Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 7 June 2010
The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in concluding remarks, thanked everyone for the constructive engagement on the report on reparations. This was the start of a process on reparations through a gender lens, which all should be discussing. Violence against women was both a cause and a consequence of women's inequality, both in policy and practice, and redress could help to reach other societal goals, repairing also structural and systemic violence, and not just individual incidents. A compilation of best practices on reparations would prove effective. It had been a very productive interactive dialogue, and an affirmation on this very important topic.
Ms. Manjoo, Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and Maria Magdalena Sepulveda Carmena, Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, presented their reports to the Council on 4 June and a reflection of their statements can be found in press release HRC/10/64.
In the interactive debate on the right to health, some speakers strongly supported the recommendation to repeal laws that criminalized adult consensual same sex conduct, and the recommendation to introduce a monitoring and accountability mechanism to ensure the right to health and protect against violations. They said the approach adopted by the Special Rapporteur clearly fell within his mandate and made a valuable contribution to this discussion. However, other speakers said that the report failed to address issues relevant to people of developing countries and it was regrettable that the Special Rapporteur tried to reinforce the links between sexual orientation and right to health. Some deeply regretted that the Special Rapporteur had chosen to reflect upon controversial issues in his report, such as sexual orientation, which was neither internationally recognized as a human rights issue nor a part of his mandate.
With regard to human rights and extreme poverty, speakers appreciated the report drafted by Ms. Sepulveda on human rights and extreme poverty and welcomed her focus on the issue of social security. The report underlined that the international community had to work together to fight poverty and tackle the causes and origins and ensure that there was sufficient food for the poor throughout the world. Speakers supported that the report highlighted that States must make the protection of the most disadvantaged groups and individuals a priority, in order to build a more inclusive society, and States should step up their cooperation on social security.
Concerning violence against women, speakers said violence against women remained one of most under-reported and undocumented human rights violations and believed that there was need for this Council to focus even more on discrimination and violence against women and girls. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women had clarified the concepts and practices relating to victims’ rights to remedies, with a special focus on violence against women. Her analysis called for renewed attention to the responsibility of States to make reparations based on international human rights principles. Speakers urged all States to create a system of reparations for women victims of violence. A list of good practices would also be helpful in this regard.
Speaking in the interactive debate were Norway, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, France, China, Austria, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Iran, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Chile, Australia, Hungary, Bolivia, Belgium, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Nepal, Japan, Canada, Morocco, Viet Nam, Guatemala, Denmark, Thailand, Panama, Slovenia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Yemen, Tunisia, Ecuador and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also took the floor: National Human Rights Commission of India, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Amnesty International, European Disability Forum, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Centre for Reproductive Rights, International ATD Fourth World, Save the Children and the General Arab Women Federation.
Haiti, the Republic of Korea and Japan spoke in right of reply.
When the Council meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 June, it will hear an introductory statement by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on the thematic reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which will be followed by a general debate on its agenda item on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Interactive Debate on the Right to Health, Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, and Violence against Women
BEATE STIRO (Norway) said that addressing the ongoing problem of violence against women and girls was of vital importance to Norway. Violence against women remained one of most under-reported and undocumented human rights violations and Norway believed that there was a need for this Council to focus even more on discrimination and violence against women and girls. Norway agreed with the Special Rapporteur that reparations could not just be a matter of returning women to the situation in which they had been before violence occurred. Norway agreed that law enforcement measures did not in themselves always offer adequate solution for victims and asked how elements of restorative justice could contribute to addressing the structural components of violence against women and what the best practices in the area were. Norway thanked the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for bringing sensitive issues to the attention of the Council and believed his report contributed significantly to the ongoing discussion on how best to protect the right to health regardless of sexual orientation. Norway strongly supported the recommendation to repeal laws that criminalized adult consensual same sex conduct, and the recommendation to introduce a monitoring and accountability mechanism to ensure the right to health and protect against violations. Finally, Norway asked how the Human Rights Council could follow up on the recommendation to provide human rights education to health workers, bearing in mind its mandate to mainstream human rights in the work of the United Nations.
KIM DONG-JO (Republic of Korea) said that the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women clarified the concepts and practices relating to victims’ right to remedies, with a special focus on violence against women. Her analysis called for renewed attention to the responsibility of States to make reparations based on international human rights principles. The Republic of Korea welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s raising of the issue of women who had been subjected to systematic violations, especially the so-called “comfort women” of the Second World War. Since this matter had not been adequately addressed by the Government concerned, the Republic of Korea called upon the Government to take appropriate measures to resolve the issue of comfort women in response to the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations of both taking measures of symbolic recognition and making substantive reparations to the victims. The repeated violence that took place against women in the context of war or armed conflict was a fundamental infringement of human rights and an affront to human dignity and integrity. Despite its gravity, the issue remained unresolved and was a cause of profound concern for the international community.
MARIANA OLIVERA (Mexico) said that Mexico appreciated the report drafted by Ms. Sepulveda on human rights and extreme poverty and welcomed her focus on the issue of social security. Mexico had established specialized pension schemes for the poor and had established the Mexican Institute for Social Security. Mexico asked the Special Rapporteur to provide more information on and examples of good practices of social security. With regard to the right to health, Mexican legislation prevented discrimination based on sexual orientation and the Government was continuing to push for universal health care. Homophobia remained one of the reasons for the rise in HIV transmission as gay people had to keep their sexual orientation and lifestyles hidden.
MABEDI MOTLHABANI (Botswana) said that Botswana was convinced of the importance of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for the work of this Council. The report presented by the Special Rapporteur however failed to address issues relevant to people of developing countries and it was regrettable that the Special Rapporteur tried to reinforce the links between sexual orientation and the right to health. Botswana was not convinced of his overtly prescriptive approach, including the identification of groups that might be vulnerable to violations of their right to health. Botswana reiterated its support and cooperation with the mandate in question, assuming that the execution was firmly grounded in the relevant resolutions and that it focused on universally agreed human rights. Botswana expressed its hope that the Special Rapporteur would try to achieve in the future some degree of balance and priorities, rather that taking up issues of divisible nature.
KHALID MOHAMMAD KARAKUTLY (Saudi Arabia) said Saudi Arabia would focus its remarks on the report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty. The international community had to work together to fight poverty, tackle the causes and origins and ensure that there was sufficient food for the poor throughout the world. Saudi Arabia had devoted $350 million to the World Food Programme to try to help the poor throughout the world. The State had also renounced $6 billion in debt repayments from poor countries. There was also an international prize awarded under King Abdullah. Despite all efforts by the international community to alleviate extreme poverty, the number of poor people was spiralling upwards from day to day, whether as a result of natural catastrophes or armed conflict. Saudi Arabia wanted to launch an appeal to reduce the number of poor people throughout the world and it welcomed the role played by experts and their reports and studies in doing this.
VERONIQUE BASSO (France) said that France felt that Mr. Grover was within his mandate when addressing the issue of same-sex consensual relations. With regard to the human rights of older persons, France supported the establishment of social security measures to protect this particularly vulnerable group. On the issue of violence against women, France was very active nationally and internationally and would continue to fight for the legal, social and economic protection of women victims. To this end, France urged all States to instate a system of reparations for women victims of violence. A list of good practices would be helpful in this regard. In conclusion, France stated that the report served as a good springboard for discussions but greater collaboration had to be made with other international bodies working on this particular issue.
MA WENJUN (China) said that the Special Rapporteur on the right to health had a very important role to play. The promotion and protection of the right to health of all its citizens was of extreme importance to China. China had already established a system of primary health care in both urban and rural areas, while almost 80 per cent of its population enjoyed health insurance coverage. Maternal health had always been a priority and therefore China had a steady decrease in maternal and infant mortality. China actively worked on combating poverty and there were projects targeting both rural and urban areas; China had become the first State to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on poverty. These efforts would continue and China invited the international community to cooperate to achieve this goal together. China said that its national law strictly forbade violence against women and domestic violence. The public security services were actively engaged in combating and preventing domestic violence.
SEBASTIEN WALD BAUER (Austria) said regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Austria attached great importance to the full and comprehensive realization of women’s rights in all judicial proceedings. Austria welcomed the focus in the report on reparations for women who had been subjected to violence in different contexts. Women were often confronted with traditional structural and administrative limitations in accessing justice and Austria noted with concern that especially poor and excluded females or women belonging to minority groups and indigenous communities were facing particular discriminatory practices when they made claims to redress injustices. The Special Rapporteur stated in her report that gender differences had generally not been taken into account in compensation measures and as a consequence there had not been a special recognition for women and girls whose rights had been violated. Austria asked what measures the Special Rapporteur could recommend to States to adopt positive gender responsive reparation schemes in order to allow for an enhanced involvement of victims, in particular women and girls.
GRATA WERDANNINGTYAS (Indonesia) said that the Indonesian Constitution guaranteed State protection of poor people and poverty eradication. In terms of social security assistance, Indonesia had adopted a comprehensive approach to developing social welfare protection systems, including through Law 40 on national social security provisions. As noted in the report, the proportion of older persons in South East Asia would increase by 10 percent by 2025 and by 19 percent by 2050. With a population of over 220 million, Indonesia was facing up to the realities of providing for an ageing population. On the issue of violence against women, Indonesia pointed out that cultural and traditional backgrounds remained a stumbling block that discouraged women and children from reporting and bringing forward their cases of domestic violence.
PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said that the United Kingdom accepted that the issues addressed in the report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health were sensitive issues for many States. An open and honest discussion of the issues was essential if they were to address key health and human rights issues often affecting members of marginalised groups. The approach adopted by the Special Rapporteur clearly fell within his mandate and made a valuable contribution to this discussion. The United Kingdom strongly supported the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that laws criminalising adult consensual same-sex conduct be repealed. The United Kingdom also noted his recommendation to decriminalise HIV transmission and asked if this should apply only in circumstances where specific criminal offences were in place concerning HIV.
MARIA LOURDES BONE (Uruguay) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for his report and welcomed the thematic issue that the report dealt with, including the negative impact of the criminalization of consensual and private sexual acts against adult same sex partners, particularly in the area of the right to health. Uruguay also agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the international community must put an end to discriminatory legislation and the fact that societies must respect the gender identity of all people. Uruguay said States must control prostitution from a human rights perspective, without criminalizing sex workers, and at the same time combating stereotypes. Regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Uruguay had an aging population and its efforts were targeted toward fighting poverty among this group. To this end, they had established a social security system which was a universal system and in 2007 they put into place a fairness plan, set up a pension for old people and also reintroduced a special benefit for those over 70 years of age. The Bank of Social Welfare also provided special support for certain projects benefiting the elderly such as the construction of old age homes. Uruguay had created an integrated national health system so the elderly had the right to healthcare. Concerning the report on violence against women, Uruguay shared the Special Rapporteur’s conclusion with the fact that redress for women victims of violence must go beyond simply re-establishing their lives the way they were before the violence and must fight the causes of gender and generational violence such as inbuilt subjugation of women.
MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) said that Iran deeply regretted that the Special Rapporteur on the right to health had chosen to reflect upon controversial issues in his report, such as sexual orientation, which was neither internationally recognized as a human rights issue nor a part of his mandate. Iran also believed that the recommendation made for the decriminalisation of sexual orientation, which was not supported by any international instruments, contradicted with the rights of sovereign States to enact laws in accordance with their legal norms and standards. Iran reiterated that such an approach was totally unacceptable and put reports and recommendations of this kind in a very biased perspective. Concerning the report on extreme poverty, Iran pointed out that most Governments were consistently failing to honour their longstanding commitments to reach a target of 0.7 percent of gross national product for official development assistance.
ANNA UGGLA (Sweden) said Sweden wished to express its gratitude to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. Sweden had always been a strong supporter of her mandate. The appalling situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was still cause of great concern. The civilian population was continually subjected to the most horrible violent crimes imaginable, while gender-based violence was widespread and women and girls were targeted on a systematic scale. Sweden asked how reparations could be ensured to victims in situations of ongoing conflict, and in situations characterised by a large number of victims and weak governments. Sweden referred to two positive examples of civil society activism – the Nairobi Declaration and the Goma declaration which urged States to create an urgent reparations fund for the victims of sexual violence, and asked if there were any developments in this regard.
MOHAN PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said that Sri Lanka’s draft national Action Plan on Human Rights had been finalized and this plan incorporated a number of measures aimed at strengthening the existing provisions in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. The recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health had taken into account the realities in a meaningful manner which had culminated inter alia in the far-reaching recommendation to decriminalize sex work and related practices by complementing an appropriate regulatory framework within which such workers could enjoy a right to safe working conditions. With regard to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Sri Lanka said its laws on the amelioration of women’s rights had been legislated in consonance with the constitutional provision which stated that there should be no discrimination on the ground of sex and that special laws had to be enacted to promote women’s rights. Concerning the report of the Independent Expert on extreme poverty, Sri Lanka was pleased to note that the Independent Expert had made social pensions the focus of her second report. Sri Lanka had been at the forefront of enacting specific poverty alleviation legislation in the past.
BARBARA FONTANA (Switzerland) said that regional human rights courts were making important progress in addressing cases of violence against women. These institutions were essential in combating impunity. Switzerland asked Ms. Manjoo to elaborate on her point that collaboration with other Special Rapporteurs was important and wished to know whether or not she had identified particular themes or projects for the continuation of her mandate. Switzerland also gave its full support to Mr. Grover’s call for the decriminalisation of sexual orientation. On the issue of introducing control mechanisms, Switzerland asked if it was really feasible to monitor these types of mechanisms at the international level.
PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) said with regard to the report of the Independent Expert on extreme poverty, Chile firmly supported the mandate, for three general reasons: this report revealed the way in which the indivisibility and interdependence of civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights were tackled, and the vision that was enshrined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Work. The report also showed the close link between democracy and quality democracy. The concept of protection was a key one, and this was a human rights issue. It must continue to be a policy priority of this Council. The report clearly pointed to the fact that non-contributory pensions were one of the pillars of social protection, tackling poverty, and ensuring that everyone, including the elderly, had access to social services. Chile agreed with the report when it said that States must make the protection of the most disadvantaged groups and individuals a priority, in order to build a more inclusive society, and States should step up their cooperation on social security. There should be a greater connection in this regard between the work of the Council and what was done at the International Labour Organization. On violence against women, every ten minutes a woman died violently somewhere in the world, and this was almost a systemic phenomenon, on the rise, requiring firm policies. There were two aspects to the right to reparational redress as a result of acts of violence. In as far as possible, reparations should overthrow existing models of subordination, all of which could result in violence against women.
ROBYN HODGKIN (Australia), addressed the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said the continuing high rates of violence against women required increased attention from the international community and this meant ensuring women around the world had access to justice. Reducing violence against women was also crucial to ensuring gender equality for women. Australia was intensifying its efforts both domestically and through increased cooperation internationally to eradicate violence against women.
MILAN MAGYAR (Hungary) said that Hungary recognized the significance of a wide-ranging strategy on gender equality that highlighted the importance of remedies and rehabilitation for victims of violence against women. Hungary had established a free crisis hotline and a centre providing complex assistance including shelter for victims. As the conclusions of Ms. Manjoo’s report pointed out, reparations for women were not just about returning them to the situation in which they were found before the act of violence but instead should strive for creating better conditions for the future. In this context, Hungary asked the Special Rapporteur for any suggestions on how the international community can provide adequate reparations to victims of violence against women.
MAYSA URENA MENACHO (Bolivia) said the report on the right to health made a contribution to the better enjoyment of the right to health for all, without discrimination, and Bolivia had put in place laws and policies aiming to protect the human rights of all groups in the population in this context. The national education system included HIV/AIDS-prevention education programmes through the mainstreaming of education on sexual and reproductive rights, and there was a State policy guaranteeing free retroviral drugs. The Government was currently considering various options to ensure there were sufficient funds and medication. With regard to social security, this was vital to fight against poverty among the elderly, and Bolivia recognized the right to social security in the Constitution. Bolivia would consider the recommendations and report of the Special Rapporteur in detail. The focus on reparation for women victims of violence in the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women was welcome, and she should continue to work for the right of women to not suffer physical, sexual and psychological violence.
ELLEN VAN UYTVANCK (Belgium) said Belgium attached great importance to the rights of women in its foreign policy. The Belgium Minister of Foreign Affairs had reaffirmed the country’s commitment to combating traditional harmful practices and explicitly expressed his support for the work of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. Belgium found the report on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of great value. Belgium regretted that the Special Rapporteur noted limited progress in the implementation of the recommendations from her previous report and that violence against women remained rampant throughout the country, particularly in the east. Therefore, Belgium awaited with great attention the presentation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national action plan, in particular with regard to the recommendations received in the area of the protection of women and children. With respect to the issue of sexual violence, Belgium wanted to raise the fact that the Special Rapporteur had expressed interest in strengthening cooperation with other international human rights mechanisms. The delegation asked if the Special Rapporteur could tell them if and how she would collaborate with the Special Representative on sexual violence in armed conflict.
NADIA LAMRANI (Algeria) said that the Special Rapporteur on the right to health had focused the majority of his report on the issue of sexual orientation. However, given the particularly controversial nature of this issue, Algeria wished that the Special Rapporteur had focused more attention on the universal right to health and not just on one small group of individuals. Furthermore, the recommendation to decriminalise same-sex relations was inappropriate and far outside the scope of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. With regard to social security, Algeria mentioned that it had set up a social safety net in order to protect the elderly and the most vulnerable. Finally, on the topic of violence against women, Algeria had established strategies that not only helped women victims reintegrate into society but they also helped the families and communities surrounding them.
SAMIRA SAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) said Azerbaijan took note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, which focused on reparations to women who had been subjected to violence in both peace and post-conflict situations. The report touched upon a very important and new subject, but the issue of reparations needed to be further theoretically and practically elaborated. In this regard, the report could lead to further constructive dialogue on the subject both at national and international levels. The Government gave high priority to the prevention and combat against violence against women in all its forms, as well as to bringing the perpetrators to justice. Currently, work was underway to draft a law on combating domestic violence - preventing and eliminating domestic violence required a unified and multi-faceted national approach, which would imply active joint work across relevant State institutions to deliver coordinated policy action on this critical issue.
ESAM ABDEL RAHMAN MOHAMED (Sudan) said Sudan thanked the Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty for dealing with the importance of social security and offering provisions for a decent life to all individuals in a country. Sudan had always attached great importance to social security as evidenced through the principle of Zakat, or alms. Islam instructed all people to give part of their income to give to the poor. Banks and special funds had also been set up for the benefit of widows and orphans and the department of Zakat had managed to make many strides, despite limited resources. It had a mutual health insurance programme that covered 120,000 families with a $14 million budget, university student stipends that were given to 36,000 students with an annual budget of $5 million, kafalah for 64,000 orphans with a $36 million budget, drinking water projects for poor rural areas with a $12 million budget and projects for public education for poor families with a $24 million annual budget. The Zakat programme also had a savings bank. Sudan believed this experiment and positive experience in the country had been watched with interest by other countries and Sudan invited the Special Rapporteur to visit the country to see this plan in action.
HARI ODARI (Nepal) said that in Nepal the Government provided health services to all, irrespective of sexual orientation. Concerning the report on extreme poverty, Nepal found it ironic that over one billion people lived in abject poverty, with the most vulnerable being the elderly, women, the disabled and other socially marginalized groups. Nepal thanked the Independent Expert for her report on extreme poverty and for her call to States that they honour their longstanding obligations to reach the 0.7 percent GNP target of development aid to fight extreme poverty. In conclusion, Nepal asserted that the task of ending all gender-based violence was a priority of the Nepalese Government. In 2009-2010, the Government of Nepal had allotted substantial funds to the fight against gender-based violence.
AKIO ISOMATA (Japan) said Japan thanked the mandate-holders for their reports, and with regard to the report on violence against women, the Government attached great importance to this issue, including providing remedies to the women victims. On the issue of so-called comfort women, the Government had conducted a study with the utmost rigour, and had released the findings in August 1993, at which point the Government had issued a statement saying that this was a situation which damaged the honour and dignity of many women, and apologised. This was the position of the Government and had remained so, as the Government wished to deal with this issue in good faith. The Government and the people of Japan had jointly discussed the issue, and established, in 1995, the Asian Women's Fund, to provide aid to the surviving women, in the form of housing projects and atonement money, among others, such as medical and social programmes. A letter was sent to each victim from the Prime Minister, apologising sincerely and expressing remorse for the incurable physical and psychological wounds. The country was painfully aware of its moral responsibility, and faced it squarely.
ALISON LECLAIRE CHRISTIE (Canada) thanked the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for her report on reparations for women subjected to violence, including the areas of participation of women in shaping and implementing reparations programmes, the inclusion of women in determining reparations in post conflict situations and the important work undertaken on a variety of thematic aspects regarding reparations. The Special Rapporteur raised the importance of reparations not just being used to return women to the same state they were in before they experienced violence, but she also outlined how these reparations could be transformative. Canada asked if the Special Rapporteur could expand on this notion and how reparations could address the root causes of violence against women and transform their lives. Canada was also interested in hearing the Special Rapporteur’s views about what role regional consultations played in her mandate. Regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Canada applauded his focus on the impact of criminal codes barring same sex intercourse on the right to health. Canada asked if the Special Rapporteur was currently planning to expand on this area looking at the criminalization of sex between same sex partners.
MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said that Morocco agreed with Ms. Sepulveda’s position that international aid should play an important role for helping developing countries progressively realize the right to social security. Developing countries were in need of technical assistance, which was necessary to address technical constraints, especially in the current financial climate. Morocco was looking into the issues of retirement and pensions and had set up the National Human Development Initiative to assist the most vulnerable members of society, including the elderly, so that they could live a decent life. Morocco had also launched a national commission to look into reforming the national pension system, particularly due to the changing age demographics in Morocco. The Kingdom of Morocco was a pioneer in gender equality and had undertaken several progressive initiatives in this regard, including awareness-raising campaigns and a revision of the penal code to punish acts of sexual violence.
NGUYEN CAM LINH (Viet Nam) said human poverty remained a great concern of the international community as it persisted around the world, a violation of human dignity directly affecting the enjoyment of human rights, leading to discrimination and social disparities. Eliminating it would ensure better implementation of economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights, in particular for vulnerable groups. Over past years, the population of older people was increasing, but many of them did not receive pensions as their work was outside the system. The report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty was important and constructive and it addressed the issue by understanding the human rights impact of the phenomenon. The recommendation provided was appreciated - it was the responsibility of States to establish a social security system which treated all equally, and the international community should provide technical and financial assistance to States to allow them to develop such a system. Older people were a valuable asset of society, and it was the latter's responsibility to care for them. The Independent Expert should explain what recommendations she had to enhance the role of family and society in reducing the vulnerability of older people to poverty.
LUISA F. BONILLA GALVAO DE QUEIROZ (Guatemala) said Guatemala thanked the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for his visit to Guatemala. It was a positive and productive visit and Guatemala awaited his report and recommendations which would help them in their efforts to assist people in attaining the highest standards of health. Guatemala appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the relationship between the right to full health and the criminalization of private sexual conduct between consensual adults. Such criminalization did not just affect the rights of these persons to health, but ran counter to basic human rights such as the right to privacy. The delegation of Guatemala agreed with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women that women had a right to effective remedies. Guatemala had a culture of violence in the country where organized crime was rife; however, in order to tackle and fight this phenomenon they had approved a law against violence against women and they were committed to seeing its full implementation. Guatemala thanked the Independent Expert for her report on extreme poverty and tackling the urgent need of the elderly and their vulnerability. This was an issue of concern for everyone.
ARNOLD DE FINE SKIBSTED (Denmark) said Denmark would focus its observations on the report drafted by Ms. Rashida Manjoo on violence against women. Denmark welcomed the focus of the report on reparations to women and noted the progress, mentioned in the report, achieved by the Rome Statute and the International Court on the issue of violence against women. The physical and psychological harm endured by female victims of sexual violence was daunting. Denmark asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on what could be done to prevent sexual violence. The sad fact was that women continued to be targets of violence in many situations. Given this regrettable reality, Denmark asked how State actors could best promote gender-sensitive compensation and whether the Special Rapporteur had any examples of victim compensation schemes that could serve as inspiration.
VIJAVAT ISARABHAKDI (Thailand) said the report on extreme poverty focused on non-contributory pensions for the elderly, and Thailand agreed that elderly persons were extremely vulnerable to poverty, and States should provide a social security scheme that gave them rights. Investing in non-contributory pensions could play an important role in empowering the elderly and contributing towards the realization of their economic, social and cultural rights. Thailand had an old-age allowance money scheme, as well as other measures to protect the most vulnerable group, disabled older persons. The Government had set up a loan scheme aiming to provide protection, promotion and support, including loans for schemes and health care.
GRISSELLE RODRIGUEZ (Panama) said Panama would like to thank all three mandate holders for their reports and in particular the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty. The report of Ms. Sepúlveda Carmona accurately reflected the role of social tensions in bringing about the rights of the elderly and the delegation echoed the importance of the conclusions and recommendations of the report. The increase in the number of elderly led to many challenges for this segment of the population and Governments must therefore increase their social coverage system. Panama had stopped talking and had started implementing tangible programmes, such as the “One Hundred Programme” in the context of which the Government was giving elderly people 100 Balboa per month when they reached the age of 70.
MARKO HAM (Slovenia) said that combating violence against women was a priority for Slovenia. As such, the Government had established national awareness-raising programmes in addition to specialized police training. The Slovenian delegation was curious to know what were the linkages between the prevention of violence against women, on the one hand, and appropriate reparations on the other. Finally, Slovenia fully supported the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and said that Mr. Grover was within his mandate when addressing the issues of same-sex relations, sexual orientation and HIV transmission, all of which had important health implications that deserved consideration from the Human Rights Council.
MARIE-THERESE PICTET-ALTHANN (Sovereign Military Order of Malta) said caring for the sick and the poor had always been the focus of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and States needed to comply with their commitments to protect the rights of the poor through policies and other means. Criminal laws often impinged upon the right to health, but also upon economic, social and cultural rights, thus undermining ultimately the inherent dignity of persons on whom the international order was based. The impediments caused by stigma, discrimination and violence were incalculable and States should seek to reverse these trends. By focusing on the topic of reparations for women victims of violence, the Special Rapporteur showed the need to assist victims to emerge from the torment they had suffered. On the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta shared the Special Rapporteur's concerns.
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) thanked the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty for her comprehensive report. Yemen supported the statement that Ms. Sepúlveda Carmona had made and asserted that it would take good note of her recommendations. Yemen also supported the Independent Expert when making comments on the need for heightened international cooperation in terms of social security. Yemen had made efforts in investment to try and help the poorest sectors of society to ensure that they too could enjoy their economic and social rights. It was important that the Government had made efforts to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure was in place. In fact, the problem of elderly people needed to be taken up and there were many challenges ahead as there were growing numbers of poor people in developing countries, particularly in least developed countries. Echoing Pakistan’s question, Yemen said that much of the responsibility fell on the shoulders of the international community.
RAOUF CHATTY (Tunisia) said that violence was an offence against human rights and, in the case of today’s discussion, specifically women’s rights. This was an issue that had been neglected for far too long and Tunisia was pleased to note that it was finally taking an important place in human rights discourse. Any form of violence against women was punishable in Tunisia. Committed to combating violence against women, the Tunisian Government had established various initiatives, including awareness-raising campaigns that involved televised programmes and public events. Family planning offices had also been established around the country to help victims.
JUAN HOLGUIN (Ecuador) said Ecuador wished to thank the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty for her report. Ecuador would not read out the statement because it was available on the Intranet.
JASON SIGURDSON, of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said for almost 30 years the world had sought the most effective response to the HIV pandemic. While that challenge had repeatedly shown that a human rights-based approach to HIV was most effective, many States continued to criminalize sexual minorities, drug users, people who engaged in sex work, and people living with HIV. The result was that thousands of people feared or were unable to get tested for HIV, to disclose their HIV status, and to access HIV prevention, treatment and care. For that reason, the Executive Director of UNAIDS had urged countries to “remove punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that blocked effective AIDS responses” one of the corporate priorities of UNAIDS. For those reasons, UNAIDS welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health. UNAIDS hoped that the report would help to generate a constructive debate and catalyze change toward a more rights-based and effective AIDS response.
KATHARINA ROSE, of National Human Rights Commission of India, said that the National Human Rights Commission of India had consistently taken the view that all Indians, especially disadvantaged groups, deserved better access and a higher quality of health care. Systemic improvements needed to be made in the delivery of health care in India. Female infanticide was one of the main issues that the National Human Rights Commission of India had fought against. In this regard, the National Human Rights Commission of India sought to abolish female detection tests during pregnancy as they all too often led to infanticide and were one of the worst forms of discrimination based on gender. Finally, the National Human Rights Commission of India emphasized the need for better training of health practitioners and suggested that all Indian medical students be obliged to do one year of work in a rural part of the country.
JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said that criminal laws in relation to same-sex conduct, sex work and HIV/AIDS transmission were counterproductive and incompatible with the right to health. The recommendations of the Special Rapporteur fell squarely within the health mandate. They were based on existing international human rights standards and were designed to achieve a pragmatic approach to public health goals relative to HIV/AIDS. The principle at stake was no less than universality: the right of all human beings to enjoy all their rights, and it could not be argued that the right to health did not apply to groups that were marginalised or unpopular.
SANDEEP PRASAD, of Federation for Women and Family Planning, in a joint statement with Action Canada for Population and Development, said the Federation for Women and Family Planning welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health on his visit to Poland in 2009. Commenting on the situation prevailing in Poland, The Federation for Women and Family Planning said women encountered barriers that were systemic in nature. Also, restrictive anti-abortion legislation had had a chilling effect both on the provision of legal abortion services and on health-care services that were provided to pregnant women more generally. The “conscience clause” with respect to therapeutic abortion was also seriously abused and pregnant women quite often experienced difficulties in receiving pre-natal tests in public health-care and access to family planning continued to be limited. In order to improve reproductive and sexual rights in Poland, the Government should issue regulations with sanctions obliging public health-care institutions to provide the full range of reproductive health services, improve access to reproductive health-counseling for teenagers, and introduce comprehensive and non-biased sexuality education to schools.
PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said that reparations were an essential part of the right to a remedy. The social stigmatisation and ostracism that could flow from the violence could be as damaging as the violence itself. One result could be the perpetuation of poverty and disempowerment of women and their dependents. Reparation programmes needed to recognize and address this risk. As noted by the Special Rapporteur, ongoing effects of historical injustices on indigenous women required special recognition and culturally appropriate reparations. Concerning the report on the right to health, the criminalization of private consensual sexual behaviour between adults was an attack on the most profound elements of personality and identity – the core of a person’s right to physical and mental integrity. Amnesty International concluded by saying that transgender people were consistently subjected to some of the harshest forms of discrimination and denied their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
CHRISTINA CAMPOS, of European Disability Forum, said in many countries the lack of respect for the equality of persons with disabilities translated into a culture of impunity for violence, and this dangerous situation was often compounded by systematic discrimination against women. Many factors affected women with disabilities, making them more vulnerable and ensuring that acts of violence went unpunished. Special groups such as indigenous women or women with disabilities were at a greater risk of domestic violence and violence committed by the State itself. Women with disabilities had the right to equal access to justice, including procedural and age-appropriate accommodations to make possible their participation in all legal proceedings. Many of the procedural aspects of reparation and legal remedies described in the report of the Special Rapporteur were often inaccessible for women with disabilities.
RENATE BLOEM, of CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, thanked all three Special Rapporteurs for their reports. CIVICUS asked the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequence, whether she could elaborate on how patriarchal understandings, which were so often the reason for systemic violence, could be dismantled. CIVICUS thanked the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty for her very clear demand that Governments, as duty bearers, invest in social protection floors. With regards to the mandate of Mr. Grover, CIVICUS remained particularly concerned about the continuous attacks on civil society in Uzbekistan and asked the Special Rapporteur to pay attention to aspects of criminalization.
CHRISTINA ZAMPAS, of Centre for Reproductive Rights, said the Centre for Reproductive Rights welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, which added to the ever-growing concern by international and regional human rights bodies on Poland’s failure to ensure access to abortion, to make contraceptives accessible to women and to provide comprehensive, evidence-based sexuality education in schools. The response of the Polish Government to these violations had been erratic and divisive, contributing directly to violations of women’s human rights, including the rights to health, life, information, privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Although Poland had one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in Europe and recognized the right to life of the fetus, its law did allow for the termination of pregnancy in limited circumstances. However, in practice, women were often unable to undergo abortions to which they were legally entitled. In conclusion, the Centre for Reproductive Rights affirmed that while women were being denied access to abortions in Poland, the State had done little to support measures to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
MEGUMI FURBAYASHI, of International ATD Fourth World, said rapid population ageing, particularly in developing countries, required an urgent assessment of existing policies to protect older people. The report of the Special Rapporteur drew attention to the need to address the impact of ageing on the enjoyment of everyone's rights, young or old, and was an important addition to the growing body of analysis on the rights of older women and men. Non-contributory or social pensions were key to human rights, and States should recognize that social pensions were critical to reducing extreme poverty and to achieving human rights for older people. Social pensions reached beyond the individual recipient into the family, and should form part of comprehensive social protection strategies to tackle extreme poverty throughout the life cycle. The Human Rights Council should urge Member States to recognize the right to social security in domestic law, and urge Member States to design social pension schemes progressively to ensure access to social security for all.
DAVINIA OVETT BONDI, of Save the Children, thanked the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for his message of support to Save the Children’s campaign “Every One” and for his visit to the organization’s programmes in Afghanistan. In his message of support, the Special Rapporteur had highlighted that nearly 9 million children died each year before the age of five. Save the Children encouraged Governments and other actors to adopt a child rights-based approach to achieving Millennium Development Goal No. 4 and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to provide guidance and a legal framework on how such an approach to child survival could be achieved. Save the Children also encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue addressing maternal mortality in his future country visits.
ELISABETH NYFFENEGGER, of General Arab Women Federation, in a joint statement with General Federation of Iraqi Women, and Union of Arab Jurists, thanked Ms. Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. The General Arab Women Federation was gravely concerned about the current situation of women in Iraq who continued to face threats, violence and ignorance and suggested that the Special Rapporteur deal with this issue in future reports. Furthermore, the General Arab Women Federation asked for the Special Rapporteur to take into account the fact that women associations, which had reported to the Human Rights Council on violations against women, had been targeted by militias and criminal groups that used false fatwas to criminalize the activities of these associations in order to prevent their participation in the work of the Council.
RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, said she thanked everyone for the constructive engagement with the report on reparations. This was the start of a process on reparations through a gender lens, which all should be discussing. Participants were urged to participate in the side event that the mandate was hosting tomorrow afternoon on the report, and to try to find answers to some of the questions that had been raised. With regard to the mission report on Kyrgyzstan, a comment had been made that comments received from the Government were not included therein - all comments received on the first draft that went to the Government had been included in the final version in English. Unfortunately, the comment was on the Russian version, where it was not the case. An increasingly responsive system did lead to more reporting, but that did not mean that statistics were not based on an increase. The comment relating to institutional mechanisms for the protection and promotion of gender equality and women's rights should be linked to the Beijing Platform for Action. There was a danger of conflation, policy development and monitoring all in one Ministry, which would undermine the effectiveness of measures taken to protect and promote women's human rights. Violence against women was both a cause and a consequence of women's inequality, both in policy and practice, and redress could help to reach other societal goals, repairing also structural and systemic violence, and not just individual incidents. A compilation of best practices on reparation would prove effective. It had been a very productive interactive dialogue, and an affirmation on this very important topic.
Right of Reply
JUDE BAPTISTE (Haiti), speaking in a right of reply, said the Haitian delegation has heard the statement made by the non-governmental organization Madre. Those kinds of statements were familiar to the Government. With regards to cases of violence in the shelters, the delegation said police officers were controlling the camps and the Haitian Government had been conducting awareness-raising campaigns in the camps to alert women to the danger of sexual abuse.
KIM DONG-JO (Republic of Korea), speaking in a right of reply, wished to respond to earlier comments made by the State of Japan on the issue of the comfort women. Reparations needed to be made. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had recently pointed out that this issue remained unresolved and the Republic of Korea asked the Government of Japan to address this matter urgently.
YUJI YAMAMOTO (Japan), speaking in a right of reply, said the Government of Japan recognized the issue of comfort women as one that severely injured the honour and dignity of many women and the Government had expressed its sincere remorse and apologised. As for the problems of repatriations, property and other World War Two claims, Japan would not repeat what it had said before.
For use of the information media; not an official record