18/01/2001
Press Release
WOM/1249



Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

491st Meeting (PM)


MONITORING BODY FOR WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION


CONTINUES CONSIDERATION OF KAZAKHSTAN'S INITIAL REPORT


As the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women continued its consideration of the initial report of Kazakhstan this afternoon, many speakers commended the high level of women’s education in that country.  Several pointed out, however, that it was in contradiction with the fact that women there were “the last to be hired and the first to lose their jobs”.


The report was presented at the Committee's morning meeting by Kazakhstan’s Minister and Chairperson of the National Committee on Family and Women’s Affairs, Aitkul Samakova.  It is one of eight such reports before the Committee at its current session, which will continue at Headquarters until

2 February.  Monitoring implementation of the 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Committee holds two sessions annually.  To date, the Committee, made up of 23 experts serving in their personal capacity, has reviewed more than 250 States parties periodic reports submitted under article 18 of the Convention.


In this afternoon's detailed discussion of Kazakhstan’s compliance with various articles of the Convention, Committee experts stressed the need to ensure equality in all its aspects, saying that several policies, including special medical check-ups for women and not men, as well as eliminating capital punishment for women, could be interpreted as signs of inequality. 


Why should women be singled out as especially vulnerable if their level of education was higher than men? one expert asked.  Commenting on the special emphasis on motherhood in Kazakhstan’s policies, an expert also asked if awarding medals to mothers with 10 or more children was intended as an incentive for women to have large families.


Regarding health, experts expressed concern over the high levels of alcohol and tobacco consumption in the country.  They also discussed the issues of infant and maternal mortality and a high rate of abortions.


Experts raised questions on:  credit programmes for women; efforts to change the stereotypical perception of gender roles; the national plan of action and legal measures to promote women; social security; women’s representation at international organizations; family relations; and chronic diseases, including anemia and tuberculosis.


Ms. Samakova thanked the Committee for the questions and comments and indicated her delegation looked forward to responding on Tuesday, 23 February.


Kazakhstan ratified the Convention without reservation in 1998, and signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention, allowing individual petitions to the Committee, last year.


The Committee will continue its consideration of reports at 10 a.m. Friday, 19 January, when it is scheduled to take up the third and combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Egypt.


Committee Work Programme


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the initial report of Kazakhstan on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document CEDAW/C/KAZ/1).  (For background information, please see Press Release WOM/1248 issued today.


Comments and Questions by Experts


Noting that the report indicated that women may not be sentenced to capital punishment or life imprisonment, an expert asked if that was also the case for men.  If not, that aspect of the Criminal Code would be representing an inequality between men and women.  He was not advocating for the reinstatement of the death penalty, but instead he thought it might be possible to invoke article 2 of the Convention to change that practice in Kazakhstan.


Efforts to change the stereotyped roles for women would involve active participation of the media and a re-education campaign, an expert said.  It was difficult to change gender equality in Eastern Europe, but perhaps projects could be implemented with teachers and journalists, as those professions were the most likely to influence the perpetuation of stereotypes.


Several experts asked what work was being done with regard to the limited involvement of women in political and public life.  It was clear that women had become actively involved in non-governmental organizations, but their participation in the Government remained limited.  The presence of women in the Government vis-a-vis the worldwide average was particularly low.  Previously, formal quotas had been applied, but they were not represented positively in the report.


One remedy to the scarcity of women in public office might be for the Government to initially promote the participation of women at local levels, an expert said.  That could help provide role models for young women in the community.  Also, women were hardly represented in international organizations.  An expert wondered whether constitutional guarantees were enough when the statistics were as such, or perhaps it was a case for the temporary special measures referred to in article 4 of the Convention.


In the area of secondary and tertiary education, Kazakhstan had done very well, an expert noted.  The statistics indicated that there was a high percentage of women in all levels of education, but experts questioned whether that translated into better life chances for women.  Was there any data on what

fields were likely to lead female students to high-income jobs within Kazakhstan? an expert asked.


According to some sources, the employment of women had decreased by some 500,000 places from 1995 to 1997, an expert said.  Furthermore, as the report indicated, the process of decrease had remained constant.  That was a dramatic situation for women.  An expert pointed out that some governments, facing similar problems, had taken such actions as decreasing the work week in order to create more jobs.  What did the Government of Kazakhstan envisage to resolve that problem? an expert asked. 


Two thirds of the unemployed population were women, another expert noted, despite there being an employment law that protected women from discriminatory action.  Furthermore, in the branches of the labour force in which women represented the majority, the salaries were lower.  Why should women be singled out as especially vulnerable, if their level of education was higher than men? an expert asked.


Another expert pointed out that women appeared to be the last to be hired and the first to be fired.  That did not seem fair, considering that women were so well-educated. 


When young women were out of a job, they confronted difficulties, experts noted, but older women faced a different set of problems.  Did the delegation have any statistics on the situation of elderly women and their access to employment?  In her oral report this morning, the Minister had pointed out that the economic situation in Kazakhstan was improving, as a result of the oil in the country, but there remained a very high level of people living below the poverty line.  Perhaps the new resources could be used to combat poverty?


Concerning rural women, the statistics indicted that although the rural population was high, their problems were not being adequately addressed by the Government.  The socio-economic problems included inadequate nutrition, a lack of social services and a low maternal mortality rate.  Had the Government initiated any income-generating activities for rural women? an expert asked. 


Several experts were concerned at the high percentage of women and men that drank alcohol and at the number of children that were smoking tobacco.  That could have a serious impact on the national gene pool.  Were there any steps that were being planned to redress that situation?  Another expert wondered whether such policies as providing medical check-ups for women, and not men, could be interpreted as a sign of inequality.


Although there had been a decrease in the number of abortions in Kazakhstan, experts noted that the situation remained serious.  Urgent measures were needed to promote education and access to contraceptive methods, so as to prevent women using abortion as a form of contraceptive.  Another expert wondered whether the initiative of awarding a medal to women who had given birth to 10 or more children was intended as an incentive for women to have large families.


Regarding marriage and family relations, an expert said that the report indicated that there were penalties for polygamy.  The report also indicated that most cases of polygamy were found in the southern part of the country.  What was the prevailing culture in that part of the country? she asked.


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