Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
6 March 1998
Commission on the Status of Women
9th Meeting (AM)
COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN CONTINUES TO CONSIDER IMPLEMENTATION
OF BEIJING PLATFORM FOR ACTION AT NATIONAL LEVEL
The Commission on the Status of Women this morning heard about progress
made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action at the
national level, as it resumed consideration of the implementation of
strategic objectives and action in the critical areas of concern.
Speakers drew attention to action that had been taken in their countries
in the areas of legislative reform, education, health, employment,
awarenessraising campaigns, as well as in the creation of an enabling
environment for the advancement of women. They outlined initiatives aimed
at eliminating gender-based discrimination against women and the girl child
and to ensure women's greater participation in the social, political and
Many delegates informed that national plans had been developed with the
participation of all sectors of society. The representative of Sri Lanka
said preparation of her country's national plan had relied on the
participation of government officials, non-government organizations,
private sector representatives and donors who were active on women's
The development of national machinery had also been high on the agenda of
many member States, the Commission was told, and included the creation of
ministries with responsibility for women and children's issues. The
representative of Lithuania said the country's recent equal opportunities
law would establish an ombudsman for women's issues.
A number of speakers continued to express grave concern about violence
against women. The representative of Pakistan said that it was regrettable
that on the brink of the new millennium, various forms of violence against
women and girls persisted in many parts of the world. There was an urgent
need to develop comprehensive approaches, taking into account social and
cultural norms in each society in order to address the problem on a priority
Statements were also made by the representatives of Cuba, Malaysia,
Russian Federation, Iraq, Paraguay, Morocco, Argentina, Ethiopia, Lebanon,
Jordan, Uganda, India, Algeria, Mali, Austria, Nigeria and El Salvador.
The observer for Palestine also spoke. The representative of China spoke
on a point of order.
Representatives of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) also spoke, as did
representatives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), International
Council of Women, and the NGO Caucus on Women and Armed Conflict.
The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m. today to conclude its general
discussion on implementing the Beijing Platform for Action.
Commission Work Programme
The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to continue its
general discussion on follow-up to the 1995 Fourth World Conference on
Women, including implementation of strategic objectives and action on the
critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action. (For
background information on the session, see Press Release WOM/1029 of 27
The Commission has before it two reports of the Secretary-General on the
thematic issues before the session and on national action plans and
strategies from 85 Member States for implementing the Beijing Platform for
Action, as well as a joint report of the Division for the Advancement of
Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Office of
the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on women's real
enjoyment of their human rights, in particular those relating to economic
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 on three of the critical areas of concern
being examined up by the Commission during this session -- "women and armed
conflict", "human rights of women" and "the girl child". The report also
provides some proposals on the theme of violence against women.
The Secretary-General's report on national action plans and strategies
from 85 Member States implementing the Beijing Platform for Action
(document E/CN.6/1998/6) provides a regional breakdown of countries that
had prepared such plans. It shows that 29 per cent of Member States from
Africa have submitted plans, as well as 41 per cent of the countries 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
The joint report of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the
Office of the High Commissioner on women's real enjoyment of their human
rights, in particular those relating to economic resources (document
E/CN.6/1998/11), also provides recommendations and conclusions of expert
group meetings convened during 1997 by the Division for the Advancement of
Women on three of the critical areas of concern being taken up by the
Also before the Commission are reports of the Secretary-General on
mainstreaming a gender perspective and other follow-up activities by
organizations of the United Nations system (document E/CN.6/1998/2); the
joint work plan of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document
E/CN.6/1998/2/Add.1); the situation of Palestinian women and assistance
provided by organizations of the United Nations system (document
E/CN.6/1998/2/Add.2); a mid-term review of the system-wide medium-term plan
for the advancement of women, 1996-2001 (document E/CN.6/1998/3); and a
report on improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat (document
The Commission also has before it a note by the Secretary-General
transmitting information provided by the United Nations Development Fund
for Women (UNIFEM) on the implementation of General Assembly resolution
50/166 on the Fund's role in eliminating violence against women (document
E/CN.6/1998/9). (For background on those reports, see Press Release
WOM/1038 of 5 March).
W. HETTIARACHCHI (Sri Lanka) said that since the Beijing Conference the
Ministry of Women's Affairs in Sri Lanka had prepared a National Plan of
Action for Women. The plan sought to identify problems and issues in
several areas of critical concern to Sri Lanka, including violence against
women, women and armed conflict, political participation and decision-
making, health, education and training, economic activities and poverty.
It was the country's first attempt to formulate an integrated plan of
action targeted to mainstream women as participants and beneficiaries.
Preparation of the national plan relied on the participation of
government officials, non-governmental organizations, private sector
representatives and donors who were active on women's issues, she said.
The Ministry of Women's Affairs had established focal points in all
Ministries that could provide linkage and catalyze the plan's
implementation and monitoring. With the support of United Nations and
funding agencies, the Ministry was able to initiate many programmes and
heighten greater awareness of gender issues. However, that process needed
to be accelerated in order to have a strong impact on the problems that
FAIZA KEFI, of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said her organization
was continuing to follow up on the recommendations of the Beijing Platform
for Action. It was the duty of parliamentarians to approve the
implementation of the Platform for Action and appropriate resources to
ensure that the commitment to the advancement of women was expressed in
national legislation. The IPU would open a liaison office in New York to
improve its communications with international organizations and its
contribution to the work being done in the United Nations in the interest
of its Members.
Elaborating on recent achievements of the Union, she said it had adopted
a universal declaration on democracy between men and women to promote such
a democratic approach in carrying out public affairs; promoted women's
participation in public life; published a number of documents on women's
participation; and set up an Internet site on women's participation in
parliaments around the world. In addition, the organization had developed
a bibliography on literature on women in parliament. At its annual
sessions, the Union debated the issues in the Platform for Action and such
subjects as women and armed conflict. The subject of women in the informal
sector would be taken up at a forthcoming session. The Union would provide
support to the relevant United Nations organizations as part of its
contribution to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
YOLANDA FERRER (Cuba) said the issues of the advancement of women and the
implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action were of seminal
importance. The Commission was responsible for treating those issues in
depth in the interest of women's progress. The interrelated nature of all
human rights, including the right to development, must be stressed. Cuba
joined with those who engaged in the fight for all human rights. Despite
the end of the cold war, resources were still being allocated to arms and
nuclear weapons. Those resources should be targeted at improving social
and economic aspects of life, including health care. It was also important
to address problems such as prostitution and child pornography,
discrimination against girls and the obstacles to their development. If
the international community did not implement the Beijing Platform for
Action, there would be no progress for women.
The international blockade against Cuba was detrimental to the people of
Cuba and the advancement of Cuban women, she said. It ran counter to
international law and the United Nations Charter and was intended to have
negative impact on the independence of the Cuban people. Despite the
blockade, however, the well-being of the Cuban people had been a priority
of the Government of Cuba, including emphasis on giving women the place
they deserved in society.
MUNAWAR SAEED BHATTI (Pakistan) said that it was regrettable that on the
brink of the new millennium, various forms of violence against women and
girls persisted in many parts of the world. That problem was intrinsically
linked with women's lower social and economic status in the family as well
as in the community. There was an urgent need to develop comprehensive
approaches, taking into account social and cultural norms in each society
in order to address the problem on a priority basis.
Recent events had shown that violence against women had become more stark
and profound in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation, he
said. What had happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Great Lakes
region of Africa were still fresh memories. In his own region, the
disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir -- where people were struggling for
their right to self-determination -- women and girls had been persistently
subjected to "gross state-sponsored violence" by Indian security forces.
Sexual violence and systematic rape had been used as a strategy of war. In
many instances, women were raped in the presence of male family members to
punish and humiliate the Kashmiri people.
He said that the Government of Pakistan had undertaken a number of
initiatives aimed at eliminating gender-based discrimination against women
and the girl child and to ensure women's greater participation in the
social, political and economic mainstream. Those included a nationwide
media campaign, a review of school curriculums, the harmonization of
legislative, judicial and administrative government structures, the
establishment of a human rights cell to assist women victims of violence,
the establishment of free legal aid centres and women police stations.
With a long way to go in achieving the full empowerment and integration of
women and the girl child in the national mainstream, Pakistan was
determined to continue efforts towards that goal.
SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, observer for Palestine, said that since the Beijing
Conference, little had been achieved towards the advancement of women,
particularly in the areas of literacy, equal pay and the prevention of
violence against women. The Beijing Platform for Action should be
transformed into a meaningful document. That required the formulation of a
concrete mechanism, as well as resources to promote implementation. The
advancement of women and their full integration could not be realized
without peace, freedom and democracy. Those prerequisites were most urgent
for Palestinian women whose daily lives had been affected and whose
advancement had been impeded by Israeli occupation. The number of refugees
and displaced children had increased, and Palestinian women had experienced
an overall decline in the economic, health and education spheres.
Despite those impediments, Palestinian women were seriously pursuing the
creation of an enabling environment for their advancement, she said. Their
mission was to ensure that Palestinian policies and legislation were
gender-sensitive and took into account the needs of both men and women.
Especially given the deterioration of the peace process, resulting from
Israeli actions in the occupied territories, it was time for the
international community, especially the United Nations, to continue to
support and increase its assistance to Palestinian women in their struggle.
PNINA HERZOG, International Council of Women, said that the status of
women was intertwined with the perceptions of them in the environments in
which they lived. Too often violence against them maintained and
reinforced their subordination. Therefore, that phenomenon could not be
dealt with in isolation, but should be looked at in a holistic, integrated
way, taking into consideration all the factors that shaped their status.
Violence in general and violence against women had become a pandemic in all
countries and in all societies. Much had been done by the United Nations
to bring the situation to the attention of the international community, and
hundreds of organizations worldwide had spearheaded a range of
initiatives -- including safe houses and shelters, and other local
community measures. While those were very important answers, it was very
difficult to cure violence.
Each year thousands of women were tricked, forced and coerced into
slavery and prostitution, she said. Tens of millions of children were
forced to work in sex markets, where they faced treacherous conditions.
What had been done so far was not sufficient. More drastic and effective
outcome-based measures must be taken by governments under strict United
Nations surveillance. For example, trafficking in women should be dealt
with as a criminal offence -- not just in a few countries, but in all
countries. The United Nations should take the lead in breaking the pattern
of trafficking and in penalizing offenders, and Member States should be
required to prove to the United Nations that they had established laws to
Moreover, the Commission and non-governmental organizations must give
priority to the prevention of violence against women and children, she
said. Efforts must begin at a very early age -- in kindergartens, vocation
schools, community centres and the workplaces -- at all levels of civil
society. The young must be involved in programmes for the young, beginning
with the smallest unit of society, the family. The media played a
tremendous role in influencing attitudes, including negative ones. In that
regard, the Commission might wish to further study the effect of violence
in the media and on the Internet on young people. She called on all non-
governmental organizations to join the International Council of Women in
its fight to combat trafficking in women, and urged governments to enact
laws that would classify such activities as criminal offences.
SHARIFAH ZARAH SYED AHMAD (Malaysia) highlighted progress made in her
country in its efforts to integrate women into the mainstream of
development. A national plan of action on the advancement of women had been
approved by the country's cabinet in 1996. It was a comprehensive
document that included programmes and strategies that strengthened the
national machinery, established mechanisms for the enforcement of laws
against domestic violence, public education efforts and gender
sensitization training. The national machinery had been upgraded to a
full-fledged department. There had been considerable progress on the issue
of domestic violence against women. It was now dealt with as a criminal
offence with appropriate penalties. Law enforcement personnel had been
urged to pursue more effective measures to address violence against women.
There had been increased inter-agency action, including among the police
and the health agencies, for hospitals to be used as a more neutral place
to treat victims of violence, she said. Malaysia had pursued special
training for investigators in dealing with rape victims. A new act adopted
ensured the rights of women to inheritance. Islamic laws were also being
reviewed in accordance with the principles of social justice and gender
equity. Malaysia's earlier reservations to the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had been
withdrawn. The Government was in the process of preparing its initial
report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
The Malaysian Government would ensure that the human rights of women and
girls were promoted. On the girl child, she said the problem of missing
children and adolescents and their abuse had been seriously addressed. On
women and armed conflict, she said all governments had an obligation to
deal with conflict and war and promote the pursuit of peace. Malaysia
supported peace initiatives worldwide, as peace was a prerequisite for the
advancement of women.
GALINA GULKO (Russian Federation) said the Platform for Action had been
well received in her country. Based on it, the Russian Federation had a
national plan of action that laid the basis for government action to
implement the provisions of the Constitution and the Beijing Platform for
Action to promote equality of men and women. The plan complemented the
action of the state agencies to achieve the objectives of the Platform for
Action. In addition, the Government had adopted a number of measures to
promote economic improvements for women. At the same time, there was
concern in her country for developments that negatively affected women and
children such as the high mortality rate, the decrease in women's
employment and incidents of harsh treatment of women in the family.
The national plan was being implemented at the local and federal levels,
she said. Action was also being taken to ensure equality of rights for men
and women, on which legislation would be developed in parliament. Equality
of opportunity was being promoted for women and men in employment.
Programmes for the training and retraining of unemployed women were being
implemented. A legislative draft was being prepared on violence against
women in the family, and centres were being established for the support of
victims of violence. She elaborated on progress of women in attaining high
office in the Russian Federation. She announced that a conference would
soon be held in her country on improving the situation of women there,
which would also address the implementation of the national plan of action,
adding that her country faced the problem of insufficient funds for the
implementation of the plan of action.
MOHAMMED A.M. AL-HUMAIMIDI (Iraq) said the national action plan to the
year 2000 on improving the status of Iraqi women was being implemented
based on the principles of the Iraqi Constitution and the Islamic Shariah,
Iraqi traditions and international law. Women in Iraq occupied very high
posts and the number of women in educational and other social sectors had
increased in past decades. Women had taken every opportunity to improve
their situation and had enjoyed maternity and child care leave. Health
services and maternal and child care were provided even in the most remote
areas of the country.
The embargo in force on Iraq had negative impacts on the country and
particularly on women and children, he said. It had undermined all the
earlier achievements. The economic situation had deteriorated. Women had
given up their jobs to devote their energies to providing for their
families' basic needs. There was a lack of commodities, including basic
goods. Many women were now anaemic and their rate of mortality had
increased, including that of pregnant women. Women and children were
malnourished. Infant mortality had increased to a high number as compared
with figures in the late 1980s. Diseases had increased and caused the
death of young children. The death rate had increased by 25 per cent from
the late 1980s. Those developments ran counter to all the international
efforts to improve the social and economic environment. He called for an
end to the embargo against his country.
AUDRA MIKALAUSKAITE (Lithuania) said that she associated herself with the
statement made by the United Kingdom on behalf of the European Union. The
Fourth World Conference on Women had united Lithuania's women, inspired
them to work, and motivated the founding of more women non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). In addition, the Government had ratified the action
plan for the advancement of women in Lithuania, and a law on equal
opportunities was under consideration in the Parliament. The establishment
of an ombudsman was included in the proposed equal opportunities law.
Owing to the socio-economic transition in Lithuania and the lack of
legal remedies, more and more young girls and women were forced into
prostitution, she said. Trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of
sexual exploitation in the region of central and eastern Europe was acute.
In order to reduce that negative phenomenon, the Government had introduced a
new article of the Penal Code dealing with crimes related to prostitution.
Strict prosecution measures were applied for the perpetrators of sexual
abuse of children.
Although the legal system had historically focused on penalties for such
crimes, new trends were emerging that shifted the focus to the prevention
of crime and the introduction of probation, she said. For example, the
Lithuanian Crime Prevention Centre was founded in 1997 to assist
governmental structures. Combating violence required complex measures that
included the establishment of crisis centres for abused women. There was
also an urgent need to further overhaul policies to include the enforcement
of social and legal reforms, more shelters for battered women, and more
protective laws and education. The transition to a market economy in
Lithuania impacted upon the protection of the human rights of women.
Government institutions, international organizations and women themselves
could help close the remaining gap between the legal and actual status of
CRISTINA MUNOZ (Paraguay) said that since she had last addressed the
Commission, Paraguay had continued to progress towards updating a number of
activities towards elevating the status of women. The first national
seminar on women had achieved consensus on the strategies to be developed,
had identified the actors with decision-making power and given them parts
to play in keeping with their role in society. Monitoring and assessing
the follow-up of the Beijing Platform for Action at every level of the
country was under way. In addition, a national plan for women had evolved,
in part as a result of the coordinated work of NGOs.
She said that the present implementation of the plan consisted in
consulting the actors in different State institutions and civil society, in
order to realize the Government's wish to materialize the principles of
equality enshrined in the Constitution. Also undertaken was the creation
of a research centre for women's studies as an additional independent unit
to provide scientific gender analysis. An effective strategy to eliminate
all forms of violence against women and create new awareness to the problem
was on the Government's agenda. Efforts were being made towards
legislative reform, training and awareness-raising in the public
administration and at the decision-making levels. An inter-institutional
approach made it possible to facilitate the collection of data which would
classify different forms making it possible to prevent and punish it.
Tremendous efforts had also been made in the last three years by the
Government in the legal field to incorporate the principles of equality
into its laws, she said. It was also making tremendous efforts to overcome
poverty, particularly women's impoverishment, through training and access
to resources. To support working women, an infant centre for female
government employees was being established. Paraguay also supported the
drafting of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and would like to see its
AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said that his country sought to publish and
disseminate the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention in languages
accessible to all its citizen to enlighten women about their rights and
their access to the courts. Morocco's strategy to combat violence against
women and girl children included a broad ranging campaign to raise
awareness of the damaging effects of violence. There was an exhaustive
study of the problem under way, and a data bank had been established.
He said that human rights education had improved, and women's economic
and social condition, as well as their health protection, was being
addressed. The goal was to reduce the maternal mortality by 30 per cent,
and, in that regard, no-risk maternity and family planning had been given
priority in a programme aimed at the year 2005. The programme targeted a
70 per cent school attendance of rural girls by the year 2005, and the
reduction of female illiteracy in rural areas by 50 per cent. Morocco had
also embarked on a national strategy to educate adults in order to renew
literacy programmes for women, organize study cycles for employed children,
and establish rules to combat the poor treatment of the girl child. Among
the strategy's recommendations was the creation of a higher council of
women to be composed of all ministerial departments, female organizations,
trade unions and NGOs.
TERESA SOLA (Argentina) said a recent law had encouraged the
participation of women in Parliament. As a result, today 27 per cent of
legislators in the Lower House of Parliament were women. Argentina had
worked actively in international forums to address the issues related to
the advancement of women, had adopted national legislation, and promoted
positive measures to guarantee the empowerment of women and the protection
of children. A law had been adopted on the prevention of family violence,
and a special police corps and special courts had been formed to deal with
Other areas in which Argentina had made progress in implementing the
Platform for Action included the inclusion of women studies in school and
university curricula; specialized training for justice and law enforcement
personnel; massive sensitization of the public on gender issues; the
updating of relevant gender data as a basis for policy; and the improved
treatment of victims. Argentina had acceded to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, had taken action to prevent the exploitation of
children, and had developed a programme to provide treatment for abused
children and adolescents.
There was need for a gender perspective in the statute of the
international criminal court and in international humanitarian law, she
said. Women must become more effective participants in preventive
diplomacy. Argentine women had participated in the country's contingents in
United Nations peacekeeping operations. She called for the completion of
the optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women. The progress made so far in promoting the
advancement of women must be increased in the interest of all women.
HANNAH TIAGHA, of the Africa Centre for Women of the Economic Commission
for Africa (ECA), highlighted some of her Commission's achievements in the
last 12 months. She said the Africa Centre for Women was the focal point
for programmes for women. Its work included increasing awareness of the
need for systematic allocation of national resources for implementation of
the Platform for Action, and reinforcing national mechanisms and
machineries responsible for monitoring the Platform for Action. The Centre
was represented on the cabinet of the Commission's Executive Secretary.
Its highest post had been elevated to the level of D-1 and its Professional
staff doubled to a total of nine.
Part of the process of implementation of the African and Beijing Platform
for Action had been the convening of five technical meetings to monitor
implementation of national action plans, she said. The first was held in
November 1997 in Dakar; subsequent subregional meetings would be held in
other countries in Africa in May, July and October this year as preparatory
work to the regional mid-decade review in 1999. The ECA had taken the
issue of gender mainstreaming very seriously by requiring every substantive
division to integrate gender concerns in its work programmes. Gender focal
points had been appointed in every division and in the five subregional
centres of the Commission. A special event had been planned on the occasion
of ECA's fortieth anniversary this year to further draw the attention of
decisionmakers at the highest level to issues related to women and economic
FATIMA SBAITY KASSEM, of the Economic and Social Commission for Western
Asia (ESCWA), elaborated on the implementation of the Platform for Action
in that region. A conference had been held to prepare a unified platform
for action on women's issues for west Asia. Numerous training programmes
had been conducted and a gender disaggregated database was being developed
on women in the region. The database had been a successful experience.
Symposia had been held on women in business and an expert meeting of NGOs
had been held recently. Action had been taken on gender mainstreaming.
However, the Commission faced the major obstacle of insufficient financial
resources to fulfilling its mandate to promote gender issues and programmes.
TADELECH HAILEMICHAEL (Ethiopia) said that with the launching of the
National Policy on Women in 1993 and the promulgation of the new
Constitution in 1995, Ethiopia had declared its firm commitment to the
equitable socioeconomic development of women. The women's policy aimed to
institutionalize the political, economic and social rights of women by
creating appropriate structures in government offices and institutions so
that public policies and interventions were gender-sensitive and could
ensure equitable development for all Ethiopians.
She said Ethiopia believed that the constitutional guarantee and the
prevalence of gender-sensitive policies and strategies were preconditions
for creating a system for the advancement of women in a sustainable manner.
Since the Beijing Conference, the major task had been to enforce
constitutional rights and implementation of strategies. In that regard,
measures had been taken to identify discriminatory provisions of the
Ethiopian civil and criminal laws.
Ethiopia's efforts to improve the status of women would be enhanced if it
was assisted technically, she said. Ethiopia, therefore, requested the
United Nations funds and programmes, as well as its agencies, and the
international community to increase their assistance in financial and
FAHDI KARAM (Lebanon) said that his country's plan of action consisted of
a number of legislative elements that included plans to eliminate all texts
incompatible with the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention. Regarding
the participation of women in decision-making, the Government had plans to
increase their numbers to 30 per cent by the year 2000. Concerning their
economic situation, there were plans to promote the training of rural women
and support their participation in economic activities. On the status of
women, there were plans to provide women with all social and pension
benefits. The rights of women to education involved the revision of the
teaching programme and the establishment of special training programmes and
literacy classes for adults.
He highlighted reforms that followed the study of laws and legal reform
established for the implementation of the Convention. A married Lebanese
woman could now engage autonomously in commercial activity without the
approval of her husband. In addition, the relevant codes that had ended
the rights of women who married foreigners had been revised, and campaign
was under way to expand women's participation in municipal elections, which
were scheduled for next May.
SAMER A. NABER (Jordan) said substantial progress had been achieved in
improving the status of Jordanian women, particularly in the fields of
education and health. Gender differences were rapidly diminishing in
women's education and access was almost universal with primary school
enrolment rates for girls higher than those for boys. Women comprised 45.1
per cent of university students and 60 per cent at community colleges.
Differences in the literacy rates of women and men were steadily declining.
Government health services for women had resulted in an increase in women's
life expectancy to 70 years and a decrease in maternal mortality rates.
However, there was a need to focus on reproductive health programmes and
approaches to improve access to better health services for women.
She said the Jordanian National Committee for Women was planning various
programmes that would emphasize the notion that "women's rights are human
rights". It had also reviewed 10 national laws in order to stress equality
between the sexes enshrined in the constitution and the national charter.
Jordan reiterated its condemnation of all forms of violence perpetrated
against women during armed conflict and its support for Arab and
Palestinian women in their endeavour to achieve a just and comprehensive
peace in the Middle East, she said. The concerns of Jordan's women were
being actively pursued by a dynamic and fast-growing women's movement and
through cooperation among the National Committee, government organizations,
NGOs and various women's groups.
GERARD NAMIREMBE BITAMAZIRE (Uganda) said that through the Constitution
and other legislation, Uganda had put in place deliberate policies to raise
the status of women and foster their emancipation from socio-economic,
political and cultural bondage. A decentralized democracy was now in
place. That constituted one of the strategies to empower women and the
grass-roots communities, in general, to plan and design feasible courses of
action in addressing critical and daily issues of concern. Since Beijing,
the Government of Uganda had continued to play a positive role in
recognition of the disadvantaged position of women.
She said that of grave concern to her delegation was the issue of the law
and punishment for those who raped and defiled innocent children. Female
victims of sexual assault and rape faced risks from a myriad of health
consequences, including AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Apart from the brutality and trauma experienced by victims, there remained
psychological damage for life. It was Uganda's hope that the current
session of the Commission could issue a powerful condemnation and
appropriate recommendations to address and prevent the defilement and rape
of girl children.
KHANDO CHATZAZANG, NGO Caucus on Women and Armed Conflict, said that the
situation of foreign occupation and armed conflict was often characterized
by unequal power relationships. The Beijing Platform for Action emphasized
the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution and reaffirmed the right to
the self-determination of all peoples. As the case of Tibet had demonstra-
ted, long-standing conflict and human rights violations did not disappear
in the absence of international action. The Tibetan people had engaged in a
campaign of non-violent action to further their aspirations for fundamental
freedoms and human rights. If such campaigns did not engender the support
of the world community, that would send a clear message to all people that
only violence would focus world attention on existing conflicts.
Speaking on a point of order, the representative of China said that she
believed that the topic of today's discussion was the follow-up of the
Beijing Conference. The current speech was in violation of the sovereignty
of countries, and should be stopped.
The Committee Chairperson said that the non-governmental organization had
referred to the Beijing Platform and to the specific situation of women and
armed conflict. She could continue her statement, but should contain her
focus on the topic on today's agenda -- which was the situation of women.
Continuing, Ms. CHATZAZANG said that the Asian caucus region would urge
the United Nations and Member States to encourage governments engaged in
foreign occupation and armed conflicts to negotiate peaceful resolutions,
and open territories without undue restriction. She urged the General
Assembly to investigate contested issues of self-determination, appoint
special envoys to promote the peaceful settlement of conflict, and initiate
referendums to ascertain the wishes of people seeking self-determination.
On another point of order, the representative of China said that Tibet
was an integral part of China, and it was, therefore, very regrettable to
hear a speech at the Commission by an NGO aimed at the division of China
and the attack of a sovereign country.
The Committee Chairperson said China was out of order, and could exercise
its right of reply at the end of the meeting.
ASHA DAS (India) said her country would like to associate itself with
Indonesia's statement on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing country and
China. India was taking a rights-based approach to women's concerns.
Apart from governmental efforts, the main institutional mechanisms to
guarantee and ensure women's rights were the courts, with their strong
tradition of public interest litigation, the National Human Rights
Commission, the National Commission for Women, and the Standing Committee
on the Empowerment of Women set up in March 1997. India was preparing its
report on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women and participating in current efforts to
conclude the optional protocol providing for an individual complaints
Apart from social attitudes, poverty and underdevelopment were among the
primary challenges to the human rights of women in India, she said.
Poverty had to be addressed through national efforts, supported by
international cooperation. Women's education, vocational training and
self-employment initiatives, often with active participation by NGOs, and
micro-credit facilities, had been strengthened. There was a growing
recognition of the need to ensure that women acquired effective rights over
land and usufructuary rights over other common properties. Given that
access to land was still the major source of livelihood, ensuring women's
rights to land would be a major step in empowering them.
She said violence against women needed to be addressed as a violation of
women's right to a secure and dignified life. The National Commission for
Women had attracted public attention to atrocities against women. It had
initiated an innovative alternative system of "family courts" to settle
family disputes such as maintenance, separation and guardianship. Anti-
dowry police cells had been set up and the Dowry Prohibition Act
strengthened. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
had been a pioneer in recognizing the special circumstances of the girl
child, declaring the 1990s as the SAARC Decade of the Girl Child.
DALILA SAMAH (Algeria) said that Algeria's Constitution enshrined equal
rights for men and women. However, women were now the focus of concern
with public authorities intent on promoting strengthening the family and
protecting the situation of women, who had preserved the country's values
throughout the ages.
Algerian women accounted for 45 to 48 per cent of the population enrolled
in school at the primary, middle, upper and university levels, she said.
The illiteracy rate had been reduced from more than 80 per cent in past
years to less than 40 per cent in 1997. In addition, the number of women in
the medical and pharmaceutical fields was at an all time high. As full
members of society, Algerian women were involved in the campaign for a
pluralist democracy. Their presence in education, in the medical field and
elected government bodies were a supreme illustration of the advancing
She expressed great surprise over the fact that a country which continued
to order terrorism was pointing to massacres committed in a number of
countries before attempting to eliminate its own practice. Such terrorism
was a hideous beast which needed to be fought without ambiguity. The
convoluted speeches and the absence of condemnation could only serve to
encourage pursuit of that form of destruction and death. Algerian women
paid a heavy price because of their religion, which had been a religion of
tolerance, love and peace. Those terrorist groups were trying to take an
entire population hostage. Algerian women and the rest of Algerian
society were determined to eliminate that alien phenomenon.
Ms. TRAORE (Mali) said her country had developed a national plan of
action after a thorough analysis of the situation of women in Mali. Action
had been taken to implement the Beijing Platform for Action in a number of
areas, including a review of the education system, with particular focus on
the girl child in the system; and the organization of national seminars for
groups such as political leaders, journalists and television personnel.
Important progress had been made to sensitize groups on issues such as
parental duties and inheritance.
She said the number of women in the Parliament had increased in recent
years, as well as the number of female ministers -- both developments had
shown the political will to ensure such participation of women in public
life. Other areas addressed included women in the health sector, in
education, in employment, and the practice of genital mutilation of young
girls. The number of girls in school had increased considerably in Mali in
recent years. A ministry for women and children had been created. Mali
was actively implementing the Platform for Action. However, more
resources were needed to ensure more effective implementation.
MARIA JONAS (Austria) welcomed recent high-level appointments of women in
the United Nations Secretariat. Real equality between men and women was a
basic democratic condition and an imperative for social justice. Women had
been forced to fight for their rights in a world of male norms, and it was
important that they did more than just catch up. There was need for a
consistent implementation of the principles of gender mainstreaming. The
State had to provide the necessary environment for gender parity.
She elaborated on legislative achievements in her country, such as in the
area of the promotion of women in the civil service. She stressed the duty
of men to share in the responsibilities of the home to remove the idea that
such responsibilities were the exclusive domain of women. In its role as
President of the European Union in the latter half of 1998, Austria would
jointly chair an informal council of ministers on questions of equal oppor-
tunity and employment to re-emphasize the principle of gender mainstreaming.
RAHILA HADEA CUDJOE (Nigeria) said the action taken in her country to
implement the Beijing Platform for Action had had outstanding results. The
family support programme and other action taken had catapulted women into
the mainstream of life in Nigeria. Nigerian women had been able to
penetrate "glass ceilings". Women holding high office had been in the
forefront of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. As a
result, women were now being projected into the mainstream of development
in Nigeria. Such progress could only have been achieved through federal,
State and international might.
As a follow-up to Beijing, the Platform for Action had been translated
into local languages in Nigeria and circulated widely. Concrete steps had
been taken to integrate women into development programmes at the local
levels. Much of the progress made in the family support programme and the
recent progress of women in Nigeria could be attributed to the First Lady
of Nigeria. Even women at the grass-root level were being brought into the
limelight at all levels of government -- local, State and federal. The
national machinery, the active participation of ministries and the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) contributed to the Nigerian report on
the country's implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALES (El Salvador) said he shared the opinion
expressed by the representative of Indonesia as Chairman of the Group of 77
and China regarding critical areas of concern emanating from the Beijing
Conference. Women had achieved considerable progress by winning a new area
for themselves and advancing the recognition of their human rights.
He said that the population of women in El Salvador were divided among
the rural and urban areas. As a rule, they tended to marry early and have
many children. They were also the sole heads of one third of Salvadorian
households and routinely suffered the negative impact of the masculine lack
of responsibility in the home and with respect to parenting. Education and
health benefits were seriously limited despite women's increasing presence
in the workplace and the national economy. While many discriminatory laws
had been overcome in the last few years during a legislative review, women
still suffered the lack of implementation of those laws.
Concerning the four critical areas of concern, particularly the area of
violence against women, El Salvador had complied with the proposed
strategic objective, he said. What remained to be done was the negotiation
with the National Council of Advertising Agencies to eliminate
advertisements that were discriminatory to women. The Government also
intended to reinforce the educational curricula and training methods. The
Government was committed to overcoming the obstacles and complying fully
with the strategic objectives in order to elevate women's status in a way
that would enable them to fully participate in El Salvador's national
development on an equal basis with men.
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