24 January 1997


Press Release
WOM/942



UNEMPLOYMENT, IN ALL PROFESSIONS AND AGE GROUPS, IS AFFECTING WOMEN MORE THAN MEN IN DENMARK, DELEGATION TELLS WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE

19970124
Women's Participation in Public Life, Family Laws, Domestic Violence, Rights of Unmarried Couples among Other Issues Raised

Women continued to be more seriously affected by unemployment than men in nearly all professions and age groups, according to a representative of Denmark in this morning's presentation of that country's third periodic report on implementation of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

In an exhaustive reply to written questions from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Danish delegation said women in their country were also to a much higher degree hit by chronic unemployment. In order to fight the problem and qualify women for a broader range of jobs, adult vocational schemes had been tailored to the background and needs of the specific categories of participants, such as unskilled or semi-skilled unemployed women.

A representative of the Danish Equal Status Council pointed out that equal pay for women and men and fair definitions of "work of equal value" or "equal pay for work of equal value" had not yet been obtained. The latest statistics show that the salary gap between women and men is an average of 25 per cent.

The delegation stressed that the question of women's participation in public life and in decision-making had been a central concern of Denmark. Although all legislative obstacles had been removed, there were still attitudes to be changed, both by men and women. Applications for top managerial posts were increasing, but special measures were necessary so that women could "break through the glass ceiling". It would be necessary to change the male dominant culture in the workplace -- the "old-boys network",


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as well as the practices and attitudes concerning child care and career breaks for family reasons, said a representative. Figures revealed that Danish women did not participate in the economic decision-making in the private sector to the same degree as men.

Among other measures to promote advancement of women, a representative said some changes in family laws have been passed which allow parents to share custody and give unmarried fathers better visiting rights. Parents had also been given equal rights to parental leave. However, only a few men had taken advantage of that right. Efforts were under way to increase male participation in the programme.

Responding to questions on domestic violence, a representative said preventive information was the focus of efforts to combat such violence. There was no special legislation on domestic violence and the issue was covered in the Criminal Code. It was not a specific subject in the training curriculum and licensing examinations of health-care workers, although many aspects of violence and its consequences were covered in existing curricula and courses.

Concerning the rights of unmarried couples, a representative said they differed from those for married couples. Unmarried couples did not automatically inherit each other's property, but the right could be secured by testament. It took consideration and paperwork for unmarried couples to achieve the same rights as married couples. As regards child custody, non- marital partners had the same rights as married couples, although it also required consideration and paperwork. The concept of family was changed in 1991 to include single persons.

The Committee will meet again this at 3 p.m. this afternoon to conclude its consideration of Denmark's report. The Deputy Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is also scheduled to brief the Committee.


Committee Work Programme

The third periodic report of Denmark on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document CEDAW/C/DEN/3), scheduled for review by the Convention's monitoring body this morning, takes into consideration not only the contributions of ministries and important institutions, but the views of Danish women's non- governmental organizations. The Convention was ratified by Denmark in 1983.

The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, made up of experts who serve in their personal capacity, is charged with monitoring the implementation of the Convention. The Convention -- adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, opened for signature in March 1980, and entered into force in 1981 -- has been ratified by 154 countries. It requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights. In pursuing the Convention's goals, States parties are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men.

From a political and legislative point of view, Denmark's periodic report stresses there are hardly any obstacles worth mentioning regarding women's equal rights with men. The Constitution contains no provisions dealing specifically with equality of men and women, but it embodies the principle of equal treatment of those two groups of citizens. There are no plans to amend the Constitution to include specific equality provisions. The process of legislation, beginning in 1976, has seen continuous efforts to enlarge and improve the work on de jure equality between the sexes. Currently there are five parliamentary acts specifically on equality -- acts on equal opportunities, equal pay, equal treatment, equality in appointing members of public committees and in appointing board members of the civil service.

Apart from the legislation, the report states that the most important step towards full equality between men and women has been the adoption of a national policy. The policy has been developed in a process of interaction between non-governmental organizations and public authorities. It identifies the areas of discrimination as well as strategies to be applied. All ministries, county councils and local authorities are responsible for the fulfilment of the national plan of action and are obliged to report once a year to the Equal Status Council on the implementation and outcome of specific action plans.

The Council is thus the initiating and monitoring force in the work of obtaining women's equal rights. In order to modify the social and cultural patterns prohibiting de facto equality in Danish society and to eliminate prejudices and customary practices based on the idea of women's inferiority, the Council and various authorities and organizations have developed priorities which guide the work and form a basis for the necessary strategies.

The problem of equal pay has been constantly in the forefront, the

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report stresses. Another priority area has been women at work, especially the problems of women and management and qualifying clerical staff. A precondition for full equality is a proper understanding of maternity leave as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing of children. The reconciliation of working and family life is another issue given particular attention.

Danish women enjoy the same political rights as men. Some statistics show, however, that women might not participate in political life on equal terms with men, as all governing bodies to some degree are composed of a majority of men. The latest figures do reveal an increasing tendency of the electorate to vote for women candidates. Efforts have been made by a committee for equality of the National Association of Local Authorities to identify barriers for equality in local government.

In addition, figures show that it is difficult for women to move to management level in public service areas. The education area is expected to play a major role in the fight for equality. Generally speaking, women are taking significant advantage of educational opportunities. Considerable efforts are being put forward to pursue and broaden equal opportunities at all levels of the educational system.

In the labour market, the report states that the occupational frequency for women is very high. There are still, however, significant occupational and employment barriers for women, for example, in reaching the management level. Further, the labour market is still gender-segregated, as most men are employed in occupations in which men predominate, and women in occupations where women are in majority. Women are still more seriously affected by unemployment then men in nearly all professions and age groups. The Government is about to formulate new strategies for a change in the employment traditions and the structure of the labour market.

The Equal Status Council has carried out an investigation on barriers for the advancement of women. It concluded that there is hardly any direct discrimination of women ready for promotion to management level, but that cultural norms among employers and employees in the working place are decisive in the lack of promotion. Males were seen to dominate informal manners and attitudes and the hidden rules and cultural norms of various enterprises. The salary gap between men and women has also not diminished in spite of existing legislation. A study is being implemented to identify attitudes present in the formation of wage levels. An increase in both hidden and physical violence in the 1990s is probably connected to the continuing unemployment problems.

On the institutional level, the report emphasizes the country has established a framework which seems suitable for de jure and de facto work on

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equality and the combating of discrimination against women. Many new and innovative activities to protect women from discrimination have arisen in Danish society. Legislation which upheld male dominance have been eroded, but tradition combined with the effect of socialization still works powerfully to reinforce sex roles that are commonly regarded as of unequal prestige and worth.

Introduction of Report

INGA GALAMBA, Head of the Secretariat of the Equal Status Council of Denmark, said that since the first Danish report the understanding of the gender equality work had developed from being a mere question of creating adequate legislation to a matter of bringing about a change in attitudes through communication of information. The focus had changed from eradication of all forms of discrimination against women to the acknowledgement of women as indispensable partners in economic and social development on equal terms with men. It had also changed from being only a women's issue to the wish of establishing a positive atmosphere of cooperation between men and women in order to obtain a just and fair society in which girls and boys, women and men were treated equally.

She went on to say that her country had concentrated on introducing gender issues through a continuous debate at different levels in Danish society. As a specific follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), the Government established an ad hoc committee to consider changes in the organization of the gender equality work and to suggest priorities for activities to be carried out in Denmark's follow-up at the national and international level. The work of the Equal Status Council dated back from 1978. New ideas, strategies and measures were needed and the ad hoc committee comprised representatives of institutions and organization from various corners of society. The committee had also been asked to consult equality institutions in the Nordic and other countries. The Government was providing full and adequate resources for the committee and had increased the budget of the Equal Status Council.

Among the measures to promote advancement of women, she said some changes in family laws had been passed which allow parents to share custody and give unmarried fathers better visiting rights. Parents have also been given equal rights to parental leave; only a few men had taken advantage of that right. Efforts were under way to increase male participation in the programme. In addition, labour agreements were being negotiated on expanded maternity leave with full payment.

Responses to Written Questions

On legislation and other government initiatives, Ms. GALAMBA said

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Denmark had implemented most of the European Union directives on equality in due time; the parental leave directive had just been adopted and would soon be implemented. The Government continuously pursued an active policy towards achieving equal rights. The Equal Status Council had made a number of recommendations on equality in the public sector including a better reconciliation between family and working life; promotion of high-level appointments; and better representation of women in research and in scientific staff, especially at the top level. She also outlined a statistical profile of women in public life which reflected the progress achieved since the passage of legislation on equality in appointments to public committees and certain board members of the civil service. Denmark also had 29 equality advisors in regional employment offices.

Regarding the position of women in Greenland and the Faroe Islands, she said the Convention was currently under translation into Greenlandic and it would be discussed in the Home Rule Government Parliament in order to initiate action in society. The Greenland Equality Committee would emphasize the context of the Convention as it regards women in society including on matters related to violence, income-differences and offences in the workplace. On the Faroe Islands the major step had been the introduction of the law on equality.

Responding to inquiries about affirmative action, she said temporary special measures or affirmative actions could be taken under the law on equal treatment if they aimed at gender balance in such areas as research programmes, committees or staff groups. There was no automatic and unqualified preferential position for women. Decisions on use of temporary measures were to be taken on the basis of concrete estimates and as part of an overall planning for equality.

She said the Public Employment Service was in 1995 granted an allowance to establish a course for unemployed women to increase technical-vocational skills and general competence. Similar courses were set up in the regional areas with support from the Equal Status Council. One of the latest initiatives against unemployment of women was a pilot project aimed at women who had been unemployed for more than one year and who were more than 50 years old.

On domestic violence, she said gender-based violence was not accepted in Denmark. Preventive information was the focus of efforts to combat such violence, since the last report. The Ministry of Justice was currently preparing new steps against violence. There was no special legislation on domestic violence and the issues were covered in the Criminal Code. Shelter and other support services such as psychological assistance were available to victims of domestic violence. The crime of rape had decreased since 1986; the decrease was attributed to a positive change in attitude towards women. While women now were more likely to come forward to complain of domestic violence, there were still many cases that went unreported. There was a general increase in the number of women who utilized the crisis centres. Statistical material on domestic violence was inadequate.

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She said there were no specific programmes to sensitize police and other legal authorities on violence against women. Programmes had been introduced to promote overall public awareness of the issue. The media was focusing on the problem. Non-governmental organizations were not able to appeal directly on behalf of victims of violence and sexual abuse in court action, but they were active in assisting such women. A Committee had been established under the Ministry of Internal Affairs to address problems related to violence against immigrant women.

On the women in the workplace, she said the relationship between working life and the family was an area of special importance in industrialized countries. The Equal Status Council had initiated a project to generate a debate on future equality in that particular area. Public day-care facilities were required by law and were run by local authorities. Child-care leave provisions were also in force. Flexible working hours were also being utilized to help in harmonizing family and working life. Parental leave programmes were also in effect.

On the issue of prostitution, she said that it was not morally condemned in Danish society; it was seen more as a social problem. There was need for more research, as there was no statistical data available. Private organizations provided support for prostitutes. The issue of "sex tourism" had been raised in the media in Denmark. The courts had no jurisdiction to try sexual abuse of minors abroad. So-called "mail-order brides" were protected by the same rules as foreign women.

She said the question of women's participation in public life and in decision-making had been a central concern of Denmark. Although all legislative obstacles had been removed, there were still attitudes to be changed, both by men and women. She cited a number of positive statistics concerning women as government ministers and in local and parliament bodies. Some political parties had established quotas for women on electoral lists, while other parties were now questioning the quota-system and calling for nomination on equal terms.

She noted that non-governmental organizations were steadily involved in setting the official equal status agenda concerning women in decision-making and implementing the Government's equal opportunity policies in that area.

Most information work in the area was carried out by political parties and non-governmental organizations. She also mentioned the results of a pilot study by a committee for equality to identify barriers in local governments. The study identified attitudes that affected female participation.

HELLE JACOBSEN, another member of the Danish delegation, said current figures demonstrated that it was still difficult for women to move to the

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management level in the State administration, especially the top level. Gains had been registered at the municipal level. A number of factors were found to explain the low participation of women in top management in the public sector. Women had a much shorter history in the public sector and it took time to catch up with men, because mobility was limited by lack of available managerial posts at the top level. While women often excluded themselves through a cultural lack of self confidence, they were also excluded from leading positions, simply because they were women and were associated with traditional women's roles in the home and family. It would be necessary to change the male dominant culture in the workplace, as well as the practices and attitudes concerning child care and career breaks for family reasons. Men were also more likely to appoint men -- an ongoing manifestation of the "old boys" network.

She said applications for top managerial posts was increasing, but special measures were necessary so that women could "break through the glass ceiling". A number of measures were being undertaken at the ministerial level to promote the advancement of women. Much more needed to be done to address the two dimensions of the problem: women excluding themselves and women being excluded from leading positions.

In the private sector, she said women appeared more often in decision- making posts, particularly in the sectors of education, social affairs, culture and health. They were seldom seen in sectors such as the economy, technical affairs and natural sciences. Attitudes towards traditional women's and men's sectors had to be addressed. A similar disparity occurred with women teaching in higher education, where they were best represented in certain traditional areas such as the humanities and less represented in technology. In the judiciary, the percentage of women was steadily increasing, significantly, at the level of judge's assistant. The position of judge had been traditionally male, but perhaps in the near future that could change.

On unemployment among women, she said women continue to be more seriously affected than men in nearly all professions and age groups. Women were also to a much higher degree hit by chronic unemployment. In order to fight the problem and qualify women for a broader range of jobs, adult vocational schemes had been tailored to the background and needs of the specific categories of participants, such as unskilled or semi-skilled unemployed women.

She said equal pay for women and men and a fair assessment of "work of equal value" had not yet been obtained. There was still no written definition of "equal pay for work of equal value". The latest statistics showed that the salary gap between women and men was an average of 25 per cent. That gap was the most serious problem in the equality field. A number of initiatives had been taken, including the dissemination of several publications containing pay statistics and other relevant information. The main strategy of the equality work was the integration of endeavours undertaken by the Public Employment

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System.

She said figures revealed that Danish women did not participate in the economic decision-making in the private sector to the same degree as men. Women only constituted five per cent of the top managers. On another level, more and more women were establishing their own business

In reply to questions on the status of immigrants and refugees in Denmark, she said there were courses and programmes on technology for female workers and schools had prioritized technology training for girls. Immigrants and refugees enjoyed the same equality before the law as Danish men and women. Entitlement to social security benefits was subject to nationality and residence requirements, although it was not applied in certain circumstances so as to allow people with a continuous residence in the country the right to social security benefits. The residents of the Nordic countries, the European Union, Austria, Switzerland, former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Morocco, Canada, Pakistan, Israel and Chile who had worked in Denmark for a certain period had the right to Danish social security benefits, including the old-age pension.

The 1978 Act on Equal Treatment of Men and Women as Regards Employment and Maternity Leave prohibited dismissal of pregnant women, she said. The Act was amended in 1994 to allow mothers to stay home for two weeks after delivery although they could postpone it if the child was hospitalized. Further, women had the right to be absent from work for pregnancy examinations.

Women's participation in sports was about the same as men's, she said in reply to requests for a statistical profile of gender participation in leisure and sports, although the sexes preferred different sporting activities with males playing soccer and badminton and girls preferring handball, swimming, gymnastics, horse-riding and dance.

Turning to questions on health issues, she said the Government spent about 8 per cent of its public services budget on health. The Danish National Board of Health was revising the 1985 Guidelines on Pregnancy and Maternity care aimed at providers and health-care authorities. Since 1995, the National Board of Health had implemented a series of non-traditional information projects on contraception, abortion and pregnancy targeted at young people. The problem of unwanted pregnancy had also been discussed at a conference for country representatives and other relevant parties. Research on women's health was considered essential and women and men were treated as equal subjects, although there were no statistics on pharmaceutical research on women's health.

The major cause of death for women and men was heart disease followed by cerebro-vascular disease, she continued. The third cause of death was malignant neoplasm of unspecified sites for women and of bone and skin for men. A 1994 survey by the Committee on Life Expectancy titled "Women's life and mortality" had intensified the debate on health which had focused on the relationship between lifestyle, quality of life and mortality. Although there

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had been some claims that women were dying at an earlier age because of work and misuse of alcohol and cigarettes, in fact, women's life expectancy had increased from 62 years in 1925 to 78 years in 1990. For men it had increased from 16 years in 1925 to 72 years in 1990. Immigrants and refugee women enjoyed the same health-care benefits as Danish women.

Smoking during pregnancy was a "burning issue" as statistics had shown smoking among Danish mothers contributed to a higher infant mortality rate than in other countries, she said. Since 1995, the National Board of Health had targeted its information campaigns at pregnant women as well as medical practitioners, midwives and health visitors.

Under Danish Law, girls had access to contraception and abortion, although unmarried girls under 18 years required parental consent. Schools were obliged to inform pupils about contraception. Mammograms were free. There were broad measures to raise public awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, including on HIV/AIDS. Special programmes were aimed at teenagers, and health-care workers who dealt with students. Treatment methods for physiological and mental problems associated with HIV/AIDS were included in the curriculum for nurses.

Denmark was a geographically small country and there was no need for special health-care services for rural women, she continued. They enjoyed the same access to health care as other citizens.

Responding to questions on domestic violence, she said it was not a specific subject in the training curriculum and licensing examinations of health-care workers, although many aspects of violence and its consequences were covered in existing curriculum and courses. Health-care workers in casualty wards or doing duty in homes were aware of how to identify victims of domestic violence and they were legally obliged to report suspected cases to the police.

In 1996, 25 per cent of drug addicts were women who accounted for 20 to 25 per cent of deaths due to drug overdose, she continued. In 1993, 25 per cent of deaths as a result of alcoholism were female. Special treatment programmes for pregnant drug abusers were offered by the national health services.

In reply to questions on special loans or assistance for women to open businesses, she said there was none because women enjoyed the same rights as men in regard to Government support. In 1996, a committee was set up by the Ministry of Business and Industry to focus on the need for loans to open businesses. Women were well represented at the meetings and there did not

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seem to be any need for special loans for them.

Concerning the rights of unmarried couples, she said they differed from those for married couples. Unmarried couples did not automatically inherit each other's property, but the right could be secured by testament. It took consideration and paperwork for unmarried couples to achieve the same rights as married couples.

During marriage, community property rights applied, unless a separate estate was established, she continued. There was also a possibility of alimony. When a non-marital partnership was dissolved without interference or help from the authorities, agreements regarding property depended on the two parties.

As regards child custody, non-marital partners had the same rights as married couples, although it also required consideration and paperwork, she said. For example, when a child was born out of wedlock the husband was considered the father and both parents automatically shared custody. The same legal status did not automatically apply to non-married couples. The concept of family was changed in 1991 to include single persons.

She then outlined the Government's plans to follow-up the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). In March 1996, the Government established a committee to consider changes in the organization of gender equality work and to suggest priorities. The Danish Parliament had encouraged the Government to present a full report on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the 1997/1998 session and mainstream the gender perspective in administrative, political and planning activities. The Ministry of Labour had initiated a pilot project on mainstreaming gender perspectives in the labour market legislation. Valuation of gender equality would be taken into account when drafting bills with the aim of mapping out the consequences of legal provisions for men and women.

During the 1980s there had been a modest increase in women's representation in university posts, she said. There were a number of reasons: until the mid-1980s, two thirds of graduates were female whereas in 1991, in 14 out of 19 major educational fields, women made up 50 per cent or more of students; current university staff had been recruited over a 30 to 40 year period when gender imbalance in the educational system as well as career choice was pronounced.

However, there were now higher numbers of female graduates and the number of women in Ph.D. programmes had doubled since 1993, she continued. Women's participation in university posts was therefore likely to increase. To support that trend, the Government had increased the number of Ph.D. grants, added 200 professorships to the system to enhance mobility at senior levels, called on university principles to promote a better gender balance in research and teaching staff, and created favourable maternity leave conditions for Ph.D. students.

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Follow-up Questions

The experts congratulated Denmark on its exhaustive and frank response to all of the written questions. One expert also thanked the Danish Government for sending mammogram machines to her country, Ghana. She said several programmes had been set up to abolish the practice of gender slaves and had helped about 80 per cent of the girls to be liberated.

Turning to the issue of affirmative action, she said Denmark had always been a role model and she was disturbed that there appeared to be a backlash to affirmative action programmes. Two political parties had proposed removing the quotas. What had led to that situation? she asked.

Another expert noted the replies referring to health and domestic violence. She would have preferred that "bodily integrity" had been given precedence, even though the health aspects of domestic violence were extremely important. She was surprised that there was no special programme on domestic violence which seemed to be as difficult to confront in Denmark as in other countries.

She noted that the Danish delegation's citing of the principle of freedom of press determined Government approaches in encouraging media's coverage of domestic and sexual violence. However, Government attempts to get the media involved in educating the public did not need to interfere with freedom of the press.

Referring to Denmark's 1978 Act on Equal Treatment of Men and Women as Regards Employment, Maternity Leave which prohibited pregnant women workers from being dismissed, she asked why the report cited large numbers of pregnant women who had been dismissed from their jobs. Why were pregnant women or women on maternity leave being dismissed if there was such an act and were there any plans to deal with the problem? she asked. * *** *