18 January 2007
General Assembly
WOM/1595

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Chamber B, 761st & 762nd Meetings (AM & PM)


NICARAGUAN INSTITUTE FOR WOMEN INSTRUMENTAL IN MAINSTREAMING GENDER


EQUALITY STRATEGIES, WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION TOLD

 


Experts Voice Concerns about Institute’s

Funding, Legislative Backlog, Abortion Issues


In a bid to advance women’s empowerment, Nicaragua’s newly elected President would this year make the country’s main women’s rights body -– the Nicaraguan Institute for Women (INIM) –– an autonomous institute and appoint representatives from all of the nation’s 155 municipalities to its Executive Board, Ada Julia Brenes Peña, the Institute’s Executive Director told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as it considered Nicaragua’s sixth periodic report.


The Institute -- which was supervised directly by the President and oversaw the work of various other women’s rights offices -- had been instrumental in mainstreaming gender equality principles and strategies into agriculture, socio-economic development, higher education, and sexual and domestic violence prevention, she said.  It had set up the Inter-institutional Commission for Women and Rural Development, devised gender equity strategies for most public-sector agricultural bodies and facilitated postgraduate courses on gender statistics at Nicaraguan universities.  Its goal was to achieve equal opportunity in all State body programming as well as institute a system of gender-focus indicators in all sectors.


But several Committee experts wondered if the Institute –- which employed a 23-member technical and support staff -- had sufficient funds to carry out its wide mandate.  They noted that the country report revealed that the Institute was under-funded and too dependent on donations from international partners.


Experts also expressed concern over the backlog of important women’s rights legislation that had languished for years in the National Assembly –- notably the Law on Equal Rights and Opportunities and the Family Code.  The adoption of both codes was crucial if Nicaragua was to prove its commitment to put more women in political posts, keep girls from marrying too young and protect women’s rights in divorce cases.  One delegate charged that Nicaragua had ratified seven articles of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, but it lacked the political will to implement them.  She urged the delegation to adopt special temporary measures to ensure that, by the next reporting period, Nicaragua had met its quota of filling at least 40 per cent of all political candidate slots with women.


One expert drew attention to the lack of studies on abortion, particularly illegal ones.  While many countries in the region were legalizing so-called “therapeutic abortions” under certain circumstances, Nicaragua had in fact banned them, she said, asking if women’s organizations and civil society had been consulted on that decision.  In response, the delegation said the issue had created controversy last year in the National Assembly and was subsequently dropped from the legislation.  An appeal had been made to the Supreme Court on the matter.


Ms. Brenes Peña acknowledged that discriminatory practices still existed which thwarted Nicaragua’s ability to carry out its gender equity objectives, and that it had been difficult to change societal attitudes about the importance of women’s rights and participation as full partners in and beneficiaries of Nicaragua’s socio-economic development. That had clearly limited progress in implementing the provisions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.


Nicaragua’s domestic legal framework must be further harmonized with international treaties on women’s rights, she said.  Existing legislation must be applied more effectively, and women –- particularly poor, rural and indigenous women -- needed better access to justice.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 19 January to consider Maldives’s combined second and third periodic reports.


Background


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women held parallel meetings today to consider the reports of Nicaragua and India.  For additional background, see Press Release WOM/1593 of 17 January.


Chamber B -– Presentation of Nicaragua’s Report


Nicaragua’s delegation was headed by Ada Julia Brenes Peña, Executive Director of the Nicaraguan Institute for Women (INIM) and included:  Maria de Jesús Aguirre, Director of Planning, Public Policy and Research of INIM; Eduardo J. Sevilla, Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations; Betsy Baltodano, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Nicaragua to the United Nations; and Mauricio Solorzano, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Nicaragua to the United Nations. 


ADA JULIA BRENES PEÑA, Executive Director of INIM, introduced Nicaragua’s sixth report, covering that country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women during the 1999-2002 period.


Nicaragua was one of the first signatories of the Convention, signing it in 1981, she said, and had worked steadily over more than two decades to advance the status of women.  Average annual economic growth in Nicaragua had dropped from 3.5 per cent during the 1971-1995 period to 1.7 per cent during the 1995-2005 period.  That had been due to a drastic drop in the fertility rate, which had fallen from 7 children per woman in 1971 to 3.2 per woman in 2001.  Contraceptive use among women had risen from 49 per cent in 1993 to 69 per cent in 2001.  In urban areas, women had 2.6 children on average while rural women had 4.4 children on average.


She said, Nicaragua continued to be a poor country, with 45.8 per cent of the population living in poverty -– mostly in rural areas, and women accounted for the lion’s share of the poor.  There was a high participation of women in all educational areas and, in 2001, girls primary school enrolment was 80 per cent as compared to 75 per cent for boys.


Nicaragua followed Latin American migratory patterns whereby the number of female migrants remained on the rise, she continued.  Female migrants were often undocumented, trafficked illegally and lacked fundamental human rights protections.  The majority of those migrants –- 73 per cent -- were employed as domestic labourers.


She said that, in 2000, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman had set up a Special Prosecutor for Women, as mandated by Law 212.  The Special Prosecutor’s activities had helped public and civil institutions promote understanding and respect for women’s rights.  In 1999, Law 320 had set up, within the National Assembly, a Standing Committee on Women, Children, Youth and the Family.


During the 1999-2002 period, the Committee was the driving force behind the adoption of several laws, including:  the Act on Breastfeeding Promotion, Protection and Support as well as the Regulation of the Sale of Breast Milk Substitutes; the Act on the Organization of the National Council for Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Young Persons and the Office of the Children’s and Young Persons’ Ombudsman; the Act for the Promotion of the Comprehensive Development of Young Persons; an amendment to article 43, paragraph 2, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and revision of the draft Family Code.


In 2001, the Standing Committee had reviewed a draft law on equal rights and opportunities, which was still pending, she said.  The 2001 Penal Code prohibited discrimination and considered all discriminatory acts as offences.  The draft Family Code was still pending adoption by the National Assembly.


The Nicaraguan Institute for Women had set up the Inter-institutional Commission for Women and Rural Development, she continued.  It had also coordinated the creation of gender equity policy in most public-sector agricultural bodies and also creation of the 2001-2006 National Plan of Action for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence.  The Institute also facilitated postgraduate courses on gender statistics.  Its 2002-2006 Strategic Plan aimed to:  promote gender mainstreaming in equal opportunity in all State bodies’ policies and programmes; incorporate a gender perspective in the national development plan; promote the Plan on Equal Opportunity for Rural Women and Gender Equity in Rural Development; coordinate implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence; and support the launching of the System of Gender-Focus Indicators as a tool to influence public policy.


Despite great progress in advancing the status of women during the period under review, she said discriminatory practices still existed which thwarted Nicaragua’s ability to carry out the gender equity objectives established by the country’s legal, institutional and policy framework.  It had been difficult to raise awareness and acceptance of the importance of women’s rights and participation as full partners in and beneficiaries of Nicaragua’s socio-economic development.  That had clearly limited progress in implementing the provisions of the Convention.


Nicaragua’s domestic legal framework must be further harmonized with international treaties on women’s rights, she said.  Existing legislation must be applied more effectively, and women –- particularly poor, rural and indigenous women -- needed better access to justice.


She noted that Nicaragua had yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  Nor had it adopted a law on equal opportunity for women, due to a lack of consensus between legislators and women’s groups.  However, in 2007 the current Government planned to strengthen the role and reach of the National Institute for Women by making it an autonomous body supervised directly by the President of Nicaragua.  The Institute’s Executive Board would comprise 155 municipality representatives.


Experts’ Questions and Comments –- Articles 1-6


DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, noting the need for a better legal framework covering implementation of international conventions, asked why the Optional Protocol to the Convention had not been ratified.  What were the obstacles to ratification?  She recommended the adoption of laws to put the legal framework in line with the Convention.


FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, referring to article 2, expressed concern that the Law on Equal Rights and Opportunities had been pending for 11 years.  The Family Code also had not been adopted and she hoped that the new Government would take the initiative to adopt those laws.  The Committee had been asked to provide information on article 4.1.  What steps had been taken during the reporting period?


The Nicaraguan Institute for Women was under-resourced.  What was the total budget allocated by the Government for gender mainstreaming?  She asked why the Penal Code failed to properly safeguard personal safety.  The new proposed law left unregulated emotional and social dimensions.


MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, noting the simultaneous use of “equality” and “equity” throughout the report, asked for clarification on the definitions of both words, as they carried different meanings.


Special temporary measures were important for Nicaragua.  She noted that in the November 2006 elections the percentage of women had dropped from 22 per cent to 18 per cent, meaning equality had not been achieved through a natural evolution.


On the implementation of article 5, she said it was the obligation of the State to help modify the social patterns of men and women; however, there was not much information on that issue in the report.  More work could be done through campaigns, seminars, workshops and the training of teachers to raise awareness on the equal value and dignity of women.


FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, asked about mechanisms to promote equality, noting it was unclear whether the report had been adopted by the Government or had been submitted to Parliament.  There was also no reference to whether non-governmental organizations had been involved or consulted.


She said the report stated that INIM was under the Presidency but had its own legal status and funding.  What was the hierarchy?  On the inter-ministerial Committee of Equality, what was its relationship to INIM?  Where did funding for INIM stand today, given the change of Government in 2006?


ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked about the number of staff working at INIM.  The Institute had drafted various activities, especially the policy decision on gender equality -– what were the salient achievements?  What kinds of interactions did INIM have with non-governmental organizations?


SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked about paragraph 45 of the report which mentioned five strategy goals for INIM that were very important and advanced.  What had been achieved on each of those goals?  What was the strategy plan for 2007?


Secondly, the report noted that insufficient resources existed for INIM to carry out its mandates and required it to depend on international resources, she said.  What proportion of the budget had been allocated by the Government versus that from international assistance?


Since the inception of the Institute, other bodies had been created, including the National Council for Economic and Social Planning and the Special Procurator for Women, she said.  In what capacity did INIM work with those bodies?  Did the Institute have to shift its focus?  If so, what was its focus now and how did it work with the municipal and local levels?


Country Response


The Nicaraguan delegate said INIM was in a growth phase.  Efforts had been made to increase its budget, but it indeed still needed outside funding.  The Institute had 23 people, 30 per cent of whom were involved in the technical area and 60 per cent in support.  Efforts were aimed at decentralization.  In discussing a new pilot project, she said outside support had constituted 80 per cent of that budget.


On the objectives for the strategic plan, she said INIM had been modernizing its model and was becoming involved more in policy planning for Nicaraguan women.  The Institute had taken a results-based approach.  There had been an urgent need for a national gender equity programme.


On the definitions of “equality” and “equity”, she said “equality” was an objective term and “equity” a legal one.  Efforts involving education and training were under way to change cultural patterns; however, she admitted there were shortcomings in that area.


On how the report was drafted, she said progress had been made on the national mechanism for women and that the drafting of instruments was in its early stages.  Efforts had been made to include the legislative assembly through consulting mechanisms.  The agricultural sector had been represented, as had State institutions, such as the police, Supreme Court of Justice, the Special Prosecutor for Women and Women’s Associations.


On governmental structure, she said INIM, formerly part of the Family Ministry, had been placed under the Presidency.  On INIM’s monitoring of the implementation of the Convention, she said INIM would like to develop an instrument to detect implementation gaps.  The Human Rights Ombudsmen, among others, was involved in examining progress made on the Millennium Development Goals, the Beijing Conference and the Convention.


Ms. BRENES PEÑA then asked about which statistics expert Ms. Da Silva from Portugal had sought clarification.  Ms. DA SILVA said that the number of women elected during the last election had decreased from 22 per cent to 18 per cent.  She asked why.


Noting that another member of the delegation had touched on that issue, Ms. Brenes Peña instead focused on the Law of Equality of Opportunities.  The bill was still in the National Assembly and had not been sent to Parliament, in part due to deeply seeded cultural factors.  The Law had been revised and there was a delay in achieving consensus between the first and following proposals.


The legal framework still discriminated against women, she added.  The police, Supreme Court of Justice, the Human Rights Ombudsmen and other bodies had carried out training, seminars and workshops to counter established cultural patterns.


On paragraph 45 of the report, to give examples, she said actions had been taken since the reporting period.  The Institute had drawn up a National Programme for Gender Equity, an instrument for policy and planning.  The economy, the social area and gender-based violence were the three main thematic issues of that effort.  The hope was to integrate that programme to the National Plan, developed in 2002.  That issue must be taken up by the new Government.


On gender equality and rural development, she said that plans had not yet been developed, however an important commission on women and rural development, which was composed of 23 institutions from the agricultural sector, had been consolidated, a large task, as that sector did not place importance on gender mainstreaming.  The commission proposed that gender mainstreaming should be included in the agricultural sector.


On coordinating the implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Prevention of Violence against Women, she said civil society organizations played an active role on that commission.  The Institute was developing a new proposal to update the national plan with a concentration on gender-based violence.


Describing the gender-based indicator system as an “unwanted child”, she said the Institute had pushed for that system to be included in the Statistics Institute.  The Beijing Conference, the Convention, the national Constitution and domestic laws helped to define the 108 indicators, which covered the economic, health, education and gender-based violence fields among others.


Additionally, she said there was no structure of the Institute in the 155 municipalities.  In the new reporting period, each Municipal Council would elect someone to work on gender issues.  The Council would consult with its community.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, referencing the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, asked for more information on measures to combat such violence.  She also asked for more information on the indicators used to track violence against women.


Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked about the impact of establishing women’s police stations.  How many cases had been referred to the police stations?  How many had been established in urban versus rural areas?


The newly established National Coalition against Trafficking in persons had been working with non-governmental organizations to punish perpetrators.  She wondered whether a strategy for detection, rescue and prosecution had been developed.  She was concerned that the onus to lodge complaints rested with the victims, and pointed out that only five cases had been filed.  That was a flaw of the penal procedure, as witnesses were often under-aged and powerless.


TIZIANA MAIOLO, expert from Italy, asked for updated statistics on the application of the Penal Code on slavery.


Country Response


On follow-up mechanism of the Convention and violence against women, a delegate highlighted the reform of Law 230 on family violence, which had established special units and a Prosecutors’ Office for Women.  Norms for following up on the Protocol had been instituted and action had been taken by women’s movements to help victims of domestic violence.  Further, a national committee on domestic violence had been created and had developed a new gender-based approach to violence.  That and other initiatives were ongoing.  At the start of the reporting period, there were 16 commissions involved with women’s health.


Improvement of and access to the judicial system for rural women remained a challenge.  It was essential to further develop that issue in the Penal Code and to provide mediation.  On women vis-a-vis their perpetrators, she said the justice system had not followed through.  On anti-violence campaigns targeted towards men, more work was needed, especially on prostitution and slavery in the northern and western border regions. 


On statistical data requested, she responded that gender data in paragraphs 213 and 214 were from the women’s movement and the police.  Urban and rural data could be made available at a later time.  She added that the number of complaints had increased, in part because of the creation of a registry system.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked why the country report -– specifically paragraph 52 -- referred to violence against women as a public health problem.  What was the role of the Nicaraguan Institute for Women in relation to the various and often overlapping national plans on women’s issues?


Committee Chairwoman, Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked about efforts to introduce a law on trafficking.


Country Response


Regarding violence against women, a delegate said violence was a public policy problem that had to be dealt with at the State level.  Women needed to have good health and comprehensive health care so they could be active participants in all aspects of socio-economic life.


Concerning trafficking, she said Nicaragua’s legal framework covered and penalized sexual exploitation of children and trafficking of persons.  The 2003-2007 plan to end sexual exploitation of children needed to be promoted by various States.  That plan incorporated various recommendations made during the 1996 World Congress on the subject.  Still, Nicaragua’s Constitution must be amended to better address trafficking issues.  During the 1999-2002 country reporting period, Nicaraguan officials had been working to design and formulate mechanisms to address violence, trafficking and exploitation issues.  The next country report would reflect concrete steps taken and progress made in those areas.


In terms of the new Penal Code, she said several revisions to the Code had been made but were still pending approval.  Many controversial issues on sexual and reproductive rights remained.


As to the role of the Nicaraguan Institute for Women, another delegate said the Institute coordinated the work of three other women’s rights bodies:  the Institute for Women and Rural Development and the National Commission against Violence, both technical planning commissions; and the National Council on Women, a consultative and high-level decision-making body.  Representatives of the Nicaraguan Institute for Women were members of the National Council on Women but did not directly coordinate that Council’s activities.  The Council and its decisions were influential but its work was just beginning.


Experts’ Questions and Comments –- Articles 7 and 8


MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said that, although Nicaragua had ratified seven articles of the Convention, it lacked the political will to implement them.  Draft laws pending for several years must in fact be passed, including the law on parliamentary elections and the Family Code.  She called for total implementation of article 7 in record time using article 4 on temporary measures.   Nicaragua’s next periodic report should show that it had met its quota of filling at least 40 per cent of all political candidate slots with women.


MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked if women were unionized in Nicaragua.  Outside reports revealed that it was particularly difficult for women in the maquiladora (assembly line) industry to unionize and carry out union activities. 


HAZEL GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, asked for statistics on the number of Government posts allotted to women at the international level.  How many posts were allocated for women that were not necessarily posts related to women’s bodies?


Country Response


In terms of women in political posts, a delegate said the two major political parties –- the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) had set quotas of 30 per cent and 40 per cent respectively for women as candidates for political office.  However the quotas would not guarantee that women candidates would win the elections. 


Women’s representation in the legislative sphere had in fact decreased, she said.  In 2000, women had won just 14 of the 151 mayor and deputy mayor elections, and they had won in less populous and less wealthy municipalities.  Under a new Government programme, 50 per cent of posts in State institutions were reserved for women, including in traditionally male-dominated sectors like finance. 


Concerning women’s involvement in trade unions, she said information was not immediately available.  Nor did she have details on women working in maquiladora (assembly line) plants.  The Maria Elena Cuadra Movement of Working and Unemployed Women was closely involved with women in that industry and had advocated regulatory changes to improve their situation.  Women’s salaries in the assembly plants were too low.


Another delegate said the Nicaraguan Institute for Women had launched initiatives to support women’ political participation and had trained 10,000 people nationwide at the local level.  However, many women put forward as candidates had in fact decided not to run for office, expressing fear and reluctance to do so.  Future training programmes needed to take into account those factors and focus on changing women’s attitudes.  Only 2 per cent of all women who participated in the 2001 elections had accepted candidacies for office.


Experts’ Questions and Comments -– Articles 10-14


Ms. XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked about implementation of the national “illiteracy free” education plan.  How many women had learned to read and write thanks to the campaign?  What steps were being taken to increase grade school enrolment, which was too low?  Was there a timetable for erasing literacy?  Sex education was important, particularly since abortion seemed to be a serious problem.  Did the Government have plans to incorporate sex education into school curricula?


PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, discussing article 11 on employment, noted a gap in the protection afforded by the Labour Code and the de facto situation of women in the employment field.  The situation of those working in the maquiladoras(assembly line plants)and free trade zones was especially serious and there was a lack of political will to address problems.


The Ministerial resolution signed by all investors had not improved working conditions for women; and labour laws were being violated by local and foreign employers alike, she said.  What was being done to ensure better implementation of existing legislation?  There had been company inspections –- what actions were being taken in light of them?  Were sanctions in the Labour Code likely to be strengthened?


On women in the informal sector, how were they being transitioned into the formal sector?  Did training and outreach programmes exist?  She noted the report had been silent on sexual harassment.  Was there a provision that addressed it?  If so, to what extent was it being implemented?


Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, said she was struck by discrepancies in various descriptions of working conditions for women.  Outside sources had noted excessive work hours, high levels of noise, no regular use of protective material and exaggerated demands on production levels.  How was the Government addressing those discrepancies?


On domestic workers, she noted ambiguous wording in paragraphs 109 and 123 of the report.


Ms. AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, discussing article 12 on women’s health, said services had been limited, due in part to economic difficulties and poverty, which had affected 48 per cent of the population.  What were the main causes of maternal mortality in urban and rural areas and what was being done to address that issue?


On reproductive sexual health, she drew attention to the lack of studies on abortions, especially illegal ones.  That was a concern.  Contrary to the regional trend to legalize therapeutic abortions under some conditions, Nicaragua was abolishing them -– why?  Were women’s organizations or civil society consulted?  How many lives had been affected?  Did programmes in reproductive health exist for teen boys and girls, given that they were engaged in sexual activities?


Country Response


Addressing a question on education posed in the morning session, a delegate said literacy campaigns for women had been on the rise during the reporting period.  Last year, a programme had been established with mayors for adult literacy campaigns, aimed at the illiterate population.  The programme had resulted in decreased illiteracy rates.


Another delegate, discussing article 11, said the right to employment was an inalienable right enshrined in the Constitution.  The Labour Code also professed that men and women were equal in their access to employment.  Article 144 in particular stated that an employer could not make pregnant employees redundant.


Concerning free trade zones, she said they were a palliative to the economic crisis.  In 1999, the start of the reporting period, some 3,000 men and women worked in the free trade zones.  At the end of the reporting period, they numbered 16,000.  Those jobs did not satisfy minimum needs.  The zones had been given a protectionist framework to develop the maquiladora industry and the law of foreign investment had allowed for a tax exemption.  In contrast, the minimum salary of those working in the zones was less than $1 per day.  According to International Labour Organization data, women working in the zones constituted between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of the labour force.  In that context, she said a women’s movement was closely following developments there so women could become familiar with their labour rights and invoke them when needed.


On domestic labour, she responded that the Labour Code had recognized domestic employees as a key sector of the economy.


During the reporting period, data on the number of women working as domestic labour from 1999-2002 was unavailable.  More recent measures and affirmative action had been taken to ensure social security, and 3,000 women had registered for social security in 2006.  Domestic labour was considered “non-productive work” and the true value had not been recognized.  The weight of household work had fallen only on women and, once they entered the job market, they had to assign that task to other women, who, in turn, worked a “double or triple work day”.


On maternal mortality and therapeutic abortions, another delegate said the National Assembly last year had proposed banning therapeutic abortions, and that issue had been dropped from the legislation, which had created controversy.  The issue had been raised during the campaign by women’s and religious groups, and an appeal was made to the Supreme Court that the Constitution was not being fulfilled.


On maternal mortality and causes, the main cause was linked to post partum consequences from giving birth, a lack of information and coverage.  She said there had been no open consultation on the question of therapeutic abortions.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, wondered about the regulatory framework for accessing financing.  What was thrust of it, particularly in the context of formal banks and the informal financial sector?  The panel noted that steps taken by the Governments had not been sufficient –- what were those steps?


On alternative programmes, had the Institute coordinated with non-governmental organizations and others in providing alternative forms of financing to women?  Further, she remarked that, while the report’s statistics were detailed and drew a distinction between financing provided to men and women, the latest answers to questions had not provided the same level of detail.


Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, was puzzled about why the poverty reduction strategy had not benefited rural women.  Whom did the strategy target?  Did the Gender Equity Programme target women in extreme poverty?  Did it include women of African decent and indigenous women?  She also requested more information on the Zero Hunger project.


In evaluating the equal opportunity policy for rural women and the related plan of action, how did the Government address the multiple forms of discrimination facing those women?


ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, referring to page 43, paragraph 185, which stated that much of the poor and extremely poor lived in rural areas, asked whether the panel could explain the definition of a “triple working day”.


What was the average number of schooling years of rural woman?  How many women owned land?  How many women were agricultural sector workers?  What were their average wages?  How accessible were health services?  Was there a cost for those services and, if so, could women afford them?  Noting that Nicaragua’s maternal mortality rate was among the highest in the region, she wondered what the Government was doing to ensure rural pregnant women had access to health services.


Additionally, she asked for details of the National Gender Equity Programme and wondered why the word “equity” had been used rather than the word “equality”.


Country Response


On rural women, the Nicaraguan delegate said that no assessment had been made on the impact of the poverty reduction strategy.  That strategy had been created after the reporting period.  The National Equity Programme had been presented under the previous Government and had become a policy instrument of all institutions of the executive branch.  That was an important development.  Women’s access to credit was a focus of the programme.


The Zero Hunger programme was a package for poorest regions, she said, noting it would be implemented in 20 of the poorest municipalities.  A follow-up system was being designed to examine the impact of it so it could be expanded throughout the country.  The programme particularly targeted rural women heads of household, as studies had shown that resources managed by women had benefited the family well.


Financing under the programme was not a donation, but was rather a revolving credit, she said.  The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure was helping to ensure access for them to deliver products to market and gain access to health, education and security services.  The Ministry of Health was also involved.  Technical assistance would be provided to help grow crops and financial assistance to help administer resources.  The programme would try to ensure the minimum conditions required to escape poverty.  One challenge was that much of the property was not in the woman’s name.


Another delegate said that, for the first time in 40 years, the Government had carried out a land census.  Sex disaggregated data revealed an enormous gap between women’s versus men’s access to credit in formal banking and informal banking.  On average, men received credits of 4,780 cordovas, while women were granted 4,200 cordovas. 


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked what was being done to ensure safe migration of women and protect the rights of migrant workers at their place of destination.  What was the Government doing to prevent women from having to migrate in the first place?

Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked about changes to the Penal Code relating to abortion.  Had any penalties for abortion been changed?  How was the law applied?


Country Response


Regarding migrant women, a delegate said Nicaragua was in the process of gathering information on female migratory issues.  HIV/AIDS was the biggest calamity facing migrant women.  HIV/AIDS and mother-to-child transmissions were a particular problem among women migrants in Caribbean coastal areas.


Concerning sex and reproductive rights education, she said Nicaragua was addressing “machismo” and gender stereotypes but had no clearly defined approach at this time.


As to the abortion law, doctors who performed “therapeutic” abortions faced penalties.  There had been two such cases.  The law banning abortion had been passed after the 1999-2002 reporting period.


Another delegate said a guide to educate women and girls about sex, reproductive rights and the right to plan their families had been created.


Regarding measures to help migrant women, she said most migrants went to Costa Rica and the United States.  The Nicaraguan Government was partnering with authorities in those countries to try to legalize migrants’ status.  It was also setting up a 24-hour data centre for individuals and launching initiatives to make better use of migrant families’ remittances.


Experts’ Questions and Comments -– Articles 15 and 16


Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said the country report gave conflicting information on the definition of children and the legal marriage age in Nicaragua.  It stated that in line with article 2 a child was defined as anyone under age 13, but the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nicaragua had ratified, defined a child as anyone under age 18.  What applied in this case?  One part of the report said women of age 16 could legally marry with parental consent, but another part of the report puts the legal age at 15 for men and 14 for women.  What did the Civil Code say on that?   Nicaragua should set its legal marriage age for both sexes at 18 in accordance with the Convention.  Adoption of the Family Code –- which had been pending for 11 years -- was urgent.  What was causing the delay?


Ms. TAN, expert from Singapore, asked for statistics on the divorce rate.  Was divorce recognized under the Civil Code?  Did a wife get a share of her husband’s assets after a divorce?  Did she receive alimony?  Did she share custody of their children?  What happened when husbands did not pay the required amount?  Since there was no family court, how were family problems sorted out?


Country Response


Concerning the legal marriage age, a delegate said the 1904 Civil Code was in effect and contained all provisions related to marriage.  The proposed Family Code did not revise the legal marriage age.   Nicaragua must harmonize legislation in line with the Convention.  Divorce reform was regulated by the Unilateral Divorce Act, the Alimony Law, Law of Separation and Law 32 on dissolution of marriage by one spouse.  Those laws compensated for the discrimination found in the Civil Code. 


Another delegate said that in instances of divorce, deductions from the man’s salary would correspond to alimony payments.  Cases of non-compliance would go to the Family Ministry, which would ensure compliance with the law.  If a house was held jointly, the woman and children would remain in the home.


Answering an earlier question regarding women’s police stations, the delegate said those stations were increasing in number.  Moreover, they had increased in importance within the Government’s institutional structure.  The Government was starting to gender mainstream all statistics produced by the police.


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For information media • not an official record