The European Parliament adopted a first reading report on plans to set up an independent European Institute for Gender Equality. While strongly supporting the creation of this new Community body, MEPs wish to make it more effective by sharpening the focus of its work. They also want guarantees about the management board's gender balance. It is hoped the institute will be able to start work 2007.
The report, drafted by Lissy Gröner (PES, DE) and Amalia Sartori (EPP-ED, IT), was adopted with 362 votes to 263 with 18 abstentions.
The European Parliament wants the institute to be operational "as soon as possible" and certainly no later than twelve months after the regulation establishing it enters into force. EU governments have not yet decided where the institute is to be located. During today's debate in plenary certain MEPs said it it would be important to locate the Institute in one of the new Member States.
The European Parliament wants to make the institute more proactive by shifting the focus of its work away from the mere collection and recording of data on gender equality and towards the analysis of such data, so as to enable the EU to "effectively promote and implement gender equality policy". MEPs believe that what is lacking at EU and national level is a capacity to pool analysis and come up with innovative solutions on, for example, gender mainstreaming.
Regarding the Institute's Management Board, its nine members should according to the MEPs be appointed by the Council, in consultation with the European Parliament, from a list drawn up by the Commission. The Board should as well have three representatives from NGOs, employers' and workers' organisations. MEPs say the aim must be to achieve an equal representation between women and men on the Board and that there should at least be a guarantee that the representation of both sexes is not below 40%.
If approved, the Institute will be funded with a proposed budget of €52.5 million for the period 2007 to 2013. The setting up of the Gender Equality Institute beginning of 2007 is one of the key actions put forward in the Commission's Road Map for equality between women and men 2006-2010, presented 1 March 2006.
2. Beyond the bright lights of the World Cup stadium
EU takes a stand against extreme violence against women at international sports events
Human trafficking was expected to rise drastically in Germany this summer during the 2006 FIFA World Cup Championship, until various European Union bodies decided to take measures and show the red card against trafficking and eradicate prostitution of women and children during major sports events. As tens of thousands of football fans arrive in Germany for the opening of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Championship on June 9, authorities expected 40,000 to 100,000 women and girls to enter the country illegally. German cities are expected to face up to a 30 percent increase in prostitution and sex trade this summer, but various EU bodies gave them the red card. The EU may initiate a campaign against forced prostitution even though prostitution is legal in certain city zones in Germany, since trafficking of women and children from Southern and Eastern Europe and forced prostitution are not.
Swedish Justice Minister Tomas Bodström, former premier league football player, initiated the first of a number of meetings on February 21 at the EU Council of Justice and Home Affairs in Brussels. He pointed out that “it is not enough that we ministers sit here and say trafficking is horrible, we need to take concrete measures to stop it.” EU Justice Ministers made the decision in January to require EU member states’ national police to examine ways of combating human trafficking. The current Austrian presidency of the EU also supports the case by putting sex trade at sports events on the agenda of the next justice ministers’ meeting in April.
This issue has been on the EU agenda for a while. Trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children was a subject of numerous Council resolutions since 1997. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibited it in 2000. Yet the European Parliament (EP) has not passed a coherent law to this day to regulate all three sides of the sex trade: the traffickers, the victims, and the customers.
In January the EP addressed the issue by passing a non-legislative resolution on “strategies to prevent the trafficking of women and children who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation,” which came the closest yet to drawing up a tangible plan for action. The text of the resolution admitted that previous efforts to battle this crime “have not yielded results” in terms of reducing the number of victims. Moreover the document explicitly defined the roles of traffickers and clients and the care necessary for victims - criteria that would be used in developing necessary legislation at the national level.
Following this initiative, the EP passed a resolution on March 15th in which it urged steps against forced prostitution at large sports events.
Addressing the issue, the EP also asked Germany in March to establish a multilingual phone service and a communication campaign for women, children and other victims of forced prostitution in order to provide needed information to them.
One of the largest achievements of the March resolution has been the decision on punishing clients. According to the EP’s press service, the document refers to the EP’s program launched in November 2OO5 against travelers with the purpose of doing business in human trafficking, and urges member states to ratify the European Council’s treaty against human trafficking.
EP based the new resolution on a parliamentary report on the prevention of human trafficking drafted originally by Austrian MEP Christa Prets in 2004. She saw the main problem as being the lack of willful cooperation from the member states. Prets, the Austrian member of the Socialist group in the EP, stressed the need to secure the rights of the victims in the countries of destination as well as origin, stating that, "Women in fear of being forcibly deported are not willing to make a statement [to authorities]."
The EP, in order to achieve cooperation, suggested in March the introduction of a common European policy that would focus on elaborating a legal framework, including sanctions, prevention, legal procedures, punishing clients as well as protecting and supporting the victims.
To promote public debate, the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality organized and hosted a seminar on International Women’s Day. The "Forced Prostitution during World Sports Events" seminar featured Brunhilde Raiser, the President of the National Council of German Women's Organizations, among other speakers. (Detailed, personal Report by Judit Wirth, President of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby is available in Hungarian.)
A German women’s NGO’s initiative “Red card for Forced Prostitution” began its campaign in early March to raise public awareness of prostitution "as a form of modern slavery." Chair of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, Hungarian MP Zita Gurmai, has been an active supporter of the campaign and claimed that over 1OO.OOO women and children become victims of forced prostitution every year. MEPs asked FIFA, UEFA and soccer players to publicly condemn forced prostitution and human trafficking. Socialist MEP Lissy Gröner asked football fans to report evidence of trafficking. She urged the German authorities to set up refuges in match centers to take care of women rescued from the gangs.
Finally, the EP proposed to the Council the institution of an EU-wide Anti-Trafficking Day.
Related links: The online petition:
EP non-legislative resolution on Strategies to prevent the trafficking of women and children vulnerable to sexual exploitation, Jan. 2006:
http://www.europarl.eu.int/oeil/file.jsp?id=5209992 Combating trafficking in human beings, the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (2005):
http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l33089b.htm Brussels Declaration On Preventing And Combating Trafficking In Human Beings, Sept. 2002:
http://www.belgium.iom.int/StopConference/Conference%20Papers/brudeclaration.pdf Council framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings, Aug. 2002:
http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l33137.htm Charter Of Fundamental Rights Of The European Union, Oct. 2000:
http://www.europarl.eu.int/charter/default_en.htm EU legislation being adopted against trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/doc_centre/crime/trafficking/wai/doc_crime_human_trafficking_en.htm European Parliament Press Service
MEPs reaffirm their firm condemnation of trafficking in human beings, in particular of women and children for sexual purposes. In a resolution adopted today, following up last week's EP seminar on forced prostitution during sports events, MEPs propose strategies to combat this ghastly problem. The European Parliament calls for a European wide campaign to inform the general public and to reduce the demand. MEPs also propose an Anti-Trafficking Day to raise awareness on the issue of trafficking in all its aspects.
The European Parliament urges the European Commission and the Member States to launch a European-wide campaign to inform and educate the general public and particularly sports people, sports fans and supporters about the growing problem of forced prostitution during big sports events. The campaign should provide the necessary information, counselling, safe housing and legal aid to women and children and other victims forced into prostitution. MEPs agree that media and famous people from the sports world also have to be involved in the awareness raising campaign to positively influence the changes in public mentality and behaviour. They also appeal for a prevention campaign targeted at potential victims providing them with information as to their rights and where they can obtain assistance in countries of destination.
In light of the forthcoming World Football Cup, MEPs call on Member States to set up a multilingual telephone hotline and visible communication campaign to help women forced into prostitution and other victims who are isolated and unable to speak the language of the country of transit or destination. They also urge the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, UEFA, the German Football Association and others as well as sportsmen to express support for the campaign launched by the German National Council of Women.
MEPs request the launch of an Anti-Trafficking Day starting from this year. Its aim would be to raise awareness on the issue of trafficking in all its aspects. They urge all Member States to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human beings which sets out minimum standards for the protection of the victims of trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The European Parliament also calls on the Member States which have not respected the deadline of 1 August 2004 for the implementation of Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA on combating trafficking in human beings to take immediate action. Furthermore, MEPs urge the Commission and the Council to urgently produce the assessment report as foreseen by the Framework Decision.
MEPs call for action to combat forced prostitution
To mark International Women’s Day Wednesday 8 March, the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights has invited representatives from NGOs, sports and politics to a seminar aiming to raise awareness and discuss strategies to tackle forced prostitution on the fringes of major international sports events. Next week the full House will debate the issue in plenary. MEPs Záborská, Breyer and Prets give us their views on the importance of tackling this modern form of slavery.
Big events such as sports events and fairs are said to provoke a sharp increase in the demand for sexual services including an increase in forced prostitution. Committee chairwoman, Slovak Christian Democrat Anna Záborská, and two members of the Women’s Rights Committee, German Green Hiltrud Breyer and Austrian Socialist Christa Prets, tell us why they believe it is high time to turn the spotlight on forced prostitution in the framework of world sports events.
100,000 women victims of human trafficking in Europe
Ms Prets, who drafted a report on strategies to prevent trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes, adopted by the Parliament earlier this year, explains that “every year around 100,000 women are victims of human trafficking in Europe. Several thousand girls and women are going to be forced into sexual exploitation in Germany for the World Cup (9 June-9 July)”. Ms Breyer, who is behind the idea to raise awareness about this topic on International Women’s Day, says "it is essential to focus more attention on the fate and misery of women trafficked for sexual exploitation. Fair play in sport also goes with the refusal of forced prostitution!” Ms Záborská sees the initiative as an important opportunity to launch a universal message about respect of women's dignity and human rights, while providing a venue to exchange views about best practices to combat forced prostitution.
A problem without borders
Ms Záborská hopes this is only the start of a campaign against forced prostitution, which she underlines requires action at European and national level. According to Ms Breyer the seminar aims to be the “kick-off event in the EU-wide combat against forced prostitution”, putting trafficking on the agenda more strongly. She is clear that actions to combat human trafficking must put the emphasis on both the prevention and protection of victims. Forced prostitution “violates human rights and infringes EU-law," notes Ms Prets, who hopes the seminar will raise consciousness that trafficking is “not a national but an international concern”, which calls for common measures within the EU. The 8 March seminar will be followed up during the 13-16 March Parliamentary plenary session by discussion of a resolution for a European-wide campaign to inform and educate the general public about forced prostitution during world sports events.
The European Parliament has been active for many years in campaigns to prevent trafficking of human beings and violence against women. A recent example is Ms Prets' report. This resolution caused “the most important debate in media and different organisations and helped to free us from taboos of this topic”, says Ms Prets. According to Ms Breyer, by adopting the resolution the Parliament made it clear “that trafficking in women ought to be combated more comprehensively… The EU must show the red card to this prospering lucrative criminal business!”
5. European Parliament's MEPs call for zero tolerance to all forms of violence against women
On Thursday MEPs voiced their concern about gender-based violence, a problem that affects women of any age, irrespective of education, income or social position, by adopting an own initiative report asking for "zero tolerance to all forms of violence against women" and proposing EU measures to raise awareness and overcome this complex problem.
The report drafted by Maria CARLSHAMRE (ALDE, SE) was adopted with 545 votes in favour, 13 against and 56 abstentions. It states that "large-scale prevalence studies in Sweden, Germany and Finland show that at least 30-35% of women between 16 and 67 have at one time been victims of physical or sexual violence" and "surveys show that 65-90 % of prostituted women had already been subjected to sexual abuse as children or later".
MEPs say that male violence against women should be regarded as a "violation of human rights reflecting unequal gender power relations". "Unequal distribution of power lies at the root of all violence against women" according to them. They stress that there is a need for proactive and preventive strategies aimed at the perpetrators and those at risk of becoming perpetrators.
The MEPs urge the Member States to "recognise marital sexual violence as a crime and make rape within marriage a criminal offence", "not to accept any reference to cultural practice as an extenuating circumstance in cases of men's violence against women such as in crimes of honour and genital mutilation", "to ensure victims' right to safe access to justice" and "to take account of the fact that children who witness their mothers being battered could be regarded as victims".
The MEPs stressed that preventing and banning female genital mutilation and prosecuting perpetrators must become a priority in all relevant European Union policies and programmes. The report calls on the Commission "to devise a comprehensive strategic approach at European level with the aim of putting an end to the practice of female genital mutilation in the European Union".
There is not enough data available on men's violence against women and so the report calls for a harmonised methodology and the appointment of national rapporteurs to gather information, establishment of a single system of recording instances of assault by all the competent authorities and appropriate education and training for professionals responsible for recording incidents.
The members of the European Parliament called on the member States to provide all necessary support to the victims. They also urged for "specific employment action programmes for the victims of gender-based violence, so as to enable them to enter the labour market and achieve financial independence".
The MEPs also said that marginalisation and poverty are basic causes for prostitution and of increased trafficking in women. The called for combat against the "idea that working as a prostitute can be equated with doing a job".
In the debate (1 February) before the vote the rapporteur stressed that there is an urgent need for more studies about men's violence against women. "Obviously effective measures must be based on correct facts and figures," she underlined. In her opinion "the magnitude of the problem in itself indicates that all Member States are repeatedly violating the basic rules of civil liberties and the rule of law on a scale that we are yet to understand". What we need to do now is to act. The issue of men's violence against women is not a small issue on the fringe of society, it affects us all. I demand zero tolerance of men's violence against women," Maria CARLSHAMRE concluded.
To mark International Women's Day 2005 (8 March), the European Parliament held a range of events to highlight the problem of violence against women. For more information see the link below to the background note "Turning the spotlight on violence against women".
6. Nigerian Women’s Life-Death Battle Against Big Oil
Chevron answers with physical brutality to women’s human rights and environmental initiatives
While Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming a great PR tool at multi-national companies, often unthinkable human rights abuses are taking place on the local level. Nigerian women told the UN on March 8th about serious human rights and environmental abuses that oil giant Chevron Corp. has committed against their community.
About four decades ago, oil was struck in the Niger Delta, Africa. Large multi-national oil companies came into the area, which is a mix of dense rainforest, salt and freshwater creeks, ponds and swamps. As a result, the area is today an endangered area--one of the most endangered in the world. In Ugborodo, Nigeria, Gulf Oil was the first to create an oil farm in the community with the promise that they would employ local men and women. Gulf worked harmoniously with the community for years. When Chevron/Texaco Corporation (now Chevron Corp.) took over the oil farm, the community began to have serious environmental issues: oil spillages made farming and fishing in the waterfront area impossible; wooden pegs that were once part of their homes now jut up from the water in the middle of the sea; their people were no longer employed by the company; there was no work, no farming, no fishing and no food.
When the men in the community went to Chevron Corporation in a peaceful way to demand that the company make retribution, the state and oil companies reacted violently resulting in the death of four leaders of the community. Leaders of the movement protesting the conditions were framed for the killings and hanged by the government.
Mercy Olowu, President of Women in Ugborodo Community and leader of the women's subsequent protest, said that as other attempts resulted in bribes, thousands of the village's women decided, it was time to take the initiative to do something on their own.
Their story was the subject of a panel discussion covered by a CEEW News correspondent in New York right after they presented their case at UN General Assembly on March 7.
They have told how in July 2002, in the early morning hours, a contingent of thousands of Ugborodo women managed to cross the formidable barriers of water, dogs and paramilitary guards surrounding the tank farm to get inside. Chevron officials, who had been “caught napping,” were shocked at the invasion by the women.
“When we got to the tank farm, we saw the white men, very good buildings, roads, light was on 24 hours. I saw America there,” Olowu said. “If we can get this kind of development in our village, it would be very nice.” But the women were also enraged. As the tank farm had thrived, their lifestyle had deteriorated.
The women divided into groups and took charge of the different areas of the farm. They prevented ships from leaving and entering the docks without their permission. The soldiers, seeing that the women were acting peacefully and reasonably, stood back and watched.
The women insisted on meeting with Chevron’s management team to discuss their demands. After an 11-day-long siege, both sides endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding, in which Chevron spelled out its commitment to “building and sustaining a relationship with its host communities based on mutual respect and trust” with promises to employ members of the community.
Three years after the signing of the agreement, the community members say nothing was implemented. So the women returned to the tank farm in February of 2005, cutting through wires in the fence, to address the issue of implementation. This time, in spite of their intention of a peaceful protest, they said they were met with violence of unthinkable proportions. The women reported that armed police and soldiers beat, tortured and brutalized them. They said that many were stripped naked and tied with their legs spread. In an action akin to rape, guns were pointed at or thrust into their “private parts.” Reportedly, three young men who joined the women’s protest were killed by the soldiers and some pregnant women had miscarriages.
Ojuya said that the protestors left the tank farm and used what little money the community had to take the women for medical treatment. There were no repercussions; there were no efforts by the oil company to make amends.
Woman Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) has joined the women of Ugborodo in making its plea for support to the international community in 2OO3. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, director of WARDC told us, that in a series of e-mail enquiries to Chevron's Acting General Manager, Deji Haastrup, she was told that the company was fully dedicated to carrying out its commitments. Chevron claimed that it began to recruit youth and completed the design of buildings when a surge of ethnic violence engulfed the area and forced them to shut down their facilities. Chevron’s management, concerned for the safety of its employees questioned whether they should continue to build community projects only to have them be burned down. Instead, Haastrup stated, the company created a new model of community engagement called Global Memorandums of Understanding, which he claims that other communities in Nigeria have signed. This agreement reportedly represents a model of joint responsibility rather than the previous one in which the oil company alone “does things” for the communities.
GMOU also provided funding for community development in the area where the company operates. “If the Ugborodo people still want to use their own funding under the new GMOU for the projects already listed, they can do so in accordance with the governance model of the new GMOUs,” Haastrup said.
Yet according to Haastrup, the new agreement would expect ethnic groups to commit to peaceful coexistence instead of violence as a means to resolving disputes. He urges the Nigerian economy to reduce its focus on the oil industry for employment and that "it is only when business thrives that revenues can be generated to contribute to further development." Yet when asked about Chevron's plans to "arrest the degradation of the environment of the Ugborodo community," Haastrup said that he needed a better idea of what was meant by that phrase before he could answer.
Besides WARDC, Human Rights Watch also sent a letter to Chevron Nigeria asking the corporation to commit to publicly support government response in proportion to the threat, and to use force only when absolutely necessary. Arvind Ganeshan, Executive Director of Business and Human Rights also requested a commitment on the part of Chevron to promote observance of applicable international law enforcement principles", urge investigations of violations, and "actively monitor the status of investigations and press for their proper resolution." In doing so, he stressed, the company "could help to prevent further violations in response to current unrest."
Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) is planning a new project to address the discrepancy between catchy corporate social responsibility projects and hidden human rights abuses multinational companies had, such as this one. In "The Misfortune 500" project, sponsored by the UN, WEDO plans examine how the world’s 500 largest companies treat women. The initiative will be an online "gateway" where readers can find a wide range of information on the impact of corporate practices on women, how activists at local-to-global levels are pressing to hold corporations to account through campaigns and policy, and ways to get involved.
Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/nigeria040703chevron.htm Oilwatch:
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held its 5Oth session from 27 February to 1O March in New York focusing on enhancing the participation of women in development and equal participation of women in decision-making processes. Even though Hungarian Szilvia Szabó was one of the vice-chairs of the event, the CEE-CIS region didn’t get much attention this year. Contrary to 2OO5, when a larger contingent of NGOs have participated from the CEE region on the anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, this year’s CSW had less active NGO parallel events sessions at the Church Center and less active caucuses focusing on our region. The region got less attention also because last year eight countries have joined the European Union, the CEE region isn’t considered a development area any more. This time the CEE region was represented by the European Women’s Lobby, a European umbrella organization of national women’s umbrella organizations.
Six main resolutions adopted by the Commission related to:
1. The advisability of the appointment of a special rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women (invites Member States to submit to the secretary-General their further views on this and for it to be considered at the 51st session of the CSW).
2. Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts,
3. Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS,
4. The situation of women and girls in Afghanistan,
5. The situation of and assistance to Palestinian women,
CSW also adopted two agreed upon conclusions on enhanced participation of women in development and equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels.
CSW however will not decide on its program for 2007-2009 until the session resumes at an undetermined future date. The priority themes to be addressed in upcoming years in the program are:
- eliminating discrimination and violence against the girl child (2007);
- financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (2008);
- equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS (2009).
Under this program, the Commission will also evaluate progress on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality (2007); women's equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding (2008); and the equal participation of men and women in decision-making processes at all levels (2009).
No tool for development is more effective than empowerment of women, says Deputy Secretary General, at the opening session
1st, 2nd and 3rd sessions of the CSW
UN Department of Public Information
Rachel N. Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women declared the UN World Summit‘s reaffirmation of its commitment to the full and effective implementation of the goals and objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as an essential contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She suggested that the CSW should examine how to better reflect these commitments in a new multi-year program for 2007-2009 to be adopted by the Commission.
Mayana reviewed some major decisions of the World Summit with possible entry points for gender.
The Summit decided to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a
smaller, more focused Human Rights Council. The Council would meet throughout the year, be better able to respond to emergencies, including mass violations of women’s rights, and have a mandate to look at human rights conditions in all countries. The strengthening of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a dedicated Section on Women’s Rights will also enhance UN capacity to monitor and report on women’s rights violations.
Mayana also discussed how violence against women, as a persistent violation of women’s human rights, was a major issue at the World Summit. The Secretary-General’s study on violence against women is expected to support the CSW in its ongoing efforts to address violence against women. The study will be submitted to the 61st session.
She urged participating member states to strengthen or enact their legislation, including provisions for the prosecution of perpetrators; incorporate the issue of violence against women in national action plans for promotion of gender equality and undertake awareness-raising and information dissemination campaigns.
Violence against women is also one of the issues highlighted in the recent publication of The World’s Women 2005, prepared by the UN Statistics Division. A comprehensive report on sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel provided bold recommendations for action by the Secretariat as well as Member States. The recommendations form the basis of a Draft Policy on the Assistance to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, which is being finalized.
Finally Mayana mentioned how the Summit called for “increased representation of women in government decision-making bodies, including through ensuring their equal opportunity to participate fully in the political process.” In recent elections and re-elections in Chile, Finland, Germany, Latvia and Liberia to the highest positions in Government, women leaders made a quantum leap by increasing their representation by more than 30 percent from 8 to 11. Mayana urged participants to intensify their efforts at the national level to implement this resolution, including the use of national action plans.
Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said, “Gender inequality and pervasive gender discrimination could not be reversed by a handful of promising practices and successes.” She added, that “if gender equality was central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it must also be central to the institutional arrangements for UN reform and the commitments to convert aid effectiveness into development effectiveness.” She stressed that that did not mean merging women’s entities into greater bureaucracy and invisibility. She stressed that despite the global consensus that gender equality and women’s empowerment were essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, there that there were no institutional arrangements, increased resources and strengthened operational mechanisms to assist countries to advance gender equality.
The international community was paying the cost of that institutional neglect, for, the first target for 2005 - gender parity in primary and secondary education - had been missed. Women still held only 16 per cent of parliamentary seats worldwide. Poverty among women was still passed on from generation to generation, trafficking in women and girls had become a major concern, and HIV/AIDS infection rates were increasing, especially among young women. In that critical context, it was not surprising that the Commission was debating the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming as a strategy for achieving gender equality. But, Heyzer argued, “The issue was not gender mainstreaming, but understanding how progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment happened, and taking the necessary steps to make sure they were further strengthened.”
In the two discussions of the 2nd and 3rd session of the CSW, speakers representing both Governments and NGOs described the huge gap remaining between policy and practice: while many gender mainstreaming policies existed, implementation lagged. Describing a kind of “policy evaporation”, many speakers emphasized the need for Governments to be held accountable for their development commitments, including the goal of women’s empowerment.
Ways to enhance women’s participation in development and decision-making
4th and 5th sessions and panel discussions
CSW representatives agreed that the absence of women from political life and leadership positions undermine democracy and women’s empowerment.
Evy Messell, Director, Bureau for Gender Equality, International Labour Organization (ILO), noted that combating gender inequalities in the world of work called for equal access to social protection. An enabling environment would be created by extending national social security systems more widely including government, employers’ and workers’ organizations.
Opening the afternoon panel on the equal participation of women and men in decision-making, Commission Vice-Chairperson Szilvia Szabó (Hungary) said equal access to decision-making and leadership at all levels was a necessary precondition for the proper functioning of democracy. Equal participation in political affairs made governments more representative, accountable and transparent. It also ensured that the interests of women were taken into account in policymaking. Women, however, wer traditionally excluded from decision-making processes.
“Since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, women’s visibility in public life had grown“, she continued. In 1995, women represented 11.3 percent of all legislators. In 2006, they represented 16.3 per cent - the highest percentage in history. More women judges had been appointed and more women had reached the highest executive positions in public and private companies. At the same time, persistent barriers to women’s entry into positions of decision-making continue, and equitable participation remains a challenge.
The Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Anders B. Johnsson, said one could not talk about democracy when half of a country’s population did not participate in its work. Ten years ago, Sweden led the pack, but today, Rwanda, a developing country, has the highest proportion of women in its national assembly, some 48.8 percent. He added that the critical mass the Beijing Platform had asked for - 30 per cent - would not be reached until 2025, and parity would not be reached until 2040.
Despite major gains, women bear disproportianate share of povery burden and remain politically underrepresented
6th and 7th Sessions of the CSW
While some 55 speakers, including numerous ministers, took the floor to describe national efforts aim at achieving targets set at 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, Hungary did not report about its national progress this year.
While women posted major gains in terms of educational achievement, political representation and economic viability, the goal of gender equality was elusive, as women continued to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of poverty and under-representation in political life.
Reporting on the results of trend-setting legislation, Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs noted that, following the enactment of paternity leave legislation in 2003, some 90 per cent of Icelandic fathers had utilized that right and taken paternity leave.
Norwegian Minister of Children and Equality said, her country had introduced a 40 per cent requirement for the underrepresented sex on company boards in the private sector. As of 1 January, Norway’s 500 privately-owned public limited companies would have two years to comply with the new amendment or face sanctions. Parity had already been achieved in Norway’s Government, which consisted of 50 per cent women and 50 percent men.
Australia’s representative, however, noted that women had achieved a high level of representation in their government without the use of quotas, as the government was committed to the merit principle and to providing targeted support to create an environment that enabled women to compete equitably on merit.
Highlighting the role of women in peace and reconstruction, Iraq’s Minster for Municipalities and Public Works said that for more than 30 years Iraqi women had suffered from a dictatorial, fascist system, which had no compunction about humiliating its citizens. Helping to eliminate the despots, Iraqi women had been part of the historic change in the country. Iraqi women faced dangerous challenges, including daily acts of terrorism, and they needed the international community’s support to build a new society based on the principles of democracy and human rights.
Source: Economic and Social Council – Department of Public Information
United Nations pays lip service to gender equality say women’s advocates at the UN Commission on the Status of Women
March 6, 2006, United Nations, New York: Women’s organizations at the 50th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women have expressed disappointment and outrage that the women’s equality agenda and women’s machineries are not being addressed as a central part of the UN reform program.
In an Open Letter to the Secretary General and Member States the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL), UN Committee on the Status of Women, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom repeated a call they made at the 2005 World Summit for UN systems and mechanisms to be significantly strengthened, upgraded and resourced in order to advance gender equality at international and country levels.
The Open Letter (see attached) has been endorsed by more than 240 women from over 50 countries and by numerous international and regional organizations.
Noting that this letter was drafted and circulated before the announcement that Mark Malloch Brown would replace Louise Frechette as Deputy Secretary General, June Zeitlin, WEDO’s Executive Director, said, “We already knew that only lip service was being given to gender parity. The UN is going in the wrong direction. We need new and innovative leadership and the way to get that is by ensuring we reach 50/50 women and men in all decision-making positions.”
Charlotte Bunch, CWGL Executive Director, said, “The UN must make it a priority to strengthen the bodies that work for women’s rights. What is being called the UN ‘gender architecture’ is more like a shack. Women need a bigger global house if equality is ever to become a reality.”
Contact: Joan Ross Frankson firstname.lastname@example.org
An Open Letter on Women & UN Reform to the Secretary General and Member States from NGOs present at the 50th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
For more than six decades, women’s groups and others from around the world have been strong supporters of the United Nations. We have actively shaped the UN’s work on peace, human rights, development, security and environmental issues, and, of course, on gender equality. The UN is at a critical juncture. In the 2005 World Summit, women’s organizations successfully advocated for greater commitments on gender equality and expected to see these commitments implemented in the UN reform follow-up.
We are disappointed and frankly outraged that gender equality and strengthening the women’s machineries within the UN system are barely noted, and are not addressed as a central part of the reform agenda. Again, we must ask how it can be that more than ten years after the commitment to gender parity at the Beijing Conference, the UN is still offering only token representation of women on critical committees, high level expert panels and in senior positions within the organization.
Women welcomed Paragraph 59 in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, in which governments undertook to “strengthen the capabilities of the United Nations system in the area of gender.” This commitment made by world leaders will not be met unless gender equality issues and women’s machineries are an integral part of the UN reform process. Yet, mechanisms and processes dealing with UN reform have failed to display a consistent and visible commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. For example, the new High-Level Panel on UN system-wide coherence in areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment has only 3 women out of 15 members. We urge that additional women be added to the panel and that gender equality issues be explicitly considered under each theme. Furthermore, the panel should be mandated to hold consultations with civil society groups, especially those working on women’s rights, in order to ensure consideration of the impact on women of any proposed reforms.
Women’s groups call for serious consideration to be given to the implications of the current reforms on the women’s equality agenda. We reiterate the call made at Beijing +10 and the 2005 World Summit for the Secretary General and Member States to significantly strengthen, upgrade and better resource the systems and mechanisms, including the UN women’s machineries, through which gender equality can be advanced at the international and country level. This could be a lasting legacy.
In addition, we are deeply concerned that the position of women in high-level UN posts has stagnated. The list of candidates for the position of the executive director of UNEP contains no women at all. This is unacceptable. At the very least, the UN should set an example of gender balance in all high-level decision making positions.
The pattern of publicly adopted commitments and statements followed by lack of implementation sets a disheartening precedent which retards the work and reputation of the United Nations and impedes the urgently-needed progress of gender equality worldwide. We urge you to take the opportunity in your address to the CSW on International Women’s Day to announce concrete proposals for advancing gender equality and strengthening gender machineries in the context of UN reform. In addition, we urge Member States to explicitly address gender equality concerns in all aspects of UN reform.
Marina Sapountzoglou The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), which represents European women’s interests at the CSW, declared that those parties without sufficient percentage of female candidates on their lists should not run in the elections. Furthermore, those parliaments in which the number of women doesn’t reach the required 30 percent minimum should be fined.
EWL’s panel attracted a large group of women’s NGO representatives from Europe and other continents at the parallel events section of the CSW Church Center. EWL’s representatives suggested that the UN should sanction those parties and parliaments that don’t live up to the parity they have promised in international treaties. Another option presented was the possibility of banning parties from participating in elections if they are not able or willing to come up with the required parity.
EWL argues that the concept of decision-making should go beyond the highest-level politics and should include parliaments, political parties, international organizations, private sector, trade unions, academia and the media, as well. They added that women’s equality could not be reached in any domain until gender-based discrimination and the existing glass ceiling that women face at the workplaces are eliminated.
The representatives of EWL argued that CSW should recognize the diversity of women as well as the fact that some women’s groups face multiple levels of discrimination (against such groups as migrants, the disabled, lesbians, and younger and older women). They believe that special measures should be implemented if we want to improve access for such groups of women to decision-making positions.
European women think it’s important that when discussing decision-making, one recognizes that not only women’s, but also girls' rights and interests should be taken into consideration. Since decision-making is a learned skill that can be acquired through training and exposure through education and practical application, it must begin at earlier stages of life for girls. EWL suggests that in order to build such skills, girls need to have access to:
• Curricula that portray women in leadership positions;
• Programs that give girls opportunities to practice in parliamentary processes, such as Model UN;
• Legislators who can mentor them to be future leaders.
Regarding the media and education, EWL suggests that the CSW should take measures to promote efforts to eliminate stereotypes and at the same time encourage the portrayal of positive images of women and girls as leaders. EWL also suggested that the UN should create or implement codes of "good practice" on gender equity in the media. Furthermore, they should monitor women decision-makers' media representation and take measures to eliminate gender bias and incitement to hatred on grounds of sex in the media.
Overall, the draft conclusion that the panel presented at the end of the discussion was that the support of NGOs in the overall works should be seriously considered, there should be a stronger focus on Beijing platform, there is a need to develop stronger themes that will push the envelope, and a need for the commitment and accountability of governments.
Regarding the subject of violence against women, EWL argues that violence against women should be broader than domestic violence. They also argued for the explicit mention of violence against women on the CSW draft agreement.
The panel agreed that NGO participation in the overall procedure of UN drafting and decision-making should be enhanced. NGOs should also have a say in the emerging issues, as well as participating in the work of the UN during the CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women) convention. It was also proposed that those governments that committed to the CEDAW should be held accountable when they do not fully implement the clauses of the convention.
Further information: European Women’s Lobby
http://ewl.horus.be/SiteResources/data/MediaArchive/policies/beijing%20table%20of%20content/European%20caucus%20amendments%20to%20CSW%202006%20agreed%20conclusions%20on%20dm.pdf UN DAW
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/critical.htm#emerge European Union at the United Nations: