18/01/2001
Press Release
WOM/1248



Committee on the Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

490th Meeting (AM)


WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE BEGINS CONSIDERATION


OF KAZAKHSTAN’S INITIAL REPORT


Describes Efforts to Implement Women’s

Anti-Discrimination Convention Since 1998 Ratification


The monitoring body for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women this morning began its consideration of the initial report of Kazakhstan, which ratified the Convention without reservation in 1998.  The Optional Protocol to the Convention, which allows individuals to petition the monitoring body, was signed by Kazakhstan’s President at last year’s Millenium Summit.


The monitoring body –- the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women -– is made up of 23 experts who, serving in their personal capacity, monitor compliance by the 166 States parties to the 1981 Convention.


Introducing the report this morning, Kazakhstan’s Minister and Chair of the National Committee on Family and Women’s Affairs, Aitkul B. Samakova, said that the year 2000 had been marked by an increase in the rate of production in the main sectors of her country’s economy.  That had allowed an increase in expenditures on social needs.  As a result, the minimum pension level and the minimum wage levels were increased, as was healthcare funding.


Ms. Samakova said that, in accordance with the 12 priorities of the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), and for the first time in the history of Kazakhstan, a special session entitled “Women in Development” was included in the Indicative Plan of the Social and Economic Development of the Country for 2000 to 2005.


In October 1999, the women of the country took an active part in the elections to the Parliament and local bodies of representative power, she said.  In the course of the election campaign, non-governmental organizations united and registered the first women’s party in Kazakhstan, the Political Alliance of Women’s Organizations.  Ten women were elected to the Parliament and the President, in accordance with his right, appointed three women to the Senate.


With women representing two-thirds of the unemployed population, the Government had recently adopted a new Programme on Combating Poverty and Unemployment for 2000 to 2002, she said.  It was envisaged that more than

400,000 new jobs would be created as a result of that programme.  The Government


hoped to decrease the level of unemployment by 4.5 per cent -- to about 9 per cent -- by 2002.


The Minister added that there were also many problems in the area of the economic advancement of women.  The level of their wages constituted only 70 per cent of the wages of men.  In an effort to reverse those trends, a law on equal rights and equal opportunities would be adopted and the National Commission would monitor implementation of the Programme on Combating Poverty and Unemployment.


After Ms. Samakova’s introduction, Committee experts praised the report for its frankness and then proceeded with an article by article analysis.  As a country in transition, experts noted that Kazakhstan had an opportunity to set parameters for future actions for the elimination of discrimination against women.  They also expressed concern over the environmental problems of the country and hoped that they would be addressed.  According to the report, steps that had been developed in 1990 to alleviate the environmental situation were suspended in

2000, although the problem still existed.


Experts also raised questions about the high rate of migration of women and the occurrence of violence against women, as well as prostitution and trafficking in women.  The growth of poverty was troubling, they said, as was the regression in women’s economic status.


The Committee will continue its discussion of Kazakhstan’s report at 3 p.m. today.


Committee Work Programme


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to begin its consideration of the initial report of Kazakhstan (document CEDAW/C/KAZ/1), submitted in compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The report highlights recent political, social and legal developments in Kazakhstan and then provides a progress report on each article of the Convention, which Kazakhstan ratified in 1998. 


According to the report, as of 1999 Kazakhstan had an estimated population of 15 million, of which 52 per cent were women.  Kazakhstan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and on 1 December 1991, its first President, N.A. Nazarbaev, was elected.  By an order of the President, in

1998 the National Commission for Women and the Family was established to ensure the necessary conditions for the participation of women in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country.  Since its establishment, the Commission has developed a National Plan of Action for the improvement of the status of women in Kazakhstan and has helped draft legislation on equal rights and opportunities for women and on domestic violence.


Following a substantive introduction, the report provides information on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention.  According to article

14 of Kazakhstan's Constitution of 30 August 1995, all persons are equal before the law and the courts.  Gender-based legislative discrimination is contrary to the Constitution.  In the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan, there is affirmative discrimination towards women as regards to the serving of sentences by them. According to article 72 of the Criminal Code, the serving of sentences may be deferred for pregnant women and women with children under eight years of age. Furthermore, women may not be sentenced to capital punishment or life imprisonment.


The report states that the representation of women at all levels of power is extremely low.  There is no single State policy for achieving equal representation in appointed and elected posts.  Instead, each State body deals with this matter autonomously.  Of the seven appointed deputies to the Senate of the first convocation of Parliament (1995-1999), the President appointed four women.  A further four women were elected to the Senate and nine to the Majilis (lower chamber) of the Parliament, which represents 15 per cent of the total. The women of Kazakhstan are hardly represented at the international level, with only two women currently serving as ambassadors.


Regarding sex roles and stereotyping, the report says that the National Plan of Action for improving the status of women in Kazakhstan envisages the drafting of a law on advertising, which would prohibit the sexual exploitation of women.  Currently, there are no international programmes for eliminating gender stereotypes in school textbooks, children's publications and the media being implemented.  A lack of appropriately trained lecturers and an absence or shortage of textbooks on the subject hampers the teaching of subjects in the humanities from the aspect of gender.  Nevertheless, there are a number of independent research groups keen to expand the teaching of gender courses to the secondary school level.  


The changes currently taking place in the political, economic and social fields have affected unemployment, the report states.  Unemployment is becoming a constant factor in the development of the labour market and in the sharpening of competition for jobs.  A typical present-day unemployed person in Kazakhstan is a woman (58.1 per cent of the total), aged between 30 and 50 years (60.4 per cent).  The number of long-term unemployed (more than one year) has considerably increased over the past two years.  They make up 15 per cent of the total number of those unemployed and are mostly women.  There is a tendency to discriminate against women in job recruitment and dismissal, especially with women over 40.


The report states that, in certain regions of the country there is inequality between men and women in the field of health care.  This has resulted in a deterioration of the health of women and children and a reduction in the birth rate.  Seventy per cent of all women in Kazakhstan suffer from anaemia and, although the State provides free access to primary health care, scientists are predicting a further deterioration in women's health in the immediate future.  Against the background of low health indicators, the level of complications during pregnancy and childbirth is high.  There is some form of complication in 60 per cent of deliveries, and 288 out of every 1,000 newborns are ill at the time of birth.   


Concerning victims of radiation, the report says that under the Act of

18 December 1992 on social protection for victims of the effects of nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, persons living in certain areas with radiation risk receive cash compensation, an additional stipend and additional paid leave.  Women living in the area who have been exposed to the effects of nuclear testing are entitled by law to maternity leave of

170 calendar days for normal births and 184 days for births with complications.


Introduction of Report


Introducing her country’s initial report, AITKUL B. SAMAKOVA, Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Chair of the National Committee on Family and Women’s Affairs, said that her oral presentation would focus on the work conducted since the submission of the initial report in December 1999.  At the Millennium Summit last September, President N.A. Nazarbayev had signed the Optional Protocol of the Convention and the national procedures necessary for its ratification by the Parliament were now in place. 


The year 2000 was marked by an increase in the rate of production in the main sectors of the economy, she said.  The notable rise of the economy had enabled an increase in expenditures on social needs.  The minimum pension level and the minimum wage levels were increased.  The health care sector funding was also increased and funding grew by one-third.  Political stability and inter-ethnic harmony continued to prevail in Kazakhstan.


She said that at the end of 1998, the National Commission on Family and Women’s Affairs was established by the President of Kazakhstan.  The National Plan of Action on Improving the Status of Women was developed in accordance with the twelve priorities of the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and for the first time in the history of Kazakhstan, a special session entitled “Women in Development” was included in the Indicative Plan of the Social and Economic Development of the Country for 2000-2005. Beginning last year, gender expertise was being applied to national legislation and amendments regarding violent actions against women had been introduced into the Criminal Code.


In October 1999, the women of the country took an active part in the elections to the Parliament and local bodies of representative power, she said. In the course of the election campaign, non-governmental organizations united and registered the first women’s party in Kazakhstan, the Political Alliance of Women’s Organizations.  Ten women were elected to the Parliament, and the President, in accordance with his right, appointed three women to the Senate.  In total, there were 13 women in the Parliament, which constituted 11 per cent of the total number of members.


With women representing two-thirds of the unemployed population, the Government had recently adopted a new Programme on Combating Poverty and Unemployment for 2000 to 2002, she said.  It was envisaged that over 400,000 new jobs would be created as a result of that programme.  The Government hoped to decrease the level of unemployment by 4.5 per cent, to approximately 9 per cent by 2002.  In other measures to combat poverty, the National Commission on Family and Women had initiated the establishment of a special credit line in order to support women entrepreneurs working in the production sector. 


Kazakhstan, she continued, would be working towards implementation of recommendations of the Beijing Plan of Action regarding 30 per cent quotas for women at the decision-making levels.  Currently, despite the fact that women were relatively well represented in State bodies, there were few of them occupying top management positions.  Women represented only 8 per cent of the top management positions throughout the country.


Ms. Samakova added that there were also many problems in the area of the economic advancement of women.  Their wages were only 70 per cent of men’s.  In an effort to reverse those trends, a law on equal rights and equal opportunities would be adopted and the National Commission would monitor implementation of the Programme on Combating Poverty and Unemployment.


In conclusion, she said that her Government fully understood that much more needed to be done in order to ensure full-fledged equality between women and men.  The preparation for the present report to the United Nations had played a catalytic role in mobilizing activities towards implementation of the Convention.  She looked forward to hearing the comments and suggestions of the Committee’s experts, which would serve as a guideline toward achieving actual gender equality in Kazakhstan.


Comments by Experts


CHARLOTTE ABAKA of Ghana, Chairperson of the Committee, commended the Government for ratifying the Convention without reservation, which testified to its will to implement all its articles.  The report was timely and frank, and the introduction had provided important additional information.  The fact that the country had sent a high-ranking delegation, comprised of a significant number of men, also demonstrated its commitment to equality between men and women.


An expert said that the newly-established Commission on Equality had prepared an very good report.  Rarely did the Committee see such a comprehensive and frank document, particularly as far as statistical data was concerned.  Today’s oral presentation also demonstrated that Kazakhstan was moving fast towards the aims of the Convention. 


Continuing, she asked for some clarifications regarding incorporation of the Convention’s provisions in the country’s domestic legislation.  Kazakhstan was to be commended for establishing a Commission for Human Rights, and she wanted to know what relationship existed between that body and relevant international structures.  She hoped that the Commission’s cooperation with non-governmental organizations would increase and that the Government would provide them with both political and financial support.  The parliamentary drafting centre, which had been recently established with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme, would present important opportunities for the country. 


An expert commented that the high level of literacy was impressive, as well as the fact that higher education for women included a wide range of subjects, including those not traditionally considered to be women’s.


Another expert said that it was important that Kazakhstan had promulgated important laws for the advancement of women, although more needed to be done.  Special credit lines for women were laudable, and she hoped that in the future similar measures would follow.  It was important to focus on economic development, but according to the report, there was a troubling regression in the economic status of women. 


An expert pointed out that environmental problems needed to be addressed in the near future, for they affected the health of the population, including women and children.  Another expert said that, according to the report, some steps to alleviate the environmental situation were suspended in 2000, although the problem still existed.  She wanted to know the reason for that action.


Regarding the national plan of action, an expert said that the written report contained only indirect dispersed references to the details of that programme.  For example, there was mention of a proposal to formulate in 2001 a programme to address violence against women under the national plan of action for women.  She believed that more information should be provided on that matter.


Questions were also raised regarding the high rate of migration of women in Kazakhstan, the role of the ombudsman in Kazakhstan and the occurrence of violence against women, as well as prostitution and trafficking in women. 


An expert said that gender focal points should be incorporated into all ministries and departments, and gender sensitivity training was needed, particularly for the police and the legal authorities.  A gender focus in the development programmes adopted by the Government was also needed.

Experts also mentioned the impressive achievements of Kazakhstan regarding public involvement of women.  They said that, as a country in transition, Kazakhstan had an opportunity to set parameters for future actions for the elimination of discrimination against women.  As for traditional roles, an expert said that it was reassuring to hear that discriminatory stereotypes did not exist in Kazakhstan.  However, such phenomena had a tendency to “creep back” at times of crisis, and it was necessary to be vigilant against them.  A definition of discrimination as determined by the Convention, should be incorporated into the domestic law of the country.


The Government’s cooperation with international agencies was also stressed.  However, it was not enough to take advantage of international assistance.  The real proof of the Government’s commitment would be additional allocation of national resources to women’s causes.


Concern was also expressed about the practical application of the Convention.  An expert mentioned that, at least in one country’s case, within

10 years after ratification, only once was the Convention invoked.  In that connection, she requested information about the use of the Convention to protect women from discrimination in Kazakhstan.  Several experts also requested additional information about the contents and consequences of domestic legislation adopted to protect women.


An expert said that the country’s legislation seemed to emphasize the role of women as mothers.  That was certainly one role, but it was not the only one.  She urged the Minister to reconsider such an approach, devoting more attention to the role of both parents.  The role of fathers within the family should be addressed.


An expert asked if sodomy and lesbianism were considered crimes only when the use of force was involved, adding that it would be very disturbing if those kinds of behaviour were considered criminal, as such.  Experts also asked for information regarding the prosecution of rape.  Referring to the amended legal procedure, according to which the victim had to bring charges against the offender, several experts said that the State had an obligation to prosecute rape.  The prosecutor should be the one to collect evidence and bring the charges. 


An expert pointed out that, according to the report, local authorities could consider lowering the age of marriage by up to two years in exceptional cases, with consent of the parents.  How were the rights of the girl child incorporated in that provision of the law? she asked.


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