Statement by the Representative of Cyprus
to the 3rd Committee Mr. Demetris Hadjiargyrou
on Advancement of Women
and Implementation of the Outcome
of the Fourth Wolrd Conference on Women

October 19, 1998

Although my delegation has aligned itself with the statement of the European Union representative, I would like to make a few remarks on certain issues which we consider to be of particular importance and briefly delineate the main efforts of my government in promoting the advancement of women.

Firstly, my delegation would like to express its deep appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations to introduce and establish a gender-sensitive perspective within every field of work of the organization. We also take note with satisfaction of the invaluable work performed by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Commission on the Status of Women which tackle the workload of submitted reports with patience and professionalism. We also welcome the various reports of the Secretary-General on women's issues, as well as, the results of the forty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the discussion of the theme "Women in Development" in the session of ECOSOC held earlier this year.

We share the belief that the elimination of discrimination against women constitutes an integral part of the struggle for social development and social justice. We are thus resolved to fight discrimination by pursuing policies that are designed to lead to a gender-sensitive and educated society which will achieve full equality.

Cooperation and coordination at the international level is critical in creating and expanding the agenda for the human rights of women and in formulating and developing strategies for particular areas of concern. While recognizing the importance of international cooperation, we also realize that the implementation of such strategies rests primarily with national governments. In this respect we believe that the attainment of the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action adopted by the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women should utilize the considerable experience of non-governmental organizations whose valuable contribution has been duly demonstrated.

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 our 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. 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.

My government recognizes the potential of non-governmental organizations in the effort to mainstream gender issues throughout all levels and sectors of Cypriot society. This is in the light of the situation that the most serious obstacles to the full implementation of the Convention are social attitudes which are, in turn, based on traditional and stereotyped ideas on the role of men and women. As a result, the funds provided to such organizations have doubled in order to enable them to widen and intensify their range of activities. These functions can include the increase of public awareness in relation to discrimination against women, especially in its indirect and structural patterns. In addition, women victims of discrimination are assisted and encouraged to assert their rights.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus in its capacity as a state-party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, wishes to reiterate its willingness to pursue policies that would fulfill our obligations arising from the Convention throughout Cyprus. Unfortunately, though, due to the continuing military occupation of 37% of my country's territory, our actions, in this respect, will only benefit those women residing in the areas of Cyprus under the control of the government.

The Beijing Conference has expanded the agenda on the human rights of women, renewing hopes for the achievement of equality and the advancement of women. The policies of my government on women's issues have and will continue to be developed within the framework of guidelines and strategic objectives set in Beijing.