United Nations


Committee on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women

30 November 1993

Thirteenth session
New York, 17 January-4 February 1994
Item 4 of the provisional agenda*

          *    CEDAW/C/1994/1.


                          AGAINST WOMEN

           Analysis of articles 7 and 8 of the Convention

                     Report by the secretariat



INTRODUCTION ...............................................   3

  I.  BACKGROUND ...........................................   3

      8 OF THE CONVENTION  .................................   5

      A.  Participation in elections, parliaments, governments
          and other legislative and executive bodies as well as
          in the policy formulation at the national level ..   5

      B.  Participation in international decision-making ...   8

      C.  Women in the military ............................  10

III.  OBSTACLES TO IMPLEMENTATION ..........................  12

      OF WOMEN .............................................  12

  V.  TEMPORARY MEASURES ...................................  13

 VI.  CONCLUSIONS ..........................................  16


1.   The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women decided at its tenth session that it should prepare
comments on particular articles of the Convention which would
assist in the formulation of the Committee's general
recommendations relating to those articles, in accordance with
article 21 of the Convention.

2.   The Committee decided to analyse articles 7 and 8 of the
Convention at its thirteenth session in 1994.

                        I.  BACKGROUND

3.   The terms of reference of the Commission on the Status of
Women, formulated at its first session in 1947 (document E/90 of
1 July 1946), emphasized that its function is to "prepare
recommendations and reports for the Economic and Social Council
on promoting women's rights in political, economic, social and
educational fields" with the objective of implementing the
principle that men and women shall have equal rights, and to
develop proposals to give effect to such recommendations.  The
aims of the Commission stressed women's equal participation in
Governments and possibility to exercise all rights of
citizenship, irrespective of race, language or religion, and
assume all the duties of a citizen, which comprise:  adult
universal suffrage, the equal right to vote, to be elected and to
hold public office.  The Commission further listed other areas
essential for women's equality such as civil rights (including
marriage, guardianship, nationality, legal capacity, domicile),
social and economic rights and education.

4.   One of the first outcomes of the work of the Commission was
the Convention on the Political Rights of Women of 1952, 1/ which
stated explicitly that "Women shall be entitled to vote in all
elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination"
(art. 1).  They should also, on equal terms with men and without
any discrimination, "... be eligible for election to all publicly
elected bodies, established by national law" (art. 2) and "... be
entitled to hold public office and to exercise all public
functions, established by national law" (art. 3).

5.   Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women constitute a natural
extension of the previous work of the Commission on the Status of
Women in the area of women's political participation.

6.   Article 7 requires States parties to take all appropriate
measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the
political and public life of the country and, in particular, to
ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the rights to vote in
all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for
election to all publicly elected bodies; to participate in the
formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof
and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all
levels of government; to participate in non-governmental
organizations and associations concerned with the public and
political life of the country.

7.   Article 8 requires States parties to take all appropriate
measures to ensure to women, on equal terms with men and without
any discrimination, the opportunity to represent their
Governments at the international level and to participate in the
work of international organizations.

8.   Articles 7 and 8 reiterate the principle of equality of
women in participation in political life, accepted since 1947 by
almost all countries of the world.  In addition, they carry two
important new dimensions.  First, article 7 goes beyond restating
the objectives of the Commission formulated at its first session
in 1947 and the provisions of articles 1 to 3 of the Convention
on the Political Rights of Women, and requires that States
parties "... shall take all appropriate measures" to eliminate
discrimination in all areas enumerated in article 7.  Second,
article 8 extends those obligations to the international arena
which was not covered explicitly in the previous documents.  Both
articles 7 and 8 explicitly require an active approach by States
in combating discrimination in political and public life,
implying an application of specific measures.  Thus, articles 7
and 8 should be seen and implemented in the context of articles 3
and 4, calling respectively for "appropriate" and "temporary
special" measures aimed at de facto equality in all areas of

9.   The fact that very few countries have entered reservations
to articles 7 and 8 constitutes another confirmation that the
principle of equality in political participation is well
accepted.  The few countries which reserved on those provisions
related their reservations to the participation of women in the
military service or linked their reservations to traditional
practices of inheritance of the crown.  For example, Belgium
reserved on article 7 as far as its Constitution reserves for men
the exercise of royal powers and for the sons of the King or, if
there are none, for Belgian princes of the branch of the royal
family in line to the throne, the function ex officio of senators
from the age of 18, with entitlement to vote from the age of 25. 
Luxembourg and Spain made reservations on article 7 to the extent
that it contradicts their constitutions with regard to the
hereditary transmission of the crown.  The only reservation based
on religious grounds was made by Israel, which reserved on
article 7 with regard to the appointment of women to serve as
judges of religious courts, since this is prohibited by the laws
of some religious communities in Israel.

10.  Despite the nearly universal acceptance that women have
equal rights to participate in political life and decision-
making, the gap between this de jure equality and the de facto
situation of women remains perhaps the greatest of all of the
components of the Convention.  The slow progress in the areas
related to articles 7 and 8, which can be seen in other sources,
is not reflected in the periodic reports to the Committee.  Few
States parties have reported on concrete measures meant to combat
existing discrimination in the political sphere or to monitor the
results of measures.  There is a lack of analyses of the
obstacles to the participation of women in country reports. 
Indeed, reporting under articles 7 and 8 has been mainly focused
on the existence of non-discriminatory legislation.  It is only
recently that figures illustrating the percentage of women in
parliaments, governments and occasionally in different decision-
making bodies have been provided.  Nor has reporting on the
participation of women in regional and local legislative and
executive bodies; women in various types of ministries; in
political parties and trade unions; in the military; as country
representatives at the international level (bilateral and
multilateral diplomacy) been common.


      A.  Participation in elections, parliaments, governments
          and other legislative and executive bodies as well
          as in policy formulation at the national level

11.  The lack of equitable participation by women in political
decision-making has important consequences for both women and
society.  It deprives women of important rights and
responsibilities as citizens.  Women's interests and perspectives
cannot be represented and protected at the policy-making levels. 
Women cannot influence key decisions, which has consequences for
the whole society and future generations, for example, on
national budgets, major reforms or socio-economic models to be
chosen.  This situation is not only discriminatory to women, but
also disadvantageous to society, which is deprived of women's
skills and distinctive perspectives.  Existing research shows
that if women are represented in large enough numbers in the
decision-making arena (constituting what has been termed a
critical mass, estimated at a level of at least 30 to 35 per cent
in decision-making bodies), they have visible impact on the
political style and the content of decisions.  For example, in
the Nordic countries, the only region where women have achieved a
"critical mass" at the policy-making level, owing to pressure
exerted by women, issues that had long been ignored such as equal
rights, women's control over their own bodies, child care and
protection against sexual violence, have gradually been
incorporated into public national agendas and reflected in public
budgets.  Evidence for this has been mobilized in a number of
United Nations studies. 2/

12.  Women have the right to vote and hold office in almost every
country of the world.  Although the length of time they have had
these rights ranges from 100 years in New Zealand to 13 in
Vanuatu, most women have had that right for almost their entire
adult lives.  Women make up half of the electorate and regularly
exercise their right to vote in a proportion which is in general
similar to that of men.  Despite this, relatively few women have
been elected in the democratic process to the national
legislatures and even fewer have reached top executive posts. 
Earlier United Nations studies have suggested that, to a certain
extent, countries in which women have been able to stand for
election for a longer period of time are somewhat more likely to
have more women in parliament.

13.  Women's participation in parliaments is closely linked to
the participation of women in political parties and the role of
women in parliamentary elections, both as voters and candidates. 
The proportion of women who stand for election is generally low
and the proportion of women elected therefore is also low,
although this differs from country to country and between
regions.  Because voting is secret in most places, there are few
data which would indicate whether women's voting patterns are
different from men's.  Public opinion polling data suggest that,
at the margin, women may vote differently than men, but in
general women's electoral choices have not differed much from
those of men.  However, there are recent indications that in some
countries women are beginning to vote differently and, in close
elections, determine the outcome.  Argentina, Colombia, the
Scandinavian countries, Austria, Germany and Poland are cases in
point.  In all those countries women, at least on some occasions,
voted differently and gave clear preference to those parties
which put forward female candidates, candidates clearly
representing women's interests and perspectives, especially with
regard to women's reproductive rights, social support services or
participation in decision-making.

14.  The need of parties to compete for votes has led many
parties to promote women within their ranks and put them forward
as candidates in order to gain the votes of the female
electorate.  That tactic on the part of some parties has forced
other political parties to join in the competition and also put
some women in visible positions.  For example, the introduction
of quotas in the 1980s in all five Nordic countries by a number
of political parties induced other parties to put forward some
female candidates.  Some years later quotas were established by a
number of parties in Germany and Austria.  For example, in 1986
the Greens incorporated a provision into their constitution
according to which at least half of the representation of all
bodies and organs of the federal association of the party must be
women.  In 1988 the Social Democratic Party changed its
organizational statutes to the effect that at least 40 per cent
of either sex must be represented in the offices and functions of
the party.

15.  There appears to be a relationship between party rules,
habits, structures, internal policies and the situation of women
within the party.  Factors such as openness and flexibility of
structures, age limits and the incompatibilities of certain
political positions proved to be favourable to the increased
participation of women.  Where women are equitably or favourably
represented in party structures and promoted as candidates the
proportion of women elected to parliament is similarly high.  The
situation of women is also affected by how candidates are chosen,
either by local bodies or at the national level, as well as by
the electoral system, either single-member district or a party

16.  According to the latest systematic data of the Inter-
Parliamentary Union (30 June 1993) the average participation of
women in national parliaments world wide has declined from 13 per
cent in 1989 to 10.3 per cent (single or lower chambers, based on
analyses of 171 countries).  In other chambers of parliaments the
proportion of women is even lower and constitutes 8.6 per cent. 
The 10 countries with the highest percentage of women
parliamentarians are:  Seychelles (45.8 per cent); Finland (39.0
per cent); Sweden (33.5 per cent); Norway (39.0 per cent);
Denmark (33 per cent); Netherlands (29.3 per cent); Iceland (23.8
per cent); Cuba (22.8 per cent); Austria (21 and 20 per cent) and
China (21 per cent).  The country-specific figures are changing
as a result of more recent elections.  The sharpest drop in the
average parliamentary representation took place in the Eastern
European countries and the former Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, from 26.6 per cent in 1987 to 10.8 per cent in 1990. 
This dramatic change is the major factor in the decline of the
international average and signals a significant shift in
priorities in this part of the world.  The paradox of the
diminished women's participation in those countries as the
outcome of free elections and democratization processes should be
given serious consideration.  In terms of regional distribution
of seats in parliaments in 1990 the highest proportion of women
was in countries of the Western European and Other group (14.3
per cent), followed by Eastern Europe (10.8 per cent) and Latin
America and the Caribbean (9.3 per cent), with the lowest of
Africa (7.2 per cent) and Asia and the Pacific (5.5 per cent).

17.  A number of studies published in the late 1970s and 1980s
point to the discrepancy in the distribution of female
representatives between urban and rural areas within regions. 
For example, in cities with a population over 30,000 in France
the participation of women elected to city councils was 20 per
cent while in small towns it was 14 per cent; in Germany (the
former Federal Republic of Germany) the figures were 14 per cent
and 10 per cent respectively; in Sweden 50 per cent for Stockholm
and 14 per cent for smaller towns.  Large towns contain a greater
number of politically active women than villages, where there is
often a shortage of female candidates with broad professional
backgrounds and experience and where the prejudice against women
in public life is often stronger.  The same tendency emerges with
regard to local governments.

18.  Reports to the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women, however, indicate that women have
usually been more successful in winning places on local
representative bodies than in national parliaments.  In 10 out of
12 countries which reported on the subject (Argentina, Belarus
(then the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic), Colombia,
Hungary, Jamaica, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Poland, Spain)
the percentage in the local representative bodies was higher. 
One reason may be that local-level activities suit women's
working style better and correspond more closely to their daily
experience.  For many women, community and grass-roots activities
become extensions of their private sphere related, for example,
to the involvement with the local school or kindergarten and
concerns about environmental pollution and criminality in the

19.  In governments on average, at the end of 1990, only 4 per
cent of cabinet ministers were women.  The highest average
percentage of women at the ministerial level was in the Western
European and Other group of countries (7.5 per cent), followed by
Latin America and the Caribbean (5.5 per cent).  The lowest
average participation was in Asia and the Pacific (2.2 per cent)
and Africa (2.9 per cent).  Women held no ministerial positions
in 93 countries.  When the four highest executive levels are
considered (minister, vice-minister, secretary of state and
director) women constituted 4.9 per cent world wide, with the
highest levels in Latin America and the Caribbean (8.1 per cent)
as against 7 per cent in the developed regions, 2.6 per cent in
Asia and the Pacific and 3.4 per cent in Africa. 

20.  Among ministers and at the top four executive levels, women
continued to be concentrated in social ministries (culture,
social affairs, women's issues, education, social welfare). 
Women were almost absent from those positions in executive
offices of heads of States and governments, foreign affairs,
interior, defence, economic and legal affairs.

21.  In the whole history of democratic elections only 21 women
have been elected as head of State or Government in independent
countries.  They include presidents of the Philippines, Iceland,*
Nicaragua,* Haiti, Bolivia, Argentina and Ireland;* and prime
ministers of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, Burundi,* Dominica,* France, Norway,* India, Sri Lanka,
Israel, Portugal, Poland, Pakistan,* Canada, Turkey* and the
former Yugoslavia.

     *    Current.

       B.  Participation in international decision-making

22.  The Convention was the first international instrument which
clearly addressed the issue of the participation of women at the
international level as delegates and representatives of their own
countries and in international organizations.  Although
discrimination in this area was striking there have been very few
surveys on the subject.  Research by the Division for the
Advancement of Women showed, for example, that the permanent
missions to the United Nations in New York, in 1989, had only 337
women in the diplomatic staff, out of a total of 1,695 (20 per
cent).  Sixty missions had no women among their diplomats.  Only
eight women held the rank of ambassador.  These figures are being
updated, but initial evidence suggests little change.  The
situation is similar or worse in specialized meetings that
establish global goals and priorities.  For example, at the first
session of the ad hoc committee of the whole for the preparation
of the International Development Strategy for the Fourth United
Nations Development Decade, held at the United Nations
Headquarters from 5 to 16 June 1989, there were 20 women
delegates out of a total of 210 (9.5 per cent) and in 65
delegations out of 89 there were no women.  The
underrepresentation of women in those positions results from
women's absence from the high positions in foreign affairs, the
military and defence, as well as the top positions in the
national civil service, as the appointees to those posts come
through outside lateral recruitment.

23.  The increasing internationalization of the contemporary
world makes the employment of women in international
organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, more
important.  Governmental organizations of the United Nations
system and various economic, political and military structures at
the regional level became important international public
employers.  It is striking that in those organizations women are
still in the minority and are concentrated at the lower levels,
in supportive jobs.  Even in the United Nations, which is
expected to create a model for national public services,
participation of women is low, although improvement is taking
place.  Prior to the first review and appraisal of the Nairobi
Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, in
December 1988 women constituted 28 per cent of Professional
employees of the United Nations Secretariat, but only 5.2 per
cent among its senior managers (D-2 and above).  In the entire
United Nations system (including its specialized organizations)
women constituted 23 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively.  The
new Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali; called for a 50/50
gender breakdown among higher management staff by 1995 and
appropriate administrative instructions were issued.  As of 30
June 1993 women constituted 31.3 per cent of the Professional
employees on the posts subject to geographic distribution and
14.3 per cent of under-secretaries-general, 6.7 per cent of
assistant secretaries-general and 14.3 per cent of D-2s.

24.  The question as to why the representation of women in the
Secretariat has been and is so unequal has been discussed within
the United Nations for some time.  The Steering Committee for the
Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat, appointed
by the Secretary-General, concluded that women on average have
spent longer periods in the same grade before promotion; have had
their level of initial appointment at a lower level; may not have
been given the kind of varied career deemed necessary for
promotion to management levels; have faced negative attitudes
from supervisors and heads of departments about the promotion of
women; and have had insufficient access to training programmes,
attendance at substantive meetings, duty travel and temporary
assignments.  Women have been recruited mainly into occupational
categories such as general administration, library, language- and
women-related posts, where career patterns are limited by the
existing grade structure.  The situation of female Professionals
in the Division for the Advancement of Women, which has one of
the worst current records for the promotion of women in the
entire United Nations system, is a case in point.  Thus, women
have hardly been represented at the senior management levels from
which the Secretary-General draws top managers.

25.  However, recent progress can be noted at the level of middle
and senior Professional posts.  This has resulted from a number
of steps to achieve affirmative action in recruitment and
promotion.  In 1991, the Secretary-General endorsed the measures
recommended in the fifth report of the Steering Committee for the
Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat
(ST/SGB/237).  The report set forth new targets of 35 per cent
for women in posts subject to geographical distribution by 1995,
and 25 per cent in posts at the D-1 level and above by 1995.  In
those departments which have not met those targets, vacancies
should be filled, when there are one or more female candidates
whose qualifications match all the requirements for a vacant
post, with one of those candidates.  Recruitment should follow
the same pattern.  The exceptions relate to cases when the post
is filled through a competitive examination or where the post has
been vacant for 18 months (since 1992, 12 months) and despite the
best efforts there are no female candidates.

26.  Administrative instruction ST/AI/382 of 3 March 1993
endorsed all previous decisions related to the improvement of the
status of women in the Secretariat and further decided to
increase the pool of qualified women through consideration of all
qualified women currently in the service of the Organization
under any type of appointment or as consultants with at least one
year experience in the United Nations system, as internal
candidates.  All recommendations for filling posts must be
accompanied by the explanation of how they would affect the
representation of women.  The cumulative seniority provisions
endorsed by the Secretary-General in 1986 should be applied. 
Other measures which are still in force include a publicity and
information campaign; development of rosters of suitable
candidates for various types of posts; identification of female
candidates for national competitive examinations, especially in
regions with low proportions of female staff members, as well as
suitable candidates for higher posts; monitoring of promotion,
reclassification and redeployment procedures; creation of special
posts to monitor the recruitment and career development of women
in the Secretariat; issuance of policy guidelines on the creation
of conditions conducive to the full integration of women in the
Secretariat; and the institution of a number of measures designed
to overcome past inequalities.  

27.  The affirmative action programme undertaken by the United
Nations provides some guidelines to other international
organizations as well as Governments at the national level, with
regard to the civil service careers.  The elaboration and
adoption of the proper rules of the international civil service
should enable the organizations to avoid gender discrimination in
both recruitment and career development patterns, as well as
avoid existing national barriers in this respect.

                   C.  Women in the military

28.  The accessibility of the military service to women has
rarely been reported on by the States parties to the Convention. 
Some countries, however, have made reservations to various
provisions of the Convention, including its articles 7 and 8,
with regard to the participation of women in the military
service.  For example, Australia made a general reservation on
the applicability of the Convention as far as it would require
alteration of its defence force policy which excluded women from
combat and combat-related duties.  However, discussions aimed at
defining those duties are under way in Australia.  Austria
reserved on article 7 (b) as far as service in the armed forces
is concerned.  Germany considered this article invalid to the
extent that it contradicts the constitution of Germany which bans
women from service involving the use of arms.  New Zealand
reserved the right not to apply the provisions of the Convention
in so far as they are inconsistent with policies relating to
recruitment into or service in the armed forces, in particular
the requirement to serve on armed forces aircraft, vessels and in
the situations involving armed combat, or in situations involving
violence or the threat of violence.  Thailand reserved that
article 7 of the Convention can be applied only within the limits
established by its national laws, regulations and practices, as
far as national security, maintenance of public order, service
and employment in the military or paramilitary are concerned. 

29.  The military is important to women in their role as
citizens.  However, many men and women think it is "men's
business".  The historical reservation of military roles to men
is largely the result of social construction.  It has been argued
that military service is built into male rites, maintaining the
separation between men's and women's roles and stereotypes as
"the protectors" and "the protected".  What is often overlooked
is that the military is an integral part of any political system:

Governments have a military; economic dependence on the military
is widespread.  The military varies widely.  In some countries it
is understood to have a domestic function, in other countries to
provide for the country's security against outsiders.  In the
democratic systems, the military is subordinated to the elected
Government.  In other countries it may control the Government.

30.  Since the military constitutes an important element of State
order, decision-making and governance, all citizens should be
concerned about the kind of military they have.  By being outside
the military, women cannot be involved in the decisions related
to the use of military forces, changes in the military 
institutions and overall control over its performance.  The
military accounts for a large portion of public expenditure,
constitutes an important employer and provides career
opportunities and training, which can often lead to other than
military careers as well.

31.  No systematic country data exists on women in the military. 
The largest amount of data exists on the States members of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Western
European Union. 3/  Half of those countries have legislation or
policies excluding women from combat, although women's service
has been encouraged and is for the same length of time and the
same pay and includes the same training and discipline as that of
men.  Most rules permit pregnant women to remain in military
service; most provide paternal or maternal leave and half provide
child care; most limit the rank that women can achieve. 
Differing rules do not seem to have an impact on participation
rates.  For example, Canada, which has an egalitarian approach,
has only 12 per cent of women in the military.  The United
States, which prohibits women's service in combat, has 11 per
cent.  In 5 of the countries the participation is 2 to 4 per
cent; in 8 of the 15 it is negligible.

32.  Research in 45 other countries shows that only in 3
countries do women make up more than 10 per cent of service
members.  In most countries women perform different functions. 
Even in countries where women can serve as regular members of a
State military, there is usually a restriction on combat. 
Israel, where service is mandatory for women, is a case in point.

In only a few countries is the combat role open.  They include
Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Venezuela
and Zambia.  No detailed information is available on the two
latter countries.  In four of the other five the total number of
women serving is a little over 1,000 per country.  A majority of
them are not in combat units.  Canada represents the major
experiment:  it has recently removed all restrictions based on
gender except for service in certain submarines.  Women represent
12 per cent of those on active duty and 20 per cent of the
reserves, but few are in combat specialities.  The principal
opening for women officers is as medical personnel.  Enlisted
women serve in clerical and administrative positions.  

33.  The issue of the participation of women in the military
takes on a particular meaning in peace-keeping, the main purpose
of which is to avoid or to defuse conflict in order to permit a
peaceful solution.  The absence of women among military personnel
in United Nations peace-keeping forces reflects the absence of
women in the military of those countries which provide troops to
the peace-keeping operations.  Women, however, have been active
participants of those operations at the civilian level.  In
December 1992, two of the United Nations peace-keeping operations
(Angola and South Africa) were headed by women from the United
Nations Secretariat, and a relatively high percentage of civilian
monitors, administrators and other personnel seconded from the
Professional category were women.

34.  As peace-keeping increases in importance, the question will
need to be raised whether the exclusion of women from many peace-
keeping tasks is acceptable.  Given the fact that peace-keeping
differs in many ways from the traditional military and involves
characteristics related to conflict resolution, an increased
presence of women could make some difference.


35.  In general, the reports of States parties to the Committee
do not provide analyses of obstacles to the political
participation of women.  Thus, obstacles have been identified and
analysed in the number of documents prepared by the Division for
the Advancement of Women.  Major obstacles are identified in the
Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women.
4/  They include the prevailing unequal division of household
duties, the provision of child care and care for the elderly,
economic dependency and the prevailing inequality in almost all
spheres of life, including violence against women as its extreme
form.  Those obstacles particularly hinder the participation of
women in political life.

36.  Women's double burden, combined with the long and non-
flexible time requirements of political parties and parliaments,
prevent women from being more active in political participation. 
Prevailing negative attitudes towards women's political
participation and a lack of confidence and support for female
candidates on the part of the electorate, including women,
constitute another obstacle.  In addition, some women do not like
to take part in politics, which they consider distasteful, and do
not wish to be subjected to political campaigns and media
stereotyping, including the application to them of different
criteria than men.  The absence of women in professions from
which politicians are recruited (lawyers, university teachers,
political scientists) can create another handicap.

37.  A civil service career offers another possibility for women
to rise to decision-making levels.  The data on the subject is
limited, but it shows constraints on the participation of women
at the senior levels of the civil service, owing to specific
obstacles.  These obstacles include:  a lack of adequate
recruitment and promotion mechanisms which prevent women from
entering the civil service at levels corresponding to their
qualifications and from being promoted without discrimination;
the prevalence of "closed" recruitment and promotion systems,
often based on patronage, without clear requirements to entry or
promotion; bias in job evaluation and classification;
insufficient appeal mechanisms and a general absence of women
from appeal bodies as well as selection, appointment and
promotion panels; unequal opportunities for career and training
development; the marginalization of women in some areas of the
civil service traditionally considered as related to women, or in
positions intended to implement affirmative action policies.


38.  An examination of the characteristics of those countries
where women have an above-average level of participation suggests
several factors that might be related to better access. 5/  One
of them is the positive correlation between the percentage of
women in parliaments and in high-level government positions, in
particular in ministerial-level positions.  This means that there
is an interdependency between the number of women in parliaments
and governments, which is partly influenced by the situation in
the Western industrialized countries where the parliament is a
major source of recruitment of ministers.

39.  Another factor is education, in particular at the university
level.  Since most political leaders are recruited from the
educated and professional groups, the ratio of women to men in
enrolment in third-level education in 1970 is reflected by the
higher proportion of women in decision-making in parliaments and
Governments in 1987.  The extent to which women will be able to
participate in politics is also linked to the participation of
women in the formal economy.  Despite regional variations, women
are more likely to be in parliament in those countries where
women are also in the workplace.  The type of employment that
women typically have is also important.  Two types of occupation
are particularly important in this context:  professional or
technical and administrative or managerial.  There are also some
professions from which top decision makers are recruited: 
lawyers, "professional" politicians, leading journalists and
academics specialized in relevant fields.

40.  Other important factors relate to the general status of
women in the country and access to power and high-level decision-
making.  For example, the highest proportions of women in
parliaments are found in the countries where women had the right
to vote before 1940; in the countries with a long tradition of
democracy, political competition, concern for women's legal
rights, open attitudes to discussing women's issues, a tradition
of respecting women's right to free choice in all spheres of life
and a high level of legal literacy and knowledge of women's
reproductive rights.  One more important correlation should be
noted, namely between the participation of women in decision-
making and adherence to the Convention.  Countries that have
signed or ratified the Convention without religious or cultural
reservations have higher average percentages of women in
decision-making, whether in governments or parliaments.

                   V.  TEMPORARY MEASURES

41.  Article 4 of the Convention states that "adoption by States
Parties of temporary  special measures aimed at accelerating de
facto equality between men and women shall not be considered
discrimination as defined in the present Convention, but shall in
no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or
separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the
objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been
achieved".  Articles 7 and 8 refer implicitly to article 4, when
they state that the State parties should undertake "all
appropriate measures" to eliminate discrimination.

42.  General recommendation 5, adopted in 1988 in relation to
article 4, concluded that "States parties should make more use of
temporary special measures such as positive action, preferential
treatment or quota systems to advance women's integration into
... politics".  A review of the reports of States parties to the
Convention suggests the variety of approaches that exist.

43.  A few States recognize positive action as lawful in their
constitutions (Greece) and other basic acts (Sweden).  In
Austria, France and Belgium, public authorities have taken a
number of measures to promote equal opportunities for women in
the civil service.  In Austria, programmes to promote women in
politics and in managerial posts were established.  As a result,
some progress has been noted with regard to the number of women
in decision-making, in particular in rural decision-making
bodies.  In France, according to a 1982 act, special instructions
were issued to public service departments pointing out that both
sexes should be represented at the selection boards; diversified
promotion criteria should be established in order to ensure real
equal opportunities; and job descriptions should not discourage
either potential male or female candidates.  In the United
Kingdom, experiments have taken place at the local level of
government focused on changing recruitment and selection
procedures; training; promotion and career policies; personnel
policy; as well as changing the mentality of the people in
charge, in particular the women themselves, and the trade unions.

In Austria, Sweden, Portugal, the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland and Norway, positive action programmes also
include measures aimed at increasing public awareness, changing
attitudes and behaviour concerning equality and gender.  

44.  In some countries special measures and programmes have been
introduced that aim at a qualitative and quantitative increase in
women's political participation.  They targeted political
parties, parliaments, trade unions, governing boards of various
institutions in the public sector and the civil service.  The
political parties in some countries established percentage quotas
for women, including their governing bodies (i.e. Austria,
Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, the
Netherlands, Venezuela, Spain, Israel).  Some parties introduced
women's sections to promote women's interests (Cameroon, Canada,
Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Rwanda, Spain, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe).  These
measures are controversial and according to some sources
contribute to women's alienation within political parties rather
than to an increase in their role through training and the
elaboration of women's strategies.  Other measures included
special recruitment campaigns for women in political parties
(i.e. Ecuador, Fiji, India, the Netherlands, Spain, United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).  Similar
campaigns were organized by trade unions in those countries.

45.  Other regulations included quotas reserving a minimum number
of seats in parliaments to women.  Such a regulation was
practised in the past in Egypt and is applied in Argentina (at
least 30 per cent in the Parliament) and in Tanzania (at least 15
per cent in the Parliament and 25 per cent in local councils). 
In Bangladesh special measures have been taken to introduce a
female quota in local bodies and in the Parliament.  Efforts have
been made to elaborate laws that would include parity quotas in
the selection of candidates for office in Costa Rica and
Argentina.  The Argentinian experience has been particularly
positive:  it has led to a significant increase in the
representation of women in Parliament in the most recent
elections, in all of the major parties.

46.  The most prominent example of high participation of women in
decision-making, according to most indicators, is provided by
Norway.  Norway has a strong tradition of group representation
and bargaining in politics.  The acceptance of the fact that
women have specific interests and that traditional "women's
issues" belong on public agendas led to the recognition of the
need for having those issues and interests represented by women
themselves.  Consequently, women became a part of the negotiating
process taking place in Parliament and other public bodies where
different interest groups met and decided on power-sharing and
organization-based influence.  The demand of women for a fair
share of power led to an alliance between organizations and
groups outside the political parties and in women's factions
within parties, the objective being to increase women's

47.  In 1970, after a series of campaigns in connection with
national and local elections, there was what was termed a
"women's coup", which resulted in a majority of women being
chosen to serve on three large local councils, including the Oslo
council.  Although that majority did not last long it
demonstrated the power of women's coordinated action; it proved
that common women's concerns exist and that they need to be
articulated by women on behalf of women.

48.  Since then, women's issues have been further strengthened on
the national and local agendas, gender has been accepted as a
politically relevant category, certain traditional care services
performed by women have been transferred to the State and paid
from its budget and quotas for women have been introduced in
public commissions and boards, as well as some political parties.

The 1988 revision of the Norwegian Equal Status Act of 1981
provided that in public commissions and boards each sex should be
represented by at least 40 per cent of the members and that in
committees with less than four members, both sexes should be
represented.  The result was that at present women constitute 35
per cent of all public boards and commissions (compared with 7
per cent in 1967 and 17 per cent in 1977) and hold half of the
ministerial posts in the Government of Prime Minister Gro Harlem

49.  The practice followed in Norway of setting gender quotas for
boards and committees was also introduced in the 1980s in other
Nordic countries.  That action has led to an increase in the
proportion of women.  In the case of Denmark, for example, the
proportion increased from 9 per cent in 1975 and 1980, to 38 per
cent in 1990.  In Finland, after the adoption of the 1986
Equality Act, both men and women have to be elected to all
municipal bodies, in addition to governmental committees, with
the representation of at least 40 per cent of each gender.  In
Sweden, the Bill on Equality Policy has established goals of 30
per cent of women on the boards of public bodies and committees
by 1992, and 40 per cent by 1995.

50.  The successful application of quotas in the Nordic countries
should be seen in the context of that region, where such values
as justice, equality and the proper representation of group
interests were rooted in political tradition, where women's
status and rights were well-established, where there was an
awareness of women's issues and of the priority of such issues on
public agendas.  Under those circumstances, the introduction of
quotas as a result of conscious and consolidated action by women
brought rapid results and helped to remove the effects of past
discrimination in some areas of political participation.

51.  There are, however, situations where quotas can be perceived
rather as a ceiling or viewed as a non-democratic measure.  For
example, in Belgium, the majority of the traditional parties
introduced quotas under the pressure of women's sections of those
parties.  As a result, a minimum presence of women was ensured in
the party organs.  Afterwards, however, the situation did not
develop any further.  There is the experience of Egypt, where
reserved seats for women in Parliament led to the abolition of
the provision.  In the former Eastern European countries, the
high participation of women in parliaments resulted from the
concept of interest-group representation at the parliamentary
level.  Thus, workers, women, youth and all professional groups
which accepted the principle of the leading role of the communist
party and its uncontested impact on key decisions were supposed
to have a certain percentage of seats.  With the abolition of
those political systems, the concept of group representation was
dismissed and women's interests and issues denied, often even
being viewed as part of the old ideology.  De facto quotas for
women vanished, leading to a rapid decrease in the participation
of women in parliaments.   

52.  In general, the introduction of quotas as a form of
affirmative action remains a controversial measure.  Its
opponents question its limiting character and non-democratic
nature.  Its supporters consider it the most efficient measure
they have used.  There is, however, an increasing consensus that
corrective mechanisms are needed to redress the prevailing
inequalities and discrimination in political participation and
that some form of affirmative action should be taken.

                      VI.  CONCLUSIONS

53.  Two sets of recommendations can be made.  The first one
relates to concrete measures which should be undertaken in
implementing articles 7 and 8 of the Convention.  The
implementation should focus on actively combating discrimination
against women in all areas of political participation specified
by the Convention.  Member States are obliged to take measures to
redress the situation and those measures should be designed in
connection with articles 3 and 4.  Since discrimination in this
area prevails owing to a discrepancy between the de jure and de
facto situation of women, the focus should be placed on the
fastest and most efficient measures available to bridge this gap.

Existing affirmative action measures, quota systems and
successful national experiences should be reviewed with the
objective of implementation, to the extent possible, by other

54.  All factors which are considered conducive to the
participation of women in politics should be reinforced,
including education and employment.  However, much more emphasis
should be given to the kind of education which young people
receive.  Sex- and job-related stereotypes should be eliminated
from the curricula, teaching programmes and mass media; girls and
young women should be encouraged to join in politics and to
develop skills useful in public life.  Education should also be
aimed towards raising the awareness of future generations of
prevailing gender discrimination and the need to eradicate it; it
should focus on freedom of choice in all spheres of life for both
boys and girls; and stress the value of equality of opportunity
and partnership relations between people.  Special attention
should be given to the organization of civic education, stressing
the obligations and the rights of citizens of both genders.

55.  At the conceptual level, the notion of democracy should be
further discussed and developed to include a gender component. 
The question should be raised whether societies and countries can
really be called "democratic" if women are excluded from
decisions determining their future.  In this context, all
available statistics on the participation of women in public life
and decision-making should be broadly and regularly publicized. 
Attempts should be made to reflect the state of the art in all
areas related to political participation, through provision of
gender statistics, information on adopted policies, their
implementation and effects. 

56.  Periodic reports to the Committee should be much more
focused on the appropriate measures which have been undertaken by
States and their concrete results.  In addition, the latest
statistical information extended to all areas relevant to the
political participation of women should be prepared on the
premise that the very right of participation is well established
and not controversial.  Thus, action aimed at radical change in
the prevailing disparity is the key issue which should be both
addressed and reported on.


     1/   Resolution 640 (VII), annex.

     2/   Report of the Secretary-General on the priority themes:

Equality:  Equality in political participation and decision-
making (E/CN.6/1990/2); report of the Secretary-General on the
priority themes:  Peace:  Equal participation in all efforts to
promote international cooperation, peace and disarmament
(E/CN.6/1992/10); Women in Politics and Decision-making in the
Late Twentieth Century (United Nations publication, Sales No.

     3/   Data assembled for the report of the Secretary-General
on women in the peace process (E/CN.6/1993/4).

     4/   Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise
the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: 
Equality, Development and Peace, Nairobi, 15-26 July 1985 (United
Nations publication, Sales No. E.85.IV.10), chap. I, sect. A.

     5/   Reported in Women in Politics and Decision-making in
the Late Twentieth Century (United Nations publication, Sales No.



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