Delegates Decry Gender-Based Violence, Call for Better Measures to Protect Rural, Migrant Women, as Third Committee Continues Debate on Achieving Equal Rights
Sustainable development cannot be achieved without gender equality and a meaningful enhancement in women’s political participation, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it continued its debate on the advancement of women, amid calls for action against gender-based violence and more concerted efforts to prevent the exploitation of female migrants.
Several delegates credited recently instituted gender parity policies for historic highs in female political representation. Among them was Tunisia’s delegate, who noted that such policies helped elect as many as 47 women candidates in the first democratic municipal elections. Striking a similar note, Egypt’s delegate said eight women presently held ministerial portfolios, which is a historic high. Similarly, Colombia’s representative highlighted the equal number of men and women in his country’s cabinet.
However, many delegates acknowledged that they had far to go, including Botswana’s representative, who noted that women account for merely 7.9 per cent of its parliament, and Armenia’s delegate, who expressed hope for increasing women’s representation in elective bodies from its current 25 per cent to at least 30 per cent in 2021.
Some countries cited women’s participation in the armed forces as a promising, progressive step. In that context, Israel’s delegate said that compulsory participation in its armed forces led to better social cohesion, with men and women fighting side-by-side as equals. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s representative highlighted the fact that women in its military can now attain the rank of officer and are enrolling in military academies at a higher rate.
These gains were contrasted with the stark conditions faced by female migrants, spotlighted by the Secretary-General’s report. The representative of Cameroon expressed deep concern about the plight of female Cameroonian migrants, especially domestic workers, who are exploited by cruel traffickers, have their passports confiscated, and whose lack of education and ability to speak the local language makes them vulnerable to sexual violence and conditions resembling slavery. An observer for the Holy See, citing the Secretary-General’s report, echoed these concerns, and underscored the need for effective legislation and enforcement to address the issue.
Meanwhile, many delegates drew attention to the situation of rural women, who disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty and climate change repercussions around the world. Senegal’s representative expressed concern about the ongoing feminization of poverty, as well as the widening gender gap in rural areas. Along similar lines, Namibia’s representative observed that women are on the front-lines of climate change effects, as his country experienced its worst drought in three decades.
Also speaking in the general debate today were representatives of Myanmar, Eritrea, Viet Nam, Maldives, Argentina, Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, Senegal, United Kingdom, Ghana, Cuba, Norway, Iran, Spain, Georgia, Panama, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Andorra, Jamaica, Armenia, Iceland, Costa Rica, Nepal, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Kenya, Bahamas, Belgium (on behalf of a group of countries), Philippines, Turkey, Bangladesh, Algeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Lebanon, Libya, Republic of Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Rwanda, Chile, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Malawi, Bahrain, Uganda, Venezuela, Bhutan, Burundi, Kuwait, India, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, Liberia, as did an observer for the State of Palestine.
The representatives of Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 October, to conclude its debate on women’s advancement and begin its debate on the rights of children.
DEBORAH NYI (Myanmar), aligning herself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (2013‑2022) includes equal access to resources, opportunities and services, as well as representation and participation in decision‑ and policy‑making in all spheres of society. Myanmar adopted a zero‑tolerance policy towards violence against women and is drafting the Protection and Prevention of Violence Against Women bill to enhance legal protection and bring domestic laws into compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The bill stipulates protection of women from marital rape, sexual violence, stalking, and workplace and public harassment. She stressed that women’s economic empowerment is a top priority for Myanmar, which is striving for more systematic inclusion of them as economic actors in national development policies.
Ms. TESFAMARIAMHOL (Eritrea) said that over the last five decades, the participation of her country’s women in the struggle for independence has changed the patriarchal structures. Eritrean women have worked to consolidate the gains made to ensure their equal participation in all roles in life, she said, underscoring society’s recognition of women’s participation as a human right. Recently, the Government adopted a revised national policy on gender to uphold the principles of gender parity and equality, ensuring that gender issues are integrated into the national development process.
NESRINE ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), underscoring her country’s priority focus on gender equality, said that as early as 1956, as a new State, Tunisia embarked on a process to establish the recognition of women’s rights. The introduction of gender parity in the first democratic municipal elections led to the election of 47 women candidates. This progress will lead to the establishment of more gender sensitive local policies based on women and their real needs. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration will be important in taking stock of hard-won achievements.
FREDRIK HANSEN, observer for the Holy See, said that the discrimination and violence faced by many women globally impedes the full exercise of their unique and irreplaceable role in the world. The Holy See is particularly concerned by the violence and discrimination facing migrant women. Citing the Secretary‑General’s report, he said female migrant workers, especially those with irregular migration status, are not only at risk of labour exploitation, but also face broader social exclusion. He expressed support for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which offers an important framework to address violence and discrimination against women migrant workers and calls attention to human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The condemnation of these heinous crimes must be accompanied by effective legislation and enforcement.
DINH NHO HUNG (Viet Nam) said that remarkable progress has been made in ensuring women’s rights, from access to basic services to higher representation of women in political, economic and social life. However, there is still a long way to go toward gender equality. Women are dynamic actors in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Since 2008, gender equality has been a guiding principle in Viet Nam’s official programme to respond to climate change. In 2013, gender equality was embodied in a law on preventing and controlling natural disasters. Under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Viet Nam has adopted measures to promote gender equality and women’s leadership in understanding and managing disaster risks, investing in risk reduction and enhancing disaster preparedness. It has also been working with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant United Nations agencies.
AISHATH FAREENA (Maldives) said that over the past decade, women in the Maldives have been accessing more economic and educational opportunities. Boys and girls are enrolling in school at an equal rate, and women’s enrolment in higher education outstrips that of men. She went on to highlight several legal measures, including a law to prevent domestic violence, and a law to prohibit victimization of women, stressing nonetheless that “the natural tendency” to allocate women traditional roles must be countered. Spotlighting the percentage of female participation in ministerial cabinet roles, which stands at 35 per cent — a historic high — and the recent appointment of two female justices, she said that challenges must be addressed in enhancing female participation in the workforce and in leadership roles. In this regard, the Maldives has introduced flexible working scheme, a maternal leave policy, and a programme for women’s financial inclusion in agriculture.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said his country has introduced a women’s empowerment plan with 200 commitments, and is in the process of implementing plans to end violence against women and foster gender equality, including in legal and political representation. Stating that Argentina has stepped up its cooperation with UN-Women, including by the opening of a country office, he underscored Argentina’s commitment to reducing violence against women in health facilities, and efforts to train women as mediators to enable their participation in peace processes.
MICHAEL BARUCH BAROR (Israel) said that strong women have long played leading roles in Zionism and Israel. Service for young women in the Israel Defence Forces is mandatory, as it is for men. Military service becomes a social integrator, he said, with men and women fighting side‑by‑side as equals. Israel appreciates efforts to ensure gender balance at United Nations events, and welcomes a way when such measures are unnecessary. The country looks forward to marking of the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Declaration.
Ms. GARGARD (Netherlands) said her family is from Liberia. She was born in the United States and raised in the Netherlands, meaning that she comes from a lineage of strong women who have survived war, poverty and racism. Because of what these women survived, she is here. For too long, the majority of the world lives in poverty while the minority feasts. Those who suffer the most are women, she said. The system works for a few with money and power. They have more than they need and more than their children need. When the lives of those suffering most are improved, everyone’s lives are made better.
MERYL MICHELLE DIEDRICKS (South Africa), associating with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said women continue to face violence and discrimination, poverty, patriarchy and inadequate access to health. Women’s empowerment and gender equality will not be achieved if the goals of development, peace and security are not met. South Africa’s efforts to create gender equality are demonstrated in sound legislative frameworks and policies, as well as women’s increased representation in political and decision-making. Ending violence against women remains a top priority, as do continental programmes for women’s empowerment. The Government supports safe, orderly and regular migration, and in turn, better protections for female migrants against trafficking, and smuggling for cheap labour and sexual exploitation.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said the Government is determined to fight violence against women, especially femicide. While violent crime has fallen under the current administration, violent crime against women is increasing. In response, the Government is amending the Maria da Penha law, which guards women against domestic violence, making it easier to keep the aggressor away from the victim. Women are the key protagonists of some of the most important social programmes in Brazil, such as “Bolsa Familia”. Stressing that Brazil defends the right to life from conception, he condemned abortion as a contraceptive method, noting that access to safe and modern contraception, pregnancy care and support are established by law.
Ms. KAMAL (Egypt), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said women’s empowerment has made gains thanks to various Government strategies that have upheld Constitutional rights. Women’s representation has improved at all national levels. There are eight women who hold ministerial portfolios — the highest in Egypt’s history — as well as 90 female Parliamentarians, with the percentage of women in Government reaching above 44 per cent. Further, a new investment law strives to create equal investment opportunities for women, she said, citing also a raft of measures to combat violence against women, including a hotline.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating with SADC, the African Group and the Group of 77, reiterated his country’s commitment to ensuring women’s equal status. To this end, Namibia will launch an International Women’s Peace Centre, he said, pointing to other advances in politics and decision-making, education, eliminating HIV/AIDS and preventing mother-to-child transmission. However, the increasing incidence of gender-based violence is a persistent challenge. Changing mindsets and harmful norms that perpetuate gender-based abuse must be a priority, he said, underscoring the devastating effects of climate change on women, notably in rural areas, as Namibia experiences the worst drought in three decades.
Ms. NDAW (Senegal), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, expressed concern about the ongoing feminization of poverty, and the widening gender gap in rural areas. Noting that women comprise 60 per cent of Senegal’s agricultural production workforce, and produce 80 per cent of the food stuff, she went on to detail a national strategy for gender parity, which has led to enhanced female participation in politics, as well as greater investment in gender equality programmes. She went on to underscore progress on a number of fronts, including increased drinking water access and improved roads in rural areas, as well as a reduced rate of school abandonment of young women. Regional committees have been formed to combat gender-based violence, she said, adding that Senegal is working to enhance its data collection. Harmful traditional practices and poverty remain, she added, calling on the international community to remain mobilized.
Ms. YAYI (Cameroon), aligning herself with Group of 77 and the African Group, expressed concern about the situation of migrants, especially domestic workers, who find themselves at the mercy of vicious traffickers in other countries, where they lack consular protection and do not speak the local language. Their passports are confiscated, and they live in conditions resembling slavery, she said, adding that Cameroon has tried to facilitate their repatriation and is working with non-governmental organizations to prevent such trafficking from occurring, and has formed an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate humanitarian actions, taking into account socioeconomic and security challenges as well as concerns of host countries. The situation is exacerbated by the negative way in which migrants are portrayed in some countries, she stressed, adding that domestic workers, due to lack of education, are exceptionally vulnerable to sexual violence. She touched on efforts to improve women’s political participation, access to justice and to combat gender-based violence through a national strategy that included the setting up of centres providing survivors legal and psychological support.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) stressed that for several years, United Kingdom has led the charge against conflict-related sexual violence. However, rape and other forms of sexual abuse continue to be used as weapons of war. Among the priorities is to tackle the stigma faced by survivors, secure justice for them and shatter the culture of impunity by holding perpetrators to account. To this end, London will host the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative International Conference on the theme “Time for Justice: Putting Survivors First”. He underscored support for women peacebuilders and their participation in peace processes, with particular focus on Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Yemen. The United Kingdom is proud of its long-standing support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, which themselves are central to peace and security. Recalling the global campaign to Leave No Girl Behind, he said the national Girls’ Education Challenge is the world’s largest fund dedicated to girls’ education and now supports nearly 1.5 million marginalized girls across 17 countries.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said that 40 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the world is still grappling with a host of obstacles to women’s empowerment and their full participation in socioeconomic and political activity — both of which are prerequisites for sustainable development. The Secretary-General’s report amply supports evidence that rural women and girls remain the most vulnerable and are disproportionately affected by poverty and the effects of climate change. The international community must do more to change this narrative, especially by recognizing women as change agents and creating the conditions for them to take their rightful place in society.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in recent decades, the number of girls attending school has increased, as has the number of women in paid employment. Women also have achieved greater rights in terms of property and the freedom to marry and divorce on the same basis as men. Yet, women represent 70 per cent of poor people and two-thirds of illiterate adults around the world. About 90 per cent of the victims of war are civilians, most of them women, older persons and children. Globally women’s representation in Parliament is just over 23 per cent. It is vital that a fair and equitable international order be achieved that places people before money and preserves the environment, she said.
ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) said that every day, women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Girls are kept out of school and are married to older men, while women find it difficult to enter the labour market. Women and girls are victims of violence, abuse and sexual harassment. Gender equality drives economic growth and sustainable development. No country can afford not to make use of all its human resources, he said, stressing that the failure to promote women’s participation in paid work means that half a country’s skills are wasted. In addition, reaching the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality will help in the attainment of the other goals. For example, child mortality falls when mothers have an education. Investing in quality education, particularly for girls, is the single most effective way to promote sustainable development, he said.
Mr. NEJAD (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the advancement of women and girls is an unfinished job. In Iran, the number of women in managerial positions has risen and at least 30 per cent of all managerial positions should be allocated to women. The number of female candidates running for the 2020 election demonstrates a meaningful increase from the previous polls. In May, Parliament revisited the provisions of the Civil Rights Law. A bill was passed allowing thousands of children born to Iranian mothers who married foreign citizens to receive citizenship. Iran has traditionally hosted large numbers of refugees and, bearing in mind sensitivities surrounding the nationality law, the adoption of this bill should be viewed as a major breakthrough to protect women’s rights.
JOSÉ MARÍA BASTIDA PEYDRO (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said 40 years have passed since the adoption of the Convention and much remains to be done. The global consensus around gender equality outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development charts the path forward in that regard. There have been major achievements this year, he said, citing various policies to protect the rights of women and girls and to combat violence against them.
EDGAR SISA (Botswana) said his country has domesticated the Convention, as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Botswana has also amended its national laws to make them gender responsive, ensuring equal access to ownership and control over productive resources, including land, property, finance and inheritance. The country has also reached a 41 per cent female participation rate in the economic sector, while more than 80 per cent of Botswana’s poverty eradication programme beneficiaries are women. However, the country has comparatively low rates of women’s participation in Parliament, with women being just 7.9 per cent of cabinet members and 19 per cent of local authorities.
EKA KIPIANI, (Georgia) touched on a comprehensive national action plan, which is being implemented by an inter-agency commission — covering programmes related to gender equality, combating violence against women — and monitoring agencies charged with carrying out the implementation. Georgia is also implementing the Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security. Noting that achieving gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without women’s economic empowerment, she said research groups are studying the barriers to women’s participation in economic activity, while legislative amendments have been made related to workplace discrimination and harassment. She went on to express concern about the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, where she said women’s rights and freedoms are being violated and the lack of international monitoring is causing humanitarian conditions to deteriorate further.
GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNANDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia) said the national development plan aims to ensure that women’s human rights are part of the broader agenda. He pointed to the establishment of an office for rural women as a significant step towards improving their situation, efforts that are vital to recognizing women as political players. Colombia has made significant progress in this area by introducing an information database on gender violence. Stressing that women’s participation in decision-making is a vital precondition for achieving sustainable development, he pointed to an equal number of men and women in Colombia’s cabinet and the fact that 50 per cent of women occupy senior management positions.
ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama), associating herself with the Group of 77, described a significant improvement in women’s participation in public life. Aware of the enormous challenges in overcoming stigmas and stereotypes, Panama seeks to ensure quality education for women, end gender-based violence and create more leadership space for women. Public policies aim to reduce femicide and provide rural women with jobs, she said, also citing positive statistics regarding the number of female college graduates. To reduce teen pregnancies, more must be done to help women access modern family planning. Men can be primary allies in achieving gender equality, which represents a decisive factor in promoting sustainable development.
GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating with the European Union, pointed to his country’s priority commitment to improve the lives of women and girls, especially as a member of the Human Rights Council. As women’s empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development, Bulgaria amended the penal code with regard to domestic violence. Efforts aim to improve women’s participation in the labour market, achieve income parity and promote equality in the decision-making. Forty-nine per cent of managing positions are held by women, ranking Bulgaria second in the European Union, while half of all scientists are women, the highest percentage of countries within the bloc.
VERONIKA TARADAI (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said figures from the first national survey on gender equality speak for themselves: 77 per cent of Ukrainians believe gender equality is essential for sustainable peace and development. Ukraine continues to strengthen its related policy framework and to integrate the women, peace and security agenda into security reforms. In 2019, the number of women in higher military education increased to 17 per cent and women can now occupy officer ranks. Practical steps have been taken for equal opportunities in employment, education and training, and in decision-making, she said, noting that women hold one third of ministerial positions in the newly created Government.
Ms. SANCHEZ (Dominican Republic), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the principle of gender equality is reflected in the law and in the Constitution. The Ministry for Women sets out State policies that foster gender equality. Working with UNDP, the Ministry recently produced a web page — “Making the Dominican Republic more equal” — which companies can use to understand the benefits of having the Government’s gender equality “stamp”, and which allows the State to build a database for facilitating decision making. In addition, a 24-hour hotline is available to help women who are victims of male violence. As a result of these calls, 600 women were saved from dangerous situations and the danger of dying, she said.
ELISENDA VIVES BALMAÑA (Andorra) said violence against girls and women is a form of intimidation, pointing to the particular vulnerability of migrant women exposed to various forms of mistreatment throughout their journey. She welcomed recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on the Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences in her recent report. In 2017, Andorra adopted laws on health care system, as well as a law on inequality and discrimination. She also pointed to projects for rural women and United Nations actions to promote women’s resilience in rural areas. She stressed the importance of improving the situation for women across the world and ensuring that they fully enjoy their rights.
ROSHELLE HENRY (Jamaica), associating with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reiterated his country’s commitment to achieve gender equality, notably by strengthening legislative and policy frameworks to end violence against women and girls. To this end, the bill entitled, “An Act to make provision for the prevention of sexual harassment and connected matters”, was tabled earlier this year. To provide services for women in abusive environments, Jamaica established national shelters across the country and highlighted the importance of the Spotlight Initiative. She stressed the importance of tackling school-related gender-based violence, child rights and discrimination and more broadly described efforts to create jobs for women.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said his Government advocates for women’s participation in public affairs and political life. Today, women comprise 25 per cent of the National Assembly and the Government aims to increase their representation in elective bodies to 30 per cent by 2021. Women’s economic participation is promoted through social protections, such as affordable childcare and more targeted employment policies. Last month, Armenia adopted an action plan for the next five years, prioritizing women’s advancement and the prevention of gender discrimination. As a candidate for the Human Rights Council for 2020 to 2022, Armenia has committed to strengthening partnerships that would promote women’s political, social and economic empowerment. “We strongly believe that women have an important role in prevention of conflicts, confidence building and reconciliation efforts,” he added.
JÖRUNDUR VALTÝSSON (Iceland) said that Convention remains a driving force for transformative change in almost all societies of the world. Iceland has ranked at the top of the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index for 10 consecutive years and understands that gender equality requires targeted social infrastructure investment and innovative policy tools. In 2018, Iceland became the first country to require employers to obtain certification based on an equal pay management requirement, which helps employers analyse their pay structures, identify potential discrimination and correct it. By doing so, the legal obligation transfers the responsibility of ensuring equal pay from the employee to the employer. Iceland has pledged to eliminate the gender pay gap by 2022, he added, expressing concern about the politicization of women’s human rights around the world and underscoring Iceland’s commitment to defending them.
Mr. ZAVALA (Costa Rica), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, described various laws to economically empower women. Relying on the parity principle, Costa Rica brought about greater participation of women in Congress. Calling for women’s increased presence in international organizations, he reiterated Costa Rica’s commitment to reaching Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) and to promoting State policies on the right to parity and the distribution of time and power. Costa Rica increased support for women-led businesses, she said, also stressing that women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change. As such, strategies on disaster risk management have been carried out, as have projects to promote the rights of indigenous women and their capacity to combat climate change.
MUDITA BAJRACHARYA (Nepal) acknowledged that her country has been unable to maintain its commitments to mainstreaming gender equality and empowering women and girls. Nepal has brought down the number of women living below the poverty line, reduced maternal mortality, enrolled more girls in school, made family planning services more accessible, and criminalized violence against women. However, women and girls still face gender-based violence in public and private spaces and encounter discrimination on different fronts. The Constitution guarantees the rights of women and girls and prohibits any form of discrimination based on sex. It also has provisions to reserve 33 per cent of seats in federal and provincial parliaments, among other stipulations. As a result, 41 per cent of the representatives elected at all levels in 2017 were women. Legal provisions will pave a way to guarantee women’s rights, she said, but ensuring their effective implementation is crucial.
FARIDAH ISMAILA MOHAMMED (Nigeria), associating himself with Group of 77 and the African Group, stressed that no country can fully achieve its development potential without fully harnessing the capabilities of its women. “It therefore means that the empowerment of women is not only a question of justice but also a practical demand of rationality,” he emphasized. “So as members of the international community, we have more than enough reminders to fulfil our collective commitments.” There can be no road to gender equality without social integration, poverty eradication and implementation of economic measures. Nigeria has taken proactive steps to end discrimination against women and break societal and cultural barriers that hinder their full integration. The National Centre for Women’s Development, in partnership with the Office of the First Lady, aims to improve documentation of gender-based violence so that perpetrators will be prosecuted and compensation ensured for victims. “We cannot and should not continue to allow our women to be caught up in this vicious cycle of human misery and degradation,” he stressed.
NORAH ABDULAZIZ H. ELGIBREEN (Saudi Arabia), associating herself with the Group of 77, welcomed United Nations efforts to promote women’s rights through economic capacity building, noting that Saudi Arabia has revised laws that prevent women from enjoying their rights. The Government seeks to ensure women’s equality in all sectors, notably education. The agricultural development programme helps small farmers, especially through a programme for farming families supervised by the Economic Development Bank. She drew attention to decrees aimed at ending all practices that target women, notably a 2006 decree to eliminate the supervision of women so that they can enter into new sectors. Regarding the personal status of women, she drew attention to articles on male oversight, broadly relating to equality in terms of marriage and divorce, civil rights, housing and travel.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said 2020 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the tenth anniversary of UN-Women. In that context, he underscored the need for State policies to empower women, noting that through its Ministry for Women and the Family, various such initiatives have been launched, seeking to ensure capacity building for vulnerable women, as well as their economic empowerment through revenue-generating activities. Efforts to achieve gender equality must be stepped up in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.
JOHN KYOVI MUTUA (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the Government currently is reviewing policies to ensure they are in line with the emerging issues related to women’s rights. He cited the National Policy on Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence, as well as the National Policy on Social Protection, noting that Kenya has unveiled its National Policy on the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation. More broadly, the Government has worked with partners to establish Gender Based Violence Recovery Centres in all major public hospitals, where survivors have access to justice and receive integrated medical and psychosocial support services.
DEANDRA CARTWRIGHT (Bahamas), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CARICOM, said that her Government will continue to guarantee the rights of women in the workplace and in health care. It has led by example in ensuring pay equity for men and women, incorporating the principle of “equal pay for work of equal value”. The public sector, which comprises 20,000 civil servants, does not experience pay gaps on the basis of gender. Once the National Gender Equality Policy is implemented, any such disparities that may exist in the private sector will also be addressed. Noting that the Bahamas presented its combined sixth periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2018, she said the Government would do its utmost to ensure full respect for the Convention, as well as the Committee’s recommendations on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls.
JEROEN COOREMAN (Belgium), on behalf of several countries, urged States to prevent and address gender-based violence against women. No country has yet ended discrimination against girls. It persists in all areas of life and transcends national, cultural and religious boundaries, often fueled by patriarchal stereotypes and power imbalances. Meanwhile, new challenges to gender equality emerge in relation to technological development, violent extremism, environmental degradation, climate change and racial discrimination. No law, religion or custom can ever justify discrimination against women and girls, he noted, stressing the crucial importance of adhering to international law. Noting that 189 States have ratified the Convention, he encouraged others to follow by removing their reservations and ratifying the instrument.
MARIA ROSENY FANGCO (Philippines) said her country has enacted the Magna Carta of Women, the national version of the Convention, and legislation to extend maternity leave from 60 days to 105 days. The conditional cash transfer programme aims to help mothers raise their families and ensure that their children stay in school. Despite landmark laws and frameworks, Filipino women and girls remain most vulnerable to poverty, disasters and macroeconomic shocks, falling prey to human trafficking and forced labour. Through prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership, the Philippines continues to wage battles against human traffickers and their network of syndicates.
RAZIYE BILGE KOCYIGIT GRBA (Turkey), on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said gender inequalities and unequal distribution of unpaid and domestic work between women and men, as well as access to labour markets, and harmful traditional and customary practices have constrained women’s economic empowerment and exacerbated the feminization of poverty. The impact of gender inequality in education and employment becomes most pronounced in old age due to gendered care taker roles and pension insecurity, which women face throughout their lives and which leave them vulnerable in old age. The situation of older women in charge of care within their families, generally without remuneration or assistance by public institutions, makes them even more economically vulnerable. Governments should pay greater attention to older persons by mainstreaming aging issues into poverty eradication measures.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating with the Group of 77, said the Prime Minister is building on its constitutional foundation of women’s rights and placing women at the heart of all development endeavours. Listing the many other women high officials in the country, he said Bangladesh now leads South Asia in gender equality. Targeted financial inclusion measures and the application of a gender perspective in budgeting and development planning are significant factors in Bangladesh’s “development miracle”. Work for women’s empowerment will now be taken to the next level with more investment in women-friendly sustainable infrastructure, skill-based education and greater access to the Internet and job markets. At the same time, child marriage, domestic violence and other crimes are being addressed through the enactment of legal instruments. Climate resilience for rural women and increasing women’s opportunity in sciences were other areas of focus. Having made relentless strides in translating the Beijing promises into action, the country is pleased to be elected again to the Committee on the Status of Women for another four-year term.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said the protection, promotion and empowerment of women is the focus of various Government programmes and an important element in the Constitution, which has specific provisions for ending gender discrimination. This focus is reflected in laws relating to the family, nationality, work, health, and protection of elderly persons and others. The dynamics of women’s advancement have been accelerated by Constitutional amendments in 2008 and 2016, which sought to increase women’s participation in political life — notably by adopting quotas in elected councils — as well as to increase their participation in public life and employment. Algeria’s action plan for 2014-2019 contains a section devoted to women’s advancement, which outlines the need for more measures to preserve gains and enhance the protection of women’s rights.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that thanks to the State policy of valuing women, respect for women’s personality is becoming a social trend, pointing to the recent establishment of workers’ hostels which provide excellent living conditions for female workers. In protecting women’s rights, it is important to end violations of women’s dignity. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the former Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women of the then-Commission on Human Rights, stated that more than 200,000 women and girls were subjected to sexual slavery by Japan’s army during the Second World War. He urged Japan to apologize for those crimes against humanity and make compensation.
Ms. AL KAABI (United Arab Emirates) said women should be involved in peacekeeping throughout the world, which is why her country has been involved with UN-Women for training purposes. The United Arab Emirates will hold a further course on this subject next year in cooperation with UN-Women, to be held in Abu Dhabi. The United Arab Emirates has been working with Georgetown University to examine the role of women during post-conflict reconstruction and is set to hold a roundtable on women’s political participation during this phase, which the Government expects will lead to the submission of an action plan to Member States.
NAWAL AHMED MUKHTAR AHMED (Sudan), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said Sudanese women were involved in the glorious revolution of December and mobilized over the last year to bring about a transitional Government. Women took part in negotiations to set up transitional authorities, and today four women hold ministerial portfolios. The transitional Constitution pays a great deal of attention to women’s rights. Women’s participation in the transitional legislative council stands at 40 per cent, she said, more broadly describing the transitional Government’s strategy for ending gender-based violence, another priority. It has also launched awareness-raising campaigns against forced marriage and female genital mutilation, she said.
CYNTHIA CHIDIAC (Lebanon) said that injustice, inequalities and inequities accompany each conversation on women’s rights. Every year, the world acknowledges that the advancement of women is stalling, that discrimination against women persists and that commitments to remedy gender inequalities are waiting to be honoured. All women everywhere still experience discrimination in some way, she said. The world has an obligation to ensure the full protection of women through gender-responsive and gender-sensitive policies that consider the disaggregated data on gender equalities, especially those affecting women subjected to multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination. At the core of the fundamental rights of women is their right to sexual and reproductive health, accessible throughout their lives, free of stigma, discrimination, coercion and violence. Lebanon remains committed to gender equality and to attaining the 2030 goals.
INASS A. T. ELMARMURI (Libya), endorsing the statements by the Group of 77 and the African Group, stressed the need to dismantle barriers to gender equality and to strengthen international cooperation. She called for increasing the potential of rural girls, citing threats posed by climate change and natural disasters, which must be addressed through the provision of humanitarian aid. Migrant women must be able to live in a stable environment so they are not exploited by smugglers and she drew attention to the difficulties transit countries face in dealing with irregular migration routes. In terms of fostering national reconciliation, she stressed the need to honour the obligations arising from international treaties and other legal instruments.
PARK CHULL-JOO (Republic of Korea), said his country always strives to develop and implement policies that tackle all forms of violence against women migrant workers. It has expanded education on the prevention of sexual harassment and violence by reforming, earlier this year, employment training for migrant workers before they enter the country. It also introduced a remedy and protection procedure for victims of sexual violence. Even with greater recognition that sustaining peace is inextricably linked to gender equality, many unresolved cases of sexual violence in conflict exist. The normative frameworks have advanced over the last two decades, but the gap between the norm and the reality on the ground remains wide and deep. The Republic of Korea is working to correct this gap with its “Action with Women and Peace” initiative, launched in 2018. It supports humanitarian and development projects to help women and girls in conflict situations, as well as convenes an annual international conference to discuss issues on the women, peace and security agenda. The first international conference was held in Seoul in July and brought together more than 300 stakeholders from 50 countries, including representatives of survivors.
Ms. GAGHADAR (Trinidad and Tobago), associating herself with CARICOM, said equal rights are guaranteed under the Constitution. Given the cross-cutting nature of gender issues, the Government worked with civil society, the private sector, academia and the public to formulate a National Policy on Gender and Development, which provides a framework for the inclusion of gender perspectives in all areas of national development. She also underscored the importance of ensuring women’s full participation, on an equal basis with men, in all areas of public life, notably political participation and representation at all levels of the electoral process. In Trinidad and Tobago, female ministers have exceeded the gender parity position of 30 per cent of representatives.
Mr. RUMONGI (Rwanda) said there are few priorities as important for his country as the advancement of women. Violence against women is exacerbated by inequalities that women face economically, politically and socially. In 1995, when Rwanda committed to the Beijing Declaration, it was one year after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. At that time, the challenges of meeting the commitment of advancing women’s rights seemed insurmountable. But Rwanda has emerged as a global champion of women’s advancement, having seen the tremendous impact that women have, particularly in public office. Women’s representation in the Cabinet reached 50 per cent in 2019, while women Parliamentarians account for over 61 per cent in the lower chamber. To address violence against women, Rwanda has launched several initiatives, notably innovative “One Stop Centres”, which provide 24-hour response to victims and survivors of gender-based violence including safe shelter and medical and psycho-social counselling.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile) stressed the need to guarantee women’s equal rights as there are no grounds for discrimination today. Currently pushing through a holistic law covering all forms of violence, Chile has increased women’s participation in public and private sectors: 40 per cent of the Congress deputies are women, and initiatives are underway to promote women’s leadership, equal opportunities at work and access to positions. Chile also introduced six months of parental leave, part of which can be enjoyed by the father. He further stressed the need to make working hours more flexible in order to reconcile private and professional life and close the gender gap.
Ms. OROPEZA (Bolivia), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that one decade away from the deadline to achieve the 2030 Agenda, there is much work to be done. In her region, the femicide figures are alarming, reaching the level of a pandemic. Violence against women requires public policies to counter impunity and support victims. For its part, Bolivia has established a national office to counter such violence and devised an action plan to fight femicide and sexist violence. An arsenal of laws protect a woman’s right to a life free from violence, and Bolivia is improving their implementation. It has closed the gender gap in land tenure and has the third highest female participation in Parliament.
NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, said that marches took place last week in Palestine under banners stating that that there is no liberation for Palestine without the liberation of its women. Palestinian women are fighting for their basic rights under a brutal military occupation. While Palestinian women demonstrate remarkable strength, their advancement cannot be discussed without addressing the occupation, which features illegal policies and practices, including the construction of settlements and the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes and properties. At the same time, the arrest and dentation of thousands of civilians, including women and girls, persists, she said.
Mr. SOUMELA (Burkina Faso), associating with the Group of 77, the African Group and Belgium on behalf of several countries, pointed to her country’s programme for women’s economic empowerment, aimed at increasing the number of female CEOs, providing loans at better rates, ensuring high-quality education and national scholarships and achieving parity. Burkina Faso also introduced initiatives to better involve of women with disabilities in socioeconomic life. Another priority is combatting climate change and developing resilient agriculture, which in turn, helps rural women. Burkina Faso has also introduced an action plan and national strategy to protect young girls.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, said women are among the most marginalized in many societies and the 1995 Beijing Declaration remains the most comprehensive policy framework for their empowerment. However, serious gaps remain across all 12 areas of concern. The international community must pay attention to the plight of women and their families living under foreign occupation, she said, a fact that holds true for women in Jammu and Kashmir, where a cruel lockdown has exacerbated their pain and suffering, and where their children are taken away in the darkness of night by occupation services and detained. The anguish of a Kashmiri mother is captured by a heart-wrenching photograph on the front page of The New York Times newspaper today depicts a mother who could not save her son’s life or even call an ambulance. All actors of the United Nations system must address this dire and unacceptable situation, she said.
Ms. GERENGBO YAKIVU (Democratic Republic of the Congo), aligning herself with the Group of 77, and the African Group, spotlighted a number of legal instruments, which reflect her country’s commitment to empowering women. These include regulations to enhance women’s political representation, to correct gender inequality in private and public spheres, and to amend discriminatory laws. However, she acknowledged that there was far to go to meet their desired quota, underscoring her country’s commitment to increasing women’s representation from 6 per cent to 18 per cent in Government, in the congress as well as the senate. Due to armed conflict, women face gender-based sexual violence, she said, adding that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has instituted a national strategy to tackle the problem. On education, she said primary education is provided free of charge, and there has been an increase in the enrolment of girls in school. Highlighting progress in health care, including increases in skilled birth attendance and vaccine coverage, she nonetheless stressed that maternal and infant mortality remain pressing challenges to be tackled.
Ms. ALGOUMARETT (Niger)said women in rural areas around the world are neglected, despite their massive contributions to the economy. The 78 per cent of Niger’s women who live in rural areas face poverty and extreme vulnerability. She touched on programmes to reduce discrimination and gender-based inequality, as well as tackle sexual harassment and female genital mutilation. In addition, Niger passed a law on quotas to ensure better female representation in Government and civil service and has instituted an observatory to monitor the implementation of measures on gender, she said.
PERKS M. LIGOYA (Malawi), aligning himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and SADC, said that women contribute a great deal to his country’s agro-based economy, comprising 70 per cent of its agricultural workforce. Recalling Malawi’s land tenure reform, which grants women land tenure security, he also touched on financial programmes to promote women’s participation in small-scale business, which has benefited 4.5 million Malawian women. While Malawi has made progress in fighting child and early marriages, with 20,000 child marriages annulled, much remained to be done, he said, calling on United Nations agencies to continue to support its development efforts.
Ms. ALZAYANI (Bahrain), associating with the Group of 77, said Bahrain is keen to achieve a sustainable society built on economic, political and especially on women’s issues. To achieve gender parity, the country has implemented a comprehensive policy aiming at a balance between the sexes. A number of measures have been taken, including the creation of an observatory body to monitor the women’s advancement. Another programme focuses on women’s participation in politics, helping them throughout the process, from candidacy to winning elections, she said, adding that the recent naming of a women as speaker of Parliament is a first in Bahrain’s history. Women account for 68 per cent of students in higher education, she added.
ADONIA AYEBARE (Uganda), associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that despite progress, women still lag behind on virtually every Sustainable Development Goal and target. The gap is even greater for women in rural areas, indigenous women, women with disabilities and older women. At the regional level, Uganda adopted the African Union strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment 2018-2028, aimed at responding to the bloc’s Agenda 2063. It also has made significant progress in developing legal frameworks, policies and programmes to protect women’s rights. The Constitution prohibits laws, customs or traditions that are against the dignity, welfare and interest of women. It also protects an affirmative action policy that has enabled major progress in women’s representation in Government, where women hold more than one third of senior ministerial positions.
ASBINA MARIN SEVILLA (Venezuela) associating with the Group of 77, said women’s and girls’ rights, equality and gender equity has been State policy for 20 years. Noting that public policy has been designed to mainstream the gender perspective, including that of women of indigenous, Afro descendant origin and women with disabilities, she said the legal framework aims to end discrimination in terms of gender and sexual orientation. On the international level, Venezuela has fostered women’s empowerment through the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention and through projects with UN-Women. She deplored the feminization of poverty around the world stemming from deep economic and social imbalances between developed and undeveloped countries, as well as unequal trade, a food crisis, trade barriers and other obstacles. She cited the Ministry of Popular Power for Woman and Gender Equality, among other institutions dedicated to women’s advancement.
SONAM PALDEN (Bhutan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Government has undertaken a two-pronged approach to women’s empowerment and gender equality by creating support measures for women and girls and removing barriers that limit their potential. Bhutan will need to rely upon “its entire human capital” to ensure its graduation from the least developed country category. “The importance of women’s economic empowerment in this context cannot be overstated,” he stressed, emphasizing that the adoption of gender-responsive agricultural and rural development policies is essential for the economic empowerment of rural women. Emphasizing the importance of women’s full participation in peace and security processes, he said Bhutan has committed to ensuring that nearly 50 per cent of its Formed Police Unit is comprised of women.
ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country is committed to enhancing women’s participation in decisions, and sanctions against perpetrators of violence against women. Spotlighting women’s participation in peaceful resolution of disputes, he said that Burundi has set up a network of 600 mediators. Women comprise 47 per cent of the senate, and 30 per cent of the Government, as envisaged in the Constitution. He went on to outline social policies, including the provision of free basic education, and free health care for children below five, underscoring Burundi’s commitment to ending social practices that exercise violence against women, and to extending social protections to women in rural and informal sectors.
Ms. ALGHARABALLY (Kuwait) outlined various legal measures that offered her country’s women to equality and freedom from discrimination, including an equal salary law that considers women’s needs in the context of motherhood and family. Kuwait is committed to respecting the women’s rights, particularly in ensuring their health, including mental health, is protected during childbirth. Spotlighting the plight of Palestinian women “under occupation”, she said that Kuwait is committed to alleviating their suffering. It also is prepared to continue its financial contributions to UN-Women, and to work with international organizations to promote women’s status, politically and economically.
Ms. TRIPATHI (India), associating herself with the Group of 77, said gender equality and women’s empowerment are integral to the national inclusive development strategy. India attaches the utmost importance to women’s representation in decision-making. Today, more than 1.3 million elected women lead in the formulation and implementation of public polices at the grassroots level. Measures such as financial inclusion, income guarantees, cash benefit transfers and improved access to health care and education for women and girls have improved the lives of millions. These measures are linked with increased productivity and better access to labour markets for women. More than 197 million women, who previously did not qualify to open bank accounts, now have accounts through the Government’s financial inclusion initiative.
LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan), associating with the Group of 77, said women in many parts of the world continue to struggle against prejudice and discrimination and experience different forms of violence. She expressed concern about the fate of women and girls taken hostage or reported missing in connection with armed conflict. The State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs is working with UNDP to promote rural women’s participation in economic and social life, with resource centres established in eight regions offering rural women and girls free access to library resources, computers and the Internet. A network of more than 3,000 rural women has been created. Female entrepreneurship is another area of progress, with more than 172,000 women currently engaged in entrepreneurial activity throughout the country.
PETRA MIJIĆ (Croatia), associating herself with the European Union, deplored that around the world violations of the rights of women are widespread in the form of genital mutilation, early and forced marriages, lack of access to education and gender inequality in the labour market, among other expressions. At the national level, measures put in place by the Government have focused on the reconciliation of work and family life and protection against violence against women, especially domestic abuse. The criminal code has been amended and in 2020 sexual intercourse without consent will be prosecuted as a crime of rape. Recalling Croatia’s war experience in the 1990’s, she underlined the use of rape as a method of intimidation and terror. The issue of sexual violence in conflict constitutes today “an essential aspect of our diplomatic work to prevent conflict and promote human rights of women and girls”, she said, spotlighting that Croatia’s head of State is a woman, something that occurs only in 6 per cent of countries around the world.
MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan) said that its existing normative and legislative framework to ensure equality of rights and opportunities for women can be divided into two parts, the first of which seeks to protect women’s rights in the fields of politics, education and the economy. The second part deals with the protection of women’s rights within the family and ensuring their right to reproductive health. In 2013, the law to prevent domestic violence was adopted, aiming to protect the rights of family members and defining ways to provide legal, medical and psychological assistance to victims. The National Strategy for the Activization of the Role of Women 2011-2020 meanwhile seeks to create the conditions for realizing women’s abilities in all areas of public life.
ALIE KABBA (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77, said his country strives to advance the rights of women and girls, especially through capacity building, and inclusion in politics and decision making. Calling the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women prerequisites for sustainable development, he said measures to fight violence against women have been introduced in the legal system. “Tremendous progress” has been made in allocating resources to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and to a fund for female entrepreneurs. Sierra Leone is committed to increasing female participation in decision-making. The first female Attorney General and Minister for Justice are examples in that regard, he said, more broadly pointing to work with civil society to end invasive, cruel and inhuman practices, early marriage and enhance widow’s inheritance.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) said that for the first time, her country has achieved gender parity in the Government cabinet. “How can we hope to empower women if all the decisions are taken by men?” she stressed. She described ongoing efforts with its civil service to design a tool to support women who face gender-based violence, which she said is “banalized by patriarchal domination”. Welcoming the international support for reducing barriers to women’s empowerment, she said many women — including migrant, older and indigenous women — face intersecting forms of discrimination and violence. Expressing concern over El Salvador’s high rate of teenage pregnancy, she stressed the need for an inter-sectoral approach to the issue.
DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH (Liberia) reiterated his country’s commitment to create an inclusive environment for women and girls, pointing to the Spotlight Initiative, which seeks to combat violence against them. The President is championing the provision of additional seats in the Legislature for women, persons with disability and youth, he noted, stressing that Liberia has experienced steady progress in women’s participation in the security sector. To mitigate the disadvantages faced by rural women, Liberia has instituted an annual National Rural Women Conference, which brings together women from various sectors.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Republic of Korea rejected the accusations of abduction made by his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stressing that abductees were dissidents living in the Republic of Korea of their own volition as ordinary citizens.
The representative of Japan responded that the statement by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is based on “factual errors”, stressing that since the end of the Second World War, Japan has demonstrated humility and its respect for democracy and human rights. She went on to say that Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should overcome “mutual mistrust” and work towards a bright future.
The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea responded that the crime of sexual slavery, which had affected 400,000 Korean women, was a “hideous international crime against humanity”. Stressing that history cannot be changed, he called on Japan to make “an honest apology and complete compensation”, and called on the Republic of Korea to “promote reunification” by repatriating its “abducted” citizens.
The representative of Japan responded that her country has made “sincere efforts” to address this diplomatic issue and hopes to resolve it “finally and irreversibly”. Recalling the agreement that the two countries had previously reached on the issue, she hoped that it could be taken up again and “steadily implemented”.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of Korea, in its second right of reply, affirmed that there is no place for Japan to hide for responsibilities for past crimes against humanity and asked for an honest recognition, to apologize and compensate for all crimes.
The representative of the Republic of Korea replied to Japan’s delegate, affirming that it is not just a bilateral issue, but a matter of universal human rights and thus requires efforts in order to recover and heal deep wounds. “We must assure this never occurs again”, he said, adding that the 2015 Agreement “cannot be our lasting solution”. The Republic of Korea will continue to collaborate for the rights of future generations to learn from the past.