31 July 2007
General Assembly
WOM/1645

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

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Chamber A, 801st & 802nd Meetings (AM & PM)


HUNGARY HIGHLIGHTS GAINS IN COMBATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ELIMINATING STEREOTYPES,


AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TAKES UP COUNTRY’S SIXTH PERIOD REPORT


While more efforts were needed to harmonize international guidelines with domestic legislation, Hungary had made substantive progress in eliminating stereotypes, combating domestic violence and embedding the principles of gender equality and human dignity into key institutions, the country’s delegation told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today.


Presenting Hungary’s sixth periodic report to the 23-member body, Edit Rauh, State Secretary for Equal Opportunity in the Ministry of Social Affairs, emphasized that developing the rights and equal opportunities for women was a government priority.  In 2006, Hungary established the Council for the Social Equality of Women and Men, a consultative body that made recommendations to the Government and implemented plans to promote equal opportunities for women.  To further raise public awareness, the Government had implemented programmes to strengthen men’s commitment, including reserving holidays exclusively for fathers.


Hungary also had made strides in the fight against domestic violence, she said, describing the establishment of regional crisis centres and the Government’s cooperation with non-governmental organizations to oversee that system, which offered immediate and efficient help to women in need.  To change the attitude of the police, a 2003 ordinance mandated police action in all domestic violence cases.  Progress had also been made in designating sexual harassment as a specific form of harassment in Hungary’s Equal Treatment Act.


To combat stereotyping and improve the situation of Roma women, Ms. Rauh said Hungary had achieved a milestone with the 25 June passage in Parliament of a 10—year strategic plan to specifically address the minority women’s needs.  Crucial cooperation with non-governmental organizations in that regard had improved considerably in recent years.


In other gains, Hungary ratified the Convention’s Optional Protocol in 2001, she said, underscoring that the Committee’s recommendations pertaining to two individual complaints had yielded positive changes. A good example of that had been the start of dialogue between governmental and non-governmental organizations, and, in the area of health care, positive changes to the concept of informed consent.


Experts, using the complaint on informed consent as a way to open the dialogue to a broader discussion on implementation of the Convention, pointed out that the Committee was a quasi-legal body that national courts were bound by the Convention and its protocol to follow.  One expert asked how informed judges were about the Convention, while another said she had the impression that the Convention had been a kind of “orphan” in the Government.


On employment, questions arose about whether there had been an evaluation of a 2004 law providing incentives for employers to employ disadvantaged women, and how the Government worked with its social partners to ensure widespread equal wage systems in both the private and public sectors.


Dialogue also centred around Hungary’s delay in implementing the Committee’s 2002 recommendations on combating stereotypes; efforts to provide positive images of Roma women in educational materials; initiatives to provide affordable contraceptives and measures to increase rural women’s access to health services.  The Committee also asked for more information in the next report about legislation and national mechanisms for eliminating discrimination against women.


In closing, Ms. Rauh said the experts’ questions had called to her attention the Government’s shortcomings.  The contents of the Convention and Hungarian action plans must serve as guidelines for future government action.  In response to the Committee’s request, her delegation would report on the human rights committee of Parliament and develop a special report that would focus on the implementation of the Optional Protocol.


Chamber A of the Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 1 August, to consider the third periodic report of Singapore.


Background


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, met this morning to consider the sixth periodic report of Hungary (document CEDAW/C/HUN/6).


Presentation of Report


The members of the delegation included Edit Rauh, State Secretary for Equal Opportunity in the Ministry of Social Affairs of Hungary and head of delegation.  Alternate heads of the delegation were Katalin I Rapi, State Secretary for Health Policy, and Kinga Simon, Deputy Permanent Representative of Hungary’s Mission to the United Nations.  Other members of the delegation included Andrea Peto, professor in the Department of Gender Studies in Central European University and Director of Equal Opportunity and Gender Studies Centre in Budapest, and Agnes Dosa, an expert in the Department of Civil and Commercial Law in the Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement.


Introducing the report, Ms. RAUH said that Hungary was strongly committed to protecting human rights, noting that women’s rights were fundamental human rights.  She ensured the Committee that her Government fully agreed with the Convention’s norms and had traditionally supported dialogue.  Constructive debate in preparation of the report helped to strengthen implementation of the Convention and reinforce women’s rights.


She emphasized that developing rights and equal opportunities for women was a government priority, and she highlighted some advances.  Since the Government’s restructuring, the institutional system charged with improving the situation for women had operated within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.  Despite budgetary restrictions, resources had not been decreased in the past year, and the staff had been increased.


In 2006, Hungary established the Council for the Social Equality of Women and Men, a consultative body that made recommendations to the Government and implemented plans to promote equal opportunities for women, she said.  Emphasizing that equal opportunities were essential for women, she described activities to prevent the development of stereotypes in early childhood, including an educational DVD and a pilot programme on stereotypes to be integrated during the 2007-2008 school year.


To influence public awareness of the issues, the Government had also implemented programmes to improve men’s commitment, she explained.  All types of paid holidays could be taken by either parent, and some holidays were reserved exclusively for fathers.


She said her country had also made strides in the fight against domestic violence.  She described the establishment of regional crisis centres and the Government’s cooperation with non-governmental organizations to oversee that system, which offered immediate and efficient help to women in need.  She acknowledged, however, that legal institutions had failed to meet government expectations in that area.


Public awareness campaigns on domestic violence had also been carried out, she continued, noting that Hungary was a member of the European Council’s campaign to prevent domestic violence against women.  To change the attitude of police, an ordinance had been issued in 2003 mandating police action in all domestic violence cases.  Continuous training and other measures were needed, however progress had been made in designating sexual harassment as a specific form of harassment within Hungary’s Act of Equal Treatment.


Turning to women in public life, she said the Socialist Party had introduced a 20 per cent quota within its activities, and Parliament would discuss a draft bill that would introduce a 50 per cent quota in local and national level list-based elections.  Further, the “START Plus” programme last year supported the re-employment of women engaged in caring for sick children.  Although a ban on unequal pay for work existed, equal wages and salaries had not yet been achieved.


In health care, progress had been achieved, she said, noting that a targeted breast screening campaign launched in 2001 had included the establishment of 38 complex mammography centres and seven mammography screening stations.  In September 2003, a cervical screening programme was started, and 2 million people had received letters of invitation to take part in it.  Women’s participation in organized cervical screening was low; however, the so-called “Lily Programme”, started in October 2005, was intended to motivate women to participate.  Attempts to use mobile screening stations had achieved mixed results.  Those used in south-western Hungary had resulted in a 20 per cent participation rate.  Joint efforts with local governments, family physicians and health visitors were essential in that regard.


The HIV/AIDS situation was relatively good, she continued, noting that 1,385 cases had been registered in 2007.  About 75 per cent of all positive persons were men, and 14 per cent were women.  The number of pregnancy termination cases had dropped to an estimated 46,500 in 2006, from 48,689 cases in 2005.  Induced abortions had decreased in all age groups, including adolescents and young people.


She said a precondition for offering equal opportunities was the continuous provision of proper access to district nursing services.  Data from 2006 showed that 4,041 positions had been established.


Turning to life expectancy, she said that the number of elderly single women had increased.  The average age of deceased men was 66.8 years, while that for women was 74.8 years.  The most prevalent cause of death among women was pulmonary cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer, and premature mortality due to breast and cervical cancer was higher among Hungarian women than their European Union counterparts.


A milestone in improving the situation of Roma women had been a 10-year strategic plan passed by Parliament on 25 June, she said.  Cooperation with non-governmental organizations had improved considerably in recent years, and consultation between the delegation and those organizations submitting shadow reports had been a testament to that.


Hungary was committed to the Convention and the Beijing Declaration and Action Plan, she said, noting that those instruments served as the basis for Hungary’s national action plan promoting the social equality of women and men.  She welcomed all constructive criticism and observations to improve Hungary’s progress in advancing women’s rights.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, said she was pleased at the participation of non-governmental organizations in Hungary and other advances there, but expressed deep concern over the fact that special information procedures were not mandated in all cases of sterilization and the overruling of a related case.  International guidelines were based on the premise that sterilization was permanent, and that seemed not to be the case in Hungary.  All persons involved in reproductive health should be knowledgeable in the Convention’s provisions, she stressed.


HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, recognized that there had been positive developments since the last report, but asked why the report was so late.  She also asked how many people were in the Equal Treatment Authority and what their expertise was.  Two hundred two cases in a year was a very low figure.  Sexual harassment claims were also particularly low, with a high percentage of withdrawal of those claims.  She asked for an explanation.


TIZIANA MAIOLO, expert from Italy, asked what measures were being taken to overcome stereotypes in the media, and the outcome of recent measures in that regard.  She also asked about sexual harassment policies and how the Government defined “women’s dignity”.


SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, exert from Thailand, asked how national authorities reached the local level and monitored the implementation of the Convention as a whole, and if it was the basis for national plans. 


VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, said she got the impression that, in the last nine years, the Convention had been a kind of “orphan” in the Government.  She asked for more details on the resources and mandates of the department concerned with gender equality.


Delegation’s Response


The delegation replied that legislation on artificial abortion had been changed according to the recommendations of the Committee and after a process that had involved non-governmental organizations and health professionals.  Nurses also had been educated in the rules of advised consent.  In the last five years, no complaints had been filed in that area.


Regarding compensation and informed consent, another delegate said that courts had not ruled for compensation from health providers, so there was no legal basis for such compensation.  It was obligatory to inform patients about risks and prognoses of sterilization.


Ms. RAUH pledged that, in the future, reports would not be filed late.  In regard to cooperation with non-governmental organizations, that occurred both in government forums -- where they assisted in preparing legislation and national plans -- and through opportunities to apply for grants, the numbers of which she did not have at hand. 


Regarding the resources of the Equal Treatment Authority, there were full-time lawyers with expertise on gender issues.  Criteria of gender experts needed to be better defined, however, and that would be worked on.  Hungary was a participant in the “Year of Equal Treatment”, and was spreading information through the Authority and Ombudsman, but greater dissemination of knowledge on equal rights was needed, she acknowledged.


As for the withdrawal of cases of harassment, she said that the Equal Treatment Authority investigated all cases, but she did not have specific information on the cases in question.


Another delegate said that the national educational curriculum included programmes on sexual culture and behaviour and the breaking down of stereotypes.  The media campaign against stereotypes that had been referred to had been regionally based, although other campaigns had been conducted.  The Ministry of Labour also had a working group on eliminating stereotypes, which worked with non-governmental organizations related to commercial television.  The latter had produced its own programme.  A series of advertisements was also planned, which would reach most of the country.


A delegate next described the concept of human dignity, which included the proscription against persons becoming a tool or an object of others.


Ms. RAUH explained that the Ministry of Justice was responsible for the implementation of the Convention.  There were two overarching plans for national development that included provisions for gender equality, which had the backing of European funds.  Because of a lack of monitoring of previous plans, the help of non-governmental organizations had been enlisted for the new plans.  In September, the action plans would be reviewed, and it was hoped that, by then, gender aspects would be strengthened.


Another delegate explained various details of the new national development plan and the challenges in strengthening gender-equality provisions.


Ms. RAUH then spoke of Hungary’s struggle with a variety of social problems related to its economic transition.  The fact that gender equality was considered at the ministerial level was promising, she acknowledged that there was much to do in regard to training within the Government.  A document had been prepared for that purpose, with an action plan due soon.  In addition, there were groups to combat trade in human beings, as well as crisis centres.


Concerning the dissemination of information, she said that there were regional “houses of opportunities”, where people could get information on programmes and non-governmental organizations related to women’s opportunities.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


FRANÇOISE GASPARD, Vice-Chairperson and expert from France, said the Committee had no record of ratification of the amendment on the duration on the meetings of the Committee.  Perhaps, there was confusion over the ratification of the Optional Protocol and of that amendment.  Did the Government intend to ratify the amendment?


Regarding the Ombudsmen, she said none of the ombudsmen specifically addressed women.


On article 5, she said that combating stereotypes was a complex endeavour.  Stereotypes were based on the assumption that there was a “feminine nature”, that women should be sweet and compliant, and that they were less capable of providing leadership.  She noted that there had been a delay in implementing the Committee’s 2002 recommendations in that area.  Also, she wondered whether there was a body to monitor advertising to ensure it was not degrading to women.  As minorities were exponentially stereotyped -- especially the Roma -- she also asked whether policies covering Roma women addressed stereotypes.


GLENDA P. SIMMS, Vice-Chairperson and expert from Jamaica, said Hungary had made positive steps in dealing with equality issues, however stereotypes seemed to interfere with the justice system.  She cited an Amnesty International report that Hungary was not dealing adequately with those issues.  Had the Government looked at how rape and violence against women were related to stereotypes?  Roma women had suffered violence from Roma men, as well as from the wider society, which perceived them as “inferior people”.  Moreover, the police and other institutions treated them very badly, and that issue had not been adequately addressed.  Gender-disaggregated data was needed to develop an effective programme for Roma women.


SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, said she was concerned at the conservative and discriminatory mentality of society regarding women’s roles, particularly within textbooks and the media.  There was a growing acceptance of pornographic material, which ran counter to the Committee’s principles.  Hungary’s training and awareness campaigns were not sufficient, as they had not been regularly implemented. 


She also took issue with the fact that, under Hungary’s Framework Decision, the use of images involving drawings of anonymous children did not qualify as pornography.  Such depictions undermined the dignity of boys and girls.


FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, said she was happy that the Government had taken initiatives to prevent cervical and breast cancer.  While praising the hotline services and regional crisis centres, she said, however, that the incidence of domestic violence in Hungary was alarming.  About 25 per cent of women over the age of 14 were victims.  There was a law on sexual harassment, but why was there no law specifically addressing domestic violence?  Further, were there enough shelters for female victims, and did they have access to medical aid in those shelters?  Also, what was the situation of single women in refugee camps?  She also asked about government efforts to protect children from sexual exploitation and pornography.  As there were more than 48,000 abortions in 2005, she was concerned that the minimum age of consent was as young as 14.  No details had been provided on the extent of human trafficking in the report.  Could the delegation update the Committee on the national strategy on trafficking? 


Ms. CHUTIKUL, exert from Thailand, said “tolerance zones” and mobile check-ups for prostitutes had been ineffectual.  Rather than arrest prostitutes under the age of 18, the Government should help them.  Was the Government providing shelters and other needed services for them?  Could the Government support non-governmental organizations involved with that issue?


Noting that the Criminal Code on Trafficking was amended to align it with the Palermo Protocol, she wondered whether it strictly adhered to the Protocol’s definition of trafficking.  She also asked about the criteria for victim identification.  Regarding the National Action Plan, being drafted by the Minister of the Interior, what was the status of that drafting and what topics were being covered?  Was the Government addressing cross-border trafficking, as well as domestic trafficking?  Turning to of the number of trafficking cases, she asked what sentences had been handed down to the 24 persons convicted of that crime.


NAELA MOHAMED GABR, Vice-Chairperson and expert from Egypt, asked how the equal opportunities law could be formulated to give more opportunities to women.  Political activities were discussed, but what about education, employment and economic aspects?  How did the Government promote women in all aspects of life?  She asked for a precise reply on that matter.


Delegation’s Response


One speaker said the Government would inform the Committee about the country’s position on the duration of Committee sessions.


Regarding the Ombudsmen, she said there was no specific Ombudsman to address women’s issues.  The Equal Treatment Authority represented an achievement, and it would make proposals on that to the Government.


Regarding stereotypes of Roma women, she said that section 1.3 of the parliamentary decision of 25 June on gender equality outlined how that strategy would be drafted.  The strategic plan would target areas, including media, housing and sport, among others, and related measurement indices had been identified.


Another delegate, noting that a publication entitled “One Hundred Words on Equality” had been created, said that all textbooks would be prepared with gender equality in mind, and new materials, including a secondary school textbook entitled “The History of Men and Women in Hungary in the Twentieth Century”, tackled women in history and society.


Regarding advertising, she explained that Hungary had developed an advertising ethics committee, which included input from the 22 largest companies.  Advertising in Hungary must be prepared in line with the norms of “social responsibilities”.  The committee could only provide advice, and not impose sanctions.  To break down stereotypes, the Government was working to change attitudes with its promotion of a “family friendly” workplace.


Another delegate noted that the Ombudsmen’s office was the machinery in the legal framework which typically tackled the situation of Roma women.  Information from and communication with non-governmental organizations was important in that area, although an “attitude shift” was needed in the public administration system to address Roma women’s concerns.  Training programmes had been initiated, and she described the implementation of the Anti-discrimination Act, which was funded by European Union resources.  An organic part of that act was the training of public administration employees.  Also, there were Roma desk officers built into the police force, as a “trust gap” existed between the Roma and the police.


Turning to child pornography, a delegate from the Ministry of Justice said the depiction of “non-existent” children as sexual objects fell under criminal code 272.  Hungarian law stated that violation of public decency was a severe crime with severe sanctions, and those who broke that law in connection with sexual rights were sentenced to prison.  That possibility was a sufficient deterrent.


Another delegate said trafficking in human beings was one of the most severe infringements of human rights, and the criminal code provided protection against it.  Also, there was a draft strategy on domestic trafficking that would soon be coordinated within the public administration system and involve non-governmental organizations.  Hungary was a transit country, and the number of trafficking cases was decreasing.  A trafficking unit existed within the police force, and border guards were allowed to investigate trafficking cases.  Four cases had been seen by the courts in 2006, and 24 people had been sentenced.


Turning to services provided to women, she said the proportion of single women cared for by crisis centres last year was 8.7 per cent, and mothers with children represented 37 per cent of all cases.  The same proportions were expected in 2007.  Regarding the national toll-free hotline, she said the staff spoke several languages, which gave migrant women the opportunity to use the line.  About 38 per cent of all calls dealt with domestic violence.  One State-run secret shelter was located in Budapest, which served both Hungarians and non-Hungarians.  Some 516 people had been admitted to shelters.


On human trafficking and prostitution, the Ministry of Justice representative said the Government struggled with the ineffectiveness of the “tolerance zones” for prostitutes.  The Ministry had discussed that issue with the police and advocacy associations, and the new penal code would take into account the recommendations from non-governmental organizations.  As for health care provided to prostitutes, she would come back to that in the afternoon. 


Turning to article 4, another delegate said the Equal Treatment Act, promulgated in 2003, had sought to integrate all international obligations, and all sectoral laws had been harmonized with the new act.  For example, there was a separate section in the labour code on equal pay for equal work.  Amendments would be sent to the Council on Social Equality between Men and Women, which would be a hub in applying the law.


On the issue of quotas, she said the Government did not wish to interfere with the running of political parties, but a working group was examining the possibility of establishing a quota for each party.  A 50-50 quota for national elections was not an easy task.  Regarding social responsibility, companies had started equal opportunity programmes, and the Government had publicized all good practices.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, suggested that sexual assault be re-categorized out of the category of crimes against morality.  In addition, she objected to payments required by women who desired to take out restraining orders in situations of domestic violence.


Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, and Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked for further clarifications in the areas of action for the Roma, and the age of consent marriage and other matters.


Delegation’s Response


Ms. RAUH said that it would be helpful for the Committee to include the re-categorization of sexual assault in its report because the delegation had been asking for such a change.  She added that the national action plan for the year of the Roma included a special focus on women.


Another delegate explained that the $30 fee for restraining orders only applied to private cases in which there were only slight effects, and the fee was often refunded.  Regarding the payment of compensation, prevention and the use of mechanisms outside the justice system had been a priority.  It was not possible to get information on cases in process.  On the 14-year-old age of consent, she said that sexual activity above that age was not forbidden, in compliance with social norms.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Ms. GASPARD, Vice-Chairperson and expert from France, asked for explanations about parity in political representation, information on the subcommission on the issue and whether information on locally elected officials would improve.  She also asked how the underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions and diplomacy could be improved.


Ms. MAIOLO, expert from Italy, Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, and Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, also asked for clarifications on the level of representation of women in Government, as well as the dearth of information about gender-disaggregated information in that area.


Delegation’s Response


Regarding the Equal Treatment Authority and sexual harassment, one delegate mentioned that, according to law, citizens’ filings did not have to state a reason for those complaints.  In spite of witness protection, often the clients could not present witnesses, which was why complaints were withdrawn.


Regarding implementation of the Women’s Convention, another delegate said the Government would soon discuss a motion to set up an inter-ministerial human rights committee, which would be tasked with implementation.  Today, hardly any relationship existed between the civil, scientific and public administration sectors, and such a mechanism would provide an opportunity to remedy that.  The body would prepare reports on implementing human rights conventions, evaluate recommendations by the treaty bodies and interact with civil society.  The inter-ministerial committee hoped to meet six times per year and undertake coordination of all human rights activities.


Another delegate, on the issue of social equality, said a parliamentary subcommittee had held a meeting in February.  Half the members were women.  The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour had published statistical pocketbook entitled “Women and Men in Hungary”, which was being revised this year to include local public administration data.  There was data on women’s overall participation in public life.


Turning to quotas, she said the Socialist Party had designated a 20 per cent quota for itself.  The draft bill in Parliament referred to local and national lists, which must be created in a way that ensured that half of the candidates were women.  The first candidate on the list should be followed by one of the opposite gender.


To help ensure that decision-makers would promote such issues, the Government was planning to send parliamentarians a package and hold a “Day of 50-50”, at which half of the parliamentarians would be women.


Regarding women in diplomacy, another speaker said that one third of the staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were women diplomats.  A woman headed the Ministry and also occupied the second highest post.  There were only three female heads of mission at the international level, and six who held ambassadorial titles.  The Ministry had adopted an equal opportunity plan, she said.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Ms. SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, focused on the education of Roma women and girls, noting that access was not the issue.  They were discriminated against by both teachers and students, so many of them dropped out of school.  She asked whether curriculum changes would include positive images of Roma women.  Had there been discussion within the Ministry of Education on implementing temporary special measures to address the under- and mis-education of Roma girls?


Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, referring to abortion rates, wondered about efforts to provide affordable contraceptives.  She was concerned about the content of brochures, especially one entitled “Life is a Miracle”, as conservatives often construed such material as reason for not having an abortion.  She was worried that other pamphlets entitled “We Want a Family and Children” would be construed to mean that the only value to a woman’s life was by having children.


Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, commending the delegation on employment and workplace policies, focused on the difficulties women faced in returning to the marketplace.  She wondered if there had been an evaluation of a 2004 law providing incentives for employers to employ disadvantaged women.  Had there been an evaluation of the 2004 Equal Community Initiative to alleviate discrimination in the labour market?  How had the Government worked with its social partners to ensure widespread equal wage systems in both the private and public sectors?  She asked which policies addressed women in the informal sector and whether data was being collected.


Moreover, she was perturbed that questions regarding a woman’s marital status, number of children and plans for family could be posed during job interviews, and she urged the delegation to impress upon the Government that those types of questions not be asked.


Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, praised Hungary’s progress on women’s health programmes, including mobile services and efforts to decrease drug abuse.  In that context, she wondered whether the Government was reaching out to Roma women.


Turning to abortion, she said the real problem was “abuse of abortion”.  The Committee had recommended that abortion not be used as a family-planning method.  The fact that women could not afford contraceptives was unacceptable.  Pamphlets promoting safe sex and family values were useless unless women could afford contraceptives.  What family-planning services were available for women?


Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked about rural women.  Citing the report that stated that the lack of equal opportunities imposed large burdens on women, she said no survey had been undertaken for rural women.  About 60 per cent of the Roma population lived in rural areas; 40 per cent lived in very remote areas.  Was gender-equality addressed in the new rural development programme?  Did that programme specifically address Roma women?


Also, the proportion of women working in the agricultural sector was higher than that for men, making women “forced” entrepreneurs.  In that context, what support existed for women farmers?  Also, in the area of health, were breast and cervical cancer screenings available in rural areas?


Delegation’s Response


One delegate agreed it was important to have positive portrayal of Roma women in educational material, especially as it was clear that the Roma was the community most discriminated against in Hungary.  The Minority Act had tried to change that situation, particularly through education.  If a student’s parents requested a minority education, for example, the staff of any given school must prepare a curriculum grounded in the language, culture and identity of that community.  It was important to shape public opinion, which was why the Government was supporting various programmes -- including direct grants -- to change the situation.


Also, she explained that a document entitled “Romani People in the Media” had been created to inform journalists that they often perpetuated common stereotypes of Roma people.


The Government, through the 10-year strategic plan for Roma women, had been addressing issues and collecting indices on areas from education to housing and health care for Roma communities, she added.  However, the Parliament’s 25 June decision could be considered a “request from the public” that conditions for Roma women further improve.  Education for Roma was inadequate and it was important to encourage them to pursue university degrees.  Measures aimed at raising Roma children’s education included building more schools; eliminating school segregation; spreading a co-educational attitude; and increasing minority cultures in public schools.


To the question on sexual information for young people, another delegate said the Committee had recommended that the State introduce sex education programmes and promote responsible sexual behaviour.  Thus, in 2003, Parliament adopted the National Public Health Programme and a “healthy youth” subprogramme to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  State funding was also raised. 


Regarding publications on family planning, she agreed completely that a woman should have free choice, and that happiness did not necessarily mean creation of a family.  While certain groups might interpret leaflets their own way, the Government’s objective was to provide neutral information. 


On contraception, she said all medically known contraceptives were accessible and available, with the cheapest pill costing about $1.50 per month.  On other contraceptives such as condoms and intrauterine devices (IUDs), she conceded that much remained to be done to make them more affordable.  The drop in abortion rates, however, indicated that the Government had achieved some success.


Turning to rural women, she said the Government must pay special attention to them, particularly as there was not equal access to health services.   Hungary had mobile specialized care in areas where no care existed; however, there were unfilled family practitioner positions in remote areas.  To fill them, the Government had introduced a grant programme three years ago.  As for what else was needed, she said the World Health Organization (WHO) had supported four studies prepared by four medical universities on equal opportunities for health and health care, among other issues.  The reports would be sent to the WHO in one month, and the feedback was expected to inform the Government’s decision-making.


Concerning questions related to parental leave, the delegation clarified that such leave was time off with pay.  Both men and women made use of family leave time even though the situation involved administrative complexities.  No statistics were yet available on the frequency of using that benefit.


On training and the concept of “equal pay for equal work”, delegation members said the principle was fully incorporated into legislation, but implementation was another matter.  A “pay barometer” had been developed in cooperation with a development partner.  Measures to improve the situation of women who had lost jobs included the establishment of a pilot programme to calibrate the compensation women merited for work now performed without formal compensation, including housework and childcare.


Delegation members said the situation of rural women was partially addressed in the context of related issues such as health care, as well as by the Ministry of Rural Affairs.  Areas of special concern were older rural women who were often alone.  Measures were being implemented to improve their access to transportation and reduce their isolation.  For Roma women, the accent was on the creation of employment opportunities to address problems such as poor housing and lack of education for children, since the magnitude of the problems involved made it impossible to fund solutions from public assistance resources.


In general, a delegate concluded, a coherent programme had been implemented to eliminate discrimination and address the different specific needs of all groups living in poverty.


Follow-up


In response to a follow-up question by Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, a delegate said only adults could marry.  Minors under age 18 must receive legal permits, and no such permits could be issued to those under 16.  The permits certified that a person was psychologically and financially fit and that he or she was entering into a marriage of their own free will.  Pregnancy per se was not sufficient grounds for granting permission to marry.


Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, questioned the assertion made in the report concerning equality for Roma men and women.  Also, how could measures to improve the lives of Roma be implemented?


Other questions by experts PATTEN and GASPARD focused on areas related to education, the cost of contraception and incidence of abortion.


The delegation said equality of men and women was defined legislatively, but the report failed to reflect the proper emphasis on the steps being taken on implementation.  Starting in September, a new reporting system would allow the report to better reflect the reality.


For example, the delegation continued, on the question of improving women’s presence in the workplace, special measures focused on child care to improve the 40 per cent representation of women among educators at the higher levels as compared to the 60 per cent of men.  Also, women were compensated for their work in relation to child care.  For example, a woman with three children could be compensated as a full-time parent until the youngest child reached the age of three.


On birth control, a delegate noted that the truly disadvantaged women could not afford the $1.50 per month for birth control.  As part of the national health plan reform, arrangements were being made with Internet drug companies to defray the cost of medications and also to birth control drugs.


Questions again arose about a Committee ruling on an individual complaint, which Hungary’s courts had rejected.  Expert SHIN asked about the knowledge Hungary’s courts had of the Convention.  Expert PATTEN stressed that local remedies needing to be exhausted before resort could be made to the Committee, adding that by signing the Convention and its Optional Protocol, national courts were bound to follow the Committee’s findings.


The delegation explained that the case in point had involved the obligation imposed on national courts by the Optional Protocol, to which Hungary was not a party at the time.  It was a party to the Optional Protocol now.


Closing Remarks


In closing, Ms. GABR, Acting Chairperson of Chamber A, noted the achievements Hungary had made since its report in 2002.  She said the Committee would like more information in the country’s next report about legislation and national mechanisms for eliminating discrimination against women.  Also, the role of civil society in the mechanisms represented by the delegation should be strengthened, particularly with regard to Roma women.


In closing, the head of delegation expressed gratitude for the Committee’s work in helping to improve the situation of Hungarian women.  Questions in the course of discussion had called to her attention the shortcomings the Government hoped to solve, especially in light of the Convention.  She understood the Committee’s message that Hungary was on the right track with gender equality policies.  The contents of the Convention and Hungarian action plans must act as guidelines for the Government action that would be needed in the future.  In response to the Committee’s request, her delegation would report on the human rights committee of Parliament and develop a special report that would focus on the implementation of the Optional Protocol.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record