3 March 2006
Gender Permeates Causes, Consequences of International Migration, Commission on Status of Women Told
Remittances, Lack of Coherence in Migration Policies among Wide Range of Issues Addressed in Panel Discussion
NEW YORK, 2 February (UN Headquarters) -- Gender permeated every aspect of migration, including the decision to migrate, the process of migration and its consequences, the Commission on the Status of Women was told today during a panel on the gender dimensions of international migration, one of several issues being examined by the 45-member body at its fiftieth session.
This afternoon's panel provided the Commission with a unique opportunity to examine the multidimensional aspects of international migration from a gender perspective and provide inputs to inform the high-level dialogue on international migration and development, to be convened by the General Assembly from 14 to 15 September.
A gender perspective was essential for understanding both the causes and the consequences of international migration, Commission Chairperson Carmen Maria Gallardo (El Salvador) informed delegates. As of 2000, 49 per cent of all international migrants were women or girls, and the proportion of women among international migrants had reached 51 per cent in more developed regions. Women often migrated officially as dependant family members of other migrants or to marry someone in another country. Female migrants were, however, increasingly part of worker flows, moving on their own to become the principal wage earners for their families.
Remittances, which in large part were a rationale for migration, both informed and were informed by gender, stated Manuel Orozco, Senior Associate at the Inter-American Dialogue. Men sent more remittances to their families than women, mainly due to the fact that men earned more money than women. In addition, men sent predominantly to their spouses and parents, while women sent predominantly to their children and parents. One explanation for that was that most migrant women were single or single mothers. On the recipient side, women tended to be the main receivers of remittances and they received more money than men.
In Asia, the participation of men and women in labour migration stemmed from different demands, noted Milagros B. Asis, Director of Research and Publications at the Scalabrini Migration Center in Manila. Male migration was basically a response to the shortage of workers in sectors that had been deemed undesirable by the local population, such as agriculture and construction. On the other hand, female migration was specific to the transfer of domestic and "care work" by more affluent women to migrant women. While such work was a major source of labour for female migrants, it involved unprotected sectors.
The Deputy Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Ndioro Ndiaye, said Governments should foster sensitivity towards the cultures of migrants, while ensuring that all cultural and customary practices that negatively affected the rights of women were eliminated, including through specific legislation. Sensitivity towards the culture of migrants needed to be taken into account when working on integration strategies. Governments had the tools, but were often lacking the political will to ensure that migration, and in particular labour migration, was governed by human rights, rather than only economic factors. The lack of coherence in migration policies was one of the great challenges facing the international community.
Presentations were also made by Monica Boyd, of the University of Toronto, Canada; Irena Omelaniuk, Migration Adviser, World Bank; and Carmen Moreno, Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
This morning, the Commission continued with its general discussion, during which it was told that crucial for achieving gender equality and the advancement of women was access to education, which led to gains in other areas such as employment, and economic and political participation. Equal access to education, said Thailand's representative, not only provided women with life opportunities, but was also a critical life-saving investment. Educated women were capable of making informed choices that would enable them to climb the social ladder and benefit from globalization.
While it was important to empower women through equal access to education, she added, it was no less vital for Governments to create an enabling environment for gender equality and advancement of women. In that regard, it was not enough to have the right laws, institutions and polices without the right attitude. With the right attitude, significant strides would be made in addressing the problem of domestic violence and breaking down the "glass ceiling" that had impeded women's progress in professional life.
While poverty and lack of education impeded women's participation in decision-making, the representative of the International Council of Women noted that the main stumbling block to equal participation in decision-making continued to be discriminatory cultural norms. Even in industrialized countries, there were too few women representatives in political decision-making. The predominant reason was the same worldwide: the support for women from men, and more importantly, from other women, was tainted by a patriarchal perspective of what women could do and how they should operate. The work of non-governmental organizations must be complemented by a strong political commitment from Governments to make equal participation in decision-making at all levels a top priority. It could not be a mere matter of political correctness.
The representative of French Coordination for the European Women's French Lobby said everybody was aware of the obstacles preventing women's equal participation. The "old boys" network co-opted people who resembled themselves. Political parties, controlled by men, did not want to relinquish their power. Even outstanding women candidates were sometimes discouraged by such conditions. The paradox was that women were the majority of the world's population. While survival in business depended on the ability to adapt, in the political sphere, old habits had often proven harder to change.
Statements were also made during the general discussion by the representatives of Turkey, Grenada, Myanmar, Suriname, Turkmenistan, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Liechtenstein, Haiti, Egypt, Ecuador, Burundi, Israel, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Singapore, Belarus, Croatia, Colombia, Fiji, Switzerland, Argentina, Armenia and the United Arab Emirates.
In addition, the Commission heard from the observer of the Holy See and the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 3 March, to continue its general discussion.
The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to continue its general discussion, focusing on the two themes of its fiftieth session: enhanced participation of women in development; and equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels. This afternoon, the Commission was expected to hold a high-level panel on the theme "The gender dimensions of international migration".
(For background on the current session, see Press Release WOM/1538 issued on 24 February.)
ESENGUL CIVELEK, General Director, General Directorate on the Status of Women of the Prime Ministry of Turkey, said achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women had been at the core of a series of reforms Turkey had undertaken in recent years. Legal and administrative measures had been taken to ensure gender equality in all areas, including through the adoption of a new civil code, penal code, the law on the protection of the family, and amendments to the labour law. Sustained efforts were being made in the fields of education, health and women's economic empowerment. Combating violence against women and human trafficking were also among priority issues. While progress had been made, challenges remained. Increasing the participation of women in decision-making at all levels was extremely important. Political parties were being encouraged to nominate as many women candidates for election as possible.
RUTH ELIZABETH ROUSE (Grenada) noted that, prior to September 2004, Grenada had been well on its way to accomplishing the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals, especially regarding the advancement of women. Today, however, after two extremely devastating hurricanes within one year, the country found itself in a difficult position with emerging trends which threatened to reverse some of the progress made in the area of gender equality. Many families had been displaced, resulting in severe hardship on women as they struggled to survive negative conditions, including loss of jobs, underemployment, domestic violence and high cost of living. A new labour policy had been introduced that addressed women's vulnerability regarding unregulated and low-paying jobs. The Government had also adopted a health policy aimed at achieving quality health services for all. Women had participated in parliamentary elections since 1952, and, for some time, Grenada had exceeded the 30 per cent target of women's representation at all levels of decision-making, having reached the level of 36 per cent in the current Parliament. There had also been a marked increase in the number of highly qualified women in top positions within the public, health, legal and education sectors.
U MAUNG WAI (Myanmar) said that the status of women in Myanmar had been high since ancient times. They fully enjoyed equal rights with their male counterparts, and even retained their maiden names after marriage so that they could continue to maintain their own identity. Among the milestones achieved in Myanmar was the establishment in 1996 of the Myanmar National Committee for Women's Affairs, and the establishment of the Myanmar Women's Entrepreneurs Association. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement bore the main responsibility for promoting and enhancing gender welfare activities. Myanmar society placed special importance on educating children, both boys and girls. In primary and secondary education, girls had been able to achieve parity with boys, the ratio being 49.92 per cent for girls and 50.08 per cent for boys. The gender ratio in tertiary education was 59.16 per cent for females and 40.84 per cent for males. He added that development assistance in education, health and job creation was important towards eliminating gender disparities.
EWALD WENSLEY LIMON (Suriname) said his Government was strongly committed to implementing its international obligations on gender equality and the empowerment of women. In the Multi-Annual Development Plan, gender mainstreaming was among one of the policy measures to ensure adequate participation of women in development programmes. In addition, the Government considered education an effective tool for the eradication of poverty, especially poverty among women. All forms of education were accessible for boys and girls, and at present the number of female students far exceeded the number of male students, including in several levels of vocational education and at the university level. The nation's current challenge was to increase women's participation in executive positions, in both the public and private sector, and the Government would undertake action to increase women's participation in decision-making. Women accounted for some 25 per cent of representatives in the Parliament and 12 per cent of government posts, and in 1991, a woman had been elected as Deputy Speaker of the Parliament. In 1996, the first female Speaker of the House had been elected. Despite such achievements, much more needed to be done to create an enabling environment for gender equality and the advancement of women.
AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan) said her Government's National Plan of Action assigned top priority to several strategic areas, including the participation of women in government bodies and decision-making processes, education and women's rights. Turkmen women played an active role in all spheres of the country's political, social, economic and spiritual life, and accounted for some 37.6 per cent of positions in the administration and decision-making bodies at all levels. Women comprised nearly one third of all deputies in the Madjilis, the country's Parliament. A system of tax benefits was used to provide specific incentives to women who sought employment, and those who had three or more children paid 30 per cent less in taxes. Mothers with five or more children were fully exempt from paying taxes. The State also provided incentives to small businesses employing women through a special system of taxation aimed at encouraging indirect growth of incomes. Turkmenistan's high standards concerning women were based on, among other things, the people's century-old historical and moral values that women deserved special attention, protection and care. Respect for women as a sacred symbol was encouraged and had become one of the spiritual imperatives of modern Turkmen society.
BARBARA BAILEY, Chairperson, National Gender Advisory Committee of Jamaica, said that enrolment level in educational institutions was a good benchmark for assessing the future of gender equality for women in any society. In spite of higher levels of education, compared with men, women continued to experience lower rates of employment; were positioned in the lowest paying sectors of the capital market; experienced greater vulnerability in relation to all pillars of the International Labour Organization's decent work agenda; and, on average, earned lower wages. Poverty among a significant proportion of women continued to be a major obstacle to achieving economic self-sufficiency and a modicum of purchasing power. In relation to health, the most pressing concern in the region and in her country was the escalating rate of HIV infection and resulting deaths from AIDS. Among the issues which had implications for increasing risk for women to HIV infection were gender inequality, the subordinate position of women in power hierarchies and limited access to financial resources.
She added that the election of Portia Simpson-Miller to be the first female President of the People's National Party, which currently formed the Government, and her appointment as the first woman Prime Minister, on the retirement of Prime Minister Patterson in the next few weeks, was a major victory for Jamaican women.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said his country had undertaken pro-poor, gender-responsive policies. The national budget was "gender-sensitive", with the largest percentage allocated to education, particularly to expand women's education. Bangladesh had already achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of gender parity at the primary and secondary educational levels. Significant progress had been made in maternal health and childcare, including the reduction of maternal mortality by ensuring service delivery. Stringent legislation had been enacted to protect women and children, particularly girls, from all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence and discrimination. Elimination of trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, had been accorded priority. Innovative ideas like microcredit and non-formal education had been coupled with active governmental support to empower women in Bangladesh. Around 15 million women were now self-reliant through the successful use of microcredit. Economic empowerment had also led women in his country to political empowerment, with over 13,000 elected women representatives in local government. Bangladesh was a unique example where both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition had been women for more than 15 years.
MARY ANN DANTUONO, observer of the Holy See, said that attempts to replace present inequalities must be done in a timely and bold manner, as well as with great care. All those who wanted to favour the progress of women must pursue it by the moral strength of their arguments. They would never do so if they insisted on linking women's freedom, dignity and equality to unsound policies that had handicapped women's true progress in recent times. Challenges to the development of women and girls remained, particularly in countries afflicted by armed conflict, poverty or both. There was little doubt that by 2050 the world would witness the greying of the global population hitherto unknown in recorded human history. Women still commonly lived longer than men, but elderly women were sometimes shamefully overlooked by policymakers and agencies that were created to look after women's concerns. It was necessary to reconsider policies directed at elderly women. Also, the culture which encouraged the systematic exploitation of women and girls was unhealthy for society and must be addressed by more than fine words.
PATRICK RITTER (Liechtenstein) said the promotion of equality and women's rights had been one of his country's priorities in its work in the United Nations. Women in Liechtenstein currently accounted for 30 per cent of elected representatives in local authorities, compared to 24 per cent in the Parliament and 20 per cent in Government. That trend reflected the country's bottom-up approach in the last two decades to strengthen women's base in political life, including through the establishment of a pool listing of women interested in serving on a government advisory committee; the financing of training courses in media work, presentation techniques and public speaking skills; and the development of a checklist for political parties to facilitate the recruitment, development and promotion of female candidates. Women's participation in decision-making processes at the local level provided an excellent opportunity for political parties to promote future candidates in national elections. Publicity of female politicians and decision-makers could also encourage women to run for political functions. The United Nations could play amore important role, by appointing women as special representatives and envoys of the Secretary-General. Measures to increase the number of women in decision-making processes could only be sustainable if they were accompanied by an enabling and supportive environment.
ADELINE MAGLOIRE CHANCY, Minister for the Condition of Women and Women's Rights of Haiti, said that after two years of political transition to democracy, women in her country had made relevant achievements. The work of her Ministry had led to the establishment of a new technical directorate responsible for gender analysis, as well as the establishment of decentralized structures. In addition, the country's penal code had been amended leading to the identification of rape as a crime against the individual, subject to penalties such as life in prison. Also, adultery had been decriminalized, and the murder of a woman by her husband was no longer excusable. Other proposed texts related to common law marriage, paternity, sexual aggression and labour conditions for household employees. Action had also been taken at the national level to combat violence, including in the areas of data collection and support to victims. A national plan to combat specific forms of violence against women had also been elaborated. She added that the ongoing presidential and parliamentary elections had been an opportunity to enhance the participation of women in political life.
FARKHONDA HASSAN, Secretary-General of the National Council for Women of Egypt said remarkable improvement had been made in the status of Egyptian women, including increased access to education and employment. There had been a significant increase in the number of women occupying high managerial and decision-making positions, including judges, university presidents, deputy ministers and chairs of city councils. The post of governor, however, was still closed to women. Egypt's achievements concerning gender equality were a result of the country's strong political will as demonstrated by the President's establishment of the National Council for Women in 2000. Methodologies for gender auditing of national budgets had been introduced and mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the mainstreaming process had been laid down for the first time in Egypt. The National Council for Women had used unconventional, gender-sensitive indicators to monitor the implementation. Despite significant progress, gender inequality persisted in the areas of education, health and politics. Socially and culturally inherited constraints hindered women's full participation in public electoral bodies. While Egyptian women had full access to voter registration and the ratio of women voters was approaching 40 per cent of the total registered voters, the number of women in Parliament remained very low. Globalization and the shift to new market economies and accompanying economic reforms, including the shrinking of the public sector, posed formidable challenges. Those and other challenges needed to be forcefully addressed.
ROCIO ROSERO, President of the National Council of Women of Ecuador, said that the National Council had focused on consolidating strategies for incorporating the gender perspective and achieving gender equality. The institutional nature of the Council had been strengthened to achieve efficient management. Among several initiatives, she mentioned the equal opportunities plan, which was a strategy to help reduce poverty and fulfil the Millennium Development Goals. The Council had also given priority to a strategy to guarantee the rights of women in the judicial sphere. She drew attention to a bill on the equality of women and the promotion of their rights, as well as the national plan for the elimination of sexual crimes in the area of education and laws on violence against women. The country's penal code had been amended to incorporate new crimes, such as sexual exploitation, pornography and child pornography. In the area of education, the Council was supporting a strategy for gender inclusion in teaching, and for promoting women's literacy. Also, important efforts were being undertaken for employment and access to resources, including by providing information on issues of gender, employment and microcredit.
Ms. NITRAMPEBA, of the Ministry for National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender of Burundi, noted that the country was still emerging from crisis. The fact that an armed movement had still not signed the peace accord had affected women and children especially. Violence today was an obstacle to the women's attainment of fundamental freedoms, gender equality, peace and development. Today, the political will to fight violence was manifest. Women had mobilized themselves to fight the scourge of violence. In the post-conflict period, the Government was working to raise awareness of the issue among all actors. The fight against violence went beyond national borders, and concerted action by the Great Lakes region was needed. Women also played a role in the fight against poverty. In the agricultural sector, rural women played a pivotal role as they comprised more than 55 per cent of that sector. Burundi sought to increase its productive potential and provide income-generating jobs, including by providing women with credit. Studies were under way to determine how the burden of women could be alleviated by the introduction of modern agricultural technology. While disparity in gender-based education persisted, progress had been made regarding the integration of women in decision-making processes. A woman was currently vice-president, and the business of the National Assembly was conducted by a woman. In addition, women comprised 50 per cent of the two Chambers of the Senate, and four out of 17 governors were women.
MICHAL MODAI, Chairperson of the Council of Women's Organizations in Israel, said that the advancement of women in the fields of education, health, culture and employment had been a top priority in her country. Among other achievements, five out of 11 justices in the Supreme Court were women, and in a few months, Justice Dorit Beinish would be appointed as the first woman President of the Court. A balanced participation of men and women in the management of public affairs was central to any democracy. Women's organizations in Israel were investing much effort in empowering women and advancing them in various fields, especially in decision-making bodies. Recently, the Israeli Women's Equal Rights Law was amended, in the spirit of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, mandating that the Israeli Government include women in any group appointed to peacebuilding negotiations or international conflict resolution. Laws alone could not ensure gender equality; education was the main way to achieve that target. Thus, women's organizations had established schools for advancing women in political roles, giving them self-confidence and empowering them, and thus enabling them to qualify for positions within different parties.
CAROLYN RISK (New Zealand) said the Commission's processes should encourage interactive dialogue, allow free flow of information between States and avoid duplicative debate. New Zealand was a long-standing supporter of the system of human rights special procedures, as they were an essential tool for monitoring implementation of priority human rights issues. Those with a mandate on gender issues should brief the Commission each year. The themes for the session were important issues for women. Empowering women to make their full contribution to the community was essential to the success of that community. New Zealand's Government had a goal of achieving 50 per cent representation of women on State sector boards by 2010, and had achieved 41 per cent representation. New Zealand had significant domestic challenges. In particular, the Government had identified as a priority issue the incidence and impact of family violence on women and children. Her country was also committed to meeting the challenge of supporting the diversity of women and their families, and the diversity of families in which they lived. Last year, legislation had been passed to provide equal protection under the law to women in diverse family relationships. Internationally, an important challenge was to ensure policy coherence across the range of international forums that addressed the issues central to the well-being of women.
COLLIN BECK (Solomon Islands) said that as a country emerging from a conflict situation, the Solomon Islands firmly believed that improving the welfare of women was an indispensable requirement for sustainable security and development. While international and regional efforts had focused on social issues affecting women, little or not enough attention had been paid to economically empowering women. Today, 80 per cent of the women of the Solomon Islands were located in rural areas and contributed only 5 per cent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Their participation in the economy was largely in the agricultural sector. A process was needed to ensure that agricultural products were exported in a way that added value to the raw products that were exported, and which allowed women to be an active participant in the economy. Also, a fair and just trading system would assist States, especially those from the Pacific which had narrow-based agricultural economies. He appealed for assistance to allow the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which had set up an office in the Solomon Islands in 2005, to remain in the country.
KHUNYING LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand) noted that no national development would be sustainable if it neglected the rights and demands of women. Women had been the last to benefit from economic boom and the first to suffer from economic meltdown. The world had also witnessed the increasing feminization of poverty and HIV/AIDS in many countries. Equal access to education not only provided women with life opportunities, but was also a critical life-saving investment. Educated women were capable of making informed choices that would enable them to climb the social ladder and benefit from globalization. While it was important to empower women through equal access to education, it was no less vital for Governments to create an enabling environment for gender equality and advancement of women. Legal frameworks should be amended, if needed, to break legal barriers for women's advancement and create institutional structures to facilitate greater awareness of gender perspectives. In Thailand, a target had been set to double the proportion of women in national parliament, local administrative bodies and executive positions in the civil service by 2006. It was not enough to have the right laws, institutions and policies. With the right attitude, significant strides would be made in addressing the problem of domestic violence and breaking down the "glass ceiling" that had impeded women's progress in professional life.
VANU GOPALA MENON (Singapore) said his country was committed to providing all Singaporeans with equal access to quality education, which was fundamental to allowing all its citizens, regardless of their gender, to shape their futures and prosper. The literacy rate for resident females in Singapore aged 15 years and over had improved from 88 per cent in 1999 to 92 per cent in 2004, and the level of females at tertiary institutions had also increased. The gender wage gap had narrowed from 16 per cent in 1992 to 7 per cent in 2004 for professionals. In the area of health, the country had seen an increase in life expectancy for women and a decrease in maternal mortality. In the workplace, men and women had the right to equal remuneration and equal treatment for work of equal value. Female participation in the labour force had increased from 51 per cent in 1992 to 54 per cent in 2004. To further encourage female labour participation, the Government continued to promote the development of affordable and quality childcare centres.
SERGEI RACHKOV (Belarus) said gender equality and the advancement of women's status and their role in society were priorities in Belarus' social and economic policy. The Government had carried out measures to promote gender equality through a number of national strategies and programmes, including the National Strategy on Sustainable Social and Economic Development to the year 2020. The Government had also elaborated a National Action Plan on Gender Equality for 2006-2010, which included actions to ensure women's equal legal status. In a transition period, Belarus had consolidated an essential basis for implementing efficient gender policy and had made substantial headway on enhancing women's rights and participation in politics, education and health. Women comprised more than 30 per cent of the National Assembly, 50 per cent of judges and over 60 per cent of advocates. Women dominated in the system of education. Some 60 per cent of all employed with higher education were women. On violence against women, he said Belarus was taking targeted measures to fight human trafficking and had amended relevant legislation to prevent women from being deceived when seeking employment abroad.
MIRJANA MLADINEO (Croatia) said improved access to education and health services was a crucial precondition for the establishment of full participation of women in development, as well as equal access to employment opportunities. Accordingly, policies and programmes aimed at enhancing the position of women had to be based on gender analysis and take into account the existing gender inequalities. She stressed that measures dealing with underrepresentation of women should include the introduction of temporary special measures, in accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Croatia's new Law on Gender Equality prescribed the introduction of temporary special measures, the implementation of which was aimed at the promotion of equal participation of women and men in the bodies of legislative, executive and judicial power. The provisions of the Law on Political Parties envisaged temporary special measures by which political parties were allocated 10 per cent more funds for each representative of the underrepresented gender. Since 1990, the number of women in the Croatian Parliament had increased from 5 per cent to 21 per cent, and the Government was striving towards the target of 30 per cent.
MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN CUELLAR (Colombia) said her country was launching a comprehensive strategy to promote the advancement of women and gender equality. To promote the strategy, an Equal Opportunity Plan had been established to achieve true equality between men and women. In October 2005, an agreement had been reached between 16 political parties and movements for the inclusion of women in politics. Kidnapping was a violation that destroyed the individual, her home and community. States must politically condemn the practice and capture any member of a group that practised kidnapping. Colombia had the highest rate of kidnapping in the world, carried out by illegal armed groups supported by traffic in illicit drugs. That traffic allowed criminal organizations to amass considerable financial resources for the purchase of illegal weapons. Kidnapping used for extortive purposes helped finance criminal enterprises. It was a vicious circle that could only be broken through the cooperation and commitment of all. In Colombia, 80 per cent of kidnapping victims were men and 20 per cent were women. The impact on the family was immense and long-standing. Political kidnappings were starting to affect women. She hoped that international solidarity would help strengthen States in the fight against organizations that committed the crime.
ISIKIA R. SAVUA (Fiji) said the Women's Plan of Action of Fiji aimed to enhance sectoral commitment to gender mainstreaming, strengthen an enabling environment, engender macroeconomic policies and national budgetary policies, and strengthen institutional capacity, including monitoring progress. Reporting and national monitoring were essential in understanding the state of play at every phase of action. He said that the changing face of United Nations peacekeeping operations and the emphasis of Headquarters for more gender-sensitive training and gender balance for participating contingents had caused the Fiji Police and the military to include more women in their ranks. The cost of that endeavour was not cheap as infrastructure and logistical support had to be duplicated. Despite that initial setback, both institutions had included gender-sensitive training in their syllabus and were looking into improving gender recruiting and basic training to cater for the special needs of men and women.
PETER MAURER (Switzerland) said an evaluation of Switzerland's federal law on equality in the workplace showed that the law had borne fruit, but had failed to fulfil all expected results. To improve the relevant legislation's effectiveness, the Swiss Government had proposed measures to the Parliament, such as increasing the awareness and training of judicial actors. In recent years, Switzerland had noticed wider participation and representation of women both in the political and public spheres. Greater participation, however, did not automatically mean an actual improvement in the situation of women. In that context, he highlighted the crucial importance of data based on sex-disaggregated statistics, gender analysis and methods. Without such data it was impossible to determine what actions were necessary for women's participation and representation to contribute concretely to the equality between men and women. While migration offered the opportunity for productive work, migrant women and girls were particularly exposed to violence and abuse and, therefore, required special protection.
GUSTAVO AINCHIL (Argentina) said the use of quotas in the list of candidates to elected positions had led to a considerable advance in women's representation. Currently, there was 42 per cent female participation in the Senate and 33 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies. In the executive branch, both the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Economy and Production were led by women, and two of the seven Supreme Court Justices were women. In addition, the law stipulated that women must hold 30 per cent of union leadership positions. He stressed the activities of the National Council on Women, as well as those of the Tripartite Commission for Equal Opportunities and Treatment for Men and Women in the Labour World. Furthermore, the Commission on Gender Equality had been established as a mechanism for cooperation and dialogue with non-governmental organizations and other members of civil society. He also highlighted the new Migration Act of January 2004, which guaranteed respect for human rights of migrants and their families, and established mechanisms to facilitate the full integration of foreigners into society.
NOUNEH ZASTOUKHOVA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said the adoption of the 2004-2010 National Action Plan on Enhancing Women's Status and Empowering Women in Society aimed at improving the situation of Armenian women and increasing their role in society, including by providing equal rights for women in policy decision-making and improving their economic, social, health and educational conditions. Some 60 per cent of the graduates of secondary schools were girls, and the number of literate females between the ages of 15 and 24 almost equalled that of males in the same age group. The percentage of women working in secondary schools was 83.6 per cent, and in higher educational institutions it was some 46.3 per cent. One of the Government's main concerns was women's health. While the maternal mortality rate had dropped between 1990 and 2004, it was still higher than the maximum established by the World Health Organization (WHO) for Eastern Europe. Insufficient public spending for health care, inadequate access of the poor to health care, access to information and awareness issues were among major challenges. Women's equal participation in economic and political life was one of the Government's major targets. Though equal participation of women in political life was guaranteed by law, their level of participation remained low.
ABDULAZIZ AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that as part of its efforts to create an enabling environment for gender equality, his Government had enacted a number of laws that ensured equality in all fields, including work, social security, education and health, among others. Important measures were taken in the last two years to ensure equality and empowerment of women in decision-making, including accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the appointment of the first two female ministers, responsible for the Ministry of Economy and Planning and the Ministry of Social Affairs. Among the country's achievements, he noted that girls' enrolment in primary education had reached 83 per cent; infant mortality had dropped by 86 per cent; and the participation of women in the work force had increased to 66 per cent in all areas of the public sector. He called for the strengthening of development assistance to developing countries to help them create an enabling environment for the advancement of their societies, in general, and of women, in particular.
MANUEL RODRIGUEZ CUADROS (Peru), Chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, said the issue of the promotion of women had a human rights element. If international and national actions to create gender equality were to be effective, it was essential to approach the problem from a human rights perspective. The decisions taken at the current session would determine the future of international efforts to achieve gender equality. Looking at the current situation, one could see both progress and challenges. Progress had been made in terms of international and national norms and obligations. Progress had also been made in terms of social consciousness regarding gender equality, particularly among civil society. Many Governments had introduced a gender approach in national plans. Yet, the Beijing goals were far from being attained. Massive violation of women's rights, their condition in armed conflict, discrimination and government practices reflected the presence of a huge gap between norms and the actual situation.
According to the WHO, maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa was a thousand times more than in developed society, he said. The life expectancy in Norway was 81, while in the Niger it was 44. And while New Zealand had a 100 per cent literacy rate, in Burkina Faso it was scarcely above 8 per cent. National responsibility must be strengthened in order to generate a better environment for gender equality. Decent work was essential. At the international level, inter-agency approaches must be strengthened.
ANAMAH TAN, of the International Council of Women, said that 118 years after the founding of the International Council, and after the ratification of the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention by 180 countries, women and girls worldwide were still fighting for their human right to participate equally in decision-making at all levels. The main stumbling block continued to be discriminatory cultural norms. Even in industrialized countries, there were too few women representatives in political decision-making. The predominant reason was the same worldwide: the support for women from men, and more importantly, from other women, was tainted by a patriarchal perspective of what women could do and how they should operate. Poverty and lack of education impeded women's participation in decision-making. In the end, the work of non-governmental organizations must be complemented with nothing less than strong political commitment from Governments to make equal participation in decision-making at all levels a top priority; it could not be a mere matter of political correctness.
BERNICE DUBOIS, of the French Coordination for the European Women's French Lobby, said everybody was aware of the obstacles preventing women's equal participation. The "old boys" network co-opted people who resembled themselves. Political parties, controlled by men, did not want to relinquish their power. Even outstanding women candidates were sometimes discouraged by such conditions. The paradox was that women were the majority of the world's population. While survival in business depended on the ability to adapt, in the political sphere, old habits had often proven harder to change. For better or worse, the world had become increasingly complex. That was where involving women became crucial. Most women spent a fair amount of time managing conflicts among family members. They were also good negotiators in a professional sense. Survival could only occur through the complementary skills and differences of both sexes. If men and women worked together, there would be a real opportunity for change.
High-level Panel on Migration
CARMEN MARIA GALLARDO (El Salvador), Commission Chairperson, welcomed delegates to the panel on the gender dimensions of international migration. The Secretary-General, she said, had highlighted the importance of focusing more comprehensively on migration, to better understand the causes of international flows of people and their complex interrelationship with development. She referred to the convening by the General Assembly of a high-level dialogue on international migration and development from 14 to 15 September. The Commission had a unique opportunity to examine the multidimensional aspects of international migration from a gender perspective and provide inputs to inform September's high-level dialogue.
She said a gender perspective was essential for understanding both the causes and the consequences of international migration. The 2004 World Survey highlighted that the migration of women had always been an important component of international migration. As of 2000, 49 per cent of all international migrants were women or girls, and the proportion of women among international migrants had reached 51 per cent in more developed regions. Women often migrated officially as dependent family members of other migrants or to marry someone in another country. Female migrants were, however, increasingly part of worker flows, moving on their own to become the principal wage earners for their families. Most women move voluntarily, but women and girls were also forced migrants who had fled conflict, persecution, environmental degradation, natural disasters and other situations that affected their habitat, livelihood and security.
MONICA BOYD, University of Toronto, Canada, said migration was increasing as countries became increasingly interconnected. Women were an integral part of migration and were active participants in migration within and between countries. Indeed, half of all migrants were females. However, active participation and statistical equality did not mean that the conditions eliciting migration were the same for women and men. Migration was, in fact, highly gendered. Encapsulated in expectations of behaviour was the idea that women were more likely to migrate in certain situations. To say that migration was gendered implied the existence of gender inequalities at exit, entry and in experiences. Gender inequalities that disadvantaged women more than men and opportunities that offered empowerment could be powerful motives for migration. Gender permeated every aspect of migration, including the decision to migrate, the process of migration and the consequences of migration.
Gender occurred at every level of society, she said. In many instances, women were more likely to be victimized if they became refugees. They also tended not to have the resources, human capital or education that allowed them to resettle elsewhere. Migrants were sometimes viewed as valuable exports. Migrants from Bangladesh were largely men, responding to labour recruitment drives in the Middle East. On the other hand, in the Philippine context, female migration was seen as normal. In some cases, migration was a form of empowerment for women, in that they left abusive situations. Others migrated as dependants of the male head of household. Gender inequality provided a powerful context in sending societies. While it was difficult to develop a clear typology on migration, overall, women constituted 50 per cent of the migrant population.
Regarding the future for exiting countries and the future of migration, she said development was a key ingredient in what would happen to migration flows for women. In the long term, poverty would be one of the levers influencing the propensity of women to migrate. In the short term, migration levels would increase before they decreased as conditions in exiting countries improved. In societies were women had low status, women would become empowered to migrate on their own. Many women would find that their situations in receiving countries depended on the levels of gender equality there.
MILAGROS B. ASIS, Director of Research and Publications at the Scalabrini Migration Center in Manila, said that labour migration had been under way in Asia for more than three decades. The participation of women was a key feature of that phenomenon. Recent estimates suggested that there were some 6.3 million to 7 million migrants working and residing in east and south-east Asia, with women comprising some 2.5 million of them. Most female migration was associated with the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The participation of men and women in labour migration stemmed from different demands, she noted. Male migration was basically a response to the shortage of workers in sectors that had been deemed undesirable by the local population, such as agriculture and construction. On the other hand, female migration was specific to the transfer of "care work" by more affluent women to migrant women. While care work was a major source of labour for female migrants, it involved very unprotected sectors.
When looking at female migration, quite a lot was known about domestic workers, brides in international marriage, and trafficking in women and girls, she continued. It was necessary to expand the study of female migrant workers to other sectors, and adopt sectoral analysis. For example, there were a lot of women recruited in the garment sector, and it would be important to identify gender-based differences within that sector. Also, it was necessary to learn more about women moving in highly skilled migration, including the migration of health professionals, as well as those involved in the information technology sector.
The protection of women migrants was necessary, she stated, not only for those in trafficking situations, but also for those involved in legal migration, which also posed concerns for women. More needed to be done to advance advocacy for protection of women migrants. There were interesting partnerships in Asia, such as the involvement of labour unions in taking up migrants' issues. Advocacy was also needed to acknowledge and highlight the contributions of women migrants in receiving countries. In addition, she cited the need for development cooperation between countries of origin and countries of destination.
IRENA OMELANIUK, of the World Bank, said trafficking was a forced labour and development issue. Women were most affected by trafficking. It cut across a number of Millennium Development Goals, most notably the goals on poverty and gender equality. While it was not always the poorest that were trafficked, the majority did come from low income, socially deprived circumstances. She focused on south-eastern Europe, where the transition to market economies had not been accompanied by comprehensive social security policies, leaving many women and ethnic minority groups to become the "new poor", and highly vulnerable to trafficking. Trafficking in persons was redirecting the benefit from the migrants into the pockets of traffickers. The global profit from trafficking was estimated at between $7 billion to $10 billion a year, although in the end it was hard to say exactly what the figure was, as it was a phenomenon that occurred under the radar.
She said trafficking could deplete a developing country of its human capital and reduce returns to foregone remittances. Trafficking affected the well-being of the children and elderly left behind. The forced absence of women led to the breakdown of families. Trafficking also posed a health threat. None of those impacts, however, had been measured.
Household surveys showed that gender, age and ethnicity were major factors in trafficking, she said. More than 98 per cent of trafficked persons in south-eastern Europe were women and girl children. Some 72 per cent were 25 years or younger. In the Balkans, the increase in female trafficking had led to increased domestic violence and discriminatory hiring practices. A key indicator was lack of access to employment. A new development was increasing numbers of male victims, most of whom were trafficked for non-sexual purposes. The United States State Department reported a disproportionate number from Bulgaria's Roma community. A report of the European Union found evidence of increased trafficking to Belgium, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands. While there was insufficient information on the cause and impact of poverty on trafficking, trafficked women tended to end up in unregulated labour sectors. Much was being done to address the situation by the Government in south-eastern Europe.
Concluding, she stressed the need for the agencies that collected data to evaluate those efforts. Multilateral development institutions should design theoretical models to assess trafficking flows -- in other words, early warning systems. Also, the role of gender in shaping trafficking should be studied. The role of private recruiters should also be studied.
MANUEL OROZCO, Senior Associate at the Inter-American Dialogue, said that two of the most important reasons for migration were family reunification and economics. Remittances, which in large part were a rationale for migration, both informed, and were informed by, gender. Regarding the senders of money, the key issue was that men sent more remittances to their families than women, mainly due to the fact that men earned more money than women. In addition, the beneficiary of the remittances also varied. Men sent predominantly to their spouses and parents, while women sent predominantly to their children and parents. One explanation for that was that most migrant women were single or single mothers.
On the recipient side, he noted that women tended to be the main receivers of remittances and they received more money than men. However, women were also less likely to have a paid job or to earn more money. Some 26 per cent of female recipients of remittances were homemakers. A significant number of remittance receivers took care of their children, and there existed opportunities to leverage remittances to improve education and health. In addition, senders and recipients had major constraints in accessing financial institutions. Remittances were a vehicle that banks and other financial institutions could use to reach out to them, so they could take advantage of financial services in order to improve their quality of life.
NDIORO NDIAYE, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the IOM had co-organized a conference to reflect on the relation between migration, gender and the Millennium Development Goals in September last year. One of its recommendations was that donor and recipient countries needed to facilitate the creation of channels for women leaders in diasporas and to actively support migrant workers in diaspora communities to engage in development efforts through their skills, knowledge and experience. In spite of enhanced attention to the relevance of diasporas' participation in development, a systemic mechanism to engage and support diaspora associations in their potential roles did not yet exist. The Peacebuilding Commission should seriously consider that issue.
Women from the diaspora were important agents of change, helping to devise strategies for the transition between the norms and values of their societies of origin and those of the society of destination, she said. Women migrants played an important role in promoting universal values and human rights. Empowered female role models encouraged subsequent generations in key areas of development, such as health and education. Another recommendation was for Governments to foster sensitivity towards the cultures of migrants, while ensuring that all cultural and customary practices that negatively affected the rights of women were eliminated, including through specific legislation. Sensitivity towards the culture of migrants needed to be taken into account when working on integration strategies. It was important for Governments to consider how immigration should be regulated, not only to protect the national labour market and the social welfare system, but also to foster sensitivity towards the cultures of migrants.
She added that Governments also needed to adopt a rights-based approach to the management of migration, promoting policies and programmes responsive to the needs of female migrants. Governments had the tools, but were often lacking the political will to ensure that migration, and in particular labour migration, was governed by human rights, rather than only economic factors. Governments were also being asked to develop practical means to implement inter-ministerial cooperation on migration, gender and development within their own ranks. The lack of coherence in migration policies was one of the great challenges facing the international community.
CARMEN MORENO, Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said that a case study conducted by INSTRAW in the Dominican Republic on gender and remittances showed, among other things, that women were migrating as economic providers; remittances received by women were used mainly for household improvement, education and health; and women gained autonomy and increased their negotiating power within the household as a result of both sending and receiving remittances. The case study was the first in a series of studies aiming to develop a better understanding of the feminization of migratory flows and a more comprehensive analysis of the possibilities that remittances raised for development. Using the same methodology, INSTRAW was currently carrying out similar case studies in Colombia, and would begin case study work in the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador and southern Africa.
The Institute, she said, had formed alliances with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Inter-American Development Bank, and other partners to further the inclusion of a gender perspective in policies, programmes and other initiatives that addressed migration and remittances. As the feminization of migration would continue, research and analysis were fundamental to contribute to the formulation of policies that improved the quality of migrant women's lives in both their countries of origin and destination.
When the floor opened for discussion, India's representative asked the panel to address the issue of male migration, which was a major factor that often resulted in divorce, HIV/AIDS and the need for the women left behind to undertake heavy labour. Was the panel suggesting benefits or relief for the women left behind? she asked.
Indonesia's representative noted that some 77 per cent of Indonesian migrant workers were women working in the informal sector abroad. Given the lack of social and legal protection, Indonesia was adopting legislative measures to protect those workers. Other measures included the establishment of a single national identity system. Indonesia was doing her homework. Destination countries must contribute to the effort. Destination and origin countries should contribute to enabling an international environment that guaranteed the protection of the rights of migrants.
Several speakers, including Canada and Belgium, addressed the need to create proper legal frameworks that better met the needs of both States and migrants. What were the respective roles of international organizations, States and civil society in providing greater support to migrants in destination countries? As an origin, destination and transit country, the issue of migration was complex, said Mexico's representative. She made several recommendations, including the ratification of international legal instruments and the harmonization of national legislation. Policies were needed to protect the human rights of migrant workers.
In a related issue, speakers questioned how to protect migrants' rights. Bangladesh's delegate noted that women in that country had recently started migrating. The number was very few in comparison to men, however. The contribution of migrant workers was enormous, both for sending and receiving countries. Their problems were also enormous. Many were mistreated, sexually abused and beaten. Many returned home empty-handed and with broken hearts. How was it possible to ensure that the rights of migrant women were preserved? Angola's delegate asked if refugee women faced discrimination because of their refugee status.
Numerous speakers raised the issue of "brain drain" and asked how that issue could be handled. Zambia's representative said that migration was a relatively new phenomenon for that country, which had experienced a huge migration of professionals to developed economies in Europe and the southern Africa region. Botswana, that country's representative said, also received labourers and faced the depletion of its professional workers to industrialized countries.
Austria's representative, on behalf of the European Union, recognized the importance of a balanced and comprehensive approach to migration. She also recognized the need to protect the human rights of migrants. The focus of the gender dimension offered an opportunity to address the topic in a more comprehensive manner. Regarding brain drain, the Union would focus on strengthening the health sectors in developing countries. Women faced different forms of violence in both destination and origin companies. In that regard, she asked the panel to elaborate on the political, economic and social forms of violence that motivated women to migrate.
Spain's representative noted that that country had stopped being a sending country, but had become a recipient country. Many women migrated against their will to flee situations of violence. She agreed that most of the people who migrated were the best brains. How could States fight trafficking for sexual exploitation, which was a new form of slavery in the twenty-first century? she asked.
A representative of Human Rights Advocates noted that trafficking was fuelled by globalization and governed by flow and demand processes. Private military companies were also fuelling the demand for trafficking. Under current practice, United Nations peacekeepers were repatriated in cases of sexual exploitation, and prosecution was left to their country of origin. The United Nations must have the ability to prosecute. Were steps being taken in that regard?
Responding to the comments, Mr. OROZCO said that both sending and receiving countries shared responsibility regarding the welfare of migrants. The critical issue missing from the discourse, however, was the problem of a lack of approach on the responsibility of the sending countries. States must validate the existence of migration, as they were largely or partly responsible for the phenomenon. The State also had to create conditions to establish dialogue to strengthen the relation between its migrant population and the origin country.
Regarding the people left behind, he said that was difficult to answer. It was necessary to look at the structural conditions that led people to leave their families. The issue needed to be studied from the broader aspect of underdevelopment.
Ms. BOYD agreed that the women left behind did face major responsibilities. Women operated in the context of family relationships and gender norms. The answer must be specific to each country and culture. Ultimately, it was a development and gender equality issue. The issue of violence needed to be fully developed.
Ms. ASIS also said it was important to consider the families left behind. Labour migration was supposed to be temporary. When men left, the family tended to fare better than when women left the home. On the migration of the highly skilled workers, from the perspective of a sending country it was a difficult situation, as highly skilled migration highlighted the tension between individual and national interests. She was thinking along the lines of encouraging sensitivity on both sides in approaching the migration issue.
Ms. OMELANIUK recommended looking at best practices. The structural conditions that caused people to migrate in the first place were increasingly being looked at not just by migration specialists, but by development agencies. It was important to look at countries like the Philippines that had well managed migration programmes. On an early warning system, she noted that the United States had looked into that matter.
Also addressing the families left behind, Ms. NDIAYE noted that how they fared depended on national policies. Perhaps the Assembly's high-level dialogue would be able to integrate that new paradigm into the debate. Regarding refugee women, being a refugee was already a precarious situation. In that regard, the IOM had adopted specific programmes for refugee women.
Among those who took the floor during the second round of questions and comments was the representative of the Netherlands, who drew attention to the social challenges related to migration in receiving countries. His country favoured a debate on the issue of international migration in which the economic and social issues were considered together. The growing number of migrants had created social challenge for Dutch society. About 10 per cent of the country's population was comprised of non-Western migrants. Migrant women could play a key role in addressing social challenges. By investing in mothers, it would be possible to prevent segregation and create the conditions for the successful integration of future generations.
Due to the high level of poverty and the lack of employment and resources, said Kenya's representative, women and girls crossed borders in search of opportunities. In her country, women and girls who responded to lucrative job advertisements found themselves trapped in modern-day slavery. Children, especially girls, were traded as commodities across borders, often under the pretence of adoption. It was necessary for Governments to implement strong legal policies to address such problems, as well as cooperate in cross-border monitoring and prosecution. She asked how countries could develop early warning systems to address trafficking.
The Government of South Africa was planning to pass a sexual offences bill, which it hoped would help prosecute those who trafficked women for sexual exploitation, its representative informed the Commission. She also cited the need to examine how fraudulent marriages impacted women and violated their human rights, as well as how to restrict the use of marriages to gain residency rights.
A representative of global trade unions said that unions had a key role to play in the field of international migration. While migration increasingly had a female face, women ended up at the low end of the labour market and were exploited. She recommended that gender-sensitive rights-based approaches taken by countries include protection for migrant workers, including the application of the International Labour Organization's standards in that regard. Governments should also support the World Health Organization's proposal to adopt a code of practice on the international recruitment of international health professionals.
On the brain drain, Ms. NDIAYE noted that each year Africa lost 20,000 qualified professionals, who went abroad to earn a higher income. Regarding the violation of the rights of migrant women by other women, she highlighted a new service by the IOM on international migration law, which was studying such cases and dealing with them.
Ms. OMELANIUK said that the information collected by the IOM showed evidence of an increasing number of females exercising violence against other females. With regard to trafficking, she admitted it was difficult to "kill" black markets. In countries in Europe where prostitution had been legalized in order to undercut the profitability of trafficking, data showed that such measures were not necessarily successful.
On fraudulent marriages, Ms. ASIS said it should be recognized that the phenomenon involved middle men or brokers who were involved for the money. The Philippines had begun to require women marrying foreign nationals to have orientation and counselling. She stressed that it was important to continue discussing the challenges associated with international migration, as well as to include other actors in the dialogue such as migrants' associations and migrant non-governmental organizations.
Ms. BOYD said that, increasingly, recipient countries had started to look at gender guidelines for refugees. They also needed to look at their entry policies, at how women were admitted to countries; think seriously about use and abuse of high-skilled workers; and examine labour laws, which often did not include migrants.
Mr. OROZCO stressed that women, foreigners, children and the elderly were some of the most vulnerable groups in society, with women migrants being especially vulnerable.
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