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

2 March 1998

Commission on the Status of Women
Forty-second Session
2nd Meeting (AM)


Human Rights of Women, Women and Armed Conflict Also Discussed

Discrimination against the girl child and violence against women were
urgent priorities that had to be addressed for the attainment of gender
equality, several speakers stressed this afternoon as the Commission on the
Status of Women continued its general debate on the follow-up to the 1995
Fourth World Conference on Women.

The discussion also focused on the two other areas of critical concern
selected for the current session: human rights of women; and women and
armed conflict.

Among those stressing that the issue of the girl child was fundamental
for the achievement of gender equality, the representative of Namibia said
parents and teachers had an equal role to play if the girl child's dignity
and fundamental rights were to be restored. She called upon the Commission
to conclude the current session with a clear and strong decision expressing
the international community's commitment towards eradicating all forms of
discrimination against the girl child.

In their strong condemnation of violence against women as a violation of
women's human rights, speakers stressed the need for national and
international programmes to tackle the problem effectively. The
representative of Liechtenstein said violence was one of the major obstacles

to equality, development and peace. Prevention was a crucial tool to
address the phenomenon, she said, adding that legislative and educational
measures were also important to promote eradication of violence against

The Commission heard several statements addressing national plans and
programmes to address the problem of violence against women. The
representative of Singapore said her Government had taken such action as
adopting legislation that widened the definition of violence against women
and provided for counselling for the abuser; setting up of family courts to
deal specifically with violence against women; promoting conflict
resolution among family members; and providing emotional support and
information to help victims make informed choices through social service

Statements were also made by the representatives of Brazil, Ecuador,
Japan, Spain, South Africa, Bangladesh, Israel, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, China
and Botswana.

Representatives of the following organizations also made statements:
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Research and
Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Economic
Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the
Caribbean (ECLAC), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health

Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Bank and
the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Representatives of the Council of Europe, as well as of the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the All India Women's
Conference, also spoke.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 3 March, to continue
its general discussion on the follow-up to the 1995 Fourth World Conference
on Women.

Commission Work Programme

The Commission on the Status of Women met this afternoon to continue its
discussion of national plans on the implementation of the Beijing Platform
for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women. (For
background on the session, see Press Release WOM/1029 of 27 February.)


NANCY RICHE, of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
(ICFTU), said its organization had been established in 1949 and had 206
affiliates in 141 countries on five continents, with a membership of 125
million, 43 per cent of whom were women. She said the situation of women
had deteriorated. Globalization of markets, structural adjustment
programmes, free trade and investment agreements had turned out to be
devastating for women. The Asian financial crisis would result in the loss
of 13.4 million jobs in Indonesia and 2 million in Thailand, 80 per cent of
the 2 million being women.

She said the economic processing zones, which were attracting large
corporations from the North, were the scene of some of the most brutal
forms of exploitation of female, and male, workers. Those women who had
attempted to unionize had been dismissed, and, in a case in the Dominican
Republic, two women, one of whom was pregnant, had been attacked with clubs
and left to die. Globalization of trade, and competition combined with
deregulation of national financial and labour markets, had reinforced
inequalities for women. Large numbers of women, including an even larger

percentage of part-timers, were going without basic benefits, such as paid
sick leave, health coverage and pension plans.

MARCELA NICODEMOS (Brazil) said her Government, together with the
National Council for Women's Rights, was promoting the necessary changes in
the Constitution to ensure equal rights for women in the civil, political,
economic and social domains. The Government considered combating violence
against women one of its priorities. It had launched a national programme
for preventing and combating domestic and sexual violence with the support
of non-governmental organizations and many other actors in civil society.
As part of the campaign, a draft legislation had been adopted to amend the
Brazilian criminal code, whereby sexual crimes would no longer be
considered crimes against morality. The Brazilian Congress was also

considering draft legislation on domestic violence.

The rights of the girl child were an essential component in ensuring the
promotion and protection of women's human rights, she said. The Brazilian
statute of the child and adolescent had been praised by many international
organizations, including the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as
one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation on the rights of
children. In the critical area of women in armed conflict, Brazil believed

that women should not only be protected against all kinds of violence,
but also that their role as caretakers, as well as peace promoters and
negotiators, should be recognized and enhanced.

ROSINA WILTSHIRE, Acting Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for
Development Policy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said
gender mainstreaming involved bringing the results of economic and policy
analysis into the core decision-making processes. Emphasis should be
placed on the gender mainstreaming of all human development themes, which
would contribute to a more holistic sustainable human development
framework. Capacities at the country level were being strengthened to
support the Resident Coordinator system for inter-agency collaboration for
follow-up to the Beijing Conference. United Nations Volunteers gender
specialists were being placed in 20 UNDP offices. In addition, the UNDP,
in collaboration with the United Nations Development Fund for Women
(UNIFEM), was supporting the placement of 10 gender advisers in UNDP
offices in selected United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF)
designated countries.

In January, the UNDP had approved a new gender balance policy for 1997-
2001, she said. That policy provided the following: increased female
staffing targets; accountability measures for those targets; a recruitment
policy exclusively targeted to women; stronger commitment to mainstreaming
gender issues in human resource management; balancing work and family life;
and a commitment to a work environment free of sexual harassment.

She went on to say that actions supported by the UNDP at the regional and
country levels strengthened women's legal rights to assets and
opportunities, and linked human rights to women's greater participation in
conflict resolution and peace-building. There had also been an increased
commitment to address violence against women. In addition, the UNDP had
made a commitment, through its Resident Representatives, to support
government reporting in compliance to the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women. The UNDP urged governments to strengthen
gender-balanced representation and gender advocacy in all United Nations

YAKIN ERTURK, Director of the International Research and Training
Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said that while progress
was being achieved in women's rights, changing global patterns were
generating new threats to the rights of women. Emerging areas of
particular concern to INSTRAW included the trend towards defining identity
on the basis of community membership rather than on the basis of the

individual. Another was the lack of sufficient legal infrastructure to
provide social contract at the international level to address the problems
of trafficking of women, seasonal migrations across national boundaries,
displacements caused by environmental disasters, among others.

She said forced marriages, involuntary virginity tests, honour killings
and female genital mutilations were just some examples of severe
transgressions on the human rights of women, which were legitimized on the
grounds of culture. The examination of women's rights as human rights,
particularly by the Commission on the Status of Women, might serve as a
litmus test for the questions that human rights advocates and governments
must face in the twenty-first century.

Turning to the second area of concern to INSTRAW, she said it was urgent
that International Labour Organization's (ILO) labour agreements and other
international instruments were expanded to provide minimum standards for
the rights of women, the girl child and older women. The changing global
conditions carried many contradictions for women. Those changes embodied
equally strong tendencies either towards greater subjugation or greater
emancipation of women. The INSTRAW was committed to conducting policy
research that would contribute to the emancipation of women. It held the
view that transforming unequal gender structures required a focus on men's
role and deconstruction of the existing understanding of masculinity.
Reconstructing gender roles to achieve an ungendered human rights discourse
would undoubtedly be the agenda for the next millennium, she concluded.

ELSIE AGUILAR (Ecuador) said a plan for equal opportunity had been
adopted by her Government to bring about gender equality. As regards four
areas of critical concern being dealt with by the Commission during the
session, she said her Government had still a great deal of work to do.
Ecuador was committed to the eradication of violence against women, and had
put in place measures to deal with the problem and to provide protection
for victims. Slowly, but surely, it was hoped that the goal of 20 per cent
decision-making positions in Government for women would be achieved.

The Government also planned to improve the quality of education of women
and children, including introduction of programmes to improve literacy, she
said. There was a public policy for the improvement of the rights of
women. She hoped the outcome of the Commission's work would contribute to
the attainment of the objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action.

PATRICE ROBINEU, representative of the Economic Commission for Europe
(ECE), said special measures were required to enable women in the States of
the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to have access to the
opportunities in the transition to market economy. Reforms carried out by
the ECE placed emphasis on gender mainstreaming. Focal points on women had
been established. ECE functions included preparing for gender equality in
all its subsidiary bodies. The ECE organized on regular basis meetings
that enabled all its organs to exchange ideas and take joint initiatives.
It also worked with non-governmental organizations.

MARGARET McCAFFERY, of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the
Caribbean (ECLAC), said the Commission's relations with non-governmental
organizations concerned with women's issues had been strengthened. A
meeting organized by those organizations, held at ECLAC, culminated in the
adoption of a political declaration which was presented to a regional
conference following the event. Another key task of the Commission had
been to devise a strategy for incorporating the gender perspective in its
programmes and projects. A pilot project had been designed with support
from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), and its execution
phase should start in the coming months.

A joint project had been initiated with Latin American educational
institutions dealing with social sciences to develop indicators on the
empowerment of women and leadership, she said. The objectives was to
determine the extent of existing indicators on aspects of the role of women

in the region. More than 300 requests had been sent out to various
national, subregional and regional bodies. Replies so far received
attested to a great willingness to collaborate. The Commission hoped the
project would establish a basis for systematic cooperation among entities
that generated information on women in Latin America and the Caribbean.

YORIKO MEGURO (Japan) said her Government had formulated a new national
plan for gender equality by the year 2000. The plan identified four basic
targets, including building a social system that promoted gender equality;
achieving gender equality in the workplace, family and community; creating
a society where the human rights of women were promoted and defended; and
contributing to equality, development and peace in the global community.

To monitor the plan's implementation, she said an annual report was being
compiled by the Prime Minister's Office, the first of which was issued last
year. Japan preferred that the planned high-level plenary review be
convened as a special session in June 2000 or, alternatively, May of the

same year.

JANE ZHANG, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the
Fourth World Conference on Women had placed women and gender issues on the
top of the international agenda. The ILO had since strengthened its
cooperation on issues related to gender equality in the workplace. The
organization had addressed working women's rights -- to raise gender
awareness and mainstream gender concerns in labour and social programmes.
The ILO programme was designed to improve the quality and quantity of
women's employment in the national context. Three national plans had been
prepared. The ILO had also prepared a comprehensive guide for integrating
gender issues in collective bargaining, which would be implemented in all
regions of the world.

Another area of progress included gender planning in the area of labour
administration, she said. A guide had been prepared for labour
administrators. Practical guidelines in operating social funds and safety

net programmes had also been prepared. Workshops and seminars had been
organized in countries such as the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe
in the area of employment and structural adjustment. Seminars had also been
held in countries with economies in transition.

She provided further details of workshops and seminars on a range of
areas such as "breaking through the glass ceiling". The promotion of
social justice was a major mandate and was being addressed with
dissemination of information on issues such as equal pay, equality of
treatment in employment and equal access to vocational training. Some
progress had been made after Beijing, but a great deal still needed to be
done. The ILO would continue to work to make its commitments made in
Beijing a reality.

CONCEPTION DANCA USA (Spain) supported the statement made by the United
Kingdom on behalf of the European Union. At the national level, many
efforts had been made since Beijing to implement the Platform for Action.
The area of primary focus had been violence against women. The Government
had adopted a third plan for gender equality, which focused on violence
against women. With the recognition that violence was an obstacle that

prevented women from enjoying their human rights, the national plan focused
on such issues as the eradication of violence, sexual harassment in the
workplace and trafficking against women. The plan was already being
implemented. However, greater efforts would have to be made by the entire
society to ensure its full implementation in all the regions of the country.
Last November, a conference on violence against women had been held with
the participation of all the State sectors. The result was the
establishment of an interministerial commission to coordinate activities to
address the issue.

The national plan was a platform to design specific strategies to improve
the status of women, she said. The problem of battered women was also
being addressed; centres were being created for them. In addition,
training for officers in the police force and in the civil guard had begun
to make those groups more sensitive to violence against women. Also, more
women would be employed in the police force and as members of the civil
guard. Assistance would also be provided to victims of violence in the
courts. The national plan of action also took account of other issues such
as prevention, sensitization, health and research. The entire nation would
be sensitized to the issue of violence because it was a problem that

affected the whole society.

SOPHIE PIQUET, of the Council of Europe, said that combating violence
against women was "an absolute priority" of the Council. At the follow-up
to the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1996, its 40 member States had
rated violence against women as the most urgent issue in Europe. As such,
the Council had recently prepared a plan of action for combating such
violence, and had begun preparation of a non-binding legal instrument in
that regard.

The European Convention on Human Rights was another relevant instrument
designed to protect women's human rights, she said. In fact, it was
recently invoked during a court case concerning a 17-year old girl
allegedly raped and beaten by Turkish gendarmes. The Council was also
intensively working to tackle the "rapidly expanding phenomenon" of
trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Recent
migratory flows, combined with economic and other factors, had made Europe
one of the most attractive zones for traffickers. That phenomenon,
associated with prostitution, was reaching proportions requiring concerted

international action. The Council had published a plan of action to combat
trafficking in women, and a multisectoral group of specialists on action
against trafficking was preparing a draft recommendation on that subject to
the Council, among other actions in that area.

She said that the Council of Europe had always been a laboratory for
ideas. In recent years, intensive work had been carried out in the area of
gender mainstreaming, and a comprehensive report on the subject would soon

be published. In addition, the Council was actively studying ways to involve
men in equality issues.

IRMA ENGELBRECHT (South Africa) said her country supported international
efforts to promote human rights. It was aware that it had an immense task
to make human rights, especially women's rights, a reality for all South
Africans. The human rights of women were positively structured in the
country's Constitution. The empowerment of women at all levels of society

was a priority of the Government. South African women were eager not to
lose the momentum created by the Fourth World Conference on Women and were
committed to playing a vital role in focusing the attention of the
Government on its undertaking to implement the Beijing Platform for Action.

She said the high incidence of violence against women in South Africa,
especially rape, was still a cause of great concern. The Government was
actively engaged in implementing a combination of coordinated strategies
and programmes to improve the situation. Some of the measures taken had
already been explained to the Commission on Human Rights' Special

Rapporteur on violence against women, who had visited South Africa in 1996.
As an example of the Government's resolve to remedy the situation, it would
be hosting a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Conference on
Violence against Women this month to coincide with the International
Women's Day.

On the question of the girl child, she said Africans had to carefully
consider policies and programmes to ensure the social integration of the
girl child and to assist in developing their potential as an equal member of
society. South Africa strongly condemned acts of violence and other
atrocities against women and children trapped in conflict situations, and,

as a State party to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, encouraged member States to reaffirm their
opposition to the devastation caused by such acts.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the Bangladesh Ministry of
Women and Children Affairs had been designated as the focal Ministry for
the follow-up and implementation of the commitments of the Beijing
Conference. Other important developments included the announcement last
year of a national policy for women's advancement. That policy embraced a
holistic framework for women's equality, strove to eliminate all forms of
discrimination against women and girls, establish their human rights in
society and ensure their empowerment. Also formulated was a national plan
for women's advancement aimed at integrating women's development in national

development efforts in all sectors, and an interministerial coordination
and evaluation committee to monitor the progress of implementation of the
national action plan.

Greater national awareness of women's issues was an encouraging outcome
of the Beijing Conference, which had been translated into Bangla and widely
disseminated, he said. Following up on its commitments made at Beijing,
the Government had withdrawn two of its four reservations to the
Convention, and the remaining reservations were under consideration. Also
being considered was the withdrawal of reservations from the Convention on
the Rights of the Child. At the same time, the Government was contemplating

signing and acceding to a few other international human rights instruments
pertaining to women, including the Convention on the Rights of Women Migrant
Workers and the Convention on the Political Rights of Women.

As part of its multi-pronged approach to implement the Beijing Platform
for Action, the Government had also undertaken steps to address the
critical areas being considered at the current session, he said. To help
combat violence against women, a multi-sectoral project would be launched
to provide women with better access to legal justice and create greater
awareness through public education campaigns. A similar project would be
undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to address the
problem of trafficking in women and children. Other new measures included
the creation of women's investigation cells, supported by female police
officers, to provide safe and confidential protection services to women,
and a decade action plan for the girl child to protect and promote their
rights, education and health.

MASHA LUBELSKY (Israel) said the road to equality was reached through the
field of employment. The more women were integrated in the workplace, the
better their chances would be to achieve economic independence. In Israel,
efforts to encourage the female labour force were accompanied by the
development of legislation relating to the rights of working women. The
Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare was making efforts to enforce that
legislation, and a chain of day-care centres for working families had also

been established.

The dynamic international economy required a change in work patterns, she
said. Flexibility and mobility were important. Such circumstances presented

obstacles for many women who did not have access to new work places and
professions. Women who lived far from the central region of the country
found it difficult to leave their homes for long hours. Therefore, the
Israeli Government was initiating professional training frameworks and was
encouraging women to join the field of small businesses. Governments and
institutions must lead the efforts for the advancement of women and set an
example for the private sector.

Last year, the Prime Minister's Office had taken steps to establish a
government authority for the improvement of the status of women, she said.
That authority would supervise and coordinate all government offices
regarding the advancement of women and equal opportunity, and would be in
contact with all non-governmental bodies dealing with that issue. The
Prime Minister's Office also had established a public awareness campaign to
prevent domestic violence. In a joint effort with other government
offices, it held a campaign to encourage victims to file complaints and
join shelters for battered women. The number of such shelters had recently
been increased to 12, including one for Arab women.

YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (Cote d'Ivoire) said the themes chosen this year by the
Commission were the most sensitive and decisive for the advancement of
women. The implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action related to
those areas was essential to improve the status of women. His Government
had organized broad consultations on the advancement of women that had
resulted in the preparation of a white paper on the participation of
Ivorian women in all areas of society. Priority had been given to the
rights of women and to integrating them into development.

In the area of legislation, under the auspices of the Ministry of the
Family and the Advancement of Women, a working group had drawn up a list of
all laws that discriminated against women. Action was being taken to
abolish discrimination in a number of areas. Draft laws had been prepared
to address such issues as co-ownership and inheritance. A campaign of
awareness was also being carried out to inform the population of the
contents of the Beijing Platform for Action.

The Government of Cote d'Ivoire was taking measures to protect women from
violence, he said. The rights of the girl child were of utmost importance,
and laws were being strengthened to protect the girl child and prevent
exploitation of young girl workers. The change in the attitude of parents
was important. Children and women were the main victims of armed conflict.
Women must, therefore, be given a voice in promoting peace. The
cooperation of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in the
area of the advancement of women was welcome. They had organized several
workshops in Cote d'Ivoire. His Government would participate fully in all
efforts to assist in the full implementation of the Platform for Action.

NINA SIBAL, of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), urged the Commission to consider as a theme for its
high-level plenary review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for
Action planned for 2000, the role of women in the culture of peace and
their contribution to that culture. The Secretary-General had asked UNESCO
to present a draft declaration and a draft programme of action for the
observance of the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of

The UNESCO was giving major attention to integrating fully the gender
perspective in science and in cultural policies, she said. Three
conferences planned -- on cultural policies and development (Stockholm, in
March), world conference on higher education (October 1998) and world
conference on science (June 1999) offered special opportunities to mobilize
UNESCO member States in favour of involving women fully in each of those
areas, thereby implementing some of the Beijing commitments. Assessments
and proposals regarding women's role in science and research, including
scientific and technical education for girls and women were thus being
prepared through regional forums.

CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said it was the duty of States to
empower women through measures to achieve the advancement of their human

rights. Violence was one of the major obstacles to equality, development
and peace. Prevention was a crucial tool to address the phenomenon.
Legislative and educational measures were of equal importance to promote
the process leading to the eradication of violence against women.

On women and armed conflicts, she said it was crucially important that
the voices of women were heard more clearly and that women were actively
involved in all stages of conflict resolution processes, including
postconflict peace-building. The United Nations itself could and should
make a major contribution towards that end by including more women in its
relevant field missions, in particular, in leading positions such as
Special Representatives of the Secretary-General.

ASHA WILLIAMS, of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that in 1995
the organization had begun work on an initiative focused on the role of the
health sector in the prevention of violence against women and the
management of its consequences. The priority issues included: violence
against women committed by parties and families, rape and sexual assault.
The long-term aims of WHO activities in that area were to identify
effective strategies to prevent violence and to decrease morbidity and
mortality among the women who were victims of abuse.

As part of its plan of action on the matter, the WHO was undertaking a
multi-country study on the prevalence and health consequences of violence
against women, she said. It was also supporting the documentation of
existing interventions, and the development and testing of new ones, for
the prevention of violence against women. Currently, there was little or
no documentation of even the limited number of interventions that were
being tried in developing countries.

In addition, she said the WHO was developing a database on the prevalence
of violence against women in families, rape and sexual assault, and their
consequences to the health of women and their families. The data
collection would be used to ascertain: if there was sufficient data upon

which to develop policies and programmes on women's health in those areas;
where further research was needed; and the magnitude and severity of related-
health risks. That information would be useful in various forums for policy

and planning, and would ultimately be made accessible through the Internet.

MOLLY ANIM-ADDO (Ghana) said her Government's Plan of Action for the
implementation of the Beijing Platform addressed women's rights as a whole,
with special emphasis on violence against women. The appropriate legal
bodies were empowered to review laws in order to provide women with
comprehensive legal protection from various forms of violence. The
National Council on Women and Development, in collaboration with non-
governmental organizations, had embarked on extensive awareness programmes
to change stereotyped attitudes and negative cultural and traditional

practices that gave rise to the violation of women's rights. Women victims
who had suffered various types of violence were given access to counselling
services, free legal aid and temporary shelters and relief support.

Increasing incidents of armed and ethnic conflicts exposed women to the
dangers of sexual violence, including rape, she said. The international
community must take appropriate action against the targeting of women in
conflict situations. The perpetrators of gender violence should be
actively pursued and brought to justice under international law.
Consideration should also be given to the insertion of specific clauses in
the Geneva Convention on the Protection and Treatment of Prisoners of War
to deal with gender-based violations of human rights during armed

She went on to say that Ghana had supported the elaboration of the
optional protocol to the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention and had
participated widely in the working group elaborating it. That process
would eventually allow victims of the violations of the provisions of the
Convention to make individual complaints, which would bring its application
in line with other human rights instruments.

FENG CUI (China) said that the concept of equality between women and men
had become a strong call for action by the international community.
Women's rights to subsistence and development had been universally
recognized with unprecedented progress in their status, dignity and rights
in the fields of politics, economy, society, culture and family. China had
been exerting unremitting efforts to improve the status of women, protect
their human rights and promote gender equality in legislation, institution

and policy formulation.

Towards implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, she said that her
Government had taken some new initiatives that included the promotion of a
1992 law designed to protect women's rights and interests. In addition, a
series of regulations and protections in the area of criminal law were
further defined in the last two years. For example, more explicit and
comprehensive provisions protecting the personal freedom and dignity of

women, and the right to health of the girl child were incorporated in the
criminal code. Another revision was under way in the current marriage law.
The new law sought to further protect women's human rights, eliminate
domestic violence, promote gender equality, advocate democracy and
strengthen the sense of family responsibility.

The protection of women's human rights was not an isolated issue, but
rather one which required the assistance of the international community,
she said. Developed countries should assist developing countries in their
efforts to advance their economies, and promote and protect the rights of
women and children in order to realize the goals set forth in the Beijing
Platform for Action.

A representative of the All India Women's Conference said the critical
areas of concern embodied in the Beijing Platform for Action could not be
viewed in isolation. For two decades, attention had been drawn to violence
against women, which was a human rights issues. The issue of women and
armed conflict should be given more attention than previously.

Her organization had demonstrated determination to combat violence against
women, she said. Non-governmental organizations in India had organized
mass campaigns to draw attention to the rights of women. Violence
against women had to be recognized as a social issue. Law enforcement
machinery had to be made gender sensitive. Legislative procedures
should also be made sensitive to the plight of victims. Religious practices
needed to be reviewed.

FOO CHIA HSIA (Singapore) said her Government had a comprehensive civil
and penal system to protect women. A women's charter adopted by the
government was widely recognized as a progressive piece of legislation. A
recent amendment to it widened the definition of violence against women and
provided for counselling for the abuser. Family courts had been set up to
deal specifically with violence against women. Conflict resolution among
family members was also dealt with. Social service agencies provided

emotional support and information to help victims make informed choices.
Public education could also help combat family violence. Singapore had
training programmes to deal with the problem, she added.

She also stressed the importance attached by Singapore to the problem of
violence against women migrant workers and suggested a holistic and
comprehensive approach to dealing with it. The problem should be dealt
with jointly by States that supplied the migrant workers and the recipient
countries. A bill was before the Parliament on measures to deal with
violation of rights of migrant women workers, she concluded.

SREE GURURAJA, Senior Adviser on Gender Development of the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the complementarity of children's
and women's rights was critical both to child development and to the

empowerment of women. In adopting the rights-based approach to development,
UNICEF country programmes were increasingly addressing gender as a cross-
cutting issue and expressing support to the implementation of the
conventions on the rights of the child and on the elimination of discrimi-
nation against women. Both Conventions contained mutually reinforcing
principles which, if fully implemented, would ensure the fulfilment of the
rights of girls and women, from childhood to adulthood, and would put an
end to gender-based discrimination. For that reason, UNICEF country
offices continued to support national machineries for the implementation of
the Women's Convention, as well as the mainstreaming of gender issues in
national development plans and programmes for women and girls.

She said UNICEF had identified three priorities in its follow-up to the
implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. Those priorities were:
girls' education; the health of girls, women and adolescents; and
children's rights and women's rights. Through its country programmes,
UNICEF had planned and implemented new programmes in girls' education,
rights-based approaches to addressing adolescent pregnancy and maternal
mortality reduction, and building new partnerships for the promotion of
women's and children's rights. The rights and needs of girls were central
to the achievement of the human rights of women, the elimination of
violence against women and protection of women in armed conflict. The
Commission should consider the themes in an interrelated manner and make
recommendations that would accelerate the implementation of the commitments
made at Beijing.

NETUMBO NANDI-NDAITWAH, Director General of the Department of Women's
Affairs in the Office of the President of Namibia, said, since Beijing,
some progress had been made in Namibia in the empowerment of women aimed at
bringing about gender equality. In November 1997, the Government had
adopted the national gender policy, the main purpose of which was to
strategize on how it could encourage and value the contribution of women in
national development and the society as a whole. The national plan of
action for the period 19982003 would become operational from 1 April, after
which a comprehensive review would be made to determine the progress
achieved. The plan was the result of a very broad-based consultative
process throughout the country. The areas of concern in the national plan
included: gender poverty and rural development; gender balance in
education and training; gender and reproductive health; violence against
women and children; gender and economic empowerment; the girl child; and

gender and legal affairs. All sectors of the society were responsible for
its implementation.

On the critical areas being taken up during the current session, the girl
child and violence against women were of particular concern to Namibia, she
said. The issue of the girl child was fundamental for the achievement of
gender equality. Parents and teachers had an equal role to play if the
girl child's dignity and fundamental rights were to be restored. Namibia
would like the Commission to adopt a clear and strong decision expressing
the international community's commitment towards eradicating all forms of
discrimination against the girl child. Her Government was devoting
increasing attention to violence against women and children, and there was

a high level of mobilization in Namibia around that issue.

ALFREDO SFEIR-YOUNIS, of the World Bank, said that nearly 70 per cent of
the Bank's recent assistance strategies devised for country clients had
addressed gender issues. At a more strategic level, the Bank now had a
number of training programmes covering such areas as gender and poverty,
gender and violence, gender in the labour market, and developing
qualitative and quantitative indicators.

He said that, while most donors were satisfied that a significant
percentage of their operations included gender components, a number of
nontraditional sectors -- such as electricity and power -- comprised only a
very small portion of development operations that included gender
considerations. The Bank, therefore, undertook a number of initiatives in
the last couple of years, including a symposium in Asia, the creation of a
gender analysis and policy group in cooperation with Columbia University,
and a rural travel and transport programme in Africa aimed at shifting
focus away from roads towards rural access, mobility and household
transport needs.

The World Bank's gender group was now part of the network dealing with
poverty reduction and economic management, he said. In addition, many
non-governmental organizations were actively involved through the External
Gender Consultative Group, which met annually since the Beijing Conference
to advise the President of the World Bank on gender issues. The new
network structure significantly strengthened the Bank's ability to
mainstream gender by, among other initiatives, breaking down the old
barriers of geographical location, sector and hierarchy and providing
incremental funds for promoting gender research.

In order to make significant progress in the social, economic and
political fronts, the countries, individually and collectively, needed to
establish the ground for a "new social contract" where the gender
dimensions were central to a way of thinking about growth and sustainable
development. Such a social contract was the only way to confront what the
Bank's President had called "the challenge of inclusion". More financial
resources, per se, would not resolve the problems, which required a change
in the value system, language, attitudes and level of commitment.

VALENCIA K.D. MOGEGEH, Director, Women's Affairs of the Department of
Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana, said for the empowerment of women her
country had selected the following areas of concern: women and poverty;
women in power and decision-making; education and training of women; women
and health; the girl child; and violence against women. The national
machinery had also addressed other issues such as sustainable use of the
environment by women. In implementing the national plan, efforts were
reinforced in a number of areas, such as: a growing partnership between
Government and civil society, grass-roots and district-based awareness-
raising campaigns, accession to the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention,
a comprehensive review of laws affecting the status of women, and resource
mobilization. Botswana had received more than $2 million as additional
support for the national gender programme through the UNDP.

Also of importance in implementing the national plan was the elevation
of the national machinery to a fully fledged government department, she
said. To date, visible progress had been made, particularly by women's
non-governmental organizations and groups in each of the six critical areas
of concern that constituted Botswana's agenda for the empowerment of women.
The biggest challenge was how to consolidate the singular efforts and
transform them into a wholesome national programme.

NARCISA ESCALER, Deputy Director of the International Organization on
Migration (IOM), said the organization had identified combating trafficking
in women as one of its priority action areas. It was committed to
addressing violence against women through prevention and assistance to
victims. At the same time, it sought to provide a forum for discussion

among governments on the problem to foster and coordinate measures to
combat trafficking. Her organization had carried out studies on
trafficking in women for sexual exploitation in Western and Central Europe,
the Caribbean and Asia. The two most recent studies dealt with trafficking
in Filipino women to Japan and in Cambodian women and children stranded in

She also said the organization had begun to develop projects for the
return and reintegration of migrant women exposed to abuse enabling them to
return home in dignity and safety. In Asia, a small pilot project -- a
first -- had helped some 100 beneficiaries to return from Thailand to their
countries, where they were provided with one-year reintegration component
that included skills training, counselling and income-generating

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