Magazine article UN Chronicle

Towards Gender Equality Beijing+5

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Towards Gender Equality Beijing+5

Article excerpt

The floors at the United Nations in New York were humming with activity: people from every continent buzzing around, following their paths from one conference room to another, dropping by at presentation stands, eavesdropping on conversations in a multitude of languages. Of course, this is a common sight at the Organization that carries diversity in its name; but something was different from the usual. This June, the large majority of people here were women.

In fact, gender representation in politics was one of the many topics that the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly touched upon. Under the title "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century", the five-day meeting reviewed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Delegates agreed that, while progress had been made towards the full implementation of the goals set out in Beijing, barriers still remained. Thus, the final outcome document, containing the Political Declaration and "Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action", was adopted at this special session.

Among the new challenges, they cited globalization and increased disparities in the economic situation among and within countries, coupled with a growing interdependence of States. Although there was increased recognition of the gender dimension of poverty during the last five years, a widening economic inequality between men and women could be witnessed, many delegates argued. Speaking on behalf of the Asian Pacific Women's Watch, Pam Rajput said that the past few years had been particularly difficult for her region. "The challenges include the negative impact of globalization, the Asian financial crisis and the intensification of armed and other forms of violent conflict", she said, adding that "the region has seen an increase in the number of women living in poverty."

Governments agreed to establish and strengthen legislation that handles all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape and sexual abuse of women and girls. Countries had struggled against these kinds of human rights violations by introducing educational programmes, as well as legislative measures. For example, Adriana Delpiano, Minister for Women's Affairs of Chile, said that her country was creating family tribunals to handle violence against women. At the same time, however, such programmes are weak in many countries, and prevention often remains fragmented, the outcome document notes.

A generally more proactive approach towards gender equality aims at women's education. In his opening statement, Secretary-General Kofi Annan focused on the issue of education and said, "only education will enable women to close the gap". In this respect, two time-bound targets were established: first, increase adult literacy by 50 per cent by 2015; and second, ensure free compulsory and universal primary education for both girls and boys by the same year.

Traditions and cultural customs are particularly resistant to change, but Governments agreed to fully implement laws, policies and educational programmes to eradicate such practices that are harmful-for example, early and forced marriage, and the so-called "honour crimes" or female genital mutilation. …

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