Commission on Human Rights
9 April 2004
Commission Continues General Debate
on the Human Rights of Women
The Commission on Human Rights this morning heard experts on migrants, internally displaced persons and the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery present reports. It also continued with its general debate on the human rights of women and the gender perspective, including violence against women.
Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said she was concerned about the administrative detention of migrants and trafficking in migrants. Migrants who were smuggled and were caught were often severely punished, but those who smuggled them were rarely sanctioned. The rights of migrants were also violated by traffickers -- the desperation of such people made them prey to abuse by traffickers, and often their conditions amounted to little more than slavery.
Speaking as concerned countries, Mexico said that the fact that Mexico had received the Special Rapporteur reflected the openness of Mexican policies and its commitment to establish different courses of action to deal with this problem. Some of the many recommendations by the Special Rapporteur were already being implemented.
The United States said that the Special Rapporteur correctly noted the alarming vulnerability of migrants when they fell prey to transnational organized crime networks which reaped enormous grain from their illicit trade, not only in people, but in drugs and arms as well. The United States and Mexico fully recognized that migration and border safety were shared responsibilities.
And the Philippines, also speaking as a concerned country, said the Government was pleased that the Special Rapporteur had recognized the efforts made to address the problems faced by Filipino migrants, and while she had brought to the Government's attention deficiencies in its national programme, the Government concluded that on the whole it was on the right track.
Francis M. Deng, Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, said today, the magnitude of the problem – with an estimated twenty-five million internally displaced persons in some 50 countries – was as large as it has ever been. Moreover, the situation of many of the internally displaced remained desperate, with gaps in the national and international response, especially in the area of protection, leaving them vulnerable to deprivation, physical harms and the loss of dignity. Nevertheless, the international community and concerned States had taken important steps over the last decade to face up to the phenomenon of internal displacement.
Speaking as concerned countries to the report of Mr. Deng, Mexico said the Government was making all efforts at the federal, municipal and civil society levels to find a solution to this problem and was pursuing a policy aimed at reversing past trends. He reiterated the invitation to the Representative of the Secretary General to visit the country.
Sudan said it hoped that the visit by the Special Representative would have a positive impact on efforts to deal with the problem of internally displaced persons in Sudan. The Government recognized that it had the primary responsibility; even so, it could use financial and technical assistance provided by the United Nations, in agreement with the State and provided that it was in line with the policies the State had established.
The Philippines said that his country considered Mr. Deng's report to be fair and balanced, criticizing shortcomings while acknowledging the efforts the Government had exerted to alleviate the problems faced by internally displaced persons. the Philippine Government openly acknowledged the problem of internal displacement and the need to respond to it effectively, including exploring durable solutions.
And Turkey said that the root cause of the internal displacement problem in Turkey, besides economic reasons and the phenomenon of urbanization, had been the scourge of terrorism faced by Turkey for two decades. Large number of Turkish citizens were compelled to leave their homes due to the terrorist organization PKK’s intimidation, harassment and brutal attacks. Therefore, when PKK was mentioned in the report, lack of reference to it as a terrorist organization constituted a shortcoming.
Tatiana Mateeva, a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, said that taking into consideration the number of requests received, and the fact that the Board had recommended the expenditure of almost all the money available in the Fund for its eighth session, the Fund would need at least an amount of $ 300,000 before its next session in January 2004, and hence appealed to donors to contribute generously before 1 December 2003.
The Commission also continued to hear from country delegations outlining national efforts to promote and protect the human rights of women. A number of international organizations also took the floor on that topic.
Speaking on women issues were Representatives of South Africa, the United States, Cameroon, Uganda, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Croatia, Armenia, the Republic of Korea, Poland, Malaysia, Sudan, Gabon, Spain, Egypt, Switzerland, Norway, Bangladesh, Georgia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, El Salvador, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Labour Office, Indonesia, the World Bank, the Dominican Republic, Jordan, the Division for the Advancement of Women, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Iraq, Cyprus, Morocco, Liechtenstein, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the United Nations Population Fund, the Philippines, Albania, and the World Health Organization.
The Commission is holding an extended meeting today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a one-hour break for lunch. When it reconvenes at 2 p.m., the Commission will continue with its consideration of the integration of the human rights of women and the gender perspective.
Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
Under agenda item 14 on specific groups and individuals, there is a report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (E/CN.4/2003/85). The report notes, among other things, that migrants are particularly vulnerable to deprivation of liberty. On the one hand, there is a tendency to criminalize violations of immigration regulations and to severely punish them, in an attempt to discourage irregular migration. On the other hand, a great number of countries resort to administrative detention of irregular migrants pending deportation. Deprivation of liberty is undertaken without due regard for the individual history of migrants. Victims of trafficking and smuggling are criminalized, detained and deported for infractions or offenses committed as inevitable consequences of the violations they have suffered. Often there is a lack of specific provisions regarding the detention of children and other vulnerable groups, allowing for their detention in conditions that often violate their basic human rights and are detrimental to their physical and mental health.
There is an addendum (E/CN.4/2003/85/Add.1) to the report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. The addendum contains communications sent to Governments and replied received.
There is an addendum (E/CN.4/2003/85/Add.2) to the report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. The addendum contains information on the mission undertook by the Special Rapporteur to Mexico from 25 February to 6 March. The Special Rapporteur states, among other things, that one of the most serious problems that she noted during her visit to Mexico was that of corruption closely related to transnational crime, and in particular gangs engaged in the trafficking and smuggling of persons. The Special Rapporteur notes with concern the complaints about the involvement of certain public officials in these practices, which are encouraged with impunity. The Special Rapporteur recommends the promotion of investigation and punishment of reported violations of migrants’ human rights as a step forward in efforts to combat impunity.
There is an addendum (E/CN.4/2003/85/Add.3) by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. The addendum contains information on the mission undertaken by the Special Rapporteur to the border between Mexico and the United States from 7 to 8 March 2002. During her visit, the Special Rapporteur was able to observe the magnitude of the flows of migrants who cross the border every day. Many migrants attempt to enter the United States without documents after hiring the illegal services of smugglers. In many cases, smugglers extort money from migrants and abandon, deceive and mistreat them. The greatest risks that the Special Rapporteur identified are the following: lack of protection against smugglers; the problem of trafficking in persons; excessive use of force against migrants; crossing the border through dangerous areas; vulnerability of children on the border; racist, xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes; and the conditions in which undocumented migrants are detained, especially when they are in the custody of private security agencies.
There is an addendum (E/CN.4/2003/85/Add.4) by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. The addendum contains information on the mission undertaken by the Special Rapporteur to the Philippines from 20 May to 1 June 2002. The Special Rapporteur notes, among other things, that an estimated 7.4 million Filipinos, representing approximately 10 per cent of the country’s total population, work in more than 150 countries on practically all the continents. Women represent the majority of newly hired oversees Filipino workers. The Special Rapporteur received numerous reports of human rights violations and abuses suffered these oversees workers. The problem of irregular migration and the vulnerability of undocumented migrants to smuggling and trafficking, as well as the social costs of migration, are addressed by the Special Rapporteur.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
GABRIELA RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said she was concerned about the administrative detention of migrants and trafficking in migrants. She thanked the Governments of Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States for helping her in her work. Various other countries also had responded to her requests for information.
Migrants who were smuggled and were caught were often severely punished, the Special Rapporteur said, but those who smuggled them were rarely sanctioned. Often there were no specific provisions concerning the administrative detention of minors, resulting in their incarceration under unsuitable and damaging conditions. Migrants in general should enjoy established procedures and safeguards related to detention, yet often these standards were flouted. There was a lack of automatic mechanisms for review and a lack of procedural mechanisms, such as access to legal counsel. There was a problem of unaccompanied children, girls in particular. The rights of migrants were also violated by traffickers -- the desperation of such people made them prey to abuse by traffickers, and often their conditions amounted to little more than slavery.
During her visit to Mexico, she had noted that the Government was making enormous efforts to understand and analyse the situation, the Special Rapporteur said; it was time now to move on to development and implementation of policies. On the US-Mexican border she had seen the flow of migrants; often traffickers were involved, and they exploited those who sought their services. Conditions on the border were poor, although there was no lack of effort by authorities of both countries to deal with matters of migration.
In the case of the Philippines, there was a huge migrant flow around the world -- some 7.4 million Filipinos, or around 10 per cent of the country's inhabitants, were working in more than 150 countries; illegal migration, trafficking, and trading, and their social costs, were evident. She had studied the efforts of the Government to care for the situations of its citizens abroad. Sexual abuse of Filipina migrants was a matter of concern; many were trapped in situations of helplessness in jobs as "entertainers" and domestic workers. It was worth noting that the money sent home by Filipino migrant workers was a major source of income for the country. In her continuing work she would endeavour to continue to act on behalf of the rights of migrants.
Statements by Concerned Countries to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
ERASMO MARTINEZ (Mexico), speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur for her report and her visit. The fact that Mexico had received the Special Rapporteur reflected the openness of Mexican policies and its commitment to establish different courses of action to deal with this problem. It was stressed that some of the many recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur were already being implemented. However, Mexico was a country of origin and needed to consider a holistic approach, such as development projects in the regions of origin. It was also important to inform the population about their rights in order to prevent them from falling victim to human rights violations and transnational organized crime rings. In this connection, hundreds of thousands of copies of the Charter of Human Rights had been made available. The Government was aware of the shortcomings and what remained to be done. An important first step had been the improved coordination and consultation with the authorities of the United States. Combating this problem required dialogue between all stakeholders.
MICHAEL E. SOUTHWICK (United States) said that the number of illicit crossings inside and outside established ports of entry between the United States and Mexico could only be guessed. Various estimates placed the number of undocumented Mexican nationals now living in the United States at 3.5-6 million. As all these figures showed, there was a vast number of undocumented crossings by Mexicans and other nationals, chiefly for the purpose of securing employment and the prospect of a better future. The Special Rapporteur correctly noted the alarming vulnerability of migrants when they fell prey to transnational organized crime networks which reaped enormous grain from their illicit trade, not only in people, but in drugs and arms as well. The United States and Mexico fully recognized that migration and border safety were shared responsibilities. The United States noted the Special Rapporteur’s concern in several cases regarding the use of excessive force against migrants and shared her view that excessive force had no place in the treatment of undocumented migrants. The United States assured the Special Rapporteur that established procedures existed for investigating all allegations of abusive treatment or misconduct by immigration and border patrol officials.
DENIS YAP LEPATAN (Philippines), speaking as a concerned country, said the visit of the Special Rapporteur was the first of three visits of that kind last year under the country's policy of open cooperation with human rights mechanisms. The Government was pleased that the Special Rapporteur had recognized the efforts made to address the problems faced by Filipino migrants, and while she had brought to the Government's attention deficiencies in its national programme, the Government concluded that on the whole it was on the right track and what was needed was further fine-tuning, strengthening and expanding of what was already being done. Such efforts would require additional resources.
The Government wished to clarify certain situations mentioned in the report, particularly concerning "rescue from abusive employers" and discouraging migrant workers from filing complaints or legal suits. Such contentions simply were not true and were, from Government experience, the result of lack of understanding about what Government and consular officials abroad could and could not do. Similarly, complaints about delays in repatriation were exaggerated. In emergency situations, the Government did not hesitate to send air force planes or navy ships to repatriate Filipinos. Finally, while serious problems with other countries concerning Filipino workers did crop up once in a while, the greater part were eventually resolved through goodwill on both sides, negotiations, and diplomacy.
Report by the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons
The Commission also has before it, under agenda item 14, a report by the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced people, Francis M. Deng (E/CN.4/2003/86). The Representative presents in this report not only the developments since his report to the previous session of the Commission but also an overview of the progress made over the last decade and the challenges that remain to be overcome in responding effectively to the global crisis of internal displacement. The report reviews the development of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and their increasing use by Governments, regional bodies, international agencies, non-governmental organizations and local groups in all regions of the world. The report then highlights the country missions undertaken by the Representative this past year, as well as those he hopes to undertake in the near future, and summarizes the development and current directions of the Representative's research agenda. Finally, it reviews the progress of the mandate and concludes with a discussion of the importance of addressing the underlying causes of displacement.
Six addenda are appended to the report. Addenda 1,2,3 and 4 consist of reports on the Representative’s missions to the Sudan, Turkey, Mexico and the Philippines, respectively. Addendum 5 is a report on a seminar on internal displacement in the Russian Federation held in April 2002. Addendum 6 is a report on a seminar convened by the Representative, the Brookings Institutions-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement and the United Nations Children’s Fund on internal displacement in southern Sudan, which took place in Rumbek, Sudan on 25 November 2002.
Statement by the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons
FRANCIS M. DENG, Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, said today, the magnitude of the problem – with an estimated twenty-five million internally displaced persons in some 50 countries – was as large as it has ever been. Moreover, the situation of many of the internally displaced remained desperate, with gaps in the national and international response, especially in the area of protection, leaving them vulnerable to deprivation, physical harm and the loss of dignity. Nevertheless, the international community and concerned States had taken important steps over the last decade to face up to the phenomenon of internal displacement. The first and over-arching pillar had been the catalytic function of advocacy and awareness rising about the plight of millions of internally displaced people around the world. He believed it was fair to say that since the mandate had been created, the level of awareness about the crisis had been raised considerably.
The second pillar of the mandate had been the development and promotion of a normative framework, which resulted in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. These Principles restated, consolidated, and applied existing international human rights. An especially welcome development had been the initiative of an increasing number of Governments in all regions of the world to enact legislation or official decrees adopting elements of the Guiding Principles directly into their national laws and policies concerning development. The third pillar of the mandate had been to encourage a more effective international institutional response to internal displacement, and a fourth pillar had been to focus on specific displacement situations, primarily through country missions.
In Sudan, his mission had taken place in conjunction with a mission sponsored by USAID to address issues of return and resettlement in the light of potential for peace. In Turkey, his mission had focused on those displaced in the southeast of the country by the conflict between the Government and the Kurdish insurgents. In Mexico, his mission focused on persons displaced by the conflict between the Government and the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas. The mission to the Philippines had taken place in the context of what then appeared to be the winding down of the armed conflict between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 in the archipelago of Mindanao. All these Governments had raised the possibility of hosting regional seminars on the issue of internal displacement. He welcomed these initiatives and stood ready to cooperate with them.
Statements by Concerned Countries to the Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons
ERASMO MARTINEZ (Mexico) said that the Government was seeking to protect internally displaced persons and was aware of their suffering and the need to assist them in accordance with the guiding principles of international law. The Government was making all efforts at the federal, municipal and civil society levels to find a solution to this problem and was pursuing a policy aimed at reversing past trends. The Government reiterated its invitation to the Representative of the Secretary General on internally displaced persons to visit the country. The Government also expressed its willingness to cooperate with civil society and the United Nations in order to determine the causes and numbers of internally displaced persons in order to deal with the problem in all its aspects. In this connection, the Government proposed to organize a workshop that would propose measures to tackle the problem. The Government recognized the need for a long-term policy to remedy the situation of displaced persons and enable them to return to their places of residence or help them establish themselves elsewhere.
MOUBAREK RAHMATOLLAH (Sudan) said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had made a satisfactory visit to the country. It was expected that the visit would have a positive impact on efforts to deal with the problem of internally displaced persons in Sudan. There were many internally displaced persons in the country. The Government recognized that it had the primary responsibility; even so, it could use financial and technical assistance provided by the United Nations, in agreement with the State and provided that it was in line with the policies the State had established. Specialized seminars had been held by the State to confront the challenges caused by internal displacement.
A Ministry had been created to deal with internal affairs, and it had dealt with matters related to internally displaced persons since last year. Regarding the guidelines drawn up by the Special Representative, Sudan considered that its experience could be useful for other countries dealing with internally displaced persons -- among other things, it had found that such guidelines had to be adjusted to the circumstances of the specific country concerned. Various agreements had been included on matters such as humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians caught up in the country's internal armed conflict. International humanitarian assistance had been minimal, but despite that the Government had made significant progress. One paragraph in the report, whose language was not appropriate for a United Nations document, should be corrected, and the delegation would attempt to help adjust it so that it fell into line with UN standards.
DENIS YAP LEPATAN (Philippines), speaking as a concerned country, said Mr. Deng had presented a report which the Philippines considered fair and balanced, criticizing shortcomings while acknowledging the efforts the Government had exerted to alleviate the problems faced by internally displaced persons. As Mr. Deng had stated in his report, the Philippine Government openly acknowledged the problem of internal displacement and the need to respond to it effectively, including exploring durable solutions. Fortunately, the problem of internal displacement for the Philippines was relatively small compared to many other countries, and translating Mr. Deng’s recommendations into practical solutions would pose no major problem. Nevertheless, like in most developing countries, there was always the problem of scarce resources that was largely the cause of gaps between policy and implementation.
The burden of conflict-related displacement was in addition to the much bigger annual displacements caused by natural disasters to which his country was prone, such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. While efforts were not perfect, the situation was under control and most of those who were displaced were able to return to their homes in a short period of time. The delegation of the Philippines only wanted to make two points about the report. First, the question of statistics and the situation of the Special Representative having to contend with the problem of reliable statistics and the need to rely on what was available. The fact was that there were no reliable statistics and these should, therefore, be viewed with caution. The second aspect was the term “all-out war approach”. There was a context to this situation, not isolated incidents but part of a consistent pattern of rebel and terrorist atrocities. These people first attacked military positions then took civilian hostages to make good their escape.
TURKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey) said that the root cause of the internal displacement problem in Turkey, besides economic reasons and the phenomenon of urbanization, was the scourge of terrorism faced by Turkey for two decades. Large numbers of Turkish citizens were compelled to leave their homes due to the terrorist organization PKK’s intimidation, harassment and brutal attacks. The PKK was a terrorist organization responsible for the death of over 30,000 Turkish citizens. Therefore, when PKK was mentioned in the report, lack of reference to it as a terrorist organization constituted a shortcoming. The Government attached great importance to the successful return of displaced citizens on a voluntary basis. The Back to Village and Rehabilitation Project had been launched for this purpose.
TATIANA MATEEVA, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, said that at its eighth annual session held in January 2003, the Board had reviewed about 60 new applications for project grants from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide humanitarian, legal or financial aid to victims of contemporary forms of slavery, as well as 40 new applications for travel grants to allow NGOs to attend the twenty-eighth session of the Working Group on contemporary forms of slavery this June. The Secretary-General had subsequently approved, upon recommendation of the Board, eight travel grants and 28 project grants for a total amount of $ 153,000. The list of all beneficiaries and recommendations was available in the relevant report of the Secretary-General.
Taking into consideration the number of requests received, and that the Board had recommended the expenditure of almost all the money available in the Fund for its eighth session, the Fund would need at least an amount of $ 300,000 before its next session in January 2004, and hence appealed to donors to contribute generously before 1 December 2003.
General Debate on the Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective
D. MOERANE-KHOZA (South Africa) said that it was the Government’s principled position to empower women and to eliminate institutional inequalities, social exclusion and discrimination. In this regard, Parliament had enacted specific legislation aimed at improving the status of women and girls. South Africa was also signatory to some of the most effective international instruments pertaining to the human rights of women. The Constitutive Act of the African Union accorded a prominent place to women’s human rights and gender equality. South Africa as chair of the African Union was involved in the process to complete the Additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which addressed the rights of women in Africa. As part of the African Renaissance, African leaders adopted the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. This Partnership specifically intended to accelerate the emancipation of women in social and economic development by reinforcing their capacity in education and training and by assuring their participation in the political and economic life of African countries.
ELLEN R. SAUERBREY (United States) said that women made up over half the population in countries around the world. But in too many places, they remained oppressed, subjected to violence, and denied the education and economic opportunities necessary to improve their lives. Strong communities, strong economies and progress towards true democracy depended on the full participation of women. Families were better served and children better nourished and educated when women's equal rights and fundamental freedoms were secured. The United States had a long and successful record of advancement of women and girls, particularly in education, economic opportunity, health and safety, and political participation.
While maintaining central roles in their families, women were increasingly breaking new ground and assuring leadership positions in many fields. Yet they could still be subjected to gender discrimination and violence. Trafficking in women, domestic abuse, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, so-called "honour crimes", rape, forced abortion and sterilization, and other horrific acts threatened the health and lives of women and girls.
The United States Congress had enacted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and of 2000 to address domestic violence in a comprehensive way. Local governments were also passing tough laws. And women who were victims could find shelters and counselling provided by non-governmental and faith-based groups. The United States assisted other countries to overcome domestic violence by providing funding and training for police, lawyers, judges, medical personnel, crisis centre personnel and government officials and supporting shelters for abused women.
ODETTE MELONO (Cameroon) informed the Commission of the work that had been undertaken by the Government of Cameroon on the fundamental rights of women. The principles of equality between the sexes and the need to respect all fundamental rights of women were stressed. In cooperation with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Government of Cameroon had held a seminar with the aim of strengthening and encouraging the participation of women in decision-making processes. Cameroon participated actively in the activities of the international community on the advancement of women. One of the main priorities was the strengthening of existing mechanisms and ensuring gender mainstreaming within these mechanisms. Other activities focused on included improving women’s living conditions, their access to health and their level of education. The Commission was informed that the main problem of the Government was alleviating poverty. It was her hope that her country could cooperate even more fruitfully with the international community to give the highly indebted poor countries initiative further momentum to enable the Government to undertaken further gender mainstreaming activities and ensure the health of all women.
LUCIAN TIBARUHA (Uganda) said that Uganda was a party to all human rights treaties which provided protection to women and girls from violence. Gender justice was comprehensively covered by the laws of the country. The Constitution prohibited discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, language or social status. One of the directive principles of the State’s policy in the Constitution provided that the State shall ensure gender balance in all Constitutional and other bodies. This principle meant that at all times there must be fair and effective participation and representation of women in the decision making process at all levels in all the main branches of Government. In order to promote the economic activities of women, credit institutions had been established to advance credit facilities to women to help them improve their farm production and other economic activities. In the legislative field, there were provisions for stiffer sentences for violence against women, particularly rape and defilement.
MARIA CRISTINA PEREZ PLANCHART (Venezuela) signalled the commitment taken at the international level concerning the decisions and principles contained in the Beijing Programme of Action and that of the Special Session of the General Assembly. There was a need by the United Nations to incorporate and practice gender equality in its policies and activities. The adoption of the national Constitution and other specific pieces of legislation, such as the Law on Refugees from the gender prospective, the creation of the National Institution for Women and the National Defence for the Rights of Women, and the Law on Violence against Women and the Family were some of the achievements made by Venezuela at the national level. Those achievements were complimented by political measures by the national Government. In order to defend the rights of women, a Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigation had been established under the Ministry of Health and Social Development to deal with the identification of ADN, in the decision of paternity. Such a measure was a response to the continued concerns of the authorities.
A Programme on the Development of Economic Rights of Women had also been implemented with a principal objective of promoting and supporting the potential of Venezuelan women in development. The Government was concerned by the negative impact of the globalization process, particularly the femininization of poverty. Measures should be designed at national and international levels to increase the capacity of women so that they better contributed to development.
CHANTAL NGOYI TSHITE WETSHI (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said ever since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had made very important strides in the advancement of women and gender mainstreaming. In this context, she referred to the setting up of mechanisms such as the National Women’s Council, which called upon experts to fulfill an advisory role to the Government. It was added that the text of national legislation was being addressed in order to remove current gender inequalities and to promote gender issues. Other initiatives aimed to improve the basic living conditions of women in the country, as well as their access to health care and education. However, due to the last four years of the war of aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Government’s initiatives had not been successfully implemented. Everyone knew that women were very vulnerable in situations of armed conflict. In this war, many women had been raped and killed, and the HIV/AIDS infection rate had increased from five to eleven per cent. Many women had lost their children, husbands and homes, and some had endured torture, harassment and violence. In an attempt to inform the international community about the suffering of Congolese women, the Government was holding an exhibit in Geneva of pictures taken from the eastern part of the country.
HANAN KHALED ZEGBIA (Libya) said that Libya was party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which it ratified 1989. It presented national reports to the Committee in charge of the implementation of the Convention. Furthermore, Libya had ratified most international human rights instruments and was committed to their implementation. Since the Revolution, Libya had promulgated laws to promote gender equality. Legislation took into consideration the nature of women, banning all kinds of hazardous work for women. Thanks to this legislation, Libyan women had achieved a privileged economic position; they enjoyed complete freedom of movement, could be financially independent, and held positions that had been the privilege of men for a long period. In face of the degradation in the position of women in many regions of the world, the international community must take swift steps to implement the Beijing Plan. Libya also expressed concern at the violations of women’s right in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Iraq.
GORDAN MARKOTIĆ (Croatia) said that trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of commercial and sexual exploitation was yet another form of severe violence against women and their basic human rights. Croatia remained a country of transit for women as well as citizens of other Eastern and Central European countries on their way to more developed Western European countries of destination. The cross-border nature of trafficking and its side effects required urgent measures to protect victims.
ASHOT KOCHARIAN (Armenia) said the reduction in the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS, the violence against migrant women, trafficking in women, health hazards caused by traditional practices inflicted on adolescent females, and the improvement of life conditions of women in general and rural women, in particular, could only be achieved by the sustained political will and commitment of governments, national and regional organizations, and the international community at large. Armenian legislation on women provided for equal rights for men and women and hardly required drastic reforms. The main challenge remained changing mentalities and stimulating gender sensitivity and awareness to the new role of women who were no more bound by family duties and traditions. The recent legal reforms enacted to meet international standards provided women with greater involvement in different levels of decision-making. They provided social networks to protect and help teenage girls and proposals to eliminate the unemployment of women, as well as better working conditions and health care as well as assistance to female victims.
EUI-YONG CHUNG (Republic of Korea) said that violence against women perpetrated under situations of armed conflict or occupation often took the form of sexual violence. Crimes of sexual violence went against all humanitarian principles. The pain and suffering that remained with the victims of such crimes, their people and their country were lasting and irreversible. Promoting gender equality and empowering women were key Millennium Development Goals. These were also indispensable elements in any effort to achieve the other goals defined by the Millennium Summit. One growing area of concern was the use of new information and communication technologies in ways that violated the human rights and dignity of women, including trafficking in women and girls and the transmission of pornographic content that degraded women.
SYLWIA KANAREK (Poland) said that combating trafficking in human beings was a growing problem worldwide and also one of the challenges her country faced today. Poland had become the country of destination, transit and origin of victims of trafficking, mainly women. It was necessary to stress the importance of economic and social factors. As a result of the opening of borders, foreigners from some countries were seeking better life conditions in Poland. At the same time, growing unemployment in the country increased vulnerability, in particular of women to that contemporary form of slavery. Both Polish women and women from other countries were vulnerable to the activities of international organized crime groups. The trafficking gangs used modern technology and more and more developed methods of recruitment. They coordinated their crime activities on a transnational level. That was why the counter-action should be on a transnational level, too.
Poland was strongly convinced that international cooperation was a basic prerequisite for combating trafficking and establishing efficient assistance to the victims of that odious crime. Poland had just ratified the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
Z. AMIRADDIN (Malaysia) said that various efforts had been taken by the Government and non-governmental organizations to reduce the incidence of poverty among women, including through the provision of micro credit facilities. In view of the increasing number of female-headed households and the rising incident of poverty among them, measures were being taken to ensure that women had the capacity and capability to care for their families. With the introduction of the Family Health Programme, women’s health was given emphasis from two perspectives: the health of the family, and diseases affecting women, with emphasis on the prevention of HIV/AIDS. A gender-based programme had helped improve the chances of HIV positive mothers delivering healthy neonates. The programme provided free HIV testing and counseling services, as well as free anti-retroviral therapy to infected mothers and infants. Domestic violence was now dealt with as a criminal offense, with appropriate penalties imposed.
OUSMANE CAMARA (Senegal) said the country had ratified the majority of human-rights instruments, which was witness to its commitment to the advancement of human rights. The protection of women and of elderly and handicapped persons was a tradition in Senegal, and so recent efforts to aid the cause of women were building upon years of such commitment. Unfortunately, abuses and forms of discrimination against women around the world made a long list. All such injustices and inequalities must be fought so that women could have true equality and equal opportunity.
In January 2001, Senegal had constitutionalized the fundamental rights of women and children. This Constitutional guarantee included reaffirmation of the equality before law of men and women; access for women to property law and property rights; and the right of women to have inheritance rights that were clear and separate from those of their husbands. Great efforts were being put into ensuring the rights of girls, and a vast campaign had been undertaken against female genital mutilation, including in rural areas. Senegal intended to eradicate the practice by 2005.
MOUBAREK RAHMATOLLAH (Sudan) said his country saw that in order to achieve progress, the world should uphold the rights of women. In Sudan, women enjoyed their full rights and justice had been made to redress situations affecting them. The prevalence of justice was also essential in the promotion of the rights of women. The Government was committed to the Beijing Programme of Action and other relevant conferences concerning the protection and promotion of women. A number of measures had been undertaken to implement the various decisions taken at various international fora with regard to women. There had also been programmes aimed at fostering the rights of women and improving their conditions within the society. Sudanese women were actively participating in the activities of the society and they were present in all aspects of national programmes aimed at promoting the rights of women. The phenomenon of trafficking in women was unknown in Sudan and the Government had taken preventive measures to avert such activities.
YOLANDE BIKE (Gabon) said that there was a need to ensure greater gender equality in the United Nations system. In this regard, the High Commissioner for Human Rights ranked first in terms of gender equality. It was intolerable that violence against women continued to exist. The most widespread violence against women was domestic violence. This violence was worldwide and was characterized by verbal and physical abuse, injuries, humiliation, defamation and beatings which resulted in the physical and psychological destruction of women and destabilized families. Alcohol and drug addiction contributed to increasing this violence. Gabon was among the countries that had enacted measures to ensure respect for the rights of women. Gabon had worked to ensure the equality of women in terms of education and this was reflected in their high number in certain areas of activity such as education, health and magistrate. However, progress still needed to be made in order to achieve full gender equality.
ENRIQUE NUJICA (Spain) said the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women included complaints by women against Spain; these women were considered to be members of the ETA, a terrorist group, but they benefited nonetheless and would benefit from the legal protection offered in the country, which was in line with international standards. These alleged terrorists also had the protection of the Constitution.
As a defender of human and fundamental rights, he, the speaker, had spent several years in prison; now he was a public defender working in the Basque region. The ETA was a dangerous terrorist organization that had assassinated many people, along with wounding over 2,000 and kidnapping many more. A lot of people had left the Basque territory because of pressure brought to bear on them. So complaints of this nature had to be considered in context, and in depth.
IHAM KHALIL (Egypt) said that women had been the main victims of conflicts in many parts of the world. Palestinian women had been most affected by the Israeli occupation and the international community should come to their assistance. In Egypt, women enjoyed the highest status, and they were serving in all governmental posts. They held important governmental posts, including at ministerial rank. They also served in diplomatic missions as well as other important posts in public affairs. There were also a number of institutions led by women. Egyptian women enjoying an important role in decision-making process in the Government. The participation of women in the Government had now reached 27 per cent. A commission had also been established to promote the rights of women in the country. Egyptian women had now assumed equality in many aspects.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said that domestic violence remained a daily reality for many women in Switzerland. Switzerland reaffirmed its commitment to implementing international standards to eliminate violence against women. It was also committed to the fight against trafficking in human beings, especially in women. In January, a coordination unit was put in place to fight against trafficking in persons and migrants. With regard to domestic violence, the Government had approved a bill that would be considered by Parliament in the near future. Switzerland requested the Commission to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.
ROALD NÆSS (Norway) said Norway regretted that universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) had not been achieved – it showed a lack of political commitment. Norway urged parties that had not done so to ratify the Convention, and urged ratification as well of the optional protocol to CEDAW which was a significant step that provided a new opportunity to strengthen the rights of women. Violence against women was a great concern, and Norway strongly supported renewal of the mandate of the relevant Special Rapporteur. Norway also strongly supported the resolution on violence against women that was to be adopted by the Commission.
A holistic approach to the problem and a zero tolerance policy were the keys to eradication of gender-based violence. The importance of integrating a gender perspective into the United Nations system could not be overstated.
SHAMSHER MOBIN CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that access to productive resources, right of ownership, economic independence and education were critical to ensuring women's empowerment. Bangladesh had invested heavily in women's education and economic empowerment. The gender gap in the education and health sectors had been narrowed and today women constituted a bigger share of the workforce; they were holding elected political office and were even entering into non-traditional professions, such as the police and military. Bangladesh women were participating in UN peacekeeping operations. There was today a visible presence of women in every sphere of society. Those changes had brought about a significant transformation in the lives of women and in the society as a whole. Stringent laws had been enacted and existing ones were being reviewed to make them more responsive to the problem of violence against women and in ensuring their human rights.
DAVID BAKRADZE (Georgia) said that the present action plan for improving women’s conditions in Georgia provided for the following objectives: improvement in studying the nature, character and results of violence against women; obtaining information on domestic violence and making the information a subject of public discussion; prevention of domestic violence; development of legislation; execution of laws and court decisions; assistance to victims of violence and their protection; combating ethnic violence; support of victims of ethnic conflicts, deportation, internal displacement or exile; obtaining information on cases of violence against girls: and prevention and elimination of trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
CHRISTOPHER LAMB, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the rationale for integrating a gender perspective in the activities of the Federation lay in the Red Cross and Red Crescent's humanitarian mandate – to prevent and alleviate human suffering without discrimination. Gender equality ensured that there was no sex-based discrimination in the allocation of resources or benefits, or in access to services. It was important to acknowledge that women were not born vulnerable. Women had been made vulnerable – legally, economically, and socially – by persistent gender based discrimination, as children in families, and as women in the working place. The visibility that this vulnerability obtained through prostitution, other exploitation and physical maltreatment drew attention to the issues, but it was of course much more deeply rooted.
MIGUEL ANGEL ALCAINE CASTRO (El Salvador) said that following the adoption of the Beijing Programme of Action, El Salvador had made important and concrete commitments for the promotion and protection of the human rights of women. At the international level, the country had ratified the 1995 International Convention on the Prevention, Punishing and Eradication of Violence against Women and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The country was endeavouring to meet its obligations under international norms towards the rights of women. It had fostered national policies and had designed a national plan of action. It had also taken a series of measures to address issues concerning the problem of violence against women. El Salvador had also reiterated its commitment to fulfil its international obligations. It was implementing other measures to promote the rights of women, including the adoption of a national policy for women against inter-family violence.
A Representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said ICRC had published a major study entitled “Women facing War” whose purpose had been to better understand the experiences of women in such situations in all their complexity, in order to better respond to their needs. Women, like men, were afforded general protection under international humanitarian law, but also were afforded additional protection in relation to their specific needs, for example in relation to sexual violence.
ICRC had long regarded sexual violence as a serious violation and it welcomed the attention paid in recent years to the problem. Sexual violence in any form, by any perpetrator, for any reason, was categorically unacceptable. “Women facing War” had found that for many women, war also had grave socio-economic repercussions – loss of menfolk, who were breadwinners, heightened danger for women and their children in the men’s absence, problems with land, homes, and inheritance after conflicts were over. ICRC was now developing guidelines for the practical implementation of the findings of its study. It called on States to protect all civilian populations from the effects of hostilities.
MARTIN OELZ, of the International Labour Office, said that equal pay and anti-discrimination laws and policies had been put in place in many countries and women were using these measures to benefit society and themselves. Yet, one must note that vigilance was ever necessary to ensure that the gains women had made in terms of equal rights and treatment were not eroded. Many of these gains were coming under threat in times of economic downturn and conflict of crises. Moreover, not all women were moving forward at the same pace – inequalities among them were widening. Over the past year, the ILO had been working to address the multiple links between discrimination against women, poverty and social exclusion. ILO continued to assist constituents to establish and strengthen their gender strategies and to promote gender equality in national socio-economic policies. Finally, their work on developing indicators on international labour standards on non-discrimination, including sex-discrimination, helped to measure more effectively the progress made and indicate the way to go forward.
ADE PETRANTO (Indonesia) said that it was the protection of the basic human rights of women in the poorest and most vulnerable segment of society which called for the brunt of the international and national action, since it was to that segment that the vast majority of the under-educated and out-of-work belonged. It was also among their ranks that the bulk of migrant workers and of the tens of thousands of women and girls who fell victims to trafficking and prostitution were to be found. The magnitude of those combined problems and the human rights abuses to which they led, as well as the urgent need to tackle their national causes and international ramifications, required action at the highest level.
Violence against women was unfortunately not confined to the street, it was also prevalent at home. The House of Representatives of Indonesia was currently discussing a bill on domestic violence which aimed at protecting all household members from any form of domestic violence, whether physical , psychological, economic or sexual.
WAAFAS OFOSU AMAAH, of the World Bank, said gender inequality, including gender-based violence, was bad for development and a violation of human rights. Therefore, the Bank was committed to working with partners in the UN system and elsewhere to end such inequality. It was increasingly working to assist Governments in strengthening their legal and judicial systems to provide the kind of good governance needed to ensure citizens’ rights. It funded many projects, including one through a non-governmental organization designed to teach poor women in Egypt about their rights as citizens and to provide them with the official documents necessary to access such vital services and rights as credit, the vote, inheritance and pensions.
The Bank also was funding projects that worked directly at community levels to help empower very poor women (and men) economically and socially. For example, the District Poverty Initiatives Project in India worked with women’s self-help groups to improve social conditions through collective action. The Bank was making more attempts to find common interest and common understanding through sustained dialogue with the Commission.
YSSET ROMAN (Dominican Republic) said the commitment of the Dominican Republic to gender mainstreaming had been expressed through the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as the optional protocol to the Convention. In addition, the Government had implemented a number of programmes ensuring equality between men and women in the family and in society. Some initiatives dealt with violence against women, including domestic abuse. These initiatives had focused on legal recourse for women, the training of law enforcement agents as well as the setting up of clinics dealing with the physical and psychological trauma of women as a result of abuse, exploitation and violence. In this connection, the importance of the Institute for Training and Research on the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) became evident. The Institute needed to be supported by the international community, both financially and politically.
SAJA MAJALI (Jordan), referring to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said that the inaccuracies that had occurred in relation to information on Jordan in the report might be attributed to the colossal task on which the Special Rapporteur had embarked in her comprehensive world compilation on the issue; it was evident that she was not aware of a number of positive developments that had occurred in the country at the time of finalizing her report. The numerous amendments to Jordanian legislation over the last few years, including those most recent in 2002 and 2003, had come after demands made by the women activists. They symbolized a major shift towards both establishing and giving full equal rights for women. Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians were allowed to transmit their citizenship to their children. Women could obtain passports without the written consent of a husband or a legal custodian.
CAROLYN HANNAN, of the Division for the Advancement of Women (DESA), said DESA was responsible for the substantive servicing of the Commission on the Status of Women and provided technical and substantive servicing for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; it also promoted and supported the mandate to mainstream gender perspectives into the work of all United Nations bodies. This mandate had already had a significant impact in the area of human rights – the work of treaty bodies and thematic and country Rapporteurs was increasingly informed by gender analysis.
The annual joint work plan of DESA and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had become a well-established tool for mainstreaming women’s human rights. DESA and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women were committed to sustaining and deepening cooperation and collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner, and cooperation between the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women had been cited as a good practical example of cooperation among functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council.
RASHIDA ALI AL NAZIRI (Yemen) said that her Government’s policy was in line with international policies and human rights instruments on the advancement of women. Mechanisms had been established of an appropriate nature and women had been made partners on an equal footing in all areas in Yemen. These mechanisms had been implemented in accordance with the changing economic and social conditions in Yemen. Non-governmental organizations had also been encouraged to assist the Government in its gender mainstreaming initiatives. Women played important roles in the Government, the Parliament, and local authorities and in non-governmental organizations in Yemen. There was a new strategy for 2003, which focused on the role of women in the family and aimed to ensure their prominent role in the family and eradicate gender discrimination.
AHMED MOHAMED MASOUD AL-RIYAMI (Oman) said that the country had adopted important legislative measures, within the national plan action, to promote and protect the human rights of women. The measures taken by the Government had enabled women to enjoy their rights on an equal footing with their male counterparts. In accordance with the Beijing Programme of Action, the Government of Oman had implemented a number of measures to empower women within the Islamic tradition. Women in Oman were playing an important role in political, economic and social areas. Women served as deputies in the country's parliament, and they held ministerial posts. They were also sent abroad to accomplish diplomatic missions representing their country. Many women were also engaged in commercial business and participated equally with their husbands in family affairs. A series of national programmes had also been implemented for the promotion of women in Oman.
FARIDEH HASSANI (Iran) said it was important to devise practical ways and means to promote respect for women’s rights. Violence against women was one of the most critical issues. Iran believed that it was a fundamental violation of human rights in both public and private spheres, and in addressing the matter, the problem of trafficking in women and girls also had to be faced. The use of women in international prostitution and trafficking networks had become a major focus of international organized crime. Violence against women and girls should be a punishable criminal offense and steps needed to be taken to stop the abuse of women and end impunity for those who committed such crimes.
The Government of Iran continued to take further initiatives and measures for improving the situation of women. It had developed a legal framework, preventive programmes and awareness-raising campaigns to eliminate violence against women. Women in Iran, who were marginalized in political and social relations and whose economic role was ignored, had found the key to empowerment by increasing their awareness through education. Now women from different social levels were able to enter the public arena and had moved from the margins of society to the political centre.
DAZAYI HOSHIAR (Iraq) said there was no doubt that the interests of the international community in the empowerment of women had grown. The question of women’s rights had been mainstreamed into all United Nations systems and work. The negative effect of 12 years of sanctions on Iraq had severely affected the living conditions of women and children in the country. Health services and the right to food were no longer guaranteed. In addition, one must note the devastating effect of the use of depleted uranium on all civilians in Iraq. Furthermore, due to the war of aggression currently being waged against Iraq, there had been a near total destruction of available infrastructure, leading to even more suffering for the women and children of Iraq.
FRANCES-GALATIA LANITOU-WILLIAMS (Cyprus) said in 1994 Cyprus had enacted specific legislation on violence against women. Among its main provisions were the inclusion of marital rape as a crime, speeding up trials dealing with cases of domestic violence, facilitation of the reporting of violence incidents and provision of expert advise. In 2000, the Amendment Bill on the 1994 laws had been passed with a number of new provisions aiming at removing difficulties in admitting evidence in court and thus offering increased protection to the victims. These included the use of electronically recorded audio-visual depositions. The Bill also provided for the setting up of a fund for victims of violence and the establishment of shelters. Additional measures which had been taken towards the eradication of violence against women included the enactment in 2000 of the law on equal opportunities and treatment in employment, the law on suppression of the traffic in persons and the sexual exploitation of children law.
JALILA HOUMMANE (Morocco) said that Morocco had been endeavouring to promote and protect the human rights of women and was enabling them to play important role in the society. The King was also giving higher priority for the promotion and protection of women by placing the issue at the centre of projects to advance a modern democratic society. That political will of the Moroccan authorities had been concretised by the full participation of women in the management of the country's public affairs. Women were participating in decision-making processes of the Government at all levels, as executives and heads of institutions, including the judiciary. To ensure that women were integrated in the modern process of the country's affairs, His Majesty had set up a commission, which would review the personal code in order to consolidate the cohesion of a family and guarantee equality.
ALICIA LANGLE (Liechtenstein) said the legal framework in Liechtenstein for the protection of women against violence was in place. Implementation was now being taken in hand. Within the last decade, women’s organizations had become the most professionally organized institutions of Liechtenstein civil society. They had set a strong focus of solidarity with women especially prone to be subject to violence: migrant women and working women with children. Effective legal measures had been introduced and the country was now participating in an inter-regional programme against violence in the family.
Violence against women in situations of armed conflict was sadly a common occurrence and it was therefore a crucial achievement that such violence was now explicitly and comprehensively recognized as a war crime. All needed to continue efforts to empower women all over the world, not only to prevent them from becoming victims but to ensure that they could contribute in all aspects of life.
KIM YONG HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to eliminate serious violence against women, including raising the issue of comfort women for the Japanese military. As was well-known, Japan had mobilized its government and military power in accordance with its wartime national policy to draft a great number of women from Asia and Europe, including 200,000 Korean women, to serve its military as sex slaves under the disguise of comfort women for the Japanese military. This constituted the most serious crime against humanity whose precedent could not be found in history. The Special Rapporteur had expressly stated that the system run by the Japanese military was an act of the most serious violation of human rights. Unfortunately, the views and attitudes of Japan, which did not even recognize its past atrocities as a crime, showed that the Japanese had no intention to faithfully implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur. The Commission was called upon to maintain the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and to ensure the mandate included monitoring and compliance of the recommendations made so far.
ANA ANGARITA, of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that violence against women had been called the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world. It constituted a human rights violation and a threat to public health. One could not eliminate violence against women unless the issues of women's rights, including their reproductive and sexual rights, were mainstreamed in all human rights work. Reproductive and sexual rights were firmly rooted in the most basic human rights principles guaranteed by international law. UNFPA had collaborated increasingly with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Addressing the issue of gender-based violence and is reproductive health effects required efforts by governments and civil society as a whole. Programmes would need to incorporate the concept of human rights, recognition of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights, and commitment to gender equity and gender equality.
DENIS YAP LEPATAN (Philippines) said that in line with the recommendation of the Bureau and the Commission’s time constraints, the Philippines would not table this year a resolution on traffic in women and girls – instead it would introduce the resolution during the sixtieth session of the Commission in 2004 and would focus this year on the same resolution in the coming session of the General Assembly, where the country also hoped an important decision would be made concerning the proposed Year on Trafficking.
The Year on Trafficking was one of the recommendations coming out of the World Conference against Racism, and the Philippines hoped it would become a reality. It was requesting the Inter-Governmental Organization Contact Group on Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling to prepare a road map for a proposed Year on Trafficking. The Philippines also called for the quick appointment of a Director for the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.
LAVDIE RUCI (Albania) said gender equality was a great aim for all civilized countries in the world. This was the reason that the United Nations had declared the new millennium as a gender equality millennium. This being the goal, it was important to establish strategies for achieving it. A national platform for the development of women in Albania had elaborated a comprehensive approach to women’s advancement, which addressed socio-economic shortfalls. It also emphasized women's participation in decision-making as a priority. Strengthening the status of women had been recognized as an important and necessary step towards eliminating inequality in the development process. Further progress in this direction required gender reconstruction of the entire system of power, incorporation of gender issues in governance and elimination of gender imbalance in the executive sphere.
ADE PETRANTO, of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that equality between women and men was a fundamental human right. Yet, discrimination against women manifested itself in a wide and complex variety of ways which could directly or indirectly impact on their health. Ensuring the right to equality between women and men as well as the full realization of human rights of women was crucial for the promotion of women's health, including their sexual and reproductive health. Violence against women was a problem that cut across all cultures and societies. It occurred in times of war and peace, in public and in private, and throughout the lives of millions of women. It was a major risk factor for ill health, impacting women's physical, mental and emotional health and well being. It could also contribute to women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. However, it should be stressed that violence against women could and should be prevented.
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