ANDORRA AWAITS IMPACT OF NEWLY CREATED MINISTRY FOR FAMILY ON PROGRESS TOWARDS ADVANCEMENT FOR WOMEN

13 July 2001
WOM/1294

ANDORRA AWAITS IMPACT OF NEWLY CREATED MINISTRY FOR FAMILY ON PROGRESS TOWARDS ADVANCEMENT FOR WOMEN

13/07/2001
Press ReleaseWOM/1294

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Twenty-fifth Session

523rd Meeting (PM)

ANDORRA AWAITS IMPACT OF NEWLY CREATED MINISTRY FOR FAMILY

ON PROGRESS TOWARDS ADVANCEMENT FOR WOMEN

Committee Chairperson, Commending Country’s Initiative,

Expresses Hope for Positive Outcome from New Programmes

The nation of Andorra had recently established a Ministry for Family, which was in charge of the women's issues, but it was too early to judge the success of national programmes for the advancement of women in that country, the monitoring body of the Convention on the Elimination All Forms of Discrimination against Women was told this afternoon, as it concluded its consideration of Andorra's initial report.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women first took up the situation of women in Andorra on 10 July (for details, see Press Release WOM/1290).  Andorra ratified the Convention in 1996 and earlier this week, on

9 July, it also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which entitles the Committee to inquire into grave or systematic violations of the Convention and consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies.

Responding to numerous questions by the Committee’s 23 experts, Silvia Gabarre, Secretary of State for Family Affairs, Ministry of Health and Welfare of Andorra, said that action was being considered on numerous issues related to gender equality, including legislation for single-parent families, day-care, adoption, and family mediation services. 

On violence against women, she said that last month the country had adopted a national plan to make women more aware of their rights.  Training was being provided to all agencies involved in the work with the victims of violence, including law-enforcement agents and health-care workers.  In the field of education, there was mandatory training for all the teachers in Andorra, which included courses on human rights and principles of diversity. 

Regarding equal rights to employment, she said there was a firm commitment on behalf of the Government to change the existing labour laws.  Also considered were the amendments of the social security law.  Last November, Andorra had signed the European Social Charter, which had important implications for the situation in her country.  The Government was studying the situation regarding the wages

differential, and a “think-tank” was working on the proposals to increase and diversify the economic activity in the country.

In her concluding remarks, the Committee's Chairperson, Charlotte Abaka of Ghana, said that the new Ministry for Family Affairs had only recently put programmes and policies in place, so it was difficult to evaluate how those would impact on the lives of women in Andorra.  Hopefully, the Committee would hear about a positive impact at its future sessions.  

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday (16 July) to hear responses to questions on the reports from the west African nation of Guinea.

Background

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this afternoon to hear responses from the delegation of Andorra to the questions posed by experts on Tuesday, 10 July, following the presentation of that country’s initial report.  That document was submitted to the Committee in compliance with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was ratified by Andorra in 1996.  (For detailed information on the matter, see Press Release WOM/1290 of 10 July.)

Response of Andorra

SILVIA GABARRE, Secretary of State for Family Affairs, Ministry of Health and Welfare of Andorra, thanked the experts for their support and encouragement for the advancement of women in Andorra.  She said that, although not all additional information was available today, her delegation would try to address as many questions as possible. 

She said that having only recently ratified the Convention, Andorra had created the Ministry for Family in May.  It was too early to judge the success of national programmes for the advancement of women.  The work was continuing, however, and action was being considered on numerous issues related to gender equality, including legislation for single-parent families, day-care, adoption, and family mediation services. 

As she proceeded to respond to particular questions by the experts, she said the country was aware of the problems related to the lack of gender-disaggregated data and statistics that the experts had pointed out, and it recognized the need to correct the situation.  The country's Constitution provided that foreigners residing legally in Andorra could freely exercise all the rights and liberties in the country. 

The women’s right to equality under the Constitution was guaranteed primarily through the country’s courts.  Article 30 of the Constitution recognized the citizens' right to health.  The law also established exceptional procedures in the constitutional court for the protection of fundamental rights under the Constitution.  The international human rights instruments, which Andorra had signed, were published within the country.  No gender discrimination cases had come before the country’s courts so far. 

On 9 July, Andorra had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention and accepted the amendment to the Convention on the Committee's meeting time.

On the efforts to change the negative stereotypical behaviour, she said the issue of violence against women was of utmost importance to her Government, which had elaborated a plan to make women more aware of their rights and their ability to come before the courts if they became victims to violence.  Training was being provided to all agencies involved in the work with the victims of violence, including law-enforcement agents and health-care workers.  She was unable to address the plan in more detail, for it had been adopted only last month, and time would show how effective it was.

Turning to Article 6 of the Convention (on prostitution and trafficking in women), she said that prostitution was banned in Andorra, and the country’s penal code provided for the imprisonment of up to six years for prostitutes, pimps and everyone involved in the provision of prostitutes’ services. 

Unable to provide details regarding the country's plans to ensure equality in the political field under Article 7 of the Convention, she said that a related government team was just beginning its work.  However, she could assure the Committee that the country was going to carefully examine the situation under the Convention.

Regarding cooperation between the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), she said that every year, NGOs had an opportunity to submit their projects to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which selected the projects it was willing to support.  A project involving migrant women in Andorra was among those selected for 2001.  Several studies of women-related issues were under way in the country. 

On the issue of equality in education (Article 10 of the Convention), she said that the education structure in Andorra was very complex, involving teaching in Andorran, Spanish and French.  The Government had signed various conventions with the neighbouring countries governing the education system.  Schoolchildren participated in the programmes teaching them to respect diversity and exercise tolerance and freedom.  The Government could not revise school manuals in an effort to combat stereotypes, but the experts of the Spanish and the French Governments had the competency to do that.  The Government provided mandatory training programmes for all teachers in the country, which included training in human rights and principles of diversity.  Although at the beginning of the twentieth century, most Andorran girls had been taught in Catholic schools, that was no longer the case today.  The Government was considering setting up a common centre to unify all the teaching systems, based on the needs of the country.  Girls were being encouraged to undertake study in the technical fields of study.  About 67 per cent of the country's school principals were women.

On equal right to employment, she said there was a firm commitment on behalf of the Government to change the existing labour laws.  That was not a task under the purview of her department directly, but of the State Secretaries for Labour, Justice and the Interior.  However, her Ministry intended to present proposals in that regard.  Amendments to the social security law were also being considered.  Last November, Andorra had signed the European Social Charter, which had important implications for the situation in her country.  Regarding the wages differential,

the Government was studying the situation, and a “think-tank” was working on the proposals to increase and diversify the economic activity in the country. 

On the status of women at home, she said they benefited from State funding, if their spouses had social security.  Abortion was banned, and the penal code provided for sentences of up to two and a half years for the mother, and up to

six years for the practitioners.  The text she had presented to the Committee contained graphs on the consumption of alcohol and tobacco in the country.  Information had also been provided regarding women suffering from depression.

Experts’ Response

Experts expressed their appreciation for the responses and congratulated the delegation from Andorra for preparing its first international document and first oral presentation to the Committee, through which the Government’s political will had been demonstrated.

The Committee Chairperson, Charlotte Abaka (Ghana), speaking on behalf of the Committee, reiterated her thanks for the country’s response and noted the promise to supply the Committee with additional information once its members had returned home. 

Indeed, the new Ministry for Family Affairs of Andorra had just put many programmes and policies in place, so it was difficult to evaluate how those would impact on the lives of women in the country.  Hopefully, the Committee would hear of positive impact at future sessions.  Clearly, statistics, disaggregated by sex, were needed for next time.

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For information media. Not an official record.