Press Releases

     

    GA/SHC/3745

    17 October 2003

                                                                                                                                                 

    THIRD COMMITTEE SPEAKERS STRESS IMPORTANCE OF MEASURES
    TO EMPOWER, PROTECT WOMEN, AS DEBATE ON
     WOMEN’S ISSUES CONTINUES

    Policy Options Discussed Include Those

    Promoting Employment, Economic Opportunities

    NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of the advancement of women, delegations spoke of the implementation of national and regional policies and programmes and the adoption of legislative reforms to empower and protect women, promote gender equality and eradicate discrimination.

    Several delegations highlighted policies aimed at empowerment through employment and economic opportunities.  Women were increasingly being integrated into the economic mainstream in Bangladesh, said its representative, and innovative, homegrown ideas in areas of informal education and microcredit had facilitated their empowerment. 

    Today, women in Bangladesh constituted a larger share in the workforce than a decade ago, contributing to nearly 90 per cent of the labour force in the main export earning garments manufacturing sector.  Women were also venturing into non-traditional professions such as the police force and the military, she said.

    In an attempt to enhance the capabilities of Arab women, Jordan had hosted an Arab Summit for Women last year, said a representative of that country.  At the Summit, a coordinated strategy had been adopted to guide national policies on the advancement and empowerment of women.  In Jordan, laws had been amended to achieve wider participation of women in all political affairs and to protect women from abuse in the workplace.

    The world was still not making the most of its female talents and potentials, and women remained victims of discrimination, said a representative of the International Labour Organization.  Although, more and more women were entering paid jobs, more jobs did often, not mean better jobs.  Globally, women tended to earn 20 to 30 per cent less than men for equivalent work.

    As the informal economy grew, more women were also in precarious jobs –- exposed to greater violence and discrimination because of their marginalized status in the labour market.  The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Gender Promotion department was helping to ensure that policy makers, planners and implementers had access to data to be able to conduct gender analyses and design and implement gender sensitive policies and programmes, he added.  

    Other national initiatives included efforts to increase women’s participation and representation in politics and decision-making.  The representative of Pakistan said that 33 per cent of the seats in all local bodies were reserved for women.  As a result, more than 40,000 women councillors, mostly in rural areas, had been elected across the country.  Encouraged by affirmative action policies, women in Pakistan had become more confident, dedicated, dynamic and progressive.  Women held elevated positions in the social, economic and political fields and were working in all sectors of the society.

    Initiatives combating violence against women were also highlighted by delegations, including the representative of Peru, who told the Committee of a national plan to combat violence against women, addressing violence as discrimination and a violation of human rights, while providing assistance to victims.  A few delegations mentioned and regretted the practice of female genital mutilation as a harmful traditional practice affecting the health of women and girls.  The representative of Senegal said that her government had initiated a programme of action for 2000 to 2005 for the elimination of this practice.

    The representative of Kazakhstan told the Committee about his Government’s concern about reproductive health for women.  Following the implementation of targeted projects, there had been a drop in infant mortality and a rise in the population rate.  The Government had also established women’s health-care centres in an attempt to even out the services provided in the urban and rural areas. 

    Other delegations expressed concern about the feminization of poverty and the threat of globalization and its disproportionate impact on women’s economic independence and livelihoods.  Saying that gender equality and women’s human rights must be considered within the broader context of development, the representative of Jamaica told the Committee about several policies and programmes to advance the welfare of women in rural areas through the provision of microcredit.  Echoing this sentiment, the representative of Nigeria said the empowerment of women was critical to any meaningful development. 

    Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of the following countries:  Iceland, Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Cuba, Burkina Faso, the Netherlands, Libya, Bahrain, Bahamas, Mozambique, Yemen, Chile, Lebanon, Algeria, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Kuwait, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Guatemala, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Botswana, Colombia, and Cape Verde.

    The observer of Palestine also spoke.

    A representative of the International Organization for Migration also spoke.

    Representatives of Israel, Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea exercised the right of reply, as well as the observer of Palestine.  

     

    The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. when it is expected to conclude its consideration of the advancement of women, and later begin its consideration of the rights of children.

     

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of the advancement of women.

    For further background information please see Press Release GA/SHC/3744 of 15 October.

    CARMEN-ROSA ARIAS (Peru) said the advancement of women was of fundamental importance to the Government of Peru.  Concerning family and sexual violence, she said, the Inter-American Convention had defined State responsibility in this regard.  Violence against women was a complex social problem, affecting women and families as a whole.  There was a national plan to combat violence against women, which addressed violence as discrimination and a violation of human rights, while providing assistance to victims.  On women’s participation in decision-making, she told the Committee that for the first time in the history of Peru, a woman was head of the Council of Ministers.

    She also paid tribute to the important role played by women’s organizations in civil society.  On education, she said there were still problems with students dropping out from school.  Figures for urban and rural areas differed due to difference in access.  The Government was also undertaking initiatives to provide family planning and reproductive health assistance.  There was a national plan of action for children that included awareness-raising on risky sexual behaviour.

    HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) highlighted the Secretary General’s conclusion in his follow-up report on the Millennium Goals that while there may be increased global awareness of issues affecting women’s rights, there was little progress at the country level.  It was not acceptable for Member States to weaken commitments already made at the international level, he said.  There should be a progress-oriented approach that focused on actions and implementation of agreed standards.

    Iceland planned to put forward this year a resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women on behalf of the Nordic countries, he said.  The Convention and its Optional Protocol were central elements in ensuring that all human rights were extended equally to women.

    In Iceland, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had played a pivotal role in addressing violence against women, and the Government had made it a priority to reinforce cooperation with these groups.  The Minister of Social Affairs had established a committee to coordinate measures, including public awareness campaigns, to combat violence against women.  He called on all Member States to strengthen efforts to implement Security Council 1325, especially related to increasing the participation of women at all levels of decision-making.

    DONNETTE CRITCHLOW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said remarkable progress had been made over the years regarding gender equality and the empowerment of women, due largely to the growing recognition that women’s rights were human rights, as well as the fact that issues concerning women had national and global implications which must be taken into account in the construction and strengthening of democratic societies.

    Nevertheless, more needed to be done, she said.  Like other women in developing countries, women in the Caribbean region continued to confront challenges associated with globalization and poverty and were disproportionately represented among the poor.  It was for this reason that women were specifically targeted in poverty eradication policies and strategies across the region.  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women remained central to the regions’ strategy for the empowerment of women. 

    Issues concerning women’s health also continued to receive much attention, given the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection in the region and its disproportionate effect on women, she said.  Both, national and regional strategies had been gender mainstreamed concerning prevention, care and treatment programmes.  All CARICOM countries now had prevention programmes aimed at reducing mother to child transmission of this disease. 

    The persistent problem of violence against women continued to engage the attention of Governments of the region which had accorded high priority to its prevention and elimination, she said.  Efforts had been focused on curative action, including the enactment and enforcement of national legislation to ensure women’s access to mechanisms of justice, as well as the punishment of perpetrators.  Incrementally, however, concentration was moving towards emphasis on preventive measures with some States already engaged in research activities regarding the root causes of violence against women, improving data collection and the utilization of an integrated approach to addressing this issue.

    ANA TERESITA GONZALEZ FRAGA (Cuba) said national efforts must be backed up by international cooperation, based on respect for national sovereignty and non-interference.  In Cuba, women’s enjoyment of their rights revealed a high level of social progress.  Compared to 1959, when 12 per cent of the workforce were women, and two-thirds were illiterate, 44.4 per cent of persons now working in the civilian state economy were women.  Furthermore, Cuban women held 33.5 per cent of leadership posts, exceeding the 30 per cent target set at the Beijing conference.

    Cuban women were the subject and object of social development, she stated.  Education had been a key element in achieving gender equity.  All those advances have taken place, in spite of the economic difficulties Cuba faced, primarily as a result of the economic blockade imposed by the United States for 40 years.

    She denounced accusations that Cuba promoted the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation as utterly false.  Such trafficking was not tolerated and would never be tolerated.  Cuba considered it a moral imperative and a matter of principle to protect women, children and young people.  The Cuban Government reaffirmed its political resolve to strengthen efforts to bring about a fuller integration on an equal footing between women and men to increase the empowerment of women in society.

    MARCELINE TIENDREBEOGO (Burkina Faso) highlighted the efforts undertaken by her Government in improving the socio-economic status of women.  There was a new plan for 2003 to 2007 that aimed to reduce poverty through the empowerment of women and promote the fundamental rights of women and the girl child.  Burkina Faso had also been undertaking legislative and judicial reforms, in accordance with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  There were still areas of concern, including the persistence of poverty and its impact of the health of women, and the perpetuation of violence against women and girls. 

    To increase women’s income, the Government had provided mills and other tools, such as soap making machines, she said.  The Government, in cooperation with women’s groups, had also established 16 shelters for women.

    She urged the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to revitalize the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and urged Member States to be conciliatory during negotiations to ensure that they were constructive.

    MARGIT VAN DER STEEN (Netherlands) appealed for greater focus on the interrelatedness between gender and age.  Gender and age could act as discrimination criteria, and could hamper the professional advancement of women, she said.  Governments and businesses should take a stand against age discrimination, which affected women most severely.  Women made up the majority of elderly people, and governments should do more to support the work of organizations for older women, bearing in mind that poverty was one of the biggest threats confronting older women.

    It was also important to note that media outlets, including newspapers and televisions, often did not include images of older women or presented them as second-class citizens, she said.  Older women must be portrayed more positively and governments could start by screening their own documents.

    SEHAAM MEKASHBER (Libya) said Beijing +5 was a guide -- it was contributing to greater awareness on women’s issues.  She stressed the need to eliminate discrimination against women, although, despite progress made, the status of women in many countries had not improved.  Through the Qu’ran, women and men had been freed from slavery, freed from humiliation, and could strive for liberation.  Women’s rights to power must be respected in all societies so that they could enjoy equality together with men.

    Women had a dominant role in Libyan society in terms of health, education and diplomacy she said.  They also had the right to join the armed forces.  This year, her country had celebrated an important event -- women’s progress.  She said Libya was a party to Convention against all forms of Discrimination against Women and had strived to achieve equality between men and women.  Women had a privileged economic role in Libya and were financially independent, she said.  This status did not change though marriage.  A woman could also have custody of her children or grandchildren.

    She expressed her concern about the situation of women in Africa who were suffering due to poverty, disease, and conflicts.  Despite efforts made, the situation in Africa called for international commitment.  She also raised concern about Palestinian women and women in the Syrian Golan.  The occupation by Israel must be brought to an end since it undermined civil society in the region.

    MS. RADHI (Bahrain) said the advancement of women was a priority of all peoples, and, in Bahrain, women’s progress at the national level was a source of pride.  Bahrain’s constitution guaranteed equal participation for all, and her country had endeavoured to ensure that women would enjoy rights to education and to the job market, and would be able to exercise their political rights, as voters and candidates for public office.  Women now made up 26 per cent of the labour force, compared to only five per cent in 1971. 

    Efforts had also been made to allow for greater participation of women, including the creation of a High Council for Women, which was presided over by the First Lady of Bahrain, she said.  There were women ambassadors and women working in the ministries of health, education, interior and defence.  Women from Bahrain were also involved in international organizations at all levels.

    She noted that Bahrain had acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and was committed to ensuring an equal footing women and men and to strengthening women’s rights at the national level.  The King had also signed a law establishing an Organization of Arab Women to coordinate work for the advancement of women.

    NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said while women throughout the world were making progress towards the achievement of the goals and objectives of Beijing +5, the situation of Palestinian women continued to deteriorate in all respects.  Palestinian women continued in their struggle to achieve freedom, peace and prosperity in the face of the harsh reality of the continuing Israeli occupation.  They also continued to fight inequality and discrimination in order to play an active role within their society.  Basic rights such as the freedom of movement, right to work, right to education, right to a standard of living for the health and well-being of themselves and family, right to medical care, and the right to be treated with respect and dignity, were denied on a daily basis, making any effort for their advancement not only difficult, but impossible.

    She said that since 28 September 2000, over 2,570 Palestinians had been brutally killed and highlighted Israeli actions of State terrorism, human rights violations, demolitions, confiscations and restrictions of movement.  This situation had weakened the economic situation, affecting the health of Palestinian women and their children.  Only an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State would allow Palestinian women to pursue initiatives towards their advancement.

    PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said much remained to be done in reaching targets recognizing the role of gender equality and women’s empowerment in achieving social and economic development, as well as peace and security.  The Bahamas was particularly proud that in its relatively short history as an independent nation, it had been able to build a strong record of political participation for women. Since independence in 1962, Bahamian woman had consistently outnumbered their male counterparts in exercising their right to vote.  Women were also participating in elective office and made up 20 per cent of members of the House of Assembly, 43 per cent of the Senate and 25 per cent of the Cabinet.

    The Bahamas was also committed to providing equal opportunity for education, including access to information on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, which had disproportionately affected women and girls, she said.  The Government had embarked on a process of consultation with all sectors of Bahamian society to explore ways to achieve full gender equality.

    ISMAT JAHAN (Bangladesh) said women were increasingly being integrated into the economic mainstream.  Innovative, home-grown ideas in areas of informal education and microcredit had immensely facilitated their empowerment.  Today, women in Bangladesh constituted a larger share in the workforce than a decade ago, contributing nearly 90 per cent of the labour force in the main export, earning garments manufacturing sector.  Women were also venturing into non-traditional professions, such as the police force and the military, and had also participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  The vibrant civil society in Bangladesh fervently advocated and protected women’s rights. 

    Globally, there were some areas of concern that required more attention, she said. Those included the situation of women in armed conflict, including those under foreign occupation, such as in the Palestinian territories, and the issues of violence against women and trafficking in women.  Persistent violence against women was a sad reminder that the true achievement and empowerment of women was yet a long way off.  Multidimensional and multisectoral approaches and strategies were urgently needed to reverse the situation.  Civil society and media could also play an important role by raising awareness on the severe consequences of violence on the physical and mental health of women.

    MU’TAZ HYASSAT (Jordan) said his country recognized that improving the living conditions of women was critical to maximizing their role in development and society, and in achieving peace and security.  Women continued to face discrimination and violence, a problem that must be addressed to allow them to participate in decision-making at all levels.  Domestic violence against women was harmful not only to them, but to all of society.  Contributing to those problems was a lack of public awareness and the persistence of traditional practices that countered the dignity of women.  Existing legislation should be reviewed and public awareness and education campaigns should be set up.

    The implementation of international obligations, already difficult in times of peace, was even more difficult when women were faced with armed conflict and forced occupation, which gave rise to different forms of violence and abuse.  He called on the international community to help alleviate the suffering of women by ensuring that those who violated humanitarian law were punished.  To increase international cooperation in promoting the rights of women, Jordan hosted, last year, the Arab Summit of Women, which had adopted a coordinated strategy to enhance the capabilities of Arab women.

    Jordan had coordinated with all stakeholders and pursued policies to achieve gender mainstreaming and increased involvement of women in all walks of life, he said.  Laws had been amended to achieve wider participation of women in all political affairs and to protect women from abuse in the workplace.  His country had also made tireless efforts to endorse and amend certain provisions of critical laws in connection with crimes of honour, which now provided for severe punishment against the perpetrators of such crimes.

    GERALDO SARANGA (Mozambique) said women and girls continued to be vulnerable due to profound gender inequalities that still characterized societies. Women and girls were the principal victims of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking, mutilation, sexual humiliation and rape.  Women suffering from HIV/AIDS were often more stigmatized than men in equal conditions, thus placing an additional discrimination against them.

    In Mozambique, and in many African countries, women played and continued to play an important role for peace, poverty eradication, and economic and social development, he said.  During the Second Assembly of the African Union, African leaders had adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Relating to the Rights of Women, an instrument that would reinforce the promotion and protection of women in the continent.

    The advancement of women continued to be a top priority of the Government of Mozambique, he said.  It had adopted political, social and economic frameworks, which had a gender perspective in all spheres of activity.  The central objective of the Government in this domain was to promote women’s rights and ensure their participation in the decision-making process.  For this end, the Government was concentrating on improving and promoting access to education for the girl child and increasing the number of women in public institutions at the central, provincial and local levels.

    ARWA NOMAN (Yemen) said her country was concerned about the criteria and sources used in drafting the report on traditional and customary practices affecting the health of women and girls.  Yemen did not approve of the information in the report.  On this issue, Yemen had fully accorded women their rights.  The Minister of Public Health had enacted a decree that would prohibit female genital mutilation if it were to exist.

    Women in Yemen now enjoyed high representation in both the public and private sectors, she said.  They occupied positions in public office and participated in diplomacy and aviation.  Moreover, national legislation gave women the right to exercise their political rights to serve as candidates for public office and to participate in elections.

    ROSHAN KHURSHID BHARUCHA (Pakistan) said Pakistan’s National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women aimed at achieving gender equity and equality; social, political and economic empowerment of all Pakistani women; and a just, humane and democratic society with economic prosperity through sustainable development.  The key measures for implementation included ensuring that government agencies adopted a gender sensitive approach to development in preparing needs based, participatory programmes and projects.  Other key measures were the mainstreaming of gender issues, compulsory and free primary education for all, economic empowerment and the provision of affordable primary health care.

    To ensure women’s participation in the decision-making, 33 per cent of the seats in all local bodies were reserved for them, she said.  As a result, more than 40,000 women councillors, mostly in rural areas, had been elected across the country.  Encouraged by affirmative action policies, women in Pakistan today were much more confident, dedicated, dynamic and progressive.  They had succeeded in achieving elevated positions in the social, economic and political fields and were now working in all sectors of the society.

    LORETO LEYTON (Chile) said her government attached particular importance to increasing equal access for women to decision-making processes and promoting women’s full participation in the workforce.  That was a priority in all Chile’s efforts to eradicate poverty.  The rate of female participation had an impact, not only on a country’s potential for growth, but also on reducing the number of poor households.  In Chile, much of the reduction in poverty during the past decade had been due to the contribution of a second income in poor households.

    The rate of female participation in Chile’s labour force, however, was unfortunately still relatively low, and cultural values and practices were primary reasons for this, she said.  In the context of increasing internationalization of the economy, the insertion of women into paid work under equal conditions, was an inescapable and desirable imperative.  Chile’s Women’s National Service had promoted legislative reforms that included measures involving the private sector.  A guide had been published outlining steps a company should take to implement measures to create a balance between work and family life.

    Of particular concern to Chile was the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, which was still far from being in compliance with basic human rights principles, she said.  Her country urged authorities in Afghanistan to increase efforts to promote the human rights of women to allow them to participate actively in rebuilding the country.

    SUSANNA CHRISTOFIDES, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said while women in general constituted the daily prey of gender violence, migrant women in particular were even more prone to discrimination and abuse because of their dual vulnerability as women and foreigners.  Of the many forms of violence migrant women suffered, IOM was especially concerned about trafficking in women.  This scourge had seen a tremendous upsurge in recent years.  Countless women had recourse only to illegal or irregular channels of border crossings.  Criminal job brokers, passport forgers and traffickers were all too eager to facilitate their migration.  This exploitation must end.

    Responsible management of migration required the will and capacity of States to respond decisively and adequately to the challenges posed by the interrelation between migration and violence, she said.  Once the international community responded, as decisively to the challenges posed by the interrelation between migration and gender violence as it did to other abuses, trafficking and other forms of violence against migrant women could be addressed effectively.    

    JOHN LANGMORE, Representative to the United Nations and  Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), said gender equality was a key element of the vision of “Decent Work For All” and had been identified as a cross cutting theme within the ILO’s four strategic objectives -- rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. The world was not making the most of its female talents and potentials, and women remained victims of discrimination. 

    Although more and more women were entering paid jobs, more jobs had often not meant better jobs, he said.  Globally, women tended to earn 20 to 30 per cent less than men for equivalent work.  As the informal economy grew, more women were in precarious and occasional jobs -- exposed to greater violence and discrimination because of their marginalized status in the labour markets. The ILO’s Gender Promotion department was helping to ensure that policy makers, planners and implementers had access to data to be able to conduct gender analyses and design and implement gender sensitive policies and programmes. 

    Women also continued to have less access than men to investment in skills, knowledge and life learning, he said.  In a world increasingly dominated by information and communication technology, gender inequalities led to new forms of social exclusion. The upcoming World Summit on the Information Society was an excellent opportunity to air these concerns.

    FARRAH BERRY (Lebanon) said her country had long been cognizant of the need to enact legislation that ensured the rights of women.  To this end, the Lebanese Government had ratified many United Nations and International Labour Organization conventions and since 1934, many attempts had been made to render Lebanese legislation faultless and devoid of any discrimination against women.  The results of those efforts had been impressive.  An estimated 50 per cent of college graduates were women, and the number of working women recently had increased to make up 27 per cent of the total labour force -- a relatively high number compared to other countries in the region.  Today, more and more women were in decision-making positions such as members of parliament, the diplomatic corps and the judiciary.

    On the other hand, many problems persisted, she said.  For example, the participation of Lebanese women in the workforce remained very low because they still tended to be regarded as secondary breadwinners.  To no small extent, that was due to the traditional attitude of parents and the society at large toward women in the workplace -- women were pressured to marry and once married were not encouraged to seek employment.

    Lebanon regretted the continuing manifestations of traditional and customary practices affecting the health of women and girls, and remained committed to the ongoing strict enforcement of the existing laws on that matter, resulting in the elimination of such practices in her country, she said.

    FARIDA BAKALEM (Algeria) said women constituted most of the poor people in the world due to numerous factors, including illiteracy, violence and unequal access to health care.  Recognizing that women must be able to participate without discrimination to social and political life, Algeria was preparing a plan to increase women’s access to financial services, access to health care and vocational training.  Her country was continuing a national population policy with special attention to women.  The place of women in the family and society was undergoing notable change, she said.  There were more girls in school, greater financial independence among women, and marriage and reproduction were no longer the only things women could do in cities.

    Violence against women continued to exist, however, and there must be continued efforts to combat all kinds of violence, she said.  Algeria’s criminal code did not distinguish between women and men regardless of the crime.  It strongly condemned trafficking and prostitution.  A commission made up of men and women was considering amendments of articles dealing with marriage and divorce.  As part of the effort to combat the marginalization of women, there was a proposal to have a Ministry of Family and the Status of Women, which would be headed by a woman.  The education of girls was the most reliable way of ensuring gender equality, a key factor in ensuring development and peace.

    LEYSA FAYE (Senegal) said she was pained to see that violence against women was a universal phenomenon.  Female genital mutilation, rape, and domestic violence were but a few of the crimes committed against women’s human rights.  The international community must come together to ensure that the human rights of women were both promoted and protected.  Migrants, for example, must have more rights and be protected.

    The advancement of women was an essential factor in assuring sustainable development, she said.  Many measures had been taken by her Government in order to empower women, including programmes on information and communications technologies, women’s radio challenges, and projects assisting women by providing training and legal advice.

    The Government had also undertaken awareness-raising campaigns on female genital mutilation, forced early marriages and violence against women, she continued.  Women and men must work together to ensure equality for all, on social political and economic levels.  More attention needed to be focused on women’s access to information and communications technologies to ensure a new generation of women ready to fulfil their potential.

    JIN-WOO CHO (Republic of Korea) said educated women in her country were still at a disadvantage in participating on an equal basis with men, in the economic and political sectors.  To rectify that situation and promote women’s political empowerment, legislation had been revised to make it mandatory for political parties to include 30 per cent women in their list of National Assembly candidates and to require 50 per cent women as candidates for the provincial council elections.

    In the economic sector, the primary impediment to women in the Republic of Korea was not direct discrimination, but the child-bearing and nurturing burden that was traditionally regarded as women’s work, she said.  The legal provisions such as three months paid maternity leave and one year unpaid childcare leave were not adequate and her country was making efforts to expand and enhance child care facilities.

    Women’s empowerment and the realization of gender equality could not be achieved without increasing awareness and cooperation among men, she said.  The Republic of Korea hoped the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality would be considered at the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

    AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan) said the Beijing Platform for Action was crucial in achieving the advancement of women.  It was, however, necessary to monitor the progress made for the advancement of women in the field of education and participation in decision-making.  Protecting the rights of women was a real priority for the Government and effective mechanisms for the advancement of women had ensured that almost 60 per cent of civil services were women, and there were 10 women in the Parliament.  There was a solid legislative basis for protecting women’s rights, including harsh criminal legislation for crimes such as rapes.  To assist women and children who had been victims of violence, 32 centres had been established.

    Kazakhstan was particularly concerned about reproductive health of the population, he said.  There had been a drop in infant mortality, and for the first time, Kazakhstan had witnessed a rise in the population.  The Government had also established basic women’s health-care centres and was attempting to even out the services provided in the urban and rural areas.  A national microcredit programme had been established, with a majority of the funds reaching rural women.

    ELENA MOLARONI (San Marino) said her delegation was pleased to announce it had signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  Thanks to favourable economic conditions, the number of San Marino women in public and private sectors was significant.  The whole population had access to social security and social support services, and women could benefit from all those services.  There were substantial support services for working mothers, wage equality between men and women workers, and legislation amended so nationality could now be passed from women to children.

    The United Nations had a central role in redefining the role of women and enhancing their political, social and economic participation.  The role of women should always be considered a priority, she concluded.

    NAWAF N. M. AL-ENEZI (Kuwait) said 50 per cent of the population were women, and the Government of Kuwait attached high priority to their rights.  Legal tenets and provisions on the equality of women had made it possible for them to fulfil their potential.  More than 50 per cent of students in universities were women and in Kuwait were trained and were able to work in high positions.  Every year, the percentage of women reaching high-level posts had increased. 

    It was important to fight all forms of discrimination against women, he said, adding that Kuwait had acceded to many international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  His delegation also had supported the need to ensure that the situation of women was included in resolutions on armed conflicts.  There were several international tools to eradicate violence against women; however those tools needed to be implemented to make a difference.

    Concerning women migrant workers, the Government was developing a labour code to cover and protect them, he said.  Such a code would take into consideration the recommendations made by a Group of Experts of the International Labour Organization.  In recent years, his delegation had addressed the old Iraqi regime in order to obtain the release of prisoners whose fates were unknown, and Kuwait was gradually learning about the burial sites of the prisoners, he said.

    DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica) said that while commendable progress had been made to improve the status of women, the situation was far from satisfactory. Globalization had posed serious threats, as evidenced by its disproportionate impact on the economic independence and sustainable livelihood of women.  Increased transnational organized crime had given rise to increased opportunities for the trafficking of women and girls and other forms of exploitation. The spread of HIV/AIDS and its devastating impact on women and children was another cause for concern.

    Recognizing that gender equality and women’s human rights should be considered within the broader context of development, Jamaica had initiated several policies and programmes to advance the welfare of women, namely the empowerment of women in rural areas, the provision of microcredit and increasing basic healthcare access for all women, she said.  To combat violence against women, Jamaica’s Bureau of Women’s Affairs had been working with civil society to raise awareness about gender-based violence through the use of the media and specific programmes aimed at schools, community, the church, judiciary and police.  Violence against women was unacceptable, as it was a violation of human dignity and impeded the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedom.

    HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said that notwithstanding the increased global awareness of issues affecting women’s rights, women continued to face varying degrees of discrimination almost all over the globe.  Women in many parts of the world continued to be excluded from decision-making at all levels of government.  Women and girls were increasingly being targeted in armed conflicts.  The trafficking in women and girls was on the rise, and the estimated number of women trafficked each year for sexual exploitation had reached around 700,000.  It was evident that convening international conferences, adopting conventions, protocols, declarations, resolutions, or even enacting legislation alone was not enough for the advancement of women.  The challenge lay in ensuring the implementation of those instruments.

    A comprehensive legislative reform package had been adopted in Turkey that filled an important legal gap concerning the problem of human trafficking, he said.  The law, adopted in line with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on human trafficking, classified trafficking in human beings -- including women and girls, and their forced employment -- as a criminal act.  Turkey, as a country of transit and target for transnational human trafficking, strongly believed that international cooperation was essential for combating such crimes.

    ADEKUNBI ABIBAT SONAIKE (Nigeria) said her country had formulated policies and programmes to promote the equality of men and women in accordance with constitutional provisions.  Its three arms of government had collaborated to ensure the promotion and protection of women against all forms of discriminatory practices, policies and laws.  The National Policy on Women aimed to increase to 30 per cent the representation of women in Government.  This policy was a significant step in promoting gender equality and mainstreaming gender perspectives in all programmes at all levels of Government.

    The empowerment of women was critical to any meaningful development, she said.  Though Nigeria was yet to fully domesticate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, its Government was committed to the fulfillment of its obligations under the convention.  It was actively engaged with women-based non-governmental organizations to promote the involvement of women in poverty eradication programmes.  Microcredit facilities were being provided to women in both urban and rural communities, and vocational training centres were being established at local government levels for the benefit of rural women.

    Nigeria called on the international community to intensify actions to combat the AIDS pandemic, which placed a heavy socio-economic burden on women and girls, particularly in Africa.  It was urgent to respond to the special needs of women and children affected by the pandemic.

    MANUEL E. FELIX (Dominican Republic) said his country was working to make progress in the commitments made to women’s rights.  Huge strides had been made to institutionalize a gender perspective in the public sector.  Despite achievements made for women, there were still major obstacles in achieving their advancement, even though since 1996, poverty among women had declined in the Dominican Republic.  The Government had initiated income-generating opportunities for women.  Other initiatives had been the establishment of training centres and the provision of loans for women entrepreneurs.  The Government was also applying a gender perspective in its assessment of the level of human development in the country.

    The Government was particularly concerned about the rise in family violence and was trying to raise awareness among the population on that terrible social ill, he said.  Policies designed to prevent family violence had been implemented, as well as policies monitoring family violence.  The Dominican Republic was also concerned about the financial situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and believed that it needed to be strengthened and revitalized; it was the only such United Nations institution.  The delay in the appointment of a Director for the Institute had prevented it from carrying out its work, and he appealed to the Committee to stand firm in its support of the Institute.

    JONG MYONG HAK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said no country could attain the goals in economic and social development without fully resolving the issue of women.  The rights of women should be legislated and conditions provided to ensure the full participation of women in political, economic, and other areas, transcending national, ethnic, linguistic and religious differences.  It was especially important to guarantee women’s equal right to education and the fulfillment of their role through active participation in State governance and decision-making.

    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea believed that effective measures at the international level were essential to thoroughly combat violence against women, he said.  His country strongly urged Japan to liquidate its crimes against humanity committed in the early twentieth century, including the abduction and kidnapping of more than 200,000 women from Korea and other Asian countries for the purpose of sexual slavery, and the massacre of many innocent women.

    His Government attached great importance to international cooperation to resolve the issue of women and had acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

    AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said there was evidence that, in many instances, women’s rights had been completely ignored and that gender-based discrimination still persisted in several regions.  The condition of women in some countries had, in fact, deteriorated.  This was particularly true in countries affected by armed conflict.  The overall statistics were not encouraging -- poverty was still more pronounced and widespread in female-headed households, and there was not much change in the type of work to which women had been traditionally consigned.  In most countries, not much improvement had been recorded in education and health, and women had suffered the most from the HIV/AIDS pandemic, while the status of women in power and decision-making still left much to be desired.

    Among the numerous laws promoting women’s rights in Eritrea were the nationality law and the family law, he said.  Women were also empowered by laws and guidelines that enabled them to own land and other property and protected their rights in employment.  Eritrea was also undertaking affirmative action programmes which ensured the inclusion of women in important government decision- making bodies, and broadened and deepened women’s participation in economic, social and cultural programmes starting at the grass-roots level.

    CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA (Guatemala) said her country’s Presidential Secretariat for Women (SEPREM), established in line with its commitment to international agreements, had adopted regulations addressing the economic, social and cultural concerns of Guatemalan women.  In the area of public policy, the Secretariat had adopted a proposal to improve the standard of living for women in the Guatemala-Mexico border zone.  Proposals also had been adopted to mainstream gender equality in the national financing system and in public policy and social development policy.  The Secretariat had addressed issues related to the health of women, including maternal mortality and reproductive health, the labour code and sexual harassment of women.

    Departments for women’s affairs had been created and strengthened in the ministries of education, public health, the environment and agriculture, she said.  Strategies for poverty reduction had been adopted to ensure mainstreaming the objectives in public policy for women.  Also, an agency had been created to lead efforts for the prevention of violence against women.  Yet, much still remained to be done to strengthen dialogue among women’s organizations and manage international technical and financial spheres cooperation.

    ITTIPORN BOONPRACONG (Thailand) said in his country, equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men in all aspects of their lives, without discrimination, were guaranteed by the present Constitution.  As part of the effort to promote gender equality, the Thai Government had launched a policy aiming to increase the chance for women to participate in the high-level decision-making.  In this regard, a Chief Gender Equality Officer had been appointed, and a Master Plan for gender mainstreaming had been formulated in every ministry.  At the grass-roots level, progress regarding women’s participation in decision-making was further promoted by the revision of the Village Fund Committee regulation, requiring an equal number of male and female committee members.

    To ensure gender mainstreaming in the long term, training sessions were organized for officials of the Ministry of Education, who were in charge of curriculum development, to adopt and apply the gender perspective in the country’s education system.  He said in the past few years, Thailand had succeeded in launching a women studies programme at two major universities, one in Bangkok and the other in Chiangmai.

    FARAH AJALOVA (Azerbaijan) said women in her country had always participated actively in social and political life.  The Government’s national action plan on women’s policy had established measures to address issues related to women’s human rights, women refugees, violence against women and women’s participation in decision-making processes.  The State Committee for Women’s Issues had created a working group that focused especially on violence against women.  It was currently drafting a plan of action to combat the trafficking of women and children.

    Despite such advances, there were still serious problems resulting from the country’s subjection to military aggression for 15 years, she said.  This had resulted in more than one million refugees and internally displaced persons, and had deprived many women of their basic human rights.  It remained a major issue of concern for Azerbaijan.

    The situation of women in rural areas was also of special concern, she added.  Urgent measures were needed to promote access to education and job training programmes for women and girls in rural areas.

    DATIN PADUKA SERIPAH NOLI (Malaysia) said Malaysia gave special emphasis to programmes to improve the economic well-being of women, particularly in rural areas and households headed by women.  Measures had been put in place to facilitate their involvement in business, including through the provision of equipment, initial capital grants, advisory services, training and motivation.  Microcredit programmes, including special funds for women such as “Amanah Iktiar” and Women Entrepreneurs Fund of Malaysia, had proven to be among the most successful tools in eliminating poverty among women and improving gender equality.  Malaysia also gave high priority to education and human resource development and the provision of equal access to educational opportunities.

    To improve women’s access to information and communication technology, she said the Ministry of Women and Family Development had established a Technical Working Group on Women and information and communication technologies (ICT), which was responsible to design strategies and programmes on ICT for women and evaluate the effectiveness of relevant programmes.  The target groups include rural and urban poor women, single mothers, disabled and aged women, as well as women who were involved in small and medium enterprises.

    CLEMENT MPHUSU (Botswana) said his country had seen improvements in women’s participation in political life.  Women’s representation in Parliament had increased from 12 per cent in 1994 to 18 per cent today.  While, still below the minimum 30 per cent, agreed during the Beijing conference, this was a clear indication of political will to increase women’s participation in decision-making bodies.

                                                                                                                                                 

    Women and children in Botswana had been especially affected by HIV/AIDS, and his Government had intensified programmes geared towards behaviour change to combat the pandemic, he said.  Botswana had also embarked on full anti-retroviral therapy at public hospitals for all patients who sought treatment.

    Botswana’s adoption of a National Policy on women in Development aimed to achieve integration and empowerment of women to enhance their participation in the development process, he said.  The policy aimed to eliminate all practices discriminating against women, to improve women’s health, promote education and to mainstream a gender perspective in development planning.

    BEATRIZ LONDONO (Colombia) said her country’s office advising the President on women’s issues, was taking account of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as existing legislation and recommendations from women’s groups.  That had led to the “Women - Building Peace and Development” initiative, which contained policies geared towards peace, equity and equality of opportunities.  It was a crosssectoral policy introducing a gender perspective into national policies.  The gender development indicator for Colombia showed that there had been movements towards equality between men and women in the last few years.  The current Government was working hard on remedying problems, many of which were a direct result of the violence in the country.

    In Colombia, men were most usually murder victims, leaving women as heads of households fearing displacement, increased poverty, kidnapping and rape, she said.  Support programmes had been established by the Government since women constituted 53 per cent of displaced persons.  Although, women were a large percentage of the electorate, they rarely ran for public office.  The Government was now trying to encourage female participation and representation.

    ANA SAPINHO PIRES (Cape Verde) said women in her country were disproportionately affected by poverty, illiteracy and unemployment.  Education was the principal determinant of poverty and was also the main way out of poverty. The Cape Verde Government was committed to reducing poverty among women with special attention to single-parent households headed by women.  Efforts were under way to improve women’s health, increase literacy and increase participation of women in the economy.

    Priority attention must be given to legislation to combat violence against women, she said.  In Cape Verde, laws had been modified to protect women against domestic violence and rape.  The Government was undertaking judicial reform to strengthen women’s full enjoyment of their human rights and to promote gender justice.

    Recognizing the vulnerability of migrant women to abuse and violence, Cape Verde was also negotiating agreements on a bilateral level, agreements with destination countries to ensure migrant women fully enjoyed their human rights and freedom.

    Statements in Exercise of the Right of Reply

    A representative of Israel exercised her right of reply in response to a statement made earlier by the observer of Palestine.  She said the statement had been politically motivated.  The unfortunate condition of Palestinian women was a direct consequence of the unfortunate conditions of Israeli women facing the threats of barbarous Palestinian suicide bombings.  Israeli women carried the brunt of the suffering due to Palestinian suicide-bombings. 

    The Israeli Government was forced to defend its population, and regrettably, sometimes, the protection measures caused some difficulty for the freedom of movement of the Palestinian people, she said.  However, the defence measures were a direct result of Palestinian actions.  It was noteworthy and regrettable, that Palestine had made remarkable strides in the advancement of women in the realm of suicide bombers.  There had now been six female suicide bombers, with several other female suicide bombers having been apprehended before they had been able to blow themselves up.  Those women were depicted as heroines in their communities, and, that promotion had led to a string of attacks made by female suicide bombers.  It was unfortunate that summer camps had been named after female suicide bombers as if they were role models.

    In response to the Israeli representative’s statement, the observer of Palestine said the Palestinian leadership had repeatedly stated, officially and unofficially, that suicide bombings were wrong.  It had also stated that the killing of innocent civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, were wrong.

    All the violence taking place must be put in context, she said, noting that the first suicide bombing did not occur until 27 years after occupation began.  It was also important to bear in mind that these suicide bombings were being committed by individuals, not by the Government. It was the institutionalized policy of the Israeli government that was the root cause of the suicide bombings taking place today.

    The representative of Israel said the promotion of female suicide-bombings was not advancement of the role of women.  It was a strategic and social move on the part of the Palestinian Authority.  It was strategic because they were aware of the reluctance of the Israeli side to investigate and search women.  It was social in the emotional abuse of vulnerable young women, forcing them to kill themselves and civilians -- a vile exploitation of the human rights of women.

    In response to the statement made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the representative of Japan said Japan’s acknowledgement of its past has been clearly stated in a document signed by top leaders of both countries.  North Korea had cited unsubstantiated numbers in its statement.

    Japan urged North Korea to take measures to address the abduction of Japanese people, he said.  Regarding property claims, both sides had agreed they would mutually waive all their property claims.  It had also been decided that this would be discussed in the course of normalization talks.

    A representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that before and during the Second World War, Japan had committed a flagrant violation of women’s human rights in the abducting of women from Korea and using them for sexual slavery.  In this regard, relevant meetings of the United Nations had condemned the practice of having “comfort women”.

    Due to the lack of a guilty conscience on the part of the Japanese people, Korean women residents in Japan were still discriminated against, he said.  Japan must ensure the ending of discrimination against Korean resident women and apologize for past crimes.

    Responding to the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan’s representative said, regarding the abduction issue, that the North Korean authorities had admitted and apologized for the abduction of Japanese nationals.  That issue was of critical importance to the security of Japan.

    The abduction of Japanese nationals was a clear violation of human rights and was an unlawful act not to be sanctioned, he said.  Japan did not recognize the abduction issue to have been resolved at all, and North Korea must take concrete measures regarding the return of abductees.

    In a second statement in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it was regrettable that Japan was trying to beautify its past crimes.  His delegation urged Japan to refrain from misleading the international community as to the facts.  As for the abduction issue, his delegation would clarify its position at another time.

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