NETHERLANDS CLAIMS PROGRESS IN IMPROVING SITUATION OF WOMEN, CONCEDING FURTHER POSITIVE CHANGES NEEDED

6 July 2001
WOM/1288

NETHERLANDS CLAIMS PROGRESS IN IMPROVING SITUATION OF WOMEN, CONCEDING FURTHER POSITIVE CHANGES NEEDED

06/07/2001
Press ReleaseWOM/1288

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Twenty-fifth Session

512th and 513th Meetings (AM & PM)

NETHERLANDS CLAIMS PROGRESS IN IMPROVING SITUATION OF WOMEN,

CONCEDING FURTHER POSITIVE CHANGES NEEDED

Committee Continues Review of Efforts to Comply

With UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The Netherlands was proud of the way it had been “catching up” in terms of women’s economic independence, by converting from a traditional bread-winner’s society to one that coaxed women, including mothers and caregivers, into the labour market, a senior government official of the Netherlands told the women's anti-discrimination Committee today as, during two meetings, it considered the country's compliance with the Women's Convention.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, comprising 23 experts from around the world, monitors compliance with the provisions of the 168-member Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Operational since 1981, it requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights.  An Optional Protocol of December 2000 –- ratified by

21 States parties -- entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies.  It also entitles it to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention.

Introducing the second and third periodic reports of the Netherlands,

A.E. Verstand-Bogaert, Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment, said a genuine revolution had taken place in the labour market, and the participation of women in the workplace had soared.  Internationally, the Netherlands had trailed behind for years in terms of the number of working women, given the formerly strict division of work and care between men and women.  Even now, there was evidence of the persistence of a “bread-winner” society with respect to the number of women in senior professions and the number who had small "participation-time" jobs without economic independence.

Dutch society still had far too many traces of that societal model, she said.  The opening hours of shops, medical facilities and libraries were still not coordinated with modern working and living patterns.  School hours were also still based on the old pattern in which the mother was always at home.  In many cases, working hours were still based on the traditional 9-to-5 pattern.

Responding to the presentation, experts applauded what they described as a very progressive emancipation policy.  Particularly commendable had been the establishment of an independent commission in charge of the analysis of the Convention's implementation.  One expert remarked that the country seemed to have leaped out ahead of the others in adopting legislation on behalf of the civil and human rights of both men and women.  At the same time, members warned of the remnants of a once discriminatory society and asked about the country’s attitude towards positive action. 

Much attention was focused on the recent abolition of the ban on brothels, in effect since January 1999.  Representatives of the Ministry of Justice said that the Dutch Government was profoundly aware that the public was divided on the subject of prostitution and the way in which the Government should deal with it.  It had been widely debated, in both Parliament and society.  There was respect for the view that prostitution was an affront to human dignity and also for the view that sex for money among consenting adults had nothing to do with human dignity and should, therefore, be allowed.

The reports on compliance by the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba -– two autonomous parts of the Netherlands -- were presented by Dirk Jan van den Berg, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands.  He said that since its first appearance before the Committee in 1994, the Government of the Netherlands Antilles had striven towards the full implementation of the Women’s Convention.  A new civil code of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba had come into force, making defunct a number of discriminatory laws, thus granting women equal rights in matters of marriage and family.

On the situation in Aruba, he said a National Bureau of Women’s Affairs had been established there in 1996.  That had played an important role in raising awareness of the rights of women and existing discriminatory provisions of the law.  It also paid special attention to the traditional attitudes and practices, under which women were regarded as subordinate

Several experts expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of representation at the hearing from either the Netherlands Antilles or Aruba.

The delegation from the Netherlands also included:  G. Bekman and F.J. van Houwelingen of the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment; H.J.B. Karreman and L.J.M. Ling Ket On of the Ministry of Justice; and A. Tiems of the Department for Mental Health Care, Care and Treatment of Drug Addicts and Social Care, Ministry for Public Health, Social Welfare and Sport.

The Committee is expected to begin its consideration of the initial and second periodic reports of Singapore at 10 a.m. Monday, 9 July.

Background

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to begin its consideration of the second and third period reports of the Netherlands (documents CEDAW/C/NET/2 and CEDAW/C/NET/3), submitted in compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Also before the Committee were addenda on the Netherlands Antilles (document CEDAW/C/NET/2/Add.1) and Aruba (document CEDAW/C/NET/2/Add.2).

According to the second periodic report, dated 15 March 1999, a committee subdivided the principal aim of the Women's Convention into three sub-aims:  to achieve complete equality for women before the law and in public life; to improve the position of women by doing everything possible to eliminate discrimination and abolish existing inequalities in society; and to combat the dominant gender-based ideology.  The authors stress that not only the identity of individuals, but also the structure and culture of society, are determined by established and, hence, dominant views on what are deemed to be typically male and female characteristics.  These views lead to the assignment of different roles to men and women, with the role of women often being subordinate to that of men.

The report states that these three sub-aims are also reflected in the Government's emancipation policy.  By analogy with these sub-aims, policy is formulated at three different, interconnected levels and can ultimately result in the achievement of fundamental changes in society.  The aim of the measures at level 1 is to ensure that men and women are equal before the law and public life.  This is a precondition that must be fulfilled if the principal aim of the Convention is to be achieved, but it is not sufficient in itself.  Measures at level 2 are designed to ensure that this formal equality before the law can also be realized in practice.  These policy measures are intended to improve the position of women and, at the same time, promote diversity as a means of enhancing the quality of society.

Continuing, the report states that this form of policy is another precondition that must be fulfilled, but it will also be insufficient if the structure and culture of society continue to be based on outmoded ideas about the role of men and women.  These views will not change by themselves; it will be necessary to stimulate the change.  This is why measures at level 3 are required.  These are intended to do away with stereotypes and outdated views on gender.  In short, they involve a strategy of seeking ways of promoting and supporting cultural change.  The progress made by the Netherlands in fulfilling its obligation under the Convention is dealt with in the report at the three levels just described.

Measures to help implement the Convention are being taken through the central Government in the Netherlands, the report finds.  The measures at the first level, which are aimed at achieving the formal equality of men and women, have virtually been completed.  Even at the time of the previous report, the Netherlands was well advanced in this respect.  In the past few years, the authorities have continued to develop and perfect legislation on equal treatment and have removed any remaining inequalities in legislation as and when they came apparent.  In the future, it will mainly be a matter of achieving equal treatment in practice, too.  This will be accomplished on the basis both of the legislation and accompanying case law and of the supporting policy.

The report states that the Dutch authorities are now directing most of their efforts towards the second level of policy.  They are investing heavily in measures that can help ensure that men and women have equal opportunities in practice, too.  The increase in the number of working women and their equal participation in education at all levels are clear evidence that this policy is actually bearing fruit.  The Government will continue measures at this level in the future.  The small proportion of men performing unpaid care and the occupational segregation of men and women show that the process of achieving equality is not yet complete.  Through the policy, the authorities are promoting the development of an emancipated society in which each individual has the opportunity to participate in different areas of life.  In such a society, differences between people no longer constitute a problem; instead, diversity is regarded as an enrichment of society.

The third level of policy, the report continues, is also essential to the development of an emancipated society.  This involves support for a change of culture in which people's thinking and behaviour are influenced by the realization that diversity is an enrichment of society and that individuals have the right to combine activities in different spheres of life.  This process of cultural change will be accompanied by the disappearance of traditional, and now outmoded, views and perceptions about femininity and masculinity.  The authorities can facilitate these changes by commissioning and developing instruments that reveal these entrenched attitudes and by developing, supporting and demonstrating alternatives.  It is essential in this connection to continue to ensure that policy-makers inside and outside government acquire the necessary expertise.

The report concludes that policy at this third level is still evolving.  In recent years, the authorities have started to develop instruments and alternatives and have made greater progress in some fields than in others.  Equally, it is apparent that it is not always clear what action should be taken in particular fields.  The Dutch authorities will continue, therefore, to invest in this third level of policy in the future.  For its part, the Convention does more than just create obligations for the authorities.  It provides a framework for reviewing legislation, policy and the implementation of policy.  It is essential, therefore, that all those involved in taking political, administrative, judicial and social decisions should be familiar with the Convention. 

The third periodic report, dated 22 November 2000, covers a two-year period since the review of the second report, rather than the usual four-year interval prescribed by the Convention in order to put the international reporting process back on schedule.  Because of the far shorter than normal interval, the third report merely updates the second.  Following an introduction in Chapter 1,

Chapter 2 of the report deals with the Government's general emancipation policy, which provides a structural guarantee of its continued interest in improving the position of women.  The multi-year policy plan on emancipation and the forthcoming multi-year policy plan contain many references to policy interventions in a wide range of areas.  These relate to activities in the fields of legislation, practical implementation and cultural change. 

Chapter 3 of the report focuses on the prevention and elimination of violence against women.  This is connected with the substantial efforts which the Dutch Government is committed to putting into this kind of action now and in the future.  In addition, the recently published fourth in-depth study undertaken under the Women's Convention is devoted to this subject.  (The study is summarized in annex 1 of the report).  Chapter 4 deals with trafficking in women and prostitution.  Although the Convention demands that States should combat these activities, the Netherlands takes a different view.  This chapter provides a detailed discussion of the reasons for its attitude.  Chapter 5 considers the position of women in political and public life, including opportunities for them to represent their governments at national and international levels.  This chapter distinguishes between women's participation in politics, on the one hand, and in public office and other forms of public life, on the other.

Chapter 6, on nationality rights and legislation on aliens, addresses the position of women who hold dependent residence permits in the Netherlands.  Chapter 7 concerns formal and non-formal education.  It not only discusses the position of women as compared to men, but also focuses more especially on the position of girls/women from ethnic minorities.  In addition, it concerns not only the recipients of education, but also the position of women working in education (especially in management posts) and of women in the advisory and decision-making sphere.  Chapter 8 deals with facilitating the combination of paid work and care.  Topics include measures to make women more independent by improving their job prospects and incomes.  The chapter relates to the obligations deriving from articles 11, which concerns employment discrimination, and 13 on elimination of discrimination in other areas of economic and social life.

Chapter 9 reports on health care and welfare.  It looks in particular at the position of older women, elderly lesbians and women with disabilities in the health care and social welfare fields.  Chapter 10 reports principally on the position of women in agriculture.  In the context of the law of persons and family law, the subject of Chapter 11, there is little to add to previous reports as regards the equal treatment of men and women.  This chapter, however, does discuss family law provision for same-sex partners.

Annex I of the report contains an in-depth study on the prevention and elimination of violence against women and an overview of the recommendations of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on this subject.  Upon ratification of the Women's Convention in 1991, the Parliament decided to establish a national procedure, one aim of which is to promote and contribute to the public debate on equal opportunities issues.  The study on gender-based violence was commissioned in December 1999 and launched in the spring of 2000.  It centred on the question of the significance of the Convention in preventing and eliminating such violence.  Its three main goals were to gain insight into the human rights aspects of the prevention and elimination of violence against women, to concretize the obligations from the Convention with regard to violence against women, and to determine whether Dutch policy on the subject meets those obligations.

The study concludes, among other things, that Dutch policy has not always taken sufficient account of the fact that the problem of violence against women is a human rights issue.  Recent policy documents have been written from a broad human rights angle.  The policies published after 1990 no longer assume that such violence is a result of structural inequality between men and women.  Policy on the issue should be firmly anchored in equal opportunities policy.  Further, policy is now formulated in gender-neutral terms.  In addition, domestic violence does not always receive proper attention.  Far more efforts are being made to eradicate violence in the public rather than the private sphere.  Moreover, its eradication should be given high priority in Dutch policy, given the obligations implicit in the Convention.  Also, policy is poorly coordinated.  A number of ministries have developed their own policies on violence against women or on equal opportunities, while others have developed none.

Dutch policy on the question of trafficking in women and prostitution, contained in Chapter 4, is expected to feature prominently in discussions.  The report finds that the number of women seeking help from the Organization against Trafficking in Women has grown steadily since 1995, and that the majority of women are from Central and Eastern Europe.  Dutch criminal law distinguishes between traffic in persons and the smuggling of persons.  Trafficking is essentially defined as any action which contributes to making a person engage in prostitution against their will, and profiting in any way from prostitution engaged in by someone against their will.  The provision applies to men and boys, as well as women and girls.  Smuggling of persons is defined as bringing a person into the Netherlands or the territory of the Schengen countries or helping them to enter those territories illegally, with a view to obtaining financial gain.  Traffic does not necessarily mean bringing a person into the country illegally, while those who are smuggled into the country do not necessarily become prostitutes. 

Concerning the abolition of the ban on brothels, the report states that the Dutch Government is of the view that prostitution and brothels are facts of life and that neither can be eradicated by legislation.  Lifting the prohibition on brothels that employ adults who voluntarily engage in prostitution will make it possible to set the profession on the right track, to make it as decent, safe and transparent as possible, and free of the crime often associated with it.  At the same time, firm action must be taken to stop enforced prostitution, prostitution involving minors, and other unacceptable exploitation.  It will also enable the authorities to introduce and enforce measures to protect the health and safety of sex workers. 

Introduction of Reports

A.E. VERSTAND-BOGAERT, Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands, introduced the country’s second and third reports.  She said that, during the past decades, a genuine revolution had taken place in the labour market.  The participation of women in the workplace had soared.  Now, women’s level of labour participation was at 52 per cent.  In an international context, the Netherlands had trailed behind for years in terms of the number of working women.  There had been a strict division of work and care between men and women.  Even now, there was evidence of that “breadwinner’s model” of society with respect to the number of women in senior professions and the number who have small jobs without economic independence.

“We are proud of the way we have been catching up”, she said, adding that, at the same time, the goal had still not been achieved.  The Dutch Government, therefore, would remain firm on accelerating the emancipation process even further.  The report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was concluded in August 2000, but since then, it had not been idle.  In that time, the Government published the Multi-Year Plan on Emancipation Policy, which sets out comprehensive policy guidelines for the near future.  It was important to set concrete targets.  Measures to stimulate the increase of paid participation of women in the labour market were aimed at achieving the goal of 65 per cent participation by 2010.  Another policy objective was to employ 60 per cent of the women –- who mostly held part-time jobs -– in a way that would give them economic independence.

She said that the labour participation of women was the spearhead of the emancipation policy.  Paid employment was a prerequisite for economic independence.  Moreover, economic independence of women contributed to a more equal balance of power in private lives, which proved to be the most effective instrument for preventing and combating violence against women, as research had shown.  Indeed, violence against women very often occurred in a domestic situation.  In addition, employment offered a chance for self-development, social participation and social networks.  In the modern economy, with its ageing population, the contribution of women would become indispensable.  Greater labour participation, however, could only be achieved in tandem with a reallocation of care tasks between men and women.

That was why child-care provisions were so important.  The Dutch Government thought it was equally important to provide possibilities that enabled employees (both men and women) to have paid leave in order to take care of a sick child, a sick partner, or a sick parent.  The House of Representatives just adopted the Work and Care Bill, which provided, in addition to a number of existing leave provisions, for a four-week leave for both adoption or foster parents, the possibility to make flexible use of the entitled three months parental leave, a maximum of 10 days’ leave per parent per year to care for a sick child, partner or parent.  The Bill must do away with the idea that the woman was the obvious person to take on the care tasks.  It was part of modern labour relations and of the reallocation of care tasks that men could equally well take on those tasks.  In that sense, the emancipation policy was explicitly aimed at men, as well.

Referring to her earlier comment that Dutch society still retained far too many traces of the “breadwinner’s model” of society, she said that opening hours of shops, medical facilities and libraries were still not coordinated with the modern working and living pattern requirements.  School hours were also still based on the pattern of a “breadwinner’s society” in which the mother was always at home.  Working hours were, in many cases, still based on the traditional

9-to-5 pattern.  Even spatial and urban planning and housing projects were still strongly dominated by the traditional stereotypes.  To change that traditional pattern, a “Daily Routine” project had been set up.  That was aimed at a better alignment of education, childcare and leisure facilities.

She said that her Government was also vigorously addressing the subject of gender mainstreaming.  By definition, all departments bore a responsibility in that regard.  Each one had formulated at least three concrete, measurable emancipation tasks, which had to be accomplished by the end of the present term.  A new tax system had been introduced, aimed at significant improvements for the promotion of the economic independence of women.  Currently, a tax measure was being prepared to stimulate women who had stopped working to re-enter the job market.  Also, her ministry was charting the economic value of unpaid labour in order to demonstrate that care in itself was of social importance that had an added value for the economy, too.

The Minister of the Interior was working on expanding the number of black, ethnic minority and refugee women in local councils, by organizing special training for those groups, she said.  The Minister of Justice had submitted to Parliament a draft plan of action to combat domestic violence, which was still a “very serious” problem in the Netherlands.  Some 200,000 women became the victims of abuse by their partner or ex-partner each year.  A crucial element in the plan of action was effective cooperation between the various parties concerned, such as the police force, the courts and educational institutions. Further, opportunities would be expanded for punishing the perpetrators of domestic violence more severely:  the maximum penalty would be increased and the perpetrator could be placed in temporary detention. 

Elaborating on the Government’s two-track approach in its emancipation policy, she said that the first track promoted change, placed new issues on the political agenda, developed new instruments for such operations as monitoring, and created strategic alliances with social organization on the basis of an overall vision.  The second track concerned gender mainstreaming.  The Cabinet had recently determined a strategy and structure for gender mainstreaming, which were binding for all departments.  That structure included, among other bodies, a monitoring committee.  She was convinced that such agreements would give major impetus to the emancipation policy, as well as to the effectiveness and quality of the policy, in general. 

In order to accelerate that process, it was important that mainstreaming would not be limited to the various departments and that emancipation should be more than a theme of women’s organizations.  Other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), partners in society, official advisory bodies to the Government, and the business community should be involved.  Women’s organizations should not only turn to the member of the Government who was responsible for the emancipation policy, but also apply to all policymakers, both private and public.  Emancipation needed more than legislation and regulation; it needed social support.  For that was primarily a process of awareness raising, namely, an awareness that society would “let talents go to waste” if women were treated as second-rate citizens.  Indeed, awareness was a prerequisite for commitment and cooperation to change.

She said that in modern society standard solutions were no longer adequate.  There were many differences between men and women, between generations, between cultures.  There were also differences in life phases, in life patterns and lifestyles.  A sound emancipation policy was actually aware of that diversity.  For its parts, the Women’s Convention had been a major impulse for the amelioration of the position of women worldwide, as well as in the Netherlands.  The constructive dialogue, the reports of governments, and the critical inputs from NGOs kept everyone alert to matters of the Convention’s implementation.  Although much had been achieved in her country, in had not reached its final goal.  In the process, it would continue to propagate the notion that women, men and society had much to gain from the emancipation of both women and men.

Comments by Chairperson

Committee Chairperson CHARLOTTE ABAKA (Ghana) said the appointment of a Special Rapporteur for trafficking in women was indeed a yardstick.  She sincerely hoped that the Netherlands would be able to convince the European Union membership to follow suit.  Indeed, every country should establish such an office, as trafficking in women and children was a very serious concern.  Similarly, the preparation for the establishment of an equal treatment information centre was another very commendable innovation.  She would be very interested, even before the country’s next report to the Committee, in receiving information on those two initiatives.  That would be participation in the learning process for the experts and everyone concerned. 

Ms. Abaka then returned to the introduction of reports.

Presenting the situation in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) said that those were two autonomous parts of the Netherlands.  The first Constitution of the Netherlands Antilles was enacted by the Dutch Parliament in 1865.  It had since been revised several times.  His Government was responsible for foreign relations and defence, and the 1954 “Statuut” -- the Kingdom’s Charter -- was the principal statutory instrument regulating internal self-government for the islands of Antilles, as well as of Aruba, which acquired an autonomous status in 1986.

Since its first appearance before the Committee in 1994, the Government of the Netherlands Antilles had continued to work towards the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, he continued.  Despite a difficult financial situation, there were important achievements in the strengthening of the legal position of women there.  The situation in the Antilles was characterized by a profound restructuring of public finances, as well as of the Government.  The focus of public policy was also being reviewed, and an adjustment programme was being executed.  Lagging economic development remained a serious problem.

During the period under review, a new civil code of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba had come into force, making defunct a number of discriminatory laws and granting women equal rights in issues pertaining to marriage and family.  In particular, under the amendments relating to divorce, a marriage could now be terminated at the request of one of the spouses.  Irretrievable breakdown had been designated the only legal grounds for divorce.  Formerly, there had been four legal reasons for divorce, which required consent of both spouses to the dissolution of the marriage.  Also, the legal difference between children born in a marriage and out of wedlock had been eliminated, and the age of majority had been lowered to 18 years.  Some of the other changes provided protection to domestic servants, who in the past had often fallen victim to exploitation at the hands of their employers.

He went on to describe the economic policy of the Government, which aimed to establish a favourable investment climate on the islands.  Several laws had been enacted, aimed at a more flexible labour market.  The Government was providing better protection for female workers by outlawing labour contract termination on the basis of marriage and pregnancy.  In order to combat growing violence against women, sections of the penal code had been amended last year in order to increase maximum punishment for sexual offences.  The punishment for rape had been increased from 12 to 20 years, and for sexual harassment from eight to 16 years.  Special training was being provided for members of the police force to sensitize them to the needs of domestic violence victims.  Women on several islands had been very active in raising consciousness about domestic and sexual violence against women.

Regional cooperation on gender issues was being expanded between Aruba, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, he said, seeking to provide additional support to national efforts to achieve gender equality in the countries involved.  Education, decision-making and the media were the main areas of concern for the coming years. 

Turning to the situation in Aruba, he said that a National Bureau of Women’s Affairs had been established there in 1996.  It had played an important role in raising awareness of the rights of women and existing discriminatory provisions of the law.  It also paid special attention to traditional attitudes and practices, under which women were regarded as subordinate.  Due to the limited resources available to the Bureau, most projects were carried out in the context of regional cooperation, initiated between Aruba, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles in 1996. 

In March 2000, the agreement on cooperation between the parties concerned was extended for another three years, he continued.  The projects would be further developed on job training for women; gender awareness training for the media; education on sexuality and reproductive health of teenage mothers; and violence against women.  A regional meeting was being planned on the topic of women’s leadership and participation in decision-making.  To realize the main gender goals, the Bureau intended to work in close cooperation with all governmental agencies, NGOs and community groups.  The Government also wanted to instal a population committee to monitor demographic and social trends and issue advice on population and social issues. 

Aruba’s new Civil Code, which would enter into force next January, would abolish a large number of discriminatory provisions, he said.  Last year, a general medical insurance scheme had become effective in Aruba, providing coverage for people who had not been insured before.  Efforts were under way to counteract violence against women.  The Foundation for Women in Distress had organized a shelter for battered women, and the Parliament was working on draft amendments to the Criminal Code.  Of great importance also was the establishment of the UNAIDS Theme Group in May 1999 for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in Aruba. 

Outlining the remaining areas of concern, he said that although women on the average had attained the same educational level as men and were increasingly participating in the labour market, sex segregation in the workplace remained.  Female employment was concentrated in the lower-skilled and lower-paid occupations.  Legislation regarding maternity leave and sickness benefits still needed to be adjusted.  A policy which would allow families to combine work and childcare was being developed.  It would provide for flexible working hours, part-time work and childcare.  Participation of women in politics and decision-making was increasing rather slowly and remained far from proportionate to the size of the female population and its contribution to the economy. 

The Government believed that efforts to make the community at large more aware of the stereotypical roles and the subordinate position of women would in the long run lead to the elimination of violence against women and sex segregation in education and the labour market.  It was also aware of the need to provide comprehensive measures to support the family in its care-giving tasks, which would allow women to take on leadership positions. 

Comments and Questions from Experts

The Committee’s CHAIRPERSON said that she was particularly happy to find out about the legal reforms going on in the islands, which had outlawed many discriminatory provisions.  Sensitization training concerning domestic violence was also commendable.  She suggested extending training to the entire law enforcement system and providing such training to health-care providers.  It was also commendable that the Government of Aruba had established the gender equality machinery.

Several speakers in the discussion expressed appreciation for the efforts launched in the country in implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol. 

An expert from Turkey said that it was particularly gratifying to see recent efforts to address women’s issues in the Netherlands -- for as a developed country, it had trailed considerably in women’s equality issues for many years. She also wanted to know about so-called “hidden discrimination”, citing the country’s seeming reluctance to institute special measures for the promotion of women.  Gender-based segregation regarding education disciplines was of particular concern.

She also inquired about recent data on the situation of women members of academia.  Her other questions concerned the situation of women members of ethnic groups and proactive measures to combat discrimination against women in education.  Women’s rights to education and freedom from violence needed to be particularly emphasized in respect of ethnic minority women. 

Several speakers also asked for justification of the existence in the Netherlands of a political party which barred women from membership on the grounds of religious freedom.

Speaking in her personal capacity, the CHAIRPERSON asked about the situation of migrant workers, wondering if were there certain areas where migrant workers were not supposed to live.  She also inquired about the status of the Antilles and Aruba and asked if they had prepared their parts of the reports themselves.

An expert from Germany said that the Convention had become a living document in the Netherlands, but there seemed to be a controversy regarding the interpretation of some articles.  For example, some recommendations on parenthood had not been accepted by the Government.  Not many target-setting policies could be found in the report, and she wanted to know more about that.  As Dutch society was becoming increasingly multi-cultural, she asked how the Government was going to cater to various cultures and religious groups, while upholding the provisions of the Convention.  She also requested details about the role of the monitoring committee, which had been proposed by the Government as a major gender-policy assessment tool. 

The lack of legislation providing for overtime payment for part-time workers seemed to be an example of hidden discrimination.  The number of employed women needed to grow, and women should reach higher echelons of decision-making.  The issue of pay equity needed to be addressed more energetically than in the past.  She also wanted to know more about the situation of working women, including single female heads of households.  Her other questions included queries on labour relations and the new tax bill.

The expert from Italy stressed the importance of the fact that in the Netherlands, an independent commission was in charge of the analysis of the implementation of the Convention and its aims.  Her general impression was that the country had far outstripped others in adopting legislation on behalf of the civil and human rights of the population.  Many mechanisms had been put in place, but from the reports, she could not see the real situation of women in the country.  For example, although the report spoke about the gender-impact assessment as an important tool of equality advancement, the impact of its application was not quite clear. 

What exactly was the country’s attitude towards positive action?  It seemed that special measures were not actively pursued in the country, although the Government itself was not quite satisfied with the level of women’s participation in decision-making.  Regarding the work and care bill, she said that it needed sufficient support structures for childcare.  She also noted the lack of targets to accelerate emancipation policies and asked about the incorporation of the elderly in health-care programmes; health insurance; trafficking in women; the ban on brothels; the role of NGOs in the Antilles and in Aruba; and the social protection of sex workers, who represented a vulnerable section of the population.

Country Response

Responding to the initial comments and questions of experts, Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT said the procedure to ratify the Optional Protocol had begun.  Her hope was that it would be ratified by early 2002.  Concerning the pay gap between men and women, there was indeed a net pay gap of 25 per cent between men and women on the issue of equal pay for equal work.  That was not as bad as it seemed, however, given that part of the pay gap was caused by the lower education of women, their relative lack of  experience, earlier retirement owing to children, and later

re-entry into the labour market.  She did not know if the pay gap of 7 per cent was all due to discrimination, although a major part of that must be.  There was an equal treatment commission, to which men or women could bring their complaints, and some measures were being taken together with the country's social partners. 

Continuing, she said an action plan on equal pay had been presented last year.  That was designed to stimulate organizations of employers and employees to take up the issue.  Meanwhile, the Government was financially supporting efforts to develop a checklist.  It was also considering ways of supporting trade unions and employers’ organizations by developing an instrument with which job evaluation systems could be tested for their gender neutrality.  An optimum method based on an analysis of existing methods of identifying and remedying sex discrimination in job evaluations had been developed.  Also, the equal treatment commission would have an opportunity to conduct research on the problem.  he issue of horizontal segregation, which affected the pay gap between men and women, was also being studied.

To a question about the number of women professors at the university level, she said that, indeed, only 5 per cent of university-level professors were female, and added that that was a very bad figure.  A few years ago, the Government launched a law on the equal representation of men and women in primary schools and universities.  The first results were in, and had not been very positive.  Thus, the Dutch Government was continuing efforts to secure more appointments of female professors.  The University of Amsterdam had found a very creative solution, which involved appointing seven female professors for one day each week.  That illustrated universities' understanding of the seriousness of the problem and the call for more creative efforts. 

There were great differences among the various ethnic groups in Dutch society, she replied to another question.  There were also big differences between all of those groups and between later generations, which were often better educated and employed.  Because of the differences, it had been difficult to develop an adequate policy.  Nevertheless, the Government had installed a special commission to consider that issue, in order to pave the way for the development of a policy.  It would advise the Government at the end of the year.

She said that special attention was being paid to children of ethnic minorities.  For example, there were special language programmes to give them a good start.  There was also an opportunity for mothers to attend special training classes, which were supported by child-care facilities.  On the question of segregation in housing, ethnic minorities could live wherever they pleased, but a lot of them chose to live with each other.  While that had been their choice, it had negatively affected their integration into society.  There was a special ministry for integration policy and it was their special concern to solve problems and develop related policies.

One expert had concluded that the Convention was a living document in the Netherlands, she said.  Indeed, it was living, "but not living enough".  So the Government was investing in its dissemination.  In terms of target-setting, the multi-year plan on emancipation policy contained a lot of targets concerning women in the labour market.  In terms of increasing women's participation in local politics and at the senior levels of business and society, an increase of 5 per cent for their political election would be maintained until proportional representation was realized.  In public and business sector participation at the senior levels, where the proportion was currently under 10 per cent, targets were based on doubling that figure in the next four years, followed by annual growth of 2 per cent each year.

On gender mainstreaming, she referred to a question about whether there were sanctions for departments that did not fulfil their tasks in that connection.  She said there was only a political penalty, adding that the House of Representatives was becoming ever more active on the issue.  It had recently asked several ministers to inform the Parliament on recent efforts in that regard.  Thus, a sense of political responsibility was serving to motivate. The main responsibility for gender mainstreaming activities lay with the different ministries and departments, but an interdepartmental structure had been developed to support the process.  All departments were obligated to develop their own plan of action.  In relation to gender-impact assessment, there was an advisory structure involving all department representatives.

In terms of non-married parents with children, women without partners but with children under five were not obliged to work, she said.  A discussion had been held recently to renew and modernize that law.  It would be changed in a way that supported that group through reintegration training, education, and access to

childcare.  It was important for women not to stay away from the labour market too long because it was very difficult to find paid work later.

She said that the flexible working hours act had given employees the right to request more or fewer working hours.  Only by proving the serious economic hardship of a company could an employer deny such a request.  In terms of overtime allowances, a special act on discrimination against part-time workers forbade such discrimination.

F.J. VAN HOUWELINGEN, also of the Ministry, said in response to another question that the Constitution and various codes and acts all prohibited both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex and other factors.  She would pursue some further research on indirect discrimination for the afternoon meeting.

Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT, replying to another question, said that the Equal Opportunities Act, Equal Treatment Act, and Equal Working Hours Act gave Dutch women the opportunity to complain about discrimination in the work place.  Currently, such a complaint was before the Equal Treatment Commission.

Concerning a question about elderly women, she said that through the Daily Routine Project, the Government was very alert to the problems faced by elderly women and people with reduced incomes.  A current experiment was the formulation of a care provision for elderly men and women.

Afternoon Discussion

Concluding her responses to the first round of questions, Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT said that before the law on work and care had been launched, pregnancy had been legally treated as a sickness.  Until recently, under the disability act, there was also a long waiting period for the pregnant women applying for benefits.  As noted by the experts, the lack of childcare for a number of part-time working women was, indeed, a problem, and the Government was considering that problem now.

Regarding the names of newborns, she said that under previous legislation any child whose father acknowledged paternity automatically received the father’s name.  Now, the parents had a choice regarding that issue.  On small NGOs, she said that the subsidy system existed in the country, under which certain women’s organizations could apply for benefits. 

Additional Comments by Experts

The expert from Sweden said that, as far as he understood, the decisions of the equal rights commission were not legally binding, but it could refer cases of discrimination to courts.  Could individuals bring cases before courts, as well?  Regarding trafficking, he asked if the victims of that activity could apply for asylum in the Netherlands citing gender-based prosecution.  He also wanted to receive information about the expulsion system, asking if the country provided guarantees that the victims of trafficking did not go back to the hands of the offenders.

The expert from Egypt said that the same will to improve the situation of women that the Netherlands demonstrated in Europe, should be seen in regard of the Antilles and Aruba.  The role of the Netherlands was extremely important there, and she wanted it to be more positive.  She also pointed out that the number of Dutch women as heads of diplomatic missions was very low.

She went on to say that xenophobia and its influence on the rights of women might require more efforts on behalf of the Government, including actions to improve the situation of immigrant women and those seeking asylum. 

The expert from Saint Kitts and Nevis commented on the absence of the delegates from the Antilles and Aruba.  She understood that those countries were autonomous, but it was the Government of the Netherlands that was responsible for foreign relations and defence there.  The commitments to international conventions and treaties fell under the foreign affairs aspects, and it was the duty of the Netherlands to ensure that the Antilles and Aruba were in compliance with numerous international instruments.  She was also concerned about the national women’s machinery; some parts of it seemed to have been downsized in those territories.

Women’s economic independence was a source of concern, she continued, and the presence of the pay gap based on lower education and lower work experience showed that women were not “playing on a level field”.  Regarding home violence, she said that merely putting women to work could not resolve the issue, for incidents were well known when employed women with good salaries were abused at home.  That situation must be tackled by addressing the traditional beliefs, increasing public awareness, providing counselling and putting in place structures to ensure enforcement of the law.  The problems of childcare and home responsibilities also needed to be considered.  The problem should be addressed in a holistic manner, remembering that employment did not automatically lead to economic independence.

The Cuban expert asked how the problems of minority women were reflected in the employment laws, and what measures were being taken to counteract the manifestations of racism and xenophobia that were becoming more widely spread in Europe.  How were the issues of the vulnerable sectors of the population being addressed, especially in the areas of health and education?  In connection with the economic crisis in the Antilles and Aruba, she asked about the policies for the poor. 

On the permission to freely operate the houses of prostitution, she remarked that prostitution was a clear manifestation of discrimination and even violence against women.  Women needed assistance and support to adjust to the employment market.  She did not really understand how prostitution could be discouraged if the Government permitted so-called “zones of tolerance” for immigrants with work permits.  Also, according to the report, domestic servants in Aruba were mostly foreign, lacking important rights, and she wanted to know how their rights were being protected.

Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT, replying to a question about the Equal Treatment Commission, said that both an individual and the Commission had the right to petition the court for a binding ruling. 

With regard to trafficking in women, a Ministry of Justice representative, said there were provisions for granting asylum for gender-based prosecution.  There were also provisions for granting residence permits to victims of trafficking in women.  Those were two different categories.  The granting of residence permits applied to a victim of trafficking who could be granted a temporary residence permit or possibly a permanent one on humanitarian grounds.  Victims were given three months to decide whether they wished to press charges, during which time they could remain in the Netherlands and take advantage of financial, legal and other services.

To a question about provisions for female asylum seekers, she said the country had special provisions for them.  There were procedural instructions   that were based on a gender inclusive approach and referred to the societal significance of masculinity and femininity.  Those cases should be assessed in the social context of the country of origin.  Gender was not regarded as grounds for prosecution.  The Dutch Government was currently evaluating its procedure for asylum seekers.

Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT, nothing that one expert had expressed surprised about the political party in the Netherlands that had refused the membership of certain women, commented that the Equal Treatment Commission currently had a complaint of a woman who had been barred from joining that political party.  Its ruling would not be binding, so the Dutch Government or the Commission or the woman would go to court.  The Government would await the ruling and make its demand afterwards.

Regarding female members of the judiciary, she said they comprised 38 per cent.  Unhappily, the number of female ambassadors was only at 10 per cent.  For female members of both the judiciary and foreign service, concrete targets had been set under the emancipation policy.

Another expert had pointed out that the economic independence of women was not the only means towards improving the status of women.  She was right, but in the opinion of the Dutch Government, it was a spearhead of the emancipation policy.  A few months ago, an in-depth study was launched on the Convention and one of the recommendations was that economic independence was an important condition for combating domestic violence.  Of course, it was not the only point.  Emotional dependency and the presence of children also played a role in women’s decisions.

To questions about efforts to combat sexual violence, she said that 165 recommendations had emerged from a recent report.  On that basis, the Government would develop a comprehensive plan to combat sexual violence in all forms, including domestic violence.  A project plan had already been launched.  Preparation of the comprehensive plan would involve all NGOs concerned with the issue.

To a series of questions about the situation in the Antilles and Aruba,

Mr. VAN DEN BERG said it had been clearly understood by the experts that they should look upon the Netherlands as a kingdom of three countries that shared only a common defence and foreign policy.  Antilles and Aruba were fully autonomous in the way they conducted their national policies.  So there was no mechanism for deferral to The Hague.  They were fully responsible for their own policy formulation and reporting.

Replying to questions about Dutch development aid and the Antilles, he said that because of the kingdom’s structure, no development aid formally went to the Antilles.  Most of the money given to Antilles -- $200 million per year -– was consumed by coast guard operations.  In Aruba, the economy had been reformed in a way that made it more or less self-sufficient.  Therefore, not much development assistance went to Aruba.  The responsibility for implementing international agreements rested with the Foreign Affairs Ministries and local authorities of Antilles and Aruba.  Urging implementation of international agreements through the formulation of national policies was not possible, since the Netherlands could not insist on their adoption of certain internationally agreed measures.  However, it certainly made its expertise available. 

Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT, responding to questions on the position of women ethnic minorities, said that special attention was being paid to those groups in order to stimulate their social and labour market participation.  It was critical to know about their problems in detail, including the incidence of domestic violence.  Thus, the cultural planning bureau had been asked to provide data on the many different ethnic minority groups.  One of its main recommendations had been to better analyse the position of all of those groups.  Thus, a related commission was asked to do so and submit its recommendations.  The formulation of action plans on domestic or sexual violence would pay special attention to ethnic minority women. 

Concerning a series of questions about lifting of the ban on brothels,

J.J.B. Karreman, of the Ministry of Justice, said that the Dutch Government was profoundly aware that the public was divided on the subject of prostitution and the way in which the Government should deal with it.  It had been widely debated, in both Parliament and society.  There was respect for the view that prostitution was an affront to human dignity and also for the view that sex for money among consenting adults had nothing to do with human dignity and should, therefore, be allowed.  Prostitution was an inescapable fact of life; it had always existed and it always would.  Governments could take firm action to prevent the exploitation of prostitutes. 

She said that the reasoning behind the new legislation was that criminalizing brothels and enforcing the prohibition had been ineffective in terms of getting a grip on prostitution and tackling the crime associated with it.  Prostitutes should be able to work of their own free will.  The authorities could steer prostitution in the right direction -- clean it up and make it safe and transparent and free of the crime that surrounded it.  It could also take a tough stand on people who forced women and minors into prostitution.  An effective and coordinated enforcement of the provisions of criminal law was necessary on that practice, as well as on trafficking.

Continuing, she said the new Dutch legislation aimed to control and regulate prostitution by introducing a local licensing system, among others measures.  It sought more effective action against involuntary prostitution and the protection of minors against sexual abuse, as well as the protection of sex workers.  It also aimed to break the link between prostitutes and the offences commonly associated with their practice, and to reduce the scale of prostitution involving illegal aliens.  A parliamentary majority held that it would be more effective to legalize brothels and issue licenses rather than ignore the law against them.  The new law should be seen as aiming to eliminate sexual violence and abuse.  Any legislation on public morality was the outcome of weighing up the conflicting interests while, at the same time, protecting individuals from interference in their personal lives.  It was not the aim of Dutch criminal law to foster morality –- but to protect those who were forced.

Comments by Experts

Several experts congratulated the Netherlands for appointing a national rapporteur on trafficking in people, including women and children.  In this connection, the expert from the Philippines said that since transnational crime required an international approach, she wanted to know what the Netherlands planned to do to communicate with the countries of origin.  Was the Netherlands a signatory of the Second Optional Protocol to the Convention on Transnational Crime regarding the trafficking of people, including women and children?

She added that the programmes within the Netherlands in implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women were far more lucrative than those in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.  Charity should begin at home, and more needed to be done in implementation of the Convention there.

On the recruitment of domestic labour from the developing countries, she said that the original intention of the au pair system had been to increase cultural connection with other countries.  Since then, however, the immigration laws had been tightened, but the au pair visas allowed young women from the developing countries to enter the richer nations in circumvention of those laws.  Once in the country, however, the au pair workers did not have adequate legal protection.  That matter needed to receive proper attention from the authorities and to be brought to the attention of the European Union.

On the issue of prostitution, the expert from the Republic of Korea said that she did not think the Government of the Netherlands wanted more women to become prostitutes, or the owners of the brothels to prosper.  The Convention on discrimination against women required States parties to prevent exploitation of women, and she wondered how the Netherlands defined such exploitation in connection with voluntary adult prostitution.  After the brothels were legalized last year, how many brothels had been registered?  How many prostitutes worked there?  Did those businesses pay taxes?  How could the Government guarantee that the conditions there met the country’s labour standards?

The Israeli expert complimented the Netherlands on its emancipation documents, which provided for the sharing of rights and the division of responsibilities between men and women.  In the context of that policy, however, the Netherlands seemed to look more into the future than at the present situation.  Women’s low wages testified to the absence of real economic independence of women.  Did the existing social and legal norms contribute to the low level of economic activity and independence of women?  One of the problems was that fathers had only two paid paternal leave days, and she wondered if more extended benefits for fathers were being considered.  She also had questions regarding the financing of dependent care costs, the prosecution of traffickers and measures to prevent violence against women.

The expert from Tunisia pointed out that the Netherlands had initiated several important resolutions before the General Assembly, including those on genital mutilation and so-called crimes of honour.  Was the country aware of similar situations regarding the ethnic minorities in the Netherlands?  Did the Netherlands integrate the women's agenda in its international programmes to combat the problems of poverty and HIV/AIDS?

Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT said the expert’s comment that au pair work in the Netherlands was fully unprotected labour was simply untrue.  The maximum number of hours that au pairs could work had been set at 35 hours per week.  The employer was obliged to take care of the health benefits and to pay the round-trip fare. So, that was protected, if not formal, labour.  Au pairs could also receive training in the Dutch language.

Concerning a question about the reason for installing a national rapporteur, that had been an initiative of the Dutch Government a few years ago.  The Netherlands was the first country to have appointed such an official, aimed at stepping up efforts to combat trafficking in women and children.  One goal was better cooperation with other European countries.  For that reason, her Government had urged the appointments of national rapporteurs in individual European countries, and the appointment of a rapporteur in the European Commission to coordinate all related information among members of the European Union.

Among the duties of the national rapporteur, she continued, would be to make visible the patterns of smuggling and trafficking.  That was a very complicated task but, once achieved, the relevant authorities in the country of origin could be contacted.  That was a very important aspect of combating trafficking in women.  The appointment of a national rapporteur also afforded the chance to exchange information with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.  Indeed, international cooperation could be consolidated in to combat that very serious problem.

Mr. VAN DEN BERG asked that any further detailed questions about the Antilles or Aruba should be referred to those Governments.  To a specific question regarding the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, he said that the Netherlands had been active in those negotiations and had signed the Convention, as well as two Protocols on trafficking and smuggling, in December 2000 in Palermo.  The Government intended to ratify those three instruments.

Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT said she had been asked for concrete figures on violence against women.  In 1998, nearly 2,500 cases of indecent assault, more than 1,600 cases of rape, and more than 1,600 cases of other sexual offences were reported to the police.  The number of cases of abuse was many times higher -- at 38,000 in 1998 -- but it was not known how much of that concerned the abuse of women.  According to victims surveys, 2 per cent of women had been victims of sexual offence, and 1 per cent victims of abuse in 1998.  There were indications that violence against women was much more common than had been revealed by surveys and police statistics.  In 1999, more than 25,000 women and children had reported to women’s shelters, representing an increase of nearly 3,000 compared with the previous year. 

Continuing, she said that a majority of clients of women’s shelters had been victims of some form of violence.  One monitor that had been developed under the country’s emancipation policy concerned sexual and domestic violence.  Until recently, the statistics from the police force had not corresponded with other data.  First, the country had to make the figures comparable, and it would do so within the framework of the emancipation monitor. 

A representative of the Ministry of Justice said that if a woman decided to report an offence to the police, a residence permit would be granted for the duration of the trial.  Then, the victim could apply for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds.  If the available evidence indicated that returning to the home country would be too dangerous, a permanent permit would be granted.  To another question about the granting of temporary resident permits, those were automatically granted within 24 hours of filing the complaint. 

To protect au pairs from becoming “cheap housekeepers”, she said the Dutch Government only granted temporary residence permits to them.  Under Dutch law, those were allowed to work only 30 hours per week, although a temporary residence permit could be prolonged. For their protection, however, a family could not apply for a residence permit for the same au pair more than once.

Experts' Remarks

The expert from Mexico commented on the need to include some additional information in future reports of the Netherlands regarding women’s right to health, including such aspects as the needs of lesbian women and the handicapped.  While the country had provided information regarding gender-specific health care, she would like to know more of the ethnic aspects of the problem.  Also, in the past, the Committee had made specific recommendations on the need to protect women who suffered from AIDS.  In the report on the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, information had been provided regarding that problem, but there was no such information regarding the Netherlands itself. 

The problems of tobacco and alcohol addictions, as well as the addiction to drugs, needed to be further addressed, she continued, especially in view of the fact that the country had decriminalized the use of some drugs.  Asking for statistical data in that regard, she commented that liberalization of drugs should not act as an incentive for their use.  Was anything being done in the country to discourage the use of drugs?  In conclusion, she remarked on the limited support of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles for the institutional mechanisms for women.

The expert from Indonesia pointed out that it was important that the Government had instituted a comprehensive approach towards gender issues, including the legal and the operational dimensions.  Some innovative projects were being implemented, and a systematic way of monitoring the progress had been introduced.  It was commendable that the country’s actions were based on research.  However, she was concerned over the situation not only in the Netherlands, but also in many so-called advanced countries, where political parties had their autonomy.  Those countries should recognize that all the components of the State, including the political parties and the media, should comply with their obligations under the Convention.  Also, affirmative action could be taken in those areas, as well as temporary special measures to promote the advancement of women. 

The expert from China said that she had spent several days studying the reports and congratulated the Dutch Government on its accomplishments.  She wondered about the percentage of immigrants working as prostitutes.  Were women being sold into prostitution?  Also, did the new legislation on brothels contribute to the development of the business of prostitution?

The expert from Nigeria also congratulated the Netherlands on its report and added that she was concerned over the situation in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, the authorities of which were not present at today’s meetings.  On the issue of education, she wanted to know what the report meant when it referred to “relatively inefficient” paths, chosen by the immigrant girls in the Netherlands' education system.

Mr. Van den Berg, responding to a question about what was meant when the report stated that immigrant girls took a difficult route towards employment, said that they usually attended a lower vocational school, followed by middle and higher vocational schools.  They often did not take the direct route to a higher vocational school.

To a question about immigrant prostitutes, he said that he did not have the exact figures, but one of the results of lifting the ban on brothels could and must be a better grasp on the number of sex workers, including immigrant sex workers.  Concerning the role of the Government in prostitution, he said that the question had been decentralized to the municipalities.  The Government had set up the law and was also responsible for labour inspections, taxes, and evaluations.  A two-year review period was not too long to provide a complete picture, as the expert had suggested.  Crimes of honour were additional areas of attention for the Dutch Government and the Minister of Integration Affairs. 

Asked to whom the national rapporteur reported, he said that the national rapporteur would report, in the first place, to the Cabinet, and in particular, to the Minister of Justice.  The report would then be sent to the Parliament, which would be most interested in the results of the research. 

Asked if he was not too optimistic about achieving the country’s goals, he said his optimism was based on recent developments.  Participation by both women and men in the labour force and society was being stimulated in a number of ways.  He was often asked how much more time was needed to reach the country’s goal; he always answered “half of a generation”.  He hoped he would be right.

Among the highlights in the area of healthcare, A. Tiems of the Ministry for Public Health, Social Welfare and Sport, said that in 2001 the Health Minister established an expert committee to develop a plan of action on how to achieve gender mainstreaming in the country’s general health policy.  A conclusion of a pilot project was the need for a specific instrument to guide implementation of the gender and ethnic perspective in health policy.  The expert committee would help develop a specific gender impact assessment for health care from a multi-cultural perspective.  From there, it would also be possible to train civil servants in the department.  Regarding addictions to tobacco, alcohol, drugs and psychopharmaceuticals, the last was of great concern for women.  Those medications were prescribed by medical doctors for depression.  In turn, women were forming addictions.  Also, the use of tobacco and alcohol among young women was growing.

In conclusion, Ms. VERSTAND-BOGAERT thanked the experts for their comments and said that while there was no agreement on all the points, the constructive dialogue was important.

The Acting Chairperson of the Committee, AYSE FERIDE ACAR of Turkey, thanked the delegation for its contribution and said the Committee’s views would be conveyed to the country in its formal response.  She also remarked that the Committee would have appreciated the presence of the authorities of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, and expressed hope that the Netherlands would ratify the Optional Protocol within a year, as promised.

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For information media. Not an official record.