UN Commission Proposes Action to Prohibit Violence against Women; China Offers to Host Fourth Women's Conference

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Action to prohibit violence against women, ensure equal opportunities for disabled women and give priority to international protection of refugee and displaced women and children was recommended by the Commission on the Status of Women at its thirty-fifth session (27 February-8 March, Vienna).

The 43-member body also launched preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace.

Fifteen resolutions, which also focused on women in vulnerable situations--including migrants, prostitutes and battered women--and the integration of women in development, were approved by the Commission. Most texts will go to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly for final adoption later this year.

The Commission asked that discussions start on the possibility of preparing an international instrument that explicitly addresses the issue of violence against women. The first step should be to develop a framework for that instrument, in consultation with the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). An expert meeting on this issue should be convened in 1991 or 1992, with the participation of CEDAW and the Committee on Crime Prevention and Control, the Commission specified.

"Violence against women is an issue of equal rights that derives from a power imbalance between women and men in society", the Commission stated. It urged Governments to adopt, strengthen and enforce legislation prohibiting such violence and to take administrative, social and educational measures to protect women from all forms of physical or mental violence.

Governments were also urged to ensure "the full and explicit integration of women's concerns" in development policies. International financial and technical assistance to specific development programmes should continue, the Commission stressed.

Migrant women should be provided with information and assistance regarding immigration, labour, financial and other relevant laws and regulations, as well as on conditions of work and of life in the State of employment. States were invited to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the Assembly in 1990.

International measures should be taken to ensure greater protection for refugee women and children from physical violence, sexual abuse, abduction and circumstances that could force them into illegal activities.

The Commission recommended that all refugee women and, wherever possible, children should have non-discriminatory access to individual identification and registration documents, irrespective of whether they are accompanied by a male family member.

A representative of the human rights group Amnesty International told the Commission that women refugees and asylum seekers had often been the victims of sexual abuse by police, soldiers or other government agents. Rape was seen as a form of persecution that drove many women abroad, and sexual favours were frequently the price for relief goods or asylum documentation. Amnesty International stated that it had documented, in a report entitled "Women on the Front Line", gross violations against women in more than 40 countries around the world.

Other recommendations dealt with the world conference on women in 1995, women and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) prevention, national machineries for the advancement of women, and women in South Africa and occupied Palestinian territories.

1995 world conference

The fourth world conference on women in 1995 will consider a draft programme of action prepared by the Commission, focusing on a number of issues identified as fundamental obstacles to the advancement of women throughout the world. (Three previous global meetings were held in Mexico City, 1975; Copenhagen, 1980; and Nairobi, 1985). …