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Achieving gender equality and the rights of women and girls are therefore a priority for Belgium. Concrete spearheads include the equal participation of women in all sectors of society, the fight against gender-related and sexual violence against women and girls, and the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Belgium contributes to the implementation of EU policy, which developed guidelines on violence against women and the fight against all forms of discrimination against women. With these guidelines, the EU underscores its commitment to promoting gender equality and women's rights in concrete way in its external policies.
Within the framework of the United Nations, discrimination based on gender is prohibited in most human rights treaties. In addition, specific instruments and bodies have been created to make the human rights of women a reality. For example, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was drawn up in 1979. This Convention aims to eliminate all aspects of discrimination in the public and private lives of women. Belgium has ratified both the Convention (10 July 1985) and its Optional Protocol (17 June 2004). Not only is our country actively engaged in promoting the ratification and implementation of this Convention, it also regularly calls on other countries to withdraw their reservations regarding this Convention.
Moreover, as early as 1946, the United Nations provided for the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has 45 Member States and is exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. During its annual two-week sessions in March, this Commission meets in New York to review the progress of States in this area, identify challenges and formulate policy recommendations. Within the framework of the EU, Belgium has been actively participating in these sessions for many years and always advocates a final outcome that is as progressive as possible.
As part of the broader reform agenda of the United Nations, UN Women, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, was created in 2010. UN Women is the result of a merger of four previously separate parts of the UN system and is a partner organisation of the Belgian development cooperation.
Within the framework of the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly, Belgium supports initiatives at EU level to promote and protect women's rights. Belgium also supports the mandate of the working group on discrimination against women and girls, among other things by participating in the interactive dialogues with these independent experts.
In 1995, the fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing. At this conference, States drew up a global agenda for promoting the rights of women and girls. This Platform for Action reflects the commitment of the international community and sets out specific measures to be taken to realise women's rights in 12 areas: poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, economics, decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights of women, media, environment, and girls. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this World Conference, Belgium provided the United Nations with a report on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Violence against women and girls
Violence against women and girls is still one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world. This violation often goes hand in hand with shame, stigma, and impunity.
The fight against gender-based violence is a priority for Belgium. Our country strives for a holistic approach, focusing on the prevention of violence, the fight against impunity of perpetrators, access to justice for women and girls, medical, psychological, and socio-economic support for victims and their right to reparation.
Within the framework of the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly, Belgium supports initiatives at EU level to tackle violence against women and girls. Belgium supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, among other things by participating in the interactive dialogues with this independent expert.
Belgium also supports implementation of the EU guidelines on violence against women and combating all forms of discrimination against women.
Within the framework of the Council of Europe, Belgium is also committed to combating gender-based violence. Belgium has ratified the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, i.e., the Istanbul Convention (14 March 2016) and is committed to the ratification and implementation of the Convention. To implement the Convention, Belgium has adopted a National Action Plan to combat all forms of gender-based violence.
Women, Peace and Security
Wars and armed conflicts have a different impact on women and men. Women and men do not usually participate in conflict prevention and resolution in the same way. Moreover, gender-related and sexual violence in war situations predominantly affects women and the fact that women can also be directly involved as combatants is often overlooked.
Based on these observations, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000. With this first resolution on Women, Peace and Security and subsequent follow-up resolutions, the Security Council acknowledged the importance of the gender dimension in peace and security processes. The aim in this regard is the equal and meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and peace and security processes and the protection of women and girls in conflict situations.
The Women, Peace and Security Agenda is a priority for Belgium. To bring about the concrete implementation of Resolution 1325, in 2004 the Security Council called on all Member States to draw up a National Action Plan on this issue. Belgium responded to this call and is currently implementing its Third National Action Plan.
Belgium is a member of the Group of Friends of Resolution 1325, an informal group of more than 50 States, working within the United Nations to implement Resolution 1325. Belgium is also a member of the Focal Points Network on Women, Peace, and Security. This informal network of States and regional organisations was established in 2016 with the aim of supporting each other in the implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda.
As a non-permanent member of the Security Council (2019-2020), Belgium is actively committed to the implementation and strengthening of the women, peace, and security agenda. In this regard, Belgium strives to integrate this issue as concretely as possible into country-specific and regional matters on the Security Council's agenda.
Belgium supports the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the team of experts on the rule of law and sexual violence in conflict. This team assists States in strengthening the rule of law with a view to ensuring the criminal liability of perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence.
Belgium actively participates in the elaboration and implementation of the EU Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and is an active member of the EU Informal Task Force.
Within the framework of NATO, Belgium is also committed to the elaboration and implementation of the NATO policy and Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Belgium supports the mandate of the Special Representative of the NATO Secretary-General on Women, Peace and Security.