Statement to the Commission on the Status of WomenPatricia P. Brister, U.S. Representative to the Commission on the Status of Women
New York City
March 1, 2006
Thank you. I welcome the chance to address the Commission as the new U.S. Representative to the CSW, and I look forward to collaboration with all of you. The United States has directed its efforts towards improving the lives of women worldwide through implementing programs with tangible results.
One of the highest priorities of the President in the UN is to fight human trafficking. The need for accelerated government responses to human trafficking led the U.S. Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 and to reauthorize it in 2003 and 2005. The TVPA protects and assists victims in the United States and abroad; enhances Federal criminal laws against traffickers; authorizes domestic grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to combat severe forms of trafficking, especially demand for victims of sex trafficking; increases measures to prevent persons from being trafficked to begin with; and mandates the Department of State to report annually on government actions to combat human trafficking. Since 2001 we have provided about $375 million to support anti-trafficking efforts in over 120 countries, including pilot projects to address demand for sex trafficking victims. This amount includes $25 million from President Bush’s $50 million anti-trafficking initiative, announced in his 2003 UNGA speech.
To confront the grim practice of child sex tourism, the 2003 U.S. PROTECT Act strengthens U.S. law enforcement’s ability to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish violent crimes against children, and provides severe penalties for Americans who travel abroad to prey on sexually exploited and trafficked children.
At CSW 2005, the U.S. resolution on “Eliminating Demand for Trafficked Women and Girls for All Forms of Exploitation” was the first UN resolution focusing on how demand, particularly for commercial sexual exploitation, fuels human trafficking. It was adopted by consensus with over 50 co-sponsors.
And in October 2005, at President Bush’s request, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The United States was pleased to join 92 other nations in ratifying the Palermo protocol, and we urge others to also take this step to end modern-day slavery.
The Women’s Justice and Empowerment Initiative (WJEI) for Africa, Presidential initiative, is a $55 million, three-year program to assist Benin, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia to improve legal rights for women. WJEI strengthens the capacities of legal systems to protect women and punish violators by training police, prosecutors, and judges to handle cases of sexual violence and abuse; improves shelters and counseling programs; and uses high-level engagement, conferences, public awareness campaigns, and education to emphasize the need for women’s justice and empowerment.
As a second major affront to the basic rights of women, honour crimes are crimes committed by family members, usually male, who believe their female relatives have behaved in an inappropriate manner. The legal systems of many countries openly excuse the perpetrators of these acts or provide reduced punishments for them. The United States issues annual reports -- including the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” and “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record” -- that document the extent of this problem and outline what the USG does through diplomacy and foreign assistance programs to address violence against women. This includes projects funded through the Department of State’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF) and training for human rights advocates and lawyers.
As an integral part of U.S. policy to work in the UN and on the ground to end the atrocities that have been wrought in Darfur by militia and their Sudanese Government sponsors, the United States is heavily engaged in bringing an end to the problem of violence against women in Sudan. The U.S. Government has provided approximately $16.5 million dollars to address the issue of gender-based violence in Darfur and among refuges in Chad who were victims of gender-based violence in Darfur. Yesterday, February 28, the United States held a panel discussion on “Gender-Based Violence in Sudan,” in order to highlight the problem of sexual abuse against women in Darfur and abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the camps.
Women in developing countries are dying needlessly during childbirth and HIV/AIDS. The President has made fighting HIV/AIDS a primary focus of U.S. policy. The United States is committed to providing access to health care for women, including maternal and child health. The President’s five-year, $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Emergency Plan or PEPFAR) supports HIV/AIDS programs in more than 120 countries worldwide, placing special emphasis on 15 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia that represent more than half the world’s HIV infections. Additionally, through the plan, the United States has pledged approximately $2.3 billion through 2008 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the largest single funding commitment from any source.
The Emergency Plan is working to ensure that the activities it supports meet the unique needs of women and girls, including orphans and victims of sex trafficking, rape, abuse, and exploitation. PEPFAR is the only international HIV/AIDS program that requires reporting of data disaggregated by gender. About 60% of those who received antiretroviral treatment were women, and over 3.2 million pregnant women have accessed PEPFAR-supported services for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT). The President’s Emergency Plan integrated the significant work already accomplished under President Bush’s $500 million International Mother-to-Child HIV Prevention Initiative into the Emergency Plan.
This Administration has a proud record of supporting women’s and children’s health needs. Specifically regarding reproductive health, with the support of the Congress, the United States is the world’s largest donor of bilateral reproductive health and family planning assistance: approximately $437 million this year.
Most of the refugee, returnee, and displaced populations assisted through U.S. contributions to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations are women and children. Women who flee war and repression have either lost their male relatives, or those relatives are in combat or jail. We strive to ensure that refugee women participate equitably in all areas of decision-making related to the assistance they receive, and that protection and gender-sensitive approaches be applied throughout program development and implementation. The United States provides life-sustaining services for these beneficiaries, and also assists with women’s income generation projects, maternal and child health care, education, literacy training, and programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
We place emphasis on advancing women’s economic empowerment, including property and inheritance rights for women. During CSW 2005, we introduced a resolution on “Economic Advancement of Women.” The resolution calls on member states to undertake legislative, administrative, and financial measures to create a strong enabling environment for all women entrepreneurs and workers.
On June 30, 2005, President Bush expanded the Africa Education Initiative (AEI) to improve basic education for 80 million African children by $400 million over four years. USAID has provided over 120,000 scholarships in 40 countries; trained 220,000 teachers in 15 countries; and provided over 2.5 million textbooks and other learning materials. AEI aims to strengthening parent and community support in children’s education and HIV/AIDS awareness and mitigation. Under the second FY 2007 phase, enhancing components will be added. These include outreach to marginalized populations; construction and rehabilitation of schools; and the use of technologies as a new theme.
In the area of political rights, the UNGA 2003 U.S. resolution on “Women and Political Participation” suggests practical measures governments and civil society actors can take to facilitate women’s participation and empowerment. 110 member states joined us as co-sponsors. During CSW 2005, the United States organized a panel discussion on efforts to implement the resolution, with representatives from Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, and the International Republican Institute (IRI). Next Monday, March 6, I will be taking part in a U.S. public diplomacy panel on “Political Empowerment of Women,” which will feature former Utah governor Olene Walker.
On women in post-conflict situations, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council promotes private-public partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions. The Department of State provides funding to train women teachers and build schools in Afghanistan and Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. These programs ensure that women and girls receive every opportunity to pursue their educational goals. In turn they will contribute greatly to Afghanistan as it continues to rebuild.
The $10 million Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative funds training programs on political organization, leadership and entrepreneurial skills, legal training and the constitutional process, coalition building, and media outreach. This program and the U.S.-Iraqi Women’s Network contributed to the large voter turnout, which included many women voters, in Iraq’s historic January 2005 democratic elections; supported the efforts of Iraqi women leaders to protect women’s rights in the draft Constitution; and trained women candidates in the run-up to the December 2005 Assembly elections. During this CSW, the Iraqi women’s delegation will first attend the CSW in New York, and then will go to Washington. There they will receive training related to political empowerment and meet with representatives of the Administration, the Congress, and NGOs.
We hope the activities mentioned here may serve as examples for other nations engaged in similar efforts. Thank you.
Released on March 1, 2006