Dr. Atsuko Heshiki
Alternate Representative of Japan
Agenda Item 98: Advancement of Women
Agenda Item 99: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”
14 OCTOBER 2004
This year, women around the world are celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Since Japan ratified CEDAW in 1985, the status of Japanese women as well as that of women around the world has made much progress. Directly or indirectly, the ratification has affected the legal framework of our country and produced a series of amendments to domestic laws, which in turn have led to many improvements in women’s lives.
The Government of Japan attaches central importance to the issue of the advancement of women and gender equality. While there is still much to be done to further improve women’s lives even in a peaceful country like ours, the suffering and anguish of women in situations of armed conflict are beyond our imagination. As victims of armed conflict are increasingly civilians, women are the most vulnerable among them. The issue is a matter of urgency. The situation in which women must often live under armed conflict is intolerable, and in fact it should not be tolerated.
The processes of peace-building and reconstruction, however, can open a window of opportunity for women. Taking our own case as an example, although Japan was almost sixty years ago a war-devastated country, it was precisely in this post-war period that the status of women began to improve remarkably. We know from our experience that gender equality is not only a goal in itself, but can also be used as the means to achieving peace and security. Based on this belief and the concept of human security of which Japan is a leading promoter, Japan has been supporting a UNIFEM project in Afghanistan through the Trust Fund for Human Security we established within the United Nations in order to promote the social re-integration of female refugees and internally displaced persons. That support has taken the form of providing vocational training, convening seminars, and carrying out income-generating programs. We believe that such programs help to empower women and girls and encourage them to assume more active roles in post-conflict Afghanistan.
Women face many forms of gender-based violence even in times of peace, and we strongly believe that all must be eliminated. In this statement, I would like to focus on two of them: trafficking in women and girls and the issue of HIV/AIDS.
Trafficking in women and girls is a grave violation of human rights and we must take action against it. As part of the comprehensive efforts that Japan has been making to combat this illegal activity, the Coordination Mechanism on Trafficking in Persons, an inter-agency task force, was set up within the Prime Minister’s Office in April this year. In order to protect and preserve the human rights of trafficked women and girls, Japan will further strengthen its crackdown on illegal brokers and employers and make its best efforts to protect victims, through institutional, administrative and legislative measures.
At the same time, the Government of Japan is of the view that unless countries of origin, transit and destination collectively devise and implement serious and concrete measures, trafficking in women and girls will never be eradicated. It was to this end that Japan sent a mission to countries in the region and that it has been working closely with concerned governments and international and civil society organizations. Japan also has been participating in the Bali Process and contributing to efforts to promote regional cooperation. In this regard, we welcome the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, and hopes that through his work, bilateral, regional and international cooperation against trafficking in persons will be further enhanced.
The rate of HIV infection among women and girls is another cause of deep concern to Japan. Gender inequality is one of the causes of this crisis, with women less able than men to exercise control over their bodies and lives. Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of HIV/AIDS. We are particularly concerned with this situation because the spread of HIV/AIDS also affects human security. According to the joint report by UNAIDS/UNFPA/UNIFEM, a recent study showed that women who are beaten or dominated by their male partners are much more likely to become infected by HIV than women with non-violent partners. Unless the link between the two is broken and women become more educated about their rights as well as the epidemic, it will be hard to reverse the situation. In this regard, Japan has provided assistance to a number of projects through UNIFEM’s Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS to women in developing countries. Domestically, since Japan enacted the Law on Infectious Diseases in 1998, we have been promoting various measures to disseminate accurate information on the prevention of infectious disease, including the appropriate use of condoms. The Ministry of Education is also endeavoring to enhance AIDS education for elementary, junior and senior high school students.
We celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action next year. Since then, no one can be unaware that the attention given to gender perspectives has increased quantitatively within the United Nations system. As the Secretary-General’s report notes, however, there is still limited qualitative attention to this issue. We therefore hope that the discussion on gender issues in this committee will not simply pay them lip service but lead to concrete action and implementation of our commitments with system-wide coordination.
On the eve of the Beijing+10, Japan hopes that the path to achieving gender equality will become one that women do not take alone, but rather one that women and men walk together. In order to find a concrete solution to gender inequality, it is essential to get men and boys on board. We believe that men have to raise their own awareness on gender equality and assume responsibility in order to transform our society into one in which women and men share responsibilities at home, at work and in the community as equal partners.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.