GENEVA (8 March 2012) – “International Women’s Day 2012 takes place in the context of widespread political and economic crisis,” said today UN independent expert Kamala Chandrakirana, who currently heads a new group* charged with identifying ways to eliminate existing discrimination in law and practice, and helping States to ensure greater empowerment and autonomy for women in all fields.

“In political transition, there is a danger of regression in the enjoyment by women of their human rights and women participating in public life are often exposed to violence,” she warned. “States must take the opportunity of political transition to improve women’s constitutional and political position, adopting positive measures to eliminate discrimination and promote the empowerment of women.

“It is the responsibility of States to protect women in political transition against all forms of violence and to ensure their security,” she said reiterating an earlier call by the Working Group on newly formed Governments to respect, protect and fulfill women’s right to equality in all spheres of life, in accordance with their international law obligations.

On the first International Women’s Day since its establishment, the Working Group also draws attention to the impact of ongoing economic crisis on women. All sectors of the population are adversely affected. “However,” Ms. Chandrakirana said, “the impact on women is liable to be especially harsh as a result of increase in precarious employment, reduction in social security and deterioration in the care economy.”

The Working Group urged Governments to ensure that the consequences of economic emergency measures do not disproportionately impact on women, and to guarantee an equal distribution of social and economic resources between women and men at all times.

Many constitutional and legal reforms to integrate women’s human rights fully into domestic law have occurred, but there remains insufficient progress, particularly at times of political transitions and economic crisis. Discrimination against women persists in public and private spheres both in times of peace and conflict. It transcends borders and is pervasive across cultures and religions, often fuelled by patriarchal stereotyping and power imbalances mirrored in laws, policies and practices.

(*) The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice is composed of five independent experts from all regions of the world: Kamala Chandrakirana, Chair-Rapporteur (Indonesia); Emna Aouij (Tunisia); Mercedes Barquet (México); Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom) and Eleonora Zielinska (Poland).

Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Working Group, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WGWomen/Pages/WGWomenIndex.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Nathalie Stadelmann (+41 917 9104 / nstadelmann@ohchr.org) or write to wgdiscriminationwomen@ohchr.org