The double burden of women working outside the home and taking care of the family seemed to hold back the full realization of the rights of women in Spain, an expert member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said this afternoon, as the Committee concluded its consideration of Spain's compliance with the Women's Convention.
There was a need to encourage much greater male participation in the family, the expert told the 23-member expert body which monitors States' compliance with the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Spain seemed to be facing the challenge of transforming the family. That was a process to be seen not only in economic terms, but also in social terms for the welfare of the family. In that context, it might be helpful for Spain to examine why divorce rates were increasing.
Several experts noted the constant progress in the situation of Spanish women in various fields, in addition to the Government's expressed interest in protecting women's rights. Experts welcomed the increase in human and material resources for the advancement of women, as well as the legal amendments regarding trafficking in women and the sexual exploitation of minors.
However, concern was expressed over the fact that 70 per cent of Spain's illiterate population were women. There was a need for more information on efforts to combat illiteracy, especially for rural and immigrant women. Also, while female employment had improved, women continued to face difficulties regarding work conditions and unequal pay. Were there plans for integrating poor women into development programmes and to assist them in improving their economic condition?
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While women were beginning to branch out into fields that had been traditionally male-oriented, how did their education translate into jobs? an expert asked. Young men represented a smaller number of university students, but ended up getting most of the jobs in the private sector. Why was the high level of education of women not translating into jobs for them? Also, were women having problems in getting jobs or in keeping them?
Despite progress in the area of health, one expert said there had been an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol by women. There had also been an increase in AIDS cases, smoking, domestic violence and mistreatment of women. No mention had been made of any studies to detect the causes of those increases.
In response to expert comments, Concepcion Dancausa, Director of the Spanish Women's Institute, said that one serious problem in Spain's labour market was the seasonal nature of its economy. That situation led to a large number of part-time jobs. However, a number of efforts were taken by the Government to create more stable employment. There were attempts to ensure that part-time employees had similar benefits as full-time workers.
On the topic of older women, she said work had been done on improving pensions for older women and especially widows. There were also efforts to improve home assistance to meet the needs of older persons. Also, police were now addressing the problem of violence against older persons, which was an area not recognized in the past. She admitted there was a problem in regard to the number of illiterate women in Spain. However, progress had been made in that area -- programmes had been instituted by the Education Ministry through cooperation with non-governmental organizations.
On the topic of rural women, Ms. Dancausa said there had been a study published on their status, and the Government was currently following up on that study. Rural women did have greater difficulties in attaining access to government services, but there was a wide-spread network of information centres to inform rural women of their rights and to help them find employment. Further work was being done in that area in order to more fully assess their situation.
In a concluding comment, Ivanka Corti, the Committee's rapporteur for Spain, said Spain had made much progress in supporting the rights of women, especially in regard to changing stereotypes and attitudes. There did seem to be a conflict between the old attitudes towards the role of women and the new power women had in society. Like many other countries, Spain still faced such problems as migration, aging, economic transformation, violence and trafficking of women.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to hear replies from the Government of Belize to questions posed to it following the presentation of its report on 14 June.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the third and fourth periodic reports of Spain (documents CEDAW/C/ESP/3 and 4), 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, which Spain ratified in 1983. (For background on the reports, see Press Release WOM/1138 issued this morning).
Several experts noted that there had been constant progress in the situation of women in Spain in different fields, and that the Government had expressed its concern and interest in protecting the social, political and cultural rights of its women. One expert said that the breadth of efforts made by the Spanish Women's Institute was very apparent, and welcomed the increase in human and material resources for the advancement of women. In the area of legislation, important amendments had been made, especially with regard to trafficking in women and girls and the sexual exploitation of minors, another said.
However, one expert expressed concern over the high percentage of illiterate women in the country -- 70 per cent of the illiterate population were women. While the chances of education for women were increasing, there had not been any mention of efforts to combat illiteracy, especially for rural and immigrant women.
Discrimination in employment was an area of serious concern, said another expert. Since 1996, female employment had improved, but it had not been enough. Women continued to face difficulties with regard to working conditions and unequal pay compared to men. While it was noted that beginning at the age of 30 women started to abandon the labour market, the reasons why were not clear.
Further, there had been a lack of statistical information on population and poverty, particularly the numbers of women classified as poor and extremely poor. Were there plans for integrating poor women into development programmes and to assist them to improve their economic condition? she asked.
While there had been some progress in the area of health, said one expert, there had been an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol by women. There had also been a gradual increase of AIDS cases and an increase in smoking by women. No mention had been made of any studies to detect the causes of all those increases. She also noted the increase in domestic
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violence and the mistreatment of women and welcomed the adoption of the Action Plan against Domestic Violence as an important development.
She also wanted information on discrimination against the gypsy community and how those women had been affected by various government programmes. Were there programmes to combat racism and xenophobia? she asked.
On the issue of stereotypes, an expert stated that measures to change attitudes needed to be enhanced. Change of attitudes could only be achieved if promoted from the inception of education, starting from within the family and in the early levels of primary education.
The double burden of women working outside the home and taking care of the family seemed to hold back the realization of the rights of women in Spain, one expert said. That problem was evident in the high divorce rate. There seemed to be a number of women who were being held back after a divorce because they lacked the support of a man. Also, women seemed to be the responsibility of the women only.
There was a need to encourage much greater male participation in the family, she said. In that context, she asked if any policies had been introduced to stress the male responsibility in the family. Spain seemed to be facing the challenge of transforming the family. That process should be seen not only in economic terms, but also in social terms for the welfare of the family. She also asked for more information on Spain's right to maternity leave for adoptive parents.
Another expert asked why the number of female diplomats was not greater. She said Spain had 734 diplomats and only 86 were women. Was the playing field not level in that area? Also, Spain's report provided figures for the number of assaults against women and for the number of abuses against women. What was the difference between "assault" and "abuse"?
An expert asked if Spain protected women who work in agricultural positions. She also asked what percentage of the workforce was made up of migrant women workers and if such workers could bring cases of discrimination against employers. Another expert asked what steps were being taken to prepare women for the hi-tech jobs of the future.
The information on rural women in Spain's report could have been more comprehensive, an expert said. Statistics relating to the unemployment of rural women, as well as information regarding rural women and family planning, would have been helpful. In the next report, it would be useful to have more information on the situation of rural women, especially in regard to literacy and the elimination of poverty. On the topic of divorce rates, she said it might be helpful for Spain to reread its policy in that area and to examine why the divorce rates were increasing.
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Spain's Plan of Equal Opportunity had been a model followed in countries such as Argentina, an expert said. It was notable that the change in Government had not had any negative effects on policies regarding equal opportunities for women. She wanted to know how many female ministers there were in the Government and what portfolios they were responsible for. To what extent had equal opportunity been achieved at the decision-making level? Also, what was the age of retirement for men and women? she asked. Further, she wanted information on the situation of Latin American and African women in the Spanish labour market.
With such a comprehensive equality policy, progress could be seen in the areas of political representation and education, said another expert. While women were beginning to branch out into fields that had traditionally been male oriented, how did their education translate into jobs? she asked. Young men represented a smaller number of university students, but ended up getting the jobs in the private sector. What were the numbers of girl graduates as compared to male graduates? What university education did the private sector ask for? What were the real hiring practices of employers? she asked.
Did the private sector offer training programmes to university graduates and what percentage of those trainees were female graduates? she asked. She wanted to know why the high level of education of women did not translate into jobs for them. Also, what was the breaking point for young educated women, was it in getting the job or in keeping it?
She said that there had been a fallacy that many Western European countries had been concentrating on raising the number of women in political representation and, thus, women in the private sector had been forgotten. She suggested that a gender perspective be introduced into vocational counselling to help prepare a life plan for women that was career-oriented. In addition, women's studies and research had been very important over the past 25 years. She wanted to know to what extent a women's studies perspective had been integrated into the mandatory curriculum of universities.
With regard to female migrant workers, she wanted to know where they actually worked and at what levels. Information was requested on whether they had difficulty renewing their work permits; what the possibilities were for obtaining Spanish nationality; and whether their children obtained Spanish nationality at birth.
Also of concern was the situation of disabled women, she added. What were their numbers, and was there legislation to protect them? she asked.
Responses by Delegation
CONCEPCION DANCAUSA, Director of the Spanish Women's Institute, said her country had a broad social consensus on the rights of women. That meant that,
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although there had been a change in Government, there had not been a change in the policies towards women. All the programmes for women had been maintained under the new Government, except for those that had been unsuccessful. She added that there had been a number of efforts to cooperate internationally on women's rights programmes, especially with the other countries of the European Union.
In regard to Spain's labour market, one serious problem was its seasonal nature, she said. That situation had led to a large number of part-time jobs, and a number of efforts had been taken by the Government to create a more stable employment. There had been attempts to ensure that part-time employees had similar benefits as full-time workers. Small- and medium-sized businesses were an important component of Spain's economy, and women's role in those businesses was also considered important, she added.
On the subject of languages, she said that in Spain the official language was Castilian Spanish. However, in the Catalonia and Basque regions, among others, communities were allowed to provide education in their native language. On domestic services, Spain had a law that ensured social security benefits for domestic workers. Such workers were mostly immigrants. Thirty-five per cent of foreigners given work permits were women.
On the topic of older women, she said work had been done on improving pensions for older women and especially widows. There were also efforts to improve home assistance to meet the needs of older persons. Many of those taking care of older persons were women, and greater attention was being given to those working in that area to ensure they were given the benefits and information necessary. Police were now addressing the problem of violence against older persons, which was an area not recognized in the past.
On the number of illiterate women in Spain, she admitted there was a problem in that regard, but said there had also been progress in eliminating illiteracy. Work in that area had been carried out through the Education Ministry's programme for adult women and through cooperation with non- governmental organizations to help women who could read and write, but not work in an office environment.
In regard to wage discrimination, she said such practices were prohibited by the Government. However, it was a form of indirect discrimination and, therefore, it was much harder to prevent. Spain had cooperated with the European Union in creating a pamphlet on avoiding wage discrimination.
There was not more violence against women in Spain, but greater awareness of the problem had led to an increase in the number of violence reports, she said. The goals of Spain's efforts in that regard were to make sure the violence was reported.
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Regarding immigrant women, she said there was a gypsy development plan to integrate gypsy women into society by increasing their role in the educational system. She said that the Government attached great importance to the area of cooperation for development. The most important women's organizations were part of the Institute's Board of Regents. Non-governmental organizations were carrying out excellent work in various areas, such as education, violence, trafficking in women and gypsy-women's affairs. It was true that while school was vital for education, it was clear that families had equal or greater importance. There was an annual conference of schoolchildren's parents, which last year had conducted a campaign against violence.
In the area of divorce, she said, reforms in the marriage system had taken place in 1981. Spouses could have separate or joint property during marriage. During a divorce, the children's well-being was the primary consideration in determining custody. There was a need to work through awareness-raising campaigns, especially targeted towards men. The Government was working to make maternity leave flexible so that the couple could distribute the 16 weeks among themselves.
With regard to the difference between de jure and de facto equality in the diplomatic service, she said that up until 1968 women had not been able to enter that field. Women's access to diplomatic service had been quite recent. Factors inhibiting their entry included the difficulties of a diplomatic career, such as living abroad, in light of women's responsibilities in the family.
An expert had noted the low economic participation of women in the labour market. In fact, Spanish women's economic participation was the lowest in Europe, she said. Growth was now being witnessed, and education would determine the rate of that growth in the economic activity of women.
With regard to migrant workers, she said that, in 1998, there had been 719,000 foreign workers in Spain. Thirty-four per cent of the total of migrant workers were women, of which 63 per cent worked in domestic service. Fifty-one per cent of female migrant workers were from European countries. Among the most numerous groups were Moroccans, Dominicans, Peruvians and Chinese. Fifty-three per cent of migrant women resided in Madrid. Spain did have legislation pertaining to foreign migrant workers, and there were no serious immigration problems.
On the topic of rural women, she said there had been a study published on the status of rural women in Spain. The Government was currently following up on that study. Rural women did have greater difficulties in attaining access to government services. But there was a wide-spread network of information centres to inform rural women of their rights and to help them find employment. Further work was being done in that area in order to more fully assess the situation of rural women.
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With respect to nationality, she said that children had the nationality of the parents they were born to. Children could apply for Spanish nationality. A commission had been set up to study the issue of citizenship. Workers not from the European Union could be given work permits for three months, three years or five years.
In a concluding comment, IVANKA CORTI, the Committee's rapporteur for Spain, said the two reports of Spain had invoked a profound interest, and there was unanimous congratulation and admiration for Spain's efforts regarding women. If some doubt or fears had come out, they were due to the commitment and concern of the Committee for the implementation of the Convention. Much progress had been made, especially in regard to changing stereotypes and attitudes to allow women to enjoy their social, economic and cultural rights. There did seem to be a conflict between the old attitudes towards the role of women and the new power women had in society. Also, Spain was faced with problems such as migration, aging, economic transformation, violence and trafficking of women. But those were problems all countries faced in today's world.
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