Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
504th & 505th Meetings (AM & PM)
UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY, FAMILY PLANNING DISCUSSED AS WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION
COMMITTEE CONSIDERS MONGOLIA'S REPORT ON CONVENTION COMPLIANCE
High unemployment and a lack of effective family planning measures had created a “poverty trap” for women, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was told by one of its experts, as it considered the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Mongolia.
Mongolia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1982. The Optional Protocol to the Convention was signed by the Government in September 2000, and ratification is expected this year.
The Convention requires that State parties submit a progress report on implementation of the Convention within one year after its entry into force and at least every four years thereafter. The Committee is charged with reviewing these reports.
Introducing the report, Mongolia’s Vice Minister of Health, N. Udval, said that the country had passed through radical changes in its political, economic and social life over the past 10 years. Major steps had been taken to build the institutions of democracy, promote human rights and unleash people’s entrepreneurial energy. As a result, Mongolia had become a country with a parliamentary form of governance and a multi-party system.
In its most recent Action Programme, the Government had stressed the importance of the continuity of democratic reforms, its strengthening of good governance and promoting a human-centred development approach. The Parliament had recently adopted a law establishing a National Human Rights Commission and was in the process of setting up that Commission.
She indicated that there had been some constraints in implementing the Convention due to a lack of specific national mechanisms. There had been regress in such indicators as maternal mortality, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, as well as in the participation of women in decision-making. Also, there was marked inequality between men and women within geographical zones and social groups.
On the positive side, an appropriate legal environment had been created and the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had increased, she said. Women had achieved higher levels of education, and the percentage of
educated women had increased. The international community’s assistance was also increasing.
Summarizing the discussion, the Chairperson, Charlotte Abaka of Ghana said it was clear the country was facing numerous challenges as a result of its economic and political transition. Despite women’s high level of competence, their political representation was shrinking, and the issue of violence against women represented a serious problem. Special measures were needed for the advancement of women.
Many experts expressed concern at the deteriorating situation of women in Mongolia. The low levels of employment, violence against women, a lack of political representation, and poverty were the most worrisome issues. There was a disparity in the acceptance of the principles of the Convention by the Government, and the legal and social position of women in society.
Experts agreed that Mongolia had created a system of governance that was very dynamic. They commended the cooperation between the Government and NGOs, as it was an important step towards advancing the equality of women.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 30 January, to hear replies of Maldives on its initial report.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to begin consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Mongolia (document CEDAW/C/MNG/3-4), submitted in compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Mongolia ratified the Convention in 1981.
The report states that, as a result of Mongolia's transition to democracy and a market economy, changes and restructuring are taking place in all realms of social life. Women account for 50.4 per cent of the total population;
54.9 per cent live in cities and towns, and 43.2 per cent in provinces. The social crisis accompanying transition to a market economy has hit women harder than men, and the level of unemployed women is consistently higher than that of men.
The report highlights ongoing measures for improving the status of women and protecting their interests, including insuring women's right to education; poverty alleviation and combating HIV/AIDS, among other things. The Government also convened, in March 1996, a national forum on women in social development to upgrade competence, living conditions and education, and to expand women’s involvement in development and progress. In June 1996 the Government discussed and endorsed the National Programme on Improving the Status of Women.
According to the report, the national mechanism for women's issues has undergone major changes. The Department for Youth, Family and Women, handling policy implementation issues, was established at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in 1996. Also in 1996, the National Council for Women's Affairs was established and is headed by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare. At present, around 30 women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operate in the country. These organizations work on the implementation of various projects aimed at empowering women in terms of their political education, legal knowledge and life skills.
The report states that there is a declining role of women at the higher echelons of political and economic leadership. At present, 9.2 per cent of the members of Parliament are women. No woman holds a ministerial portfolio, and there are no women ambassadors or provincial governors. To increase the percentage of women in parliament and government in the near future, the Government is encouraging concrete steps to promote and support women in acquiring management knowledge and skills through various forms of training.
In an effort to improve women's employment, the report says that, during the past four years, the Government has taken measures to involve women widely in project activities and training, which focus on the creation of workplaces and income-generation schemes. In the period 1992-1995 soft loans totalling
160 million tugriks were disbursed to the unemployed resulting in 2,000 new jobs specifically designed for women. To generate income for women, the Government is implementing, in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), a project which is set to provide 1,470 women with jobs.
Concerning violence against women and domestic violence, the report states that judging from data collected by law enforcement agencies, the rate of criminality has been rapidly growing. During the past 10 years, the number of violent crimes has risen by 25.6 per cent. In most cases, it is women and children who are victimized. Both governmental organizations and the non-governmental community carry out a variety of activities aimed at arranging for medical check-ups for prostitutes and giving moral advice.
Introduction of Report
Introducing her country’s report, N. UDVAL, Vice Minister for Health of Mongolia and member of the National Commission on Gender Equality, said Mongolia had been one of the first countries to sign the Convention in 1981. It had consistently adhered to the letter and spirit of the Convention and had upheld its values. Last September, Mongolia had signed the Optional Protocol, and its ratification procedure was now underway in the Parliament.
Almost two years had passed since the submission of Mongolia’s report, she said. Her statement would focus on more recent developments not included in the report. The country had passed through radical changes in its political, economic and social life. Major steps had been taken to build the institutions of democracy, promote human rights, and unleash people’s entrepreneurial energy. As a result, Mongolia had become a country with a parliamentary form of governance and a multi-party system.
The Government, she said, stressed the continuity of democratic reforms, the strengthening of good governance, and promoting a human-centred development approach. The Parliament had recently adopted a law on a National Human Rights Commission and was currently setting up that Commission. In coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Office in Ulan Bator, the Government had also launched a nationwide discussion to develop a National Programme on Human Rights.
Mongolia had become a party to 30 international human rights conventions and treaties, she said. In line with those treaty obligations, the Government had adopted relevant policies, enacted new legislation and revised or amended older acts in order to mainstream gender issues into national policies and programmes.
She said that since the submission of the present report, a revised Health Law had come into force, as had a new labour code and family law. The new labour code contained specific provisions prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Women’s equal rights to inheritance, to land use and to ownership of livestock and other property were covered in the civil and family laws.
An important step was made in promoting further the collaborative partnership between Mongolia and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) with the signing of a joint Memorandum of Understanding to economically and politically empower the women of Mongolia. As a first step to implement the Memorandum, a situational analysis of the status of women in Mongolia was carried out last year. The study had helped the Government to understand the positive and negative impacts of the country’s transition to a market economy on women’s economic, social and political conditions.
She indicated that there had been some constraints with implementation of the Convention due to a lack of specific national mechanisms. There had been regress in such indicators as maternal mortality, domestic violence, the cases of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as the participation of women in decision-making. Also, there was marked inequality within geographical zones and social groups.
On the positive side, an appropriate legal environment had been created, and the participation of NGOs had increased, she said. Women had achieved higher levels of education, and the percentage of educated women had increased. The international community’s assistance was also increasing.
She said that strategies for the future implementation of the Convention included improving national coordination and integrating national mechanisms. The Government was undergoing a review of the current legislation and would make amendments as necessary. Finally, the Government would strengthen cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organizations in women’s literacy and counseling services for them.
Comments by Experts
Chairperson of the Committee, CHARLOTTE ABAKA of Ghana, commended the Government of Mongolia for early ratification of the Convention and for the signing of its Optional Protocol. Many issues still needed to be clarified, however.
Several experts joined the Chairperson’s compliments to the delegation, also commenting on the thorough preparation of the report.
An expert said that a serious problem in many countries concerned elimination of customary and stereotypical attitudes towards women. The Government’s efforts to promote the national culture and traditions could in some respects delay full implementation of the Convention.
The Government’s public sensitization efforts to raise awareness of gender and domestic violence in Mongolia were particularly interesting to the Committee, an expert said. She asked what specific measures had been taken against discriminatory traditions and violence against women.
Questions were also asked about the national mechanisms to promote the advancement of women. An expert said it appeared that very few people in relevant ministries were responsible for that issue. The National Council for Women’s Affairs also seemed to operate under the leadership of the Welfare Ministry, which was the highest national organ responsible for women’s problems.
Regarding women’s retirement, an expert said that women with four or more children were entitled to early retirement in Mongolia, and that could be used as a pretext for firing women. Also, did it affect women’s promotions?
According to the report, in the transition to a market economy, women had received new opportunities to develop their economic capacity, a speaker said. Yet the transition period had, in fact, led to worsening economic condition for women.. Their jobs were less secure, and there was great resistance to hiring women. Up to 25 per cent of women had 6 or more children, and they were most affected by poverty. She asked for additional statistical data regarding women facing poverty and for information on the programmes to address that problem.
The report also asserted that traditionally, it was not deemed advisable for young couples to use contraceptives, an expert said. Maternal mortality was high, and one of its reasons could be unsafe abortions. People should be provided with information on the methods of contraception, and greater attention needed to be paid to women’s living conditions. Also, over 30,000 street children were targets of sexual and other abuse. She asked about forward-looking programmes to combat that problem.
Ms. UDVAL said that, as it was not clear which national traditions could be restrictive towards women, a survey had been initiated, which would provide important answers in the near future. The law on domestic violence had been drafted and would soon be presented to Parliament. The country did not have reliable data on discriminative practices against women. To prevent inbreeding, the concept of “the family tree” was widely used in Mongolia. That practice, under which close members of the same “tree” were not allowed to marry each other, was not linked to discrimination.
The Ministries of Health and Social Welfare were responsible for women’s issues, she continued. The centralized role of the Government was being emphasized. As a result of a proposed reorganization, the National Commission on Gender Equality would administer relevant programmes on a much higher level.
As for women’s pensions, she said that women at the age of 55 were entitled to retirement if they had been paying their pension premiums. The retirement age for men was 60. There was no discrimination against women.
JARGALSAIUKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) added that there was no discrimination under that law, for people were only entitled to pensions -- they were not forced to retire. Reaching retirement age was also not used as a pretext for firing people. At the current stage, there was no plan to amend that provision.
Ms. UDVAL said that recently, many women had been sliding towards poverty. It was also true that the majority of the unemployed were women. Up to 60 per cent of city women used some kind of contraception; however, the generally low usage of contraceptives in the country resulted from the reluctance of rural women to use them. Abortions were legal in the country, and several Government programmes were devoted to the improvement of the quality of those services. There was a curriculum for sexual and health education for schoolchildren, as well as for students at the secondary and higher education levels.
The national programme for women was not provided with sufficient budget funds, she said, but United Nations agencies provided it with support. The programme had links with several other national projects, including those for health and economic development.
The mention of 30,000 street children was not correct, she explained. The official statistics showed the number to be 1,000 such children. That was a new phenomenon, and the Government was trying to develop a community-based strategy to address it. Efforts were being made to vaccinate and educate the children about the dangers of drugs and HIV/AIDS. Several shelters had been organized for them.
Mongolia had created a system of governance which was very dynamic, an expert said. She found it interesting that Mongolia had focused on ratifying and implementing so many international treaties. The high level of education among women was commendable, but it had not translated into employment opportunities. The population policy encouraged women to have babies, which forced them out of the labour force. This contradiction needed to be addressed.
The report had indicated that there was an increase in education fees, and it was becoming difficult for low-income families to afford education, an expert noted. If this situation was not monitored, it might prevent many girls from entering school.
Another expert was not sure who had written the report and whether the Government had endorsed it. The report said that it was hoped that the Government would implement certain policies, which indicated that the Government had not written it. She asked for clarification.
Cooperation between the Government and the NGOs was an important step, an expert said. Were there any plans to provide the NGOs with funding when their programmes fell within the Government’s mandate? She thought that the Government might be letting the NGOs do a majority of its work in social development.
An expert was concerned that a segment of the population no longer had access to health care. She asked what the Government was doing about this problem.
Many experts expressed concern at the deterioration in the situation of women. The low levels of employment, violence against women, political representation and poverty were the most worrisome issues. There was a disparity in the acceptance of the principles of the Convention, and the actual situation of women in society. The Government had not adequately addressed this phenomenon in the report.
On employment, one expert said women were not being paid equal wages for work of equal value. The report did not comment on this as something that needed to be addressed. What were the figures of women in managerial positions? Was there any effective machinery for women to compare their salaries with that of men? she asked. The report said that there was a low percentage of women in post-diploma training. Who paid for these programmes? Were women provided with childcare facilities considering that many of them would have children?
It seemed that a poverty trap had been created due to a lack of family planning measures and legal provisions, an expert said. The amount of money paid for maternity leave had been lowered below the minimum wage. Emergency measures were needed to correct this. Were there any provisions to change maternity rights to parental rights so that both men and women would be held responsible for childcare?
She added that there was a 1997 report that indicated nearly 30 per cent of women said that their husbands would not allow them to work. The Government must look into why women were not in the labour force. Women needed to be freed to work outside the family especially when there was such a problem with poverty. Job creation programmes were commendable, but she wondered what sort of jobs were being created. Did they include any high paying jobs for women?
The situation of women in the family also contributed to women’s poverty, an expert said. Was there any consideration to reform the family law? The divorce rate had increased rapidly, and therefore, the poverty trap for women was going to increase as well. Violence in the family was a serious problem as well, and it contributed to poverty.
The fact that political representation of women had gone down so much was one of the most worrying aspects of the report, experts agreed. They asked for more information on the number of women candidates that ran for seats in Parliament. Perhaps a quota system was needed.
There were many disparities between the laws and policies and the situation on the ground, another expert agreed. Many traditional values needed to be respected, but they should be evaluated if they contradicted women’s rights. It was reassuring that a study had been undertaken in the country to address that question.
The report contained little information about prosecution of aggressors in cases of violence against women, she said. It was interesting that the human rights issue of violence against women came under the heading of “Miscellaneous” in the report. Also, the explanation, provided by the delegation that no data was available from the ministries regarding their efforts to mainstream women’s issues in their activities, was not sufficient. The ministries should provide such information on a regular basis.
Comments also concerned the fact that women were responsible for most of the duties within their households. The role of the head of the family should be reinforced, the report said. If that meant reinforcement of the man's role, it was a discriminatory concept, an expert said.
Ms. UDVAL said that social and economic changes in the country had seriously affected women. Parenting was a joint responsibility under the family law. As far as the implementation of the laws for the protection of women was concerned, there was weak legal literacy among women, and enforcement mechanisms needed to be strengthened.
She went on to say that educational institutions were being privatized in Mongolia, and there was inequality in access to education between the poor and the rich. The situation of rural and city women was also different. A recent survey indicated that the burden of rural women had increased in recent years. Livestock had been privatized, and women were responsible for taking care of the animals. Women were also fully engaged in the household work. A working group had been established to prepare a report for the Government to improve the situation of rural women.
Over 1,500 NGOs existed in the country, she continued, and the Government was collaborating with them to promote the situation of women. In some cases, the Government delegated some functions to those organizations in order to reach some target group. For example, NGOs were very active in the programme on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
Once the national programme for human rights had been approved, it would be distributed around the country, she continued. Efforts were also made to alleviate poverty among women, and programmes were being initiated to provide micro-credit for women to start their own businesses. The health insurance programme had been initiated in 1993. Access to healthcare was a problem, however, as vulnerable groups of people required free health services. There was no difference in social coverage of men and women.
Regarding the political participation of women, she said that following the Parliamentary elections of 1992, the total number of parliament members was 76, and 3.9 per cent were women. In the 2000 election, the percentage of women members of Parliament was 10.5 per cent. The country had given up the quota system in 1992. She did not think that the low number of women in elected positions was related to the lack of initiative on the part of women. The Government would consider future actions to address that problem.
According to statistics, one in three women was a victim of violence in the country, she said. A limited survey had been conducted, but no clear policy had been adopted on that issue. She hoped the country would be able to provide more comprehensive information in its next report.
The reference to the reinforcement of the role of the head of the family in the Family Code was not discriminatory, for it did not specify if the head of the family was a man or a woman. Many women stood at the head of the family in Mongolia. Special provisions for pregnant women in the Labour Code were based on concern for their health. They did not have any discriminatory overtones.
There was no wage difference between men and women in similar jobs, she said. Because of the lack of State budgeting, less free public training was being provided at the graduate level. Some highly educated people chose not to work in their professions because of the low salaries and the economic crisis in the country. It was true that some husbands did not allow their wives to work. A job creation programme, which had been initiated in the country, focused on simple jobs. In the future, is should expand into more sophisticated occupations.
An expert said that judicial personnel needed to be sensitive to gender issues. The percentage of women in Mongolia’s legal system was much higher than in developed countries, but that had little effect on the overall situation of women in the country. Currently, no special legal education programme on gender issues existed within the judicial training system. It was possible to amend the discriminatory laws, including the law on prostitution, without spending much money.
It was important to develop Government policies targeting women as recipients of credit, she continued. The percentage of repayment was high among women debtors in Mongolia, and that made micro-credit programmes more reliable.
Well-planned strategic actions were needed to implement the legal framework, an expert said. Legal enforcement officers were needed in the country. Both the judicial employees and the civil society on the whole needed to be educated about the existing legal norms for the advancement of women. She asked to what extent the NGOs participated in the formulation of legal norms in the country. The private sector and the media also played important roles in eliminating gender inequality.
Regarding the status of women in the family, an expert expressed concern that not enough was being done to promote the equal role of women there. The young generation would find it very difficult to change if new attitudes were not instilled in them from early childhood.
Special measures for the advancement of women should be continued, she said. There was no established population control programme in the country, and it was necessary to address that question. Also, prevention was one of the main ways to eliminate violence against women, and an expert wanted to know if any such programmes existed in Mongolia.
An expert said that during her visit to Mongolia in 1998, the vast potential of Mongolia had become obvious. However, it had also been clear that many women’s issues still required attention, including the problems of violence and economic equality. It was apparent that the Government clearly understood the problems, but the chapters regarding the national programme of action for the advancement of women did not contain any clear policy on improving the position of women. For example, the report was not clear on the concrete actions for promoting reproductive health, changing traditional attitudes and combating poverty among women.
The draft provisions regarding family violence had not been passed by the Parliament when the new Family Code was adopted, because of the lack of understanding of the issue. She wondered if the new draft law regarding domestic violence, which had been mentioned earlier by the Vice-Minister of Health, had a chance to be approved. Under the Convention, the Government had an obligation to take all necessary measures against violence towards women. It was important to develop a policy on violence, and if needed, promulgate new laws to achieve the policy's goals.
The National Human Rights Commission had been cited as one of the achievements of the Government, an expert said. She was concerned that there were no women in the Commission.
An expert said that she was disappointed that Mongolia –- one of the first countries to have ratified the Convention –- had not provided more detailed information on the implementation of each Convention article. The report was also somewhat disappointing, for it did not contain sufficient information regarding such important issues as violence against women. The layout of the document seemed to relate more to the Beijing Platform of Action than to the Convention.
The issue of domestic violence should be carefully analysed, she continued, and a well-structured plan of action was needed towards that end. Comprehensive efforts to combat that problem should include training programmes, education and legal action, which needed to be enforced. Women should be fully aware of their rights in order to exercise them.
Questions were also asked regarding a plan for gender mainstreaming, particularly within Government institutions, and the surveys and research on women’s issues.
Ms. UDVAL said there were currently no gender sensitization programmes at the national level. The Government was planing to conduct gender analysis and convene a national workshop on amending laws.
JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN, Permanent Representative of Mongolia, said he disagreed with the statements made in the shadow report, which had been written and distributed by Mongolian NGOs. There were no exceptions for men and women in the fight against prostitution. There were 10 different kinds of punishments for those that supported prostitution.
Ms. UDVAL said that the Government collaborated with NGOs extensively. There was a micro-credit policy for women, but it was not as visible for rural women. In the future, the Government would try to produce a more extensive plan of action.
In the next report to the Committee, the Government would provide an organizational chart of all the national programmes for the advancement of women, she said. The national programme for health was supported by many United Nations agencies and was being implemented successfully. New strategies would be developed as a result of the recent changes in Mongolia.
She said that Mongolian law did not recognize domestic violence as a specific crime. It was seen as a private dispute between a man and his wife. This was why it had not been introduced into the national laws.
Comments by Experts
Regarding the national machinery for the advancement of women, an expert was concerned that there might be a conflict of interest in monitoring these institutions between the legislative branch and the executive. She asked for clarification as to who monitored those institutions.
An expert said the Government had established a standing committee that was responsible for social issues. If women parliamentarians were relegated to the standing committees that only dealt with women’s issues, then they would not be able to impact the other areas, such as the budget.
Women lacked the knowledge of their legal rights, another expert said. This was especially disturbing, given the high level of education of women and the large majority of young people in the population. Where had Mongolia failed? she asked.
According to the report, the Government’s poverty alleviation programme had been implemented in two stages over the past year, an expert said. She wanted to know what the results had been for women. Although there was a law on domestic violence being drafted, it seemed that most of the measures were reactive rather than preventive. Something must be causing the increase in domestic violence, and with sufficient research, it would be possible for the Government to curtail it.
Ms. UDVAL agreed that it was important to include legal education in the curricula of most educational institutions. Also, preventive measures needed to be adopted to combat violence against women.
Responding to a question, she said that the proposed law on domestic violence was not a usual one, and it was not surprising that it had taken more than two years to present it to the Parliament. Regarding the national machinery, she said that the Parliament was a legislative structure for the advancement of women, the ministries were administrative structures, and the National Council for the Advancement of Women was a consultative body.
Mr. ENKHSAIKHAN said that over 10 per cent of the members of Parliament were women. The new Parliament, established in 1992, had adopted an impressive number of laws. All the members of that body were very busy. Women could be represented in standing committees, but they were “over-extended”, just like other members of the Parliament.
Statement by Committee Chairperson
The Chairperson of the Committee, CHARLOTTE ABAKA of Ghana, said that it was clear the country was facing numerous challenges resulting from its economic and social transition. There were many problems related to women’s health, including unsafe abortion. There was also limited access to contraceptives and family planning counselling.
Despite the women’s high standard of competence, she continued, their political representation was deteriorating, and the issue of violence represented a serious problem. She advised the delegation to avail itself of the Committee’s general recommendations regarding domestic violence. Trafficking in women also needed to be addressed. Marital rape must be recognized as a crime.
She said that with the level of the gross disparity as far as equality and advancement of women were concerned, side by side with gender mainstreaming, it was necessary to continue to implement women-specific programmes. Special measures were needed for the advancement of women. She hoped that Mongolia’s next report would contain all the information that the delegation had not been able to provide today.
Ms. UDVAL thanked the experts for their contribution to the discussion. The country would examine their opinions and reflect improvements in its next report.
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