Allow me at the outset to extend to you and to the members of the Bureau, my delegation’s appreciation for your able leadership in guiding the work of the Commission on the Status of Women. Although my delegation has aligned itself with the Statement of the European Union, I would like to briefly make some remarks on the issues which we are discussing during this debate.
First, on the issue of the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, I would like to reiterate my delegation’s full support to the multi-faceted efforts of the various government agencies and national and international organizations, first and foremost those of the United Nations and its Agencies, in pursuing the full implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action.
We look forward to a very fruitful session of the Commission in discussing the two issues of this year’s agenda, women and health and international mechanisms for the advancement of women thus covering the examination of all twelve critical areas of the Platform of Action.
Although considerable progress has been achieved half way through the time period set at Beijing, an intensification of our efforts is becoming more imperative in order to fully realize the goal for full equality for women as envisaged by the World Conference.
In this respect, it is our firm belief that equality can only be achieved in an environment where democracy and respect for the inalienable rights of each person, whether man or woman, child or an elder person truly reign supreme. In order to achieve this, however, it is necessary to pursue policies that will assure social and economic development of all societies. Poverty eradication, education and training and the creation of economic opportunities must be pursued in tandem with the development of the institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, the enforcement of humanitarian law, the promotion of health policies and other aspects of the problem as described in the twelve critical areas agreed in Beijing. Only then can the environment for the attainment of the goal of gender equality be truly established.
Second, we look forward to the Special Session of the General Assembly on “Women 2000 – Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century”, to provide the opportunity to expand the prospects of the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. In order to do this, however, member states will have to display the necessary political will for making this session a success by working in a spirit of cooperation and consensus.
Third, Cyprus welcomes the active involvement of the civil society in the whole process undertaken before and after Beijing and looks forward to their contribution in identifying the new issues, trends and strategies to realizing gender equality.
In the context of the Platform for Action on Women as well as the national policy of harmonization with the ‘Acquis Communautaire’ of the European Union in its capacity as a candidate for accession, Cyprus is intensely pursuing legislative modernization which constitutes a central component in our efforts to eliminate discrimination against women. Following the recommendations of CEDAW, some very important pieces of legislation are soon expected to be enacted in the fields of Labor Law, Equal Treatment and Equal Opportunities at Work and Sexual Harassment. Legislation has already been enacted in the fields of Social Security and Family Law.
An additional area of concern is that of violence against women. We have already taken substantial steps to remedy existing weaknesses in the legislation. Agencies have been created in order to provide assistance and support the victims of violence while special emphasis is given on educating and sensitizing professionals of the government sector who deal with such incidents.
The trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation and prostitution is an area which also pertains to the broad area of violence against women. In the government’s effort to eliminate this phenomenon, the existing legislation has been clarified in relation to the regulation of the employment of foreign artists and entertainers, as well as, the prosecution of criminal offenses. Provisions to the current legislation affording the victims of such exploitation special protection under the law have also been added. Furthermore, additional efforts through local and international law-enforcement authorities to combat this phenomenon, are actively pursued.
The number of women in positions in the decision-making machinery, their participation in political life and in the media is usually a good indication of the status of women in a society. The number of women in these fields, in Cyprus, is steadily increasing in line with European norms. This has partly been the result of the establishment a few years ago of the National Machinery for Women’s Rights which has been substantially contributing to the sensitization of the government sector on equality and discrimination issues. This Body serves as a channel of cooperation between the government and various non-governmental organizations and undertakes informational and educational campaigns and other activities.
I would like to make a special reference to the recent appointment of women to the two crucial posts of Ombudsman and Auditor-General of the Republic of Cyprus as well as of the promotion and appointment of a considerable number of women as heads of diplomatic missions. My government is committed to further enhancing the participation of women in public life, convinced of the beneficial effects that this will have on Cypriot society.
Turning briefly, Madame Chairperson, to the issue of the elaboration of a draft optional protocol to CEDAW, I would like to reiterate Cyprus’ support for its speedy conclusion and adoption, and express the hope that substantial progress will be achieved in this direction during this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women.