IHEU speaks out for rights of women

  • Date / 17 June 2008

In a statement delivered to the UN Human Rights Council on 17 June 2008, IHEU has urged greater empowerment of women and gender equality in the food cycle and called for recognition of the centrality of reproductive health programs to the human rights of women.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council: Eighth Session (2-18 June 2008)
President: Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea.

Follow up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:
Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations System. (item 8)
Speaker: IHEU Main Representative, Roy W Brown, Monday 17 June (am)

Mr President,

In connection with integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations System, we wish to draw attention to three areas in which women are particularly disadvantaged.

It is important to recognise the crucial role played by women in every link of the food delivery cycle: production, storage, marketing, and finally in the preparation of food for the family. The recent Special Session of the Human Rights Council devoted to the world food crisis highlighted the need to increase food production, especially in those countries that face a persistent food deficit. Increased production, better storage to prevent post-harvest loss, and improved methods of marketing are all steps in the process to insure the right to food for all.

It is also important to look at the persistent inequalities and discrimination that women face at the village level – discrimination in schooling, especially as in Africa, at the technical and higher levels, including discrimination in land ownership and land tenure, discrimination in inheritance of land and of access to resources. Therefore, we recommend that the new Special Rapporteur on the right to food give particular attention to the empowerment of women and gender equality in the food cycle. We are sure that NGOs, many of which work at the village level, would be pleased to contribute information for such studies.

Another area in which it is overwhelmingly women that suffer discrimination is in matters of reproductive health and reproductive rights. We note with concern the denial of adequate protection for young women, particularly in Africa, against the scourge of HIV/AIDS., in many cases arising from political interference in HIV intervention programs by religious leaders. Patriarchal attitudes are also responsible for the unnecessarily high population growth rate in many countries where women often lack the right to control their own fertility and are denied access to the information and means necessary to decide for themselves whether and when to become pregnant.

We urge the Council and all member and observer States to recognise the centrality of reproductive health programs to both the human rights of women and to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Finally, Mr President, we would like to congratulate those States which have outlawed FGM, and we would respectfully suggest to all States where the practice is still prevalent, to consider requesting their religious leaders to issue edicts, not simply saying that FGM has nothing to do with religion, but unequivocally condemning the practice. We believe this would go a long way towards helping eradicate this scourge.

Thank you sir.

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