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Greater push needed to ensure women’s rights, says UN expert

Greater push needed to ensure women’s rights, says UN expert

Zou Xiaoquiau, vice-chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
With one in three women around the world being beaten, coerced into sex or abused, more must be done to ensure the human rights of women, a member of the United Nations expert body monitoring compliance with the international pact on eliminating discrimination against women said today.

“Significant progress has been achieved with respect to women’s human rights but we know that much more needs to be done throughout the whole world,” Zou Xiaoqiau, the vice chair of the 23-member UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, told reporters in New York.

She expressed alarm over the fact that violence against women is prevalent in many parts of the world, pointing out that the scourge is on the rise.

Characterizing the statistics as “frightening,” Ms. Zou noted that many rapes go unreported due to stigma and trauma, with charges being dropped against a rapist in some countries if he marries his victim.

In addition, some 2 million girls between the ages of five and 15 are introduced into the commercial sex market annually, and forced or unprotected sex puts women at risk of acquiring HIV, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

Ms. Zou, who presented the report of the Committee to the General Assembly yesterday, also spoke out against communally-sanctioned violence, such as honour killings, which claim the lives of thousands of young women every year.

The Committee regularly reviews each country once it becomes a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Currently, 186 countries have accepted the Convention, which was adopted in 1979.

“The Committee is committed to combating and ending discrimination and violence against women in all its forms,” Ms. Zou stressed, appealing to the States parties to fulfil their obligations under the pact and adopt its additional protocols to “ensure that women are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve and demand as human beings.”

She also welcomed the creation of UN Women, or the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which merges four UN entities: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).

Established in July by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly, the first UN super-agency on female empowerment will oversee all of the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs.

Headed by former Chilean president Michele Bachelet, it will help Member States implement standards, provide technical and financial support to countries which request it, and forge partnerships with civil society. Within the UN, it will hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality.