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As session draws to close, Commission on Status of Women readies action on host of concerns, including release of women hostages, indigenous women’s needs

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Commission on the Status of Women
Fifty-sixth Session
16th Meeting* (AM)

Meeting this morning on the penultimate day of its fifty-sixth annual session, the Commission on the Status of Women heard introductions of a number of draft texts — tackling topics ranging from the particular needs of indigenous women to the release of women and children hostages — on which the body was expected to take action tomorrow.

Taking the floor first, the representative of Zimbabwe, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft decision on “Ending female genital mutilation” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.1), by which the Commission would recommend for approval by the Economic and Social Council and then adoption by the General Assembly of a text recalling the Assembly’s relevant resolutions and the conclusions of the Women’s Commission and noting the Secretary-General’s report on ending female genital mutilation and the recommendations contained therein. Also by the text, the Assembly would consider the issue at its sixty-seventh session.

The representative of Algeria then introduced, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, a draft resolution entitled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.2). By that draft text, the Council, deploring the dire economic and social conditions of Palestinian women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, would reaffirm that the Israeli occupation remained the major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in their society’s development.

Among other provisions of that wide-ranging text, the Council would call on the international community to provide urgently needed assistance in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian women and their families, and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions. It would also demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the regulations annexed to the Hague Convention IV of 1907, the Geneva Convention and other relevant rules, principles and instruments of international law.

Introducing a draft resolution on “Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.3), the representative of Azerbaijan said that the text would have the Commission condemn all violent acts committed against that civilian population, in violation of international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict and urge States that are parties to armed conflict to take all necessary measures to determine the identity, fate and whereabouts of women and children taken hostage.

The representative of Japan then introduced the draft resolution on “Gender equality of the empowerment of women in natural disasters” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.4), by which the Commission would urge Governments and, where appropriate, United Nations entities, civil society, including non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders to, among other things, design and implement gender-sensitive economic relief and recovery projects, and to ensure women’s and men’s equal access to natural-hazard early warning systems and promote disaster risk reduction planning.

The representative of the United States introduced the draft resolution on “Eliminating maternal mortality and morbidity through empowerment of women” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.5). By its terms, the Commission, expressing concern that each year approximately 15 million to 20 million women of childbearing age worldwide suffered from often preventable maternal morbidity, disabilities, injuries and illnesses stemming from pregnancy and childbirth, would call upon Member States to ensure the right of women and girls to education of good quality and on an equal basis with men and boys.

“A woman dies every 90 seconds from pregnancy-related complications,” said the representative, adding, “we have the tools to prevent these deaths”. She also said the draft text would have the Commission express deep concern that early pregnancy, early childbearing and limited access to quality sexual and reproductive health-care services caused high levels of maternal morbidity and mortality.

A draft resolution entitled “Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.6), introduced by El Salvador’s representative, would have the Commission stress the importance of recognizing the distinct and crucial contribution of indigenous women, their knowledge and their vital roles in diverse local economies to poverty eradication, food security and sustainable development, and recognize that those women required special attention to realize their full participation in the development process.

Further to the text, the Commission would emphasize the importance of the participation of indigenous women at the upcoming United Nations Conference in June on sustainable development (Rio+20) and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to be held in 2014. In that respect, it would encourage States to support the participation of indigenous women in those conferences.

The representative of Botswana, introduced, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the draft resolution entitled “Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.7), which highlighted the specific challenges faced by women and girls due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Among other things, the text would have the Commission stress the need to further mainstream a gender perspective into national responses to HIV/AIDS, and would request the Secretary-General to submit biennially a report to the Commission on the situation of women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS, beginning at the Commission’s fifty-eighth session. She hoped the text would enjoy consensus, as it had in previous years.

Also this morning, in accordance with Council decision 2011/266 — whereby it requested that the results of the Indigenous Expert Group meeting on combating violence against indigenous women and girls be reported to the Women’s Commission at its current session — Myrna Cunningham Kain, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, took the floor to describe the outcome of that meeting. Briefly introducing the Forum’s mandate and work, she said that the Expert Group meeting in January had found there was a need to widen the common understanding of violence against indigenous women and girls. “It is not just violence within out homes or community, traditional or customary violence or interpersonal violence, but it also includes violence by the State or the private sector,” she said.

In the context of indigenous women and girls, the analysis of violence should be understood as the interaction of the combined factors of colonization, globalization and approaches to development that had adversely impacted the social, economic, cultural and spiritual livelihood of indigenous peoples, she added. They faced multiple forms of discrimination associated with their indigenous identity, gender, culture and language; they also suffered from limited access to equal education, health care, justice and decision-making.

The Expert Group meeting, she added, had highlighted the different manifestations of violence, among other related issues, and made several recommendations. For example, it asked States, the United Nations system and other non-State actors to undergo legislative and policy reviews to ensure that the rights of indigenous women and girls were expressly defined with full and effective participation.

Among other recommendations, it had further stressed the need for more disaggregated data, for a zero-tolerance policy on violence against indigenous women and girls in times of conflict, as well as measures to end impunity, and for a “robust” joint monitoring and evaluation framework to measure the impact of policies and programmes targeted at the eradication of violence against indigenous women and girls.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 9 March, to take action on the draft resolutions. It is expected to conclude the work of its fifty-sixth session in the afternoon.

  • The 15th Meeting was closed.

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