Gender Equality under Renewed Assault, Experts Tell Third Committee amid Calls for Greater Protections against All Forms of Violence

Women’s rights are under renewed attack, while gender-based violence remains deeply embedded in structural inequalities, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it began its debate on the advancement of women.

In opening remarks, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), underscored the grave dangers of a renewed pushback against women’s rights and gender equality, saying that reinvigorated political will was vital in order to deliver on previous commitments and defend hard-won gains.

She went on to cite the achievements of a wide array of United Nations instruments and initiatives focused on the rights of women and girls. These include the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the possibilities represented by the upcoming Beijing+25 conference and the Generation Equality Forum, the latter of which will bring together feminist and youth leadership and encourage them in their path as transformational changemakers.

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, emphasized that women experience violence even during the more intimate moments of their lives, including childbirth. This type of abuse is part of what she described as a continuum of gender-based violence, rooted in structural inequality, discrimination and patriarchy. The responsibility to address this lies with States, she said, cautioning that they cannot duck the issue under the pretext of economic, cultural or religious considerations.

When the floor opened for general debate, delegates underscored that violence against women and girls poses a grave impediment to the achievement of gender equality. No country is immune. The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, highlighted the particular threat posed by femicide, as well as the prevalence of discrimination based not only on gender but also on factors such as age and disability.

New Zealand’s delegate highlighted that even though her country was the first where women gained the right to vote, pay gaps persist. High rates of family and gender-based violence are also a problem.

Along similar lines, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, noting that he represents the first independent Pacific island nation led by a woman, underscored the importance of equal participation in all levels of political life. In his region, the number of women in Parliament is low, while rates of domestic violence are high. There is a correlation between greater involvement in decision-making and better social outcomes for women, he added.

Sounding a note of caution at the global level, Switzerland’s delegate said language on sexual and reproductive health has been receiving short shrift in international agreements such as that reached at the recent United Nations high-level meeting on universal health care. This is a mistake, given that the promotion of these rights correlates to significant gains in sustainable development.

In a similar vein, Luxembourg’s delegate said that at the current pace, gender parity looks set to be reached in 180 years. We cannot wait that long, she insisted, noting that while some countries have repressive policies in place, what is needed is greater participation from women so that progress already made is not undone.

On that point, Iraq’s representative emphasized that women from all religious communities are well-represented in political life in her country, from Parliament to provincial councils. Women can vote, stand as candidates for office and enjoy equal participation in the political life of Iraq, she said.

The Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Hilary Gbedemah, also delivered opening remarks.

Also speaking today were representatives of Zambia (also speaking for the African Group), Botswana (speaking for Southern African Development Community), Thailand (speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Switzerland, Japan, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Canada, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Australia, Turkey, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ecuador, Syria, Romania, China, United States, Qatar, Guatemala, Italy and Zimbabwe, as well as a representative of the European Union.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 October, to continue its debate on the advancement of women.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its general discussion on the advancement of women today.

Delegates had before them six reports, titled: Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas (document A/74/224); Violence against women migrant workers (document A/74/235); Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/74/38); Measures taken and progress achieved in follow up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty third special session of the General Assembly (document A/74/222); Improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/74/220); and the Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (document A/74/137).

Briefings and Interactive Dialogues

PHUMZILE MLAMBO NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said as the Secretary General pointed out, violence against women and girls and renewed pushback against women’s rights and gender equality remains equally pervasive across the world. Renewed political will is needed to deliver on the commitments made at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. Preparations for Beijing+25 are underway and in order to fully leverage the opportunity presented by that conference, UN Women will convene a civil society centred, multi stakeholder General Equality Forum, which will celebrate the power of activism, feminist solidarity and youth leadership to achieve transformative change.

The Secretary-General’s report on Violence against women migrant workers (document A/74/235) identifies the potential for migration to promote the agency and economic empowerment of women. However, it also confirms that the lack of safe and regular migration pathways, along with restrictive migration and labour laws heighten the risk of women migrant workers to violence and exploitation. His report on Improving the situation of women and girls in rural areas (document A/74/224) emphasizes the significant impacts of climate change on the lives of women and girls in rural areas, and notes that efforts have been made to build their resilience and adaptive capabilities.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Japan asked the Executive Director for her views on what would bring together the next generation of women’s rights activists and gender rights activists. The representative of Guatemala expressed his concern that women continue to suffer from different kinds of discrimination, including women with disabilities, indigenous women and other vulnerable groups. The representative of Liberia commended UN Women on the progress made to reach gender parity and equality within the United Nations. She also noted a lack of capacity in her country to mainstream gender within its systems. Also taking part in the interactive discussion were the representatives of Colombia and Namibia.

MS. MLAMBO NGCUKA, responding to Japan’s representative, said that bringing together the next generation of gender equality activists is paramount, which is why civil society members � particularly young people � have been involved in the sixty fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (also known as CSW64 and the Beijing+25 conference) in 2020. She went on to emphasize that next year is unique, as it entails a deep review of States’ implementation of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action over the last 25 years. Many young activists attending upcoming forums in Mexico and Paris will be attending an international event for the first time in their lives. Many young women are already changemakers and their work must be recognized, she added.

Noting that the other questions were not really questions, she nonetheless appreciated the mention of climate by Colombia.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Chair, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that 2019 marks the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the only near universal international treaty that comprehensively protects women’s human rights. In June, 93 countries signed a joint statement resolving to work towards universal ratification of the Convention and the elimination of reservations to the treaty. Her Committee also has been promoting the 2030 Agenda by, among other things, encouraging States to report on their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The Committee has strengthened its collaboration with UN-Women, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other groups working to promote the Goals, she said.

Over the past year, the Committee strengthened its partnerships with other human rights organizations, she continued. It invited the Special Rapporteur on two occasions to brief members on her mandate and other matters. It also collaborated with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on sexual violence in conflict, and, more broadly, continues to implement measures to strengthen treaty bodies. It has continually reviewed its working methods to ensure alignment with other treaty bodies and greater efficiency. In line with General Assembly resolutions, the Committee has made its documentation more accessible to experts and stakeholders with disabilities.

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, the representative of the European Union urged States to review their reservations and asked how the Committee planned to ensure the effective engagement of non governmental organizations and women human rights defenders. He went on to request a draft recommendation on the topic of migration.

The representative of Germany expressed concern about attacks by some States against the Committee and reaffirmed her country’s commitment to full gender equality and the erasure of barriers. She asked how the Committee plans to address issues related to menstrual health, which prevent women and girls from attending school and going to work. The representative of Japan asked about the challenges the Committee faces in the implementation of its mandate, while the representative of Liberia assured the Committee that his country would meet its follow up obligations.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation urged the Committee to refrain from the unilateral imposition of new commitments. She went on to assail the Committee for the flawed practice of General Comments, as well as the follow up procedure, which she asserted is not stipulated by the Convention. She asked the Committee to improve its way of working, in particular calling for removal of the time lag between the presentation of reports and the defence by States, which unfortunately is currently one year.

The representative of Norway described the work of the treaty bodies as a cornerstone for monitoring State responsibilities to protect human rights. She asked about measures taken to harmonize treaty body working methods. Rounding out the dialogue, the representative of the United Kingdom said the effective and equal participation of women in economic and public life is essential. He noted that he had seen a recent, concerted effort to roll back on hard won women’s rights and asked what the Committee’s role is in addressing this narrative.

Ms. GBEDEMAH replied that engaging with feedback from civil society groups is important for assuring them that their feedback is highly valued and that they are operating in safe spaces. As to the draft General Recommendation on trafficking, she said she had engaged in various regions of the world and listened to feedback. Her Committee keeps engaging in order to discover regional particularities.

On the question of human rights defenders, she said the Committee ensures that there is no price to be paid for working as a rights defender. The United Nations is committed to ensuring their protection. In response to the question of menstrual hygiene, she said that Recommendation 36 on the right of women and girls to education contains a provision on the issue of menstrual hygiene and notes that it should not be an impediment to women’s rights to an education. To other questions, she said the main challenges to the Committee’s work are around resources to engage in work with individual communications and under the Optional Protocol. Committee members find themselves overburdened and there is pressure on the Secretariat. Her Committee also notices a pushback in women’s rights and works with States to address these issues.

She recalled that the Convention is 40 years old and there have been changes in women’s human rights. There are now forms of violence that were not pervasive 40 years ago, such as technologically mediated violence and the cyberbullying of girls in school. It is useful therefore to give States guidance. To do so, the Committee must keep in step with what is happening worldwide.

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, noted in her report to the Human Rights Council that a new system wide global approach is necessary to eliminate violence against women and girls. She also called for the institutional establishment of the Platform of United Nations regional independent women’s human rights mechanisms on the elimination of violence against women. This body, which she initiated in 2017, brings together representatives of seven such mechanisms aiming to enhance cooperation.

She went on to stress that women are subjected to mistreatment and violence even during the most delicate moments of their lives, drawing attention to various types of abuse that women experience during facility based childbirth. Violence against women during childbirth is not a sporadic episode, but, rather, part of a continuum of gender based violence occurring in the wider context of structural inequality, discrimination and patriarchy. In her report, she addresses the root causes of these forms of violence, condemning normalization of the abuse. She recommended that States uphold their rights obligations, which cannot be undermined, including on economic, cultural or religious grounds. She further recommended that States develop appropriate human-rights based laws and national reproductive health strategies and conduct independent investigations into women’s allegations of gender based violence. States cannot escape their responsibility to address violations committed by health institutions, she asserted. They should establish rights based accountability mechanisms, as well as a femicide watch or a gender related killing of women watch.

During the interactive discussion, the representative of Argentina asked how the Special Rapporteur assists States in enhancing commitments to address violence against women. The representative of Switzerland, citing prejudicial practices that women face during childbirth, asked about improving data collection in order to move this kind of violence up the political agenda. The representative of the European Union requested advice on the nature of rights violations to better address all forms of violence against women and girls.

Slovenia’s delegate asked for examples of good practices in addressing mistreatment or violence during the provision of reproductive services or during childbirth, while South Africa’s delegate requested insights on the elaboration of national strategies for reproductive health care and childbirth. The representative of Morocco requested advice for mobilizing men and boys as strategic partners, especially in addressing obstetric violence.

The representative of New Zealand said new challenges and trends of aggression are emerging and that States must provide quality and accessible maternal health care. The representative of the United Kingdom added that violence has a lasting impact for the achievement of gender equality worldwide. Australia’s delegate said violence, abuse and a lack of respect for women and girls are behaviours that compromise both physical and mental health.

The representative of the Netherlands called for comprehensive sexuality education, reiterating that women should be able to make decisions about their own bodies and lives and expressing full support for the report’s conclusions.

The representative of Norway, stressing that violence against women is one of the most underreported crimes, asked how to prevent this problem from being treated as a private matter and how justice can be sought against the perpetrators.

The representative of the Russian Federation said joint efforts are needed to tackle the problem, objecting to the issue of so called home births introduced by the report and stressing that the State should play a key role in this regard.

The representative of the United States condemned forced abortions and forced sterilizations occurring globally, noting that the Government issues reports that monitor and assess violations of women’s rights in States around the world.

The representative of Canada said his country has deep concerns about violence against women that happens globally throughout all stages of maternal health. He acknowledged that the international lack of attention devoted to sexual and reproductive health leads to poor outcomes and mistreatment of women, among other problems.

Ms. SIMONOVIC said she wants to break taboos in the areas of sexual violence and reproductive health. She is collaborating with other entities in the United Nations that engage with women’s rights. Throughout Latin America, there is legislation in respective countries that identifies shortcomings in various areas of women’s rights, she said. Data collection is crucial because it enables States to identify specific problems that require solutions. These analyses provide countries with opportunities to remedy their shortcomings. There are problems of taboos around sexual and reproductive health in many States, she added.

Also speaking during the interactive debate were the representatives of Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Cuba, Ireland and Qatar.

Statements

NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, underscored the importance of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all development efforts. Women’s full participation in political, economic, social and cultural life as equal partners is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda. Progress in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action has, in turn, fostered gender responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda, but serious and persistent challenges remain at all levels. Violence against women and girls continues to obstruct the achievement of gender equality. All forms of gender based violence must be eliminated, notably femicide, she said, underscoring the need to ensure that women with disabilities, girls, youth, indigenous persons and older women are not subject to multiple forms of discrimination.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is critical for sustainable development. In adopting the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to achieving those goals, Governments agreed to address the challenges faced by women in rural areas, especially systemic exclusion from decision-making. The 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 cannot attain their objectives without strong political commitments, extensive social mobilization, financing and new investments. Noting that Africa is predominantly rural, she said income disparities, labour market discrimination, high unemployment and high rates of poverty all impact African women � many of whom are engaged in unpaid care work. Many lack access to basic electricity, clean water and sanitation, she said, calling for bold and transformative national frameworks to address those challenges, along with those posed by violence, lack of quality education, climate change and malaria and HIV/AIDS. Meanwhile, development partners should fulfil their commitments to climate finance and official development assistance (ODA).

COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that gender equality is a fundamental human right. Mainstreaming gender into the process of community building is one of the Community’s founding objectives. SADC has always acknowledged that gender inequality has a negative and multidimensional impact on economic development, poverty alleviation strategies, fulfilment of human rights and participation in decision making processes. Women constitute the majority of poor people in the SADC region, he said. Nonetheless, the bloc has supported women’s advancement by ratifying frameworks that promote their human rights. Despite these achievements, the region remains susceptible to challenges relating to early marriage, family laws, HIV and AIDS, gender based violence and trafficking.

SUPARK PRONGTHURA (Thailand), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that while the region has made significant progress in reducing poverty, it must strengthen gender equality and women’s participation and empowerment. ASEAN works to ensure that women have equal opportunities, promote women’s rights and help women in vulnerable situations or women exposed to violence. Underscoring the role of women in peacebuilding, peacekeeping and resolving conflict, he recalled the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which entered into force in 2017. He stressed the need to ensure continuity for women entrepreneurs, as their leadership is among the bloc’s top priorities. Women’s equal participation beyond the economic sphere is essential for the region’s sustainable development, he said, recalling that ASEAN has come a long way in attaining gender equality and spotlighting the need for more coordinated enforcement throughout the region.

RUDOLPH MICHAEL TEN-POW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that mainstreaming the gender perspective into policies and programmes, enhancing education and training for women and girls, and increasing their participation in leadership and decision making positions is critical for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Pointing to the findings of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Caribbean Human Development Report of 2016 that literacy and education � especially in the secondary and post secondary levels � are linked to lower teenage pregnancies and reduced violence against women, he acknowledged that women tend to have lower level and lower paying jobs than men. Violence against women is still prevalent in the region, but efforts are being directed also towards men and boys, encouraging the equal sharing of parenting and household work, among other things. He also voiced concern that the effects of climate change are making women in rural areas more vulnerable to inequality, discrimination and violence.

JULIEN BOURTEMBOURG, European Union, calling the advancement of women critical for all international progress, said the Union can be counted upon to make gender inequality history, as the effort is part and parcel of the normative and institutional DNA of the bloc. The Union is a leading forger and funder of initiatives to promote women’s rights, he added, pointing to the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls as part of its zero-tolerance approach to the issue. Renewed impetus to the women, peace and security agenda has been fostered by the Union over the last year, along with support for civil society and rights defenders. Maintaining that women’s progress is nonetheless unacceptably slow, she called for continuous dialogue, strong networking and joint efforts among all relevant actors, welcoming the upcoming Generation Equality Forum as an opportunity to reinforce action at all levels. She also reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to the right for individuals to have full control over their sexuality and reproductive health, free from discrimination or coercion.

JUKKA SALOVAARA (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said promoting women’s and girls’ human rights is a top priority and includes mainstreaming gender equality in all areas of foreign policy. Successful climate action requires women’s equal participation in politics, decision-making and the labor market. Their engagement in climate action is of utmost importance, he said, pointing to women’s role as food producers. Women and girls face greater difficulties than men in accessing water and sanitation, he said, noting school toilets that often lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene are a barrier to girls’ school attendance, and thus risk their right to education. Ensuring their full access to water and sanitation is therefore essential, he said, also underscoring the importance of women’s participation in peace processes and access to comprehensive sexuality education.

JOHN M. SILK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, affirming that the advancement of women has a rightful place at the top of the international agenda, said that the world needs more than plenary statements � it needs implementation and, ultimately, political will at all levels. As a civil servant of the first independent Pacific island nation led by a woman, he stated that equal participation in all levels of the political process is a goal that must be shared across the region. However, the number of women in Parliament in this area remains among the lowest in the world, and rates of domestic violence remain high. For its part, the Government has improved access to legal protection, which has boosted reporting and the use of judicial orders. It has also launched a gender-statistics public information campaign to illuminate vital gender indicators. He committed to combating domestic human trafficking and to political consideration of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. As a low-lying small island developing State, the Marshall Islands urges the world to pay close attention to both stakeholder involvement and gender vulnerability when considering climate adaptation responses.

Ms. FRECHIN (Switzerland), expressing concern over a trend related to the recognition of sexual and reproductive health and rights, said negotiations at the recent high-level meeting on universal health coverage resulted in a decision to adhere only to the minimum standards of the language included in the 2030 Agenda. Stressing that sexual and reproductive health and rights are of paramount importance to an individual’s health and well-being, she said respect and promotion of them contributes significantly to poverty reduction, inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. She urged all Member States to implement the recommendations contained in the Special Rapporteur’s report, notably those related to the issue of abuse during childbirth and obstetric violence.

Ms. AL-ABTAN (Iraq) said women play an important role in strengthening agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eliminating poverty. To support them, the Government has implemented programmes to improve the skills of rural women and encourage them to adopt scientific agricultural methods to increase their yields. It also is investing in the agri-food system to improve household income, health and environmental awareness. Efforts to empower women face challenges, however, such as the disappearance of green areas due to desertification and drought brought about by climate change. In Iraq, everyone enjoys the same rights and freedoms; women can vote, participate in political life, become candidates for office and enjoy equal opportunities in education and employment. Women of all religious communities are represented in Parliament and provincial councils. Baghdad is also drafting a law to combat domestic violence as part of a national effort to eliminate violence against women and to educate a new generation to increase women’s confidence and societal role.

AKANE MIYAZAKI (Japan) said that gender equality and empowerment maximize women’s potential, underscoring her country’s aspiration for a society where women shine all around the world. For its part, Japan has revised domestic law to promote female participation in the workplace by obliging employers to draft action plans and enhance information disclosure. Legislative revisions also protect victims of spousal violence through early detection and intervention. Additionally, Japan hosted the Fifth World Assembly for Women in March and there committed to provide quality education and human-resource-development opportunities for at least 4 million girls and women in developing countries by 2020. Japan contributed $24 million to UN Women in 2018 and has consistently supported the work of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, having contributed $11 million to date.

KATALIN ANNAMA�RIA BOGYAY (Hungary) outlined measures taken by her country to eliminate violence against women and girls, including the tightening of the criminal code and the expansion of services for survivors of domestic abuse and human trafficking. Noting that Hungary contributes to the United Nations trust fund, which supports actions to end violence against women, she went on to describe domestic policies which promote women’s participation in the workforce, including paid parental leave for three years, as well as free childcare. This year, a new policy was also introduced that provides financial security for women who wish to have more children, she added, as well as a new dedicated centre that provides childcare and other support to single parents.

Ms. OPPERMANN (Luxembourg), associating with the European Union, affirmed the priority her country accords to advancing women’s participation in the social, political and economic spheres. She alerted that some countries have repressive policies in place. They want to undo the progress made so far, she said, adding that women’s rights must progress and not regress. At the current pace, full gender parity will be reached in 180 years. We cannot wait that long, she stressed, underscoring the need to strengthen women’s participation in all levels of society. A feminist foreign policy is imperative for a just and inclusive society, she stressed, emphasizing Luxembourg’s financial commitment to UN-Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which helps women with microcredits, among other initiatives. She called for an end to all violence against women and expressed hope for a genuinely equal world by 2030.

SARAH AGNEW (New Zealand) welcomed the declaration of universal health care recently adopted at the United Nations because it acknowledges sexual and reproductive health as one of its critical elements. New Zealand was the first country where women gained their right to vote and today enjoy a framework that protects them against all discrimination. Nevertheless, high rates of family and gender based violence persist, as do pay gaps. New Zealand is working to create a society in which women and girls participate and thrive, free from violence, discrimination and harassment, and where they enjoy financial security. She alerted against efforts to roll back advances in these areas and expressed concern over an increasing politization of human rights in regard to women and girls.

MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that gender inequality continues to deprive women of basic rights and opportunities. The world must empower women by addressing structural barriers such as unfair social norms, attitudes and stigmas in addition to developing progressive legal frameworks that promote full gender equality. Modern slavery and human trafficking, she continued, directly affects 40 million people, overwhelmingly women and girls. Liechtenstein is committed to fighting this illegal activity and launched a public private partnership with Australia and the Netherlands to develop a Blueprint for Mobilizing Finance Against Slavery. This blueprint equips the financial sector to prevent and combat these rights violations by means of innovative financing, responsible lending and investment, compliance and regulation. Only through understanding the underlying factors of this crime � irrespective of the victim’s gender � can the world find comprehensive, effective and sustainable solutions.

RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada) said his country’s contribution to the Committee’s work is grounded in the firm conviction that promoting women’s rights is necessary and just. It is also supported by hard economic and social evidence that the world benefits when all women and girls can make informed decisions about their lives free from discrimination, coercion and violence. Pointing to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Violence and Harassment as an example of commendable international efforts on the subject, he said this measure protects all migrant workers in addition to those belonging to vulnerable groups. For its part, Canada will continue to cooperate with all Member States to encourage a holistic approach that builds on existing successes in this area.

THILAKAMUNI REKHA NISANSALA GUNASEKERA (Sri Lanka), associating herself with the Group of 77, described the slow progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment as an ominous sign for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Technological transformations, demographic shifts, increasing migratory flows, natural disasters and climate change have all had profound impacts on women’s advancement. Affirming Sri Lanka’s commitment to consistent and sustainable pro equality and pro empowerment policies, she nevertheless noted that Sri Lanka is witnessing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women, including in the wake of a tsunami in 2004 and droughts and flooding in recent years. In that vein, she called for systematic efforts to address gender gaps alongside broader work to combat climate change.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), reaffirming strong commitment to the full implementation of international agreements on women’s advancement, said the issue is a top priority for the Government, resulting in legal reforms, targeted policies and practical measures. Enumerating many of the laws already enacted in that regard, he underlined the incorporation of gender equality into the plans to achieve the 2030 Goals and the cross sectoral coordination performed by the National Committee on Gender Equality. He acknowledged that much work remained to be done, however, to stem the high rate of gender based violence in Mongolia. To meet that challenge, implementation of existing policies and programmes must be improved. Stressing that rural women and girls continue to be socially and economically disadvantaged, he expressed hope that the draft resolution on the improvement of their situation, to be tabled again this year by Mongolia, will enjoy the full support of Member States.

ADELA RAZ (Afghanistan) said that, for the first time after decades on the sidelines, Afghan women are at the centre of meaningful national political discussions. Afghan women are pushing the boundaries and limits and taking leadership positions in debates formerly perceived to be exclusively for men, she said, recalling that for the past 40 years women in her country have shouldered the burden of a conflict in whose instigation they had no part. In August, Afghanistan launched the second phase of its National Action Plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000) for the period 2019 2022, containing specific measures to increase the presence of women in decision making and peace efforts. In addition, she said, 16 women currently serve on the Government’s High Peace Council and made up 30 per cent of the attendees at the recent Consultative Loya Jirga on Peace.

TEGAN BRINK (Australia) said that her country is committed to dismantling the structural inequalities and addressing the harmful attitudes that underpin violence against women. This requires significant investment, coordinated approaches and eliminating harmful practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation, she stressed. Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, covering 2010 to 2022, sets out to do just that. We must remove discrimination against women and girls, bridge gender gaps and tackle persistent barriers to women’s advancement and full equality for all, she continued, encouraging all sectors to harness the productivity of a diverse workforce. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to women’s rights. Citing World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 830 women and girls die globally every day of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, she said all such deaths could be avoided with access to sexual and reproductive health services.

AYSE INANC ORNEKO (Turkey), noting that 2020 will be a milestone year for the gender equality and women’s empowerment agendas, underscored her country’s commitment to improving the living standards and rights of women and girls, as well as ensuring their full and equal participation in all spheres of life. Equality before the law is among the basic principles of the Constitution, and a parliamentary Commission for Equal Opportunity between Women and Men works to protect women’s rights by monitoring developments at the national and international levels. A recent constitutional amendment has also enhanced the legal fundamentals of women’s rights by introducing the concept of positive discrimination in favour of women, children and persons with disabilities. She also drew attention to national efforts to combat violence against women as well as Turkey’s contribution to addressing that issue in the Council of Europe.

GONZALO ARNALDO RIVERA ROLDAN (Peru) said his Government is working to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, working from a preventive point of view to change sociocultural patterns which perpetuate gender differences. Peru is particularly invested in promoting the role of women in the economy, and empowering women in all regions of the country to become autonomous actors. In working to fill employment gaps, it is important to stimulate full dignified employment. In that regard, Peru will eliminate gender based remuneration gaps and discrimination. The Government also guarantees women’s presence in public posts and promotes gender parity in positions of power and decision making. He further acknowledged that climate change disproportionately affects women and girls.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said national institutions and cultural models must ensure that women have equal access to land ownership, control of livelihood, loans and grants. Today in Nicaragua, women have taken a central role as protagonists of change at all levels, and public policies increasingly benefit them. Nicaragua is making sustained efforts to place women in decision-making posts, he said, noting that the country now ranks fifth worldwide in terms of women’s rights, first in the Americas, and first for ministerial posts. The World Economic Forum noted that Nicaragua ranked sixty-second globally in 2008 and now ranks fifth. Women represent 59 per cent of judicial and 56 per cent of executive branch posts, 46 per cent of mayors and 50 per cent of councillors. In addition, the Vice-President of the republic, Vice-President of the national assembly and mayor of the capital Managua are women.

Ms. AURRECOECHEA DURAN (Mexico) said gender equality and girls’ empowerment is indispensable for sustainable development. In 1975, Mexico hosted a first World Conference on Women, and considerable progress has been made over the years as a result of Mexico’s commitment to engage women in all levels of the political sphere. She expressed concern that women suffer from multiple forms of discrimination, noting that indigenous women and women with disabilities are among the most vulnerable. Sexual and reproductive rights are being jeopardized these days, she said, pointing out that violence against women persistent in Mexico results from patriarchy. Mexico has made significant strides to end child marriage and achieve gender equality, she said, as well as strengthen its feminist foreign policy in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

RITA MWALE (Zambia), aligning herself with the African Group, said her country has achieved parity for girls at the primary school level, increased women’s participation in decision making at the political level and is improving access to social protections. While rural poverty remains high at 76.6 per cent, the Social Cash Transfer Programme is reducing it, with 632,020 households benefitting, of which 72.2 per cent are headed by women. This year’s target is 700,000 households. She pointed to the Supporting Women’s Livelihoods programme, which aims to help 75,000 vulnerable but viable women aged 19 to 64 by 2020 and which has already supported 34,123 women with life and business skills, and productivity grants. The Keeping Girls in School project had supported 19,486 girls aged 14 to 18 by June 2019 and should reach 26,160 by year end. In addition, she said the Food Security Pack programme to promote food security is expected to expand to 80,000 household beneficiaries from 40,000 in the 2017 2018 farming season.

Ms. BAKUTBEKKYZY (Kazakhstan) urged Member States to consider ways to integrate women into their legislation, policy directives, programmes and services, all aimed at strengthening peace and security and sustainable development, ending poverty, combating climate change and protecting human rights. Women should also be key players in peace processes, countering crime, violence, extremism and terrorism, she stressed. Calling for efforts to address the structural causes of inequality � such as unpaid care work, limited control over assets and property and unequal participation in decision making � she went on to outline Kazakhstan’s progressive, gender oriented policies and programmes. Those focus on combating human trafficking, ensuring women’s equal participation and developing their entrepreneurship skills.

Mr. ISNOMO (Indonesia) said his country is committed to ensuring health services, including access to reproductive health care, for every woman. In 2014, Indonesia launched the National Health Insurance Scheme which covers more than 222 million people or 83 per cent of the population. He underscored the role of education in helping women reach their full potential, citing various capacity building programs for rural women in that context. Despite the normative measures taken to safeguard women’s rights, more are urgently required to protect them from violence and harassment, as women migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to inhumane treatment. He also highlighted Indonesia’s commitment to increase women Parliamentarians and women peacekeepers.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea), aligning herself with the African Group, urged all States to ensure that women and girls have the highest possible level of education and access to health care and end all harmful practices that prevent advancement. Women comprise more than 50 per cent of the African population, 80 per cent of them in rural areas, and thus the negative effects of climate change threaten their development and existence. She noted the critical role women play in providing food, with climate change posing the risk of insecurity and malnutrition. This threatens the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. Turning to migrants and displacement, she noted the African Union named her country African leader on the issue. In the agricultural sector, the national bank provides loans to women. Equatorial Guinea has issued a decree guaranteeing women free maternal and neonatal health care, including coverage for cancer, malaria and HIV diagnosis.

GUZAL M. KHUSANOVA (Russian Federation) said her country attaches great importance to the 2020 session of the Commission on the Status of Women. While UN-Women’s work has been satisfactory, she nonetheless underscored its operational shortcomings in relation to the Commission. The staff of UN-Women should implement in practice their own recommendations, she asserted, stressing that when a candidate is elected, it is not gender which is important, but rather the person’s competence and ability to work, as well as the geographical aspect. She reiterated the Russian Federation’s commitment to end discrimination against women, stressing that the key to success is to comply with the principle of mutual success.

VIENGKEO KHAOPASEUTH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with ASEAN, touched on efforts his country has made to promote women’s empowerment, including a recently introduced draft law on gender equality and increased female leadership in politics and industry. He noted that the Committee’s reports and recommendations had been translated into Lao and distributed among Government officials and the public, and have been integrated into the country’s five year plans for socioeconomic development.

MARIO A. ZAMBRANO ORTIZ (Ecuador), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that his country has developed a robust legal framework to guarantee the rights of women and gender equality. Recalling Ecuador’s ratification of all international women’s rights conventions, he said ending violence against women is a top priority, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality). However, women still face multiple forms of discrimination and there is still a long way to go in achieving true equality.

NOUR ALI (Syria) said women in her country enjoy an equal place in political, social and cultural life, especially when compared to counterparts in the region. Historically, Syria had fought against Ottoman and French occupation and oppression, she said, noting women have held the right to vote since 1948. Syria was the first Arab country in which they held positions in Parliament. The Constitution guarantees their equal participation in social and political life. In 2016, a woman was President of people’s council, Vice-President of the republic. Noting that women also represent 15 per cent of Syria’s ambassadors, she said the new 2019 law on personal status is modern, amending the former one of 1953. Syria seeks to empower women despite terrorism, occupation and unilateral coercive measures. It is facing a terrorist war that aims to destroy its ethical and humanitarian values and centuries of achievement and development. She stated that warfare has caused female displacement for first time, and that women are victimized by terror groups.

MARIA-IULIANA NICULAE (Romania), associating himself with the European Union, said that in his country, equal opportunity between men and women is a fundamental principle that can be seen in both legislation and public policies. Its national strategy for the period 2018-2021 promotes a gender perspective in education and employment policies. When it comes to the differences in remuneration, Romania has made important progress on the gender pay gap and ranks first place among the European Union member States for the second year running, with a difference of only 3.5 per cent compared with the European Union average of 16 per cent.

ZHANG ZHE (China), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the international community must accelerate women’s development under the 2030 Agenda and advance the comprehensive development of their role in the economy. He called for enhanced support for developing countries, as imbalance is on the rise worldwide. Developed countries must narrow the gap and increase financing. Women represent half the sky and China has enacted over 100 laws protecting them. He said the Government is dedicated to poverty reduction and entrepreneurial development, noting that those suffering extreme poverty in China have been reduced from 98.9 million to 16.6 million, half of them women. He pointed out that women now represent over 40 per cent of the employed and 55 per cent of Internet entrepreneurs. China has invited over 20,000 people from developing countries to participate in training models on multiple levels.

COURTNEY NEMROFF (United States), recalling her country’s long tradition of supporting women’s empowerment, said the Government aims to support skills training, helping women entrepreneurs and working to change laws that limit women’s ability to fully participate in the economy. Pointing to the Government’s strategy on women, peace and security, she said that the United States is redoubling its efforts to ensure that women are treated equally. Regarding the issue of climate change, she recalled the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the earliest opportunity.

Ms. AL SULAITI (Qatar) said that in her country, women hold ministerial posts and have participated in diplomatic missions. The Government is dedicated to promoting their role in health, education and technology. Qatari women hold posts on the council of people’s assembly, and she noted they represent 67 per cent of those enrolled in education and 53 per cent of the technology working market. Qatar is promoting their role in decision-making posts and has State policies that have amended laws to facilitate their role in the labour market. In 2020, Doha will host an international conference on the participation of young people in the peace process and is looking to strengthen the role of women.

LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA and LIBNA ELUBINA BONILLA ALARCA�N (Guatemala) said that their country fully recognizes the relevance of the discussed topic, expressing concern over the fact that women in today’s world suffer from multiple forms of discrimination. Pointing to the most vulnerable groups, Afro descendant women, women living with HIV and indigenous women, among others, they stressed that a lack of dignified employment opportunities makes women vulnerable. Practices such as sexual harassment in the workplace are incompatible with gender equality, they noted, underscoring that Guatemala has 14 specialized courts dealing with violence against women, as well as an Ombudsman for Indigenous women. Discrimination against women, stigmatization and gender-based violence has adverse effect on women’s ability to achieve equality, they said, noting that Guatemala believes in full involvement of women in decision-making processes, social reintegration, conflict prevention and resolution.

SIMONA DE MARTINO (Italy), aligning herself with the European Union, said the future presents a challenge to engage ever more, at a time when there are strong pushbacks against advancements once considered finally achieved. The goal of reaching full gender equality by 2030 is still far from bring reached. She said gender parity is just common sense, as humanity should not deprive itself of the contribution of half the world’s population in advancing our societies. For its part, Italy has constantly stood against traditional harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, forced early marriage and any form of discrimination and gender-based violence. Women are fundamental enablers of change and key actors in peace processes, with facts demonstrating that their involvement in those processes gives them a much greater chance to succeed and endure. We do think women can make the difference and this can only happen when we join our forces, she said, adding that women need men to support them in the struggle, as an equal society equal is better for all.

STANLEY RALPH CHEKECHE (Zimbabwe) said education is a top priority in his country, and budgetary allocations have led to gender parity in enrolment figures for boys and girls. Zimbabwe also has among the highest literacy rates in Africa. Gender equality is one of Zimbabwe’s core constitutional priorities. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission was established to monitor implementation of gender-related laws and policies at both the national and international levels. It became illegal to marry a girl under the age of 18 in January 2016, in order to address the challenges of child marriages among poor rural families. Girls of school age who become pregnant are given the opportunity to continue with their education after giving birth.

Source: United Nations