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Ambassador Donahoe: United States is Committed to Placing Women at The Center of Our Foreign Policy
June 22, 2012

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice

and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council 20th Session
June 22, 2012

(as prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Madame President.

We welcome the report of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice. 

The United States is committed to placing women and girls at the center of our foreign policy.  Investing in women and girls—including by ensuring equal access to education, healthcare, justice, and economic opportunity—helps bring about peaceful societies and inclusive economic growth.

We commend the Working Group for its decision to focus its research in 2012 and 2013 on efforts aimed at eliminating discrimination against women, especially in times of political transition or economic difficulty.  Around the world, too many women face obstacles to participating in government, in the economy, and in society as a whole.  When critical decisions are being made, women’s voices can be muffled or even silenced.  In difficult economic times, women may be disproportionately impacted.

Political transitions – and especially women’s efforts to bring about just, stable, and prosperous societies – offer new opportunities for legislators to revisit laws that discriminate against women.  The United States was one of 130 cosponsors of UN General Assembly Resolution 66/130 on women and political participation last September.  That resolution calls upon States to enhance women’s equal participation in the political sphere, including during times of political transition, and encourages States to ensure an expanded role for women in the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.  We have also urged close coordination between governments and civil society in the Middle East and North Africa to build awareness of women’s human rights and ensure that those rights are enshrined in national constitutions and respected in practice.

When women can participate in their governments; when they can work in dignity; and when they are given the chance to build their knowledge, skills, and networks to improve their own lives, we come one step closer to a future of equality.

The United States would also like to recognize the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.  We appreciate the rigorous academic study that informs the report and reaffirm the importance of protecting the human rights of migrants, irrespective of their immigration status, in line with domestic legislation.

In this regard, the Special Rapporteur’s approach to protecting those rights in cases of detention emphasizes building migrants’ awareness of applicable international norms and national laws, accounting for differences in language and levels of education, and working to provide safe and humane conditions in detention centers.

We applaud the Special Rapporteur’s attention to the need for protections for vulnerable migrants in detention, which takes into careful consideration the needs of, inter alia, women; children; victims of trafficking; stateless persons; and migrants with disabilities.  In this regard, we would also like to highlight the importance of screenings to identify potential victims of human trafficking, in particular among vulnerable groups such as migrants and unaccompanied minors.  This is a very important measure in our view, because without effective identification, trafficking victims cannot be given the attention, protection, or access to justice that they need.

In addition to outlining the various human rights frameworks that govern detention of migrants in irregular status, the report suggests possible alternatives to detention.  We would request that the Special Rapporteur further consider how some noncustodial options, in particular the deposit of documents and the posting of bail or bond, may exacerbate migrants’ vulnerabilities to human trafficking.

We thank the members of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteur for their tireless efforts to promote human rights in law and in practice, and look forward to continuing updates on these mandates over the coming year.

Thank you, Madame President.