MUCH PROGRESS MADE ON WOMENS RIGHTS IN LUXEMBOURG SINCE ESTABLISHMENT OF ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN MINISTRY, ANTI-DISCRMINATION COMMITTEE TOLD20000119
Committee Takes up Third Periodic Report of Luxembourg
While Luxembourg lagged behind in its obligations to womens rights, it had made much progress since establishing the Ministry for the Advancement of Women in 1995, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women heard this morning as it began its consideration of Luxembourgs third periodic report.
Marie-Josee Jacobs, Luxembourgs Minister for the Advancement of Women, said her Ministry was autonomously maintained, with a current budget amounting to 0.1 per cent of the national estimated expenses -- reflecting an increase of over 33 per cent since 1995. It also employed women exclusively.
She said that her countrys National Council for Women established procedures to advance womens rights and that the Government had integrated a part of the Councils programme in its national plan of action, particularly in the areas of employment and elections.
The Minister expressed the hope that Luxembourg would be among the first to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as an indication of its commitment to promoting the rights of women.
Viviane Ecker, External Expert in the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and Equal Rights for Men and Women in Luxembourg, also addressed the Committee.
Also this morning, Committee experts posed questions and commented on various aspects of Luxembourgs periodic report. Among the issues raised was the amendment of Luxembourgs Constitution to provide for womens equality with men. The issues of breast-feeding rates and womens image in the media were also addressed.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of that report.
Committee Work Programme
When the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) met this morning, it had before it the third periodic report of Luxembourg (document CEDAW/C/LUX/3), which outlines the measures taken by that country from March 1997 to December 1997 to give effect to the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The report gives details of legislative and other measures to give effect to the Convention. Those measures include national and international mechanisms to eliminate discriminatory practices in various fields, including labour, training of police officers, and training of women in decision-making bodies of the Foreign Ministry.
It also deals with a wide range of issues like access to education, elimination of stereotypes, scholarships and grants, education and literacy and access of disabled girls and women to education. Other issues include parental leave, social security and maternity protection.
Among the conclusions listed in the report are findings on entitlement to family allowances; entitlement to bank loans, mortgages and other kinds of financial credit; and the right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life.
MARIE-JOSEE JACOBS, Minister for the Advancement of Women of Luxembourg, introducing the report, said that while the State did lag behind in its obligations, since the establishment of the Ministry for the Advancement of Women in 1995 there had been much progress. That Ministry was autonomously maintained, with a current budget that amounted to 0.1 per cent of the national estimated expenses -- reflecting an increase of over 33 per cent since 1995. It also employed women exclusively.
The employment rate for women in Luxembourg was over 40 per cent, she said. A recent study indicated that most of those workers constituted border workers and immigrants from the south, including Italy and Portugal. In Luxembourg, due to the high salaries of men, many women chose not to work. Recently, however, women increasingly wished to resume salaried employment when their children attained school age.
In outlining guidelines for political equality and promotion of womens rights, she noted that the National Council for Women in Luxembourg had established procedures relevant to advancing womens rights. The Government had integrated a part of the Councils programme in its national plan of action, particularly in the areas of employment and elections. A manual on equal rights for all citizens of Luxembourg had recently been re-published and the Government would follow the Committees recommendations for national distribution. Also, a project to integrate the principle of equality in national training programmes had been instituted. She hoped her country would be among the first to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as an indication of the countrys commitment to promoting the rights of women, she added.
Some Government projects included training women for advancement and sales in the corporate setting, as well as in outdoor work like gardening and agriculture, she continued. Measures were also being taken to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and violence against women. In particular, emphasis was being placed on training professionals in those areas. She also noted that the number of migrants and refugees in the country had been growing and that the Council had created a special Commission to assist those persons to integrate into the society. The next country report would provide more details about that Commissions work.
She further stated that the Government of Luxembourg had sought to detect projects that involved a gender aspect and to include gender awareness modules in its education curriculum. The concept had already been transferred to Austria and African women had already applied theories of Luxembourgs gender education into their own programmes.
Questions and Comments by Experts/Replies of Government
An expert asked what kind of legal protection was available for a woman who fled her home as a result of domestic violence. What right did she have to her own home when she was forced to leave it?
Responding, the Minister said that according to the law, women who left their conjugal home because of violence had no right to their husbands sustenance. However, that law needed to be changed.
VIVIANE ECKER, External Expert in the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and Equal Rights for Men and Women in Luxembourg, said women and men presently received equal disability pensions. Prior to disbursement, the relationship between the job and the disability would be acknowledged. As a result, women might face a problem due to the traditional kinds of jobs they performed. With regard to domestic violence, she said the report mainly referred to married women who had left the home. The States divorce law included a provision that if the woman was at fault, she would receive no alimony.
An expert noted the Governments failure to amend the constitution to provide for womens equality with men. Since 1997, the States Chamber of Deputies had adopted a resolution which had commented on the urgency of such an amendment. When Luxembourg had ratified the Convention, it had undertaken to embody the equality in its Constitution, she emphasized. That failure suggested the States non-committal to that equality. Furthermore, when a project was eventually put in place to review all legislation, it must be ensured that other laws comply with the newly amended regulation.
Another expert said the concept of affirmative action must be introduced when revision of the Constitution was undertaken. On the issue of a coalition agreement in Europe that took a stance against quotas when drawing up an electoral list, she noted that some countries were in favour and some against. In any country where there was resistance to having women in politics and in other areas, introducing quotas was a first step to removing that hindrance. She expressed surprise at Luxembourgs stance on the subject. Women who had entered into politics, government and parliament had made more progress in matters of equality among men and women when the quotas existed. Another matter of concern was a lack of reference in the report to concrete actions concerning the image of women in the media. The Government must be commended for its family planning policies even though it was a Catholic State, an expert noted. However, a drastic reduction in breast- feeding rates was alarming, as there was no alternative to breastmilk and its benefits for the baby and mother.
In response to the first question, the Minister said she regretted that it was not up to the Government to change article 11 of her countrys Constitution. A majority of two thirds in the Chamber of Deputies was needed to effect such an amendment. There was a deep-rooted fear of changing the Constitution.
Responding to another question, she acknowledged that there were not many women in the Government. Representation had remained about the same. For the first time since elections for the European Parliament, no woman had been directly elected. However, there had been an increase in elected women at the local level.
On the question of immigration, she said it was hard to approach immigrants, since they worked hard all the time and tended not to go out at night. There were courses to help immigrants to integrate more easily into the society, including language courses in French, German and Portuguese.
On women in the media, she said there was television without borders. Luxembourg TV was only broadcast one hour a day and not much could be done about that.
Regarding health questions, she said there was a decrease in breast-feeding time, but a question had been raised by a non-governmental organization which had asked for an increase in that time. The Government, while committed to that issue, had not followed up. The Ministry of Health was trying to make it possible for women to have breast-feeding facilities at work. There were also anti-smoking, anti-cancer and anti-breast-cancer campaigns headed by women.
She said that her country still lacked statistics in the field of health. In a small country like Luxembourg, statistical changes were noticed immediately, which made it difficult to interpret the figures.
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