It is a great honour and privilege to address the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, dedicated to the appraisal and assessment of the progress achieved in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
It is indeed very important now, ten years after the Beijing Conference, to take stock of all the important work which has been done, identify and discuss the problems and obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Platform for Action and consider further actions and initiatives to accelerate its implementation.
I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Commission on the Status of Women, for the organization of this important meeting, as well as, to all other specialized agencies, which have been actively involved in the various preparatory activities.
Further to the statement delivered by H.E. Madame Marie-Josee Jacobs, Minister of Equal Opportunities of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, I would like to make some additional remarks concerning Cyprus’s performance in this field.
Three major factors played a catalytic role on further advancing the status of women in Cyprus. Firstly, the Beijing Platform for Action has given a new impetus, strengthened the political will and intensified the efforts towards legal and de facto gender equality. Secondly, the accession process of Cyprus to the EU, since 1998 moving at a very intensive pace, necessitated the harmonization with the acquis communautaire and resulted in the enactment, of very important legislation affecting women’s lives and parallel to this, the creation of the necessary administrative infrastructure for the implementation of the relevant legislation and policies. Thirdly, the recent developments on the ground with the partial lifting of the restrictions of movement, along with the Government’s efforts towards the reunification of the island, have boosted up women’s initiatives for bicommunal meetings and projects contributing to the creation of a culture of peace on the island.
Furthermore, the Government’s commitment and strong political will towards gender equality has been manifested by acceding to and ratifying two very important international legal instruments for women’s rights, namely:
– The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [ratified by Law 1(III)/2002], and
– The Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [ratified by Law 13(III)/2002]
Based on the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination and the Beijing Platform for Action, the Government of Cyprus through the National Machinery for Women’s Rights has formulated a National Action Plan covering areas corresponding to the national priorities and its declared commitments at the Beijing Conference.
Progress has been achieved in particular in the following areas:
o Legal reform aiming at the elimination of discrimination and the further safeguarding of women’s rights in all fields of law and in particular in the Family and Labour Law, has been pursued, bringing domestic laws in line with relevant International Instruments.
o The process of harmonization with the Acquis Communautaire of the European Union in the Social Sector has been pursued intensively. Important legislation, including the Law of Equal Treatment in Employment and Vocational Training, Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value, Maternity protection, Parental Leave, have been enacted.
o Economic empowerment of women has been pursued through measures facilitating the reconciliation of working and family responsibilities, promoting equal pay and the protection of maternity, the improvement of vocational guidance and training and schemes to support women’s entrepreneurship.
o Violence against women has been tackled through legislative measures including the new Laws on domestic violence and trafficking and exploitation of women, the setting up of new mechanisms for the protection and support of victims, the training of professionals, particularly police officers, involved in the handling of cases of domestic violence and trafficking as well as the setting up of coordinating Units at the Police Headquarters on Domestic Violence and Trafficking.
o Balanced participation of women and men in politics has been pursued through training programmes aimed at encouraging and supporting women to enter politics and the launching of public campaigns to support women candidates in Parliamentary elections. The number of Women MP’s in the House of Representatives has increased from 3 to 9, representing the 16% of the total number. During the period under review the appointment of the first woman as Supreme Judge has also taken place, while the percentage of women judges has reached the 27% compared to 22% in 2000 and 15% in 1995.
The National Machinery for Women’s Rights which plays a key role in the coordination, monitoring and implementation of the Government’s policy in this field and in particular the implementation of gender mainstreaming through out the Public Sector, has been strengthened with human and financial recourses. Besides, new Equality Bodies have been set up, contributing towards the enforcement of relevant legislation and policies. The expansion of the competences of the Ombudsman, so as to create an independent extra-judicial mechanism to investigate complaints of discrimination has been the most significant development in this area.
Cyprus remains strongly committed and will continue to pursue policies and programs which ensure that women fully enjoy their human rights and are equal partners in shaping the country’s peaceful economic, political and social development. This commitment stems from the belief that we should all redouble our efforts, both at the national and international levels so that women and men walk next to each other in real partnership, both sharing the fruits of development in the family, in the work place, in the political and economic spheres, in all sectors and at all levels.
I am absolutely certain that the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women will prove to be a very successful and fruitful meeting, offering to all of us, a great opportunity to reaffirm our strong support for and commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Beijing +5 Political Declaration and Outcome Document of the twenty-third session of the General Assembly of the United Nations as well as the agreed conclusions adopted at the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women since Beijing.
Thank you Madame Chairperson.