Although Liechtenstein was a latecomer in the process of achieving gender equality, it had made rapid and important strides over the past few years, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Family Affairs and Equality between Men and Women of Liechtenstein told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning, as that country presented its initial report on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Despite such progress towards de jure gender equality, however, "real equality" would require tremendous effort, Andrea Willi -- the only woman Government official in Liechtenstein -- told the 23-member expert body. Wide- ranging and substantive measures had been taken since the country's accession to the women's Convention in 1995, but achieving equality in everyday life was the key to transforming the social patterns of conduct. At present, men assigned greater importance to education, while women attached more significance to traditional family tasks.
As a result, she said, men occupied higher social positions, earned more money and wielded more power, despite attempts by the Government to balance that equation. Women were also under-represented in politics, she noted. They had been granted the right to vote in 1984, and while their representation on national commissions had increased threefold, women candidates had fared poorly in a recent legislative election. A subsequent analysis had indicated that they suffered from a general image problem, low-level recognition, and limited political experience, exacerbated by men's long-standing political dominance.
Also addressing the Committee, the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, Claudia Fritsche, said her Government had prioritized human rights issues, particularly women's rights, in its dealings with the United Nations. It had also sought to promote women in preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping operations. Furthermore, during Ms. Willi's term in
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Government, dramatic changes to bring about de facto equality between men and women had been made.
Following the introduction of the report, Committee members noted that both small and large countries often had the same struggles and structures of inequality. Several experts expressed surprise that women in the very centre of Europe had been given the right to vote as late as 1984. That was an "oddity" in Europe, one expert noted, and a veritable holdover from the feudal age. Another had thought that women's struggle to vote was experienced only in developing countries.
Another expert drew attention to the absence of a university in Liechtenstein. She asked whether leaving the country for a university education had posed insurmountable problems for women, especially for married women or women caring for elderly parents. Further, she wondered whether the Government had considered educational programmes allowing women to pursue university education at home while taking care of families, as in the British Commonwealth system.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today, to continue its consideration of the report of Liechtenstein.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) met this morning to begin considering the initial report of Liechtenstein (document CEDAW/C/LIE/1), submitted under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. That article provides for States parties to submit reports on legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention. (For background on the session, see Press Release WOM/1003 of 15 January).
The report, Liechtenstein's first since it acceded to the Convention in 1995, covers the period up to 31 December 1996. It notes that the Constitution of the Principality guarantees a number of fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of domicile and inheritance, personal freedom, and the right of due process before a duly appointed judge. State power is vested in the Prince and the people. The executive (the Government), the legislature (the Landtag) and the judiciary (the courts system) each possess their own rights. Economically, the country is a modern industrial and services State. Agriculture is no longer significant in the national economy, with the majority of people employed in the services and industry sectors.
The Government was required to eliminate, by the end of 1996, the instances of discrimination that were still to be found in legislative texts, the report states. That process was believed to have been completed. While the legal prerequisites for equality between the sexes exist, it does not mean that de facto equality has been achieved. Measures still need to be taken to support and speed up that process.
The report states that there is no distinction between girls and boys in the current educational legislation. However, while girls receive "practically the same" basic education as boys, significant differences emerge in their further educational choices. Girls are confined to preparing for a few typically women's professions, whereas boys have almost twice as many options. Women stop pursuing education very early, and males still account for around two thirds of all university students.
According to the report, it is also apparent that the proportion of economically active women decreases continually from the age of entry into the job market until the age of retirement. On the other hand, for men, it first increases and then remains at a very high level. In professional life, in most cases, men occupy the higher positions. Also, while the proportion of men to women in skilled positions is roughly equal, the proportion of women in semiskilled and unskilled positions is significantly higher than men.
Various reasons for such inequalities are presented in the report, the first of which is that women attach less importance to education. Second, concentration on the family and the home, and the break in employment often associated with it, impede access to higher level positions. Third, women are
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likely to face greater obstacles to career development -- arising out of prejudice and discrimination -- than men with the same level of education. Also, many women probably feel reluctant, because of their social conditioning, to assert themselves in pursuing their own advancement.
Regarding women and politics, the report notes that since women were given the right to vote at the national level in 1984, there has been some increase in the proportion of women in decision-making political bodies. However, men are still clearly in the dominant position, occupying for example the posts of Head of Government and Deputy Head of Government. In 1982, women's organizations were founded within the two major national parties for the purpose of raising awareness among the public and advancing women's concerns in politics.
The report states that due to the stronger position of men in economic life, it is assumed that in terms of income and property ownership, men are generally better off than women. However, relevant income and property statistics for the country are not available. Narrowing the gap between men and women in property ownership is possible in the long term since there is a declining trend in giving preference to male descendants in inheritance.
Generally, men enjoy higher social status than women, given that social position is defined predominantly by factors such as income, poverty and power, the report states. However, one of the most important social tasks, the reproduction of society that takes place in the family, has not yet been accorded its appropriate status. Securing more than a merely symbolic recognition of private family and child-rearing work is one of the important tasks in the future. Women who devote themselves wholly or partly to family tasks still experience severe disadvantages. They have no individual income, or less than that of men, professional career planning is more difficult and, under the pension plan, they are disadvantaged as frequent part-time workers, in that a minimum income level is required.
In this connection, the report notes that in a survey of companies conducted in 1987, only about 20 per cent of those employed in industry were working for companies which were able to consider actively promoting a child- care facility on or off the premises. Hence, the other 80 per cent had to assume that their employer had no interest in promoting child care. This is a reflection of the status assigned by society to children and the family as compared with economic motivation.
According to the report, the term "family" extends beyond the traditional two-parent family. Since the 1950's, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has been steadily increasing. Today, almost one in every ten children are born out of wedlock. However, the statistics do not provide insight as to whether this is based on a conscious and voluntary decision, or on a tendency for women to see themselves as solely responsible, for the economic survival of the family, as well as for the task of bringing up the children.
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Furthermore, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Social Services in 1992, single mothers have a lower income than single fathers. Single parents are faced with many kinds of problems: professional advancement; child care; social exclusion; financial dependencies and inadequate housing conditions. Above all, the study indicates that single mothers are faced with a higher risk of poverty.
Regarding marriage and divorce, the report states that although the proportion of divorces has increased substantially since the 1930's, marriage has been constantly gaining ground in recent decades. The clearest differences between men and women are apparent in widowhood. There have always been more widows than widowers. In recent decades, however, while the proportion of widowers has decreased, the proportion of widows has remained practically constant, largely as a result of the significantly higher life expectancy of women. This presents a special challenge for the governmental and non- governmental organizations dealing with the care of the elderly.
According to the report, a problem for which no explanation has as yet been found is that the trend towards increasing gainful employment among women is not accompanied by greater involvement of men in household and family tasks. Work needs to be conducted to break down the traditional division of roles between men and women on the one hand, and to ensure that the social security provided for by law also extends to women working in domestic service, on the other. The aim should be to transform this into a recognized profession and to seek ways of ensuring that the necessary social security payments are made even in the case of hourly work in a number of households, in the interest of both the employee and the employer.
Private organizations have been and are an important driving force of the equality policy in Liechtenstein, the report states. A number of organizations have been established, such as the Association for Educational Work for Women, the Parent-Child Forum and the Information and Contact Network for Women. Most of them, which work to serve the interests of women, children and fathers, and families in general, receive financial support from the State.
According to the report, de jure equality between men and women in Liechtenstein has largely been achieved. The inequalities that still exist are in the course of being eliminated, and the main focus of attention is now on achieving de facto equality. Over the next few years, the Government will, in cooperation with the Equality Office, various commissions and non-governmental organizations, develop activities to support the process of achieving this equality. In 1997, developments in that respect included preparatory work on an equality act, a campaign to combat violence against girls and women, and an exhibition on equality of educational opportunities for girls. Further measures to improve the status of women in education, politics, economic life, the family and health care are in the planning phase. Also, in supporting development projects, attention is paid to the special role of women.
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Introduction of Report
CLAUDIA FRITSCHE, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, said that Liechtenstein had made human rights issues, particularly women's rights, a priority in its engagements with the United Nations. It had also sought to promote women in preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping. During Andrea Willi's term in Government, dramatic changes to bring about de facto equality between men and women had been made.
ANDREA WILLI, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Family Affairs and Equality between Men and Women of Liechtenstein, introduced her country's report. She said that Liechtenstein, a modern industrial and services State, through its integration into the Swiss and European economic areas and membership in the World Trade Organization, offered a stable legal, political and economic framework for business and investors.
The principality was a constitutional hereditary monarchy with power invested in the Prince and the people, she said. The Constitution guaranteed basic fundamental rights, including equality before the law, freedom of domicile and inheritance, personal freedom, freedom of trade, and freedom of religion and conscience. Anyone who felt that their fundamental rights and freedoms were violated could appeal to the courts. In specific cases, an appeal could also be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.
As a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe, Liechtenstein had ratified a number of international human rights conventions, she said. In December 1998, it had deposited the instruments of accession to various conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It believed that treaty obligations should only be entered into if they could be complied with. All laws and regulations, and international agreements had to be discussed in the Landtag and publicized.
She said the public was informed of human rights instruments at the time of parliamentary approval and entry into force. As part of the 1998 commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a number of activities had been held to raise awareness and remind people of the Declaration's contents, with special emphasis on equality of rights between men and women. In September 1998, the Government had published a brochure on Liechtenstein's implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. Turning to the situation of women in Liechtenstein, she said the constitutional law of 1992, which spelled out the legal equality of men and women, was regarded as the instrument that gave effect to the equality of the sexes. Also, the current educational legislation no longer contained provisions that distinguished between girls and boys. Girls received the same basic education as boys, but differences emerged in terms of further educational choices. Only one-third of apprentices were girls, and although girls had narrowed the gap in terms of vocational education, they were confined to a few traditional occupations. Boys, on the other hand, could choose from almost
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twice as many options. Although the proportion of women among all students had risen, males accounted for two-thirds of the total.
She said that with regard to the job market, while women accounted for over half of the population of working age, they represented only 38 per cent of the economically active population. There had been an increase of only 4 per cent since 1970. In professional life, in most cases, men occupied higher positions. While the proportion of men and women were basically equal in skilled positions, the proportion of women was higher in unskilled positions. Various reasons for the inequality included that women attached less importance to education, that they were likely to face greater obstacles due to discrimination, and that many felt reluctant due to social conditioning to pursue their own advancement. In 1999, 47 per cent of the employees in public service were women. With regard to the principle of equal pay for equal work, that principle had not been followed in only about 3 per cent of the cases.
Men were assumed to be generally better off due to their dominance in economic life, she continued. The position of women in terms of their income had improved. It was in widowhood that the clearest differences between men and women were apparent. Also, elderly women had significantly less income and savings than elderly men.
Turning to the role of non-governmental organizations in Liechtenstein, she said that women's groups had performed important political functions in the religious, humanitarian and social life of the country. They had been an important driving force in the equality policy of Liechtenstein. In 1982, two major national parties had established women's organizations. With the establishment of the Zonta Club Vaduz Area in 1985 and Soroptimist International in 1991, clubs which organized professional women in senior or independent positions had come into existence.
The Information and Contact Network for Women had been established to promote contacts and exchanges of views among women in 1986, she added. It had also given impetus to the establishment of further associations for the improvement of women's status which had extended the range of the Network's activities. The Parent-Child Forum, founded in 1989, had initially been an association of day-care providers, then had gone on to acting as a placement, assistance and advisory service for day-care workers and parents. There was one day-care centre for approximately every 6,000 inhabitants. Most non- governmental organizations, which worked to serve the interests of women, children and fathers, received financial support from the State.
Before turning to Liechtenstein's compliance with the specific articles of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, she said that her country had attached great importance to the Beijing Platform for Action, which had been adopted in 1995. On 12 May 1998, for example, the Government had approved a set of measures to advance gender equality, which it had instructed departments to implement. The measures involved areas of
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politics, civil rights, education, employment equality, compatibility of work and family, flexible working hours and division of the labour in the household. Those also focused on the issues of divorce, sexual offence, environmental protection, affordable housing and the improvement of tenant protection.
She said that the women's Convention had been very important to Liechtenstein, and the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had been very helpful in complying with the Convention.
Turning to article 1 of the Convention, on the definition of discrimination against women, she said that gender discrimination had not yet been defined in either the Constitution or in legislation, although it had been introduced into the Constitution in 1992. The new equality act, however, would include the principle of equal rights, thereby aligning itself with the Convention.
On article 2, on legal and administrative measures to eliminate discrimination, she said that with the incorporation of gender equality into the social security system and civil rights matters, de jure or legal gender equality had been achieved. Since 1996, there had been no de jure discrimination against women and no discriminatory provisions existed in the Penal Code. "To achieve real equality, however, great efforts are still necessary", she said. For that reason, the Government had set up several commissions, including a working group for the advancement of women, which had already proposed measures aimed at balancing the gender equation.
In addition, she said that the Department of Personnel and Organization had prepared draft regulations that would introduce flexible working hours, thereby making it easier for women to combine the responsibilities of work and family. Those were expected to enter into force in April. The Government had also issued measures to implement the Beijing Platform for Action.
On article 4, on temporary special measures to accelerate de facto gender equality, she said that unequal treatment under the law giving preference to women was no more permissible than negative discrimination against them. With the Guidelines for Improving the Representation and Occupational Status of Women in the Public Service and a governmental decision on appointments to public bodies, the Government had adopted a set of positive measures to provide active support to women. The entry into force last year of the Guidelines for Improving the Representation and Occupational Status of Women in the Public Service had sought to promote the de facto equality of women especially concerning job applications, hiring, promotion, allocation of duties, education, salaries, transfer and termination of employment.
On article 5, on stereotyping and sex roles of women and men, she said that the most effective means of transforming the social patterns of conduct of men and women was the achievement of equality in everyday life. In that
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respect, attention could be drawn to educational successes. It had been apparent that men had assigned greater importance to education, while women had attached more significance to traditional family duties. In addition, women saw themselves as facing frequent prejudices and difficulties towards their professional advancement. The overall result was that men occupied higher social positions, earned higher incomes and wielded more power. An increase in publicly supported child care programmes outside the home should facilitate women's employment and would make it easier for them to combine the obligations of family and work.
She said that the principle of gender equality had been incorporated into the area of social security in 1996. Among other results, women who stopped working because of motherhood could have the years in question taken into account for pension purposes. Moreover, the married couple's pensions had been discontinued, and replaced by individual pensions. The amended marriage act in 1992 had introduced a number of important innovations favourable to women. A change had taken place from the patriarchal to the partnership principle. Equal treatment of women and men now covered the use of a name, conjugal rights and the consequences of separation.
In the event of separation or divorce, she went on, property acquired during a marriage was divided between the two spouses. Given that women frequently gave up gainful employment for a considerable period of time in order to devote themselves to their families, the Government last year had proposed draft legislation to amend the divorce law, which would enter into force in April. An amendment to the legislation on occupational social insurance and on the pension fund for Government personnel would also ensure that in separation or divorce women would receive one-half of the insurance benefits accumulated by their employed spouses. The draft legislation in question would also provide for divorce by mutual agreement and for joint custody of the children.
Turning to article 6, on suppression of traffic in and prostitution of women, she said that procuring, pandering and traffic in persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation were punishable by law. For male and female dancers, bar attendants and musicians, the Government had promulgated guidelines in 1995 which had required employers to ensure the physical and mental well- being of their employees. In addition, there was a strong taboo with respect to public or private violence against women. From September to December 1997, an anti-violence campaign, conducted in cooperation with women's organizations, had sought to enhance public awareness of that multi-faceted problem.
In April 1996, a working group on punishable sexual offenses had been set up, she continued. Special attention was being given to the length of punishment for sexual offenses, ranging from marital rape as a statutory offence to sexual harassment in the workplace. Last May, the Government had submitted a report as well as draft legislation, which would be reviewed in the spring. Also being considered was legislation excluding the perpetrator of domestic violence from re-entering the home.
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With regard to article 7, on gender equality in political and public life, she said that women whad been guaranteed the right to vote since 1984. At this time, one woman was represented in the Government -- "that's me", she added. Since women had obtained the right to vote, their representation on national commissions had increased threefold. In the education commission, as well as in those concerning art and environmental protection, there was a nearly equitable representation of women and men. In commissions on real estate and construction, however, representation had remained unequal.
"It is clear that women are generally under-represented in politics", she said. Following disappointing results for female candidates in the election to the Landtag in February 1997, an analysis had been carried out. Among its findings, women candidates suffered from a general image problem; a low level of recognition, and a lack of political experience, plus the effect of men's long- standing dominance in politics. In addition, the Commission on Equal Rights for Women and Men and the Equality Bureau had compiled measures to assist women in gaining equal representation in all political bodies. Those measures had focused on the three problem areas relating to their recent poor electoral performance. Further, networking by Liechtenstein's women's organizations should also increase solidarity.
On article 8, which deals with international representation and participation, she said that there were no legal obstacles to women's participation in the Government and in international organizations. In fact, women in Liechtenstein were strongly represented in the foreign service.
On article 9, dealing with nationality, she said that her country had submitted a reservation concerning citizenship upon its ratification of the Convention. As a result of amended legislation on national and communal citizenship, that reservation had been withdrawn in 1996. Further, the law on the acquisition and loss of citizenship had been amended to provide for gender equality. Thus, men and women now had the same rights with regard to conferring citizenship on a foreign spouse or to children.
On article 10, which covered education, she said girls and boys had equal access to all types of schools in the country. Since co-education had come into effect in 1968, the last post-primary school with segregated education for girls had been converted -- in 1993. In addition, in 1994, the Government had established the Commission on the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity for Girls and Women in Education. As a result of a curriculum review, a revised curriculum would take effect in 1999. There was scarcely any difference between girls and boys in enrolment in basic schools. In later years, however, a gap emerged. As a result of the disproportionate enrolment by women and men in universities and professional training courses, women had fewer employment opportunities. Only vocational counselling that targeted women and a change in overall perceptions could counter that imbalance.
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On article 11, which covered employment, she said that in comparison to neighbouring countries, her country's unemployment rate was very low. In that sphere, the aim of the Government was to combat unemployment, support the unemployed and assist in the search for new jobs and educational services. Since 1993, its labour contract act had forbidden sex discrimination, particularly in the establishment of the employment relationship, professional advancement, termination or dismissal. The act also fulfilled requirements for equal pay for equal work, and free choice of profession. It was nevertheless apparent that women lagged behind men in vocational education and training and that they earned less than men. The Equal Rights Act -- "our big project this year" -- would give added impetus to equal pay for equal work.
She went on to say that a mother could not be dismissed from her job during pregnancy or in the 16 weeks following delivery, or because of a personal characteristic, such as her marital status. Since 1995, maternity leave had been 20 weeks for employed women, and mothers who were not gainfully employed received a one-time tax-free maternity allowance. The availability of day care outside the home had increased in recent years as a result of private initiatives. There was a babysitting service, a care-provider placement and assistance service, kindergartens and day care centres.
Turning to article 16, on women and marriage and family relations, she said that under current law, only the woman was mentioned regarding marriage to acquire citizenship. The draft legislation introduced in 1998 extended the law on citizenship to both spouses. Therefore, a marriage was invalid if either the woman or man did not enter into a lifelong partnership but instead wanted to circumvent the regulations on obtaining citizenship. Under the General Civil Code, only the mother had custody of children born out of wedlock.
In conclusion, she mentioned some of the work to be done in the coming year. The Equal Rights Act was to be reconsidered and its passing would be a major step towards achieving de facto equality of men and women. Also, the Equality Bureau was expected to deal with two main subjects in 1999 -- the equitable representation of women in all political bodies, and caring for the family (combining work and family responsibilities, and the man's role in the equal rights process).
While Liechtenstein celebrated 15 years of women's right to vote in 1999, it needed to tackle the fact that women were under-represented in political bodies. Positive steps, such as winning women over to political work and giving support, had to be taken. Some goals in that area included establishing a pool of suitable women; compiling statistics on communal and national commissions; and launching course offerings.
She said that while Liechtenstein was relatively late in working towards full equality between the sexes, there had been rapid and important progress over the past few years, to which both civil society and governmental policies had contributed significantly. Membership in international organizations and
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treaties had been an important element in the country's policies concerning gender equality. However, full equality could only be achieved through processes which involved all actors of society.
General Comments by Experts
Experts noted that often both small and large countries had the same struggles and structures of inequality. A report such as the one presented was difficult for a small country to produce due to the resources needed to structure the report. Also, due to the small population, even one or two people would change the numbers and percentage of women in different areas. One expert wanted to know who had been involved in the production of the report, and what roles the Equality Bureau and the various women's non-governmental organizations had played. Another expert asked what had happened in the two years since the report had been published.
Many experts were surprised that women in Liechtenstein had been given the right to vote as late as 1984. One expert said she had thought that not having the right to vote was a problem experienced only by women in developing countries, while another stated that Liechtenstein's situation was an oddity in Europe. She asked what had prohibited women from voting until that time, and whether it had been due to stereotypes or culture. Regarding those obstacles that blocked the right of women to vote, she wanted to know whether they had been removed.
Experts also noted Liechtenstein was a predominantly Roman Catholic country and that there were many foreigners in the country, a high percentage of whom were Roman Catholics. One expert asked whether religion played a role in determining which foreigner was given residence in the country. She also noted that the arrangement of living together without a marriage certificate was quite an achievement in a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and asked how the Church was dealing with that.
Regarding education, one expert said it was not surprising that Liechtenstein did not have universities considering its small population. However, that those who wanted university education had to go to neighbouring countries could pose problems, especially for women. Perhaps that was why there were so few women with university education. She imagined that women who wanted to get married, or had to take care of aged parents would not be able to leave the country to pursue university education. She asked whether the Government had considered distant education programmes, which had been successful in the British Commonwealth system, whereby women could have the opportunity to pursue university education while taking care of families.
Another expert asked for clarification regarding the activities of the ombudsman in Liechtenstein, especially in relation to the realization of de facto equality of men and women.
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One expert noted the high rate of children born out of wedlock (1 out of 10) in Liechtenstein, and the fact that only the mother had custody of those children. She said that meant women bore the burden and faced the responsibilities of child rearing, including financial dependency, housing and the risk of poverty. She asked whether there was any social legislation to address problems faced by single mothers and whether the Information and Contact Network for Women had any programmes for single mothers.
Comments on Specific Articles
An expert, noting that Liechtenstein was not a member of the European Union, asked how it viewed European Union legislation and court decisions, and whether they helped the country promote the advancement of women.
Turning to article 1, the definition of discrimination against women, one expert said that Liechtenstein's Constitution was too broad and needed a better definition of discrimination. The Equality Act would help in that regard because it would explain individual rights and obligations. Also, she wanted to know whether any equality machinery would be established when that Act was put in place. Another expert wanted to know the definition of discrimination Liechtenstein had used, and what form of equality it had referred to.
Another expert asked why so little had been done for the equality of women since the Defender's Office had been established over 20 years ago and considering that the Commission on Human Rights was located nearby. She also asked what some of the functions of the Public Defender were and why they had not dealt with de facto equality until that time. A reform of the Constitution was suggested by another expert, who asked what legal measures might be taken to achieve effective equality.
Regarding the Beijing Plan for Action, one expert asked whether there was a specific ministry or department in charge of its implementation as well as monitoring that implementation.
Turning to article 2, measures to eliminate discrimination, several experts raised questions regarding the effectiveness of national machinery and on involvement of non-governmental organizations in that machinery.
Another expert noted that perhaps the establishment of the Commission on Equal Rights was premature for Liechtenstein, and that the dismissal of its members might have been due to insufficient political support. She also wanted to know how the Ministry for Family Affairs and Equality between Men and Women was connected to the Equality Office established by the Commission.
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