Third Committee Debate on Women’s Rights Critical to Achieving Gender Equality, Goal That Should Receive Wide Global Support, Says General Assembly President

from UN General Assembly
Published on 16 Oct 2012 View Original


Sixty-seventh General Assembly
Third Committee
10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

Chair Says Focus on Gender Equality Could Have Strong Spillover to Other Areas; Committee Hears from Some 56 Speakers on Second Day of Women’s Advancement Debate

Today’s debate on women’s rights and perspectives was critical for achieving gender equality, a goal that should receive wide support in all corners of the world, General Assembly President Vuc Jeremić told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, pledging his readiness to engage with delegates on all such issues during the sixty-seventh session.

In his first address to the Committee, Mr. Jeremić also encouraged delegates to work with the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) on issues that fell under their joint purview. That, in turn, would complement — and revitalize — the work of the General Assembly plenary.

A strong focus on Millennium Development Goal 3 — achieving gender equality — was one such issue, said Third Committee Chair Henry L. Mac-Donald ( Suriname). Attention to that issue would have a strong positive spillover into other important areas, including employment, as States, the United Nations and other stakeholders hammered out the post-2015 development agenda.

Throughout the day, delegates decried women’s untapped potential — particularly in the economic domain — as one of “humanity’s great losses”. Discrimination against women and girls — including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities and harmful traditional practices — was the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality. Other “enormous” challenges compounded their situation: the feminization of poverty, an increase in single-parent families headed by women due to the migration of men to cities, and poor supply of basic social services like education and reproductive health.

“The persistence of inequalities between men and women have proved a major hindrance to women’s full participation in all spheres of society,” especially their involvement in politics, decision making and access to resources, said the representative of the Maldives. Citing one example, she said the modernization of the fishing industry limited women’s traditional role in drying and processing fish, as fishermen now sold their catch directly to buyers and centralized industries.

Labour market disparities were also apparent in Colombia, that country’s delegate said, where women’s unemployment was nearly double that of men and their salary was 20 per cent lower for equal work. Maternal mortality was also on the rise.

Almost all of the day’s 56 speakers said empowered women contributed to the health and productivity of families and communities, as well as improved prospects for the next generation. Increasing the number of employed women would reduce poverty, boost economic output and improve health and education outcomes measured by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In politics, women’s voices would ensure the creation of more inclusive, equitable societies. In that vein, many speakers detailed changes to their legal frameworks to promote gender equality by incorporating relevant provisions into their constitutions and enacting gender equality laws.

Delegates from Peru, Chile and Panama detailed efforts to incorporate the fight against femicide — the killing of women — into national legislation. Panama’s delegate, in particular, cited three laws to that effect, two of which defined femicide in the criminal code and penalized it as violence against women.

Other speakers outlined reforms to land tenure rules. Angola’s delegate said the Council of Ministers had approved a land law which guaranteed rural women’s access and control of land either by acquisition or inheritance, a significant step for rural women, who represented 53.5 per cent of the rural population. They were responsible for about 80 per cent of the agricultural production, 90 per cent of basic products, 100 per cent of the processing of those products and 90 per cent of their marketing.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for the Promotion of Women of Burkina Faso said her country had improved women’s access to land with the adoption of a rural land ownership policy that allowed women to acquire manufacturing and processing equipment.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Liberia, Senegal, Iran, Japan, Algeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Thailand, Syria, Kuwait, Ukraine, Mongolia, Iraq, Indonesia, Tunisia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Turkey, Sudan, Lesotho, Kyrgyzstan, Yemen, Jamaica, South Africa, Kazakhstan, India, Zimbabwe, Qatar, Marshall Islands, Iceland, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Angola, Botswana, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Costa Rica, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also spoke.

The representatives of Israel and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. to continue and conclude its discussion on the advancement of women. It was also expected to take up the rights of children.