Thank you for placing on our agenda an important matter that requires serious consideration of this august body. In this context, India would also like to express its sincere appreciation to Ambassador Sally Mansfield from Australia, and her team, who had first proposed this technical and linguistic update. I also acknowledge the presence of Her Excellency Dr. Tatiana Valovaya, Secretary General of the Conference, and thank her for her inspiring remarks.
Madam President, you had noted that 50% of the humanity is composed of women, and if that is the case, how can we not reflect it in our rules of procedure. 74 years ago, it was Hansa Jivraj Mehta, the Indian delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights, from 1947 to 1948, who had insisted on rephrasing the sentence, “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in the Article 1 of the Declaration.
Following the same noble tradition, the Indian Delegation had expressed its support to your proposal during the informal consultations convened by you on 3 August 2021. Indian culture and society has always accorded the highest respect and place to women. One of the finest testimonies to this effect is reflected in the ancient Indian text and I quote in Sankrit,
Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra Devata
यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवता:।
It means, where women are worshipped, there exists the abode of Gods.
I am not even asking this Body to go to the extent of worshipping women, but I am just appealing to reflect a small change that truly reflects their right place in the world, and this Body. Madam President, I am not a linguist, but do understand that when these pronounce of ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’ were constituted, they were aimed at recognizing the differences in people as well as people and objects and make our language richer and clearer.
Somewhere, down the line, perhaps for the brevity of language, we did away with these differences, without realizing the implications it may have in long term, which are quite evident now, as also expressed by several Delegations before me.
India believes that it is high time that we correct this anomaly and reflect the reality as it exists. Several delegations referred to the presence of women leaders and delegates in this room. I do have Ms. Subhashini Narayanan as India's alternate representative. I also owe this change to her. Going one step further, with three women at home, I wish to be able to go home today and tell them that I stood up for them and that if my daughter ever comes to this room, she would not be referred to as ‘he’.
India, would therefore like to reiterate its strong support to your proposal and bring our rules of procedure in line, both with the ancient Indian thought and the contemporary norms.
I hope that consensus can emerge on this important issue to enable us to effect this change, for whatever we do, we must preserve our unity as well as consensus as a rule for decision making at the CD.
I, thank you, Madam President.