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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


WOM/1043
6 March 1998


Commission on the Status of Women
Forty-second Session
10th Meeting (PM)



STATUS OF WOMEN COMMISSION HEARS CALLS FOR
FINANCIAL AND OTHER RESOURCES TO HELP IN
IMPLEMENTING BEIJING PLATFORM FOR ACTION

Non-governmental organizations called for new and additional financial
resources for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, as the
Commission on the Status of Women concluded its general debate on the
implementation of objectives and action on critical areas of concern
adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women.


A representative of the African Women's Development and Communications
Network, speaking on behalf of a number of non-governmental organizations,
said such resources could be made available through cuts in military
expenditure in Africa. She urged African Governments to determine their
own agenda of development with the full participation of both women and men
for the benefit of all African people while strengthening South-South
cooperation to promote the advancement of women.


Making recommendations for the Asian region, a representative of the
Asian Caucus said military budgets should be reallocated to the development
of programmes for women and children and action should be directed to solve
the current economic crisis and its negative impact on women. She also
called for action to end the suffering of women in Asia, including sexual
exploitation. States in the region were urged to ban tests to determine the
sex of unborn children; to stop infanticide; to promote education at all
levels for women; and to ensure the availability of health and education
programmes.


Countries that had experienced internal conflict and crises faced even
greater obstacles in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, the
Commission was told. The representative of Rwanda said the challenges
raised at Beijing remained huge for countries facing genocide, which
destroyed infrastructures and tore apart the social fabric. Rwanda's
implementation of the Platform for Action centred around defining a
solution to its internal problems. Despite some progress, the path ahead
was long, and Rwanda therefore, requested the assistance of the
international community to continue to confront the challenges raised in
Beijing.


The representative of Guatemala said his Government had made some
progress towards resettling Guatemalan women who had been affected by the
war. However, the road ahead towards the full human rights of Guatemalan
women was a long one, but his Government had made and would continue to
make all the necessary efforts to get there.


The representative of the General Federation of Arab Women said while the
obstacles to women's enjoyment of their human rights were outlined in the
Beijing Platform, women living in the occupied areas of Palestine continued
to be affected by the brutality inflicted by the occupying military
authorities. Furthermore, the world had witnessed the phenomenon of
economic sanctions which violated human rights in Libya, Sudan, Cuba and

especially Iraq. Prohibiting food as a means to achieve political purposes
seriously affected the implementation of the Beijing Declaration.


Despite remarkable advances in recognizing and elaborating the human
rights of women, including through international treaties, millions of
women and girls remained largely untouched by those agreements, a
representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said. Many
continued to suffer from lifelong, gender-based oppression, and many were
denied their human rights to health, reproductive choice and freedom from
coercion and violence.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Peru, Ukraine,
Venezuela, Greece, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Sudan.


Representatives of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
also spoke, as did representatives of the World Islamic Call Society and
Housewives in Dialogue.


The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Commission will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.


Commission Work Programme

The Commission on the Status of Women met this afternoon to conclude its
general discussion on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action
adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women.


Statements

LUNTANGIN BAYAMA, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies, said the importance of integrating a gender perspective
in the Federation's policies and programmes was being emphasized. Action
plans had been developed for Africa and Europe and a plan was currently
being developed for Asia. The plans included establishing regional and
subregional networks; developing means to address gender issues
consistently into the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes;
training of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, staff, managers and
field delegates in gender analysis methods; collecting and using gender
disaggregated data and reviewing programmes to monitor progress.


On the issue of women and armed conflict, she said it was extremely
important to ensure camps for refugees and internally displaced persons
designed according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) 1995 guidelines on the protection of refugee women.
Only through enhanced cooperation between policy-making bodies and
cooperating partners could words be translated into action. A more close
collaboration among United Nations agencies, particularly UNHCR, was
welcome.


She said the Federation dealt with the consequences of different types of
violence against women, ranging from armed conflicts to domestic violence.
It contributed to identifying abused, violated women and men through Red
Cross and Red Crescent chapters, in collaboration with non-governmental
organizations and government authorities. The Federation also supported
activities by the United Nations system to emphasize women's full and equal
enjoyment of their rights. Women and men's access to human rights
information needed to be increased, and existing mechanisms to identify and
assist women whose human rights were being violated needed to be
reinforced.


MARIE CLAIRE MUKASINE (Rwanda) said that the challenges raised at Beijing
remained huge for countries facing genocide, which destroyed
infrastructures and tore apart the social fabric. Disease had increased,
and vulnerable groups had been further traumatized. Within that sad
picture that had brutalized Rwandan women -- who were increasingly the
heads of households -- Rwanda's implementation of the Beijing Platform for
Action centred around defining a solution to its internal problems.


In that context, Rwanda had implemented measures such as specific support
for those who escaped genocide and for those who had been victims of sexual
violence, she said. Efforts had been made to raise women's awareness of
their right to health services, as well as to support services for the
survivors of the genocide. Other efforts included general education aimed
at reducing literacy and promoting access to education, and consciousness
raising of authorities at all decision-making levels. Rwanda sought to
strengthen its machinery and achieve women's advancement by setting up
focal points to ensure that the gender perspective became part of its
central policy. The establishment of an office responsible for dealing
with women and children triumphed in the recent revision of legislation
governing matrimony and women's concerns in general.


Rwanda was also embarking on information campaigns at all levels to
promote peace, gender-balance and development, she said. The Government
also undertook the organization and celebration of special events
concerning women. In that regard, it chose the topic of "fighting to defend
women's rights" on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specific actions favouring the girl
child aimed at their education, training and health had also been a source
of concern. Despite some progress, the path ahead was long, and Rwanda
therefore requested the assistance of the international community to
continue to pick up those challenges raised in Beijing.


JULIO ARMANDO MARTINI HERRERA (Guatemala) said that the peace agreements
had helped ensure the involvement of women, as reflected in the creation of
a nationwide policy tailored to women. A draft national policy had been
elaborated for the advancement and training of Guatemalan women designed to
promote their condition and status. Another draft was launched in the area
of judicial reform, in order to reduce the existing inequities. Such
reforms sought to revise several criminal, labour and health laws.


Violence against women represented a major challenge in Guatemala, he
said, as the problem was deeply rooted in Guatemala's social structure.
Guatemalan women historically had very little protection of their rights.
In 1996, however, the Congress adopted a law to curb family violence, and
it was currently reviewing a draft law against sexual harassment.
Concerning women in armed conflict, particularly pertinent in Guatemala,
the Government had progressed towards resettling Guatemalan women. Many
such women were heads of households and therefore especially vulnerable and
hard-hit by poverty.


Training programmes and opportunities for access to micro-credit were
intended to improve their living conditions, he said. The Government also
sought a substantial increase in women's access to positions of political
leadership. The women's forum, for example, was an extensive arena for
pluralism and representation for Guatemalan women, and it afforded them the
chance to discuss women's issues. Another programme called "Let's Educate
Girls" strove to increase the rates of enrolment and graduation among girls
through fellowships. The road ahead towards the full human rights of
Guatemalan women was a long one, but Guatemala had made and would continue
to make all the necessary efforts to get there.


MARITZA RODRIGUEZ (Peru) said that with regard to the eradication of
violence against women, Peru's legislation had made decisive strides that
included a legislative framework outlining the nation's policy on family
violence. Initiatives included an amended Penal Code, an expanded
definition of family violence and a provision of no-fee medical care at the
request of police, prosecutorial authorities or the courts. In addition,

the Government had launched training campaigns concerning family violence
for members of the police and human development workers. It had also
opened a telephone hotline to report cases of family violence, as well as
provide emotional support and referrals to special services.


She said that as part of a framework of action to establish basic
conditions for the integrated development of emergency areas, another
programme emphasized the problems faced by displaced women. Activities
included workshops and training, and strengthening women's organizations in
the areas of health, reproductive rights, sexual rights and the prevention
of violence. In addition, the Government had begun the process of adapting
national legislation to the principal international instruments. An
example in Peru of the growing interest in human rights was the creation of
the national commission on human rights in the Ministry of the Interior.


The girl child was of paramount importance to Peru, she said. Indeed,
two major treaties -- the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women -converged on the subject of the girl child. With respect to the
provisions of those treaties, Peru had developed a national plan of action
for children that included specific actions and strategies aimed at
conferring equal opportunity to girls, especially in the areas of
education, the prevention of violence and the treatment of domestic
workers.


Ms. SHIN, of the Asian Caucus, said because of the Asian region's
diversity, women were confronted with a range of problems, including
trafficking in women; dowry practices; the exploitation of migrant women;
prostitution; the spread of HIV/AIDS; violence against women; infanticide;
early marriage; discriminatory laws; and fundamentalism and violence
resulting from conflicts.


Attention must be given to the suffering of women in Asia, she said,
calling for the Commission to ensure that States remove all reservations on
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child; implement the Beijing
Platform for Action; mobilize resources to prevent violence against women;
undertake research to collect gender disaggregated data; provide assistance
for older women and disabled women; and protect the right of girls from

sexual exploitation.

States must also be urged to protect working girls without families; ban
tests to determine the sex of unborn children; stop infanticide; promote
education at all levels for women; help to change attitudes of women; and
ensure the availability of health and education programmes, she continued.
On the issue of war crimes, she said those States which had committed those
crimes should publicly apologize to the women who had been exploited in
those circumstances, including the "comfort women". Furthermore, military
budgets should be reallocated to the development of programmes for women
and children and action should be taken on the current economic crisis and
its negative impact on women. She urged the Commission to complete the
drafting of the optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women and stressed that it should not
allow reservations to the optional protocol.


OKSANA BOYKO (Ukraine) said her country's parliament had approved a
national plan of action for 1997-2000 aimed at improving the situation of
women. It would set up a steering council on women under the Ministry of
Family and Youth Affairs. The plan also included the elaboration of a
draft declaration on the general principles of state policy concerning
family and women, and a draft convention for improving the situation of
women. The principle of equality was enshrined in a range of laws in
Ukraine.


She went on to say that there was a continuation of violence against
women and girls, as was recognized in various communities and cultures
worldwide. Of particular concern was the ongoing trafficking in women,
including the recent increase in trafficking and enslavement of women from
eastern Europe. The victims were young, naive Slavic women who were
entrapped, enslaved and stripped of their basic human rights and had been
forced to work as prostitutes in various parts of the world. Widespread
measures should be taken to prevent such occurrences. Her Government
supported action taken to prevent trafficking in women. A non-governmental
organization programme existed in Ukraine that had as its objective
strengthening non-governmental organizational structures whose activities
focused on the prevention of the illegal trade in women.


Measures such as targeting the media, developing educational programmes
and programmes for legal and social aid for the victims were being pursued,
she said. She welcomed the adoption in the European Union of the joint
action plan to combat trafficking in human beings and the sexual
exploitation of children. Efforts at that level would bring tangible
results, she added.


CARMEN TERESA MARTINEZ (Venezuela) elaborated on a number of steps that
had been taken in her country to make improvements in all areas that
impinged on women's human rights. Action had been taken also through non-
governmental organizations. The need to resolve women's problems had to be
emphasized. Venezuela had prepared an intersectoral plan to prevent
violence against women. It included the sensitization of officials at all
levels, including at the level of prefectures and at the community level,
in women's rights and how to prevent violence within families. A statewide
network to assist victims of violence had been developed and hotlines had
been set up to provide information on violence against women.


Venezuela had also adopted a national women's plan of action, covering
the period 1998 to 2003, to achieve the integration of women into society
by opening up opportunities for them and encouraging their involvement in
all areas of life. Legislation to improve the situation of women should
become part of national legislation very soon. It would increase women's
access to elective office and create a ministry to deal with adolescent
issues and the exploitation of the girl child.


WARIARA MBUGUA, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that despite
remarkable advances in recognizing and elaborating the human rights of
women, including through international treaties, millions of women and
girls remained largely untouched by those agreements. Many continued to
suffer from lifelong, gender-based oppression, and many were denied their
human rights to health, reproductive choice and freedom from coercion and
violence. Society restricted their opportunities and limited their role to
childbearing without lending their support to that role.


It was time to break the silence that surrounded such injustice, she
said. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women, the International Conference on Population and Development
(ICPD) Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action were all
essential to that effort. To promote the human rights of adolescent girls,
the UNFPA, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Economic
Commission for Africa (ECA) had held an expert meeting in Addis Ababa last
October, resulting in a call on governments, civil society and the
international community to work together to expand the options available to
girls. Also stressed were the special needs of refugees, the disabled,
those orphaned by AIDS, maternal death or war, victims of sexual crimes and
female genital mutilation.


She said that gender-based violence had reached alarming proportions in
all parts of the world. Domestic violence and other acts that jeopardized
women's lives and denied them human dignity were closely linked to sexual
and reproductive health. The UNFPA supported various advocacy and

legislative initiates to prevent violence against women, including an
inter-agency campaign led by the United Nations Development Fund for Women
(UNIFEM). Action was also urgently needed to protect the human rights of
women in conflict situations. Fortunately, the international community had
begun to pay attention to the special needs of such women. There could be
no more fitting way to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights than to strengthen the role of the United
Nations system in promoting women's human rights, including their
reproductive and sexual rights.


NADJIBA TABIBI, of the World Islamic Call Society, said as an Afghan, she
wished to raise her voice for the rights of Afghan women. It was important
to remember Queen Radiya, who played a great role in Afghanistan, and Nahid
Shaid, who had defended the country and given her life under a Russian
tank. Afghan women and children were suffering not only from the
consequences of 20 years of war, but from not being allowed to attend
school, participate in domestic activities or go to the public bathhouses -
- an important need for preserving health. More than 10 million Afghan
refugees were scattered in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey in conditions which
were detrimental to the future of the next generation.


She expressed support for the efforts of the European Commissioner for
Humanitarian Affairs, Emma Bonino, for defending the rights of Afghan
women. She also expressed appreciation to United States First Lady Hilary
Rodham Clinton for speaking about the plight of Afghan refugees and to
United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had visited Afghan
refugee camps. According to the Director-General of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy,
the future of Afghan children was at risk. Their rights to safety and
security and to participate in public and private life, school and the
workplace were being violated.


ANASTASIA SOTIRIADOU (Greece) said that her Government had striven to
ensure the widest access of women to education and counselling,
particularly concerning violence against women and girls, and the
prevention and treatment of sexual abuse. Such services conformed to the
Declaration of the Rights of the Child. However, men must also be reached
through formal education and community outreach programmes in order to
prevent sexual violence, and promote national policies in that regard.


Continuing, she said that women and girl children had a right to proper
health care, and to liberation from the customary practices that
marginalized their humanity. Towards that goal, the international
community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equitable manner,
taking into account the various historical and cultural backgrounds. The
national human rights movement had been slow to address women's rights as
human rights issues, but that was beginning to change. At the Conference
in Beijing, the Secretary-General had described violence against women as an
intolerable breach of human rights. Indeed, the many forms of violence
against women compromised their rights as citizen, including their socio-
economic, cultural, political and civil rights.


The phenomenon of violence against women was on the rise, she said.
Unfortunately, agreements had not contributed to its reduction. Such
violence had become a source of income and was perceived as men's right, at
home and in the workplace. It should not be tolerated. Women must resist
violence, and governments must make inroads in that regard. It was one of
the top priorities of the Greek Government that had resulted in substantial
legislative reform and the promotion of information and fair legal
protection. However, a real shortage of services for women victims of
violence in Greece persisted, despite the establishment of a centre for
battered women in Athens, as well as state hospitals and mental health
centres.


ARIANE SAND-TRIGO, of the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC), said that the special protection of women recognized by

international humanitarian law had led the ICRC to give women particular
attention during its activities in the field. The ICRC had sought separate
quarters for women in prisons, and during the distribution of aid, it took
into account the special needs of pregnant women and nursing mothers. In
some situations, the ICRC had intervened to abolish unfair discriminatory
treatment of women. For example, it had actively contributed in the
progressive re-admission of women into hospitals in Kabul.


The ICRC viewed women as the central element of the family, which was
often shattered by conflict, she said. In those cases, it reacted to
restore links between various family members through its central research
agency. That might include an exchange of messages through the ICRC, visits
to prisons or family reunions. It also sought to establish programmes
aimed at enabling women to resume their role as the focal point of the
family, and it might provide financial support to women heads of
households. Women were also considered by the ICRC to be central pillars
in food programmes, given their active involvement in the distribution of
food and water in refugee camps, for example, and also given the care they
gave to their children. With women required to carry heavy loads in times
of conflict, the ICRC would emphasize the need for real measures that
respected women's dignity and fundamental rights.


CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said
implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action had resulted in
significant progress in the promotion and protection of women's rights.
The progress clearly demonstrated that the importance of the inalienable
rights of women as human beings was increasingly being highlighted. The
efforts of non-governmental organizations throughout the world in follow-up
action after Beijing were appreciated. Despite such progress, all forms of
discrimination and violence against women still continued unabated. The
Commission's current session would provide important momentum in
identifying new challenges ahead of the international community's attempts
to promote women's rights and explore ways of overcoming difficulties.


On the issue of violence against women, he said its most serious form was
sexual slavery, and war-time sexual slavery in particular, since such acts
had not ceased even in the late part of the century. If sexual slavery was
to be brought to an end, a thorough liquidation of the past crimes of war-
time sexual slavery should be assured. He drew attention to the case of
military sexual slavery committed with the direct involvement of the
Japanese Government and military before and during the Second World War.
Japan had never made serious apologies to the "victimized States" and to
the victims or their bereaved families for the crime. It was refusing to
offer material compensation to the victims or their families. The setting
up of a non-governmental fund was part of an effort to distort international
opinion on the issue of compensation. Such irresponsibility and
insincerity should not be tolerated. He welcomed the recommendation of the
Special Rapporteur on violence against women of the Commission on Human

Rights to resolve the issue, and asked how could the international
community trust Japan, write off its "enemy State" name from the United
States Charter and endorse its permanent membership of the Security Council
in such circumstance.


ATTIATA MUSTAFA (Sudan) said her country had been developing projects and
plans to implement the Platform for Action. There had been attempts to
integrate the work of all the ministries to address women's affairs,
including focusing on the health of women and children and eliminating the
practice of female genital mutilation, which was very prevalent in Sudan.
Other projects focused on income-generating activities. Non-governmental
organizations from different parts of the country had been working on
women's issues.


The number of women in the Cabinet and at the ministerial level had
increased, she said. The statistical department was developing a
gender-sensitive data collection system on the status of health of the girl
child and on women. Reproductive health issues had been introduced in the

curriculum of secondary schools and all universities. Women in Sudan now
had the right to own land, to own commercial activities and have separate
bank accounts, as well as to have access to financial support for
development programmes.


JONES SHELLENBERG, of the African Women's Development and Communications
Network, spoke of a number of challenges to the successful implementation
of the Beijing Platform for Action and made a number of recommendations on
behalf of African women's non-governmental organizations. There was a
failure at all levels to allocate new and additional resources for
implementing the Platform. In her recommendations, she called on all
parties concerned to make additional and new resources available for
implementation of the Platform for Action.


Those resources in Africa, she went on, could be made available through
cuts in military expenditures, which increased from $154 million in 1995 to
$255 million in 1996. She called on the international community to put an
end to the flow of the sale of arms or military aid to African governments
in civil wars. She called on governments and international agencies to
establish mechanisms to involve women in conflict resolution and
peacemaking.


She made other recommendations on the issue of violence against women,
and the girl child. On the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, she urged all governments to ratify it
without reservations and to support the expeditious passage of the draft
optional protocol being considered by the Commission. African governments
were urged to determine their own agenda of development with the full
participation of both women and men to the benefit of all African people
while strengthening South-South cooperation.


PHOEBE JONES SCHELLENBERG, Housewives in Dialogue, speaking on behalf of
several non-governmental organizations, said that there was a tendency to
consider housewives as women who worked at home. In reality, their work
included, among other roles, caring for victims of rape and violence. Most
of the world's subsistence agricultural work was done by women. Calling
them farmers obscured the fact that they also processed and cooked the food
they grew. Their lives were devalued, which made them vulnerable to human
rights violations. Unpaid women who cared for children were most
vulnerable.


She said that while a paying job enabled women to leave behind marital
rape and abuse, they might face sexual harassment in the workplace, for low
wage workers were often prey to employers' sexual demands. Domestic
workers were particularly vulnerable. It was essential to count the price
that women paid for violence and increase their economic and social
autonomy. The vulnerability of women and children to violence also needed
to be addressed, especially for those considered outside the protection of
the law, such as sex industry workers. In addition, poverty and overwork
should be recognized as a violation of women's rights, especially
considering the detrimental effect on girls' education.


ELHAM MOSTAFA, General Federation of Arab Women, said that the future
would be brighter with the effective participation of women worldwide.
Undoubtedly, the liberation and advancement of women and the enjoyment of
their full rights was related, in part, to the successful implementation of
the Beijing Platform for Action. While the obstacles to women's enjoyment
of their human rights was outlined in the Beijing Platform, women living in
the occupied areas of Palestine continued to be affected by the brutality
inflicted by the occupying military authorities. In recent years, the
world had witnessed the phenomenon of economic sanctions which violated
human rights, in Libya, Sudan, Cuba and especially Iraq. Prohibiting food
as a means to achieve political purposes seriously affected the
implementation of the Beijing Declaration.



Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of China
said that this morning a spokesperson from the non-governmental
organization Women and Armed Conflict had made allegations about the human
rights of Tibetan women, which the Chinese delegation rejected as "totally
groundless". The spokesperson totally disregarded the facts and used the
Commission on the Status of Women to attack a sovereign nation. Such
despicable action should not be allowed by that solemn Commission.


He said that it was known to all that Tibet was an inseparable part of
the Chinese territory. The issue of Tibet was an internal affair of China.
Moreover, the status of Tibetan women and their enjoyment of human rights
had greatly improved, as witnessed by the world community. The erroneous
view expressed by the spokesperson was self-defeating.





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