Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3783
    14 October 2004

    Speakers in Third Committee Stress Need to Counter Continuing Exploitation of Women and Girls

    Measures Highlighted Include UN Peacekeeping Project to End Women’s Exploitation, National Efforts to Counter Sex Tourism

    NEW YORK, 13 October (UN Headquarters) -- Stressing the need to counter the continued exploitation of women and girls as a matter of priority, several of the delegates addressing the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning warned that women and girls remained one of society’s groups most vulnerable to predation.

    Continuing the general discussion on advancement of women, speakers welcomed this afternoon’s commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and outlined specific initiatives to promote increased respect for women’s rights.

    Raising the issue of trafficking in persons, which disproportionately affected women and girls, the representative of the United States referenced her Government’s $50 million initiative to combat trafficking in persons and the recent decision to fund a six-month project for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to ensure that United Nations operations brought exploitation of women and girls to an end.  The project, she clarified, would aim to train peacekeepers; foster awareness, discipline and accountability; and support anti-trafficking activities.  In that connection, she highlighted her Government measures to counter child sex tourism.

    Mexico’s representative affirmed that protecting women’s rights meant ensuring those rights would be fully defended and respected.  Obstacles to gender equality were diverse in nature and required the sustained and coordinated effort of all players to overcome them.  Mexico favoured strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) to promote progress on basic strategies for women’s empowerment.

    Poverty eradication remained the fundamental step towards a world free from exploitation, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly emphasized.  Globalization had adversely affected underprivileged societies in many parts of the world, especially women.  To redress that situation nationally, Pakistan had recognized gender equality as a cross-cutting theme for all development programmes.  Government policies that aimed to enhance women’s share in development included provision of easy access to microcredit, compulsory and free education for all and a public-private partnership for development financing, among others.

    Also addressing the Committee today were the representatives of Jordan, Sudan, Iceland, China and Cuba.

    At the meeting’s outset, the Committee decided to extend invitation to address the fifty-ninth General Assembly to five additional special mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights, namely the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Independent expert on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Chairperson of the Working Group on the right to development, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children and the Special Rapporteur on persons with disabilities.

    The Third Committee will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, 14 October, to continue its consideration of advancement of women and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its consideration of advancement of women and implementation of the outcomes of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.  For additional background information, please see the introductory statements contained in Press Release GA/SHC/3782 of 12 October.

    Extension of Invitations to Human Rights Rapporteurs, Experts

    At the top of its meeting, the Third Committee resumed its consideration of the extension of invitations to additional special mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights to address the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly.  After extensive deliberation, the Committee decided to extend such invitations to five additional special mechanisms -- bringing the total number of special mechanisms that could possibly address the Committee during its consideration of human rights to 23.

    Thus, invitations would be extended to Yakin Ertürk, Special Rapporteur on violence against women; Robert Goldman, Independent Expert on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering-terrorism; Ibrahim Salama, Chairperson of the Working Group on the right to development; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (contingent upon her acceptance of the mandate); and Beng Lindqvist, Special Rapporteur on persons with disabilities (contingent upon the availability of regular funds to cover his travel costs).

    Statements on Advancement of Women

    DONYA AZIZ, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, said the increased attention given to issues related to women since the advent of the new millennium was heartening.  Noting the recommendations for awareness-raising campaigns on violence against women as a human rights violation and related issues contained in the reports of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and of the Secretary-General, she said that progress made thus far in that respect continued to fall short of acceptable thresholds.  That situation demanded greater action at both the national and international levels.

    The Secretary-General, she noted, had rightly pointed out that national action plans remained important to combat comprehensively all forms of violence against women.  Globalization had adversely affected underprivileged societies in many parts of the world, especially women, who remained vulnerable to exploitation.  That exploitation must be addressed as a matter of priority and in a spirit of cooperation.  Furthermore, poverty eradication remained the fundamental step towards a world free from exploitation, while political and economic empowerment of women remained the most crucial tool in that effort.

    To achieve the above goals nationally, Pakistan had recognized gender equality as a cross-cutting theme for all development programmes, she added.  In addition to constitutional recognition of women as equal stakeholders in the process of both political and economic development, a Ministry of Women’s Development had been established to ensure that Government policies reflected equality of opportunity in education and employment.  National legislation to curb the practice of “honour killings” was expected to be tabled soon.  Other government policies to enhance the women’s economic activity included provision of easy access to microcredit, mainstreaming of gender issues in all sector of national development, compulsory and free education for all, provision of affordable primary health care and a public-private partnership for development financing.

    JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ-ROBLEDO (Mexico) said protecting women’s rights meant ensuring those rights would be fully defended and respected.  Mexico recognized that the challenges at the international and national levels continued to be huge.  In Mexico, national legislation had been adapted in favour of equality so as to promote a culture based on democratic values and justice for all sectors of society.  In 2003 it had passed a national law to prevent and eliminate discrimination based on the principle of equality of the sexes.  Mexico had attempted to harmonize its legislation with international standards.

    He said the international community must recognize that obstacles in the area of gender equality were diverse in nature.  There was a need for sustained and coordinated efforts on the part of all players to overcome those obstacles.  Mexico had spoken in favour of strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).  The Institute was going through significant changes since the appointment of the Mexican ambassador Carmen Moreno.  With the mobilization of sufficient resources and the strengthening of its mandate, it would be possible to make progress on basic strategies to empower women.

    MU’TAZ HYASSAT (Jordan) said it was important to consider ways to strengthen the mandates and funding of relevant United Nations bodies in order to advance the status of women.  The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) had played a significant role in expanding the rights and development of women.  Jordan believed UNIFEM’s mandate should be strengthened and provided with all the necessary resources to successfully pursue its very important work.

    For its part, Jordan had taken concrete actions to reform national laws to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women, and in particular the “crimes committed in the name of honour”.  The media had played an important role in initiating a debate on “honour crimes”, which Jordan viewed as incompatible with religious, human and cultural values.  National laws had been amended with the aim of eliminating these crimes and providing harsher penalties for their perpetrators.  These efforts had resulted in a reduction in the number of honour crimes, especially in the past three years.  Jordan urged the international community to take meaningful action to ensure greater equality and opportunity for women under the law.

    ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said efforts for achievement of international goals for the advancement of women must take into account the specificities of each society.  Protection of women’s human rights must be ensured at all levels of society, and in women’s affairs, as in all others, the rule of law must provide the basis of protection.  However, it must also be noted that, despite efforts made at the national and international levels to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, shortcomings in implementation remained.  Thus, although the primary responsibility for implementation remained with the States, the international community should assist their efforts.

    Next year’s ten-year review of implementation of the Beijing Conference recommendations should serve as an opportunity to assess and identify progress and shortcomings, she added. It should also recognize that globalization had increased the danger of disenfranchisement in all categories of society in developing countries due to the lack of measures to integrate all States into the international economy -- especially women and children.  Also stressing the importance of thematic study of progress made in advancement of women, she highlighted poverty eradication and elimination of violence and exploitation of women as areas requiring further analysis.

    Violence against women constituted a violation of women’s human rights and of their dignity, she observed.  Efforts to combat that problem must be accompanied by measures to deal with the root causes of such violence, including through national and international legislation.  The current lack of information and statistics on causes for the spread of violence against women constituted an obstacle to finding solutions to the problem.  Nationally, women’s issues had been given special attention in Sudan, she concluded, as the Government had established high-level committees, encompassing civil society organizations and women’s groups, to follow up implementation of the outcomes of Beijing and other international women’s conferences.

    HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) welcomed today’s commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and stressed that gender equality was one of the country’s top priorities at both the national and international levels.  Recalling the agreed conclusions on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, approved by the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, he stressed that Iceland’s presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers had focused on the issue of closing the gap between women’s and men’s pay and the importance of promoting a reconciliation of occupational and family responsibilities.

    Looking forward to the country’s participation in the forty-ninth session of the Commission, he noted that the session would be dedicated to a review of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and pledged his country’s continuing support for achieving the goals contained in those documents.  The Commission’s session would provide an excellent opportunity to take stock of implementation and identify areas in which efforts must be stepped up.  Iceland’s particular concerns regarding the advancement of women remained trafficking in women and girls, violence against women -- including domestic violence, lack of participation of women in political life and unequal pay of men and women.

    ELLEN SAUERBREY (United States) said one of the most pressing issues of the day related to trafficking in persons, as recognized by United States President Bush in his 2003 address to the General Assembly.  In addition to funding a $50 million initiative to combat trafficking in persons, the Department of State would fund a six-month project for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations to ensure that United Nations operations forbid the exploitation of women and girls.  The project would aim to train peacekeepers, foster awareness, discipline and accountability and support anti-trafficking activities.  The United States had also introduced a resolution at the 2003 United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice that urged Member States to prevent and prosecute trafficking in persons, to protect and assist victims and to raise public awareness on trafficking and sexual exploitation.

    Child sex tourism was a particularly grim matter that involved adults travelling to prey upon sexually exploited and trafficked children, she continued.  The 2003 US PROTECT Act strengthened the country’s law enforcement ability to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish violent crimes against children, and provided for severe penalties against Americans travelling abroad to prey on children.  The United States remained particularly interested in promoting measures to end child sex tourism and would next week host a panel discussion on successful measures to counter that phenomenon.

    Among other international initiatives for advancement of women, she said the United States had provided for access to health care for women through the President’s five-year, $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; allotment of $50 to $70 million annually to refugee programmes addressing health, nutrition, sanitation and gender-based violence; promotion of girls’ education through the Millennium Challenge Account; and provision of more than $150 million annually to support microenterprise development.  The United States had also implemented programmes for advancement of women in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    XIAOMEI LI (China) said China agreed with the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report submitted to the current session of the General Assembly to achieve the goal of gender equality through gender mainstreaming strategies.  China urged the Assembly and its subsidiary organs to take specific and action-oriented steps to ensure gender mainstreaming in the implementation of and follow-up to major international conferences and summits.

    She said the Chinese Government had submitted to the United Nations in May its response to the questionnaire on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  It reported marked progress in gender equality in China since the World Conference on Women had been convened in Beijing ten years ago.  Her Government had made a firm commitment to gender mainstreaming, and its national policy included the goal of achieving gender equality in its social development.  China also advocated a balanced gender perspective in its economic and social development.  Her country had seen varying degrees of advancement in women’s participation in government and their access to employment, education and health care.

    MR. REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said women continued to be one of the most excluded groups in the neoliberal world of today, which had been generated by globalization.  They suffered most from the scourges of war, hunger and disease.  They continued to receive lower wages than men for the same work, and remained disproportionately affected by poverty, illiteracy, lack of adequate health care and exploitation.  Without international political will to combat those phenomena, it would be impossible to implement the commitments taken at the Beijing Conference.

    One of the objectives of the Cuban revolution had been the full integration, on an equal basis, of women in all spheres of society, he said.  The profound changes that had taken place in the country’s economic, social and political structures as a result of the revolution had led to a situation in which 44.9 per cent of the workforce was comprised of women, with women filling 66.4 per cent of technical and professional positions at the medium- and higher-level.  Moreover, women’s involvement in decision-making was high, and 35.95 per cent of Cuba’s members of parliament were women.

    However, a number of objective and subjective factors continued to prevent complete gender equality, he admitted.  These had been redressed by legislation designed to eliminate barriers to the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, including through special measures related to employment, promotion of access to health care -- including reproductive health -- and women’s portrayal by the media.  All those efforts had been accomplished despite the brutal economic blockade imposed upon his country by the United States, which had particularly acute effects upon women.  Thus, Cuba pledged its full support to the forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women and hoped that the session would meet the international expectations raised ten years ago at the Beijing Conference. 

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