UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS ANNUAL
DICUSSION ON THE INTEGRATION OF
A GENDER PERSPECTIVE IN ITS
WORK

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Human Rights Council
MORNING
12 September 2008




The Human Rights Council this morning held its annual discussion on gender mainstreaming in the work of the Council.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said this annual discussion was an opportunity to examine the progress made in ensuring that a gender perspective was integrated in all activities of the Human Rights Council. Integration of a gender perspective into the human rights system as a whole, together with attention to the human rights of women represented key priorities for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Although remarkable progress had been achieved since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, much work still remained as women throughout the world were amongst the poorest and most marginalized, with limited access to rights, resources and opportunities.

Clemencia Forero Ucros, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Moderator of the Discussion, highlighted the three concepts essential to the work of the Council today and to which Colombia attached great importance: differentiated treatment of women, which recognised the specificities of women, protection and non-discrimination, and participation of women. The Human Rights Council had a special mandate to integrate gender perspective in all its activities. Gender mainstreaming was more about the process than the content and the Council had to ensure it considered and integrated perspectives of both women and men in all its activities.

The panellists in the discussion were the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and a representative of Active Canada for Population and Development and the Sexual Rights Initiative, representing civil society.

Gulnara Shahinian, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences, said that mainstreaming gender in the work of the Human Rights Council meant developing a comprehensive system for the systematic analysis of attainment of men and women of their rights. The panel was an important initiative of the process as it gave an opportunity to develop joint strategies. It was especially important to her to integrate the gender perspective into her mandate, for example on traditional forms of slavery.

S. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, noted that in both industrial and less-developed countries, indigenous people existed at the margins of power and were almost invariably at the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder. Special attention should be paid to indigenous women who faced multiple forms of discrimination as indigenous persons, as women, and often as members of the poorer classes.

Najat M'jid Maalla, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said it was clear that gender-based violence existed and this violence reflected the status of women in society and discrimination in access to basic services, particularly for girls. Women were more affected and more exposed to poverty than men, making them vulnerable to exploitation and sexual and gender-based violence. Ms. Maalla noted that a child rights-based approach would be the starting point for all activities of gender mainstreaming in her mandate.

Sandeep Prasad of Active Canada for Population and Development and the Sexual Rights Initiative, elaborated on the definition of a gender perspective and noted that integrating a gender perspective required adopting a perspective of the fundamental equality of women and men in analyzing human rights issues so that specificities in experience breaking down along the lines of gender could be addressed with the aim of achieving substantive equality. Addressing violence against women clearly required more than merely treating such violence as isolated incidents, instead it required consideration of the social conditions of inequality and power dynamics that shaped men's attitudes towards women.

In the interactive dialogue, speakers agreed on the importance and relevance of gender mainstreaming in the human rights system, starting with the Council and Special Procedures. It was particularly important as women continued to suffer from all forms of exploitation, inequality and exclusion, together with additional issues such as feminisation of HIV/AIDS, growing poverty and inequality, use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Some speakers wanted to hear proposals on how the Council could support the implementation of gender recommendations contained in the reports on Special Procedures. Speakers stressed the need to ensure close coordination with the process of reform of the gender architecture currently on-going in New York and to ensure the contributions of the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to setting up a well-functioning, effective and non-duplicative United Nations gender architecture.

Speaking in the first part of the interactive dialogue were Chile, on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, France, on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Russian Federation, Cuba, Canada, Philippines, Slovenia, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Algeria, Oman and Norway.

Human Rights Watch also took the floor.

Speaking in the second part were Argentina, Nigeria, China, Jordan, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Finland, Thailand, New Zealand, Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey. A representative of the United Nations Population Fund also took the floor.

Also speaking was Development Alternatives with a New Era and Federation of Cuban Women.

When the Council resumes its work at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it is scheduled hear a statement from Okechukwu Ibeanu, Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, within the framework of the review, rationalisation and improvement of mandates process. It will also hear a statement by Arjun Sengupta, Chairperson of the Working Group on the right to development. It will then conclude its interactive dialogue which started on Wednesday, 10 September with the Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of slavery and on the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution.

Opening Statements

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the annual gender discussion, said that it provided an opportunity for them to consider the steps that had been taken by the Human Rights Council since its panel last year, to ensure that a gender perspective was integrated into all its activities. Attention to the human rights of women and ensuring that a gender perspective was integrated into the work of the human rights system as a whole represented a key priority for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Office was dedicated to encouraging all States and stakeholders to focus on the promotion and protection of the human rights of women.

As a long-time advocate for women's rights and gender equality, Ms. Pillay said that she believed that today's discussion was essential. In South Africa, she had worked to ensure the inclusion in the Constitution of South Africa of the equality clause, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. At the International Tribunal for Rwanda, she had helped to establish rape as one means of perpetrating genocide. She had also co-founded an international women's rights organization. Through her experience, she had learned that equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex were not only goals in their own right, but were also essential for the achievement of human rights for all. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, remarkable progress in the development and implementation of national laws, policies and programmes directed to women's equality with men had been witnessed, but much more needed to be done. Women throughout the world were amongst the poorest and most marginalized, with limited access to rights, resources and opportunities. Gender roles were deeply rooted in every culture but over time, in every culture, these roles changed and kept changing.

Ms. Pillay underlined that no effort should be spared to persuade countries to repeal laws and discourage customs, practices and prejudices that negated or undermined the achievement of equality between women and men. That was an indispensable stating point for the creation of a level playing field for women and girls, required for the achievement of substantive equality. Since the early formulations of gender mainstreaming in 1997 to today, recognition of the gender dimension in all activities had been part of United Nations strategies aimed at putting an end to the social, political and economic discrimination that women faced. However, such strategies had produced few tangible results. This might be due to a lack of clarity regarding both the broad contours and the specific components of gender integration, as well as patchy and disappointing attempts at implementation. This task required sustained attention, in particular so that all aspects of the Council's work and its subsidiary bodies and Special Procedures truly integrated a gender perspective, rather than just adding women.

CLEMENCIA FORERO UCROS, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Moderator of the Discussion, highlighted the three concepts essential to the work of the Council today and to which Colombia attached great importance: differentiated treatment of women, which recognised the specificities of women, protection and non-discrimination, and participation of women.

The Human Rights Council had a special mandate to integrate gender perspective in all its activities. Last September it had held the first-ever innovative and interactive panel discussion on gender. Progress had been made since and today they did not have to start from square one but to build on the excellent recommendations of the previous panel. The Council had decided by consensus that the gender discussion would be held every year and that it would hold a substantive discussion on the rights of women, thus sending the message that these two issues are separate but interlinked.

The Moderator emphasized that gender mainstreaming was more about the process than the content and the Council had to ensure it considered and integrated perspectives of both women and men in all its activities. Today they had the benefit of the expertise of three recently appointed mandate holders and an expert, which would contribute to and invigorate the discussion.

GULNARA SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, its Causes and Consequences, said that mainstreaming gender in the work of the Human Rights Council meant developing a comprehensive system for systematic analysis of attainment of men and women of their rights. It also meant developing systems of early reaction and policies of comprehensive multi-sectoral responses. This panel was an important initiative of the process as it gave an opportunity to develop joint strategies.

Mrs. Shahinian explained that mainstreaming got gender equality out of the isolation of special gender equality policies and involved more and new actors in building a balanced society. It was especially important to her to integrate the gender perspective into her mandate, for example on traditional forms of slavery such as bonded labour, descent based slavery, forced marriages, trafficking in humans and child labour. She wanted to pay attention to the integration of a gender perspective in the following important areas: awareness raising; working in countries during fact finding missions; presenting reports to the Human Rights Council; and cooperating with the Women's Right and Gender Unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

S. JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, welcomed the opportunity to address some of the specific challenges that presented themselves with regard to indigenous women. In the contemporary world, indigenous peoples characteristically existed under conditions of severe disadvantage relative to others within the States constructed around them. In both industrial and less-developed countries, indigenous people existed at the margins of power and were almost invariably at the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder. Special attention should be paid to indigenous women who faced multiple forms of discrimination as indigenous persons, as women, and often as members of the poorer classes. Women shared many of the concerns in the areas of poverty, human rights and economic and social development with other women of dominant cultures. However, because of their indigenous status, they were often denied their rights to education, health services and other socio-economic rights at higher rates than non-indigenous women.

Mr. Anaya also noted that the influence of colonial and dominant values and the effects of globalization had altered gender roles within indigenous communities, upsetting the balance that had traditionally existed. Indigenous women were today far less involved than their male counterparts in the decision-making processes. Women had especially been targets of violence when they occupied positions of leadership, which was the case in many indigenous communities with matriarchal structures. He had received specific reports of rape and other kinds of violence that had been specifically targeted at indigenous women leaders. In the area of education, indigenous girl students might face additional discrimination. It was not uncommon for indigenous children to be ridiculed by non-indigenous teaches and students. Indigenous girls attending school might encounter course materials that were sexist, resulting in girls having low self-confidence.

Mr. Anaya said that he planned to build upon the work of his successor by seeking out and listening to the views of indigenous women themselves in order to examine issues specific to them and develop strategies for combating violations of their rights. He also suggested to improve the integration of gender perspectives into the work of the Human Rights Council and urged the Council to continue to promote awareness within all United Nations bodies of the need to incorporate a gender perspective in their policies and programmes and specifically to take into consideration the perspectives of indigenous women. The Council should not only generally ensure gender balance among Special Procedure mandate holders and other mechanisms but should also actively seek to appoint indigenous women in particular in these positions.

NAJAT M'JID MAALLA, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said she wanted to share a few ideas about gender mainstreaming in her mandate. It was clear that gender-based violence existed and this violence reflected the status of women in society and discrimination in access to basic services, particularly for girls. Women were more affected and more exposed to poverty than men, making them vulnerable to exploitation and sexual and gender-based violence.

Ms. Maalla gave a few illustrations of gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation of girls, noting domestic work, early marriage and genital mutilation, which, although declining, still remained practiced in some areas and cultures. Systematic rape of girls and women turned into a weapon of war in some armed conflicts, and there was also the issue of the feminisation of HIV/AIDS. Girls were not only victims of gender-based violence. Boys were also exposed to sexual exploitation, forced labour and other forms of abuse and exploitation.

Ms. Maalla outlined her plan for gender mainstreaming into her work, noting the legal framework, which defined it. A child rights-based approach would be the starting point for all activities and would recognise children as full right holders and ensure their inclusion and participation in decision-making on issues that directly concerned them. Three methods would be used in her work: analysing and reporting on the country situation; elaborating the proposals and recommendations as tools to strengthen the capacity of those responsible to take action; and monitoring and assessing actions undertaken. In conclusion, she said that gender mainstreaming made possible analysing and identifying factors of additional vulnerability of children and identification of remedies.

SANDEEP PRASAD, of Active Canada for Population and Development and the Sexual Rights Initiative, elaborated on the definition of a gender perspective. What had to taken into account in integrating a gender perspective? And when and by whom must that be taken into account? It entailed bringing a gender lens into questions as: whose voices are heard? Who was marginalized within society? How do these specific experiences, factors and identities lead to differences in the approach to guaranteeing human rights and addressing violations?

The functioning of power and privilege within society gave rise to gender inequalities, a problem primarily experienced by women in all societies. In this dimension, integrating a gender perspective required adopting a perspective of the fundamental equality of women and men in analyzing human rights issues so that specificities in experience breaking down along the lines of gender could be addressed with the aim of achieving substantive equality.

Mr. Prasad said that addressing violence against women clearly required more than merely treating such violence as isolated incidents, instead it required consideration of the social conditions of inequality and power dynamics that shaped men's attitudes towards women. In all contexts power privilege, norms and roles gave rise to many other forms of inequality and marginalization. Diverse groups of women experienced human rights violations in differing ways. Gender integration should be about ensuring that such specificities in experience were taken into account at all stages of work, thought, process and discussions.

Interactive Debate

CARLOS PORTALES (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries, said that in last year's statement, they had requested the Human Rights Council to play a leading role inside the United Nations system to foster the human rights of women and girls. The fist step in this direction had been the integration of a gender perspective in the Councils' own work. As had been shown by the various Special Rapporteurs today, gender perspective played an important role in each mandate. It was suggested that all reports by Special Rapporteurs should include a gender perspective part.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted the progress made since the first panel last year, notably the almost systematic inclusion of a gender perspective in many of the Council's resolutions. The debate today presented an opportunity to elaborate strategies and recommendations that would allow for greater progress to be made in gender mainstreaming in the work of the Council.

The European Union asked the High Commissioner to propose ways in which the Council could contribute to the efforts in repealing laws and customs that undermined achievement of equality between men and women. It also wanted to hear proposals on how the Council could support the implementation of gender recommendations contained in the reports on Special Procedures and how the Special Procedures shared gender mainstreaming strategies and approaches. The European Union asked the High Commissioner and the representative of civil society to provide an evaluation of gender mainstreaming in the Universal Periodic Review.

TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that they agreed with last year's recommendation that the Council should look at the situation of the girl child in armed conflict. The Council should consider developing specific guidelines for the protection of the rights of women in armed conflict. Also, the world food crisis had brought forward the reality of the feminization of poverty. The Council had to address the impact of food security on women and girls and a system wide effort had to be made to assist economically disadvantaged women in food insecure regions. The Organization of the Islamic Conference also agreed that in order to integrate gender into the work of the Council more competent women from the developing world should be made Special Rapporteurs.

GALINA KHVAN (Russian Federation) expressed the gratitude of the Human Rights Council to the Special Rapporteurs for submitting their views. The proposals made constituted very original ideas. Considering the fact that the gender issue was playing a growing role in the Council, the Russian Federation called the delegations to take into consideration the note of the Secretary-General with regard to gender mainstreaming. Despite the fact that in the Secretary-General note there was no mention for the structures of the Special Procedures mandates, the Human Rights Council had an occasion to play an important role in this regard. Further the Council should not duplicate the work of other UN gender mainstreaming units.

MIRTA GRANDA AVERHOFF (Cuba) expressed Cuba's support to include gender mainstreaming in the United Nations and the Human Rights Council. Much remained to be done to ensure equality and justice in all spheres of life. Women continued to suffer from all forms of exploitation, inequality and exclusion. Sustainable, fair and equitable development, peace and respect for all were the prerequisites for the advancement of the protection of the rights of women.

Cuba had radically changed the reality of its women and ranked third in the world by the number of women members of the parliament. Cuban women filled 57 per cent of management posts and were a majority in the judiciary and ministerial positions, while over 70 per cent of the workforce in education and health were women. Cuba noted that the major impediment to further advancement of the cause of women was the United States embargo against Cuba.

JEFFREY HEATON (Canada) was pleased to note that many review, rationalization and improvement of mandate processes had acknowledged the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the work of Special Procedure mandate holders. Canada asked what practical measures or initiatives, such as compilation of best practices, formulation of guidelines or holding of targeted workshops would the panelists recommend to be undertaken to strengthen the systematic integration of gender equality and women's human rights into the work of the Special Procedures? Could the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures play a role in this regard? How could the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights support these efforts? What could the Council do to help?

JESUS ENRIQUE G. GARCIA (Philippines) said that the integration of a gender perspective in the work of the Human Rights Council could be generally seen on two levels: institutional and practical. On the institutional level, the Council had been making substantial progress. During the review, rationalisation and improvement of mandates, main sponsors had included provisions on gender perspective in their resolutions. It was noted that some mandates were intrinsically gender sensitive due to the nature and scope of their work. The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, was an example. It was however at the practical or operational level that the Council had to do more. The actual work of the Special Procedures had to become more gender sensitive, using for example sex-aggregated data.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) warmly welcomed the practice in the Council of a regular self review into integrating a gender perspective into the Council's work and deemed it helpful in assessing the effectiveness of the integration and identification of the challenges and future strategies. Slovenia commended the Council for having adopted the Resolution 6/30, thus providing a blueprint for its approach to gender mainstreaming, and recognised the role of Chile in this process. Slovenia stressed the need to ensure close coordination with the process of reform of the gender architecture currently on-going in New York and to ensure the contributions of the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to setting up a well-functioning, effective and non-duplicative United Nations gender architecture.

Slovenia wanted to know what were the major challenges with regard to gender mainstreaming into the work of the Special Procedures and what additional recommendations could be provided to overcome them. Also, Slovenia wanted the representative of civil society to assess the Universal Periodic Review process and recommend a course of action to States and other stakeholders, including civil society.

NATALIE KOHLI (Switzerland) noted that the discussion had so far dealt with thematic matters. Switzerland asked how the gender perspective could be integrated in the country mandates. Also, would the approach differ from the integration of the gender perspective in thematic mandates? Furthermore, Switzerland wanted to know how States could contribute to integrate the gender perspective in the work of the Special Procedures.

SEOK-HEE KANG (Republic of Korea) said that in the view of the Republic of Korea, the integration of a gender perspective could be addressed in two respects: the Human Rights Council and the entire United Nations System. Within the Human Rights Council, the integration of a gender perspective had to be ensured in two major processes: the Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures. Second, in order to enhance a systematic and coherent coordination, there was a need to strengthen the gender architecture within the UN System. In this regard, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General's recent proposal on the four institutional options was welcomed. The creation of the post of an Under-Secretary-General in charge of gender issues was welcomed.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) noted that the discussion on practical measures for gender mainstreaming, such as the one taking place today, was necessary and should outline new areas in which gender should be integrated. Algeria wanted to hear the panel's assessment of the level of gender mainstreaming in the Universal Periodic Review. Algeria commended the efforts in redressing the imbalance in the number of women holding the Special Procedures mandates and highlighted the importance of continued attention to this issue. Gender had to be integrated in all stages of the Durban Review process too. Algeria supported the continuation of the annual debate on gender integration.

MOHAMED SAUD AL-RAWAHI (Oman) said that Oman was concerned about matters related to women. His majesty the Sultan was an inspiration when it came to women working alongside with men. The Constitution assured gender equality and women may stand for office and may vote in Oman. Also, there were several women ministers in the Cabinet.

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN (Norway) welcomed this opportunity to discuss the gender perspective in the work of the Council. Everywhere women and girls were more exposed than men to violations of their rights. Women did not enjoy human rights on an equal basis with men. This systematic discrimination of women was rooted in historically unequal power relations between men and women. It was also a serious obstacle to effective social and economic development in many countries. Applying a gender perspective involved taking socially and culturally determined gender roles into account. Gender mainstreaming meant taking into account men and women's different power and resource situations, needs and priorities in the design and implementation of all policies and programmes. Gender mainstreaming must not replace action to promote gender equality, but add to it. How would the panellists adapt their working methods to make evident how the issue they were working with had different bearings on the rights of women and men, boys and girls?

PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement said that although gender integration was much talked about in the United Nations system, there were few opportunities for a transparent, explicit and open evaluation of this essential process and they congratulated the Council in taking that additional step. Gender mainstreaming was about both content and about format and they fully supported recommendations made by the panellist representing civil society. The essential step to ensure gender integration was the acknowledgement of the systemic and entrenched discrimination against women and the Council had to be aware of the fact that choices it made in deciding which specific human rights issues to address were never gender neutral. It was important for the Council and for Special Procedures to acknowledge the different impact of human rights violations on men and women and to analyse their root causes. The Council should see the work of its Special Procedures as an opportunity to learn about all aspects of the themes explored, including their differential impact on men and women. Civil society had brought to the attention of the Council protection gaps within the Special Procedures system and they supported the suggestion for Special Procedures to explore and combat laws that discriminated against women.

CONCHITA PONCINI, of International Federation of University Women, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, urged that women's rights and gender equality and discrimination should be addressed by using the insistence on substantive equality of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Opportunities and financial resources should be expanded to promote human rights education for women and girls. The awareness and use of human rights complaints mechanisms and implementation of monitoring procedures should be increased as well. Lastly, the Federation asked for a regular impact assessment on the implementation of the resolution on integrating the human rights of women and mainstreaming a gender equality perspective throughout the United Nations system. Further, the Advisory Committee should undertake the task of evaluation, including by providing gender-disaggregated indicators and benchmarks that would holistically look at economic, social and cultural rights.

Response by Panellists

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the human rights and gender unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had commissioned a study on laws discriminating against women. The study had called for the creation of a special mechanism to study laws that discriminated against women. The Council was encouraged to persuade countries to repeal laws that negated the achievement of equality between men and women. Turning to the question on the gender architecture, Ms. Pillay said that this was an important process and it mirrored similar processes throughout the entire United Nations system. It was critical to remember that this exercise was not uniquely done within the Council. On the reference to the planned new gender architecture within the United Nations, she noted that there was support for the creation of such a new United Nations entity.

S. JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, responding to the question posed by Chile on his views on how to address discrimination against indigenous women, said that cultural patterns of indigenous peoples were complex and had to be carefully examined. Often the voices of indigenous women were not heard and were filtered through non-indigenous women. All efforts had to be sought to hear their voices directly. Also, it was highly useful if indigenous women participated in programmes designed for indigenous peoples in general and women in particular. Another way to combat discrimination against indigenous women was to ensure their participation in fact-finding and field visits and in the design of programmes and projects.

NAJAT M'JID MAALLA, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, said that a holistic approach was needed which always took into account the gender perspective. Although data was needed to measure success, one should also look at legislation, attitudes and perceptions. Furthermore, boys and girls needed to take part in the process. In addition, performance indicators were needed. Special Procedures had to make sure that recommendations were implemented. For the Council this meant that the Universal Periodic Review needed to look at the gender perspective and at how the recommendations could be implemented.

GULNARA SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, its Causes and Consequences, said that for Special Rapporteurs, the collaboration with the Council was extremely important, as was applying a gender perspective in their work. It was important to look into what inequality led to. The question on how to address vulnerabilities in a proper way was also important. Further, she underlined the fact that statistical data did not always cover what happened on the ground. It was important to tackle the question on how to best implement their recommendations on the ground.

SANDEEP PRASAD, of Active Canada for Population and Development and the Sexual Rights Initiative, noted that one of the challenges to integration of gender in the Universal Periodic Review was the fact that sources of information were limited. States' reports needed to contain the information, who had conducted the research and whose opinion had been taken, and the reports had to reflect the opinions of many stakeholders. The second level of challenge to gender mainstreaming in the Universal Periodic Review was the fact that it was the States themselves that were deciding on what issues to raise and what issues not to raise, and what kind of interactive dialogue was held or not. Mr. Prasad considered positively the recommendation to nominate a focal person for gender mainstreaming in the Universal Periodic Review.

Mr. Prasad said the integration of gender in the Special Procedures required that the system had a whole range of topics related to women issues, and not only gender mainstreaming. The gaps could be found in substantive and fundamental areas and in protection of women rights. He suggested, as a first step in closing those gaps, that the Council hold a meeting on this theme, with a view of assessing where the gaps were and finding solutions.

Interactive Dialogue

SILVIA FERNANDEZ (Argentina) said that a series of national initiatives had been enacted in Argentina to promote the gender perspective. For the first time in history a woman was elected President and many others held important posts in the Government. In March 2007, Argentina had ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria) said that Nigeria firmly supported the view that integrating a gender perspective in decision-making processes and implementation mechanisms would go a long way in addressing existing inequality directed against women and girls. It was believed that such discussions in the Council should be results oriented. Nigeria saw the need for the Council to address, amongst others, the situation of women and the girl child in armed conflicts, the status of women at the work place, the placement of women at all levels of the decision-making processes, the capacity of women to own properties and the access to unlimited education. Nigeria was in total agreement with the integration of gender mainstreaming into the work of the Council. Also, more women from developing countries should be appointed as Special Rapporteurs.

LI YAN (China) noted that the Human Rights Council played an important role in the promotion of the rights of women and children. Gender mainstreaming was a long-term goal and needed a plan of action in order to press forward with its implementation. China had always stood for equality of men and women and its national laws clearly stipulated it was basic State policy and it provided a legal framework to fight discrimination against women. Currently China was implementing the Second National Programme for the Development of Women, which set 34 objectives and 100 policy measures aiming to improve the status of women. So far, 28 objectives were met ahead of schedule, in employment, education and life expectancy for women among others.

MUTAZ FALEH S. HYASSAT (Jordan) asked the Council how it intended to build on the work that had been done by several United Nations agencies on the gender perspective. Jordan wanted to know what the priorities were for the Council in assessing the progress that had been made.

JOSE GUEVARA (Mexico) said that Mexico welcomed today's discussion. Mexico was fully committed to ensuring that both perspectives of men and women were regarded systematically. Mexico had noted with great satisfaction that within the review, rationalisation and improvement of mandates, the Council had implemented a gender perspective in the discharge of their responsibilities. The Council had also achieved a gender balance while appointing mandate holders. What were the measures to be adopted by the Council and what could be its role in order to strengthen the process of gender mainstreaming within the United Nations system?

BRUNA VIEIRA DE PAULA (Brazil) acknowledged the United Nations efforts to bring the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to Geneva, since it had been the only human rights treaty body not based in Geneva. That concentrated the United Nations discussion on the matter and sent a strong signal that the promotion of the rights of women and girls was not only a development issue, but also a human rights commitment. Brazil attached great importance and gave a priority to gender mainstreaming. The President of Brazil had created in 2003 a Special Secretariat under the structure of his own office, responsible for gender mainstreaming. Last March the Government had launched the Second National Plan of Policies for Women, in a process that in Brazil was seen as an example of social participation. Brazil considered that New York and Geneva agencies that dealt closely with gender issues could greatly benefit from a closer coordination of efforts, as Brazil had the impression there were two simultaneous yet separate initiatives in the United Nations that aimed to improve gender mainstreaming inside the Organization: the International-Agency Gender Task Force and the Council's annual discussion.

YOKO TSUDA (Japan) said that regrettably, the integration of a gender perspective was not explicitly instructed in the guidelines of the Universal Periodic Review. Japan suggested the inclusion in the guidelines of the integration of a gender perspective into the phases of preparation and review of the Universal Periodic Review national reports. Japan noted that the process of the Universal Periodic Review had a positive effect on the promotion of human rights of each Member State.

ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan) said that the situations of girls and women in armed conflicts, human trafficking, forced labour and sexual violence did not exhaust the list of areas where girls and women were the most vulnerable. The idea of developing specific guidelines for the protection of the rights of girls and women in armed conflicts was worthwhile. Azerbaijan attached great importance to the issue of gender mainstreaming which was central to their Government's efforts to improve policies, strategies and programmes. Women representations in all branches of power as well as Parliament were steadily increasing. Azerbaijan shared the conviction that the Council must be at the forefront of the United Nations to promote gender equality.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) proposed that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights established a collection of good practices and promoted them to provide stimulus for discussion. Morocco suggested that the Council provide a brief summary of previous debates and recommendations for the next discussion. Morocco informed the Council about the measures it was taking at the national level, including the adoption of the national strategy for equity that covered the areas of civil rights and participation in decision-making, among others. Equity and equality were the main components of that strategy. In achieving its objectives, Morocco noted its reference remained Islam and international conventions.

PEKKA METSO (Finland) said that it was important that the concepts of gender perspective and gender integration had a real meaning in practice: what happened to gender mainstreaming when it was time to implement these resolutions? Finland found it interesting to hear the panellists' views on how they thought the Council and its mechanisms could succeed in turning gender integration into a reality. Finland also asked Mrs. Maalla what the biggest challenges for the systematic gender integration in the work of the Council were from her perspective. In her opinion, what would be needed in order to better address these matters in the work of the Special Procedures?

NAREELUC PAIRCHAIYAPOOM (Thailand) said that Thailand had always supported the principle of integration of the gender perspective in the work of the Council since women and men and boys and girls were equal and should be equally treated without discrimination. The focus of integrating a gender perspective in the work of the Special Procedures as part of their comprehensive efforts in mainstreaming and enhancing rights of women in all aspects was welcomed. Was there any possibility to standardize the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Special Procedures? What were the advantages and disadvantages of such standardization?

AMY LAURENSON (New Zealand) noted that gender mainstreaming was an area where the Council demonstrated leadership and ensured its systematic application in its Special Procedures. New Zealand proposed that every report disclosed gender implication of the issue, gender disaggregated data, where applicable, and the extent to which women's groups or those representing their views were consulted in the preparation of the report.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said that Iran saw a great urgency in this matter. Those who were politically and managerially responsible for addressing serious and pressing challenges of economic and social development would be eager to have a United Nations development system that was more efficient and coherent. Remedies to the severe challenges women and girls faced in today's world were: to take into account the impact of family strengthening on the elimination of violence against women in crime prevention, to develop policies to eradicate women's poverty, to emphasize the role of chastity and modesty in dress, and to strengthen crime prevention to eliminate violence against women and girl children. Furthermore, it was important to respond to the special requirements and vulnerabilities of women within the criminal justice system and measures to combat all forms of slavery that had to be devised and enforced.

FATIH ULUSOY (Turkey) said that Turkey saw this panel as an important activity in raising awareness on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. For the treaty bodies, it was essential for the eight committees to incorporate the human rights of women and gender equality into all of their work. To their satisfaction, in the first two rounds of the Universal Periodic Review, States had given due consideration to the gender issue. Turkey hoped to see the continuation of this positive trend and effective implementation of the recommendations. Further, Special Rapporteurs might provide a significant contribution in this field. It was important that all mandate holders kept up a close cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The role of non-governmental organizations in promoting gender equality was also crucial. One could not ignore the growing positive trend on the gender issues. However, one needed a comprehensive strategy for the empowerment of women, encompassing political, legal, social and economic measures. Education of all segments of society was extremely important.

LAILA BAKER, of the United Nations Population's Fund, noted there were millions of women throughout the world who suffered from discrimination and violation of their human rights for no other reason than that they were women. The Council had a vital role to play as an advocate for women's rights. The Council was also well-placed to advocate to United Nations entities to work together in improving the current system-wide programming on gender, from integrating indicators on women's empowerment and gender mainstreaming in programme and performance evaluation systems, to better sharing of practices across the system and with other partners, to monitoring the progress on quality and quantity of resources that the United Nations invested in gender equality programming.

The United Nations Population's Fund noted that the critical gap in fulfilling the promise of women's human rights was in the area of reproductive health and rights, fundamental to a woman's ability to exercise her other key rights related to political, economic and educational empowerment. The Human Rights Council could play a pivotal role in this by encouraging cooperation and coordination between Special Procedures and treaty bodies as well as United Nations entities in reiterating the importance of reproductive health and rights, to the advancement of the human rights of women and girls.

ANGELA COLLET, of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, said that they were encouraged by the will to integrate a gender perspective in the Council. The Special Procedures system should systematically integrate it as well. So far, the Human Rights Council mandates regarding economic issues did not integrate a gender perspective. The panel should establish a gender group within the Council to monitor the integration of the gender perspective in all issues.

CAROLINA AMADOR, of the Federation of Cuban Women, said that integrating the gender perspective was a technical tool serving a political compromise. Cuba had successfully met the goals set in the conference during the Decade of Women. The Federation was the national mechanism for the advancement of women in all areas in Cuba. They were conducting special programmes and provided advice. The negative impact of the embargo imposed by the United States had affected all women in the country.

Concluding Remarks

SANDEEP PRASAD, of Active Canada for Population and Development and the Sexual Rights Initiative, on the question of capacity building, said that States had a critical role in furthering gender mainstreaming. The work of a focal group of States on gender mainstreaming in the Council was highly relevant and the Human Rights Council should strongly consider establishing such a group. The essential first step in capacity building was incorporation of gender mainstreaming guidelines in the procedures of the Council.

GULNARA SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, its Causes and Consequences, concluded by indicating that she was in favour of integrating the gender perspective into the work of the Council and the Special Procedures.

NAJAT M'JID MAALLA, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, in concluding remarks, said that, on the question about when and in which cases were women and girls especially vulnerable, this happened in the presence of incomplete or absence of legislation and in crises such as emergencies, conflicts or displacement; that was when women were particularly vulnerable.

S. JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, on the question on what could be done about religious practices that caused discrimination, said it was an issue that had to be addressed with great sensitivity. In his view it was essential to promote change within communities. The greater change came when education levels, including those of indigenous women – the victims of discrimination – rose and diminished religious and cultural practices that caused discrimination against women.

CLEMENCIA F0ORERO UCROS, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Moderator of the Discussion, summarized the most important recommendations that were made today. For the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery: incorporating a gender perspective meant to rethink the subject of contemporary forms of slavery from the perspective of gender and considering new forms of slavery. For the Special Rapporteur on the fundamental freedoms of indigenous people: listening to the views of indigenous women in order to examine issues specific to them and develop strategies for combating violations of their rights.

For the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: gender integration to analyze the factors of additional vulnerability that were linked to the sex of the child and constituted an essential instrument for the development of preemptive as well as corrective mechanisms in the context of childhood protection.

For the Special Procedures: awareness raising and production of promotion materials. Working in countries during the fact finding missions using a multi-sector framework in applying a gender perspective; presenting reports to the Human Rights Council; and introducing the reports from a gender-perspective would allow them to alert and raise issues that needed the special attention of the Council. Cooperation with the Women's Right and Gender Unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to develop standards for the application of human rights. And to incorporate guidelines into the draft manuals on how to effectively integrate a gender perspective into the work.

Ms. Ucros said the High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to the need to repeal laws that discriminated against women in her opening address, she also called on the Council to take up the creation of a special mechanism on laws that discriminated against women, the Council should follow through the Universal Periodic Review and should focus on whether countries adopted and enacted laws that guaranteed full rights to women and in doing so took into account the particular challenges faced by indigenous women.

For the Council: the Council should consider establishing a focal point or focal group on a gender perspective within the Council which could facilitate ensuring that gender-related questions were raised during inter active dialogues with mandate holders. The Council must also consider in reviewing the overall system how to address protection gaps. The Council should monitor the implementation of recommendations of the Special Procedures. All stake holders should focus attention to appoint more qualified women candidates to the roster of the Special Procedure candidates, taking into account their responsibility to actively seek to appoint indigenous women to these positions.

1Joint statement on behalf of: International Federation of University Women; Zonta International; Femmes Africa Solidarite; International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse; World Student Christian Federation (WSCF); Women's World Summit Foundation; International Council of Women; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; International Alliance of Women; Women's Federation for World Peace International; and Worldwide Organization for Women.

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For use of the information media; not an official record