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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3454 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Australia is no different here. The egalitarianism that contemporary Australia was famous for and so proud of is now just another myth. The gap between Australia's rich and poor has increased 50 per cent in the last 20 years. The Henderson poverty line determined in 1997 that a single-parent family with two children was at the poverty line on $326 per week. With two children and two adults it was $404. At the same time the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimated that it cost $239 per week to adequately house, feed, clothe and educate one 12-year-old child.

Women are the majority of the world's poor and in Australia are more likely to be subjected to poverty after marriage breakdown or as a single parent. Every minute of every day 50 babies are born into poverty in the world. Women and children are the primary victims of poverty and yet their voices are thwarted by male domination in all strata of society.

An American academic, Charlotte Ku, comments that the scarcity of women taking part in the stages of treaty-making underscores the likelihood of gender bias in the structure or framework that will emerge from such treaties. It is easy to comprehend that when women are not represented adequately their views may well not be represented. This lack of representation in decision-making is compounded in its ratification via the political process. I witnessed such legislation only two weeks ago in this place when men were responsible for legislating on a woman's body and her morality.

Further abroad, at a recent diplomatic conference for an international criminal court held in Rome, the women's caucus reported similar difficulties. They decided after it was made obvious that women's issues were not being included in discussion to hold a seminar titled "Everything you wanted to know about gender but were afraid to ask". The male-dominated delegation gained an appreciation for the heinousness of gender crimes when examples of Bosnian prisoners of war having their testicles bitten off were cited. The women's caucus, however, had to work very hard to motivate delegates on the crime of forced pregnancies. They cited further Bosnian experiences of women being detained and raped and forced to bear Serb babies. A strong right to life response materialised with efforts being made to not only abolish a recognition of such crime, but also to remove any reference to gender. Only after considerable negotiation was there an agreement on the definitions of forced pregnancy and gender.

A special debate was held in April this year by the UN that looked at incorporating gender in all UN programs. Issues of violence against women were particularly noted, with reports of trafficking in women and girls, honour killings of women and girls by their male relatives and genital mutilation. It was resolved that next year for the first time women's human rights will be considered as a separate item under the banner "Integration of the human rights of women and a gender perspective", with violence against women as a sub-item.

Over the last 50 years there have been triumphs and steady progress in acceptance and adherence to the declaration's principles. In outlining the gender deficiencies in human rights instruments and the declaration in practice, I do not mean to detract from these achievements. I still, however, do not believe that this anniversary is cause for a celebration. I believe that there are many who do need to be celebrated, many individual women who make the world a better place and advance human rights issues.

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