Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3820
    13 October 2005

    Political Will, Stronger Laws Needed to Tackle Problem of Violence against Women, Assembly's Social Committee Is Told

    Issue Said to Endanger Equal Rights, Empowerment; Draft Texts Received on Millennium Goals for Disabled, Social Development Cooperatives

    NEW YORK, 12 October (UN Headquarters) -- The international community was increasingly recognizing the threat that violence against women posed to women's empowerment, but stronger political will and laws were needed to truly end such atrocities and ensure equal rights for women in all aspects of life, several representatives told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today.  The Committee continued its debate on the 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.

    The fact that one in three women would suffer from gender-related violence in their lifetimes was evidence that great changes were still needed in society, Iceland's representative said.  Trafficking of women and girls, a modern form of slavery, was on the rise, he noted, stressing that women's advancement would require combating that and all other forms of violence against women, not just domestic violence.

    He urged all countries that had not done so to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol as soon as possible. He said Security Council resolution 1325 was a groundbreaking step towards women's advancement as it called for a fundamental change in procedure, delivery, attitudes and habits.  Women involved in armed conflict and those who had survived them must enjoy the same protection as men, and a just role in shaping and rebuilding communities in the aftermath of war.

    Echoing those sentiments, Japan's representative noted that the importance of women in conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction had been gaining recognition.  While women had often been at the forefront of calling for an end to conflict, they had mostly remained on the sidelines of formal peace and reconstruction processes.  She said women could and should play a central role in maintaining peace and security.  As part of the international community's response to the tsunami disaster, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) had taken steps to enhance women's involvement in reconstruction by supporting local women leaders and women's networks in affected areas to restore women's livelihoods and rights.

    In similar vein, the representative of Liechtenstein said victim assistance must not be neglected, particularly when the violence had occurred during armed conflict.  Pervasive violence against women in times of peace was all too often exacerbated during conflict.  Reintegrating those victims into society was an essential part of peacebuilding.  He said the Secretary-General's in-depth study on violence against women could significantly contribute to strengthening political commitment and concerted action, if it included pertinent information on violence patterns and practices and thus facilitated development of targeted counter-measures.

    Ghana's Government was taking steps in that direction, its representative told the Committee.  Ghana's new Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, set up to promote women's rights, reflected a sincere political will by authorities to give the issue of gender disparity the highest consideration and to create an enabling environmental for women's advancement, Ghana's representative said.  Officials were working with various legislative bodies to review aspects of the country's laws which were inimical to women's advancement.  For example, a draft bill on domestic violence was under active consideration for passage and creation of a Women and Juvenile Unit within the police service was helping to break the silence associated with domestic violence.

    The representative of Morocco said his country had also engaged in a far-reaching reform process aimed at ensuring women's advancement.  Since adoption of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it had set up a State Secretariat for the Family and Persons with Disabilities, as well as focal points for gender equality.  Women had a much stronger management presence in public, legislative and executive affairs, and now occupied two cabinet posts and 35 parliamentary seats.

    The representatives of Cambodia, Sudan, Guyana, Cuba, Algeria, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mexico, Philippines, Turkey, Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Bahrain, Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), Russian Federation, Indonesia, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Ethiopia, Norway, Peru, Nigeria, Estonia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Paraguay, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka also made statements.

    The representatives of Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea also spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.

    Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) also spoke.

    In other business, the Committee today heard the introduction of a draft resolution on implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning disabled persons:  realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities (document A/C.3/60/L.3), and a draft on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4).

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., 13 October, Thursday to take action on its draft resolution on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4) and its draft on follow-up to the implementation of the International Year of Volunteers (document A/C.3/60/L.7).  It will also conclude its debate on the 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 general discussion of advancement of women and hear the introduction of two draft resolutions.  For more background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3819 of 11 October.

    The Committee had before it a draft on implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning disabled persons:  realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities (document A/C.3/60/L.3), which would have the General Assembly call upon Governments to take necessary measures to create or reinforce arrangements to promote disability issues and to allocate sufficient resources to fully implement existing plans and initiatives.  The Assembly would also urge Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to provide special protection to disabled persons, particularly women and children, in marginalized sectors, and to continue to support the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability.

    Also before the Committee was a draft on Cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4), which would have the General Assembly urge Governments, relevant international organizations and specialized agencies to give due consideration to the role and contribution of cooperatives in implementation and follow-up to outcomes of the Social Summit and other conferences.  It would also request that the Secretary-General support Member States' efforts to create a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives; to continue to provide assistance for human resources development, technical advice and training; and to promote an exchange of experience and best practices through conferences, workshops and seminars at national and regional levels.

    Introduction of Draft Resolutions

    MARIE YVETTE BANZON (Philippines) introduced, also on behalf of Mexico, the draft resolution on implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning disabled persons:  realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities (document A/C.3/60/L.3), as orally amended.  She said that while the United Nations and the rest of the international community was striving to reach the 2015 target of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, there was concern that they would not reach some of the most isolated citizens, particularly those with disabilities.

    The draft resolution intended to ensure that persons with disabilities were not forgotten in the global pursuit to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  She said it called for the mainstreaming of disability issues in all development processes.  It also urged Governments to respect the disabilities of all persons and to provide special protection for disabled persons.

    Introducing the draft on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4), as orally amended, Ms. ENKHTSETSEG (Mongolia) said cooperatives held great potential for social development, particularly poverty eradication.  People-centred businesses like cooperatives had a built-in advantage to give economic opportunities for poor people.  Cooperatives were in existence worldwide, providing basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, health care and social programmes.  By pooling limited resources, owners of cooperatives subscribed to a set of core principles in social responsibility and sustainable development.  Cooperatives had proven to be effective in their outreach to poor people.

    The draft resolution before the Committee drew the attention of Member States to the need for further action, including legal and administrative provisions, to enhance the growth of cooperatives, broaden and deepen their outreach among the poor, and promote women's participation.  Further, the draft urged Governments and United Nations specialized programmes and agencies to give due consideration of the role of cooperatives in follow-up to outcomes of world conferences on social development issues.

    Statements

    CHEM WIDHYA (Cambodia) said the issues of poverty eradication and women's advancement were closely intertwined.  Women were more vulnerable in society to poverty because they suffered from inequalities on many different fronts, such as distribution of income, access to financial inputs such as credit and gender biases in labour markets and general communities.  In addition, women did not always have full control over their basic asset, namely, their own labour.  Though the issue of poverty had always been a major concern in the work of the United Nations and Member States, the challenge of its eradication remained a priority.  With a growing recognition that poverty had a significant gender dimension, strategies and policies should emphasize the importance of achieving the goals of gender equality and advancement of women in poverty-eradication efforts.

    As one of the most affected post-war countries, Cambodia had spent the last 10 years overcoming many challenges, including attempting to eradicate poverty and addressing the dreadful imbalance in gender representation left behind by the regime of Pol Pot, where 75 per cent of households were led by widows and women.  Furthermore, the Ministry of Women's and Veterans' Affairs had led efforts to reduce gender-based disparities and improve gender equality in health, education, control over agricultural resources, socio-economic and political empowerment, and legal protection.  Furthermore, despite various strategies and policies that had been implemented over the years, States continued to face the reality that women's involvement in all sectors of society presented a picture of imbalance.  It was rather difficult to achieve the noble goal of gender equality, while women still held proportionately few jobs and were, in many cases, paid less for the same job, even though they accounted for more than half the population.

    MOHAMMED SAEED (Sudan) said a global approach to women's empowerment should respect nations' cultural differences and time-honoured traditions.  Outcome documents resulting from the 2001 General Assembly special session constituted a turning point in promoting women's participation and various socio-economic and political levels.  Since the Beijing conference on women, the international community had recognized the need to step up efforts to counter globalization's negative impact on developing countries.  He stressed the need that, despite some progress, more must be done to eradicate poverty among women, violence against women, and eliminate sexual exploitation and trafficking of women.

    He called on the Division for the Advancement of Women to continue its efforts to end violence against women, which was a violation of women's dignity and rights, and must be attacked at its core.  Palestinian women were suffering from Israeli occupation.  It was necessary to put an end to that situation and ensure that Palestinians enjoyed their rights.  The Sudan was making efforts to enhance women's position in society and it fully supported the objectives of the Beijing Platform of Action.  During the meeting on women of the Conference of the Donor Countries last April, Sudanese representatives had pledged to contribute to reconstruction and spreading a culture of peace in the future.  He asked the General Assembly during its next session to conduct a global, in-depth study on violence against women.

    GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Governments of the Community believed that women's rights were human rights, and that women should participate and share equally in the social, political, economic and cultural spheres of society.  For the full and effective realization of those objectives, CARICOM States also thought that the creation, at both the national and international levels, of an environment conducive to the progressive enhancement of the status of women in all domains of life was an essential condition.  Progress had been made over the years on a number of fronts, including improvements in maternal and child health; women's access to health care, including reproductive health services; the reduction of gender gaps in primary education; and women's participation in decision-making across several regions.  Nevertheless, there were persistent challenges to the full empowerment of women, especially in relation to health, education and the creation of economic opportunity, and worrisome trends pointed to continued vulnerability in several areas.

    The CARICOM considered that there was an urgent need to strengthen gender mainstreaming at all levels.  The mainstreaming of gender in education remained an important aspect of the work of the region, and there was also a focus on the strengthening of legislation to enhance women's human rights, as well as efforts to address the feminization of poverty, unemployment of women, and the mainstreaming of gender in HIV/AIDS programmes. The efforts of CARICOM Governments to achieve sustainable development and attain the millennium targets included as a necessity a major focus on the eradication of poverty, and, within that context, the elimination of the disproportionately high levels of poverty among women were realities usually masked by the relatively high human development indicators of the region.  Such efforts, however, were conditioned considerably by the current international economic circumstances.  He also reaffirmed the centrality of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the global strategy for the empowerment of women, as well as the reporting mechanism established to track the progress being made in that regard.

    VILMA THOMAS (Cuba) stressed the need to fully implement the objectives and goals of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on women's issues.  It was also essential to focus on promotion of gender equality and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.  Guaranteeing women's sexual and reproductive rights, by providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, was crucial to any strategy aimed at women's empowerment.  Cuba supported the United Nations efforts in that regard.

    Women accounted for half of Cuba's population, 36 per cent of its heads of families, 45 per cent of the work force, 62 per cent of technicians and university graduates, and 55 per cent of scientists, she continued.  Women held 35 per cent of parliamentary seats, making Cuba seventh in the world ranking of countries with the highest number of women in parliament.  That figure exceeded the 30 per cent target set at the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.  In the 1997 Cuba Plan of Action for follow-up to the Beijing Conference, consecutive steps had been taken to improve public policies to promote women's advancement, such as updating the law on maternity leave, allowing mothers and fathers shared maternity leave.

    PATRICK RITTER (Liechtenstein) said the Committee had adopted five resolutions under the agenda item last year, and that three of those five dealt with specific forms of violence against women.  That could be interpreted as a clear sign of a growing awareness among States that violence against women in all its forms and manifestations constituted one of the major impediments to the advancement of women.  However, his delegation tended to see that rather as a reflection of the fact that States had yet to agree on a holistic understanding and appreciation of the problem.

    Welcoming the work undertaken thus far in the framework of the in-depth study by the Secretary-General on violence against women, he said the study and its preparatory process could significantly contribute to enhancing political commitment, accelerating momentum and strengthening concerted action at the national and international levels.  It should create the necessary knowledge base regarding the extent and prevalence of different types and manifestations of violence to enable the formulation of targeted counter-measures.  To be effective, such measures would, in particular, have to eliminate structural inequalities and discrimination that favoured the occurrence of violence against women, such as unequal access of women to economic resources and decision-making.

    While there was a need for a common and concerted approach at the international level towards the elimination of violence against women, manifestations of such violence and their extent often varied from one region to another.  The study would, therefore, benefit from work undertaken at the regional level, he said.  Furthermore, the area of victim assistance must not be neglected, and that was particularly true when the violence had occurred during armed conflict.  That issue would be of great importance for the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Pervasive violence against women in times of peace was all too often exacerbated during conflict.  Efforts to restore peace and rebuild the societal fabric had to place particular emphasis on the reintegration of victims of violence into society.  At the same time, only a genuine empowerment of women in all spheres of private and public life could bring a real change and ensure that women were not only sufficiently protected against violence, but that they could be their own best protectors.

    SALIMA ABKELHAK (Algeria) said continuing violence against women was particularly worrying, and it was intolerable to justify the degradation women were suffering.  She stressed the need for greater cooperation and solutions to allow women to realize their full potential and thus implement the Beijing Platform of Action.  Under the Algerian Constitution, women enjoyed full rights in the country's socio-economic and political life.  Algeria had sought to implement the Beijing Platform of Action and gave boys and girls equal access to education.  Girls represented more than 55 per cent of student enrolment.  Women in rural areas enjoyed equal rights as boys and were given free learning by distance courses.  Algerian women took part in all economic sectors and received pay equal to that of men.  Women not only worked in traditional occupations such as teaching and health care, but also many held posts in justice, the military and the diplomatic core.

    Despite progress in women's advancement, the Algerian Government was aware that much more remained to be done, she said.  Algeria had ratified all international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Labour Organization's conventions and, more recently, the Convention on the Political Rights of women.

    MEIRAV EILON SHAHAR (Israel) said her Government believed that to support women was to support the whole of society.  Indeed, the vitality of a society depended on how it treated its entire people, including women.  That was because women's contributions to society were integral to its own advancement.  As such, Israel had made the pursuit of gender equality a priority, and ultimately hoped to achieve a gender-blind society where citizens could advance as high as their ambitions and skills allowed, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or the existence of any disabilities.  Israel was committed to realizing that worthwhile goal within its legislation, judicial system and social atmosphere.

    Israeli women took part in the political arena at executive, parliamentary, judiciary and municipal levels.  Along with their predecessors, female Israeli Members of Parliament had collaborated across party lines in order to promote women's rights, effectively creating a pro-women's rights synergy exceeding their actual number.  In the ranks of the judiciary, nearly 46 per cent of all judges were female, and more than one third of the Supreme Court justices were women.  The Israeli Parliament had also devoted considerable attention to women's issues over the last decade.

    Furthermore, she said that Israel's commitment to the advancement of women was not limited to its borders, as it was working to improve the status of women and other minorities throughout the region and the world, often in cooperation with the United Nations and other international bodies.  Reiterating that society must embrace its entire people equally in order to be a true democracy, she said the strength of a society was dependent on the equal contribution of all its citizens.

    HEBA HAMOUD ALJENAIBI (United Arab Emirates) said her country had implemented the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, which were consistent with Islamic precept, the Government's development policy and its conviction that women were equal to men in human dignity and legal status, as well as important development partners.  Implementation of such recommendations was fundamental to achieving the millennium targets.  The country was also signatory to regional and international conventions and treaties on women and the family.

    In 2002, the United Arab Emirates launched the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women, and in 2003 it formed the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood, she continued.  Thanks to those steps, among others, women were able to achieve major advances in development.  For example, girls' primary school enrolment had jumped to 83 per cent, according to the United Nations Human Development Report 2005.  Girls represented 62 per cent of the student high school enrolment, and more and more were enrolling in master's degree and Ph.D. programmes.  Child mortality rates were at their lowest levels.  Further, women now occupied 66 per cent of the public sector work force, filling 30 per cent of leadership positions.  Last year, the Government had appointed its first female cabinet minister, the Minister of Economy and Planning.  This year, it appointed a woman for the first time to Brigadier in the military. 

    JUDITH MBULA BAHEMUKA (Kenya) said her Government upheld the centrality of gender equality and recognized the critical role that women played in development.  The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals hinged on the empowerment of women.  To that end, her Government in 2000 had adopted a national policy on gender and development, whose main objective was to facilitate gender mainstreaming in all its policies, programmes and legislation.  It had also embarked on ways to implement affirmative action policies, including lowering university admission requirements for female students by one point in 2003, as well as including a provision in the draft constitution to provide for one third women's representation in Parliament and the proposed district government.

    Her Government had also worked consistently to create an enabling environment for access to credit through women's groups, the cooperative movement and the promotion of small and medium microfinanced enterprises.  In recognition of the fact that the majority of citizens lived in rural areas and that their mainstay was agriculture, the Government had put in place a legal framework aimed at ensuring equality in inheritance, land ownership and property rights.  It had also launched a national reproductive health-services delivery strategy, and had adopted an HIV/AIDS strategic plan.  Despite key achievements, Kenya faced major challenges.  It was keen to reduce poverty and cultural factors that negated the gains made by the introduction of free primary education, and it also wanted to increase the number of female enrolment in tertiary institutions and universities, as well as the participation of women in decision-making positions in both Government and the private sector.

    VIENGSAVANH SIPRASEUTH (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that while progress had been made in some areas, there remained many challenging issues for women to overcome, and millions of women were still living under the poverty line.  To remedy the situation, particular importance should be given to real and sustainable rural development and poverty eradication, which was the root cause of problems related to gender issues, especially in developing countries.  Poverty was still the biggest concern confronting her country and Lao women, particularly in rural areas.  Her Government was carrying out comprehensive reforms of the economy and political institutions to address poverty and exit from underdevelopment.

    Her Government and the Lao Women's Union had made efforts to change the perception of discrimination against women in various forms.  The Government had also decided to set up a national commission for the advancement of women to assist it in formulating national policy and strategy for the advancement of women in every area.  Her country, being a landlocked least developed country with a general low level of education of its people, lacked detailed data on women, and was still confronting backward customs and traditions, entrenched stereotypes, and manifold difficulties and challenges.  All of that could not be phased out overnight, and she urged the world community to lend a helping hand to its efforts to promote the advancement of Lao women.

    JENNIFER FELLER (Mexico) said her country had been and continued to be a strong advocate of the inclusion of gender equality at all levels and of the empowerment of all women.  Such actions were linked to sustainable development, peace and political stability.  Welcoming the commitments of the High-level Plenary of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly, she said it was noteworthy that none of those commitments was new compared to what had been adopted in the past.  The Beijing Platform of Action and the Millennium Declaration continued to be the foundation, as her Government saw it, and any questioning of the validity of the content thereof was a step backward that jeopardized any progress that had been made.  It was also important to make progress towards commitments made and to take actions, in order to ensure gender equity at the international level.  States must play a defining role, and there could be no further postponement of discussion on institutional reforms.

    Given an evermore challenging agenda, coordination and cooperation among agencies were not only needed but absolutely indispensable, she continued.  Her Government was committed to the various international instruments to enshrine the specific rights of women, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  It had submitted five regular reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and would submit a sixth in November.  Furthermore, she said the feminization of poverty was a violation of the human rights of women.  Today, thousands of women were dying giving birth because they did not have access to health care, nor did they have access to education, job opportunities or equal pay.  Discriminatory laws and physical or sexual violence were all too common, and the deploring conditions of rural women had meant a migration of women, as well, which caused them to become potential victims of trafficking and exploitation on the job.  Those were some of the many challenges facing the international community regarding women.  However, women were not just a matter of politics, and States had a moral responsibility and duty to ensure that such situations remained in the past.

    Ms. BANZON (Philippines) said that in the past decade the Philippines had passed laws against sexual harassment, rape, trafficking of women and domestic violence.  It had become party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea.  It had also ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

    National machinery on women was progressively developed to improve gender mainstreaming throughout the government systems, she continued.  For example, the Gender and Development Budget Policy in all government agencies mandated that at least 5 per cent of the budget be allocated for gender and development programmes.  The Harmonized Gender and Development Guidelines for Project Development, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation served as tool for all government agencies, development practitioners and international donor organizations to ensure that gender concerns were fully integrated into their projects. 

    SERHAT AKSEN (Turkey) said there had been various opportunities for States in 2005 to evaluate the progress made in the advancement of women.  Any occasion for such evaluation was almost a means to identify the challenges that still remained, such as poverty, discrimination and violence.  Turkey had achieved significant progress in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, as well as Beijing+5 commitments.  Successful implementation of the national plan of action that was prepared in 1996 had played a pivotal role in that progress.  A solid legal framework for gender equality and elimination of discrimination against women had been established, particularly in recent years, along with the necessary steps aimed at implementation.

    His Government attached great importance to combating violence against women, and it pursued a comprehensive legal and social strategy in that regard.  Turkey was also a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and had ratified the Optional Protocol in 2002.  He added that the prevention of discrimination against women and the establishment of gender equality were among the main priorities of his Government.

    SHAARI BIN HASSAN (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Hanoi Plan of Action adopted at the Sixth ASEAN Summit in 1998 included priority action for women's social and human resources development.  It called for strengthening of ASEAN cooperation to combat trafficking of women and crimes and violence against women, and also called on Member States to work towards full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  In June 2004, the 10 ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

    In November 2004, at the ASEAN Summit, regional leaders developed a world plan on women's advancement in politics, increased participation in the productive work force and reducing social risks of women, children, the elderly and disabled people.  They also adopted the ASEAN Declaration against Trafficking in Persons, Particularly Women, and Children.  The same month, the Third ASEAN Committee on Women focused on regional cooperation to eliminate trafficking of persons and violence against women.  Last year, leaders signed in Myanmar a Memorandum of Understanding of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative, focusing on eliminating human trafficking.

    NUJOOD YOUSIF MAHMOOD (Bahrain) said the last decade had seen particular attention given to the rights of women, which was particularly important in the new millennium for women's advancement.  Her Government had a plan to achieve objectives such as protecting the rights of women, and ensuring that women could become partners of men within the framework of development strategies and within the structure of the State.  That plan had also developed to include women in other areas, such as the labour market and both in the public and private sectors.

    The Government had also launched a national programme on the rights of women, and had given women the full right to be a candidate for office and to be elected, she said.  A high council for women had also been set up to ensure the full rights of women in society.  The Government's policies for the advancement of women included providing a broader choice within politics and development policies, as well as the development of knowledge, particularly within the framework of educational structures.  It was also necessary to emphasize the human dimension, as the individual was the most important resource for any society or country in its development.

    Bahrain had made considerable progress regarding women in education, health, the economy and society, as well as in terms of politics.  Illiteracy had been reduced to 17 per cent by 2001, and infant mortality had similarly been reduced.  The number of working women had increased from 4.3 per cent in 1971 to 25 per cent in 2001, and women's representation had also increased in politics.  Those examples showed that her Government had made considerable efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals, including the right of women to play their role in the construction of society.  She added that her Government intended to make further progress in that area, and had submitted the candidacy of a woman for the president of the sixth-first session of the General Assembly.

    DIANELA PI (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said social justice and equitable social development were essential for sustainable development.  Gender parity in all fields, including decision-making, was fundamental to socio-economic development.  She also stressed the importance of adopting measures that promoted mainstreaming of a gender perspective into public policies and of achieving progress towards building democracy with justice and equality for men and women.  The MERCOSUR had set up a specialized forum in which women ministers of State and pertinent authorities gathered to debate issues related to promoting and protecting women's rights.

    MERCOSUR Governments were also promoting public policies that guaranteed equal human rights for both sexes and that dealt with the problem of domestic violence through greater funding and infrastructure to undertake the necessary legal, administrative and judicial changes, she said. Further, they were promoting gender-based employment policies, policies to ensure full sexual and reproductive rights, and mechanisms for the effective participation of civil society in the design and evaluation of public policies on gender issues.

    BORIS CHERNENKO (Russian Federation) expressed hope that the international activities carried out throughout this year would give a new impetus to ensure gender equality, overcome gender discrimination, and protect women against all forms of violence.  Despite evident progress towards ensuring gender equality, the international community still had to address a whole range of problems, including the absence of any effective mechanism to achieve gender equality, as well as the elimination of the various forms of violence against women.  His Government agreed with and supported the United Nations approach to equality between men and women, and it also understood that gender equality was necessary.

    His Government also believed that dialogue with the international community on any issue regarding gender equality was very important.  The Russian Federation continued to increase its international commitments on ensuring gender equality.  It was a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and his Government was now implementing major reforms on the issue in the country.  One measure was the creation in Russia of a government commission on ensuring equal rights for men and women.  He added that the work of the United Nations was making a valuable contribution in enhancing the role of women in society and equality between men and women.

    HJALMAR HANNESSON (Iceland) said he was fully committed to the Beijing Platform of Action and the Beijing Declaration and the outcome document of the twenty-third General Assembly special session, and had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol.  He urged countries that had not done so to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol as soon as possible.  He expressed concern over the scope of reservations that countries had made to the Convention and urged countries to withdraw those reservations as they were contrary to the Convention's objectives.  Security Council resolution 1325 was a groundbreaking resolution in women's advancement and required a fundamental change in procedure, delivery, attitudes and habits.  Women in war and war survivors must enjoy protection and justice and must all be full agents in shaping and rebuilding communities in the aftermath of war.

    The international community must disassociate violence against women from women's general advancement, he continued.  Given that one in three women would suffer from gender-related violence in her lifetime, despite progress made, great changes were still needed.  The international community must combat all forms of violence against women, not just domestic violence.  Iceland took note of the interim report of the Secretary-General on violence against women and looked forward to receiving the in-depth report at the General Assembly's sixty-first session.  Trafficking in women and girls was a modern form of slavery and was on the rise.  Iceland had emphasized the role of regional institutions to combat human trafficking and had contributed actively to anti-trafficking work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

    FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, said the outcome of the recently concluded Summit presented Member States with a renewed opportunity to envision and create a world based on the equality of women and men.  States now had to ask themselves if they would be able to challenge successfully old paradigms, institutions and practices that perpetuated gender discrimination, and to make gender equality a reality.  The millennium targets and other development Goals were ambitious, and their attainment required a committed effort on many fronts.  One of the central issues was hunger.  Gender equality was specifically addressed through one target and a limited number of indicators under Goal 3, and there was also cross-cutting with other Goals.

    While the Millennium Development Goals provided a useful framework, they did not allow States to measure adequately the situation of rural women, she said.  There was still much ground to be covered in realizing the important role that interventions in the agricultural and rural sectors could play in gender equality, and, therefore, to have proper reflection of those sectors in national and international development agendas.  For those truly interested in tackling gender inequality, poverty and food security, perhaps there was no more important issue that needed to be addressed than that of the unequal laws and practices embedded in land, poverty, and inheritance rights.  She added that a systemic and holistic approach was needed to address policies and practices, including legal and customary practices, which continued to enforce gender inequality, promote gender-based violence, and limit women's access to resources, services and decision-making.

    DJANKOU NDJONKOU, Representative to the United Nations of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the ILO had a long-standing record of working to combat violence against women, including violence against female workers in countries in conflict and trafficking of women and girls.  The ILO's rights-based approach on the study of violence against women focused on:  respect of international labour standards; the fine-tuning of national policies to prevent violence against women and to combat trafficking; sustainable poverty reduction through improved access to decent work; and improved workplace policies to prevent assaults on and discrimination against employees.  The ILO worked closely with employers and workers organizations and United Nations agencies in that regard.

    The ILO report "A Global Alliance against Forced Labour" was the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken by an intergovernmental organization of the facts and underlying causes of contemporary forced labour, he continued.  The report concluded that forced economic exploitation in such sectors as agriculture, construction, brick-making and informal sweatshop manufacturing was more or less evenly divided among the sexes, but that forced commercial sexual exploitation almost entirely entrapped women and girls.  The report identified poverty, gender and ethnicity as key determinants of human trafficking.  The good news was that the report made the case that forced labour could be abolished if Governments and national institutions pursued active policies, vigorous enforcement and strong commitment to eradicating such treatment.

    XENIA VON LILIEN-WALDAU, representing the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said the report of the Secretary-General highlighted the need for the economic empowerment of rural women by demonstrating how improving women's economic status could lead to a dramatic acceleration of rural development and the reduction of rural poverty.  The issue of rural women's economic empowerment had become increasingly central to her organization's mission to enable the rural poor to overcome poverty.  Rural poverty could not be overcome without women's leadership, full economic opportunity, and their expanded role in decision-making.  Advancements in women's economic positions improved their social status, brought benefits to their families, and enhanced their role in community affairs.

    The Fund prioritized the economic empowerment of women as the primary means to improve their overall status and, thus, contribute to broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction and food security.  When women had secure access to resources, and were able to take advantage of economic opportunities, they had the capacity to become powerful agents of change and social transformation.  They could transform their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.  With improved economic status, they also tended to become more involved in community decision-making that could, in turn, lead to changes in social practices and relationships, and mobilize social action.  While the Fund was heartened by the progress made, the limitation of women's access to productive resources was not only a matter of legislation and constitutional rights, but also hinged on changes in social perceptions of gender roles, she added.

    At the outset of today's afternoon meeting, ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY (Indonesia) said that, as part of her Government's overall strategy to ameliorate conditions affecting women's quality of life, the main concern was to reduce poverty among women.  Towards that end, the national strategy to alleviate poverty had been approved in April, and its main goals were employment, capacity-building and social protection for needy men and women.  As an important aspect of that strategy, the Government had sought to empower women economically through the provision of income-generating initiatives in the form of microcredit, technological upgrading, skills development programmes, and the provision of social safety nets designed to create income-earning opportunities for women and to broaden their economic experiences.

    Poverty alleviation should not be undertaken as a philanthropic gesture, but as a culturally honourable obligation to help women build capacity and self-esteem, she said.  The intention was to make use of a participatory approach that allowed for women's empowerment, leading ultimately to their emancipation from socially unacceptable constraints on their lives.  It was important that States should implement targeted prevention measures regarding violence against women migrant workers, including comprehensive awareness-raising initiatives that would systematically educate migrant women about their rights and enlighten the general public, as well. Effective measures of support for women migrants who were subject to violence should also be put in place, including access to shelters, legal aid, and medical, psychological, social and economic assistance.  She added that if the core policies of each State were to systemically incorporate the rights of women into the various spheres of life, significant progress would be made in furthering women's rights.

    MIKIKO OTANI (Japan) said women's roles could be further explored and gender sensitivity further enhanced in both natural disasters and peacebuilding processes.  As part of the international community's response to the tsunami disaster, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) had taken initiatives to enhance women's role in reconstruction in the affected areas by supporting leadership of local women, mobilizing women's networks, helping to revive women's livelihoods and promoting the protection of women.  Sharing the view of UNIFEM that women must be at the heart of the recovery process, Japan had given $1 million to the United Nations Flash Appeal in the tsunami's aftermath, with emphasis on the gender perspective's importance in disaster-reduction cooperation.

    In recent years, the important role of women in prevention and resolution of conflicts, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction had been gaining increasing recognition, she continued.  Despite the fact that women had often been at the forefront of calling for an end to conflict, they had mostly remained on the sidelines of formal peace and reconstruction processes.  But women could play a central role in maintaining and promoting peace and security.  It was essential to take into account women's needs and look at issues from a gender perspective when forming policies and programmes.  Japan had provided assistance to a UNIFEM project in post-conflict Afghanistan through the Trust Fund for Human Security.  The project was empowering female refugees and internally displaced persons with a view to reintegrate them into post-conflict society through vocational training, seminars and income-generating programmes.

    KHUNYING LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand) said that while the advancement of women had increasingly made its way into the global and national agendas, many challenges still remained.  Women were still trapped in poverty and continued to be victims of human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, armed conflicts, as well as domestic violence, to name but a few.  Given the multidimensional nature of the challenges women were facing, her delegation believed that the advancement of women must be approached in a comprehensive manner.  Gender equality must be mainstreamed into national policies, strategies and measures.  In Thailand, the cabinet had recently approved a draft bill on the prevention and elimination of domestic violence, which was now being enacted.  Her Government had also set up family development centres at the community level, which acted as surveillance networks to help prevent domestic problems and violence.

    Her Government also placed human trafficking high on its national agenda and had allocated resources accordingly.  The Government had recently allotted $12.5 million to set up a national trust fund to help and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking.  On the issue of women in politics and the decision-making process, Thailand's proportion of women in politics and high-ranking government positions was still at an unsatisfactory 10 per cent. Her Government was, however, working to improve that, and the cabinet had adopted measures to appoint women to positions in national committees, as well as at the grass-roots level.  Women were also encouraged to participate actively in national and local politics.

    JANG HYUN-CHEOL (Republic of Korea) said the Secretary-General's in-depth study of violence against women was a unique opportunity for challenging a culture where that phenomenon was allowed to persist, and he expected the study to be presented to the General Assembly next year with live data, feasible policy recommendations, and effective policy-implementation strategies.  The Republic of Korea was doing its part to curb violence against women.  It had enacted legislation on sexual and domestic violence, devised a comprehensive action plan and had increased public awareness of such violence's seriousness and illegality.  Recent progress included strengthening protection for child victims of sexual violence.  The 2004 law on the trafficking of women for prostitution also showed the Republic of Korea's will to protect women from illegal trafficking and sexual slavery.

    This year, the Republic of Korea took a historic step towards achieving gender equality by abolishing the Family Headship System, an emblem of male-dominated society, and revising the Civil Act, he continued.  Women were now entitled to full equality with men in marital and family affairs.  Under the revised Civil Act, children were able to inherit their mother's surnames, a step which was expected to enable the Republic of Korea to withdraw its reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

    FARAH ADJALOVA (Azerbaijan) said the Beijing Platform for Action emphasized that the advancement of women was a critical factor for development, particularly regarding the eradication of poverty.  It had been recognized that the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women had a direct impact on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration in all areas, including development, security and human rights.  In line with that, her Government had continuously been integrating gender equality and empowerment of women as a cross-cutting issue into its development policy.  Women's issues were currently being mainstreamed into a new, 10-year State programme on poverty reduction and sustainable development for 2006-2015.  Specific policy measures were being identified within each section of the programme, such as access to the labour market and employment, education, health, social protection and pension reform, as well as the poverty-monitoring section of the policy matrix.

    On the international front, she said, gender-based violence constituted a particular problem for all countries and all sectors of society.  Physical, sexual and psychological violence against women and girls occurring in the family, within the community and during armed conflict violated and impaired the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Among the problems pertaining to the elimination of gender-based violence was the issue of trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children.  Furthermore, her country continued to face serious challenges related to the situation of nearly 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict with neighbouring Armenia.  Continued efforts should be made at all levels to ensure that the needs and perspectives of women affected by armed conflict were taken into account by humanitarian and development projects and programmes.

    PAUL BADJI (Senegal) said a greater number of women than men continued to suffer the awful consequences of poverty and illiteracy.  Women were still victims of violence and lacked sexual and reproductive rights.  In many countries, women were first victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Millions of women continued to die during childbirth, particularly in rural Africa, where there was little access to medical assistance.  Adequate access to primary health care must be a priority, and the United Nations must develop and enhance assistance programmes in that regard.

    Poverty reduction and sustainable development were not possible without gender parity, he continued.  The link between women's advancement and sustainable development must be taken into account in all socio-economic development strategies.  This year, Senegal had launched a 10-year national strategy to ensure gender equity that was in line with Senegal's poverty reduction strategy papers and the Millennium Development Goals.  Senegal's goals to promote gender equality in culture, the socio-economic realm, the judiciary and politics were in line with the objectives of the Beijing Conference.

    RAHEL KUMELA (Ethiopia) said women in sub-Saharan Africa still lived under extreme poverty and faced discrimination.  Maternal mortality was still excessively high in her part of the world, and access to education was low, in general, but much lower for women.  Many discriminatory laws had been repealed and new laws that guaranteed equality had been promulgated, but their implementation and impact on the daily lives of women were still limited.  While institutions of gender equality had been put in place, the lack of human and financial resources hindered their full operation.  States were far behind in ensuring gender equality in her part of the world, and it was necessary to redouble efforts to embrace the women of sub-Saharan Africa in the prospering global world.

    The share of women in government in Ethiopia had reached 11 per cent, with women taking the position of State minister in the previously male-dominated ministries of justice, as well as mines and energy.  However, violence against women continued to be a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality.  Traditional harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation, abduction and early marriage, characterized the lives of various societies of Ethiopia.  It was necessary to educate and sensitize women, in particular, and society, in general, about the rights of women.  Her Government had embarked on addressing that challenge in close cooperation with civil society organizations and the media.  Furthermore, the advancement of women in Ethiopia could not be seen outside the overall development of the country.  Forty per cent of the population -- the majority of whom were women -- lived below one dollar per day and, therefore, poverty alleviation was essential to improve the status of women.

    GURO K. VIKOR (Norway) said it was time for the United Nations to turn its commitments into action, and her Government called for and supported critical and necessary efforts of gender mainstreaming within the Organization.  Stressing that a gender perspective must be integrated into all strategies, programmes and activities created to reach the Millennium Development Goals, she called on the Secretary-General to develop common indicators to track United Nations country teams' progress on doing so.  She also requested concrete recommendations as to how to further implement and integrate the gender perspective into debates and decision-making within the United Nations.  It was crucial that the United Nations itself was a role model in securing balanced and fair representation at all levels.  The under-representation of women, particularly at the senior level, was, therefore, a cause for concern.

    Universal access to reproductive health for women and girls across the globe went beyond a basic necessity, and was often a matter of life or death, she continued.  The inclusion of that principle, set out in the International Conference on Population and Development, in the Outcome Document of the World Summit was, therefore, a major achievement.  States must galvanize efforts to position gender mainstreaming, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health at the forefront of the development agenda, and she called on the United Nations to develop tangible targets and indicators to improve monitoring.  Furthermore, it was critical that States withdrew their reservations that were contrary to the objects and purposes of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Finally, she called for the universal ratification of the Convention, which would be in line with the Secretary-General's appeal to turn the millennium commitments into action.

    ROMY TINCOPA (Peru) said that, since adoption of the Beijing Plan of Action, Peru had made significant progress in implementing objectives to promote the political, civil, social and economic rights of women, including their reproductive rights.  It had created institutions and developed the social sector.  There had been significant advances for women in education, health, employment, social participation and ending violence.  A law to foster education for rural children prohibited discrimination against girls for reasons of race, language and origin and had given girls the same access to literacy programmes as boys.  Peru was committed to ensuring universal access to health care, free of charge, particularly in poverty-stricken areas, with emphasis on reducing maternal and child mortality rates.  Further, HIV/AIDS was a major problem in the country, and her Government had taken steps to reduce the price of medicine for people infected with the deadly disease.

    Peru had a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women, she said, and its 2002-2007 National Plan to combat violence against women focused on victims of domestic violence and sexual violence.  Her country had created specific programmes to give women equal access to property, resources, credit, markets and trade.  The Social Development and Cooperation Fund, the largest public investment agency dedicated to poverty eradication goals, had set up a quota for mandatory participation of women in management positions in communal projects.  Peru had made progress in increasing women's participation in socio-economic areas through national legislation and greater women's participation in parliamentary elections, regional government and the political parties, which guaranteed women 30 per cent of all political candidate slots.  In poor, rural areas in the Andean and Amazon regions, the Government had launched a national campaign to register women and girls.

    MARYAM INNA CIROMA (Nigeria) said the interactive session held on 11 October had brought out in clear terms the need for concerted effort in getting more women involved in all aspects of human endeavours, in particular in the critical areas of peacebuilding and conflict-resolution processes.  At both federal and State levels, her Government had made efforts to outlaw customary or traditional practices that were not only discriminatory but harmful to the physical and mental health of women and girls.  The Government had also been working closely with non-governmental and faith-based organizations, as well as traditional rulers, to change long-held attitudes and perceptions about women and to inculcate in male youth respect for the fundamental rights of women and girls.  School curricula and public enlightenment campaigns had also focused on those objectives, as well as on the promotion of gender equality in all spheres.

    At the regional level, Nigeria had signed and ratified the African Protocol on the Rights of Women, a comprehensive legal framework that guaranteed the rights of women on the African continent.  The cumulative effect of those initiatives was the significant increase in the literacy rate for women and girls, and the number of women pursuing careers in male-dominated occupations.  The country's national health policies and plans had also become more gender-sensitive and, in the case of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, they had taken the special needs of women into consideration.  Nigeria had made remarkable progress in the implementation of the Millennium Declaration as they related to women, although a lot more needed to be done, she said.  An increasing number of women were involved in politics and governance, and in decision-making processes in public and private sector ventures.

    TIINA INTELMANN (Estonia) said women in many parts of the world still lacked, among other things, the right to vote, to participate in politics and government, or to express themselves on equal terms with men.  Moreover, with social and economic inequality increasing, certain phenomena, such as sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women, had become even more widespread.  The main progress since the Beijing Conference was the breakthrough in public opinion regarding questions of gender equality.  Both the press and women's organizations had become more interested in gender equality-related issues.  The understanding of women had also changed, allowing them to be more unconstrained in taking better decisions.  Her Government, among other actions, had adopted a gender equality act in 2004, which explicitly prohibited direct and indirect discrimination and provided measures against discrimination.

    The task of combating violence against women was as relevant and urgent today as it was a decade ago, and such violence was one of the major obstacles to the achievement of real equality between women and men, she said.  Women suffered from violence resulting in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, both in private and public life.  Trafficking in women and girls was also a particularly cynical form of violence, and there was an urgent need to intensify the fight against that violation of human dignity.  Universal initiatives could be more effective if they were advanced at regional levels.  The question of gender equality, however, had to be addressed at all levels -- international, regional and national.  Gender mainstreaming remained a basis for combating violence against women, but that was only a point of departure.  The actual roots of the problem were social and economic, as well as cultural.  Thus, combating violence against women and achieving gender equality could not be regarded as being separate from promoting human rights and social justice, in general.

    SIN SONG CHOL (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), said, regarding the situation of "comfort women" who had been victims of the Japanese Army, that there was no precedent in world history of war in which a Government had organized the forcible draft, abduction and kidnapping of women of other countries; dragged them to battlefields; and imposed on them a collective sexual slavery, in order to satisfy the lust of soldiers.  That was why the special rapporteur on violence against women had defined the case of the "comfort woman" for the Japanese Army as the crime of "military sexual slavery" in 1996, and had recommended that the Japanese Government admit its legal responsibility for it.  Despite that reality and the strong denunciation of the Asian countries, the Japanese authorities denied the very existence of the "comfort women".

    Furthermore, Japan beautified its aggressive war against Asian countries as a "liberation war", and shamelessly argued that it was not legally responsible for the "comfort women" issue.  In addition, Japan was also making territorial claims to the sacred land of its neighbouring countries, he said.  Since Japan had inflicted a huge misfortune on the people of his country and it intended not to liquidate but repeat its wrongdoings, his country could not just overlook Japan's manoeuvres for militarization.  Furthermore, he said that it was a mockery of and a challenge to humankind that Japan attempted to occupy a permanent seat on the Security Council, as it was yet a war criminal State that had massacred millions of Asian people, and was the only defeated country that had not done away with its war crimes.

    JUAN A. BUFFA (Paraguay) said the year 2005 had helped commemorate, evaluate and reaffirm the commitments made at the Beijing Declaration and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  While his Government celebrated the progress that had been realized, Member States must still recognize that difficulties and challenges remained, and must ensure equal conditions and opportunities for women within society.  Every single one of their rights must be fully exercised without restriction.  It was also fundamental to have better coordination and commitments by all of the agents and sectors involved.

    He said it was necessary to underscore the importance of education for girls, and to guarantee the access of all women to health care, as well as guarantee their right to property and inheritance.  It was also necessary to eliminate discrimination in the world, and to increase the share of women in local and national government and international institutions, as well as to combat all forms of violence against women and girls.

    Despite budgetary difficulties, his Government had attached importance to the rights and promotion of women's status, he said.  For women to be able to participate on an equal footing with men, they must have access essentially to two fundamental areas -- education and health care.  The gap between men and women was shrinking, according to studies made every year.  As to health, his country's national plan of gender and reproductive health for 2003-2008 was a process that led to the creation of the national council of gender and health.  He added that there was also a feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was a reflection of the inequalities that exposed women and girls to a larger risk of infection.  It was necessary to have strategies that ranged across all sectors in order to address the complex dynamics of violence against women.

    DIVINA ADJOA SEANEDZU (Ghana) said Ghana had adopted serious measures to improve the status of women and had generated greater awareness of gender issues and women's participation in national development.  The new Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, set up to promote women's rights, reflected a sincere political will by the Government to give the issue of gender disparity the highest consideration and to create an enabling environment for women's advancement.  Women's progress had been achieved through greater resource allocation by the Government, and multilateral donor agencies for training, technology transfer, credit support and health programmes.

    The Government had been working with various legislative bodies to review aspects of the country's laws which were inimical to women's advancement, she continued.  For example, a draft bill on domestic violence was under active consideration for passage into law and the creation of a Women and Juvenile Unit within the police service was helping to break the silence associated with issues of domestic violence.  Law enforcement personnel, such as the police, prison workers and the judiciary, were being sensitized and trained on issues related to ending violence against women.  Some harmful traditional practices, such as widowhood rights and female genital mutilation, that particularly concerned women in rural areas, had been deemed crimes under the criminal code.  Ghana had set up a parliamentary committee on gender and a national gender policy, as well as a commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to ensure that girls' and women's' human rights were not infringed upon.

    PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam) said that, while great endeavours were being made to free women from such evils as discrimination and violence, the potential and capacity of women as equal partners in the joint efforts of States for peace and development needed to be recognized and appreciated to the fullest extent.  To that end, efforts should be further strengthened at all levels and aimed at promoting gender equality, advancing women, and eliminating discrimination and violence against women.  In his country, education was considered as the important first base in promoting economic empowerment for women.  Women's access to land and credit had also received greater attention.  In order to reduce the poverty gap between urban and rural areas and between groups of the population, the Government had adopted a plan of action on gender in agriculture in rural development.

    The health-care system of Viet Nam had also been improved, with special attention given to women during pregnancy and childbirth.  The role of Vietnamese women in political life had been further consolidated, and women currently held important positions at all levels.  Such achievements had been made, thanks to the great efforts carried out by both the Government and different women's organizations, especially the Viet Nam Women's Union.  While the role of women in the family was indisputable, their participation in all aspects of life should be equally so.  Today, the sky was not the limit to women's roles and potential.  The same should apply to the continuous efforts of Member States in implementing the noble goals of gender equality and the advancement of women.

    ABDELFATTAH ELKADIRI (Morocco) said that since adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Morocco had engaged in a far-reaching reform process aimed to ensure women's advancement which had resulted in progress at all levels.  It had set up a State Secretariat for the Family and Persons with Disabilities and focal points for gender equality.  Women also had a stronger presence in management in public, legislative and executive affairs.  Two cabinet positions were now filled by women as were 35 parliamentary seats.  Last year, Morocco's Parliament had adopted a family code which established the principle of gender equality, and it was committed to ensure the code's implementation.  In that regard, it was providing training for officials at all levels.

    In January 2005, his Government announced the decision to give children the right to adopt their mothers as their own, he continued.  That was viewed as a step towards real social progress.  Draft legislation was now under consideration by Parliament to strengthen labour codes.  A new penal code also prohibited and criminalized domestic violence and sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women.  Further, many awareness-raising workshops on violence against women had been organized together with civil society.  Morocco had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

    VADIVEL KRISHNAMOORTHY (Sri Lanka) said his Government attached great importance to achieving equal access for women to decision-making at all levels, as well as the full integration of women in those processes and in the workplace.  That was a priority in efforts to eradicate poverty.  The Beijing Platform of Action continued to be the yardstick by which gender balance and equality were measured.  The message was that States should determine and judge the advancement of women, not in isolation, but in relation to how they stood in all aspects of life.  The call for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective means to combat poverty, hunger and disease remained a rational approach for the stimulation of development.  In that context, all of the Millennium Development Goals were closely linked to women, and the achievement of those Goals and the empowerment of women were naturally dependent on each other.

    His Government had followed policies to strengthen programmes for gender equality and the development of women.  It had a women's bureau and a women's ministry, which included social welfare and a national committee on women to implement the country's charter.  Sri Lanka had a female literacy rate of 97 per cent, which had resulted in high standards of maternal and child care.  He added that the rate of female participation could have an impact not only on the country's potential for growth, but also on reducing the number of poor due to the contribution of a second income in poor households.

    Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

    Exercising his right of reply, YASUSHI TAKASE (Japan) said that in a joint statement of the six-party talks, Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had taken steps to normalize their relations on the basis of settlement of the unfortunate past.  In his statement, the Korean representative had referred to some unsubstantiated numbers.  However, he did not talk about the abduction of Japanese nationals by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  While the Third Committee was perhaps not the appropriate place to discuss Japan's Security Council candidacy for membership, such membership should be judged by Japan's ability to promote and maintain international peace and security.

    PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said it was regrettable that the willingness of Japan to redress its past crimes could not be heard.  His Government had already mentioned -- and Japan's delegate already knew -- what the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had done, and he did not want to repeat himself.  If the Japanese delegate or any other delegation wanted to hear from his Government, it could do so.

    The representative of Japan said his delegation repeated its request that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea take sincere steps to address the outstanding issue.  Although his delegation had received some information, his Government said that it was not sufficient.

    In response, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that what his people wanted from Japan were not words, but action.  His Government had heard apologies many times in the past, but it wanted a sincere apology and redress in practice.

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