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Seventy-first Session,
GA/SHC/4167

Speakers in Third Committee Advocate Gender Equality in Politics, Economy, as Debate on Women’s Advancement Continues

The Third Committee continued its discussion on the advancement of women today, with delegates sharing national action plans and legislation adopted to promote gender equality, in accordance with their commitments under Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Speakers said those policies covered a range of areas, from women’s participation in politics and the economy, to involvement in conflict resolution, equal access to education, protection from violence, and the availability of prenatal health care and family support.

With some countries seeking to rectify inequities in the political representation of women through quotas, South Africa’s representative said women made up nearly 40 per cent of senior managers in the public sector, while Kyrgyzstan’s delegate said a quota had been introduced for women in Parliament.  In Ecuador and Ethiopia, women’s participation in politics had increased considerably over the previous decade, representatives of those countries said.  Both had taken measures to promote gender-equitable policies and programmes.

Although women had long been active in the economy, their contribution had been undervalued, Haiti’s representative pointed out.  To rectify that injustice, countries like Burkina Faso had established national strategies to promote women’s entrepreneurship, that country’s representative said.  Costa Rica’s delegate said her country’s Government was investing in technical training.

Other countries had implemented more women-friendly labour laws, the Committee heard, as Qatar’s representative drew attention to maternity leave and flexible working arrangements.  Similarly, Bulgaria’s representative said the Government had enacted policies to promote equal participation in the labour market, including flexible working hours and incentives to combine work and family life.

Ending violence against women was high on the list of priorities for many delegations, with Lithuania’s representative saying that it accounted for 2 per cent of global gross domestic product.  While most speakers addressed violence in the domestic sphere, several others spoke of the challenges that war posed to the full realization of women’s rights.  Iraq’s delegate voiced regret that despite measures taken to increase protections and the participation of women, thousands had experienced rights violations as a result of terrorism.  In particular, Iraq was working to support those abused by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and to reintegrate them into society.

Similarly, Iran’s representative said foreign intervention, invasion and occupation, combined with an upsurge in Salafi-Takfiri-inspired terrorism, had destroyed families throughout the Middle East.  The representatives of Jordan and Saudi Arabia expressed their concern about violations of the rights of Palestinian women living under Israeli occupation.

Alongside policies and programmes for women’s advancement, many speakers stressed the need for better data collection, with the Dominican Republic’s representative describing it as essential for policymaking.  Disaggregated data were also important for tracking the situation of women and helped to direct investments towards those with the greatest need, others said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Swaziland (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Namibia, Zambia, Philippines, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria, Honduras, Oman, Cabo Verde, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Canada, Ethiopia, Australia, Guatemala, United Republic of Tanzania, Lebanon, Iceland, Senegal, Japan, Tajikistan, Liberia, Gambia, Guinea, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Bolivia, Mauritania, Latvia, Sudan, Rwanda, Spain, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Ukraine, China, Burundi, New Zealand, Algeria, Jamaica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Bahrain, Fiji and Palau.  A representative of the State of Palestine also spoke, as did a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Representatives of India, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Speaking on points of order were representatives of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 October, to conclude its discussion on the advancement of women.  It is also expected to begin discussion on the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee met this morning to continue consideration of its agenda item on the advancement of women.  For more information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4166.

Statements

ZWELETHU MNISI (Swaziland), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, said the Community was committed to ensuring that no one was left behind in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Its formulation of a comprehensive Protocol on Gender and Development was a significant move for the sub-region.  For the Protocol to be beneficial to all, an enabling institutional environment was required, yet he noted that it remained challenging to transform critical structures along a gender-sensitive perspective.

The leaders of SADC member States had constantly voiced their support and commitment to promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, he said, and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The African Union Agenda 2063 also focused on achieving gender parity, something which would require all actors to employ new ways of thinking and acting.  The region, which remained affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, continued to implement a number of interventions including prevention of mother-to-child transmission.  But even with all the efforts put forward, progress made to reduce gender inequality remained among the biggest challenges, he said.  Others included inadequate investment in social protection and limited financing for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

LUIS XAVIER OÑA GARCÉS (Ecuador), associating with the Group of 77 and China and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that women’s political participation in his Government had increased over the last nine years.  The Government had promoted policies to mainstream the gender perspective and had established a council on gender equality.  The labour law had been reformed to recognize women’s contribution in the domestic sphere, with provisions for social security and retirement.  Moreover, Ecuador had launched a campaign to counter violence against women and a protocol to assist victims of gender-based abuse.  Such progress could not have been realized without the struggle of women themselves.  Finally, sustainable development could not be achieved without the empowerment of women and girls, he said, calling for strong political leadership to bring about radical change in the exercise of women’s rights.

Ms. JAYAWARDENE (Sri Lanka), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, described her country’s progress in the area of gender equality, noting that almost all girls in Sri Lanka completed their primary education, and that female students dominated a number of professional fields.  Further, women’s access to health care had greatly improved, which in turn, had lowered maternal mortality.  Sri Lanka’s current efforts focused on women’s economic empowerment, the elimination of violence against women, and women’s participation.  With regard to the latter, she noted that more must be done.  Women’s important role in reconciliation and peacebuilding had been recognized.  Sri Lanka was carrying out prevention, intervention and advocacy measures to end gender-based violence.

MOHAMED GHEDIRA, a youth delegate from Tunisia, said that in his country, women were at the heart of the changing society.  Reviewing Tunisian mythical history dating to Phoenician times, he went on to describe famous Tunisian women, such as Wided Bouchamaoui, who was among the co-recipients of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Peace for her role in the Quartet for National Dialogue.  The Tunisian Constitution imposed strict equality when it came to electoral lists, making it possible to count 67 women among 217 deputies.  While much remained to be done, he was optimistic and realistic, preferring modest reforms which would in time permit success.

MARIA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua), associating with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the Government was committed to implementing the Beijing Declaration of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the outcome of the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session, and international conventions on discrimination.  While recognizing that progress had been made on women’s empowerment, poverty, education and other goals, challenges remained and States must work together to overcome them.  Women must be included in political decision making.  In Nicaragua, women comprised more than 50 per cent of State and municipal positions.  The Government was taking measures to strengthen the family and working with communities to eradicate violence from its cultural roots.

MARIJE CORNELISSEN (Netherlands) spoke about two farmers.  Sushila Khari was from Nepal, whose crops were often ruined by extreme weather due to climate change.  The other was Marielle Gijsbers, from the Netherlands, who had her greenhouses destroyed by torrential rains and hail stones “as big as ping-pong balls”.  Those stories showed that “climate change is happening now and happening everywhere”, she said, stressing that the worst-hit were women, who were underrepresented as land-owners, decision-makers, entrepreneurs, bank managers and scientists.  Women needed access to knowledge, political power and funding, and the Third Committee had promised to provide those things.  As hard as it was to negotiate agreements globally, that was nothing compared to the hard work required to implement them.

FARZANEH ABDULMALEKI (Iran) said achieving development would be close to impossible without the meaningful participation of women.  However, for many women and girls, empowerment and advancement was not happening fast enough.  In some regions, particularly the Middle East, families had collapsed as a result of foreign intervention, military invasion and foreign occupation combined with an upsurge of Salafi-Takfiri-inspired terrorism.  In Iran, despite cruel and unjust sanctions against the country’s people, women had recorded significant progress and the Government was determined to ensure a more central role for them in decision-making and in the labour market.

MR. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq) reviewed several laws that his Government had enacted to eliminate gender discrimination, among them, a Constitutional reform to allow Iraqi women to confer nationality upon their children and a 25 per cent quota for women in Parliament.  Iraq had taken measures to guarantee gender equitable education, encouraged coeducation and had revised its syllabi accordingly.  Since 2003, Iraqi women had occupied many social and political positions, including ministerial posts.  Underscoring that women’s equality and sustainable development could not be achieved without peace and security, he said thousands of women across Iraq had experienced rights violations as a result of terrorism.  The Government was working to help those women reintegrate into society and he welcomed the United Nations’ support in those efforts.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica), associating herself with Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, described States’ “limited” efforts to achieve gender equality.  Discrimination and unequal power relationships had caused violence between men and women.  Recognizing persistent inequality, Costa Rica had created laws on domestic violence, trafficking, sexual harassment and other issues, she said.  Certain programmes provided economic and technical assistance to women, yet negative social standards and discriminatory laws were at the root of gender gaps.  States were obliged to change and challenge the standards that limited women’s access to work, including by creating normative frameworks to promote gender equality.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), describing national progress on women’s advancement, said the Government had strengthened the legal framework and institutional mechanisms.  A recently renewed action plan on the protection of human rights for 2016 — 2017 included sections on gender equality and combatting gender-based violence.  In addition, separate action plans had been adopted on the implementation of the Security Council resolution on women, peace and security, as well as on combatting violence against women and the protection of survivors.  Georgia also had enhanced women’s political participation in municipalities and continued to cooperate with the United Nations special procedures.  Sustainable development could only be achieved through the empowerment of women and gender mainstreaming, she said, voicing concern over the human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia.

CAROLINA POPOVICI (Republic of Moldova), associating herself with the European Union, announced her country’s recent adoption of a law introducing gender quotas for party list candidates and Cabinet nominees.  Among other things, it prohibited sexist language and images in the media and advertising, established a Gender Equality Coordination Group and expanded the responsibilities of local public authorities on gender equality.  In particular, Roma women had been elected to local councils, participated in community development and encouraged other members of the Roma community to defy ethnic and gender stereotypes.  The country had been the first in southeastern Europe to introduce gender-responsive budgeting education in national universities, ensuring that gender policies and national commitments for women’s empowerment were backed by adequate and sustainable funding.  Recalling that the Republic of Moldova still faced a frozen, unresolved conflict in the Transnistrian region — where foreign military troops and arsenals were illegally stationed — she said it recently had launched an information and dialogue series on women, peace and security, to which it attached great importance.

WILFRIED EMVULA (Namibia) voiced concern about the different forms of violence against women, a problem compounded by inequality, discrimination and traditional beliefs.  Citing the growing number of “passion killings” as an area of particular concern, he said Namibia had prosecuted and sentenced more perpetrators than in the past.  Women’s economic and political empowerment was essential in protecting them from violence.  As many women in Namibia were domestic workers, the Government had increased the minimum wage.  Moreover, he said, the First Lady recently had been named a Special Advocate for Young Women and Girls by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS in order to advance the protection and empowerment of women.

The representative of Djibouti, in a point of order, requested an update on the Chair’s consultations with the Office of Legal Affairs about the possibility of adding an oral presentation by the Commission on Human Rights in Eritrea to the Committee’s agenda.

The Chair replied that the Committee was not discussing the agenda item in question at the current time, and would introduce that item in due course.

The representative of Ethiopia reminded the Chair that she had been mandated by the Committee to consult with the Office of Legal Affairs.  He was concerned that if the matter was not addressed promptly, the Commissioners would have insufficient time to prepare their oral update.

The Chair said she would consult with the Office of Legal Affairs today and come back to the Committee with a decision.

MS. Al-KAHTANI (Saudi Arabia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said Saudi women contributed to national decision-making by holding Government positions.  They also participated in delegations and worked in the diplomatic corps.  To improve women’s rights, a law had been approved protecting women from domestic violence.  Several concepts of Islamic and Sharia law prohibited discrimination based on sex.  The country adhered to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and addressed women’s human rights in concert with provisions of Sharia and international laws.  The Saudi Government and people regretted the situation that women faced in several parts of the world, including violence and exploitation faced by Palestinian women.  Saudi Arabia would continue protecting human rights in concert with Islamic Sharia.

MWABA KASESE P. BOTA (Zambia), calling discrimination “a persistent instance of inequality”, said his country continued to take measures to address gender equality.  The Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act of 2011 was a major step in combatting violence against women, while the Gender Equity and Equality Act No. 22, adopted in 2015, addressed women’s rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.  The Government was committed to advancing women’s rights in a comprehensive manner, he said, acknowledging that gender equality was a main driver in the achievement of inclusive development.

MS. AL-MURAIKHI (Qatar), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, was pleased to see so many female candidates for the post of Secretary-General, which showed the international commitment to gender equality.  She supported the elevation of women to leading posts within the Organization, noting that in Qatar, women enjoyed all the rights conferred by the Constitution.  The country’s 2011—2016 national development strategy focused on increasing women’s education.  Today, there were twice as many women enrolled in university as men.  Because the unity of the family was integral to the rights of women, Qatar was expanding access to child care, flexible working hours and maternity leave.  As eradicating violence against women was important for development and peace, Qatar had established specialized mechanisms for ensuring women’s protection.

LOURDES O. YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of 77, said her Government had enacted laws addressing such issues as child pornography, trafficking in persons and violence against women.  Further, the Inter-Agency Council on Violence against Women worked with Government agencies in tackling cases of violence, while residential care facilities and rape crisis centres across the country provided protective services for victim-survivors.  Noting that nearly 10 million Filipinos — many of them women — had migrated overseas to respond to the global demand for labour, she said the Philippines had established a protective support mechanism through a network of laws, regulations, policies, programmes and institutions implemented in a migrant-centred approach.  There had been some 1,500 recorded trafficking victims in the Philippines in 2015 — 88 per cent of whom were female.  In response, the Government had created a Recovery and Reintegration Programme for Trafficked Persons, offering a comprehensive package of services for the victim-survivors, their immediate family and the community.

ALMAGUL KONURBAYEVA (Kazakhstan) said crises compelled the international community to consider how to create more effective linkages between women’s advancement and the pivotal issues and processes of the 2030 Agenda.  Capacity-building was needed at all levels to ensure the establishment of strong, transparent, accountable Governmental mechanisms.  For its part, Kazakhstan was committed to its progressive gender- and women-oriented State policy and programmes, and had intensified efforts to eliminate domestic and other forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence.  Ensuring women’s political participation and economic empowerment were the main components of the country’s efforts, she said.

MARIE-FRANCOISE BERNADEL (Haiti), associating with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CELAC, and Group of 77 and China, welcomed the progress achieved on gender equality.  Haiti’s priorities focused on promoting women’s rights and gender-based data collection.  While women had played a key role in Haiti’s economy, their contribution was undervalued.  Haiti had experienced declining maternal mortality and made progress in family planning thanks to wider contraceptive use.  The national plan to combat violence against women and girls was supporting the police and health care staff in recognizing and addressing gender-based violence.  While she was pleased that four of the country’s political parties were headed by women, she stressed the need to redouble efforts and strengthen gains, particularly in the realm of education and training on gender issues.

YIĞIT Canay (Turkey) said women and girls around the world suffered disproportionately from violence in all spheres of life.  The failure to recognize their rights had perpetuated gender-based violence.  The Government, working with civil society, had made judicial reforms to improve the rights of women and girls.  At the international level, Turkey had contributed to normative and practical fields, especially the elaboration of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention.  The advancement of women would succeed only with sustained international focus in all settings, including during crises, he said, citing Turkey’s work to alleviate humanitarian suffering resulting from the conflict in Syria.

INA KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), endorsing the positions of the Group of 77 and ASEAN, welcomed strides women had made over in recent decades, but regretted that they still comprised a disproportionate share of disadvantaged people.  Poor women faced greater disadvantages than men.  Under the “Three Ends” national programme, Indonesia was working to end violence against women and human trafficking, and ensure that women had equal access to economic resources.  Finally, she emphasized the importance of building international partnerships towards achieving global goals that respected national priorities and country-specific challenges.

D.G. BALA (Nigeria) said the Government had initiated gender-sensitive programming to strengthen women’s political and economic empowerment.  A gender unit had been re-introduced to all Government entities in order to mainstream gender across all functions, while the 2015 “Violence against Persons Prohibition Act” addressed all forms of violence against women.  Moreover, the Security Council resolution on women, peace and security had been implemented through a multi-sectoral national action plan, he said, noting that other projects had been carried out to mitigate the harmful effects of obstetric fistula and related socio-cultural practices.  There was a need to address the gender dimension of human trafficking and focus on the women and girls abducted by Boko Haram.

MS. LOBO (Honduras), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77 and China said that in her country, rural women made up half the population, but were prevented from basic resources, such as credit.  Women’s economic empowerment was important and the Government had created a programme to promote the development of services, family and community life.  It had also adopted a law on wage equality, so there could be no discrimination for the same work done by men or women.  She said Honduras would continue to promote the economic empowerment of women.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group, and SADC, said that while his country had made significant progress in advancing gender equality, women and girls continued to face violence, abuse, discrimination and lack of opportunities.  South Africa had ratified, without reservations, several international and regional instruments that ensured it was bound by international human rights law in the area of promoting and protecting women’s rights.  Its commitment to gender parity was seen in the composition of its Government:  Female ministers comprised 43 per cent of the Cabinet and 41 per cent of the National Assembly.  Further, women made up nearly 40 per cent of senior management in the public sector, he said, stressing that South Africa would continue to support women’s empowerment and advancement through the 2030 Agenda.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country had integrated international legal texts on gender equality into its policies, obliging it to promote that issue in the economy, and in socio-cultural and political life.  Burkina Faso was working to combat gender-based violence through education and training, as well as increase women’s involvement in politics through a 30 per cent quota for women on legislative lists.  Moreover, a national strategy to accelerate girls’ education had been carried out, as had a national literacy programme, she said, adding that the Government would begin offering free prenatal care as part of efforts to prevent maternal mortality.  As development could not be sustainable without women’s equal participation, Burkina Faso had established a national strategy to promote women’s entrepreneurship.

MS. BAOMAR, youth delegate from Oman, associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, noting that men and women in her country enjoyed the same rights and freedoms.  Women participated in the workforce in increasing numbers, and female students represented 55 per cent of university students.  Oman celebrated Omani women on 17 October every year to express appreciation for women’s role in society.  Women had been ambassadors, ministers, and parliamentarians.  They had the right to vote in the Shura council and the State council.  She reviewed various judicial amendments to both national and international instruments, noting that Oman would prioritize such issues.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said the best way to promote women’s advancement was to provide them with economic and political rights.  Having put into practice special measures to support women’s leadership, Kyrgyzstan was taking significant steps in that direction, she said, noting that a quota for women in Parliament had been introduced, and a number of senior ministerial positions were occupied by women.  Moreover, the Government had allocated significant funds for school construction, particularly in rural areas, offering girls the opportunity to grow into self-sufficient women.

SAMAR SUKKAR(Jordan) said all Jordanians were equal before the Constitution.  Jordan had recently taken steps to advance women’s rights, appointing “ten ladies” to the Senate.  Its strategy for women was being modernized, and to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security sought to increase the number of women in the workforce.  Violence against women was a human rights violation and a law had been enacted against domestic abuse.  Jordan had received many refugees from Syria and was doing its best to provide for Syrian refugees, including female refugees, she said, adding that Palestinian women continued to suffer under Israeli occupation.

MIRYAM DJAMILA SENA VIERA (Cabo Verde), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said gender parity had been achieved in all levels of education, as well as literacy.  Investment in education had focused on improving human capital.  Cabo Verde had also worked to improve family planning and access to reproductive health care, and to ensure reproductive rights.  Its national gender equality plan sought to combat gender-based violence and promote equal opportunity for men and women.  Noting that a national fund for victims of gender-based violence had been established with assistance from the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, she reiterated the need to increase women’s political participation and leadership.

HTWE TRA NANDI (Myanmar) said that to achieve equality and advance women’s rights, the country had ensured gender mainstreaming across relevant ministries and worked closely with the United Nations.  Gender equality was protected by a number of laws, including those on social security, marriage and employment.  The Government was also involved in combatting violence against women and had signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in 2014, as well as a related domestic law.  She noted that political participation was still relatively low and that further measures were necessary to increase women’s participation in political processes.

MILDRED GUZMAN MADERA (Dominican Republic), associating herself with Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, said the 2030 Agenda established gender equality as a fundamental right.  In her country, a public programme aimed to create a single place for women to receive assistance with all issues, such as childcare and economic empowerment.  The country also had a research protocol on femicide.  Women’s participation in leadership and decision-making would ensure sustainable development for all, she said, noting that data collection and gender-specific indicators were key tools for policymaking.  Many young women continued to be excluded from basic services and States must support the struggle against female genital mutilation, which hampered women’s development.  Women’s rights were human rights, she said, and should be addressed at all levels.

SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said that since the fall of the Taliban, his country had made considerable progress in the promotion and protection of women’s rights.  Today, Afghan women played an important role in all walks of life.  The electoral law provided women with equal voting rights and the number of women in different levels of the Government was growing fast.  Women’s access to education also had significantly improved.  While the number of girls enrolled in primary and secondary schools had been zero before 2001, they constituted 40 per cent of the 9 million students enrolled in 2015.  Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals was linked to economic, political and security factors, and Afghanistan was on a forward-looking trajectory that made advancement of those Goals imminent.

PATTY HAJDU (Canada) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the empowerment of all women and girls, and to international engagement in the area of gender equality.  The Prime Minister had been named a champion of the United Nations “HeforShe” campaign, she said, noting that gender equality had been elevated at the national level by the Prime Minister’s appointment of the first-ever gender-balanced federal Cabinet.  However, more must be done to eliminate inequality and gender stereotypes.  Noting that she had engaged with all stakeholders to develop a federal strategy against gender-based violence, she expressed concern over growing violence against indigenous women and girls.  A national inquiry had been launched to investigate cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.  Other efforts had been made to broaden access to child care and reduce poverty among women.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country had enacted policies and legal frameworks in line with its international commitments, which had led to positive results for women’s economic empowerment and political participation.  For instance, women’s representation in Parliament had increased exponentially over the past two decades, and women had also seen gains on regional and local councils, as well as in the judiciary.  In the economic sphere, women’s participation had also increased.  The country had dedicated half of all jobs under the urban development package to women, she said, noting that women also made up 98 per cent of health extension workers.  Yet, Ethiopia faced challenges related to social norms, limited data, resource constraints and capacity limitations.  She welcomed the support of development partners in helping the country achieve its goals.

LISA SINGH (Australia) stressed the need to comprehensively address violence against women, noting that her country had adopted a national plan to reduce such abuse, in collaboration with communities and civil society.  The Government had pursued a two-pronged approach:  prevention and support services for those affected.  With that in mind, Australia worked with women’s rights organizations to eliminate harmful practices, such as polygamy, bride price and the murder of women accused of sorcery.  While it was illegal to discriminate based on gender, such behaviour persisted, particularly in employment and the pay gap.  The immense cost of excluding women from the workforce amounted to an estimated $89 billion in the Asia-Pacific region, she said, stressing that gender equality was also central to Australia’s aid programs and development activities.

MARIA JOSE DEL AGUILO CASTILLO (Guatemala), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to realize all rights for women.  Adequate data were needed for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and gender equality.  Stressing the need for equal participation in education and the workplace, she said education facilitated the realization of other human rights.  Solutions for caretaking must be found, and unremunerated work recognized.  Guatemala had adopted several laws to protect women, including one enacted to find missing women and to protect their lives.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said the Sustainable Development Goals could only be achieved through the full inclusion of women.  The Government was committed to mainstreaming gender and ending gender-based violence.  Various measures had been taken, including a review of discriminatory legislation, advocacy to end violence against women and literacy programs.  In addition, significant progress had been made in improving health care, notably maternal health.  A community-based rehabilitation program offered free surgeries to women who needed them for childbirth-related complications, while a phone-based, money transfer service facilitated transport costs so that poor fistula patients could better access surgeries.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said violence against women was not only a serious human rights violation but also a barrier to sustainable development.  Moreover, it negatively affected other human rights.  She underscored Lebanon’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stressing that her country continued to work with all partners for the realization of women’s rights.  Education was particularly important for advancing women’s rights.  The large numbers of refugees in Lebanon had stretched infrastructure and public services to their limits.

MARIA MJOLL JONSDOTTIR (Iceland) said her country topped the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index, but that the fight for gender equality was far from over.  One challenge was in combating domestic violence, and Iceland’s first coordinated service centre for victims had recently been established.  Iceland also focused on engaging men and boys, and had taken on a number of commitments to that end.  After nearly a decade of work, Iceland was developing an equal pay standard that would certify the pay systems of participating organizations, including Government offices and some labour unions.  The standard was exportable and could be used by any country.  Iceland challenged all to join in the effort.

The representative of Senegal, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls continued to be a challenge.  Much remained to be done and Senegal had focused on raising awareness, promoting equal opportunities, and involving greater numbers of women in peace processes.  Additional efforts included a programme to strengthen social and economic development, which among other achievements had made financing for small businesses for young people possible.  Senegal attached great importance to the health of women and girls.

MICHIKO MIYANO (Japan) called on Member States to maximize and reinforce the participation of women both at home and abroad.  For its part, Japan supported gender-sensitive education, and encouraged women to participate in all aspects of international development.  The increasing number of refugees was a challenge in the work to protect women’s rights, she said.  Japan had held a number of events to advance the status of women in education, economic development, peace and security.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had a long tradition of promoting gender equality, having made substantial progress over the last 25 years.  This year, Parliament had passed a new law on gender equality, making that principle State policy.  Bulgaria had enacted special policies to ensure equal access to and participation in the labor market, as well as equal pay for equal work.  Those measures included introducing flexible work hours and professional mobility, incentives that would provide opportunities to combine career and family life, by promoting the role of the father in the family, and the role of women in business.

The representative of (Tajikistan), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said leaders in the country had developed measures to reinforce national legislation and strategies for the improvement of women’s status.  Turning to issues surrounding the implementation of internationally agreed water-related goals, he said the gender and water nexus had been among the priority themes of the High-Level Symposium on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (“ensuring that no-one is left behind in access to water and sanitation”), held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in August.  The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was the main intergovernmental forum for the promotion of gender equality, empowerment of women, and broadening women’s participation in all spheres of life, he added.

LEWIS G. BROWN (Liberia) described several processes underway, including localization of the Sustainable Development Goals, decentralization, implementation of Ebola recovery plans, and drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia  UNMIL).  Since the launch of the 2030 Agenda, the Government had passed the Equal Representation and Participation Act and the Domestic Violence Law, proving Liberia’s commitment to enhancing women’s political and economic empowerment and protection.  In addition, the Government had endorsed the United Nations “HeForShe” campaign.  He thanked the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), donors, and international financial institutions for convening a gender donor forum in May, which aimed to promote better coordination among stakeholders.

OUMAN NJIE (Gambia), endorsing the statements of the African Group and the Group of 77, said women were the pillars of society and the backbone of economies, particularly agrarian economies.  The only way to eliminate discrimination against woman was through enlightened leadership, and Gambia had led the way by making gender equality a priority.  Many women had been elevated to high-level Government positions.  Yet, women continued to face violence, including female genital mutilation and child marriage. He encouraged States to adopt laws that provided a legal framework for gender equality, underscoring the importance of education in empowering women.

MAMADI TOURE (Guinea), endorsing the positions of the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that while gender equality had been placed at the centre of recently adopted outcomes, too many women continued to be victims of violence, exploitation and discrimination.  In recent crises, women had been disproportionately affected by poverty, disease and hunger, he said, stressing the need to educate women and girls.  Calling women the “true drivers of economic development”, he said that despite best efforts, harmful traditions and practices persisted, including forced marriage and domestic violence.

SHAZRA MANSAB ALI KHAN (Pakistan), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said all forms of discrimination must be eliminated in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Inequality and discrimination remained a reality for millions of women and girls.  Armed conflict and illegal occupation only compounded their vulnerability.  In occupied Kashmir, for example, women had been subjected to sexual violence and oppression, she said, drawing attention to the important role women could play in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  For its part, Pakistan recently had implemented comprehensive measures to prevent and punish rape and honour killings.

OH YOUNG-JU (Republic of Korea) said that in recent decades, the international community had made concerted efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, which were instrumental for peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable societies.  Underscoring the importance of women’s economic empowerment, a cornerstone of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said women and girls around the world often lacked access to basic education, health care and nutrition, and still faced political, economic, and cultural restraints.  Women’s participation in decision-making was crucial, he said, as was elimination of the structural causes of gender discrimination.

The representative of Bolivia, associating herself with Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, reaffirmed her country’s support for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform.  There had been a dramatic rise in women’s representation at the highest political levels.  There was near-parity in school attendance of boys and girls, but there were major gaps between indigenous and rural students.  Global power structures must be deconstructed as a prerequisite for income growth around the world.  In Bolivia, a policy to nationalize resources had increased tenfold the public investment budget, she said, drawing attention to women’s involvement in those decisions.

MOHAMED LEMINE EL HAYCEN (Mauritania), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to gender equality, especially within the context of the 2030 Agenda.  The Government had integrated gender equality into its laws and programs.  In addition, more women were involved in politics and decision-making, while more loans had been made available to women as a way to support their economic empowerment.  Progress also had been made in improving the situation of rural women.

AGNESE VILDE (Latvia) stressed the importance of considering the gender perspective when designing policies.  As women and girls faced higher risks of gender-based violence and human trafficking, it was essential to take a gender-responsive approach to such issues.  Latvian women were politically and economically active, highly educated and well-represented in entrepreneurship, science and the justice system.  In terms of gender equality, Latvia ranked among the top 20 countries globally, and had the second-highest proportion of women in senior business positions in the European Union.  It had signed the Council for Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, and funded social rehabilitation for victims.  Expert training and awareness-raising about domestic violence had been carried out, while efforts to combat human trafficking had been strengthened.

The representative of Sudan, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said Sudanese women participated in police work, security, the armed forces, diplomatic life and business, and had been quite successful.  A national policy on women was based on six areas of focus, including participation in decision-making.  Further, the Ministry for Public Health had adopted a project for rural women, including in Darfur, financing microenterprises to alleviate poverty.  A national strategy to combat female genital mutilation was adopted in 2008, and awareness campaigns, carried out with UN-Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), combated violence against women.  She urged lifting unilateral sanctions on countries so they could meet their obligations.

NIDA JAKUBONE (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, said only women free from violence and the fear of violence could fully contribute to modern societies.  With one in three women worldwide experiencing abuse, violence against women could be compared to a global epidemic.  In economic terms, the cost of such violence could amount to 2 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).  Her country was committed to implementing the national program and action plan for preventing domestic violence and providing assistance to victims.  Among other national practices aimed at ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment, she highlighted a new labour code, adopted in 2015, which enshrined respect for the employee’s family commitment and a work-life balance.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, State of Palestine, regretted that the political, humanitarian, and socio-economic situation of Palestinians, including women, remained dire as a result of the occupation and countless illegal Israeli practices.  The occupation had devastating impacts on women and their families, and he condemned in particular home demolitions as a means of collective punishment.  As the occupation was the main obstacle to realizing Palestinian women’s equality, advancement and empowerment, he urged the United Nations to exert more efforts to compel Israel to end that behaviour and hold it accountable for crimes committed against Palestinian women and their families.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) outlined several achievements made despite the challenges of unemployment, high population growth and the aftermath of genocide.  She noted in that context that women had been perpetrators and had carried out acts of terrorism.  Nonetheless, Rwanda had carried out legal reforms and facilitated women’s participation in the labour force, Parliament and the court system.  Efforts also had been made to address discrimination in access to land and inheritances.  Noting that Rwanda had ratified various international human rights instruments, she stressed the importance of effective coordination at the national, regional and international levels, and the collection of disaggregated data.

The representative of Spain endorsing the position of the European Union, emphasized that violence against women was an extreme manifestation of gender discrimination.  Spain was working to provide a comprehensive response to such abuse, which included trafficking and cyberstalking.  As part of that effort, Spain had established a State observatory for violence against women.  The Government was committed to promoting equal opportunities for men and women.  Spain also had taken a lead role in the area of women, peace, and security, with resolution 2242 (2015) adopted during the Government’s Presidency of the Security Council.

VANDI CHIDI MINAH (Sierra Leone) said his country continued its efforts to address inequality, discrimination and violence against women. Several laws had been adopted to protect women.  In addition, women had been appointed to positions in courts and politics.  Drawing attention to the challenges of teenage pregnancies and maternal health, he stressed the need for a renewed commitment to gender equality in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Gender equality must be at the centre of all efforts, he asserted.

MAMUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said women’s empowerment was at the heart of his country’s development agenda.  The manufacturing sector, especially the ready-made garments sector, was basically run by women, as more than 95 per cent of all garment workers were female.  In Parliament, which had 350 members, 50 seats had been reserved for women.  He underlined that migration was intrinsically linked to advancing gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s and girls’ human rights.  He called for greater emphasis at all levels in addressing violence against women and girls.

OLENA SYROTA (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to all relevant international instruments.  Progress had been made in addressing discrimination and domestic violence, as well as in mainstreaming a rights-based approach.  Noting that women enjoyed the same status as men in Ukraine, she advocated more broadly for more investments to ensure women’s full participation.  In that context, she reiterated the Government’s commitment to implement resolutions on women, peace and security, and drew attention to women’s important role in such work.

The representative of China, associating himself with Group of 77 and China, emphasized the need to accelerate implementation of the relevant goals contained in the 2030 Agenda.  States must implement goals on women’s empowerment, and China further expected all parties to continue implementing commitments under the Beijing Platform.  He urged support for women in developing countries, as they faced particular difficulties, commending UN-Women’s attention to capacity-building and recalling that a pledge to UN-Women had been made by China during the global leaders’ meeting.  China’s legal system had a newly amended employment law which protected women.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said the fact that women comprised half of the population could not be ignored.  Domestically, Burundi had drafted a national gender policy on women, peace and security, and provided microcredits to women for their economic empowerment.  Further, a law to combat sexual violence had been adopted.  The Government aimed to provide equal access to primary education for boys and girls, he said, as well as ensure equality in the police force.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), recalling that gender equality had been recognized as stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal, said his country had integrated a gender perspective across its international aid and development activities.  New Zealand’s term on the Security Council had presented an opportunity for it to contribute to efforts to address women’s role in conflict prevention.  Nationally, New Zealand’s priorities for women reflected areas where more work was needed, such as in encouraging and developing women leaders.  The Government also had taken steps to prevent domestic violence, both nationally and in the Pacific region.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria), aligning herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said protection of women and girls was a priority.  In that context, she reconfirmed Algeria’s international commitments, stressing that efforts were also being made at the national level to prevent and address sexual violence, protection and intimidation.  The percentage of women participating in civil life also had increased.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), aligning himself with the Group of  77 and China, CELAC and CARICOM, said too many gaps remained between women and men.  Many of those inequalities were structural.  For instance, women constituted a disproportionate share of unpaid care work, earned less than men in many professions, and had limited opportunities for political leadership.  Among the most egregious forms of violence was trafficking, which was exacerbated by conflict and humanitarian emergencies.  Too often the perpetrators were not held accountable.  Jamaica supported efforts to prevent such crimes and remove impunity, he said, citing strengthened legislation to prevent gender-based violence, and plans to approve a national action plan on that issue this month.  Finally, Jamaica was committed to involving boys and men in efforts to achieve gender equality.

The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Government had fulfilled its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW).  In that context, he drew attention to “the heinous extra-large crime against humanity” of sexual slavery committed by Japan during the Second World War.  As the United Nations had observed sexual violence committed by its peacekeepers, it must never tolerate Japan’s evasion of an official apology and compensation.  The Government also condemned the “heinous terrorism perpetrated against our women by south Korean authorities, who abducted them” and refused to let the public know of their fate.

HAYFA ALI AHMED MATAR (Bahrain) said women’s participation in politics and the economy had increased.  There were also more education opportunities for women and their employment had increased.  Women played an important role in the national council, she said, noting that more women were being elected to that body. Bahrain would continue to take steps to empower women.

The representative of Fiji said his country had an unprecedented number of women in Parliament, and for the first time, a female Speaker.  It had two women in the Judicial Services Commission recommending judicial appointments.  Fiji was witnessing more women graduating from universities than ever, and its free education policy was benefitting girls who previously had been taken out of school due to limited family funds.  Yet, Fiji continued to grapple with the attitudinal causes of sexual and gender-based violence.  It had passed laws to ensure better access to justice for women and girls when it came to domestic violence, crimes and criminal procedure.  It also had made the reporting of child abuse mandatory for police officers, social welfare officers, legal practitioners, teachers and medical practitioners.  Violence against women and girls stemmed from the belief that women were weaker than, and subordinate to, men, making a gender audit necessary to remove institutional barriers to equality.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) said that his country was a matrilineal society, meaning that inheritance of land and titles passed from a mother to her children.  It was also matriarchal, as women chose holders of both male and female titles and could revoke a title if the holder did not perform the duties adequately.  Virtually all Palauan women belonged to a community women’s organizations that were vital for community life. In 1994, the First Mechesil Belau Conference brought women from across the nation together, initially to regulate customary activities but eventually to focus on aspects of sustainable development.  The Mechesil Belau had improved food hygiene by mandating the use of food service gloves, aprons and hairnets and coverage of foods in plastic containers. It had also increased penalties for offenses involving drugs and other controlled substances.

The representative of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), called women and girls “agents of their own protection” who must be involved in decisions concerning their needs.  ICRC had found that the needs of detained women were not being met:  Safe and separate facilities were not provided for mothers and infants.  Women whose husbands were missing often had no clear status under the national law, which could have implications for their guardianship of their children.  Armed conflict often led to increases in early marriage and human trafficking.  ICRC involved women and girls in designing and implementing its programmes, and encouraged others to do so.  The primary obligation to protect women’s rights lay with States and she urged them to ensure a safe environment for women and girls, and to respect international humanitarian law.

Right of Reply

The representative of India, speaking in exercise of the right of reply to remarks by his counterpart from Pakistan, said it was ironic that a country which had institutionalized the oppression of women had made claims about the rights of women in India.  Pakistan should examine what ailed its women and hampered their advancement.  Innocent women in India had suffered from terrorist acts perpetrated by proxies of Pakistan.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, responding to remarks by his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, called the latter’s accusations against her Government “baseless”.  The human rights record of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke for itself.  Rather than pour its resources into military expenditures, that country should invest in its citizens’ livelihoods.

The representative of Pakistan said no amount of obfuscation could hide India’s human rights violations in Jammu-Kashmir.  As a result of India’s military actions in that territory, more than 90,000 innocent Kashmiris had died.  That dispute must be resolved in accordance with United Nations resolutions, he said, emphasizing that Pakistan would welcome meaningful dialogue with India in that endeavour.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recalled that today’s discussion was focused on the situation of women.  Describing the “horrible” human rights situation in the Republic of Korea, he said children and women had been abused.  Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Korea had been abducted, detained in isolation and subjected to sexual, psychological and physical abuse.  The Republic of Korea must address that situation.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said she refused to address unfounded accusations and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to meet its international obligations.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea denounced politicized arguments that were unrelated to the advancement of women, asking his counterpart from the Republic of Korea to explain the situation of detained persons.

For information media. Not an official record.