The 47th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Statement by H.E. Mr. Thorsteinn Ingolfsson Ambassador Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Allow me at the outset to express our pleasure to see you in the Chair and pledge to you the full support of the Icelandic Delegation during our deliberations.
Iceland has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol. In light of the importance of the issue at hand we urge all States that have not yet done so to ratify or acceed to the Convention in order to reach the objective of its universal ratification. We also urge states parties to withdraw reservations which are incompatible with the objective and purpose of the Convention. Furthermore we would like to stress the importance of implementation both as regards CEDAW and the commitments made in Beijing and Beijing 5.
Last year we spent a lot of time discussing the terrible plight of Afgan women. While the situation has improved Iceland would like to emphasise the continued importance of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and the need for complying with this resolution in that particular situation as well as in all other applicable situations around the world. Iceland welcomes the two reports that were issued last year on this particular subject and the recommendations contained therein.
Last week we had a conference in Iceland as a part of the Nordic-Baltic Campaign against Trafficking in Women. The main purpose of the Campaign is to introduce the issue of trafficking in women to the public, especially buyers and potential buyers of sexual services. A few days before the conference the main newspaper in Iceland distributed a 12 page special edition devoted solely to the campaign.
While organised trafficking and prostitution have never been proven to take place in Iceland, the Government has put emphasis on taking preventive measures and in this regard Iceland has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and is preparing the ratifiction of the International Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. A draft bill of amendment to the General Penal Code has been tabled in Parliament according to which trafficking in persons shall be punishable by up to eight years in prison.
All over the world trafficking is linked to the sex industry. This industry is a fairly new phenomena in Iceland and has mostly manifested itself in the establishment of strip clubs. The government and some municipal authorities have taken serious measures to prevent illegal activities such as prostitution which they feel could encourage trafficking among other things. A small victory was won in this regard recently when the Supreme Court upheld a decision by the municipal authorities in the capital to ban socalled "lap dances" in strip clubs.
All types of violence against women need to be prevented and that urgently. None of our countries are free from violence against women but by implementing at the national level, the commitments that we have agreed upon here at the United Nations, we should be able to combat these crimes. As in almost every situation regarding the human rights of women, the tools are there but nothing happens unless we take action. Violence against women will not be uprooted unless the general attitude towards women undergoes a major overhauling in all parts of the world, from the top down and both by men and women.
We have to bear in mind that one of the most common forms of violence against women is that performed by a husband or an intimate male partner. It is necessary to empower women with education, financial assistance and vocational training. It is also important to remind ourselves that violence disempowers women even though they are well educated and in good jobs. Therefore, it is important that there are legal remedies available which the police and the courts can use to prevent further violence and to protect the victims. As far as the society in general is concerned focus has been on education, awareness campaigns as well as bolstering the justice system and health system to make them more effective in addressing these issues.
The discussion in Iceland on violence against women has focused very much on the women themselves but for the past few years there has been increasing attention given to how essential it is to focus more on the role of men.
It is very important to develop ways to prevent men from becoming perpetrators and as far as the sex industry is concerned, in light of the issue of trafficking, to make it less appealing to become demandeurs because as with all other trade it is the demand that is the driving factor.
When it comes to the media and new technology there are two sides on the coin. On one hand there is the importance of securing women}s access to these mediums as an extremely important component for them in exercising their human rights, not the least their freedom of expression and the right to education. On the other hand it is also extremely important how the media portrays women and reports on womens issues and gender equality. A governmental study on Women and the Media a couple of years ago recommended among other things to increase awareness among media personnel on gender issues. Icelandic authorities also initiated a pilot programme to encourage women and girls to pursue "traditionally male" areas of education, including information and communication technology.
Icelandic authorities have recently established a committee with representatives from various governmental agencies to coordinate measures combatting violence against women. It is believed that a coordinated effort will increase the effectiveness of these measures. In addition to having an overview over measures that are already in force the committtee is also supposed to have an advising role and to develop campaigns and programmes of action to combat this crime. It should be mentioned that civil society in Iceland has played a crucial role in calling attention to violence against women and in assisting the victims.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson
The 47th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women