COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN CONCLUDES TWENTIETH SESSION19990208 Adopts Recommendations on Reports of Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Greece, Thailand, China and Colombia
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concluded its twentieth session Friday evening, 5 February, by adopting recommendations for advancing the status of women in Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Greece, Thailand, China and Colombia, and for implementing comprehensive national strategies to promote women's health throughout their lives.
Through the adoption of a general recommendation on health, the 23-member expert body -- which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- recommended that States parties remove all barriers to women's access to health services, education and information, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health. Also recommended was the allocation of resources for programmes targeting adolescents for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Throughout the three-week session, which began on 19 January, Committee members had expressed concern that many of the 163 States parties to the Women's Convention -- large and small, developed and developing -- had not paid enough attention to the impact of global and regional trends on women's equality. Particular concern was expressed about the prevalence of patriarchal structures and deep-seated prejudices which perpetuated discrimination against women and impeded implementation of the women's human rights treaty.
The Committee's adoption of specific country recommendations followed an intensive examination of the reports and presentations of the seven Governments. States parties to the Convention are required to submit periodic reports on their efforts to comply with the treaty.
Addressing the Committee Friday evening, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Angela King, congratulated members for having completed their review of the complex reports of seven countries, through a conscientious and flexible approach. She also paid tribute to them for concluding a general recommendation on women's health, which was very timely and would provide important input to both the Commission on the Status of Women and the special session of the General Assembly on implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development.
It was an important year for the Convention and the Committee, as December would mark the twentieth anniversary of the treaty's adoption, Ms. King said. She would remain in close contact with the Committee Chairperson to "flesh out" suggestions to commemorate the anniversary to ensure that it received the recognition it deserved. Achieving universal ratification of the Convention and encouraging reporting by States parties were among her priorities. In that connection, the Division for the Advancement of Women was organizing a workshop in West Africa later this year to encourage reporting on compliance with the treaty.
Also Friday evening, the Committee adopted the report of the Chairperson on activities undertaken between the nineteenth and twentieth sessions. It decided the United Nations meetings to be attended by the Chairperson or Committee members in 1999, as follows: forty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women; fifty-fifth session on the Commission on Human Rights; the eleventh meeting of persons chairing the human rights treaty bodies; and the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) at its fifty-fourth session.
Also adopted were the dates of the pre-sessional working group and the twenty-first session, to be held, respectively, from 7 to 25 June, and 28 June to 2 July.
In closing remarks, the Committee's Chairperson, Aida Gonzales Martinez of Mexico, thanked Ms. King for promoting the advancement of women through her work in the Secretariat. She also thanked the experts, for their cooperation and support; they had worked long hours at a very intense pace. Also appreciated were the Rapporteur and the Vice-Chairpersons, as well the staff of the Division for the Advancement of Women, and the personnel of the Department of Public Information, who had helped disseminate the work of the Committee.
Committee Action on Working Group I Report
Acting on the recommendations of its working group I, on the work of the Committee, members decided to consider reports of seven States parties at its twenty-first session. The list of country reports to be considered includes: the initial reports of Belize, Nepal and Georgia; the second periodic report
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of Ireland; the second and third periodic reports of Chile; and the third and fourth periodic reports of Spain and the United Kingdom.
Further, the working group recommended that the oral presentation of States parties updating their written reports should not exceed 60 minutes, and that, following their introduction, States parties presenting periodic reports should be prepared to engage in an open and in-depth dialogue, including questions and immediate answers, with the Committee.
The working group's recommendation to the Committee's pre-sessional working group was that it concentrate on major issues and trends in its formulation of the lists of issues and questions with regard to periodic reports, and limit the number of issues and questions so as to encourage constructive dialogue between the Committee and States parties during presentation of reports.
In related recommendations, it said the Secretariat should continue to provide to the pre-sessional working group information on human rights treaties ratified by reporting States parties, as well as the text of any reservations entered to those treaties, in particular to the Women's Convention and any comments of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women with regard to those States parties.
In addition, the working group reaffirmed an earlier decision to invite representatives of the specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations, as well as national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide country-specific information to it on those States parties whose reports were before the group. It also recommended that the Committee designate reports to be considered at least two sessions in advance and immediately inform States parties of that decision.
In that connection, the Group recommended that the list of issues and questions on periodic reports should be sent to States parties presenting their periodic reports within two weeks of the conclusion of the pre-sessional working group. It also recommended that States parties submit their written answers no later than four weeks after their receipt of the lists of issues and questions. Those answers should be translated and available to Committee members at least four weeks before the session at which the relevant reports were to be considered.
Committee Action on Working Group II Report
The Committee also acted on recommendations of its working group II, which advises it on the implementation of article 21 of the Convention. That article requires that the Committee report annually to the General Assembly on its activities and make recommendations based on the reports of States parties.
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Working Group II recommended the adoption by the Committee of the draft general recommendation on article 12 of the Convention, on women's health, which states that compliance with that article is central to the health and well-being of women. Article 12 requires States to eliminate discrimination against women in their access to health-care services, particularly in the areas of family planning, pregnancy, confinement and during the post-natal period.
According to the draft general recommendations, States parties should include in their reports to the Committee on women's health reference to the particular health performance standards used by them to monitor the provision of quality health care to women. States parties should also include information on how measures taken by them complied with health performance standards adopted by the Committee. States parties should identify and provide information on the most serious problems adversely affecting women's health and health-related human rights in their reports, and in so doing, should collaborate with professional health associations and health-related NGOs.
States parties should make every effort to include in their reports statistical information disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and geographical location, and they should report on the allocation of resources to women's health in relation to the overall resources allocated to health, paying particular attention to those matters identified in the report as of major importance. States parties should also report on the implementation of the critical area "Women and health" of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Under additional recommendations for government action, States parties should allocate adequate budgetary, human and administrative resources to ensure that women's health receives a share of the overall health budget comparable with that for men's health, taking into account their different health needs.
In particular, States parties should also:
-- Place a gender perspective at the centre of all policies and programmes affecting women's health and should involve women in the planning, implementation and monitoring of such policies and programmes and in the provision of health services to women;
-- Ensure the removal of all barriers to women's access to health services, education and information;
-- Prioritize the prevention of unwanted pregnancy through family planning and sex education, and reduce maternal mortality rates through safe motherhood services and prenatal assistance. When possible, legislation penalizing abortion could be revised, in order to withdraw punitive measures for those women who undergo abortion;
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-- Monitor the provision of health services to women by public, non-governmental and private organizations, to ensure equal access and quality of care;
-- Require all health services to be consistent with the human rights of women, including the rights of autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, informed consent and choice; and
-- Ensure that the training curriculum of health workers includes comprehensive mandatory, gender-sensitive courses on women's health and human rights, and in particular on gender-based violence.
Committee Recommendations on Country Reports
The Committee adopted, as orally amended, the report containing specific recommendations to States' parties.
Regarding the initial report of Algeria, the Committee said that the submission of its report only two years after accession to the Convention, and in light of the difficult circumstances the country was experiencing, testified to the Government's political will to improve the status of women. Committee members expressed concern, however, about Algeria's many reservations to the Convention which, in effect, suspended its application. Immediate steps should be taken to withdraw the reservations to essential articles, as they reinforced the discriminatory provisions of the country's Family Code.
The Committee also expressed concern about invoking religious principles and cultural practices in Algeria to justify why Algerian women had not kept pace with overall advances in society. An evolutionary approach by the Government would allow for a dynamic interpretation of religious texts that took into account developmental imperatives and Algerian women's societal role. Social constraints that kept women in a lower status than men were not conducive to the elimination of discrimination against them. The Government was urged to repeal discriminatory legislation and align laws with the Convention. It was also urged to develop a strategy for legal literacy and training at all levels of society.
Also according to the report, the Committee was deeply concerned by the large number of women who had been murdered, raped, abducted and subjected to serious physical abuse by terrorist groups in recent years. In that connection, it recommended better care for women and girl victims of terrorist violence. The Government was also requested to take specific legislative and structural steps to shelter women from such attacks, and to educate and train police officers, judges, doctors and the mass media to make their intervention in cases of gender-based violence more effective.
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Committee members also called on the Algerian Government to assist wives of disappeared persons, by simplifying, even on a temporary basis, the legal procedure for certification of death, so that they could clarify their status, obtain custody of their children and legally dispose of property to which they were entitled. They also recommended that the Government consider ridding school curricula and textbooks of stereotypes and negative images of women to help change attitudes more quickly. Women teachers and women's NGOs might also participate in that process.
Since a high level of unemployment had posed a major obstacle to women's economic independence, the Committee recommended temporary incentives with quantitative targets aimed at increasing women's employment in both the public and private sectors. Child-care centres and kindergartens could also be created to allow women to reconcile their family and professional responsibilities. It further recommended the participation of unemployed women training and retraining programmes, including in non-traditional areas.
The Committee found that the information contained in the report on rural women, as well as the benefits they had received from rural development efforts, was insufficient. It, therefore, encouraged the Government to reinforce the active and participatory role of rural women in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes that affected them, particularly in the areas of housing credit, income-generating projects and social security.
On the initial report of Kyrgyzstan, the Committee commended the country for, among other things, ratifying the Convention without reservations. It recommended that the Government introduce temporary special measures to improve the situation of women in various areas, and focus on all forms of gender-based violence. Moreover, it should strengthen measures to prevent violence and support women victims, including gender sensitization and the training of law enforcement officials. The collection of sex disaggregated data would also help in that regard, as would expanding the network of crisis centres to provide necessary medical assistance to women victims. In the economic sphere, measures should be introduced to improve the economic status of women.
The following issues were also of concern to the Committee: the increase of alcoholism and drug addiction; the classification of lesbianism, in the Penal Code, as a sexual offence; the prevalence of the patriarchal culture and the strong emphasis on women's traditional roles as mothers and wives; and the tendency for Kyrgyz women to return to traditional jobs. In those areas, it thus recommended that lesbianism be reconceptualized as a sexual orientation and that penalties for its practice be abolished. It also recommended the introduction of a range of measures, including comprehensive public education and mass media campaigns to eliminate traditional stereotypes of men's and women's roles.
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The Committee was highly concerned about the increase in Kyrgyzstan of the prostitution of and trafficking in women, which it viewed as being related to poverty. Also of concern was the lack of employment and the lack of effective national measures to suppress the growth of those practices. In that respect, it recommended increased cooperation with other countries in order to arrest and punish the perpetrators. It also recommended the introduction of domestic measures to combat the negative effects of structural adjustment programmes on women and provide job opportunities and training to vulnerable women.
Among other recommendations of the Committee, the Kyrgyz Government should introduce measures, such as quotas, to improve the representation of women in politics and other non-traditional areas. It should also consider the gender dimension of poverty in the design and implementation of all initiatives aimed at the elimination of poverty, and introduce measures to improve women's economic status, particularly through the expansion of micro- credit programmes. In the area of family planning, it should introduce comprehensive programmes, as well as measures to ensure that abortion was not used as a method of contraception.
Regarding the initial report of Liechtenstein, the Committee commended the Government for its accession to numerous regional and international human rights instruments, as well as for its rapid progress in achieving de jure gender equality. While deep-seated social and cultural attitudes persisted, the Equality Rights Act would hopefully accelerate the achievement of de facto gender equality. The Government should fully implement the Act to ensure that it covered all spheres of life.
The Committee recommended that the Government also undertake the following measures: provide the national machinery for the advancement of women with adequate resources, personnel and authority; enact parental leave legislation; improve the collection and use of data disaggregated by sex to provide factual information on the situation of women; and implement temporary special measures. While the establishment of quotas and other temporary special measures to promote women were often controversial, they had effectively addressed structural discrimination against women in politics, employment and education, and accelerated de facto equality for women.
Regarding women and employment, the Committee expressed concern about the highly segregated labour market, accompanied by the concentration of women in low-paid and part-time employment. The segregation of women and men into different employment sectors did not justify unequal pay. The Government should also review the existing social security system, particularly regarding part-time work, to ensure that it did not discriminate against women.
The lack of comprehensive information and legislation on violence against women was another concern, for which the Committee recommended the Government review its related policies and measures. To ensure that prostitutes were not
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penalized, the Government should review the relevant law. In addition, it was urged to institute measures to prevent single mothers from facing the financial and social risks of poverty.
In assessing the combined second and third periodic reports of Greece, the Committee commended the Government for creating a comprehensive constitutional and legislative framework for achieving gender equality. It noted, in particular, that the Constitution of 1975 enshrines the principle of equality between women and men, and that a series of laws and policies had been put in place over the years to translate that principle into practice. It also noted the favourable legal situation relating to employment, vocational training and health, as well as the ratification by Greece of the major International Labour Organization conventions concerning women workers and workers with family responsibilities.
Members expressed serious concern, however, at the continuing existence in the country of violence against women, for which there was no comprehensive legislation. They were gravely concerned at the attitude of law enforcement personnel, especially the police, towards women victims. They were also concerned that a high incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace notwithstanding, legal regulation remained unclear, and women had not availed themselves of existing complaint mechanisms.
The Committee recommended that the Greek Government strengthen the legislative and policy framework to prevent, eliminate and prosecute violence against women. It should also gather, as a matter of priority, data on the prevalence and types of violence. In other related recommendations, it was urged to take measures to institutionalize the training of law enforcement personnel to ensure proper handling of cases. Efforts should also be made to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of complaints mechanisms against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Committee members also expressed concern that the revision of the rape laws had not led to the recognition of rape as a serious infringement of a woman's human right to personal security. It thus recommended reforming that law, including the reference to marital rape.
The Committee urged the Government of Greece to intensify efforts to prevent and remedy functional illiteracy among women. A comprehensive review of all educational curricula at the primary and secondary levels should be conducted in order to eliminate stereotypes and create an educational environment conducive to the education of women and girls. In addition, the Government should seek equality between women and men, and between girls and boys, as a societal goal in its educational policy.
While noting positive trends regarding women's employment, including government efforts to create equal opportunities, the Committee expressed concern about the situation of women in the formal and informal labour market,
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including the high percentage of unemployed women and the continuing pay gap between women and men. That many of the new jobs occupied by women might provide only low pay and limited career prospects was also of concern. Thus, the Government was urged to assess the changing realities of women's work and develop policies aimed at structural and long-term improvements, with particular attention to supporting women working without pay in family enterprises and on family farms.
The Committee recommended that all health-related data and statistics be disaggregated by sex and age so that health policies, service delivery and allocation of resources could be assessed in terms of their outcomes for women and men. Concern was expressed about the high rate of abortion in Greece, indicative of insufficient use of contraceptives, a lack of information, and insufficient or unfocused family planning efforts. Sex education should be introduced into the school curriculum, and family planning policies should ensure equal access by all women and men to relevant information about contraception. The Government was urged to target men in its family planning efforts and to stress the shared responsibilities of women and men in that regard.
Given the flow of immigrants and refugees in the region, the Committee was concerned at the Government's low level of attention to that issue. Similarly, while attention was given to the situation of certain groups of minority women, such as Gypsies, insufficient information was available concerning other ethnic and religious minority women, such as Turks and Albanians.
The Government was also urged to develop a general policy to address the particular needs of immigrant and migrant women regarding their protection, health, employment and educational needs. It should ensure that repatriation efforts were consistent with women's safety needs, and consider entering into bilateral agreements with women migrants' countries of origin to ensure adequate protection of women's rights. The Government should also assess the situation of all minority women to ensure their adequate support. It might wish to engage their representatives in the preparation of the country's next report.
Commenting on the combined second and third periodic reports of Thailand, the Committee commended the efforts undertaken by the National Commission for Women's Affairs, particularly in formulating research-based policy recommendations. It noted with concern the recent financial crisis that had been affecting the country's economic and social development, and urged the Government to ensure that the crisis would not hinder current efforts to advance the status of women.
The Committee was concerned that traditional attitudes that fostered discrimination against women and girls continued to prevail and were still
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portrayed in school textbooks and in the media. The Committee recommended that sensitization programmes for policy makers, administrators, legal personnel and other professionals involved in the health and education sector be provided, and that school textbooks be revised.
Of serious concern was the lack of an effective law enforcement mechanism and the lack of cases filed by women in the courts on the basis of constitutional guarantees. The National Commission should study constitutional developments in other countries and practical ways of strengthening the capacity of women to use the Constitution to ensure gender equality. The Committee was also concerned that the Convention was not directly applicable in Thai courts. Moreover, there was no separate law exclusively dealing with discrimination against women and no definition of discrimination. The Committee thus recommended the introduction of specific anti-discrimination legislation in compliance with article 1 of the Convention.
The Committee also expressed concern about the under-representation of women in politics and decision-making structures, including the judicial system. The importance of fostering a political and social environment conducive to their promotion in all sectors of public and private life had been emphasized, and the introduction of affirmative action policies or temporary special measures, with goals and timetables was recommended.
Concern was also expressed about the status of women migrant workers, cross-border trafficking in women and girls, forced prostitution and the commercial sex industry. The Committee strongly recommended that the issue of migration for sex work not be seen as a purely poverty-related issue, but also as a human rights one. The Committee also recommended the introduction of measures to protect the rights of hill-tribe women and girls.
The Committee requested the inclusion in the next report of the results of research on the high suicide rate and the prevalence of mental illness among Thai women. Recognizing that sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence and marital rape, whether in the family, the community or the workplace, constituted violations of women's right to personal security and bodily integrity, the Committee urged the Government of Thailand to amend the Penal Code in light of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and recommendation 19 of the Committee.
Furthermore, the Government should give full attention to rural women's needs and ensure that all policies and programmes, particularly access to decision-making, health, education and social services, had benefited them. Discriminatory practices regarding access to credit and property rights was another concern.
Following its consideration of the combined third and fourth period reports of China, the Committee noted that comprehensive government efforts to implement
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the Convention, since its second periodic report, had demonstrated the political will of the Chinese Government to eliminate discrimination and to advance gender equality. The Government was also to be commended for further strengthening the legislative framework to ensure such equality. Committee members welcomed the formulation of programmes to ensure implementation of those laws, including the overall increase of facilities and personnel for maternal health care and improved access to family planning services and primary health care.
The Committee noted, however, the persistence of prejudice and stereotypical attitudes concerning the role of women and men in the family and in society, which was based on views of male superiority and the subordination of women. Those prejudices constituted a serious impediment to full implementation of the Convention. The gap between the situation of women in urban and rural and remote areas also constituted a major obstacle to compliance. Members noted with concern the adverse impact of economic restructuring on women in the transition from a planned economy to a market economy, and, in particular, the gender-specific consequences for women's employment and re-employment.
The Government's approach to implementation of the Convention had, as its apparent focus, the protection of women rather than their empowerment, the Committee stated. Even the central machinery responsible for government policy -- the National Working Committee on Women and Children -- had perpetuated the identification of women with children. Similarly, in the area of women's health, the focus was on mother-child health and was limited to women's reproductive function. Likewise, labour laws and regulations had overemphasized the protection of women.
The Committee recommended that the Chinese Government re-examine its approach to realizing gender equality, with an emphasis on the human rights framework of the Convention and the empowerment of women. It should encourage a country-wide social dialogue that advocated equality between women and men, and a comprehensive public campaign aimed at changing traditional attitudes. The structure, authority and resources of the national machinery for the advancement of women, as well as the All China Women's Federation, should also be examined.
Serious concern was expressed about the absence of a definition of discrimination against women in the Women's Law, the report went on. Concern was also expressed at the lack of effective remedies in cases of violation of that law. The Committee, thus, recommended the adoption of legislation expressly prohibiting gender discrimination, including unintentional and indirect discrimination, in accordance with article 1 of the Convention. It also recommended improving the availability of the means of legal redress under the Women's Law.
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The Committee also noted with concern the level, prevalence and diverse forms of violence against women in China, including domestic violence, sexual violence and sexual harassment in the workplace. The economic conditions that might contribute to an increase in violence against women were also of concern. In that connection, the Committee recommended that the Government examine and revise its laws and policies on violence against women in light of its general recommendation No. 19. The Government was also urged to regulate sexual harassment and to provide legal remedies for women victims of that violation in the workplace.
Another concern of the Committee was the illegal nature of prostitution. The Government was urged to recognize that poverty and economic deprivation had often led women to prostitution, which should, therefore, be decriminalized. Given the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Committee had also recommended due attention to health services for women in prostitution, and urged the Government to take measures to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society.
The Committee urged the Chinese Government to undertake the following actions: adopt affirmative action and other temporary special measures to increase the number of women at the higher echelons of Government; analyse, from a gender perspective, the effects of its economic policies, and take steps to mitigate and counteract the negative effects on women; examine ways and means in which its population policy was implemented at the local level; base its policy on the principles of reproductive choice, information, education and counselling, with an emphasis on increasing male responsibility; integrate, in its next report, statistical information under each article of the Convention, in order to analyse the situation of women over time, as well as in comparison to that of men; and translate the Convention into local languages.
The Committee recommended the adoption of a specific time frame, with resource allocation, for the achievement of universal literacy and primary education, and the abolition of official and unofficial school fees, which had excluded girls from enjoying their right to education, particularly in poor rural areas. It also recommended that the Government explicitly address the linkages between economic security in old age and its family planning policies.
Assessing the initial report submitted by China on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Committee commended the Chinese Government for the continuing applicability of the Convention to Hong Kong, following resumption of Chinese sovereignty over the region on 1 July 1997. It welcomed the guarantee of human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and men contained in the Hong Kong Basic Law and in the Bill of Rights Ordinance. It also noted the recent adoption and revision of laws to eliminate discrimination against women. The high level of literacy and the universal system of free primary education was applauded, and the recent court decision to uphold the right of non-marital children to live with either parent was welcome.
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The Committee noted with concern, however, that China had entered seven reservations and declarations in the Convention's application to Hong Kong. Of particular concern was the reservation exempting "the affairs of religious denominations or orders" from the scope of the Convention. Also of concern was the absence of a prohibition of discrimination against women in the Basic Law. The Government was urged to take all measures necessary to ensure women's equal representation in all constituencies, including rural committees, on the basis of the principle of universal and equal suffrage, in accordance with the Committee's general recommendation No. 23. It was also urged to allocate adequate resources for gender studies.
The Committee recommended the adoption of a constitutional definition of discrimination to complement the prohibition of discrimination in civil law under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. It also recommended the following: establishment of a high-level central mechanism to develop and coordinate a women-focused policy and long-term strategy to ensure effective implementation of the Convention; affirmative action and temporary special measures to promote women's participation in public life; regulations to protect women sex workers, and monitor the links between trafficking in women, the presence of migrant women and a regulatory approach to prostitution; affirmative action measures to increase the number of women in non-traditional areas of education, especially in science, technology and engineering; and the inclusion of the principle of equal pay for equal work in relevant legislation.
On Colombia's fourth periodic report, the Committee expressed its appreciation for the comprehensive, candid and critical account of the progress achieved since the last periodic report. The current report described the obstacles still impeding the implementation of the Convention, as well as the programmes that had been implemented to promote the advancement of women and the exercise of their rights. The presence during the session of the Director of the National Office for Equality for Women, at a time when Colombia was suffering the consequences of a tragic earthquake, was testimony to the importance the Government had attached to the Convention.
Despite efforts to implement the Convention, the Committee noted that the country's social and economic reality remained a serious obstacle to the full participation and advancement of women. Another serious obstacle was the fact that more than half of the Colombian population lived below the poverty line, with women being the main victims, as a result of adjustment policies that took no account of social development. Within the region, the country had one of the most inequitable patterns of income distribution, and substantial differences existed between urban and rural areas. The Committee also expressed concern about the widespread violence resulting from armed conflict in the country.
Among its recommendations, the Committee urged dissemination of the Convention and the relevant legislation to educate the general population,
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particularly women. The Committee also recommended the following: practical measures to monitor legislation and assess its effectiveness; training programmes for those responsible for ensuring compliance with the current laws; strengthening the role of the National Office for Equality for Women by raising its status to that of an autonomous body; and allocation of budgetary resources, on a priority basis, to women, especially women of limited means, including their access to employment, education and public services. Temporary measures to promote the increased integration of women in decision- making posts should be considered.
The Committee had recommended, among other actions: adoption of effective measures to ensure compliance with the law and due attention to the Family Commissions to enable them to carry out their functions relating to mitigating violence against women; organization of a more effective work strategy by the Inter-institutional Committee that had taken measures to prevent and punish traffic in women; systematic integration of street children into all poverty-eradication, social development and anti-violence programmes; a systematic effort to educate the population on gender issues; systematic disaggregation of statistics by sex; education action to prevent girls and young women from dropping out of school; and appropriate measures to improve the status of working women through training programmes and implementation of laws.
The Committee also urged the Colombian Government to establish an effective national mechanism, including complaints procedures, to ensure that criminals stand trial. It should also adopt a compulsory education policy to ensure that girls do not work during school hours. Given the Committee members' view that the Colombian law prohibiting abortion, under any circumstances, was both a violation of the rights of women to health and life and a violation of article 12 of the Convention, it called on the Government to consider taking immediate action to provide for derogations of that law, and to provide regular statistics on maternal mortality by region. Regarding rural women, it recommended that existing programmes be expanded, with a view to improving their status.
Background on Committee, Convention
The Committee of experts, who serve in their personal capacity, monitor the implementation of the Convention, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, opened for signature in March 1980, and entered into force in 1981. The Convention -- ratified by 163 countries -- is the most comprehensive, legally binding treaty on women's human rights. Often referred to as an international bill of rights for women, it establishes an agenda for national action to end discrimination. The first 16 articles of the Convention call on States parties to take appropriate measures to ensure women's civil, political, economic and cultural rights and their legal equality.
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By the terms of the Convention, States parties are called on to take measures, such as guaranteeing basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and ensuring the suppression of the traffic in, and the exploitation of the prostitution of, women. States parties are also bound to make efforts to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life, to ensure equal rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality, and to eliminate discrimination in the fields of education, employment, health and other areas of economic and social life. Other articles address issues, such as problems faced by rural women, equality before and elimination of discrimination against women within marriage and the family. The rights of women to take part in the political and public life of their countries and to perform all functions at all levels of government are also guaranteed by the Convention.
Article I of the Convention defines discrimination against women as: "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field".
States Parties to Convention
As of 15 January, the following 163 States have either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which entered into force on 3 September 1981: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece and Grenada.
Also, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav
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Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The 23-expert members of the Committee, serving in their personal capacity, are: Charlotte Abaka, of Ghana; Ayse Feride Acar, of Turkey; Emma Aouij, of Tunisia; Carlota Bustelo Garcia del Real, of Spain; Silvia Rose Cartwright, of New Zealand; Ivanka Corti, of Italy; Feng Cui, of China; Naela Gabr, of Egypt; Yolanda Ferrer Gomez, of Cuba; Aida Gonzalez Martinez, of Mexico; Savitri Goonesekere, of Sri Lanka; Rosalyn Hazelle, of Saint Kitts and Nevis; Salma Khan, of Bangladesh; Yung-Chung Kim, of the Republic of Korea; Rosario Manalo, of the Philippines; Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, of South Africa; Ahoua Ouedraogo, of Burkina Faso; Zelmira Regazzoli, of Argentina; Anne Lise Ryel, of Norway; Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling, of Germany; Carmel Shalev, of Israel; Kongit Sinegiorgis, of Ethiopia; and Chikako Taya, of Japan.
Elected for two-year terms were Ms. Gonzalez Martinez of Mexico, as Chairperson; Ms. Kim of the Republic of Korea, Ms. Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso, and Ms. Schopp-Shilling of Germany as Vice-Chairpersons. Ms. Acar of Turkey was elected Rapporteur.
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