Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

27 February 1998

Background Release WOM/1029
27 February 1998


Discussions on the human rights of women, the girl child, women and armed
conflict, and violence against women will be the main focus of the forty-
second session of the Commission on the Status of Women, to be held at
Headquarters from 2 to 13 March.

The Commission, which is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social
Council, is charged with monitoring implementation of the Beijing
Declaration and Platform for Action, which is an agenda for women's

Under its multi-year programme of work until 2000, the Commission focuses
on some of the 12 critical areas of concern to women contained in the
Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on
Women. This year's topics -- human rights of women, the girl child, women
and armed conflict, and violence against women -- will be debated by expert
panels, resulting in action-oriented recommendations for adoption by the

The Secretary-General's analytical report on the thematic issues before
the Commission (document E/CN.6/1998/5) provides recommendations and
conclusions of expert group meetings convened during 1997 by the Division
for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social
Affairs, on three of the critical areas of concern being taken up by the

On "women and armed conflict", the focus was on gender persecution as a
follow-up to an earlier expert group meeting on women in power and
decisionmaking that dealt with women's participation in conflict
resolution. The experts said greater attention should be paid to
understanding the way that characteristics other than gender, including
race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, play in determining the way that
women experience armed conflict. The fact-finding and monitoring capacities
of United Nations human rights mechanisms, and national and international
non-governmental organizations should be strengthened, they said.

Discussions on "human rights of women" focused on their economic and
social rights and the impact of gender on the full realization of those
rights. United Nations Charter-based bodies were urged to pay greater
attention to economic and social rights of women. The experts called for
the early completion of work on the adoption of optional protocols
establishing communications procedures under the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The
Commission was asked to further consider enhancing its communications
procedure, particularly its transparency and to ensure the independence of
the body reviewing communications. The experts urged the appointment of a
thematic special rapporteur in the field of women's economic and social

The expert group meeting on "the girl child" focused on the rights of the
adolescent girls, particularly those in need of special protection. The
experts urged governments to pay special attention to the protection of
girls from sexual exploitation and abuse, harmful traditional practices,
including early marriage, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted

diseases. Governments should also address special needs of girls in the
situation of armed conflict; refugee girls; working girls and girls with
disability. The experts said education, family, culture, the socio-
economic environment, law and legal reform, and the role of the media were
critical for creating an enabling environment for the realizations of the
human rights of adolescent girls and their empowerment.
On the issue of "violence against women", the report states that Member
States might wish to consider developing a common basis for the collection
of data and statistics on the subject, and to recommend that all such cases
be systematically recorded. It calls for emphasis on legislative,
evidentiary and procedural reform, as well as public awareness and advocacy
strategies, to eliminate violence against women.

At the forthcoming session, the Commission is expected to continue to
take measures to fulfil its assigned role as the preparatory body for the
year 2000 high-level General Assembly plenary review and assessment of the
progress achieved in the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking
Strategies for the Advancement of Women and the Beijing Platform for

In a report on the issue (document A/52/789), the Secretary-General
suggests that the review could be carried out at the start of the fifty-
fifth session of the General Assembly -- between 6 and 15 September 2000 --
as part of the regular session or as a special session. Another
possibility would be to have it as part of the Commission's forty-fourth
session before the fiftyfifth session of the Assembly in the year 2000. He
also indicates that a special session of the Assembly in the year 2000
could be held for the review, either from 22 to 26 May or from 5 to 9 June.

The Commission will also conduct a comprehensive review of implementation
of the system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of women during the
period 1996-2001. Structured around the 12 critical areas of concern
in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the plan reflects
relevant mandates from other recent United Nations conferences and summits.
A progress report of the Secretary-General (document E/CN.6/1998/3)
outlines efforts of United Nations system entities in 1996 and 1997 to
carry out the plan.

An oral report will be presented by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-
General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Angela King, on the
progress of work of the Inter-Agency Committee on Women and Gender
Equality, which she
chairs. The Committee is monitoring full integration of gender
perspectives in
the work of all thematic task forces on conference's follow-up established
by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC).

Also to be considered during the session is the joint work plan of the
Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressing matters such as the
cooperation between the two on the work of treaty bodies and the
preparation of the various optional protocols.

Under a sub-item on emerging issues, trends and new approaches affecting
the situation of women or equality between women and men, the Commission
consider the status of older women and make relevant recommendations. A
of the Secretary-General (document E/CN.6/1998/4) on the subject focuses on
support systems for older persons, including financial assistance. It also
highlights their situation and suggests gender-sensitive policies and
programmes to address their problems. The report observes that very little
research has
been done on how changing caregiving patterns affect women and men

The situation of Palestinian women will also be discussed. A report of
the Secretary-General (document E/CN.6/1998/2/Add.2) states that their
condition has not improved in the period under review. Considerable
efforts were being
made by the Palestinian authorities and civil society to improve their
economic and social conditions, including legislative revisions. In the
follow-up to
the Beijing Conference, the international community, including the United
Nations system, has provided assistance at various levels to implement the
recommendations contained in the Platform for Action, the report notes. It
adds that the status and living conditions of Palestinian women are closely
linked with the progress of the peace process.

Other reports before the Commission include one on national action plans
and strategies from 85 Member States for implementing the Beijing Platform
for Action (document E/CN.6/1998/6). A regional breakdown showed that 29
per cent of Member States from Africa submitted a plan, 41 per cent from
Asia and the Pacific, 38 per cent from Eastern Europe, 41 per cent from
Latin America and the Caribbean, and 66 per cent from Western European and
Other States.

A report of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women on its sixteenth and seventeenth sessions
(document A/52/38/Rev.1) and a note by the Secretary-General transmitting
the results of the eighteenth session of the Committee on the Elimination
of Discrimination against Women (E/CN.6/1998/CRP.1) are also before the


The 45 members of the Commission on the Status of Women are elected for
four-year terms on the following basis: 13 from African States; 11 from
Asian States; four from Eastern European States; nine from Latin America
and the Caribbean States; and eight from Western European and Other States.

The 1998 membership of the Commission is as follows: Angola, Belgium,
Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba,
Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India,
Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Morocco,
Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea,
Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sudan,
Swaziland, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States.

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For information media - not an official record