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Enabling Women to Lead Lives Free of Gender-Based Discrimination a Key U.S. Foreign Policy Objective
June 26, 2012

Item 3 General Debate
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 20th Session
June 26, 2012

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States is proud to express its continued firm commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all around the world.

We welcome this session’s focus on gender issues.  Promoting women’s rights to education, to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, to participate in political and economic life, and to live their lives free from discrimination based on their gender are key foreign policy priorities for the United States.  As our Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues has noted, “The most pressing global problems simply won’t be solved without the participation of women.”

Sexual violence, particularly during periods of armed conflict and in post-conflict situations, disproportionately affects women and girls.  It not only undermines the critical contributions they make to society, but also challenges inclusive and sustainable peace processes.  The United States is working with regional and international organizations to prevent violence against women and girls, especially in conflict situations.  Our aim is to address gender-based violence by ensuring physical and legal protection, appropriate care and services for survivors and prosecution of perpetrators, and to hold accountable those responsible.

Effective prosecution and punishment of those responsible is also important in the context of human trafficking.  Modern slavery continues to be a reality for millions of people around the world.  Preventing human trafficking is predicated on building awareness of this horrendous crime, and when it does occur, prosecuting traffickers and providing justice, protection, and appropriate services to victims.

Another human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to nationality.  Protecting this right for women and children – who are disproportionately affected by discriminatory nationality laws – is especially important.  More than 30 countries have nationality legislation that discriminates against women, barring or limiting their ability to acquire and retain nationality and confer it on their children.   Moreover, statelessness is a global problem of global concern, as there are stateless populations in every single region of the world, numbering as many as 12 million people in total.

Without citizenship, stateless individuals may have inadequate or no legal protection and often lack access to education, health care, social services, lawful employment, and birth registration.   Moreover, they lack freedom of movement and may be subject to forced displacement.

As part of Secretary Clinton’s Women’s Nationality Initiative launched last year, the United States is sponsoring a resolution during this session to underline the importance of the right to nationality for all – without discrimination. We hope that all states will join in our initiative, keeping in mind that “women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.”

Thank you, Madame President.