Council divided on need for a new special procedure mandate to address women's equality
Thursday, 23 September 2010 10:27


The Human Rights Council's half-day discussion on women's equality before the law began with an address from the Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Kyung-wha Kang, prior to opening a panel debate. Ms Kang said underlying factors allowing for the continuation of discrimination against women before the law must be addressed. These factors include lack of access to sanitation, land rights, and equal pay for equal work.


The panel consisted of Ms Victoria Popescu, Ms Rashida Manjoo, Ms Lee Waldorf, Ms Maria de los Angeles Corte Rios, Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn and Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda.


Recurring comments made during the debate that followed included that discrimination against women is evident in all regions and within all traditions around the world; that national laws must be brought into line with international human rights standards; and, that there is a significant gap between non-discriminatory laws and their implementation. States expressed varying levels of support for the new special procedures mandate recommended by the High Commissioner, and which Mexico and Colombia are seeking to establish at this Council session.


The panellists highlighted that despite existing normative frameworks at the international, regional and national levels inequalities between women and men still exist. Ms Popescu, expert member of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, explained that the proposed new Special Rapporteur's work would be complementary to that of CEDAW and other UN agencies working towards the equality of women.


Despite all States acknowledging the need for further work to be done to improve women's equality, many States did not support the proposed new mandate, including Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC), Algeria, and Syria (on behalf of the Arab group). These States voiced the belief that the potential of existing mechanisms should first be fully explored before a new mandate be considered. States supportive of a new mandate included Mexico, Norway, Canada, Brazil, US, EU, Switzerland, and Lithuania.


In response to questions raised by States about the added-value of a new mandate, the panellists said – depending on the future mandate holder, the resources allocated and the scope of the mandate – the mandate could substantially help improve women's equality before the law. Additionally, the panellists rejected claims a new mandate would duplicate the work of CEDAW and UN Women, stating it would be complimentary.


Finally, panellists sought to placate several Islamic States that expressed concern about being targeted by the new mandate because of their legal systems. The panellists stressed that no country would be exempt from scrutiny and that women's inequality in law and practice is prevalent in all countries. NGOs that spoke expressed concern regarding the lack of equality of women in many parts of the world, and called on the Council to establish the new Special Rapporteur to improve the situation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 September 2010 10:20
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