led to positive changes in behaviour and attitudes.  Those gains had been the result of Government initiatives regarding the advancement of women.  Going forward, Burkina Faso would implement a number of measures, including efforts focusing on professional training and access to decent employment for women and girls and the modernization of traditionally female crafts.

RUBEN ZAMORA (El Salvador) said gender equality and women’s empowerment were fundamental conditions for achieving sustainable development, peace and democracy.  His country was fully committed to meeting the needs of victims of all forms of discrimination, including older women, those from indigenous communities, persons with disabilities and migrants.  With regards to the situation of women in rural areas, the Government had implemented a national policy to make progress towards the recognition of their role and contribution to society.  Accordingly, initiatives were providing women in rural areas with access to employment and sources of income.  Despite some gains, more needed to be done to create a just world, he concluded.

OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan) said significant gains had been seen in his country in the areas of gender equality and women’s empowerment over the years.  Sudanese women had been participating in the politics since the 1960s.  To guarantee advancement of women and ensure their equal access in all spheres of life, the Government had adopted a number of national policies and plans.  Further, to eliminate violence against women, Sudan had established a special unit within the Ministry of Interior and an independent commission of human rights in line with the international standards.

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania) said that only women free of violence and the fear of violence could fully contribute to developing modern societies.  Lithuania was implementing programmes to address domestic violence, with an emphasis on result‑oriented measures aimed at developing intolerance towards domestic violence and improving help provided to victims.  The Government was also working to promote gender equality across all sectors.  A national programme for equal opportunities for women and men had been adopted that established, among other things, equal working conditions.  Despite many women working full-time, household burdens were still being unequally distributed; encouraging men to take parental leave and play a more active role in family life would enable more women to be employed on an equal footing.

ISBETH QUIEL (Panama) said that, 20 years after the Beijing Declaration, great progress had been made.  With political will, it would be possible to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.  More needed to be done, however, with regard to violence against women, including femicide.  For its part, Panama had implemented legislation that addressed violence against women and had amended criminal penalties.  Women’s centres and shelters had also been set up to address the needs of women who had been the victims of violence.  Committed to seeing women rise to fill important decision-making positions, Panama supported efforts to ensure that a woman was named as the next United Nations Secretary-General.

EI MON SWAI (Myanmar) said 20 years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the world was still witnessing gender inequality and targeted violence across the globe.  In Myanmar, women represented more than half of the total population and played a crucial role in the country’s socioeconomic development.  Promoting their participation and advancement were key for the development of the country.  Women in Myanmar traditionally enjoyed equal rights with their male counterparts.  All the successive Constitutions had guaranteed equal rights for women, including the right to vote, to run for elections and to own property and inheritance.  Myanmar had also undertaken necessary measures to combat trafficking in persons, a scourge that threatened the security of women and children.  Indeed, it was the first country in Mekong region to have enacted an anti-human trafficking law.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi) said the international community had promised to “leave no one behind” under the 2030 Agenda and needed to take all necessary measures to deliver that promise.  For its part, Burundi had implemented international recommendations and initiated relevant programmes to ensure women’s empowerment, despite challenges during the aftermath of civil war.  Further, the Government had updated its national agenda, incorporating a gender aspect into policies and programmes.  Among its efforts, the country’s Criminal Code severely punished trafficking of women and girls and other forms of sexual violence.

RAMADHAN M. MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that, since the Beijing Declaration, his country had taken a number of steps, including bolstering women’s economic empowerment, political empowerment and ensuring their access to education and employment.  Significant efforts had been made to eliminate legal impediments against women, including land and inheritance rights and access to credit.  Legislation had been introduced that had made those found guilty of rape liable to 30 years in prison.  Despite the implementation of affirmative action measures, challenges remained.  Among them were women’s representation in politics, support for their economic empowerment and access to reproductive health facilities.  Going forward, the Government expected support and collaboration from development partners to complement its ongoing efforts.

Ms. AL-RUMAIHI (Qatar) said gender equality and women’s participation in decision‑making processes would accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Empowering women and responding to their needs had been a priority for Qatar, where the Constitution enshrined the principles of equal justice, opportunity for all and the welfare of the family as the principle unit of society.  Women in Qatar had been participating in elections and were occupying ministerial posts.  Women also took part in activities such as aviation, engineering, medicine and law, and Qatar was increasing the disciplines in which women worked.  Violence against women was an insult against human dignity.  It was necessary for United Nations reports to give particular attention to women living in conflict areas with a view to finding urgent solutions.

RY TUY (Cambodia) said the Government attached great importance to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The situation of women in Cambodia had improved over the years, with benefits seen in the reduction in poverty, strong economic growth and improvements in public services.  Women’s participation in the economy was among the highest in the region.  To further improve the situation of women, the Government had implemented a strategic plan, providing extended opportunities to help them to develop their professional capacities.  On health, Cambodia had introduced several programmes aiming at reducing maternal and child mortality rates.  Consequently, maternal mortality had halved between 2000 and 2014.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and commended the inclusion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls not only as a stand-alone goal, but also across all Sustainable Development Goals.  In Malaysia, the Government had been sensitive and responsive to the voices of women and had consistently worked with the civil society and the private sector to introduce and improve policies, strategies and programmes and to advance gender equality.  Equality could only be realized by giving women their right to opportunities in all sectors of life.  Furthermore, there must be continuous commitment to the gender inclusion as it contributed to the diversity of thought and innovative solutions.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) said his country was pleased to have been among the first supporters of a stand-alone goal in the 2030 Agenda that addressed gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.  With regard to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016, States should not lose sight of the gender element of disaster management.  Women were disproportionately affected in the aftermath of disasters, facing increased levels of domestic and intimate partner violence.   For its part, a national action plan called for the deployment of more women at decision-making levels within the New Zealand defence forces and police during overseas peacekeeping and assistance missions.  Much work remained to be done with regard to family and intimate partner violence, but it was encouraging that recently released data had indicated a decrease in such violence between 2005 and 2013.  A multifaceted approach should be taken to ensure that the downward trend would continue, he said.

HENRY L. MACDONALD (Suriname), aligning with the Group of 77, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM), described the “great strides” taken by his country towards women’s participation in leadership and decision-making positions.  Four women had been appointed by the President to his new administration, “representing an increase of over 100 per cent”, he said, adding that the Secretary-General had complemented Suriname on its achievements in that regard.  He then recalled that earlier in 2015, a “barbershop conference” had been held at the United Nations.  Met with scepticism at first, it had led to healthy discussions about the roles men could play in ending violence against women and girls.  Not all men were perpetrators of violence, but the silence of men when a friend or relative had been abusive to a woman should no longer be tolerated.  Men and boys could be champions for gender equality and women’s empowerment, he concluded.

CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta) said the achievement of gender equality was a priority for the Government.  Various initiatives had enhanced equal opportunities for women and men, including integrating gender in shaping and implementing policies and programmes.  The Government’s gender mainstreaming strategy aimed at bolstering equality in all spheres of life, with the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality providing assistance to departments through training and the dissemination of tools to facilitate the implementation of policies.  The Commission then monitored the implementation process within the public administration through yearly reporting.  The advancement of women was a principle that was widely implemented at the national level to promote de facto equality in society.

MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan) said that since the first days of its independence, his country had been working to provide equal rights and opportunities for women.  In cooperation with international organizations and civil society, the Government had ensured the effective implementation of the adopted legislation on gender equality.  In 2005, Tajikistan had passed a law guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities for men and women.  Further, in 2011, the Government had adopted a national strategy to fully use women’s capacities in all spheres of public life.

MUAZ MOHAMAD A-K AL-OTOOM (Jordan) said the Government had strengthened its efforts to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Constitution guaranteed that all Jordanians were equal before the law.  Despite the progress achieved over the years, violence against women continued to persist in the country as well as in other parts of the world.  Further, the tensions and armed conflict in the region had negatively affected the ability of women to fully achieve the promotion and protection of their rights.  Elaborating on that point, he said that actions committed by terrorist groups contradicted the religious beliefs.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), aligning with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said her country had already initiated actions with a view towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Government was committed to turning those goals into concrete measures that would directly benefit the population, particularly women and children.  It was investing more in family planning and revising legislation in that regard.  The support of bilateral and multilateral partners, particularly the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), deserved to be underlined.  The Government called for a strengthened partnership with the United Nations towards gender equality and advancement of women.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said that, as his country was “advancing quickly” along the gender development path, laws it had already implemented were in need of amendments in order to meet social needs.  For example, provisions in the Family Law and Labour Code that had highlighted women’s roles and responsibilities in raising children needed to be immediately amended to reflect a more equal balance in parenting.  With regard to education, colleges and universities were offering a new optional course on gender issues.  An annual women’s rights campaign had meanwhile been organized to mark International Women’s Rights Day and to echo the United Nations’ “HeForShe” campaign.  Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls would contribute to progress on the 2030 Agenda, but implementation would be enormously complex, requiring intersectoral coordination and cooperation.

LAURIA NGUELÉ MAKOUELET (Congo) said her country was committed to achieving gender equality and the advancement of women.  The President had made them a priority axis for action and in recent years the improvement of the condition of women had been at the heart of government policy.  Significant human, material and financial resources had been mobilized to combat poverty among women, ending violence against them and reinforcing their participation in decision-making processes.  Congo welcomed the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 2240 (2015).  The involvement of women was essential for peace and security, and it was in that regard that Congolese women had been participating, even in a symbolic way, in the United Nations peacekeeping missions.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique) said despite progress made, the long march to the emancipation of women was still far from being realized.  Direct or indirect discrimination still persisted throughout the world.  In Mozambique, men and women were equal before the law and most of the women’s empowerment activities in the country had reflected the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  As a result of the efforts that had been undertaken by the Government, Mozambique had experienced a significant rise in women’s participation in power and decision‑making bodies.  Furthermore, the Government had created institutional mechanisms and instruments that had promoted the advancement of women, such as the creation of the National Council for Women’s Advancement and the creation of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action.

NICOLE ROMULUS (Haiti) said that more than 50 per cent of women in the country carried out an employment activity, praising the key role of women as homemakers and raising children.  It was unfortunate, however, that social and cultural obstacles still prevented women from fully participating in economic activities.  The delegation expressed gratefulness for the support given by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti as well as the civil society organizations that had helped to realize the advancement of women in the country.

FRANKLIN J. MAKANGA (Gabon) said the advancement of women was one of his country’s priorities, as illustrated by the implementation of a national strategy for gender equality and equity, which sought to enhance women’s autonomy and participation in decision-making processes at the political, economic, social and cultural areas.  As a result, there had been increased inclusion of women in public and private sectors, the Government, parliament and in defence and security forces.  Underlining Gabon’s aim to combat violence against women and girls and to address the needs of the most vulnerable populations, he said efforts included a national fund for social support.  On the economic side, the Government had recently launched an agricultural programme to promote employment for rural women and youth.  Gabon had also just launched the Decade of the Gabonese Woman 2015‑2025, during which the Government would implement further measures favouring women.

FERNANDO JORGE WAHNON FERREIRA (Cabo Verde), aligning with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country had achieved gender equality in the composition of its Government and gender parity at all levels of schooling.  It had adopted a law to combat gender-based violence, created access to family planning programmes and ensured, since 1986, the right to legal abortion.  But, there was still a lot to be done.  As a small island State with major financial constraints and very modest natural resources, Cabo Verde would like to count on substantial and coherent support from the United Nations system and other partners.  The advancement of women was much more than a matter of development; it was also a question of morality and a basic human rights that would entail a change of mentalities and attitudes.

BERNADETTE SILUNGISILE NTABA (Zimbabwe), aligning with the Group of 77, the African Group and SADC, said it was critical to enhance the implementation of laws and to pay more attention to ensuring accountability for violence against women.  There should be no impunity or exemptions.  The situation of women in rural areas was a priority for the Government, and ensuring women’s access to land was critical to improving their lives and addressing food security concerns.  With regards to health, a blood coupon voucher programme had been commissioned to improve the supply of affordable blood in order to avoid maternal deaths resulting from post-partum haemorrhaging.  Rape victims were provided with emergency contraception and with post-exposure prophylaxis to avoid HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.  Women in Zimbabwe made up 50 per cent of the judiciary, 38 per cent of the National Assembly, 48 per cent of the Senate and 9 per cent of the Cabinet, but significant gaps remained and the Government was working hard to bridge them.

ANCA JURCAN (Romania) said the Government had actively engaged in implementing policies and programmes to enhance gender equality.  The delegation believed that men and boys were important actors in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The President, Klaus Werner Iohannis, had joined the HeForShe solidarity movement, promoted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).  In line with the movement, Romania would introduce two new professions in the national employment structure: gender equality expert and gender equality technician.  Furthermore, it would develop and implement an integrated system capable of tracking, reporting and preventing all forms of domestic violence.  Finally, Romania would work towards mobilizing youth in political, social and economic life.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel regretted to hear from the Palestinian delegate that all the problems of Palestinian women had been the result of Israeli behaviour.  The main reason for the not-so-simple situation of Palestinian women was social norms in Palestinian society and a deep resentment for any change to their role in society.  It was easy to blame Israel, but the responsibility laid with the Palestinians for not making an effort to improve the situation of Palestinian women.  The United Nations could play a positive role if it put a mirror in front of the Palestinians and demanded that they concentrated on changing the situation of women from inside Palestinian society and to stop incitements and violence against Israel.

For information media. Not an official record.