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Council holds interactive dialogue on discrimination against women in law and practice and on the right to education

Human Rights Council 
MIDDAY/AFTERNOON

16 June 2014

Concludes Clustered Debate on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and on the Human Rights of Migrants
 

The Human Rights Council today held a clustered interactive debate with Frances Raday, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, and Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the right to education. The Human Rights Council also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau.

Ms. Raday, presenting the report of the Working Group, said that discrimination against women, especially in pregnancy and motherhood, existed globally. In employment, wage gaps persisted, with job segregation and women clustered in service sector jobs with inferior working conditions. The fact that care functions were performed largely by women created a major structural barrier to women’s equal economic opportunity. She spoke about the Working Group’s missions to Iceland and China.

Mr. Singh, introducing his report, stated that the assessment of educational achievements should be driven by a human rights-based approach. A holistic approach, which was broader than a performance evaluation of mathematical literacy and language skills only, was preferred as it included the assessment of the educational attainments of students to include all obligations relating to the right to education under international human rights law. He spoke about his mission to Seychelles.

Iceland, China and Seychelles spokes as concerned countries.

In the discussion on the right to education, speakers agreed that a shift must occur in national assessment systems to ensure that the right to education was delivered in the most responsible way, but also warned against those mechanisms replicating educational, social and other forms of inequality. There should be a move towards a more holistic approach which incorporated essential human rights objectives and curriculum and promoted peaceful coexistence. Despite the progress in recent years, girls continued to suffer severe disadvantages and exclusion in the education system; further efforts were needed to ensure that every girl completed a full course of primary education of good quality.

Concerning discrimination against women, speakers said that even though a significant number of countries had adopted anti-discrimination measures, these had not resulted in equality of opportunity in women’s economic and social lives. In many developed countries austerity measures had been adopted with devastating effects on women and violence continued to be yet another obstacle to women’s equal opportunity. Speakers supported the recommendation to eliminate all discriminatory law and practices which prevented girl children from accessing education, including early and child marriages, and asked how discrimination against women should be considered in the post-2015 development agenda.

The following delegations took the floor during the interactive dialogue: Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), United Arab Emirates (on behalf of a Cross-regional Group of 59 states), Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), European Union, Estonia, Republic of Korea, Maldives, United States, Algeria, Qatar, Kuwait, Cuba, Morocco, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Finland, Venezuela, Portugal, Austria, Israel, Syria, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Chile, China, Lebanon, Switzerland, Slovenia, Namibia, Argentina, Georgia, Colombia, Paraguay, Italy, Australia, El Salvador, Malaysia, Congo, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Pakistan, Ecuador, Iran, Poland, Burkina Faso, Spain, Togo, Mexico, Norway, France, Viet Nam, Armenia, Brazil, Niger, Denmark, Thailand, India, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Uruguay.

The following non-governmental organizations also partook in the discussion: Centre for Reproductive Rights, Federatie van Nederlands Verenigingen tot Integraties Van Homoseksualiteit, Mouvement Mondial des Mères International, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Save the Children International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Plan International, Inc, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education, and Foodfirst Information and Action Network.

At the beginning of the afternoon meeting, the Council concluded its clustered interactive debate with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau. The clustered interactive dialogue with the two Special Rapporteurs started on Friday, 13 June in the afternoon and a summary of the presentations by the Special Rapporteurs and the first part of the dialogue can be seen here. Mr. Crepeau also made his concluding remarks on 13 June.

During the discussion, speakers stressed the importance of providing proper and complete information to migrant workers before they undertook their journey, and equipping them with tools to demand their rights. All Member States had the obligation to cooperate on this issue while providing protection and promotion of all migrants’ human rights and fundamental freedoms, as migrants were a particularly vulnerable group. The importance of judicial accountability was also emphasized in the interactive debate.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Knaul said that it was distressing that in some regions lawyers were still subjected to significant interference, threats and even murders. Judicial accountability was not and should not be used as a tool for reprisals, and States should clearly define how these mechanisms would be implemented to prevent misuse. Concerning good practices, Ms. Knaul underlined the importance of transparent disciplinary procedures as well as of codes of conduct that embraced rules concerning the individual exercise of professional functions, including the specific activities and conduct, conditions of work, specific actions for which they should be accountable and respective sanctions.

Speaking in the discussion on the independence of judges and lawyers and the human rights of migrants today were Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sudan, Mexico, and Ireland. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Save the Children International, Lawyers for Lawyers, Espace Afrique International, International Commission of Jurists, Federatie van Nederlands Verenigingen tot Integraties Van Homoseksualiteit, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales y Conectar Direitos Humanos, and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

When the Council reconvenes at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 June, it will hold its annual full-day discussion on women’s rights. This will start with a panel discussion on the impact of gender stereotypes and gender stereotyping on the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of women’s human rights. In the afternoon, the panel discussion will focus on the intersections between realizing women's rights and achieving sustainable development. The interactive dialogue with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice and with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education will resume at noon tomorrow.


Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and on Migrants

Sudan said that international migration continued to occupy an important place on the international agenda. A constructive dialogue was needed between developing and developed countries. Sudan welcomed the holding of the 2013 High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and the outcomes of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Philippines said that it required that all its migrant workers underwent pre-departure orientation seminars before they left for work abroad, and to ensure they, as well as their families left behind were covered by mandatory health insurance. The Government was proactively and systematically providing information on positive and negative aspects of overseas employment. Bangladesh said that the problems of irregular migrants could be addressed through appropriate measures. Member States of the United Nations had agreed to promote and protect effectively human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their status, and to cooperate on labour mobility programmes, among others, but these commitments were not being met.

Ireland said that the topic of judicial accountability was an important and delicate subject and was interested in the focus of the Special Rapporteur on a range of accountability measures. Ireland took special note of the recommendation on the monitoring by States of the implementation by businesses of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Were there prospects for cooperation between the Special Rapporteur and the Working Group on business and human rights? Thailand appreciated that the concept of judicial accountability had been examined and shared the view that justice operators should be accountable for their actions, conduct or decisions. Thailand shared the concern that migrants were vulnerable to labour exploitation and concurred that the fundamental human rights of migrants should be ensured regardless of their legal status. Mexico said that the investigations of the Special Rapporteur into workplace exploitation of migrant workers had provided substantive elements to consider. Mexico had sought to contribute to addressing appropriately many of the issues contained in the report, including through the creation of spaces such as the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development.

American Civil Liberties Union said that across the United States domestic workers and foreign nationals employed on a temporary basis, known as guest workers, were subjected to numerous civil and human rights violations due to deficiencies in the regulatory system. The United States should enhance oversight of temporary visa programmes and labour conditions. Amnesty International shared the Special Rapporteur’s concerns with regard to the serious flaws in Qatar’s laws which gave rise to abuse of low-income migrant workers and welcomed his clear recognition of the responsibilities of migrant workers’ countries of origin in preventing abuses, as well as the role which businesses must play in line with the Guiding Principles. Save the Children International, speaking on behalf of the Inter-Agency Group on Children on the Move, called on States to translate into action the commitments outlined in the Declaration of the 2013 High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development and the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child following its 2012 discussion on the rights of children in the context of migration.

Lawyers for Layers, in a joint statement, expressed concern about the situation of lawyers, including prosecutions and abuses for carrying out their professional activities, in Iran, Turkey and Russia, among others. States should refrain from prosecuting lawyers with the purpose of silencing them and the Council should take measures to end harassment with impunity. Espace Afrique International said it was necessary to identify concrete measures and actions to strengthen cooperation in the management of migratory fluxes in order to have a positive impact on the lives of migrants and reduce as much as possible the negative effects of migration.

International Commission of Jurists said that the greatest obstacle to the legal and institutional reforms in Russia was a pervasive mind-set amongst judges who saw themselves as executive officials rather than as exercising an autonomous judicial role. Federatie van Nederlands Verenigingen tot Integraties Van Homoseksualiteit, also on behalf of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, said that 77 countries criminalized same-sex relations, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender migrants were frequently marginalized and viewed suspiciously by employers. Asian Legal Resource Centre said that in Bangladesh, justice institutions remained under the absolute control of incumbent governments, while in Pakistan, due to lack of accountability, the judiciary often exceeded its mandate and interfered with the principle of separation of powers.

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales y Conectar Direitos Humanos stated that there ought to be a paradigm shift regarding the protection of migrants, which had to be human rights based. It was urgent that Brazil adopted a new migration law, following the footsteps of other countries in Central and Latin America. Sudwind expressed concern over recent executions of two Iranian Arab farmers and cultural rights activists, and an additional four Sunni prisoners who had been sentenced to death. Sudwind noted that no Special Rapporteur had been permitted to visit Iran since 2005. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that the Egyptian justice system had demonstrated almost zero tolerance for any form of dissent, banning opposition groups and issuing arrest warrants against journalists and members of youth movements. Arbitrary detention continued to be used against dissenters on a large scale.

Concluding Remarks

GABRIELA KNAUL, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, speaking in concluding remarks, thanked Russia for its engagement with the mandate and noted, among her key findings, the wide powers of the Russian Executive to appoint key judicial officers and urged the Government to carefully consider the situation of the legal profession in the country. It was distressing that in some regions lawyers were still subjected to significant interference, threats and even murders. Ms. Knaul also drew attention to the ways in which accountability mechanisms could be used to impose restrictions on lawyers and their professional activities; and, in this context, expressed concern about cases in Venezuela, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Judicial accountability was not and should not be used as a tool for reprisals, and States should clearly define how these mechanisms would be implemented to prevent misuse. Concerning good practices, Ms. Knaul underlined the importance of transparent disciplinary procedures as well as of codes of conduct that embraced rules concerning the individual exercise of professional functions, including the specific activities and conduct, conditions of work, specific actions for which they should be accountable and respective sanctions. With regards to the oversight of judges and prosecutors, independent bodies tasked with holding them accountable should also be created. Concerning reprisals against individuals cooperating with the Council and its mechanisms, Ms. Knaul expressed concern about the case of Osama Al-Najjar, an activist held in detention and allegedly tortured in the United Arab Emirates for his human rights activism, including cooperation with the mandate.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report by the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, by Chairperson Ms. Frances Raday (A/HRC/26/39), as well as on the Working Group missions to China (A/HRC/26/39/Add.2) and Iceland (A/HRC/26/39/Add.1)

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Mr. Kishore Singh (A/HRC/26/27), as well as on his mission report on the Seychelles (A/HRC/26/27/Add.1)

Presentations by the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

FRANCES RADAY, Chairperson-rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, said that discrimination against women, especially in pregnancy and motherhood, existed globally. In employment, wage gaps persisted, with job segregation and women clustered in service sector jobs with inferior working conditions. There was a severe gender gap in top economic leadership at both the international and national levels. Good practice included mandating gender quotas for corporate boards and for procurement contracts. The fact that care functions were performed largely by women created a major structural barrier to women’s equal economic opportunity. States had to overcome such barriers to facilitate choice by women and men in allocating care duties in order to reconcile work and family; burdens of care ought to be reduced. Gender-based violence remained an obstacle to women’s equal economic opportunity, including domestic violence and harassment in workplaces. The right to gender equality had to both be mainstreamed into all post-2015 development goals and remain a stand-alone goal.

Turning to the Working Group’s country visits, Ms. Raday said that, over the previous four decades, Iceland had developed a legal and policy framework for achieving full gender equality, based on a vibrant women’s movement, political will of successive governments and high levels of women’s participation in Parliament and Government. Iceland was a world leader in measures to balance work and family life. The Working Group had nonetheless observed the persistence of a gender wage gap and job market segregation. Regarding the visit to China in December 2013, Ms. Raday noted that while gender equality was guaranteed in the Constitution and national policy documents, women were severely under-represented at higher levels of decision-making. Reforms to facilitate women’s civil society organizations needed to be deepened. With the privatization of childcare, there had been a fall in labour market participation and an increase in the gender wage gap in the private sector. There was a sense of urgency to make good on the promises of existing law and policy in order to advance women’s equality in practice.

KISHORE SINGH, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, introducing his report on the Assessment of Students’ Educational Attainment and the Implementation of the Right to Education, said that the assessment of educational achievements should be driven by a human rights-based approach. Mr. Singh emphasized the need and importance of a holistic approach which was broader than the narrow approach of performance evaluation of mathematical literacy and language skills only, including the assessment of the educational attainments of students to include all obligations relating to the right to education under international human rights law. This was particularly important for students from vulnerable groups and those who were under-performing, who were often overlooked in aggregated statistics.

The report expressed concern that in the rush to expand education for all, there have been insufficient efforts to maintain quality. In many countries, students were being promoted through their mandatory primary education without any assessments, which may result in the degradation of quality standards and poor quality learning attainments. Another notable limitation of assessment systems was the scant attention paid to the role of education in promoting sustainable development. Many countries had adopted national assessment systems which broadened the scope of the educational assessment of students which were useful in considering how assessment systems could be developed to evaluate educational attainments, going beyond a narrow approach limited to mathematical literacy and language skills. The report dealt with technical and vocational education and training as an integral part of the right to basic education at the secondary level to specifically underline the need for special assessment modalities in this field. It also identified novel approaches to assess technical and vocational education and training programmes, with examples from some countries to show that new mechanisms were emerging.

Concerning his visit to Seychelles, the first visit by a Special Rapporteur to the country, Mr. Singh said that its education system had followed an exemplary path for a small island developing State and commended public spending on education, at over 4 per cent, and the establishment of the University of Seychelles in 2009. The state of the teaching profession and the growing shortage of teachers were issues of concern and the Special Rapporteur urged the Government to further develop and implement necessary quality norms and standards, within the framework of the Education Sector Medium Term Strategy 2013-2017.

Statements by Concerned Countries

China, speaking as a concerned country, stated that the Working Group had had a very rich agenda during its country visit, meeting with a high number of Government, non-governmental and academic representatives. China was willing to give serious consideration to the pertinent recommendations in the report. Gender equality was clearly specified in China’s Constitution, for which firm legislative provisions were in place. In practice, comprehensive measures had been taken to ensure women’s equal participation in social and economic development, but further efforts were clearly still necessary in that regard.

Iceland, speaking as a concerned country, noted that for the previous five years, Iceland had ranked number one in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. Iceland was hopeful that the Plan of Action on Gender Equality Regarding Wages from 2012 would help bridge the still existing gender pay gap. Social services for families ought to be further strengthened. Measures for protection against violence in intimate relationships were also to be emphasized. A way had to be found to increase men’s participation in the discussion. Gender equality and women’s empowerment were among Iceland’s focus areas in the deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda.

Seychelles, speaking as a concerned country, said that the highest authorities and decision makers in the country were constantly striving to ensure that quality education of the highest quality was provided to children from primary through to tertiary level. Seychelles recognized that an integrated and holistic approach to education was central to ensuring sustainable development, in order to strengthen the solid foundation for a better future. The Government was prioritizing its efforts to foster a stronger collaborative relationship with the private and civil sectors with the view of stimulating public interest in enhancing the national educational system.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice and the Special Rapporteur on Education

Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that women still faced discrimination in social and economic spheres and stressed that States’ responses to economic crises must include gender equality. Education was a way to eradicate poverty and commitments of the international community to deliver primary education must be fulfilled. A shift must occur in national assessment systems to ensure that the right to education was delivered in the most responsible way. United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of a Cross-Regional Group of 59 States, strongly condemned attacks on girls because they attended school and the abduction of 200 girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Despite the progress made in recent years, girls continued to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in the education system. The Cross-Regional Group urged States to ensure that every girl completed a full course of primary education of good quality. Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that gender disparity remained a problem and reiterated that a growing emphasis was being placed on the importance of providing quality and comprehensive education systems for future generations; education policies should focus on supporting countries with their workforce development to meet the challenges of human and economic development.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, agreed that a holistic approach was necessary for achieving the right to education and believed that it should also include consideration of age appropriate education in view of existing socio-cultural sensitivities. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation agreed that discrimination laws that deprived women of their economic and social rights should be reviewed and said that “care functions” should be analysed in terms of women’s free will to choose between employment and care functions or manage both. European Union said that eliminating discrimination against women in economic life was a rights issue but also a matter of smart economic policies as research showed that empowering women benefitted the economic development of societies. Concerning the right to education, the European Union said that consultations were ongoing concerning the post-2015 education agenda, both as it concerned the Education for All framework and the post-2015 development agenda and asked the Special Rapporteur about priority initiatives that could play a central role in advancing quality education within those agendas.

Republic of Korea shared the concern that there still remained many structural disadvantages and points of discrimination throughout a woman’s life all around the world and said the gap between de jure equality and de facto discrimination should be overcome. On education, the Republic of Korea shared the opinion that there should be a move towards a more holistic approach which incorporated essential human rights objectives. Estonia found that gender segregation in the economic and social sphere should be taken into account by the State comprehensively through all its policies, in order to reduce inequalities. The gender pay gap in Estonia was the greatest in the European Union and the Government was addressing this severe issue with a national action plan for reducing this gap. Maldives said that women’s access to education, health and employment had to be facilitated and encouraged. Maldives wished to identify the role of men in eliminating discrimination against women, especially those currently in decision-making and policy-level. It agreed that technical and vocational training as well as developing quality innovative programmes could strengthen efforts to provide quality education.

United States appreciated the Working Group’s recognition of the importance of providing girls with access to a high-quality primary and secondary education. Although significant progress had been made, education remained another important factor to consider in any discussion on economic and social participation. On education, although the United States did not have a national curriculum, it regularly implemented assessments. Algeria said that women in Algeria had the same access as men to mechanisms to help in the creation of socio-economic activities. The Special Rapporteur’s mention of the importance of an approach based on human rights in developing assessment systems had been noted. Since 2003, Algeria had committed to a comprehensive reform of the education system, so extensive that it was essentially a reworking of the whole system.

Qatar believed that it was important that national educational systems contained a human rights curriculum and promoted peaceful coexistence. Qatar was focused on the knowledge-based economy, and the training of teachers was underway in order to better adapt the educational system to the current needs. Qatar’s educational budget was continuously increasing. Kuwait said that education was a prerequisite for any country’s development. Kuwait had supported programmes which consolidated and promoted human rights in education, the awareness raising of which was important. It had introduced a new subject in its educational system in order to increase overall understanding of the Constitution, human rights and international humanitarian law. Cuba agreed that discrimination against women was much starker due to the current international financial crisis. Salary differences and failures to fully implement maternity care and protection policies, and the persistence of violence against women, had prevented women from making greater advancement. Cuban women had made significant progress over the 55 years of the revolution, but more remained to be done.

Morocco noted that in many regions, discriminatory laws against women continued to negatively affect the overall conditions of women. The Moroccan Constitution promoted the equality of women and men in public and private areas, and a number of relevant international covenants had been ratified. Morocco’s experience with gender-sensitive budgeting had been globally acknowledged as pioneering. Morocco had a governmental plan on equality for the period from 2012 till 2016. Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie endorsed Mr. Singh’s recommendations to develop competencies of teachers to promote a holistic approach to education. Since the Summit of Francophonie in 2006, the Organisation had been carrying out innovative and exemplary initiatives to adapt to the needs of populations in the Francophone areas. Education for girls was decisive for the quality of life of girls, women, families and communities in general.

Austria said there were far too many women around the world suffering from economic and social exclusions, far too many discriminatory laws, and far too many roles and responsibilities assigned to women and men on the basis of stereotypes that often put women in a subordinate status. Could the Working Group further elaborate which legal and policy measures would most urgently be needed in China to remedy the situation? Venezuela said that in many developed countries austerity measures had been adopted with devastating effects on women. In Venezuela there had been huge efforts undertaken to ensure the empowerment of women, with women’s economic independence as a goal. It agreed on the importance of developing and applying innovative evaluation systems pursuant to human rights standards. Israel said that even though a significant number of countries had adopted anti-discrimination measures, these had not resulted in equality of opportunity in women’s economic and social lives. It noted with great concern how violence continued to be yet another obstacle to women’s equal opportunity. Israel was proud to have developed robust training programmes on the issue of women’s economic empowerment and independence.

Portugal recalled that the Special Rapporteur had recommended that treaty bodies and United Nations agencies play a role in fostering the development of educational assessment systems that met international human rights standards. Portugal asked the Special Rapporteur what role he believed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education could play to ensure system-wide coherence in that regard. Finland said it was valuable to notice that gender norms shaped roles in society from a very early age. As a result of questioning and breaking down gender norms and stereotypes everyone, girls and boys, women and men, could possibly get more choices regarding their studies and work. It was of utmost importance to change the gender pay gap. Could the Working Group elaborate on best practices that aimed to close the gender pay gap?

Syria said that in order to provide educational opportunities it had established an electronic system of schooling and an electronic national assessment centre, while a report to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization had described in detail challenges in the country. Sri Lanka agreed that education was invaluable for the preservation of cultural identity and had launched in January 2012 a ten-year national plan for tri-lingual education. In addition to eliminating discriminatory laws and attitudes, Sri Lanka had taken steps to support the employment of women affected by the conflict in the North. Ireland noted the recommendation to eliminate all discriminatory laws and practices which prevented girl children from accessing education, including early and child marriages, and asked how discrimination against women should be considered in the post-2015 development agenda. Ireland also asked how education should be considered in the context of the post-2015 development agenda to ensure a human rights-based approach and which role civil society organizations had to play in this process.

Chile was developing a new gender agenda to ensure autonomy and equality for women in their economic, social and cultural rights, and that gender equality was mainstreamed throughout the public policies. The purpose of national assessment mechanisms was to improve the quality of education, but they might also reproduce educational and other forms of inequality, said Chile and inquired about three main strategies to ensure that the education system was more inclusive. China attached the highest importance to the quality of education and vocational training and said that quality in education was taking big strides. China was willing to deepen collaboration with other countries in order to train people of highest quality.

Lebanon said that the question of gender equality required persistent efforts from both the government and civil society; and, concerning the right to education, inquired about the role of technical assistance in the field of education. Switzerland shared the concern about laws that directly discriminated against women’s rights and hoped that this issue would be reflected in the post-2015 development agenda across all relevant indicators; and inquired about examples of how business could contribute. Slovenia said that they were witnessing unacceptable incidents around the world. Gender-related crimes were manifestations of inequality between men and women, stressing that changes in the law only slowly achieved a practical impact in practice.

Namibia said that assessment systems had to be reviewed to ensure their relevance and supported the discussion of education in the post-2015 development agenda. Namibia continued to support inclusive education through several measures, including measures targeting vulnerable groups. Gender parity had been achieved in primary and secondary education and current plans were targeting outstanding issues. Argentina had made an effort to ensure that the economic and financial crisis would have no impact on the enjoyment of rights. Women played an important role in the economy, and Argentina agreed that Constitutional guarantees, the elimination of discriminatory legislation, and a framework to combat discrimination were necessary.

Italy firmly believed that education was at the core of development and that guaranteeing equal access to quality education was a crucial responsibility of States. What should the key factors on which to focus training programmes for teachers be? Noting that the existence of laws did not always eliminate discrimination in employment and wages, what measures could be taken in order to guarantee that laws were properly enforced and implemented? Georgia said that significant steps had been made to improve national legislation and it attached particular attention to the rights of minorities. The Government was extremely concerned over the humanitarian and human rights consequences of the barbed wire fences in the occupied regions. Local ethnic Georgian populations were deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to receive education in their mother tongue.

Colombia said there was strong Government commitment to eliminate discrimination against women. Education of children, adolescents and women and their empowerment were vital. On discrimination in economic and social life, women had to enjoy their right to maternity and have a fair distribution of the work of caring. Colombia reiterated its firm commitment to gender equality. Paraguay agreed that inequality in the economic sphere between men and women contributed to perpetuating stereotypes which kept women as subordinates, and insured that women continued to be employed in the informal sector, with a significant pay gap. There had been significant progress in the country. Paraguay had ratified the main international relevant instruments and its national standards were falling into line with these. Australia said that its anti-discrimination legislation and policies upheld its commitment to equal rights for women. Australia agreed that gender-based violence against women could severely impact and restrict women’s economic and social potential, including access to education and employment. Keeping women and their families safe was the most fundamental step towards ensuring their security and prosperity.

El Salvador said that education should be addressed from a human rights perspective; quality education was still an aspiration to be met in El Salvador; real equality for women should be fought for, making a difference in practice such as ensuring equal pay for equal work. Malaysia viewed education as essential for the enjoyment of rights and had implemented measures to ensure that the educational system continued to progress in line with national economic development plans; the goal was to prepare children to face the challenges of the century while promoting a feeling of nationhood. Republic of Congo said that access to education was a priority for the Government. The right to education was guaranteed by the Constitution and was free until the age of 16, providing access for a large number of children. In cooperation with United Nation agencies, among others, initiatives to improve access to education for indigenous children had been implemented.

United Arab Emirates said that discrimination against women could be caused by national legislation that assumed women enjoyed equitable access. Fostering equitable access and preventing exploitation in the work place were therefore very important, fighting discrimination was not enough. The Government had implemented legislation and monitoring mechanisms to provide protection to foreign labourers. Belgium said that the report of the Working Group threw light on discriminatory laws towards women and their serious economic and social consequences. Equal sharing at home should be promoted to allow both women and men to thrive in their personal and professional lives, including equal and non-transferable maternal and paternal leaves. Belgium had put in place a number of measures to this end and it asked the Working Group whether paternity leave should be made mandatory.

Pakistan believed that the economic empowerment of women meant a more efficient use of a nation’s human capital endowment. This would contribute to reducing gender inequality and enhancing productivity and economic growth. In order to provide economic opportunities and increase the participation of women at the top echelons in the public sector, a 10 per cent quota had been reserved for women in the civil service. Change was sweeping the education sector in Ecuador which had invested over $ one billion in educational infrastructure, trained teachers who played a key role in the education system, and put in place access to education using cutting edge technology. The national evaluation of the education sector had pinpointed the areas for change.

Iran had made substantial progress in education and had increased enrolment in secondary education from two million children in 1970 to eight million children in 2009. Any assessment of education should take into consideration developmental grounds of the society and particular necessities of people, which holistic human rights-based approach might not accomplish. Iran had made considerable progress in combating discrimination against women despite crippling sanctions against the country. Poland said gender equality was an important condition for development and economic growth and thanked the Working Group for drawing attention to the situation of elderly women and disparities between women and men in matters of pension. Burkina Faso had adopted legislative measures to fight all forms of discrimination against women, including the law on guaranteeing equal access to land for men and women. Public awareness campaigns were in place to combat prejudices and traditional practices that fostered discrimination against women, including violence.

Spain congratulated the Working Group for their efforts in fighting discrimination against women. The Government of Spain had a comprehensive approach to ensure equality between men and women, and looked forward to the upcoming visit of the Working Group. The Government had programmes in place to support female entrepreneurs and innovators. Togo said that economic empowerment of women was a precondition for the faster development of the community and country as a whole. Togo was placing emphasis on the equality of boys and girls in schools, and provided free primary education. The Government was continuing with its efforts to strengthen the position of women, but could not do it all on its own and needed the support of the international community. Mexico was convinced that States had a duty to ensure the access of their citizens to education and to do all they could to provide the highest standards of education. In Mexico, the fundamental right to quality education was spelled out in the legislation, and there was an independent national institution in place to evaluate the education system.

Norway noted that, even though a lot had been achieved, many anti-discriminatory measures had not resulted in equality of opportunity in women’s economic and social lives. It was thus essential to adopt a transformative agenda that eliminated the cultural and structural barriers to women’s equal opportunity. Could the Working Group elaborate on the need for a gender-responsive and effective accountability system? France agreed with the Working Group that a human rights dimension ought to be included in States’ educational curricula, which was already the case in France. It shared the view that affirmative action was necessary in order to increase the representation of women in all decision making positions in the economic sector. It was essential to fight against gender stereotypes from a very early age and in all spheres of social life.

Viet Nam agreed that women’s right to equality in economic, social and cultural rights was substantive and immediate and enforceable and States should ensure the exercise of those rights under conditions of equality and free from discrimination. States should uphold the principle that education of the child should be directed to the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language, national values and for civilizations different from their own. Armenia shared concerns about barriers preventing access to education for girls and stressed the importance of breaking down gender stereotypes in school curricula. States must ensure that national education systems met the conditions and standards inscribed in international treaties and Armenia recognized the value of peace education, particularly in conflict and post-conflict societies.

Brazil drew attention to the disproportionate number of women in the informal economy, holding precarious jobs; women also suffered from a considerable pay gap. Legislation was needed to ensure more balanced labour relations between women and men. The Constitution of Niger guaranteed the full enjoyment of women’s rights and their participation in public and political life. The strategic plan 2012-2015 on gender mainstreaming set as its objective literacy, the fight against violence against women, participation in decision making and others. Ensuring girls’ access to education was one of the single most effective ways of promoting gender equality and women’s rights, said Denmark and asked the Special Rapporteur about the role of education in ensuring greater tolerance and respect for human rights.

Indonesia shared the view of the Working Group that women’s right to equality in economic and social rights should be substantive and immediate. Indonesia had put in place a strong legal framework to provide for each individual on its territory to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights without discrimination. Indonesia continued to empower women by providing broader access to financial resources as well as training. Thailand concurred that despite the existence of gender equality enshrined in the constitutions of States and legislation to combat discrimination against women, there remained an implementation gap and structural barriers in both public and private spheres. Thailand shared the view that States needed not only to remove barriers to girls’ access to education, but should also follow-up and monitor completion of education and provide incentives to keep girls in schools. Uruguay agreed on the need to implement the right to education through a comprehensive human rights perspective. Uruguay’s laws included all international instruments ratified by Uruguay. Efforts had to be made to overcome the gender division of labour.

India said that its Government’s efforts were directed not only at adopting a comprehensive legislative and policy framework for the advancement of women but also at raising social awareness on the issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment to fight deep-rooted social prejudices and stereotypes. India agreed with recommendations on the need to adopt a comprehensive human rights-based approach to national student assessments. Sierra Leone said that legislation alone would not ensure that women could secure top positions in the economic sector. Women needed to be provided with the high-level education and skills that were required to be able to compete with men in these sectors. While it was the duty of the State to protect against human rights abuses by private actors, it was equally important to ensure that remedies for rights violations were readily accessible.

Centre for Reproductive Rights Inc, in a joint statement, regretted that the Government of Slovakia had failed to respond to the questions posed by the Working Group. The Centre asked the Working Group to follow-up with the Government on these concerns and to consider recommending taking concrete steps to ensure effective access to contraceptives for all women. COC Netherlands drew attention to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women, including the acknowledgement that women were not a homogeneous group. When women were denied their sexual and reproductive rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women were discriminated against, they were also denied access to education, employment, and excluded from public life. Make Mothers Matter said that, while recognising the critical importance of the empowerment for women’s rights and gender equality, reality showed that such a goal was not easy to achieve. Women’s juggling between work and care responsibilities resulted in stress and time poverty, and came at a price for families and children.

International Buddhist Relief Organization said that the educational deprivation of Dalit had occurred throughout their history as a result of the caste system, and urged the Council to call on India to take a more proactive role in the education of Dalit students. Save the Children stressed that as access and attendance to education had improved, new and major challenges had come to light, including educational inequity and extremely low levels of learning. They encouraged States to include four specific mechanisms for promoting equity in post-2015 education goals: disaggregated targets, stepping stone targets to reduce learning gaps, measuring targets across all social and income groups, and making schools accessible and safe.

Action Canada for Population and Development emphasized the importance of comprehensive sexuality education as a central component to the realization of women, young people and adolescents’ right to information. Failing to do so would be a gross violation of their human rights. Plan International, Inc. was concerned by the lack of attention in Mr. Singh’s report given to the vulnerable situation for girls, especially in the context of safety in school environments. The elimination of violence in schools needed to be recognized as a prerequisite for getting all children into schools and keeping them there.

International Organization for the Rights to Education and Freedom of Education, speaking on behalf of a number of non-governmental organizations, affirmed that assessment of the educational attainment of students was essential for measuring the quality of education. The importance of providing teachers with additional training and support was paramount. Foodfirst Information and Action Network noted that wherever the right to adequate food was violated or threatened, women and girls were often the most severely affected. Of special concern were the gender differentiated impacts of extractive industries, which mostly employed men, leaving women behind in their households.

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For use of the information media; not an official record