65th session of the UN- Commission on the Status of Women

General Debate - Intervention of Belgium

Dear Mister Chair,   
Distinguished representatives,   
Ladies and gentlemen,  

As the UN Secretary General recently said: gender equality is perhaps the world’s greatest human rights challenge. More than 25 years ago, we committed ourselves in Beijing to take bold steps to achieve this goal. Women’s unequal share of power and decision-making was 25 years ago already recognized as a critical area of concern. We undeniably realized some progress, but no country has yet achieved women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation.  

Let us be honest. The goal is clear and realistic. Concrete and effective actions have to be taken: 

First, women’s and girl’s empowerment and equal participation in decision-making requires the elimination of structural barriers, discriminatory laws and norms perpetuating gender stereotypes. No law, no tradition, no religion, no value, nor any custom or culture can ever justify gender discrimination. We need to step up, enforce non-discrimination laws and make sure that every woman and girl worldwide knows her rights and how to enforce them.

Also crucial in this regard is the fight against gender based violence, both offline and online. Gender based violence has dramatically increased during the pandemic. It is not only the worst violation of women’s human rights. It also prevents the equal participation of women and girls in society. 

Belgium continues to combat all forms of gender-based violence with an integrated approach paying particular attention to vulnerable groups, including through the implementation of a National Action Plan. This plan is aligned with the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe, which sets legally binding standards to prevent violence, protect victims and ensure accountability for perpetrators. Let me recall that the Istanbul Convention is also open for ratification by non-members of the Council of Europe.  

Today, I also wish to underline the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights. This should not be a contentious subject. We are all committed to the goals of gender equality, equal participation and a life free of violence for women and girls. But those goals cannot be reached without giving to women the choice, without guaranteeing their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This includes effective access to information, to sexual and reproductive health services, to modern methods of contraception of choice and safe abortion and to comprehensive sexuality education for all. 

In addition, we cannot rely on women and girls to assume the care responsibilities and household tasks alone. We need to work towards the provision of quality, affordable, and accessible care services for children and other dependents. We need effective policies and public-awareness campaigns encouraging men and boys to fully participate in household and care tasks.  

There are many more domains which require dedicated action, gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting and that I cannot develop further today: intersecting forms of discrimination, quality education, quota or target numbers, valuing employment mostly performed by women, the gender and pension pay gaps and the use of digitalization, technology and innovation to make a positive difference.  

All those fields require knowledge and insight based on the collection and analysis of data disaggregated by sex and other characteristics. 

It requires political will and dedication.  

And it requires us to cooperate, take on challenges and overcome differences and resistance.  

In this regard I would like to recognize and applaud the work and achievements of civil society organizations, women’s organizations and women human rights defenders. They play a vital role in furthering progress and deserve our recognition, support and protection. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I am here to reaffirm Belgium’s commitment to transform words into concrete action.  

We look forward to a successful CSW-session that can make a concrete difference in the lives of women and girls in all their diversity.  

Thank you.