CoE secretary general: Women’s visibility in political life is instrumental to fight against gender stereotypes in Azerbaijan

CoE secretary general: Women’s visibility in political life is instrumental to fight against gender stereotypes in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 21 /Trend, Е.Оstapenko/

Women's visibility and participation in political life is instrumental to the fight against gender stereotypes in Azerbaijan, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, believes.

"It shows through example the message that should be conveyed also through education and awareness raising," Buquicchio said in an interview with Trend prior to her visit to Azerbaijan.

A conference on gender equality will be conducted in Baku May 24-25 with the support of the Government of Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe. Besides Buquicchio, the conference will be attended by the UN Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro.

This will be Buquicchio's third visit to Azerbaijan. Since 1999, that is, already before the country's accession to the Council of Europe in 2001, she have been in constant contact with the authorities. "I have decided to focus on two issues which are close to my heart: women's and children's rights. I am very keen on discussing these subjects with the Minister of Justice, the Parliament Working Group on children's rights and the Ombudsman," Buquicchio said.‪

"First of all, the fact that Azerbaijan is hosting the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for equality between men and women is, in itself, a step towards the promotion of gender equality," Buquicchio said.

She said although the law in Azerbaijan recognizes equality between women and men, there is a gap between law and reality, as it is the case in many other European countries. The objective of the Conference is precisely to shed some light on the deepness of this gap and the measures that need to be taken in order to bridge it.

On behalf of the Council of Europe, Buquicchio is satisfied to note the progress at a municipal level, where the percentage of women was raised from previously less than 2% to some 26% at present. Together with the positive assessment, Buquicchio expressed concerns about the severe under-representation of women in public and political decision-making in Azerbaijan..

"Nevertheless, we are concerned that there are only 11% of women parliamentarians in the country. It would also be good to raise the percentage of women who are Ministers or Deputy Ministers and who are entrusted with important responsibilities," Buquicchio said.

"The Council of Europe has designed very useful tools that we are expecting Azerbaijan to use. Our campaign against domestic violence and our convention on the protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse are already inspiring some of the measures under discussion in Parliament," she said.

"I am convinced that a good law on domestic violence will be a major achievement. It will help to prevent violence, end with impunity and assist the victims, granting women the assistance they need to report violence, and seek justice and protection," Buquicchio said.

With regards to early marriages, Buquicchio is very much in favour of raising the age at which girls can get married. She also hopes that the Parliament will support a ban of all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment within the family.

18 years of age as admissible for creating a family was defined by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. Upon the international standards, early marriages are considered a violation of human rights. Azerbaijan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1992.

Buquicchio also expressed hope that the Parliament will be inspired by the Council of Europe and United Nations work in the field of juvenile justice.

"Children in conflict with the law deserve being treated as children and it's essential they are given a fair chance to reintegrate society," she said.

But of course, fighting violence is not just a Parliament or Government affair. It is a cause that the whole society should adhere to, Buquicchio believes.

"We are confident that the impetus for the necessary change will come up also from the grassroots: NGOs, professional networks, the media as well as the business community, etc," she said.
Buquicchio positively assessed Azerbaijan's fulfillment of commitments when joining the Council of Europe in 2001.

"All citizens of Azerbaijan can now access the European Court of Human Rights and the impact of this should not be underestimated," she said.

"It is important to note the preventive effect of our work to which governmental representatives, parliamentarians and independent experts from your country. Their participation are in the design of conventions and policies within the Council of Europe allow them to share with us their concerns and expertise and bringing back home ideas and guidance on what needs to be done," Buquicchio said.

According to Buquicchio, as a Human Rights Organisation, CoE's duty is to always push for further progress. However, it takes more than laws and meetings to achieve real change.

"It calls for political willingness, courage and vision to mobilise the whole society in the promotion of democratic values. We stand ready to assist there where the government wishes to ensure further integration of Azerbaijan into the European family," Buquicchio said.

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