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Seventy-first Session,
7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4166

Speakers Urge Stronger Actions to Prevent Femicide, End to Gender-based Violence, as Third Committee Considers Women’s Advancement

Femicide — the killing of women because of their gender — and other human rights violations targeting them were hotly debated today as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its consideration of the advancement of women.

Several special mandate-holders briefed the Committee before the outset of its general debate on the topic.  Among them was Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), who emphasized the importance of maintaining a human-rights-based approach and ensuring equal participation of women and men in various spheres of life.

Also picking up on the human rights perspective was Natalia Kanem, Deputy Executive Director (Programme) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who presented the Secretary-General’s report “intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula”.  Fistula, a rupture in the birth canal caused by a lack of quality emergency obstetric care, was preventable and treatable, yet most women and girls suffering from it would die without ever being treated, she said, describing that as a human rights violation.

Women’s lack of access to education and basic services was also a contributing factor to large-scale population movements, said Yoko Hayashi, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  The Committee had called on States to adopt gender-responsive policies to address root causes of forced movements.

Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, discussed violence against women in the context of forced displacement and refugee flows, as she presented the Committee’s thematic report.  She was assessing the potential need for a legally binding treaty on violence against women and welcomed inputs from Member States on that matter.  The report’s second part addressed femicides, she said, calling on States to establish a “femicide watch”, as a way to track violence against women, amid a lack of reliable and disaggregated data, and under-reporting of gender-related killings.

In the ensuing general discussion, delegates stressed that actions were needed to mainstream a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.  In particular, there must be more gender-responsive budgeting initiatives and greater female participation in politics, said Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  That call was echoed by the representative of the Dominican Republic, who spoke on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to advocate for an increase in women’s leadership at all Government levels and their representation in public office, particularly at the top.

Other delegates focused on the inefficiencies associated with continued gender discrimination, with Egypt’s representative observing that violence against women came with a significant cost for society, and the European Union’s delegate noting that reducing gender equality and discrimination could prevent violence.  It was important that women live without fear, said Israel’s delegate.  Creating that environment was not about strengthening women — women were already strong.  It was about changing the perception of strength in society.

Also speaking today were representatives of Niger (on behalf of the African States), Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States, Paraguay, Kuwait, Finland, Switzerland, Italy, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, India, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Russian Federation, Chile, Malaysia, Libya, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, Morocco, Brazil, Kenya, Nepal, Norway, Syria, Maldives and Liechtenstein, as well as the Holy See.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 October, to continue its debate on the advancement of women.

Introduction of Reports

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its general discussion on the advancement of women.  Before it were reports of the Secretary-General on intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations (document A/71/209); intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (document A/71/219); trafficking in women and girls (document A/71/223); and intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/71/306*).  Also before it was a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its sixty-first, sixty-second and sixty-third sessions (document A/71/38).

Interactive Dialogue

LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), noting the crucial opportunity to accelerate advancement towards a “50-50 planet”, said the recent Summit for Refugees and Migrants had given the international community a solid basis for devising an adequate response to those issues.  Indeed, female migrants had experienced more human rights violations than others, making women’s economic empowerment all the more important for achieving gender equality.  She also noted the importance of maintaining a human-rights-based approach and ensuring equal participation of women and men in various spheres of life.

She went on to stress the need to ensure that women and girls led a life free from violence, urging Member States to criminalize female genital mutilation.  She also urged Governments to prioritize women’s advancement for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as there was much work to do.  Further, more action was needed in the areas of violence against women, equal pay, political participation and gender statistics, she said, noting that such efforts should be accompanied by enhanced accountability mechanisms.

NATALIA KANEM, Deputy Executive Director (Programme) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) presented the Secretary-General’s report on “intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula” (document A/71/306).  Though progress had been made over the past two years, far more remained to be done to end obstetric fistula, which was a rupture in the birth canal which resulted from a lack of access to quality emergency obstetric care.  In most cases, the baby died, she said, and the mother was left physically, mentally and emotionally scarred.  The continuing impact of fistula on women and girls in the developing world was a manifestation of health inequality.  Though obstetric fistula was preventable and treatable, most women and girls suffering from it would die without ever being treated.  That was a human rights violation.

According to the report, she said, progress had been made in the three key areas of prevention, treatment and social reintegration of fistula survivors.  In particular, progress had been made in integrating obstetric fistula into national health strategies, with at least 15 countries by 2015 having developed national strategies for ending fistula.  But, the severe lack of resources continued to hamper the response to end obstetric fistula.  As the global community mobilized to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the Secretary-General had made recommendations in five areas to accelerate efforts to end obstetric fistula:  prevention and treatment strategies and interventions; financial support; reintegration strategies and interventions; advocacy and awareness-raising; and research, data collection and analysis.  Efforts should also include scaling up the three well-known, cost-effective interventions of skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric and new-born care, and family planning.

The representative of Chile asked about the causes of obstetric fistula during childbirth, whether it was congenital or caused by unskilled care.

The representative of Mexico welcomed the comments on the situation of woman and girl migrants and called for a comprehensive response by UN-Women.  It was important to strengthen such work and support Member States in their efforts.

Ms. KANEM replied that obstetric fistula was caused by prolonged childbirth and rupture.  It was related to the maturity of the mother and young women were more likely to suffer from it.  In addition, rupture often had social consequences, including isolation, as women could be left incontinent.  While a skilled midwife or a doctor could address that issue, and surgical repair could fix the effects of obstetric fistula, such treatment was not as available as it should be.

Ms. PURI, welcoming that Member States had championed the issue of migrants, reconfirmed UN-Women’s engagement in that area.

YOKO HAYASHI, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said her Committee had adopted seven concluding observations that linked specific Sustainable Development Goals to articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  A workshop held earlier in the summer had included a list of thematic questions for assessing indicator 5.1.1 (“whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex”).  The list would be recommended to the inter-agency expert group for adoption as the internationally accepted method for measuring that indicator.

On refugee and migrant women and girls, she said her Committee had called on States to adopt gender-responsive policies to address root causes of forced movements, ensure the full participation of women in the formulation of such policies and recognize the contribution of refugee and migrant women to global economic growth.  The root causes of large-scale population movements extended beyond conflict and persecution, she said, listing discrimination, gender-based violence, exploitation, climate change, extreme poverty and lack of access to education and basic services as other contributing factors.

The Committee had also adopted a general recommendation on the rights of rural women, she said, which provided guidance to States on their obligations to fulfil the rights of that group.  Furthermore, recommendations on the elimination of gender-based violence had been updated to enhance States parties’ understanding of the relationship between violence against women, and gender equality and intersecting forms of discrimination.  The Committee was also working on recommendations strengthening the right to education for women and girls and providing guidance on gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction.

The representative of Ireland noted that civil society organizations played a key role in highlighting discrimination against women, and expressed concern that the space they operated in was increasingly restricted and dangerous.  She asked Ms. Hayashi for her views on engagement between civil society organizations and treaty monitoring bodies.

The representative of Japan said enhancing cooperation between the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was critical, and asked how each country should cooperate with the treaty body with a view to that concern.

The representative of Switzerland said a gender perspective should be integrated into action plans, as it was vital to strengthen the contribution of women in security-related areas.  She asked about the Committee’s experience with the simplified procedure for countries to submit reports.

The representative of the European Union urged all States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention, and in the context of the refugee crisis, asked the Chair to elaborate on women’s access to justice.

The representative of Denmark observed that non-discrimination of women and girls was a precondition for development, and asked the Chair how to best achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on the elimination of discrimination against women and girls.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that tacking violence against women and girls remained a priority, noting that in his country, legislative change on domestic abuse had been brought into being.  He asked the Chair to elaborate on issues of concern as regards retaliation against those cooperating with the Committee.

The representative of Lithuania commended the Committee’s work on the elaboration of the Sustainable Development Goal on non-discrimination based on sex, and asked the Chair about the exchange of information between the Committee and other treaty bodies.

The representative of Slovenia said that, during the Committee’s sixty-second session, Slovenia’s report had been reviewed.  Two recommendations on access to justice had been made and she asked the Chair to elaborate on any recent progress and good practices on fighting gender stereotypes within the judicial system.

The representative of Norway asked which modalities existed for the Committee to interact with the statistical division when it came to information collection and sharing.

Ms. HAYASHI, in her response, appreciated the support provided to the Committee.  On the treaty body strengthening process, she said the summary record was adopted in English only and a word limit on documents had been imposed.  Uniform language was used for recommendations.  Simplified procedures also included a limit on paragraphs.  Seven countries had been approved to use simplified reporting.  The impact of such efforts remained to be seen, as the cycle had not been completed.

On the question of participation, she confirmed that civil society representatives and national human rights institutions were indeed invited to meetings and that Member States were invited to interact with all stakeholders.  The Committee aimed to continue its engagement with civil society under the treaty body strengthening process.  Treaty bodies had established their own mechanisms to address reprisals against human rights defenders. For the Committee, no special rapporteur had been appointed and the Bureau would provide oversight with guidance from the plenary.  No information on reprisals had been received.

In the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said the Committee had been in touch with UN-Women to contribute to the development of indicators.  The question of inclusion related to the issue of reprisals, she said.  Protection must be ensured in order to achieve full inclusion of all stakeholders and vulnerable groups.  Discriminatory laws and harmful practices persisted in many jurisdictions, she said, calling on Member States and their partners to break those practices and to provide training for judges.  Regarding coherence, she said joint meetings among treaty bodies were not sufficient and more must be done to contribute to the work of other treaty bodies.

Ms. PURI, in her response, commended the Committee for its implementation and monitoring of gender equality.  UN-Women worked very closely with the Committee to drive normative progress, to advance knowledge and to implement recommendations.  In the area of operations, UN-Women worked closely with Member States and civil society to implement recommendations.  Further, UN-Women was involved in the development of indicators and statistics, which fed into the Committee’s work.

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, outlined several priorities she would focus on during her tenure:  protection and services for women survivors of violence; formulating a global code of conduct for security and police forces; violence against women in the context of forced displacement and refugee flows; examination of the connections between extremism and gender-based violence; capacity-building for legal professionals and law enforcement dealing with violence against women; online violence against women; elimination of discriminatory laws; and violence against women in politics.

She then presented the findings of the thematic report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  The first part of the report concerned the legal framework on violence against women.  She was considering the possibility of a legally binding treaty on violence against women and welcomed inputs from Member States on that matter.  The second part of the report concerned femicides (the killing of women because of their gender).

She called for the wide-spread establishment of “femicide watches”, a mechanism to track violence against women.  As part of that project, States would collect data annually and disaggregate that data according to gender and other categories.  By collecting data, femicide watches would increase awareness of gender-based violence and galvanize actions for its prevention.  She cited a number of strong data-tracking projects in that context and called upon Member States to send her examples of good practices.

The representative of Chile, noting that Chile was among the 25 countries with the highest rate of femicide in the world, said Ms. Šimonović’s work was helpful in combating the phenomenon and asked her to elaborate on the subject of genital mutilation.

The representative of Egypt requested that, next year, the report be submitted earlier so delegations would have time to prepare for the discussion, and observed that resources available should be invested in existing mechanisms.  She asked the Special Rapporteur to focus on violence against women in a wider context than just within the family, for instance violence against women in the workplace.

The representative of Australia, noting that at least one woman per week was killed by a partner or former partner in Australia, asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on best practices in prevention-based programmes.

The representative of Liechtenstein asked Ms. Šimonović to elaborate on the feedback she had received on her “femicide watch” initiative, also asking for why violence against women in public life was still an issue in the twenty-first century.

The representative of Spain said the 2030 Agenda had established a link between gender violence and development, adding that Spain supported initiatives to end to impunity.  He asked panellists for their views on how the silence could be broken.

The representative of Brazil welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s use of data in the context of femicide, asking about the modalities for femicide watch mechanisms, including how States could coordinate their efforts at the global, intergovernmental level.

The representative of Estonia asked the Special Rapporteur about opposition to new mechanisms and treaties, requesting her to explain why a new, binding convention would be an efficient means to tackle violence against women.  She further asked how the unreliability of some information sources affected data collection on violence against women.

The representative of Norway asked panellists to be more specific in the recommendations for what changes ought to be made, and how men could be part of the solution.

The representative of the United States, noting that data collection was essential, supported the protection of women in conflict situations and asked about what had been included in the code of conduct on violence against women.

The representative of the United Kingdom noted the importance of addressing domestic violence.  He asked how femicide could be addressed in the context overlapping forms of discrimination and human rights violations.

The representative of the Czech Republic, aligning herself with the European Union, welcomed the inclusion of gender stereotypes and femicide watch in efforts to address violence against women.

The representative of Canada welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur and noted the prevalence of gender-based violence and its effects on communities and societies as a whole.  He welcomed the “femicide watch” initiative, underscoring the need for more gender-disaggregated data.

The representative of Portugal asked the Special Rapporteur how Member States could best respond to underlying causes and measure progress.

The representative of Maldives, describing national initiatives, welcomed the compilation of good practices on shelters and protection orders and noted limits on support for survivors.

The representative of the European Union urged the United Nations to be more active in responding to violence against women, as killings were on the rise.  More disaggregated data were needed, as was specific law enforcement expertise.  She asked about good practices for Member States.

The representative of the State of Palestine said that the situation of women in Palestine continued to worsen, and more women had been killed in settlements.  She asked what measures could be taken to address those issues.

The representative of Denmark, noting that women needed more opportunities to fully participate in life, asked about the most effective advocacy tools and about what could be done in conflict zones.

The representative of Slovenia welcomed the “femicide watch” initiative, noting that the intergovernmental working group could be used to address that issue more effectively.  She asked what could be done to address violence against women in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of Argentina asked how civil society and other actors could be more involved in fighting extreme violence.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the focus should be on implementing existing tools, rather than developing new ones.

The representative of Israel deplored the “verbal attack” by his Palestinian counterpart, asking what could be done about the situation of women in Palestine.

Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ said her report should be seen as a “living” report, which would be followed up.  She invited delegations to focus on the implementation of recommendations at the national level.  Answering a question by Chile’s representative on female genital mutilation, she said her model on femicide could be applied to other forms of violence against women.  Data had to be collected and analysed to see what was needed to prevent violence, and she was compiling best practices in that regard.  She acknowledged that silence around violence against women was a huge issue which needed to be addressed through a variety of mechanisms.  To Brazil’s question on how cooperation at the highest levels could be achieved, she noted that it was in delegations’ hands, and that the modalities of her own model could be altered to suit situations.

She urged the international community to be practical and guided by responses that yielded results.  Turning to a question on jurisprudence, she observed that additional education for judges and lawyers was “extremely needed”.  On stereotypes and how to measure violence, she said the Committee had made good recommendations.  She was cooperating with UN-Women and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, she said, stressing that cooperation with criminal justice systems was also important, as there were discriminatory practices hiding in criminal codes.  On Palestine and Israel’s concerns, she expressed hopes for a constructive dialogue on recommendations emerging from reports, underscoring the importance of civil society participation in that context.

Statements

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called for accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the 1995 fourth World Conference on Women.  Concrete actions were needed to mainstream a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.  In particular, there needed to be more gender-responsive budgeting initiatives and greater female participation in politics.  Access to basic health care and quality education would help to empower women economically.  Violence against women continued to stand in the way of gender equality and sustainable development efforts.  It was, therefore necessary to strengthen the institutional mechanisms, legal frameworks and financing to address such abuse.

Women were also affected by challenges confronting their communities more generally, such as foreign occupation, he said.  Respect for territorial integrity was, therefore, an important factor in women’s advancement.  The Group was committed to redoubling its efforts to protect women and girls facing multiple forms of discrimination, such as women and girls with disabilities.

ABDALLAH WAFY (Niger), speaking on behalf of the African Group, highlighted a number of priorities in the arena of gender equality, including girls’ education, trafficking, female genital mutilation and maternal health.  He called upon States to renew their efforts to expand girls’ education at all levels.  The African Union had shown its commitment to gender equality through a number of provisions and statues, including its “Declaration on 2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.  The declaration was a commitment to create and mainstream mechanisms to ensure women’s access to financing, technical and entrepreneurial skills.

On trafficking, a particular concern, he said the Group called on the international community to hold traffickers accountable and to provide support and services to victims.  The donor community could provide more resources to the anti-trafficking trust fund.  The Group planned to submit a number of resolutions, including one on eliminating female genital mutilation and another on ending obstetric fistula.  To support the latter effort, the international community must make good on its development commitments, including the transfer of official development assistance (ODA) and the transfer of technology.

LUZ DEL CARMEN ANDUJAR (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), called for increasing women’s leadership at all levels of Governmental decision-making and increasing their representation in public office, particularly at the highest levels.  He reiterated the Community’s commitment to counter all forms of violence against women.

The situation of women experiencing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, such as migrants, was particularly concerning, he said.  The human rights of migrant women needed to be respected, regardless of their legal status.  Reaffirming the Community’s commitment to preventing human trafficking, he called upon States to establish and strengthen coordination among countries of origin, transit and destination.  For its part, the Community had established a multigovernmental working group on the advancement of women.

MICHAEL R. TEN-POW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that the 2030 Agenda reinforced the importance of women’s advancement.  Much progress had been achieved, but gaps remained.  Wide-spread violence against women, including trafficking in women and girls, were serious concerns.  Despite that women had established themselves as dependable partners in sustainable economic growth and development, violence against women was still a major challenge in the region.

He also noted that women were disproportionately affected by unemployment, despite a decreasing gap.  Poverty presented a significant threat to the livelihood of women, their families and communities, as women headed nearly half of all the households in the region.  Women’s economic empowerment was of high importance and he supported the goal of creating a violence-free society in order to advance women’s status.  He recognized the need to strengthen collaboration among all actors, and take preventative measures to prevent discrimination.  It was essential to make resources available to achieve gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals, she stressed, noting that ODA played a pivotal role in that regard.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated the bloc’s long-standing commitment to women’s rights and outlined measures it had taken to incorporate gender into different areas of development.  For instance, in 2015, ASEAN had held two regional events on women and climate change.  It also had taken measures to counter violence against women, such as the 2013 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.  On trafficking, ASEAN had provided inputs to the Gender-Sensitive Guideline for Handling Women Victims of Trafficking in Persons.

He went on to say that ASEAN had taken steps to promote the economic empowerment of women and was committed to incorporating gender into its policies and programmes.  Recognizing the important role that women play in development, ASEAN was committed to working with the United Nations to involve women in socioeconomic development at the national, regional and international levels.

JOANNE ADAMSON of the European Union noted that women and girls were disproportionately affected by mass migration, notably through trafficking, violence and exploitation.  Therefore, migration must be addressed through a gender lens and based on a gender analysis.  All humanitarian and development aid provided by the European Union was required to be gender and age sensitive, she said, citing in that context its Facility for Refugees and other initiatives in Jordan and Lebanon, which were based on gender-sensitive assessments.  Indeed, reducing gender equality and discrimination could prevent violence and abuse.

She said the European Union’s newly adopted Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy highlighted the urgent need to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  In that context, women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution had been enhanced, with priority given to the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence.  The gender dimension in countering emerging threats also had been recognized, she said.

VALERIE BIDEN OWENS (United States), noting that combating violence against women and girls was a priority for her Government, said that, in 2012, the President had issued an executive order on ending violence against women and girls globally.  Female genital mutilation was among the many forms of violence that was a concern, and the Department of State was working on multiple fronts to end that practice.  Obstetric fistula remained a serious threat to many women and could be addressed through promoting sexual and reproductive rights.  Finally, the United States was partnering with others to combat human trafficking in all its forms, and had awarded more than $18 million in grants to combat that crime.  Stateless persons faced heightened risks of human rights abuses.  Given the current migrant and refugee crisis, it was especially important that women have the right to confer citizenship upon their children and spouses.  She looked forward to working with the Committee to draft strong resolutions on women’s advancement, which was critical for advancing human rights more generally.

SHEYAM ELGARF (Egypt), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said violence against women came with a significant cost for society, and as such, must be addressed.  Discrimination against women must be eradicated and their full participation ensured.  In Egypt, progress had been made in advancing women’s political participation, she said, stressing the importance of separating religious and gender issues.

ANA SOLEDAD SANDOVAL ESPÍNOLA (Paraguay) said that her country’s Constitution acknowledged the importance of gender equality and the Government was working hard to make it a reality.  Paraguay’s third national plan was working to create equal opportunities for men and women and creating public policies to break the historic imbalance between the sexes.  Social protection in the form of cash transfers were helping to provide greater access to health and education for families and heads of households.  A law on domestic employment was extending rights to people working in the home.  The country faced many challenges, such as violence against women, unemployment and underemployment, but was working hard to solve those problems.

ALIA ABDULLAH ALMUZAINI (Kuwait) recognized the important role of UN-Women in eradicating violence against women, recalling the pervasiveness of such abuse in all aspects of life.  That applied in particular to displaced women.  She drew attention to the importance of gender equality, noting that her Government supported the education of women and girls, and that the number of women in higher education had increased.  Kuwait also provided adequate health care for women and girls.

KAI SAUER (Finland) said that to achieve any goals in development or peace, it was critical to end violence against women and girls, which was still wide-spread, including in his own country.  It was critical to address gender stereotypes and to engage men in changing attitudes.  It was also time that adequate resources and international cooperation were devoted to the issue, for if gender equality for all was not established, sustainable development would not be possible.  Finland, he noted, had greatly benefitted from ensuring women’s equal rights in politics, education, work, social protection and property ownership.  Empowering women to make their own informed decisions about their own bodies was crucial.  As the dearth of gender data was hampering progress, “Statistics Finland”, in addition to bolstering gender statistics in its publications, was collaborating with United Nations Statistics Division on the sixth global forum on the issue starting 24 October, with a focus on gender indicators for monitoring achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he announced.

Mr. HEINZER (Switzerland) said sexual and gender-based violence, in whatever form and however manifested, was a major obstacle to the construction of a more egalitarian society.  It hindered economic and social development and prevented victims from participating fully in public and economic life.  Stressing that support services must be comprehensive and multi-sectoral — including medical services, psychosocial support, legal assistance and economic integration — he said the elimination of violence against women and girls must be included in the priorities of national Governments and parliaments.  Awareness-raising and prevention efforts must also be extended to include men and boys, who could be powerful agents of change in work to end violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.

NADAV YESOD (Israel) called on Member States to envision a world with equal opportunities for every woman and every girl.  Indeed, obstacles remained on the way to gender equality.  Women were still considered second-class citizens in many places, denied a voice and facing the threat of violence, child marriage and other human rights violations.  He urged Member States to create an environment where women could live without fear, stressing that education was essential in order for women to achieve their full participation in economic development and politics.  Such work was not about strengthening women; women were already strong.  Rather, it was about changing the perception of strength in society.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said gender and women’s issues had a value that was both absolute and transversal, as they were intertwined with development, health, social equity and the enjoyment of human rights.  Eliminating violence and discrimination and empowering women were not only an indispensable moral imperative and expression of justice, but also an outstanding multiplier of well-being and development.  Underscoring the need to strengthen the legal and policy framework for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to ensure the full implementation of existing international human rights instruments and agreements, he said Italy was at the forefront of international multilateral action to end harmful practices such as female mutilation and early and forced marriage.  He expressed support for the United Kingdom-led initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict, both at the political and operational levels.

SYLAPHET THINKEOMEUANGNEUA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and ASEAN, reviewed a number of laws and policies his Government had instituted to promote gender equality, including its national strategy for the advancement of women.  The Government had coordinated with local authorities and international organizations to mobilize financial support for its efforts to promote gender parity.  In addition, it had improved health, education, nutrition and income-generating activities among women.

MAYANK JOSHI (India), noting the critical role women played in all aspects of development, said that, while progress had been made in women’s advancement, it was uneven and women were still disproportionately affected by poverty, exclusion and violence.  India attached great importance to gender equality, he said, noting that the national policy for women had been updated to accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  A number of programmes had been set up to advance financial inclusion and income generation for women.  Women’s political participation in local and urban governance had increased, while their education and health care had improved.  In addition, efforts had been made to fight violence against women, including with the creation of helplines.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) endorsing the positions of the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, said his country’s gender policies stressed the empowerment of women facing violence and multiple forms of discrimination.  Too often, violence against women was invisible.  Argentina had drafted its first national plan to protect women at risk, making the eradication of violence against them a matter of State policy.  Trafficking of women and girls was another priority, he said, stressing the importance of providing free legal assistance and access to justice to those women.

GABRIELA COLÍN ORTEGA (Mexico) said women faced multiple forms of discrimination and violence, and were still often objectified.  That negative cycle must be broken.  Policies and programmes based on equality and shared responsibilities must be developed, while traditionally unremunerated work should also be considered.  Moreover, human rights of women and girls must be advanced, including sexual and reproductive rights.  She stressed the importance of gender-disaggregated data, adding that Mexico would establish a centre of excellence in that area.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), associating with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, said women’s empowerment must be at the heart of measures to end violence against women.  There were three crucial components of Colombia’s efforts:  prevention, care and coordination.  Prevention efforts primarily took the form of gender mainstreaming, while care involved strengthening sectors that helped victims.  Coordination meant consolidating information and monitoring systems.  In 2016, Colombia had passed a law criminalizing femicide and had increased the punishment for aggressors using chemical agents.  Colombia was proud of its long tradition of women in leadership, he said, emphasizing that women comprised one third of the negotiators involved in the country’s peace process.  States must shoulder the responsibility of protecting women.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with CELAC, said a key requirement for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment was the creation of an equitable and just international order.  Cuba had adopted a number of laws ensuring equal rights, opportunities and possibilities for men and women.  Among other things, Cuban women were entitled to one year of paid maternity leave, enjoyed free and universal access to quality education and health services and had sexual and reproductive rights.  Noting that Cuba had been the first country recognized as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis, she said that much remained to be done.  Eliminating violence against women and girls required the lifting of all unilateral coercive measures.  The continued economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba had hampered women’s enjoyment of their fundamental rights, including the right to development.

IRINA MEDVEDEVA (Russian Federation) said improving women’s status remained a challenge in many places amid persistent gender stereotypes and gender-based violence.  The Russian Federation had worked on policies to advance the status of women in politics and economic life, while other measures had been taken to protect their health and to combat violence against them.  Further, efforts were under way to strengthen international cooperation and partnerships with relevant stakeholders.  Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals required a rights-based approach, she added.

FIDEL COLOMA GRIMBERG (Chile) attached utmost importance to eradicating violence against women in all its forms.  It was a systemic and structural problem which required political will to eradicate.  In addition, trustworthy data were needed to quantify the problem.  While it was necessary to institute laws against violence, it was also crucial that those laws be implemented.  Of particular concern were extreme manifestations of violence, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and femicide.  He welcomed Niger’s draft resolution on female genital mutilation and hoped to collaborate on it.  Femicide was of enormous concern to Chile, which had among the highest rates in the world.  Efforts to end violence against women would require training monitors, launching awareness campaigns, and educating the public, beginning with schools.

Mr. IBRAHIM (Malaysia), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said women’s empowerment was an essential part of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan.  His country had established a target of increasing women’s labour participation from 54 to 59 per cent.  Creating a more supportive working environment — including work-life balance and flexible working arrangements — would help promote women’s participation in the labour force.  Malaysia was also working to increase the number of women in decision-making positions, and as of 2015, 35 per cent of decision-making positions in the public sector were held by women.  The Women’s Advisory and Consultative Council advised on policies and legislation specific to women.  Programmes to support vulnerable women included skills training for single mothers and legal literacy programmes for victims of violence.

MALAK SALIM (Libya), aligning herself with Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, underscored the need to include women in all aspects of life.  She expressed concern that women were still subjected to discrimination, stereotypes and violence, emphasizing the importance of gender equality and the reflection of that equality in national laws and policies.  Urging that women have equal access to education, the job market, health care and other social services, she said Libya had established a number of institutions to advance women’s involvement in politics and economic life, as well as intensified cooperation with civil society.

Ms. SALAZAR (Peru), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, reaffirmed the importance of the Beijing Declaration and her country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda.  Peru was working towards Sustainable Development Goal 5 through its national gender equality plan, which promoted gender mainstreaming and equal rights.  Peru also took violence against women seriously, and was pursuing a 2016‑2021 national plan to end such abuse.  It was important to address the sociocultural factors that exacerbated violence against women.  The Government had implemented monitoring and evaluation policies on gender equality in all public administration issues, measures that were part of broader efforts to create a social revolution for gender equality.

Ms. AL SUAIDI (United Arab Emirates) said her Government had taken measures to empower women, including increasing the number of women in leading positions.  The current national plan sought to empower women and guarantee their equal protection, particularly from violence.  Since 2012, the law had made women’s participation in federal institutions obligatory.  Finally, she emphasized the importance of reducing maternal mortality and involving women in conflict resolution.

NGUYEN DUY THANH (Viet Nam), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said social and economic development could not be achieved without the inclusion of women.  Indeed, women should not be subjected to discrimination, inequality and violence.  In Viet Nam, gender-based violence was prohibited by the Constitution, and 40 legislative acts to mainstream gender had been adopted over the last five years.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said women globally continued to suffer from problems in education, training and health.  Morocco had paid particular attention to empowering women, she said, noting that it had shown its commitment to a proactive approach by enacting structural reforms.  Reform of the family code had rendered justice to Moroccan women, and the new Constitution fought discrimination so they could enjoy all human rights.  Morocco also had enshrined the primacy of international law over domestic law and joined the Convention’s Optional Protocol.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), aligning himself with CELAC, said the Agreed Conclusions adopted by the Commission on the Status of Women last year represented a significant milestone, as they were the first intergovernmental agreement that elaborated on how the gender-responsive and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda should be carried out.  He stressed the need to promote and protect the human rights of all women and girls, reaffirming Brazil’s commitment to accelerate implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  The Government had passed a bill criminalizing femicide and launched a national programme that provided support to survivors of gender-based violence.  He noted with concern the persistent gender gap in employment and the “feminization of poverty”, urging States to discuss how the private sector could foster progress in that area.  He also stressed the need for systematic gender mainstreaming.

ROSEMARY OWINO (Kenya), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said that, despite progress made, the journey to achieving women’s equality and empowerment was still fraught with challenges.  Unacceptably high numbers of women still bore the brunt of discrimination, poverty and unemployment, and faced violence and structural barriers.  For its part, Kenya was focused on bridging critical gaps for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, including through its Vision 2030 development blueprint, which underscored the importance of gender mainstreaming, and equity in resource distribution and power between the sexes.  Kenya had enacted a Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and had prohibited female genital mutilation, with a board set up to fight the latter.  Kenya had also improved women’s education, with near gender parity in primary and secondary school.  The Government was working to create boarding schools for nomadic communities, while other efforts focused on prevention of early child marriage.

ILLA MAINALI (Nepal), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said Nepal’s Constitution guaranteed at least 33 per cent women in Parliament, as well as a balance of gender at the top positions.  As party to 24 human rights instruments, including seven core conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Nepal had implemented national plans of action.  With its zero-tolerance policy on violence against women and girls, Nepal had established a separate unit to combat gender-based violence.  On international migration, she advocated coordinated and concerted efforts at the national, regional and international levels to combat violence against women migrant workers.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway) said that young, forced marriage was “violence and abuse” and that tradition could not excuse the practice.  Girls under 18 should not become wives and mothers, thus drastically narrowing their life opportunities.  He also called for the end of marital rape, trafficking, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence against women, with men involved in changing gender norms.  For the 2030 Agenda to succeed, women’s resources and talents must be tapped and girls and women must have equal access to education, jobs, property and decision-making.  Education was the top priority in Norway’s development cooperation, as it allowed women and girls to find their way out of poverty, take control of their own lives and hold political and economic positions.  Noting his country’s recently launched action plan for women’s rights and gender equality in its foreign and development policy, he pledged that Norway would continue its efforts to ensure that no woman or girl, particularly the most marginalized, was left behind.

PETER AGHA (Syria), associating himself with Group of 77 and China, recalled that his country had safeguarded women’s rights since the 1920s.  Syrian women had had the right to vote since 1948, and in 1973, the first Syrian woman had become a Parliamentarian.  Today, a woman served as Vice-President of the country.  Unfortunately, many Syrian women were suffering the effects of war.  They were being abducted and sold into slavery by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), suffered in camps on the borders of neighbouring countries and at the mercy of human traffickers backed by “Turkish terrorists and criminals”.

Ms. ZAHIR (Maldives) said that, almost four decades after the Convention’s adoption and two decades after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, the international community had not been able to achieve a world where girls and women could fully enjoy their human rights.  The Maldives’ policy to achieve gender equality was clear, she said, singling out its intention to continue introducing structural and normative changes that enabled women to fight for their constitutionally guaranteed rights before the law, among other measures.  As the world worked to achieve of the Sustainable Development Goals, women should not be treated merely as beneficiaries, but as leaders, contributors, and agents of change.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein) regretted that the equal participation of women was still an issue.  Women comprised only a small fraction of governmental ministers around the world, despite evidence showing that their political participation improved decision-making processes.  Moreover, women’s increased access to education was associated with economic growth.  Liechtenstein was a strong advocate for the women, peace and security agenda.  In conflict and post-conflict situations, gender equality began with women’s full involvement in peace processes.  Women were powerful agents of change.  Data had shown women’s involvement increased the probability of a lasting peace agreement and she urged that women be involved in the Syrian peace process.  She welcomed the United Nations’ role in promoting gender equality, calling on the Secretary-General designate to increase women’s representation in senior positions.

MARY ANN DANTUONO, observer of the Holy See, said it was alarming that 35 per cent of women worldwide had experienced physical violence during their lives, mostly domestic and sexual.  Special attention must be given to that “truly scandalous” situation, she said, in order to defeat that deplorable behaviour.  In a world where poverty had a female face, the promotion of inclusive economies could profoundly advance women’s status.  The Holy See supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to focus on female genital mutilation, with Pope Francis specifically having identified it as an example of unacceptable customs which must be eliminated.  She said her delegation supported efforts that promoted women’s dignity, and improved their living conditions and participation within the family and society.

For information media. Not an official record.