Madam Chairperson, distinguished delegates,
Latvia aligns with the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union.
Women comprise more than half of Latvian population. Latvia is committed towards gender equality and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls. We are implementing gender mainstreaming approach in policy areas to advance women’s participation in all spheres of life. Our gender equality policy is elaborated in close cooperation with non-governmental organizations.
We are proud of our achievements. Latvia consistently ranks amongst the top 20 countries globally, according to the World Economic Forum. 45 percent of employed women have a higher education degree. We have the highest percentage of women researchers in Europe - 52 percent –, and the highest percentage of women engineers in Europe – 30 percent. Women own one third of all enterprises in Latvia, and we have the highest amount of women in senior business positions in the European Union – nearly half. It is recognized that in the event of losing a job, women are more active to look for new opportunities and to improve their qualifications. In recent years, the proportion of women starting a new business has increased.
Nevertheless, we recognize that challenges remain and there is a room for further improvement, as in every country of the world. To name a few – in Latvia, the salary for women is 17 percent lower than for men. Out of 100 Parliament members, only 16 are women; and out of 13 Government ministers, only 3 are women.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, is one of the biggest issues facing women today. We have to do much more to change attitudes and behaviours towards this crime. Latvia continues improving the legal and institutional framework and ensuring rehabilitation services for the victims of violence. In January, new amendments to the Criminal Law came into force. One of the most significant provisions is the right to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence without the victim's complaint which is crucial in situations when the victim has informed the police about the violent act but has not agreed to file an official complaint due to fear from further consequences. Among several new provisions, the amendments now define stalking as a criminal offense, as well as committing a violent act in the presence of a child as an aggravating circumstance when sentencing. In cooperation with NGOs, we are providing awareness-raising campaigns for the public and professionals.
Creation of opportunities to balance the work and family life is essential because women are more involved in unpaid care work than men. In recent years, we have implemented many practical measures, including for flexible child-care arrangements. We are determined to further strengthen these efforts.
Currently in Latvia, a new policy planning document is being prepared which defines measures for the promotion of equal rights and opportunities for women and men for 2018-2020. The main focus areas will be employment and economic independence, education, gender based violence, as well as strengthening the institutional mechanism and awareness raising on gender equality.
Latvia welcomes the focus of this session to celebrate rural women and girls around the world. Women living in rural areas face many challenges- geographic inequalities, poverty, lack of access to essential services, infrastructure, ICTs, resources and income, to name a few.
Latvian rural women are economically, politically and socially active. They want better life for themselves and their families, they are creative and strong, and they value traditions. Mainly through participation in local social activities and rural NGO’s, rural women increase their knowledge, skills and experience, as well as self-esteem and courage that often help to start their own business.
The Latvian Association of Rural Women for 18 years has provided support to rural women in Latvia in all regions, promoting education, access to information, political participation. The Association has been instrumental in promoting the micro-credit movement for rural women and their ability in project planning and elaboration. The Support Fund of the Entrepreneurship of Rural Women provides resources to women for their business start-ups and development.
The importance of discussing issues relevant to rural women and girls in this Commission will help to advance progress in the realization of their human rights everywhere. We all have to aim at removing obstacles that hinder the full participation of women in social, political and economic spheres of life.