Agenda Item 29: Advancement of Women
Statement by the Republic of Maldives
10 October 2016
United Nations, New York, 2016
At the outset, my delegation welcomes the reports by the Secretary General submitted under this Agenda Item for our consideration.
We are encouraged by the importance given to gender equality and empowerment of women and girls by this organization and its member states. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Declaration and the Agenda 2030 are all a testament to the international community's tireless efforts in pursuit of a planet 50:50. However, we are sharply conscious that almost four decades into the adoption of the CEDAW, and two decades since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, we have not been able to achieve a world where girls and women are able to fully enjoy their human rights: women and girls continue to be subjected to violence based on gender, girls continue to face barriers in access to education and, more women and girls are disproportionately affected by the ongoing conflicts around the globe.
It is our collective responsibility to fulfill the promises we have made in these international agreements. The Government of Maldives believes that with additional resources, determination, innovation and collaboration we can accelerate progress to achieve full equality.
The Maldives remains committed to do its part. Our policy to achieve gender equality is clear: continue to invest in girls and women; continue to give them the right tools to realize their true potential; and continue to introduce structural and normative changes to enable women to fight for their constitutionally guaranteed rights before the law. We believe that misinterpretation of tradition or religion is not a valid basis for discriminatory practices against women and girls.
The inclusive education policy of the Maldives guarantees that all girls have equal access to education. We are proud that 55 per cent of students that graduated high school last year were girls. Achieving gender parity in enrollment and in the attainment of primary and secondary education are achievements we are proud of and we believe that education is a crucial foundation to achieve an equal society.
We have also ensured that the same inclusivity extends to the workplace. Under the Employment Act, women and men are guaranteed equal access to employment and equal pay for equal work. This Act also outlaws the use of sex or marital status as a basis for dismissal, and includes generous provisions regarding maternity leave for women. The Government has made it it's aim to ensure that in state owned companies, at least one third of all board members are women. At the national level, the government has also adopted measures to integrate gender perspectives in policy, planning, and budgeting.
Despite the progress we have achieved so far, women still remain under-represented in the political and economic spheres. Existing cultural and structural barriers limits women's participation in public life. The Government has recently enacted the Gender Equality Act, which is a groundbreaking legislation in the country's history. The Act seeks to ensure gender equality in all spheres of society and give full effect to the equal rights guaranteed by the Maldives' Constitution.
The new Gender Equality Act sets out the role of the Government, business entities, non governmental organizations and other employers in the implementation of this Act. It also requires the State and political parties to ensure that equal opportunities exist for women and men to participate at all levels in political life.
As highlighted in the Secretary General's report, a staggering number of women and girls continue to be victims of sexual violence and abuse on a daily basis, around the world. These violations of their rights have long-standing negative impacts on their lives and future development. The Government of Maldives believes that even one woman subjected to sexual violence is one too many.
In the Maldives, stringent laws and policies are in place to prevent violence against women and girls. Laws designated to address gender based discrimination and violence such as Sexual Harassment and Prevention Act of 2014, Domestic Violence Act of 2012, the Sexual Offences Act of 2014 and now the Gender Equality Act of 2016 fortifies the defenses victims have against their perpetrators, and gives women and girls the full protection of the law. As a significant step towards empowering women, the Maldives has criminalized marital rape in 2014.
The 2030 Agenda recognizes gender equality not just as a stand-alone goal, but also as a necessary requirement for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. As we proceed towards the successful achievement of the sustainable development goals, we must ensure that women are not treated as followers or merely beneficiaries, but as leaders, contributors and agents of change. Investing in women today means investing in the future of the world. We need to accelerate our efforts, both domestically and at the international front to ensure that we are indeed, leaving no one behind.