60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

Statement by:

His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations

18 March  2016

United Nations, New York

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, my delegation offers its warmest congratulations and welcome on your appointment as Chair, as well as other members of the Bureau of the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Let me also express our gratitude to the Secretary General, for the reports produced with regards to this mandate.

More than twenty years on, we continue to be inspired by the vision laid out in the truly seminal document of the Beijing Platform for Action. More girls are enrolling in schools. More laws are enacted to provide legal safeguards for women. More women are participating in the labor force. Where once violence against women was a silent matter, we see it addressed boldly in laws and public policies.

Yet, while these advancements are important and should be celebrated, the overall picture sadly is, of slow and uneven progress in achieving gender equality and empowerment of women.  Progress on gender equality has been challenged, and in recent years, women are becoming more vulnerable due to increasing radicalisation and violent extremism, rising humanitarian crises and conflicts.  Women and girls suffer most, bearing the far greater brunt of these travesties. Similarly, women suffer most in the event of natural and man-made disasters. Building a just, safe and equal world for men and women is the most important and urgent challenge of the 21st century.

As the Secretary General noted in his remarks to this Commission last year, "women are not just victims". Nor should they be viewed as such. Women as agents of change can bring transformative and lasting change to our societies. The skills, values and abilities of women and girls are one of the most valuable, yet unrealized assets.

The Maldives has in recent years, enforced key legal instruments that encouraged gender equality promoting equal opportunities and equal outcomes for women. In this regard, while the Maldives has never had unequal pay issues, the 2008 Employment Act guarantees maternity leave for working mothers with 90 working days with full pay, as well as flexible working hours. The Gender Equality Bill, presented to the Parliament last month, addresses a holistic framework to ensure gender equality within all spheres of society.  The aim of the Gender Equality Bill is to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender under Article 17(a) of the Constitution, to strengthen the existing legal framework in line with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to promote gender equality in the Maldives in all spheres of life.

Mr. Chairman,

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda provided new impetus to achieving gender equality.  Deeply embedded within the Agenda is the firm affirmation that gender equality is central to achieving sustainable development. With a stand-alone goal on gender equality, and many provisions on women empowerment across its targets, the Agenda recognizes the powerful ways in which gender equality and sustainable development can reinforce each other.  As we move to turn these ambitious goals into a reality, and deliver on the promises we made to our women and girls, it is important to approach development from a gender as well as rights-based perspective.  The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has already embarked on this journey, with the establishment of the National Committee and the Technical Committee for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Government is of the firm conviction that the sustainable development goals must be fully integrated to our national development plans and guide our development trajectory.

Mr. Chairman,

If we are to truly realize the rights of women and girls, government policies should be an overarching and holistic strategy for achieving gender equality and women's empowerment. My delegation is pleased to note that on the occasion of this year's International Women's Day, the Government of Maldives has launched a comprehensive Gender Equality Policy for 2016-2021. This Policy is the blueprint to yield lasting results that empower women economically and politically, creating a conducive environment to realize women's rights and shifting the hearts and minds of people towards removing deeply entrenched stereotypes within the society.

Mr. Chairman,

Violence against women is a violation of one of the most fundamental human rights. The Government of Maldives has pledged a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of gender-based violence. In the spirit, the Government of Maldives, has enacted the Prohibition of Sexual Harassment and Abuse Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and Social Protection Act in our efforts to raise awareness and create the fundamental necessary provisions for the protection of all women and girls. These frameworks encompass a vast array of efforts from educating children to providing shelters and providing psychosocial support for victims.

Mr. Chair,

Women and girls– who are trapped in poverty, child, early and forced marriage, conflict and disaster stricken areas, cultural norms, lack of education, all hold great potential to advance their societies.  Educated girls, empowered girls and women in position of power are drivers of growth and key to positive and lasting change. As we look ahead to 2030, and the implementation of the global goals, we must place women and girls at the heart of sustainable development. We must remain true to the promises we made in Beijing, Cairo and more recently here within the halls of this assembly. Let us not forget- when we invest in girls and women, we invest in a promising future.

Thank you.