GENEVA (26 September 2016) - The Human Rights Council this morning held its annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Council and its mechanisms, which focused on gender integration in the resolutions and recommendations of the Human Rights Council.
Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in opening remarks recalled the Council’s resolution 6/30 nine years ago, which called for the systematic integration of gender into all aspects of the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Gender integration was essential to the advance of human rights; it was relevant to all aspects of prosperity, peace and development. Although there had been progress, damaging gaps still needed to be filled, particularly in country resolutions which continued to neglect the fact that conflict and crisis were lived very differently by women and men. It was time for the condemnation of gender-based violence to be transformed into effective gender integrated action for the sake of human justice.
Rama Mani, Senior Research Associate, University of Oxford Centre for International Studies and Co-Founder, Rising Women Rising World, and panel moderator, said that the panel would showcase how Member States and civil society could play a role in fulfilling the mandate of gender integration, and examine the causes for great steps forward, but also backsliding and backlash. Gender was a social and cultural construct, she said and urged States not to treat women and girls simply as victims, but to give them capacity and full agency.
Boudjemâa Delmi, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, concerning the implementation of the Council’s resolution 20/4 on the elimination of gender-based discrimination in nationality, stressed the responsibility of States to prevent statelessness and to determine through its laws who was entitled to citizenship. Algeria had reformed its nationality law, to allow the transmission of nationality through maternal descent, and also to guarantee nationality to all children born in Algeria, including for single mothers who could now transfer their nationality and name to their children.
Christine Brautigam, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division of UN Women, said that a request by Member States for a resolution to reflect a gender perspective in a report was a first step for a substantive consideration of gender equality implications in the issue under consideration. There was a need to improve gender analysis in sectoral areas to help in formulating gender-responsive policy and action, while a critical factor for advancing gender equality was women’s activism and building the knowledge base on the gender perspective in the area of human rights.
Juan Ernesto Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said that despite constituting a minority of the total prison population, women and girls were at particular risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention, not only within the criminal justice system, but also at immigration detention centres, medical establishments and drug rehabilitation centres. The adoption of the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders in 2010 had been a crucial step in filling the existing gap in international standards and addressed gender-specific needs and circumstances of female offenders and prisoners.
Aoife Hegarty, Programme Manager, UPR Info, said that during the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review process, recommendations related to women’s rights and gender triggered highest action by mid-term. All States should collect and disseminate disaggregated data that should be qualitatively analysed and discussed in the national report, in order to help monitor gender-related advancements. The Universal Periodic Review was instrumental in the advancement of gender on the international agenda, and equality and women’s rights were a permanent and integrated discussion by all States.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers stressed the obligation to turn commitments on gender equality into concrete results, for which mainstreaming gender into national policies and the work of the United Nations was vital. Gender imbalance still existed in many of the Council’s mechanisms and in the treaty bodies, and it was thus an obligation of Member States to consider gender balance as a key criterion when voting for candidates for Special Procedures mandates. Several speakers raised the issue of social norms which locked women into unequal power relations, and said that the Council must address discriminatory laws, practices and customs through its resolutions, and ensure genuine gender mainstreaming. The Council should also deal with issues of sexual coercion, forced pregnancy, female genital mutilation, child and early marriage, and gender-based and sexual violence from a human rights perspective.
Speaking in the discussion were Viet Nam, European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dominican Republic on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Austria on behalf of four countries, Sweden on behalf of a group of eight Nordic-Baltic countries, Qatar, United Kingdom, Ireland, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Palau, Cuba, China, Italy, Australia, Georgia, Pakistan, Russia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Venezuela, Libya, Turkey, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (joint statement), United Nations Watch, Plan International, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Action Canada for Population and Development, World Young Women’s Christian Association, and Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development.
The Human Rights Council is holding a full day of meetings today. Next, the Council will resume its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, and will then hold a general debate on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
At 3 p.m. today, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group of experts on people of African descent, before holding a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded that nine years ago resolution 6/30, which called for the systematic integration of gender into all aspects of the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, had been adopted. She noted that women and girls carried a disproportionate burden of gender inequality. Gender equality demanded that not only should everyone think out of the gender boxes, it meant that all must get out of the boxes because they distorted human potential and undermined human diversity. The full protection of human rights required that masculinity and femininity not be considered as a primordial state, but in terms of diversity and tolerance which required a just distribution of power. Gender integration was essential to the advance of human rights, relevant to all aspects of prosperity, peace and development. Although there had been progress in gender integration, damaging gaps still needed to be filled. Examining 850 resolutions which had been adopted in the past 10 years on both country and thematic policy areas, there was a considerable increase in resolutions integrating a gender perspective, or which focused specifically on women’s rights. Their proportion rose from seven per cent in 2006 to 59 per cent in 2015. Some focused on gender-specific issues, such as maternal mortality or female genital mutilation.
Country resolutions, however, remained far less likely to integrate considerations of gender. Some resolutions integrated some gender themes in the text. However, most country-focused resolutions continued to neglect the fact that conflict and crisis were lived very differently by women and men, due to gendered social roles and the compounded effects of multiple types of pre-existing discrimination and conflict-related harm. When women were mentioned in resolutions, it was mainly as the victims of conflict-related sexual violence, ignoring many other issues, and completely neglecting the importance of women as key agents of peace building. In its June 2016 session, the Council had adopted resolutions on a range of country situations and although many reports by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights mechanisms had pointed to significant gender issues in those countries, the adopted resolutions had largely failed to address the issues such as impunity for sexual violence by State actors, obstacles to women’s political participation, accusations of witchcraft targeting women and girls, degrading treatment and ill-treatment of women in detention, and human trafficking of internally displaced women and girls. The international community needed to flourish more open spaces for young women and men. It was time for the condemnation of gender-based violence to be transformed into effective gender integrated action for the sake of human justice. The international community had to remain faithful to resolution 6/30.
Statements by the Moderator and the Panellists
RAMA MANI, Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford Centre for International Studies and Co-Founder of Rising Women Rising World, acting as Moderator of the Panel Discussion, said that the panel would showcase how Member States, United Nations institutions and civil society could play a fundamental role in fulfilling the mandate of gender mainstreaming. The objective was to examine what might be the causes for what was seen in the period, during which there had been great steps forward, but also backsliding and backlash. As the Deputy High Commissioner had just said, gender integration was important because it was a question of humanity. Calling on all to think of the range of ways to bring full humanity to fulfilling the mandate, she urged them not to do it simply from a perspective of treating women and girls as victims, but by capacitating them and giving them their full agency. She underlined the point of gender being socially constructed and also being culturally constructed. That was even more the reason why such a panel discussion was useful for participants to learn from each other and to see the ways in which every country could fulfil and stretch their imaginations so the goal of humanity could be fulfilled. Giving the floor to the first panellist, she noted that in the past 10 years, the Human Rights Council had adopted many resolutions focusing on the elimination of gender-based discrimination, including in nationality laws. She asked the panellist for an example showing how the work of the Council could promote and support change at the national level.
BOUDJEMÂA DELMI, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Algeria’s example was an interesting case study. Looking at the right to nationality in Algeria, the legal framework of the right to acquisition of nationality had to be examined. Referring to international instruments, he noted that according to them, the prevention of statelessness was the responsibility of States, and that each State might determine through its laws who was entitled to citizenship. On that basis, the Human Rights Council had adopted resolution 20/4. Under that resolution, Member States were called on to prevent and reduce statelessness, and reform their laws on nationality that discriminated against women, so as to allow women to confer nationality to their children and spouses. Turning to domestic law in Algeria, he said that it had provided women with certain rights, noting that the constitution ensured that women were full citizens like men were, and that citizens were equal before the law. Institutions had an objective of ensuring the equality of all citizens, men and women.
Turning to the reform of the Algerian nationality law, he said that a bill toward that end had been adopted, which had later been amended by another decree. The first change was that nationality might be obtained through maternal descent. The new conditions provided for gender equality. Algerian women marrying foreigners no longer had to worry what would happen to their children. The second item was that Algerian nationality was given to children born in Algeria. Single mothers could now transmit their family name and nationality to their children. Nationality could also be obtained through naturalization. Efforts made by associations and the media had made it possible to overcome the resistance of opposition to the changes.
RAMA MANI, Senior Research Associate, University of Oxford Centre for International Studies and Co-Founder, Rising Women Rising World, and panel moderator, asked about the lessons that the Human Rights Council could draw from the experience of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other inter-governmental bodies.
CHRISTINE BRAUTIGAM, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division of UN Women, recalled that the gender mainstreaming mandates and strategy had been adopted at the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995, while the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stressed the crucial importance of gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the Agenda. By analysing the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and its functional commissions, and the reports of the Secretary-General, UN Women had built the evidence of status, progress, opportunities and good practices in regard to gender equality perspectives. The key findings were: the trend in the reflection of a gender perspective in the resolutions of the General Assembly was slow but upward; gender perspectives were more likely to be addressed in social, humanitarian and cultural issues, as well as economic and financial issues, and least likely to be integrated in disarmament and international law issues; the scope of attention to gender issues varied significantly, both in terms of quality and coverage, for example from passing references to “including women” to extensive attention to issues that were particularly pertinent from a gender equality perspective.
Ms. Brautigam then outlined lessons learnt, and said that despite the long-standing mandate for gender mainstreaming, there was not yet a uniformed level of awareness and capacity to use gender analysis consistently. Having the evidence laid out in a systematic and consistent manner increased awareness and facilitated engagement; it provided a basis for highlighting gender perspectives, what the issues were, and how they could be addressed. The gender-specific work of the General Assembly, for example in gender-specific resolutions, had impacted positively on thematic areas of work: gender-specific resolutions such as those on women and girls in rural areas had been very influential in broadening attention to gender issues in areas such as agriculture and nutrition, sustainable development, and safe drinking water and sanitation. A request by a Member State for a resolution to reflect a gender perspective in a report was a first step for a substantive consideration of gender equality implications in the issue under consideration. Going forward, continuously improved gender analysis in sectoral areas was needed to help in formulating a gender-responsive policy and action, while a critical factor for advancing gender equality was women’s activism and building the knowledge base in regard to gender perspective in the area of human rights.
RAMA MANI, Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford Centre for International Studies and Co-Founder of Rising Women Rising World and panel moderator, noted that recently the Human Rights Council had requested that a gender perspective be systematically taken into account when establishing or renewing Special Procedures mandates. What did it mean to integrate a gender perspective in fulfilling a mandate such as torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment?
JUAN ERNESTO MÉNDEZ, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said that in 1985 when the Commission on Human Rights had established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture, there had been no reference to gender. The legal framework historically had evolved in response to practices that disproportionately affected men and had failed to account for the impact on torture and ill-treatment of entrenched discrimination, patriarchal, heteronormative and discriminatory power structures and socialized gender stereotypes. Despite constituting a minority of the total prison population, women and girls were at particular risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention, not only within the criminal justice system, but also at immigration detention centres, medical establishments and drug rehabilitation centres. Women’s needs and protection concerns often went unnoticed as prison regimes were typically designed for men. However, women’s experiences in prison were typically distinct, so different policies, services and infrastructure were required to address their needs regarding rehabilitation and protection from ill-treatment. In 2010 the adoption of the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders had been a crucial step in filling the existing gap in international standards and addressed gender-specific needs and circumstances of female offenders and prisoners.
Most women in the criminal justice system were low-income, minority single mothers and victims of domestic and sexual violence who suffered from mental and overall health problems. Mr. Mendéz recommended that States review legislation and judicial practices to ensure they took full account of such backgrounds in sentencing, prison resource allocation, and planning. Studies suggested that up to 80 per cent of women in prison were mothers, many of whom were primary care givers, so special attention had to be paid to address the impact of detention on both mothers and their children, whose best interests had to be respected in any decision taken regarding their mothers. Mr. Mendéz also addressed specific concerns affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons who suffered higher rates of violence in detention than the general prison population, inflicted either by other prisoners or by prison staff, and who were also discriminated against in healthcare systems. “Conversion” therapies, forced gender reassignment or forced sterilization and similar treatments were medically unnecessary and could amount to torture and ill-treatment. Violence and abuses by private actors against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons could also amount to torture when States failed to exercise due diligence to protect them.
RAMA MANI, Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford Centre for International Studies and Co-Founder of Rising Women Rising World and panel moderator, said that at the time of the Council’s establishment, the institution building package included, as one of the principles and objectives of the review, the full integration of the gender perspective, particularly as it related to new mechanisms like the Universal Periodic Review. She then asked the next panellist, Aoife Hegarty, how effective gender integration was in the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and how those had contributed to improving women’s rights on the ground.
AOIFE HEGARTY, Programme Manager at UPR Info, advocated for a broader understanding of the term gender to also include gender identity and expression. She noted that Council resolutions 5/1 and 6/30 expressly called for the inclusion of a gender perspective in all stages of the Universal Periodic Review. The socio-economic empowerment of women had also featured in Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Looking to the level of implementation of first-cycle recommendations, she said that
UPR Info’s analysis had found that women’s rights and gender was the theme that had triggered the highest action by mid-term. Out of nearly 50,000 recommendations made during sessions, women’s rights and gender accounted for over 9000, of which 85 per cent were accepted. But there were qualitative shortfalls, with low standards of specificity. Too often, women had been clustered with other groups, such as children, and labelled collectively as “vulnerable.” Such gender stereotyping not only undermined their legitimacy as rights-holders, but conflated issues and diluted the effectiveness of recommendations. To help monitor gender-related advancements, all States should collect and disseminate disaggregated data that should be qualitatively analysed and discussed in the national report.
Mid-term reporting was another critical element of the Universal Periodic Review process.
UPR Info suggested a new strategy for the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. One year after the adoption, each State should report on five recommendations of its choice during the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review. The Universal Periodic Review had been instrumental in the advancement of gender on the international agenda. Equality and women’s rights had become a permanent and integrated discussion by all States. Momentum needed to be harnessed to further systematize how recommendations were implemented.
Viet Nam stressed the obligation to turn commitment on gender equality into concrete results, for which mainstreaming gender into national policies and the work of the United Nations was vital. Viet Nam was co-organizing, during this session of the Council, a side event on educating women and girls in preventing and combatting trafficking in persons. European Union said that social norms locked girls and women into unequal power relations and that gender gap was exacerbated when intersecting with other forms of exclusion, such as disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The Council must address discriminatory laws, practices and customs through its resolutions, and ensure genuine gender mainstreaming. Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, appreciated that gender parity remained high on the agenda of the United Nations and felt that more needed to be done to realize the objective of the full and equal participation of women and men to participate in the United Nations system.
Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that it was essential to implement action which would integrate gender equality in public policies, taking into account diversity and all phases of life, and asked how to improve the adoption of a gender perspective in the work of Special Procedures. Austria, speaking on behalf of four countries, said that gender imbalance still existed in many of the Council’s mechanisms and in the treaty bodies, adding that Member States must consider gender balance as a key criterion when voting for candidates. The countries asked about best practices to contribute to the better participation of women in the work of the Council. Sweden, speaking on behalf of a group of eight Nordic-Baltic countries, said that bodily autonomy and integrity were crucial for the ability of women and girls to enjoy the entire spectrum of their rights, and stressed the need to deal from a human rights perspective with issues of sexual coercion, forced pregnancy, female genital mutilation, child and early marriage, and gender-based and sexual violence. Women’s and girls’ empowerment and participation at all levels depended on it.
Qatar said it fully supported the principle of integrating a gender perspective in all human rights-related decisions, but it was not possible to adopt a single model that could be replicated in all societies. United Kingdom stated that the effective participation of women in public and economic life was an essential element of good governance and effective democracy because successful societies required the balanced participation of women and men in decision-making at all levels. Ireland underlined the inextricable link between gender equality and women’s empowerment and sustainable development, and asked the panellists how to better integrate a gender perspective into the Universal Periodic Review. Republic of Korea stated that the Sustainable Development Goals, namely Goal 5, could be effectively implemented with a country-specific approach such as in the Universal Periodic Review process. Ecuador noted that it had taken a number of steps to integrate a gender perspective and the gender equality principle in various laws, such as for example those referring to gender-based violence. Palau stated that as a matrilineal society it had made significant progress in the area of gender equality, and asked the panellists for their views on the best ways to integrate a gender perspective in the Council’s resolutions related to small island developing States.
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in a joint statement with International Service for Human Rights; Franciscans International; International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); Amnesty International; and World Organisation Against Torture, noted that the current bureau of the Human Rights Council was comprised entirely of men and that all Presidents of the Human Rights Council had been male [sic]; measures had to be taken to address the situation. United Nations Watch spoke about cases of rape in Gulf countries where the victims had been punished; the members of the panel were asked how violence against women could be ended when elected members of the Council engaged in such behaviour. Plan International Inc., in a joint statement with, Terre Des Hommes Federation Internationale; and Defence for Children International, said that progress had been slow in the Human Rights Council, noting that the majority of resolutions were completely gender-blind, adding that the Council had to ensure that a gender perspective went beyond simply mentioning women and girls.
Remarks by the Panellists
BOUDJEMÂA DELMI, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that a number of questions had related to the resources needed for strengthening gender equality in the work of the Council, in the Universal Periodic Review and in the work of States. As for the role of the States, the Ambassador stressed that the involvement and participation of women was crucial. He gave the example of the Electoral Law in Algeria which since 2004 had required political parties to have parity in candidates’ lists - today Algeria was proud to have more than 30 per cent representation of women in the National Assembly, and parity in the Senate. This enabled women to participate and ensure that women’s rights were addressed. It was also important to share experiences and best practices by low-resource countries and Mr. Delmi said that treating women fairly and equally was important for all States, particularly in Africa.
CHRISTINE BRAUTIGAM, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division of UN Women, said that a session like this could serve as a catalyst in terms of awareness raising of what worked in other States and other bodies. It would be therefore important to ensure to bring the insight shared here into other meetings of the Council and to raise the issues in the various thematic areas that the Council was dealing with, for example torture. It was important to listen to the voices of women and women groups, listen to their experiences and integrate that into the work of the Council. Also important was the availability and integration of gender disaggregated data in the work of the Council. It must be emphasized that although the participation of women in working toward gender equality in the Human Rights Council and its bodies and mechanisms was important, it was up to the States to ensure that discrimination against women and girls was eliminated.
JUAN ERNESTO MÉNDEZ, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said that the tools to draw upon in integrating a gender perspective were the Bangkok Rules, as well as the so-called Nelson Mandela Rules. In his next thematic report he would advocate for a universal protocol on the way suspects of offences should be interrogated, as well as victims and witnesses. As for the improvement of the gender perspective, there should be a follow-up on country visits. He urged States to allow the Special Rapporteurs to carry out follow-up missions to assess the impact of their recommendations. There should be a smooth dialogue between States and the Special Procedures. States also had to review legislative norms to reduce the level of imprisonment and thus overcrowding, which would help the condition of women in prison and detention centres.
AOIFE HEGARTY, Programme Manager at UPR Info, explained that it was critical for the recommending States to learn from the rights holders themselves and to tailor recommendations according to the needs of the rights holders on the ground. As for States under review, it was very important for them to conduct national consultations. The Universal Periodic Review was a process built on the cooperation of all stakeholders. Sustainable implementation by all countries was important and States were strongly encouraged to stablish a national mechanism for reporting and monitoring. Ms. Hegarty emphasized the need for mid-term reporting, one year after the review, on five recommendations. As for the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Universal Periodic Review, indeed they were reinforcing and the mid-term reporting should include also implementation toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
Cuba said that priority should be given to the universal application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and called for parity in the composition of treaty bodies. China said that it had always attached importance to the cause of women’s rights, and commended United Nations agencies for their efforts in promoting women’s empowerment. Italy asked the panellists how the Council and its mechanisms could address gender concerns in all activities, especially when setting priorities, identifying actions, and allocating resources, and how to speed up the process within the wider framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. Australia asked the panellists how the international community could ensure that the commissions of inquiry and other Special Procedures adequately considered gender issues in their work. Georgia asked the panellists what the gaps were with regard to the incorporation of the gender perspective into the Council’s work. Pakistan asked the panellists whether what was needed was more resolutions and Universal Periodic Review recommendations to integrate the gender perspective and women’s role, or better implementation of those recommendations which had been adopted, and how States could share best practices in that regard.
Russian Federation stated that, despite some progress made in recent years, there was no country in the world which was free from gender discrimination and violence. What needed to be done to improve cooperation within United Nations bodies? Bangladesh believed that the integration of a gender perspective in the work of the United Nations across its systems was very important to the realization of the full potential of an inclusive society. Bangladesh expressed its appreciation for the first gender policy of the United Nations Office at Geneva. Brazil was committed to eradicating gender-based violence within its borders. Since 2013, every public hospital in Brazil had been obliged to provide free emergency and post-traumatic care to victims of sexual violence.
Spain said that the specific needs of girls and women needed to be taken on board when public policies were devised. It was crucial to carry out appropriate analyses and have data disaggregated by sex; training on gender equality for all, including officials, was of critical importance. Croatia strongly supported a comprehensive approach to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and the integration of a gender perspective into all aspects of the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. How could the Council play a more active role in driving gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda? Greece recognized that the promotion of substantive gender equality was a necessity, especially in times of economic and social crisis when women’s rights required additional protection and safeguarding. In spite of the severe economic crisis, the Greek authorities had never lost their ability to promote the protection of women.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture drew the Council’s attention to the denial of the basic needs of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including women and children under the age of 14, in stark violation of international law. Action Canada for Population and Development commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Procedures which had shed light on shocking violations of the rights of women and girls, and deeply regretted the consistent inability of the Council to address the recommendations related to the right of women to control their own bodies. World Young Women’s Christian Association requested Member States and the Council to ensure diversity in voices and concerns of women, young women and girls in the passing and implementation of Council’s resolutions.
Venezuela praised the mandate of UN Women which gave a strong voice to women and said that Venezuela had made progress in many areas, including the participation of women in decision-making, non-sexist use of language, and the establishment of the Ministry for Women and Gender Equality. Libya called for equal geographical representation and equal gender representation in the United Nations human rights mechanisms and called upon all countries to address the issue of discrimination against women. Turkey observed that gender issues remained more relevant than ever and agreed that more needed to be done to include gender issues in the Council’s resolutions and in the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
Thailand believed that the participation of men in the discussion on the gender perspective was also needed in order to have a holistic approach. Thailand had participated in the Geneva Gender Champions initiative, which had been a very positive development. Thailand had passed a gender equality act in 2015. United Arab Emirates noted that the scope of international agreements today covered various areas of life. The United Arab Emirates had created a council for gender equality with the view of reducing the gender gap. The participation of women was improving with the Emirates’ 2021 Programme.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development called for assistance to Governments and local authorities so that national programmes and policies could be adopted to address gender-based violence. International conventions seeking gender equality needed to be ratified and data on gender-based violence better collected.
BOUDJEMÂA DELMI, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that more resolutions were needed in order to raise awareness, and recall the responsibilities of States, and also to reflect the invisible inequalities which arose from psychological violence and stigmatisation. This invisible violence against women must be addressed, such families, communities and States prohibiting women from wearing certain items of clothing. This was violence against women. There were three crucial preconditions to full autonomy for women: education, emancipation, and participation of women in economic life. Inclusion of women in decision-making was a must.
CHRISTINE BRAUTIGAM, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division of UN Women, responding to a question on how to ensure that the Council’s commissions of inquiry and Special Procedures adequately considered gender equality, said that the definition of the mandate was essential and it had to clarify what was expected in terms of gender equality and gender perspective across the entirety of the mandate. It was then important to see how that mandate was implemented, and what monitoring and accountability system for the implementation of the mandate was in place. UN Women used annual reporting, and this might be a means to enhancing that accountability, and enabling taking corrective action to address gaps. With regard to gaps, it was important to pay attention not only to quantitative gaps, for example the number of mandates which lacked gender attention, but also to analyse the substance and the actual scope of the mandate in that regard. The Council had an important role to play in driving forward the action on the 2030 Agenda, particularly the Sustainable Development Goal N°5 which had a strong human rights dimension.
JUAN MENDEZ, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, stressed the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment in all situations. Mr. Mendez had enjoyed invaluable support from members of civil society, many of whom were women. Any subject under the Special Procedures mandates needed to integrate a gender perspective. Gender-based and domestic violence could be eradicated only when accompanied with other measures. With only weeks left in his mandate, Mr. Mendez noted that he had learned a lot from women colleagues and fellow Special Rapporteurs. Special Procedures needed to pursue a balanced gender approach, with the principle of rotation between men and women.
AOIFE HEGARTY, Programme Manager at UPR Info, said that gender accounted for the second most prevalent theme in UPR recommendations. Blossoming of a single flower did not mean arrival of spring, said Ms. Hegarty. One had to look into the implementation of action-oriented recommendations; States were encouraged to keep the momentum, especially as the recommendations were becoming more specific. In a welcome development, Burkina Faso, for example, had shared best practices on how it was combatting female genital mutilation. The strength of the Universal Periodic Review process relied on the engagement of all stakeholders; its role was unique and could be used to further amplify the voices of girls and women.
RAMA MANI, Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford Centre for International Studies and panel moderator, said that it took all United Nations agencies and bodies working together to bring the issue of women and girls’ rights forward. The power of States to identify and fill the gaps was of paramount importance. The parity 50:50 goal had been mentioned by a number of speakers; however, in many places women running for parliaments were exposed to backlash and even violence. The repeated reference to the important role of culture, which needed to be seen as an asset, was also noted by Ms. Mani. Men and male champions of gender equality also played a critical role; one example was the Geneva Gender Champions initiative, widely supported by male and female leaders alike. The annual discussion was useful because it helped, once again, pinpoint the existing gaps and what could be done to close them.
For use of the information media; not an official record