COMMITTEE COMMENDS DENMARK’S ACHIEVEMENTS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION
COMMITTEE COMMENDS DENMARK’S ACHIEVEMENTS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
561st and 562nd Meetings (AM & PM)
COMMITTEE COMMENDS DENMARK’S ACHIEVEMENTS IN IMPLEMENTATION
OF WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION
Concerns Expressed, however, on Situation
Of Migrants, Refugees, Ethnic Minorities, Asylum Seekers
It seemed that there were two societies in Denmark -- that of the country’s basic citizens, on the one hand, and that of migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities and asylum seekers, on the other, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was told today.
During a two-meeting review of Denmark’s efforts to enhance gender equality, one of the Committee’s 23 expert members said that for the first society, discrimination against women represented a minor problem. In the light of growing hostility towards migrants, however, he hoped that the situation of immigrant women was not a “myth of equality”.
During discussion today, members of the Committee -- charged with monitoring compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- asked numerous questions about the situation of migrant and minority women in Denmark, including Kosovo refugees, and expressed concern about the advancement of women in the Danish territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland. They were also concerned that Denmark’s fourth and fifth periodic reports, which were considered today, contained more information about the country’s plans under consideration than about concrete results and action.
Several experts commended Denmark’s achievements since it signed the Convention in 1980 and ratified it in 1983, saying that the Government had set an example for others in its efforts to combat violence against women and mainstream women’s issues in its national policies. Applauding the country’s comprehensive plan of action to stop violence against women and its research to address the causes of that problem, they nevertheless questioned its gender-neutral policies and recent decisions to stop funding several human rights institutions.
It was pointed out that the mandate of the Committee and the responsibility of the State party related to the elimination of discrimination against women, and it was important to dwell on the discriminatory practices directed against them. For that reason, the gender-neutral presentation of the material before the Committee was not quite proper, an expert commented.
A speaker said that the neutral character of the country’s immigration act represented a problem. As a comprehensive effort, gender mainstreaming should
include consideration of so-called gender-neutral legislation, which prevented women from receiving specific treatment when they needed it.
An expert noted that at 37 per cent, the number of women in the country’s Parliament was impressive. But other figures indicated a “rather anaemic character” of affirmative gender action in Denmark. Only 5 per cent of women were in private-sector managerial positions, for example. Women did not have a fair share of decision-making positions, and she wanted to know if the Government intended to take action to rectify that situation and eliminate discrimination in both the private and public sectors.
Introducing Denmark’s reports and responding to questions, the Deputy General Secretary in the Ministry for Gender Equality, Vibeke Abel, said that the country had complied with many of the requests expressed by experts during the country’s previous reviews. Those related to violence against women, trafficking in human beings, women’s unemployment, and the gender-segregated labour market. Denmark was now closer to the goals of gender equality than ever before.
Regarding women from ethnic minorities, she said that only 41 per cent of them were active in the Danish labour market. The Government was aware that it still had to overcome many challenges before that group could reach the same rate as Danish women -- 75 per cent. For that reason, special efforts were made to integrate minorities in the labour market. Also, out of concern over forced marriages and to ensure ethnic women’s and men’s right to freely choose a spouse, the Danish Government had recently raised the age limit for family reunification with spouses to 24 years.
Dissatisfied with that response, one of the experts said such a decision represented serious discrimination, because the age of marriage for Danish citizens was 18.
The country representatives further explained that both the age of marriage and reunification applied to everybody, without distinction. For both citizens and non-citizens, those ages were 18 and 24, respectively.
Many experts also commented on the low number of women professors in the country, despite the fact that there were up to 50 per cent of women among the applicants for those posts. They further commented on the need to fully integrate the country’s domestic legislation with the Convention.
Also responding to comments and questions from the floor were the following members of the Danish delegation: Ulla Lehmann Nielsen and Trine Lund Pedersen of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Agnete Andersen of the Ministry of Employment; Kristianna Winther Poulsen of the Faroese Representative Council; Susanne Clausen of the Ministry of Integration Affairs; Anne Kristine Axelsson of the Ministry of Justice; Vibeke Kold and Kira Appel of the Department of Gender Equality; Hanne Eskjaer Fugl and Nina Olsen of Denmark’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations; and Marianna Lykke Thomsen of the Danish Embassy in Ottawa.
At 10 a.m. tomorrow, 13 June, the Committee will hear replies from the delegation of Saint Kitts and Nevis to the questions raised by the experts on
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to consider the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Denmark (documents CEDAW/C/DEN/4 and 5), submitted under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. By that article, States parties to the Convention submit reports on legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted to give effect to the Convention's provisions. Denmark ratified the Convention in 1983.
The fourth periodic report, which focuses primarily on the most important gender issues that have emerged through continuous debate at all levels of Denmark's society, updates information presented in the country's previous report -- not yet considered by the Committee -- on issues that include legislative changes, education initiatives and social support services, towards implementation of the Convention.
According to the report, a major development since the Committee last examined Denmark's implementation efforts has been the amendment of the Equal Treatment Act of the Danish Constitution (Article 2). With the specific aim of ensuring equality between the sexes, that Act, along with four other laws covering equal pay, access to employment, appointments to public office and composition of public administration boards now more effectively addresses a wide range of the Convention’s provisions.
The report states that in order to modify the social and cultural patterns prohibiting a de facto equality in Danish society and to eliminate prejudices and customary practices based on the idea of women’s inferiority, the Equal Status Council and various authorities and organizations had developed priorities which guided the work and formed the basis for the necessary strategies. Among the priorities so identified are:
-- the situation in the labour market with the problems of equal remuneration and harmonization of working life and family life;
-- the follow-up on the Fourth World Conference on Women;
-- the National Plan of Action and plans of action for all public authorities, including the county and municipality level;
-- international cooperation at the United Nations, the European and the Nordic level, as well as development cooperation with countries in the South; and
-- enlargement of the circle of actors, as it was important to involve men and women and young people of both sexes more actively in the gender-equality debate.
However, those priorities might change as a result of the future work of the newly established Committee for Gender Equality, the report noted.
Insofar as women in public life were concerned, Danish women and men enjoyed the same political rights, as both had the right to vote and were eligible for local government and the national Parliament, as well as for election to the European Parliament. Still, those bodies were, to a large extent, composed of a majority of men, indicating that women might not participate in political life on equal terms with men.
In the Government formed after the parliamentary elections of September 1994, seven out of 20 ministers (or 35 per cent) were women. Compared with other European Union countries, Danish women topped the list of women’s representation in the European Parliament. The Danish representative on the European Commission was a woman, said the report.
As a whole, women were not well represented in the higher wage groups of the public services, and efforts to improve the situation were embodied in the action plans of ministries and other public institutions. Nor had women reached the top level in the military. Only a small percentage had chosen careers in the armed forces, according to the report. Although Danish women were not subject to conscription, they were now allowed employment in all ranks of the Home Guard and Armed Services, even if that involved direct participation in military operations or combat.
Danish women enjoyed the same right as men to represent their Government at the international level, the report continues. However, their position in the Foreign Service meant they had limited prospects of participating in international meetings on the same footing as men. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a staff of nearly 1,500 -- almost evenly divided between men and women -- men were primarily the decision-makers. Of the top-level 151 executives, women represented only 6 per cent. In the 40-42 age group, there was only one woman.
To correct that imbalance, the Ministry had in late 1993 published its plan of action, “Equality in the Foreign Service by the Year 200?”, whose aim was to “change attitudes, ideas and traditional habits” in all staff categories, including the executive-level group.
On education, the report noted that Denmark’s education system was based on equity and equality. Education was compulsory for the first nine years, but more and more young people continued to higher levels.
A gender-balanced labour market was seen as one of the most important goals for equality work in Denmark, and many efforts had been made to establish and adjust legislation based on equal pay and treatment. However, problems of gender equality still remained, the main ones being that the labour market continued to be gender-segregated; women were still the worst hit by unemployment; and full and equal participation of women and men in the workplace had still not yet been realized.
The Ministry of Labour had initiated a pilot project on gender mainstreaming in the labour market. The Act on Equal Remuneration for Men and Women (Equal Pay Act) had not been amended since 1992. The report identified pensions as part of the problem of equal pay. In May 1996, the Equal Status Council held a conference at which pensions were discussed in relation to gender, age, lifetime, disablement, death of a spouse, and the differences in computing pension disbursements to women and men who had retired from the labour market.
The report also considered topics such as the Equal Opportunities Act, social support services, and other legal and social efforts.
It went on to say that trafficking in women and sexual exploitation were acts of gender-based violence which were not acceptable in Denmark. Although there were no rules or provisions that specifically made trafficking in women a criminal offence, it might be punishable under the Danish Aliens Act as people-smuggling; or under the Criminal Code as loss of liberty; as pimping and brothel activity, or as fraud. Attention to the issue had increased considerably since the last reporting.
As a follow-up to the Beijing Platform of Action, some non-governmental women’s organizations had included the problem in their agenda. The media had also highlighted certain cases, including cases involving foreign women, but police investigations did not provide any basis for charging the accused, the report said.
While prostitution per se was not an illegal act, it was a punishable offence under the Criminal Code to tempt any person into prostitution or to live on the earnings of prostitution.
In the second report introduced today, its fifth periodic report, Denmark said that equality between women and men was an overriding policy objective.
Since 1996, Denmark had concentrated on strengthening the implementation of gender issues at different levels in Danish society, not the least of which was the follow-up to the Platform of Action of the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. The report noted that since 1976 successive governments had continuously worked to enlarge and improve de jure equality between women and men.
Also as a follow-up to Beijing, the Government established a committee in March 1996 to consider an “institutional mechanism to promote gender equality”. This would replace the existing mechanism, which was more than 20 years old and no longer considered adequate. Government ministries, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) formed the committee, which analysed problems concerning the existing institutional set-up. It noted that the existing body, the Equal Status Council, had been coping with too many and too varied tasks -- such as judicial complaints, initiation of public debates, administrative support for the Prime Minister, responsibility for gender equality, and an information service for the public.
In March 1999, the committee submitted an extensive report entitled “Working towards Gender Equality”, covering some 40 themes and topics for promoting gender equality in Danish society. It also proposed reorganizing the existing gender equality institutions into three separate entities, dividing the previous portfolio in order to strengthen efforts and enhance the visibility of the issue. Following their debate in Parliament in May 1999, legislators supported the recommendations of the committee and proposed several measures the Government should undertake in that regard.
In July 1999, the Prime Minister appointed a Minister for Gender Equality. In line with the principle of gender mainstreaming, all other ministries would still be responsible for securing gender equality within their sphere of activity.
As a second step, a new bill was introduced in Parliament and adopted in May 2000. It established new institutional mechanisms on gender equality. The principle of gender mainstreaming was included in the legislation, and ministries would be given additional instruments for the promotion of equality. Every second year, reports on the status of equality would be issued.
The report noted that Danish NGOs had traditionally played an active part in efforts to attain equality between women and men, as well as to combat gender discrimination and stereotypes. That work was spearheaded by the National Council of Women in Denmark (formerly the Danish Council of Women), the umbrella organization for 49 women’s organizations, and the Danish Women’s Society.
The report added that Danish gender-equality policy during the reporting period had focused mainly on five areas:
-- Equal pay and pensions;
-- Women and power;
-- Violence against women;
-- Men and equality; and
-- International cooperation
Under the heading “Special Issues”, the report noted the initiative by the Minister for Gender Equality to strengthen cooperation with ethnic minority women by involving them to a higher degree in democratic decision-making processes. The intention was to effect an equality policy formulated on the basis of the special condition of those women.
Introduction of Reports
VIBEKE ABEL, Deputy General Secretary of Denmark’s Ministry for Gender Equality, said that her Government had been working to secure a national follow-up to the Platform for Action since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. The Platform for Action had had a great impact on Danish gender-equality policy, including the promotion of the gender mainstreaming strategy.
Many of the concerns raised since the last review of the situation in Denmark had been met, such as violence against women, trafficking in human beings, unemployment among women, and the gender-segregated labour market, she said. Denmark was now closer to its goal of formal equality, as well as de facto equality between women and men. Gender equality was essential for welfare and democracy in Danish society on, the one hand, and, on the other, a highly developed democracy and welfare society were essential preconditions for the high degree of gender equality that the country enjoyed.
Ms. Abel said that Danish women had realized increased political empowerment, and now accounted for 44 per cent of the newly elected public council boards and committees. The share of women in the newly elected Parliament was now 38 per cent. The Government had also formulated a set of objectives for its gender-equality policy with the goal of ensuring that women and men were equal partners and had equal opportunities to choose how they wanted to live their lives.
She said that the Minister for Gender Equality was obliged to present an annual report on gender equality before Parliament. The report reviewed the past year’s initiatives and presented new ones for the following year. At the same time that Denmark handed in its fifth periodic report to the Committee in May 2000, Parliament had passed a new law on gender equality that contained many new elements. They included the abolition of the Council for Gender Equality, which was then replaced by a new Ministry for Gender Equality; the creation of a Knowledge Centre for Gender Equality; and establishment of the Gender Equality Board.
She noted that the most important step was the appointment of a Minister for Gender Equality, which had made gender equality part of the Government’s overall policies, and its influence on political decision-making processes had, as a result, increased.
She said that all public authorities were obliged to mainstream a gender perspective into their area of work. The Ministry for Gender Equality was coordinating those mainstreaming efforts. Further, it was currently developing a set of indicators on violence against women. The indicators were a part of the annual European Union follow-up of the Beijing Platform for Action on the implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern to the Union’s member States.
She added that as a follow-up to the Platform for Action, the Government had intensified efforts to eliminate trafficking in human beings, especially women and children. There was a broad consensus in the Danish Parliament on the need to prioritize this “completely unacceptable phenomenon”, which violated victims’ rights and allowed the spread of organized crime.
In February 2002, the Government had presented a bill on new legislation concerning trafficking in human beings. With the adoption of the bill this past May, Parliament had agreed to ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The Act contained a newly constructed provision on all aspects of trafficking in human beings, and set the maximum sentence for violation of the new provision at eight years’ imprisonment.
The Government had introduced a range of new initiatives to promote the reconciliation of family life and working life, including longer parental leave schemes, grants for parents, guaranteed day care, and access to part-time work in all parts of the labour market. She said that only 41 per cent of women from ethnic minorities participated in the labour market, and the Government was aware that there were still many challenges to overcome before this group reached the same rate of participation as Danish women of 75 per cent. That was why the Government had made a special effort to integrate women and men from ethnic minorities on the labour market, she said.
There had also been increasing focus on forced marriages, and the Government found it important to ensure ethnic women’s and men’s rights to freely choose a spouse and enter voluntarily into marriage. In order to combat forced marriages, the Government, in a newly adopted bill, had raised the age limit for family reunification with spouses from 18 to 24.
MARIANNE LYKKE THOMSEN, Minister Counsellor from Greenland, said that Greenland society had developed rapidly over the last 50 years. It was today a modern democratic society that continued to improve the framework and conditions for equality among men and women through legislation that reflected those social changes.
She said that new legislation included elements of mainstreaming and affirmative action, and would emphasize the commitment of the Greenland Parliament to countrywide gender equality. Two thirds of the employees in Greenland’s two major workplaces –- the Government and the municipalities –- were women. Areas dominated by women included health, education and social affairs.
Men were still a majority in higher-paying jobs and women a majority in lower-paying jobs, she said. In 2001, unemployment averaged 5.6 per cent for women and 6.7 per cent for men.
Speaking on behalf of the Faroe Islands, KRISTIANNA WINTER POULSEN, Head of Section of the Ministry for Health and Social Affairs, said there were hardly any legislative obstacles in Faroese law to women’s equal rights. In 1994, the Faroese Parliament had passed an Act on Equality between Men and Women which aimed at strengthening gender equality on the labour market, in education and in all public committees, councils and boards. However, the number of women elected to Parliament was limited, she said.
She added that the Minister for Gender Equality in the Faroe Islands intended to provide a more thorough report on gender equality in Faroese society in Denmark’s sixth report in 2004.
In closing, Ms. ABEL said that Denmark looked forward to receiving the Committee’s conclusions, and that the Minister for Gender Equality would ensure a national follow-up and debate.
Several experts commended the country for its extensive reports and efforts to mainstream gender issues in national policies. The Government of Denmark had set an example for others in its efforts to combat violence against women and mainstream women’s issues in national policies. They applauded the Government’s comprehensive action plan to stop violence against women and the research done in the country to address the causes of that problem. The high level of the delegation, which included representatives of the Faroe Islands and Greenland, they said, testified to Denmark’s commitment to the implementation of the Convention.
It was pointed out, however, that Denmark’s Constitution contained no specific provision on discrimination against women, and there was no enforcement mechanism to ensure equality. It was important to fully integrate the country’s domestic legislation with the Convention. It was true that the country’s achievements were impressive, but certain gaps still remained, and such integration could help to address them. For example, although many women qualified for high academic positions, women accounted for only 6 per cent of professors in the country’s universities.
It seemed that there were two societies in Denmark -- that of the country’s basic citizens, on the one hand, and that of ethnic minorities, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, on the other, an expert said. For the first one, discrimination against women represented a minor problem. In the light of growing hostility towards migrants, however, he hoped that the situation of immigrant women was not a “myth of equality”.
It was a known fact that violence and rape had been systematically used against Kosovo women who had sought refuge in Denmark at the end of the 1990s, for instance. Although they had lost their refugee status following an extended stay in the country, it was important to follow the principle of voluntary repatriation in dealing with them. Did the country consider it humane to force women to return to their country of origin against their will, even though they faced atrocities back home?
Several speakers echoed that concern, asking for information about the country’s mechanisms for migrant integration. A speaker said that the reports contained information about numerous proposals and recommendations regarding the situation of migrant women and minorities, but not about actions and results.
An expert also wondered if the closure of several gender equality institutions in Denmark represented the abandonment of the women’s cause by the country’s new Government. Questions were asked about the closure of the board for ethnic equality, for example.
Regarding violence against women, an expert said that despite the country’s commendable efforts, more emphasis seemed to be placed on the victims, rather than perpetrators. Also, no statistics had been provided regarding the number of convictions for violence directed at women. Questions were also asked about new forms of abuse, including those through the use of Internet.
It seemed that in its efforts, Denmark was paying more attention to the policies of the European Union and to the Beijing Platform of Action than to the provisions of the Convention, another speaker said. As a State party to the Convention, the country should base its policies on the principles of that international legal instrument.
On the repatriation of women from Bosnia and Kosovo, SUSANNE CLAUSEN, Head of the Department in the Ministry of Integration Affairs, said that Parliament had just enacted a new aliens act which would become law on 1 July this year. She said that a large number of women who had arrived in Denmark during the 1990s and just after the new millennium had been granted de facto resident status. The new law was gender-neutral and applied to men and women equally.
Women who were rape victims before arriving in Denmark were also considered to qualify under this status, if the offence had been committed because of their race, origin, nationality or similar factors. When the new amendment became law on
1 July, Denmark would still continue to apply the Geneva Convention, to which it remained a party. The only difference would be that the de facto status would fall away once the new law came into force and granted protected status to asylum seekers who had been subjected to abuse in their countries of origin.
In future asylum seekers who now received asylum based on “considerable” fear of such fates as torture and rape would no longer be eligible for refugee status. In such cases, Denmark would continue to grant them conventional status. They would also enjoy protected status, for example, if a woman risked being raped if she were returned to her country or origin.
For immigrant women and men, asylum could be obtained under the new act and would be elaborated on in the next report.
After 1 July this year, the age limit for spousal reunification would be raised to 24 years from the present 18. This would be applied to men, as well as women, in order to prevent forced marriages. That was not the only tool that the Government could apply in the continuing struggle against forced marriages, she went on. The Government would also seek to strengthen measures against family violence, for instance.
On integration of immigrant women into Danish society, Ms. ABEL said that there was in place a three-year introduction programme, which provided special Danish language training, information on access to the labour market and a special Danish society integration training course. There was yet another special programme to prevent women having their residence permits revoked if they could prove that the reason they left their marriages was due to violence.
In response to a participant's question, she said that Denmark was promoting research into and providing information on human rights by assisting victims of discrimination. There were also Danish women’s and men’s organizations which had, for many years, functioned as watchdogs. Asked why the Knowledge Centre had been closed, she said that was largely because the work the Centre did was also being done by many other institutions and organizations in the country.
Asked whether the board for the new Centre would continue to have the same political influence in its new role, she said that the board would continue to network, and its influence would, therefore, be even more direct than in the past.
Continuing, she said that gender equality work in Denmark was not just a women’s struggle. There were also many male organizations dealing with gender equality issues.
ANNE KRISTINE AXELSSON, Head of Section at the Ministry of Justice, said that, as stated in the report, the Danish Constitution of 1953 contained no specific provisions on equality of women and men, but it contained articles proclaiming equal treatment of all citizens. As one of the first States parties to join the Convention and its Optional Protocol, Denmark was trying to fully implement the treaty. Human rights conventions ratified by Denmark became part of the country’s law. They could be referred to by legal authorities and invoked in Danish courts.
Regarding the new bill on trafficking in women, she said that it had been presented to the Parliament in February and adopted by the Government last month. The new instrument was in compliance with the European Union’s framework decision on the matter, ensuring a maximum eight-year sentence for the offence. Under aggravated circumstances, the sentence could be extended to 12 years. Under the Nordic-Baltic agreement, a task force had been created to combat smuggling in human beings and trafficking in women. All Baltic and Nordic countries had taken part in a recent seminar on trafficking in women, which addressed the issues of cooperation in fighting that crime. Denmark also participated in other international efforts to combat trafficking in women.
As mentioned in the presentation, in March 2001 the Danish Government had initiated a new plan of action to combat violence against women, she continued. She described the provisions of the country’s criminal code regarding abusive and violent behaviour, and added that treatment and preventive programmes were also under way under the new plan. The country was participating in an international survey on the matter, and national statistics were being collected on the position, age and gender of victims. In the future, it was expected that information regarding offenders would also be included.
Regarding cultural attitudes towards violence, KIRA APPEL, Head of Section of the Department for Gender Equality, said that violence was an expression of male dominance towards women. An increasing number of women were economically independent, however, and more women were now able to leave violent situations at home. The action plan did focus on the perpetrators and the need to break the circle of violence through a change in attitudes.
The national plan on violence was based on a three-pronged attitude of prevention, protection and prosecution, she added. As for trafficking in women, there was focus on both the demand and supply sides of that phenomenon.
Turning to the issue of pornography, she said that the Ministry of Justice was responsible for the penal aspects of the problem. It was a crime to distribute pornography to children under 16. There was also emphasis on parental responsibility for preventing child exposure to pornography through the Internet. An assessment was also under way to determine whether it was necessary to strengthen legislation to prevent the spread of pornography through new means of communication. To ensure that children were not watching pornographic materials on television, such programmes had been relegated to late hours.
Regarding incest, she said that a number of initiatives had been undertaken, and research had been conducted. A national centre for abused children had been established, where they could receive treatment and support.
Ms. ABEL added that consultations had been initiated with various players to exchange views regarding sexual exploitation of children, and the country would include more information on the matter in its next report.
Ms. LIEHMANN NIELSEN said that the country was aware of the need to reduce poverty, placing emphasis on women in that regard. The country was planning poverty-reduction strategies, including in developing countries. Access to trade opportunities, health and education were among the priorities in that connection.
An expert expressed concern that having become an independent foundation, the research centre on gender issues “was going to be even more independent” now, according to the country’s answer, and that it would no longer benefit from State funding. As a result, the centre might be compelled to concentrate on income-generating projects, and that could have a negative effect on its activities. Research was a very important aspect of achieving gender equality, and several speakers wondered about the reasons for the changes.
Also according to the delegation’s response, she added, the country had raised the age of marriage for immigrants to 24 years in order to prevent forced marriage. That was serious discrimination, because the age of marriage for Danish citizens was 18.
Questioning Denmark’s gender-neutral policies, an expert noted that, at
37 per cent, the number of women in the country’s Parliament was impressive. However, other figures indicated a “rather anaemic character” of affirmative gender action. Women accounted for only 5 per cent in managerial positions in the private sector, for example. Women did not occupy a fair share in decision-making positions, and she wanted to know if the Government intended to take actions to rectify that situation and eliminate discrimination in both the private and public sectors.
Another speaker said that the neutral character of the country’s immigration act represented a problem. As a comprehensive effort, gender mainstreaming should include consideration of so-called gender-neutral legislation, which prevented women from receiving specific treatment when they needed it.
Did the Ministry for Gender Equality intend to take up the issue of incorporating the Convention in domestic law? an expert asked. How often had the Convention been invoked in the country’s courts?
A speaker observed that the Danish Centre for Human Rights had been in existence for 30 years, and it was not quite clear how the new arrangements were functioning. Another expert said that, according to the reports, the number of battered women in Denmark was increasing, and that fact was in conflict with the lack of cases involving domestic violence in the country’s courts.
Regarding stereotypes, one would assume that prejudices in regard to women would be a thing of the past, an expert said. According to the NGO report, which was attached to the country’s report, there was a rise in negative attitudes towards women. What was being done by the Government to deal with that problem?
Questions were also raised about the occurrence of paedophilia and prosecution of such offences. It was also pointed out that there was a difference in what had been achieved in Denmark itself and in the Faroe Islands. What were the Government’s responsibilities there?
One expert wanted to know what changes and improvements had been made to the laws, and what impact those would have on punishing both the prostitute and the pimp. She also wondered how the extent of exploitation was measured. In order to
protect women engaged in prostitution, the tendency should be to penalize those engaged in pimping even more heavily, she said.
On trafficking in women, she said that although a working group established by the Ministry for Gender Equality had been referred to widely throughout the report, there was no mention of what government departments like the police and the judiciary were doing. She, therefore, wanted to know how those who engaged in trafficking women were punished, and what role the justice and police departments played.
Yet another speaker, while commending Denmark’s work on preparing comprehensive reports, sought clarification on how many women “trapped” in violent marriages had benefited from the new laws, if indeed any such assessment had been undertaken.
Ms. ABEL explained that more comprehensive information on Greenland would be included in future reports.
She said that the Ministry of Justice had in 1999 appointed a committee to look into incorporation of several general human rights conventions into Danish law by examining the advantages and disadvantages of such an incorporation. One of the conventions to be looked at was the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, among the three other United Nations conventions that came under the Committee’s purview. A separate paper summarizing the recommendations was available to participants, she said. It had also been widely distributed within governments, NGOs, and the private sector for observations and comments with a view to refining it further.
Continuing, Ms. Abel said that much progress had been achieved during the period under review, and many concrete examples of the country’s efforts were presented in the reports. As a result of the implementation of gender equality policies by the Danish Government, women’s participation in the labour market stood at 75 per cent; most of the children were in public day-care institutions. As a result of the creation of new structures, the country now had a Minister for Gender Equality, and anyone who felt she was discriminated against had free access to lawyers. Gender machinery received significant budgetary funding of 18.4 million kroner ($2.5 million). The budget for the action plan on violence was over 50 million kroner ($6.2 million).
Ms. AXELSSON then reiterated that the Convention could be invoked by domestic courts. The issue of its incorporation in domestic law was now under consideration and, at this point, it was too early to predict what the decision would be.
Regarding prostitution, she said that in 1999 the Parliament had amended the criminal code to decriminalize prostitution and passive pimping, allowing for the prostitutes’ legal cohabitation with men. Any sexual exploitation, as well as trafficking in people, was criminalized. In 2000, the police had started systematic monitoring of the situation. Danish authorities also took part in the activities of Interpol, Europol and Baltic structures to stop any illegal trafficking in women.
Turning to ethnic minorities, Ms. APPEL emphasized that the condition of equality applied to all citizens of Denmark, without exception. She added that there were different gender patterns as far as women and men belonging to ethnic minorities were concerned. The Government was making significant efforts to address that problem. In some respects, the situation of second-generation ethnic minority women was better than that of men. However, most victims seeking help in crisis centres belonged to ethnic minorities and, for that reason, the plan of action on violence addressed their needs as a matter of priority. An information pamphlet and a Web site were being prepared in all relevant languages to inform ethnic minority women of their rights and sources of help. Volunteers in crisis centres were being trained to meet their needs.
VIBEKE KOLD, of the Department for Gender Equality, said that male- dominated stereotypes and cultural norms needed to be changed in order to fight discrimination in the workplace. Projects had been initiated in order to break the "glass ceiling" in education and research. Despite a growing number of women in research, most of the country’s scientists were still men. The tools to support women included affirmative action, including gender-based scholarships.
AGNETE ANDERSEN, Special Adviser, Ministry of Employment, said that values of equality were extremely important in Danish society. It was important for women to be respected and not over-protected from the labour market point of view. In recent years, the Parliament had debated many aspects of equality, and legislative norms had been amended many times. Women were protected against discrimination in society, in general, and in the labour market, in particular.
The country’s labour markets were very “equality friendly”, she said. Part-time work was decreasing, and women’s salaries were growing. However, the pay gap and the gender-segregated labour market still remained, and it was still important to reconcile women’s lives in the labour market and at home. Also high on the agenda was the question of welfare.
Being very careful about the issue, Denmark did not call many of its initiatives affirmative action, even if other countries did so. The new general act on equality would incorporate many positive actions in the legislation, however, and she expected the new regulations of the European Union to contribute to the advancement of women, as well.
ULLA LEHMANN NIELSEN emphasized that Denmark believed the Convention to be of utmost importance for promoting gender equality. Therefore, as a matter of routine, it examined other State parties’ reservations to that instrument; if it found them unjustified, it filed its objections to them. The Government had recently financed a publication on the Convention. It also found the Beijing Platform of Action most useful, for it contained many provisions that facilitated specific measures for the advancement of women.
Regarding the age of spouse reunification, Ms. CLAUSEN, Head of Department in the Ministry of Integration Affairs, said that the age of 24 applied to all citizens of Denmark and foreigners living in Denmark. The age of marriage was 18 for everybody.
Regarding residency requirements for women living in violent marriages, she said that in 1999 the Danish immigration service had refrained from revoking 13 residence permits in cases when women were divorced from violent men. The following year, 20 permits were accorded the same treatment. In general, a permanent residence permit was now issued after three years in the country. A woman subjected to violence was not obliged to stay in a violent marriage to obtain a permanent residence permit.
Experts’ Comments, Questions and Answers
One expert commented on the new law relating to forced marriages, which she thought was discriminatory since most such marriages applied to women. She congratulated the delegation for having brought representatives from Greenland and the Faroe Islands. She noted the “small” number of women represented in the municipalities and sought an explanation of this disparity and what measures, if any, there were to correct the anomaly.
On the plan of action, she said it seemed to have failed since only a small percentage of women seemed to have met the plan’s expectations. Another expert wondered why the promotion of women in academic circles was so low in Denmark. He also wanted to obtain further clarification on the amendment of the citizenship act.
Before turning the floor over to her colleagues, Ms. ABEL, leader of the Danish delegation, explained that she was presently engaged in overseeing the development of new measures to further refine many of the issues raised by the experts.
Then Ms. CLAUSEN explained that a family would continue to be accepted in her country, even if one of the spouses did not speak Danish after the new law came into effect. She confirmed that it was true that rules were being introduced requiring new immigrants to pass a Danish-language test.
Women’s representation in both Parliament and the municipalities was of great concern in the country, Ms. Abel said. An investigation was in progress to look further into the matter.
On the number of women in the diplomatic service, Ms. LEHMANN NIELSEN explained that the next few years were expected to witness “quite a boost” in the number of women serving their country abroad because of newly initiated measures.
In the next round, several questions were asked about genital mutilation and the practice of honour killings in Denmark. Was it possible to prosecute parents who went back to their country of origin to have genetic mutilation performed on a child?
The mandate of the Committee and the responsibility of the country related to the elimination of discrimination against women, and it was important to dwell on discriminatory practices directed against them. For that reason, the gender-neutral presentation of the material for the Committee was not proper, an expert commented.
Experts asked what percentage of minority women received higher education, and in what fields. Were any enabling conditions created for immigrant women to make it easier for them to overcome the cultural and linguistic barriers?
The number of fathers taking parental leave was low, said a speaker, asking if the country was going to monitor implementation of the new parental leave.
An expert also suggested that instead of initiating new studies, it could be useful to utilize existing knowledge to change the balance as far as occupations traditionally occupied by men and women were concerned.
Another expert said that she did not see much effort to change traditional stereotypes against women. Efforts to create legal opportunities would not be sufficient unless attitudes were changed. Progress in the choices of subjects by boys and girls remained slow, and stereotypes still persisted in the attitudes of teachers. Corrective measures were needed to change mindsets, particularly those of teachers. Perhaps some temporary affirmative measures were needed.
Ms. ABEL said that, under previous regulations, the paternity leave was not attractive enough for men to take advantage of it.
Explaining the new leave scheme, Ms. ANDERSEN said that, under previous arrangements, the first two weeks of parental leave had been used by about 75 per cent of all fathers. The regulations for the following period had been very rigid, and only 3 per cent of men took advantage of the 10 weeks offered. Under new, more flexible regulations, both parents could extend the paternal leave for up to 14 weeks. Women also had longer leaves of up to 32 weeks. Parents could now work part-time, fathers and mothers could alternate their leaves, and special arrangements could be made with employers. The Government was putting a lot of money into the new plan, and it was expected to become very popular.
The question of equal pay was very important to the Government, she continued, and it intended to follow it very closely. Two studies were being conducted on the issue, and the Government was working with private companies to move women to higher-paid jobs. More women and men were negotiating higher salaries and wages, and, to some degree, that presented new problems along with opportunities, for it cost more for the private sector to raise salaries. Many strategies were being considered to close the pay gap, but the Government needed private companies’ cooperation in that regard. The Ministry of Employment was currently discussing those issues with employment partners.
On circumcision, Ms. AXELSSON said that female genital mutilation or circumcision was punishable by Danish law. Danish law applied to violent acts in the same way, regardless of where the acts were committed, as long as they were committed by Danish nationals.
However, in terms of numbers -- female circumcision was not a serious problem. Even so, the Government had carried out information and awareness campaigns about the number of women going abroad for female circumcision, she said.
Ms. ABEL further explained that every time a new law was passed in Denmark, especially a gender-related one, the new law and its consequences were looked at from the point of view of the consequences that the law would have on both men and women.
Ms. KOLD said the last 10 years had seen a decline in awareness in schools about gender stereotyping and the choices available for children with regard to education and job creation. There was need to raise the matter to a higher level so that it is made “visible” again.
An expert wanted to know why qualifications for top jobs for women seemed to be a problem: the available women candidates appeared to possess the right qualifications, and yet the numbers of women holding senior positions continued to remain low. She also wondered why pensions were lower for women compared to men, and if this should not be considered a form of discrimination.
Another expert noted that the number of questions and concerns raised by the experts did not mean and should not be understood by members of the Danish delegation to mean that the experts were criticizing the work that had been done. Indeed, it was in appreciation of the extent of what had been achieved that it was possible to seek clarification, she said.
Ms. AXELSSON provided details regarding the new “teleworking” practice, which was being used by the most experienced employees several days a week. It was being implemented at a smaller scale than expected, but people taking part in the pilot run were highly satisfied with the results.
Ms. ABEL agreed that the lack of women managers “was a mystery” to her. In the second half of the year, a new programme would be launched to increase their number through participation of the private sector and women’s organizations.
Regarding pensions, she said that the question was now being debated. Currently, a percentage of workers’ pay went towards the pension funds. With the lack of equality in pay, the pensions were also unequal. Thus, the issue of pensions required attention to the issue of equality in pay.
Ms. APPEL said that not only girls but also boys suffered from eating disorders. The issue of media responsibility for creating stereotypes in that regard was now under consideration.
Ms. CLAUSEN said that a father could obtain custody of a child if a court decided that it was in the best interests of the child.
Returning to the issue of battered women, an expert noted that, in some cases, their residence permit was revoked, and that made it extremely difficult for a woman to predict the results of the consideration of her case by immigration authorities. He asked for further details in that regard.
The reports contained no information regarding articles 13 to 16 of the Convention, an expert pointed out. Under article 16, women should have equal family responsibilities with men. At the bottom of much of the discrimination that women in Denmark were experiencing was an unbalanced share in child-rearing, however. It was gratifying to know that fathers were increasingly taking care of babies, but she also wanted to know how they participated in bringing up older children and shared in housework.
She was really disturbed by the statement by the Masculine Forum of Denmark (contained in the report), which challenged the legitimacy of the Convention itself, saying that it found it problematic that the Convention aimed to eliminate discrimination only against women. It was a source of concern that that group of men did not understand the very essence of the Convention. What had been done to explain to them what that instrument was about?
Ms. ABEL confirmed that crisis centres were an important aspect of the work programme, but it was not possible to provide any figures of cases involved. On the apparent negative attitude shown by an NGO towards the Convention, she said it involved only a small group of men who probably had not fully understood what the Convention was about.
On what was being done to get men more involved and make the household more equal, she said continuous monitoring was being carried out, including the introduction of “paternal awards” and making available more information intended to bring in more men.
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