19 January 2000


Press Release
WOM/1156



NEED TO ENSHRINE PRINCIPLE OF EQUALITY IN LUXEMBOURG CONSTITUTION STRESSED BY WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE EXPERTS

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Committee Concludes Consideration of Third Periodic Report of Luxembourg on Compliance with Anti-Discrimination Convention

The need to enshrine the principle of equality in the Constitution of Luxembourg was among the fundamental concerns demonstrated by the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, that body’s Chairperson said as it concluded its consideration of Luxembourg’s third periodic report this afternoon.

Summing up Committee expert comments during the day’s two meetings, Aida Gonzalez Martinez said that another key issue was the registration process for children and married women. Experts had also raised concerns about State programmes to change attitudes and stereotypes and had inquired about the situation of working women.

She noted Committee members’ concerns that women had for many generations promoted the family stereotype by assuming total responsibility for the home. That had promoted the continuation of a stereotypical mentality regarding gender roles. Segregating women at work or confining them to female jobs was the subject of an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study that sought to change those values. The basis for that shift in thinking should be laid at the pre-school level. Therefore, in its next periodic report, Luxembourg should be able to demonstrate that the programme was bearing fruit.

The delegation of Luxembourg had earlier described a political project aimed at developing a gender philosophy through teaching. It had been proposed to begin at the pre-school level to make teachers aware of different types of socialization that children received from their parents and their immediate circle. It was necessary to give children potential beyond their traditional role.

Stereotypes in the domestic area were a clear problem for which there was no miracle prescription, Luxembourg’s Minister for the Advancement of Women, Marie- Josee Jacobs, emphasized. It was mainly the fault of women who passed stereotypical attitudes on to their sons. Only a quarter of men helped women do domestic work.

Also this afternoon, the Chairperson introduced an addendum to the report of the pre-session working group on its consideration of the States’ reports to the Committee.

The Committee will meet again at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow to begin consideration of the initial and second periodic reports of Jordan.


Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the third periodic report of Luxembourg. (For background information, see Press Release WOM/1155 of 19 January.)

Questions and Comments by Experts/Replies of Government

An expert referred to a State project on the theory of sharing equality to improve awareness in pre-school children and questioned whether it was being undertaken at other levels of the school structure. It was also important that teachers be trained to recognize the requirements of their students in the area of women’s rights. The report had also made reference to a municipal concept of equality; there should, therefore, have been an increase in the number of towns in Luxembourg who were engaging the concept in practice. What had been the impact of the information publications on the elimination of stereotypes that had been distributed throughout the State? she asked.

Another expert questioned the gender education programme. She noted that Luxembourg had referred to differences between the sexes in societal roles. What were those differences? she asked. The report also made references to many projects. She would like to see the results of those projects translated into permanent policies. On the issue of migrant workers, particularly the Portuguese population in the country, statistics should be given for healthcare, among other things. It was easy for such workers to experience discrimination. Turning to the issue of equal pay for work of equal value, she noted that the Government was limited in ensuring that equal pay was received for work of equal value. However, it could conduct studies to establish parameters regarding pay.

Introducing a parent leave programme in Luxembourg was commendable, another expert said. The delegation should provide information about the number of men using that facility. If that was not monitored, the connection between male non- involvement versus female involvement in parenting could not be made. She asked if related policies were cohesive with guidelines of the International Labour Organization and if the concept of gender monitoring and equality could take the issue of sexual harassment into account?

MARIE-JOSEE JACOBS, Minister for the Advancement of Women of Luxembourg, said that when her Government had inaugurated its National Women’s Council, one of the delegates nominated had been responsible for equality between men and women. The Ministry preferred that such bodies be mixed and not composed only of women.

She said there was no legal discrimination against migrant workers, although there were many gaps in information about that subject. There were problems in addressing migrant women workers, who were working eight hours or more, more often than Luxembourg women. The biggest problem in trying to integrate them into society was the difficulty of meeting with them, because when they were not working, they were busy looking after their children.

The Minister said there was a European guideline on the question of parental leave. Luxembourg had opted for six months for both men and women. If a woman took parental leave after taking maternity leave, that amounted to 11 months. Only women had been taking parental leave, which had existed in the country since 1 January 1995.

In response to a query on rape, she said that when it came to the rape of a minor, it was the procedure which mattered, whether there was consent or not.

VIVIANE ECKER, External Expert in the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and Equal Rights for Men and Women in Luxembourg, described a political project aimed at developing a gender philosophy through teaching. It had been proposed to begin at the pre-school level with very young children in order to make teachers aware of different types of socialization from that which children received from their parents and their immediate circle. It was necessary to give children potential beyond their traditional role. The aim of gender pedagogy was to give children opportunities to do other things.

The effect of the project had been to get teacher training institutes to develop programmes to be incorporated within the training curricula for primary and secondary school teachers, she said. That element of gender pedagogy should be embraced by all systems. The pilot programme had prompted a lot of interest at the European level. Spain and Italy wanted to be part of it.

Another expert expressed concern at the persistence of gender stereotypes in the Luxembourg society. School textbooks still contained traditional gender roles, she noted.

An expert commented that employment of a small percentage of women in the country remained an issue of concern. She requested clarification on several relevant statistics that had been provided in the report. She asked whether the Ministry had made any plan to establish childcare facilities in the workplace to counter the trend of unemployed women. Further, would there be a removal of gender wage discrimination and could a woman be fired from her job in the private sector if she became pregnant? Also, would the Government introduce a gender neutral job evaluation, as had been recommended by the Committee?

An expert said she was dissatisfied that there had been no mention of family responsibility with respect to chores. In developing countries, a woman set aside two hours for domestic tasks, unlike Western countries, where there were washing machines and other technological advantages.

She stressed that attention must be paid to rural women. It was not clear whether women had a right to own land. There was no information on the full participation of women in designing their own programmes. Did they play any role? More statistics were needed. There was a need to develop points on access to credit, housing policy and female heads of households.

Ms. JACOBS stressed the need to analyse the impact of programmes for the advancement of women in order to improve the promotion of their rights. She said there was still a deep-rooted attitude that men should control the workplace. Luxembourg subscribed to European Union guidelines on equal pay. The country had long prohibited the dismissal of women on maternity leave. About 31 per cent of resident non-Luxembourg women had a right to work there without distinction if they were from countries that were members of the European Union. But those not from European Union countries had to have a work permit.

Stereotypes were a clear problem in the domestic area, she said. She could see no miracle prescription to end such bad habits. It was mainly the fault of women who passed stereotypical attitudes on to their sons. Only a quarter of men helped women do domestic work. She said Luxembourg’s report had not emphasized the needs of rural women, because in such a small country, there was no difference between rural and other women. It was mandatory for rural women to have social security, health and other insurance. They were better off than most other women in the country.

MADDY MULHEIMS, Director in the Ministry for the Advancement of Women in Luxembourg, said combating stereotypes was a general challenge for society. Therefore, the Ministry of National Education in Luxembourg had created an awareness programme for teachers and students about changing gender roles. Also, to break the image that women were not gifted for the sciences and other professions, female scientists, technological experts and other professionals were continuously giving talks at high schools. Another commission had also been set up to analyse handbooks and textbooks, and to examine the different images usually conferred on men and women.

An expert noted that the legal aspect in advancing human rights was important and expressed satisfaction that the Government had passed bills and made laws relevant to the rights of women. However, that did not apply to the 300-day time- frame imposed on divorced women before they could remarry. That law needed reformation. The tenacity of Luxembourg to its laws on abortion needed examination as well, she pointed out, as those were examples that discrimination prevailed. Did the country oblige immigrant couples to observe the laws it applied to itself? she asked.

Another expert stated that despite the decreased participation of women in political posts, there had been a reported increase in the number of women mayors. She requested that the delegation provide statistics on their number. Referring to crimes committed by women in Luxembourg, she requested information on the State’s appropriate rehabilitation policies.

Since older adult women had traditionally remained at home, she continued, did the Ministry ensure economic security for those persons? Did they also enjoy the benefits of ongoing training in new technologies, and how was healthcare and other appropriate care guaranteed for them? Also, what programmes had been adopted to promote inter-generational relationships between grandmothers and the pre-school programme.

Describing the report’s mention of women’s bilateral and multilateral cooperation programmes as impressive, an expert asked about the political policy and target plan for an “action-packed 2000”. Noting that the percentage of women voters in Luxembourg had increased by 1.4 per cent, she sought to know the ratio between men and women voters and between men and women in elective posts at the communal level.

Responding, Ms. JACOBS said that in her country, international law was just as respected as national law. There was the same number of elected women in the national parliament as there had been five years ago. Of the six European members of parliament, two were women. The greatest progress had been made at the municipal level, where the number of women politicians had risen by 15 to 20 per cent. There were no statistics on women in prison or those who had committed crimes.

On marriage contracts, she said there had been a high number of divorces last year, when 50 per cent of marriages had failed. Divorced women had problems because they had no alimony and depended on whatever the judge awarded them. Some of them were older and had no training. The minimum wage stipulated by law could not provide for all their needs.

A lot of progress had been made in the last five years though continuous training, she said. Some non-governmental organizations held training courses in new technology for women who wanted to get back into the labour force. Initiatives had been carried out to give elderly people access to new technologies like the Internet.

She said that in the past 20 or 30 years, retirement and nursing homes had been built for the elderly. Rather than being placed in secluded places, they had been built in the centre of town so that elderly people could continue participating in life. It was a means of promoting intergenerational contact because the elderly could benefit from the presence of children. Luxembourg had two generations that worked and three which had to be supported by the other two.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ of Mexico, Chairperson of the Committee, noted that the Committee had expressed two fundamental concerns regarding the report. The first was that the principle of equality needed to be enshrined in the constitution of Luxembourg and the second was reflected in reservations expressed earlier on the question of accessibility to the Crown of Luxembourg, as well as the registration process of children and married women.

Members had also raised concerns about the series of programmes that the State had developed to change attitudes and stereotyping, she stated, and had inquired about the situation of working women. It was important that women’s social security and retirement benefits be outlined in future statutes. In many countries, women were the ones who for many generations had promoted the family stereotype, by assuming total responsibility for the home.

Segregating women in the workplace and confining them to female jobs had been the subject of an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study that sought to change those values, she continued. The basis for that shift in thinking should be laid at the pre-school level. In its next report, Luxembourg must be able to show that its programmes were bearing fruit.

She said that members had also raised questions about legislation affecting domestic violence against women in Luxembourg. While not regarded as a crime in Luxembourg, people had become aware of the significance of domestic violence as a result of actions by non-governmental organizations.

The Chairman then introduced the report of the pre-sessional working group on its consideration of States’ reports under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document CEDAW/PSWG/2000/I/CRP.1/Add.4).

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