NORWAY CALLED ‘HAVEN FOR GENDER EQUALITY’, AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE EXAMINES REPORTS ON COMPLIANCE WITH CONVENTION
NORWAY CALLED ‘HAVEN FOR GENDER EQUALITY’, AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE EXAMINES REPORTS ON COMPLIANCE WITH CONVENTION
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
NORWAY CALLED ‘HAVEN FOR GENDER EQUALITY’, AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION
COMMITTEE EXAMINES REPORTS ON COMPLIANCE WITH CONVENTION
But Concerns Expressed Regarding Inequalities
In Economic Decision-Making, Violence Against Women, Rights of Immigrant Women
Describing Norway as a “haven for gender equality” at the forefront of gender equality issues, the expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination also expressed concern at the persistence of discrimination in several areas, including inequalities in economic decision-making, violence against women, prostitution and the rights of immigrant women.
The 23-member expert body was considering the fifth and sixth periodic reports of Norway on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in two meetings today.
On the issue of violence, the expert from Mexico expressed disbelief that in such an advanced society as Norway, there was still an attempt to hide violence against women as “private business”. Experts also expressed concern about an increase in the number of rape cases, which contradicted the awareness of that crime as a gross human rights violation.
Noting also an increase of foreign women involved in prostitution, experts asked what measures were being taken in that regard and whether traffickers and criminal networks were being prosecuted. Several experts asked if Norway was taking measures to support the return of trafficked women to their countries of origin.
Other experts wondered about the apparent contradiction between the high level of education among women and their low representation in top management positions and on executive boards.
Introducing Norway’s report, Laila Davoy, Norway’s Minister for Children and Family Affairs, said that in spite of 25 years of a gender-equality policy, violence and sexual abuse was still a problem in Norway. As a destination country for trafficked persons, trafficking in women and children, although a fairly new problem, was a source of great concern.
Despite its progressive policies, she noted that very few women participated in decision-making in the economic field. In 2002, women comprised only 6.6 per cent of the board members of public stock companies. The Government had taken steps to improve the gender balance on company boards, including a resolution
which demanded that both sexes be represented by at least 40 per cent on the executive boards of all public joint stock companies and State-owned companies. An initiative for a cooperation agreement with the private sector had also been taken with the goal of reaching 40 per cent representation of each gender by the end of 2005.
She also stressed the close link between family and gender equality policies, which sought to give both women and men equal opportunities in combining work and parenting. Norway had invested a great deal in improving conditions for families with young children. Its parental leave schemes and day care were among the best in the world.
In recent years, focus had been on strengthening the role of fathers, she said. In that respect, a paternity quota had been introduced in 1993, reserving four weeks of the parental leave period for fathers. Although men had been entitled to paternity leave since the late 1970s, few had used it. Today, however, eight out of 10 men took advantage of the paternity quota. A cash benefit scheme, introduced in 1998, entitled the family of every child between the ages of one and three to some $420 a month, provided that the child did not attend a subsidized day care centre.
Responding to expert’s questions, Peter Wille, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that while there was no special provision on trafficking in Norway’s penal code, the Government was in the process of revising the penal code to include provisions on trafficking. Women were entitled to seek asylum and protection in Norway. Gender-based persecution was a basis for asylum. When a woman claimed to be a victim of a gender-based persecution, both the interviewer and her translator had to be women. She was also entitled to a female lawyer.
Addressing the issue of women in executive decision-making positions, Arni Hole, Director-General of the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, said the way in which executive boards were selected affected women’s representation. The general assemblies of private stock board companies elected who they wanted to be on their boards. However, legislation calling for 40 per cent representation of both sexes on executive boards would be passed by Parliament this year.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 21 January, to consider the combined third and fourth periodic reports of El Salvador, as well as its fifth report.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) met today to consider the fifth and sixth periodic reports of Norway (documents CEDAW/C/NOR/5 and CEDAW/C/NOR/6), submitted in compliance with Article 18 of the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Norway ratified the Convention and its Optional Protocol in 1981 and 2002, respectively. The sixth periodic report, completed in May 2002, covers the period 1998 to 2001. The fifth periodic report covers the period 1994 to 1997.
In April 2002, the Storting (Norway's Parliament) passed an Act amending the 1978 Gender Equality Act, the sixth periodic report states. Whereas the Gender Equality Act previously required public authorities to promote gender equality in all sectors of society, the amended Act also applies to the private sector. According to the provisions of the amended Act, employers and employees would not simply avoid discrimination but actively implement concrete steps to promote gender equality. Public and private sector businesses are required to report annually on the gender equality situation within their organizations.
The amended Gender Equality Act also codifies existing practice on the right to equal pay for work of equal value, the report states. The amendment includes features to determine which types of work are of equal value and provides a foundation for the use of work evaluation as a tool for equal pay. By clarifying the concept “equal pay for work of equal value”, legislators seek to level out wage differences between women and men. The Gender Equality Act also contains provisions on increased protection during pregnancy and leave-of-absence for childbirth; affirmative action and education; sexual harassment; shared burden of proof; and, objective liability for damages.
The Government ministry responsible for gender equality issues is the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, the report continues. The Gender Equality Ombudsman and the Gender Equality Board of Appeals enforce the provisions of the Gender Equality Act. The number of complaints received by the Ombudsman has steadily increased since the mid-1990s. In 2001, the Ombudsman registered a total of 337 cases. In 34 per cent of the cases, the Ombudsman concluded that the Act had been violated. Some 50 per cent of the cases reported were from women. The Centre for Gender Equality, a publicly financed institution, also works to promote and mainstream equal opportunities into all areas of society.
The report says that great changes in the population's attitudes towards gender equality occurred between 1980 and 1990. There is growing concern, however, about the influence of strong sexualized marketing and the influence of the entertainment industry, television and the Internet.
On the issue of violence against women, the report says that the most conspicuous gender difference lies in the percentage of women who suffer violence in the home. Some 42 per cent of the violence suffered by women occurs in the home as compared with 14 per cent for men. Yet, according to the reports, investigations of violence in the private sphere are, to a certain degree, under-reported.
The fifth periodic report outlines measures by the Government to address violence against women. Developing measures for the prevention of violence against women and providing services, shelter and support for survivors of gender-related violence is a high priority for the Government. In 1994, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act strengthened the position of victims of violence and sexual offences. Victims are entitled to free legal aid. Other measures include the establishment of a project called “violence alarm” to ensure swift police response; Police Academy courses on the investigation of sexual abuse against children; and, a centre for men who have problems with violence and aggression called Alternative to Violence.
Concerning women's political participation in Norway, the sixth periodic report says that during the 1997 elections, women's participation was higher than that of men. While 70 per cent of women in the 18 to 21 year old age groups voted, only 50 per cent of men in the same age group did. During the 1970s, women became an important group in elected political assemblies, and the use of quotas by political parties was an important factor. The principle rule for political parties is that women and men shall be represented by at least 40 per cent. Female representation in the Storting is higher than in municipal councils.
The Saami Parliament, Sametinget, is the publicly elected body of the national minority Saami people, the report says. Established in 1989, Sametinget has a skewed gender composition with fewer women being elected. The Sameting has made no special arrangements to ensure the representation of both sexes. The fact that the percentage of women in the Sameting is decreasing, while its position and importance in society is increasing, poses a big question.
The other issues addressed in the report include education, the question of pensions, paternity and as maternity entitlements, women's health and the situation of rural women.
Introduction of report
LAILA DAVOY, Minister of Children and Family Affairs, introduced Norway’s report, saying that many steps had been taken to promote equality in her country, both legally and by other measures. Over the past few decades, Norway had exerted a great deal of political effort to become a society that promoted women’s rights and gender equality. Although there had been debates on concrete measures, every successive Government, politician, and more than 90 per cent of the population saw gender equality as an essential value in society.
Norway had had the task of strengthening human rights in its domestic law for several years, she said. The Human Rights Act, adopted in 1999, gave the European Convention on Human Rights, and two United Nations Conventions of 1966 with optional protocols, the force of law in Norway. By the end of the year, her Ministry would put forward a concrete proposal on how to strengthen the implementation of the Women’s Convention to ensure best results. One alternative was to combine the methods of incorporation and transformation, making the Convention more visible.
In Norway, there was a close link between family policy and gender equality policy, she said. The objective of those policies was to give both women and men equal opportunities to combine work with parental responsibilities. Norway had invested a great deal in improving conditions for families with young children. Its parental leave schemes and day care were among the best in the world. Norway’s family policy had in recent years had a strong focus on the role of fathers and the importance of strengthening that role for the good of children, while at the same time promoting equality and the value of family life in general. Gender-based neutral schemes for parental leave were not enough to bring fathers home to take care of young children to the same degree as mothers.
In 1993, a paternity quota was introduced, which meant that if both the mother and father qualified for parental benefits, four weeks were reserved for the father, she said. The paternity quota had proven an effective tool for encouraging fathers to take leave. Though fathers had been entitled to parental leave since 1978, very few had exercised that right. Today, eight out of 10 men took advantage of their right to take the father’s quota of leave. That was important not only as a gender equality issue, but also in light of the increasing number of broken families. The increased participation of fathers in childcare promoted stability in the father-child relationship and also in families that were not living together.
Even though Norwegian mothers topped the list internationally in terms of participation in the labour market, freedom of choice was an important part of Norwegian family policy, she said. A cash benefit scheme had been introduced in 1998, which entitled the family of every child between the ages of one and three to approximately $420 a month, provided that the child did not attend a subsidized day care centre. The purpose of the cash benefit was to give families more time to care for their own children and freedom of choice in deciding what form of childcare they preferred.
She said the cash benefit could also be seen as a recognition of the importance of care for children. It had led to a better financial situation for families who preferred that one parent stay at home while the child was still a toddler. When the reform had been introduced, the demand for day care had not been met. Norway still faced a shortage of places for that age group and was giving high priority to meeting the demand by establishing more day care places at prices that families could afford. In 2003, budget allocations for that purpose had increased by some 30 per cent, and statutory amendments had been proposed to ensure that the demand was met.
In general, very few women took part in decision-making in the economic field, especially in larger corporations and firms, she continued. In Norway, boardrooms were dominated by men. In 2002, women comprised only 6.6 per cent of the board members of public stock companies. Women’s participation was essential for growth and development in society.
The Government had decided to take steps to improve the gender balance on company boards, passing a resolution last year to increase the number of women in the executive bodies of enterprises, she said. The resolution included a demand that both sexes should be represented by at least 40 per cent on the executive boards of all public joint stock companies and in State-owned companies. The Government hoped to achieve the minimum percentage for State-owned companies by the end of the year. Also, the Government had taken the initiative for a cooperation agreement with the private sector. If the desired representation of 40 per cent of each gender was reached through such an agreement by the end of 2005, the law would not enter into force.
While the proposal had met with resistance at first, there was growing recognition that greater diversity in boardrooms was an asset for companies, she said. There had been a small increase in the number of women being elected to executive boards in private companies. Private companies had three more years to fulfil the Government’s aim of 40 per cent representation of each gender. Norway had attracted international attention as the first country in the world to propose legislation concerning the representation of both genders on executive boards.
On the gender pay gap, she said equal pay was a top priority of her Government. For women to become financially independent and gain an equal footing in the labour market, equal pay was vital. As in most other countries, a high level of education or work force participation was not automatically accompanied by equal pay. While the pay gap had steadily decreased, there was still a way to go. Norway had, however, very small differences in wages compared with most countries.
The equal-pay provision of the Gender Equality Act had been revised to cover work of equal value across professions and occupations under the same employer, she said. Legislation was not the only tool to eliminate the pay gap. While legislation was aimed primarily at securing individual rights, the Government wanted to focus on wage formation in general, including how the wage gap was entrenched in institutional arrangements, social norms, market systems and pay policies. Public awareness, research, network development and international cooperation were also crucial.
Norway had managed a European project funded by the European Commission’s Community Framework Programme on gender equality, together with partners from five other European countries, she said. Case studies in three occupations -- teaching, engineering and the food and fish processing industry -– had been carried out in six countries. The study showed that job segregation was one major explanation for differences in the gender wage gap. There were two main sources for the gender pay gap, including the segregation of women and men in different occupations, firms and positions, and wage differences that consistently favoured male-dominated jobs. Skills seen as female tended to be less highly rewarded than skills typically seen as male.
Two projects were being carried out to translate the knowledge Norway had gained into concrete results, she said. In 2002, a hearing financed by the Nordic countries had been held for experts and social partners on new methods and tools for fighting the pay gap. Also in 2002, the Government had initiated a project to develop a gender-neutral job-evaluation system that was easy to use.
On the issue of violence against women, she said that in spite of 25 years of a gender-equality policy, violence and sexual abuse was still a problem. Combating violence was one of the Government’s highest priorities, including special efforts to combat violence against women. The problems tended to be private and unseen. The Government was not sure of the progress that had been made in preventing abuse and violence. While it had provided some statistics, underreporting was still common. In September, the Commission on Violence against Women would submit a report, giving an overview of measures and results in the field of violence, including legal measures, social services, women’s shelters and health care. The provisions of the penal code regulating sexual crimes had been last amended in 2000. Further amendments were under discussion.
She was shocked to learn that a 1999 health survey among Norwegian women aged 20 to 49 indicated that five per cent of them had been raped by someone other than their partner, while 10 per cent reported having being raped by their partner. Every year, some 2,700 women took refuge in shelters. Many new inhabitants of Norway did not have the resources to get out of a violent relationship.
On the issue of trafficking in women and children, she said it was another fairly new problem. Norway was a country of destination for trafficked persons. Norway’s main focus had been on trafficking in women and children related to sexual exploitation. National reports on prostitution indicated a significant increase in the nubmer of non-Norwegian nationals involved in particular during the 1990s and a dramatic increase in the last few years. The majority came from or via the Russian Federation, the Baltic countries, other Eastern and Central European countries as well as from Thailand and Latin America. The Government attached great importance to preventing trafficking in human beings, criminalizing all aspects of trafficking. Norway was currently working on a plan of action to prevent and combat trafficking in women and children.
Two other issues -- forced marriages and genital mutilation -- had been on the political agenda, she added. Norway had tried to fight those practices through various actions. The Government relied heavily on dialogue with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and communities that represented the cultures in which those practices had their roots.
The Chairman noted that Norway was seen as a haven for gender equality and that the country’s equality policy had provided positive examples for other countries. However, much remained to be addressed, such as inequality in economic decision-making, gender inequality in wages and violence against women. There was especially a need for sensitive and proactive policies to address violence against women in immigrant communities.
Questions and Comments
REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked who was directing gender mainstreaming in Government policy as well as elaborating and implementing action plans. Also, which bodies -– public or private -- were responsible for defective economic quotas in the economic sphere? She also questioned why rape in the country was rising, which contradicted the awareness of that crime as a gross human rights violation. With respect to an increase of foreign women in prostitution, she asked whether traffickers and criminal networks were being prosecuted and whether there had been convictions.
GORAN MELANDER, expert from Sweden, asked about gender neutrality in Norway’s immigration policy and whether guidelines were being implemented. He also asked what measures the country had taken to support the return of trafficked women to their countries of origin as well as those it had taken to support the integration of immigrant women in Norway. In addition, he questioned how long an immigrant woman married to a Norwegian man must live in the country to obtain her own residence permit.
SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, asked whether Norway’s gender equality barometer addressed progress in achieving equal opportunity and what the results had been in terms of gender equality. She also asked for specific details on an optional gender training course in the country, including the number of students enrolled and whether teachers took the course.
NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, noted that investigations about violence against migrant women had not led to prosecutions and asked why that was the case. She also asked why immigrant women had not been more successfully integrated into the country.
CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked why Norway had taken so long to implement the CEDAW Convention into Norwegian law. What was the difference between that Convention and other human rights treaties that had been incorporated into the country’s legal system? Also, why was there no reference in Norway’s current report to the Convention’s optional protocol? He also asked whether the Norwegian Government believed the CEDAW Convention placed obligations on parties in foreign and development policy.
YOLANDA FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, asked how many Norwegian municipalities had measures directed at gender equality. How many of those municipalities were actually enforcing those laws in an effort to realize the objectives of the Convention? She also asked whether gender equality law was structured to address migrant women and those of ethnic minorities. Also, was work being done to disseminate the content of gender laws nationwide as well as to rid the country of gender stereotypes?
Responding to experts’ questions on Norway’s national machinery, ARNI HOLE, Director-General of her country’s Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, said there was a permanent committee of junior ministers which raised issues to top Government levels. Her Ministry was responsible for coordinating gender issues at the Ministerial level and eight ministries worked with gender budgeting, including the Ministry of Finance. The Gender Ombud, an independent office, was free to criticize the Government and the Parliament. The Centre of Gender Equality, a State-supported organism, also worked to promote gender equality in all spheres of society, both public and private.
Regarding women’s participation in executive boards, she said Norwegian culture and the way in which boards were appointed affected women’s representation in boardrooms. The low level of female representation of women in executive positions also had to do with how women promoted themselves to be “electable”. While the number of female professors in universities and colleges had increased, that still remained a challenge. Regarding the 7 March decision to increase the number of women in the executive bodies of enterprises, they were working with a bill proposing that each gender comprise at least 40 per cent of the membership of public boards. There had been much discussion on how to find a way to pursue that goal without being “too tough”. One of tools available was a women’s data base with qualified names. Any one could use that data base.
She said the issue of violence and rape was a delicate issue. Many offended women did not want to press charges, especially when it came to close family members. They had set up police training, health centres and shelters for battered women. It was a difficult issue, and the Government was striving to obtain accurate data. The action plan against female genital mutilation was doing much to raise awareness. The Norwegian public had been increasingly open to discussing the issue, including immigrant groups.
Regarding the penal code, PETER WILLE, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said there was no special provision on trafficking in the penal code. They were in the process of revising the penal code to take in provisions on trafficking. There was case law on trafficking, however. Women were entitled to seek asylum and protection in Norway. Projects in the countries of origin were being initiated to help women upon their return.
Ms. HOLE said that Norway had engaged a young female lawyer to address the Convention and its position vis-á-vis Norway’s national legislation.
Mr. WILLE said Norway was a traditional jurist country. It had also introduced a “semi-monist” system. References to international law in domestic legislation had been made in several acts, including the Aliens Act. In 1999, the Parliament had adopted the Human Rights Law, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights and the two United Nations Covenants of 1966, with optional protocols, into Norwegian law. Those Conventions took precedence over other statutory law in cases of conflict. The strengthening of other conventions, including CEDAW, was currently underway. One alternative was to include those conventions into the 1999 Human Rights Law. On the ratification of the optional protocol to the CEDAW Convention, the optional protocols had been incorporated into the Human Rights Law. He hoped that would set a precedent.
Regarding the integration of immigrant women, Ms. HOLE said that issue had been addressed in Norway. A system of free pre-school for immigrant children, coupled with language training for mothers, paid partly by the Government, was working well. Specially-trained nurses at health and family centres attended by immigrant parents discussed health issues with the immigrant population. The Government was looking at the period between pre-school and school. The Government had been supporting immigrant NGOs for many years. In last year’s budgetary debate, the Parliament had raised the issue of whether the Government was doing enough to help immigrant women.
On the Alien’s Act, Mr. WILLE said that 1998 guidelines recognized gender-based persecution as a reason for asylum. Statistics in 2002 showed that
55 applicants received asylum on the basis of gender based persecution, while
23 applicants had been rejected. When a woman claimed to be a victim of a gender based persecution, both the interviewer and her translator had to be women. She was also entitled to a female lawyer. There were provisions in the Alien Act for family reunification.
Ms. HOLE noted that the sixth report provided statistics on employment rates for immigrant women. The “Barometer”, an annual publication, measured the results at all levels and in all spheres. Regarding mandatory school curricula on CEDAW, each college and university decided upon their own curriculum. Every State-owned college and university was subject, however, to the Gender Equality Act. The amended Act required annual reporting.
Responding to questions on immigrant women, she said the freedom to worship was included in Norway’s Constitution. Women from immigrant groups were often reluctant to press charges and prosecute in cases of violence. There were several centres to assist women who had been raped. The second action plan against violence would include training and competency building to deal with violence against minority women.
Mr. WILLE said that Norway undertook special measures for immigrant women upon their arrival in the country. The Government had adopted a plan of action on human rights in 1999, which included more than 300 measures. On international measures, the gender mainstreaming was a part and parcel of its development policy.
Ms. HOLE said it was difficult to ascertain the numbers of people taking courses on gender equality within teachers colleges, but noted that they were subject to the Gender Equality Act. Several people had asked for gender education in secondary schools, especially young boys, so teachers would perhaps have to take additional courses. She added that something must be done about gender mainstreaming in training colleges for pre-school teachers, since only 8 per cent of the teachers were men.
Regarding the question about municipalities and gender equality, she said those regions were measured by the gender barometer and subject to the Gender Equality Act. They had formed committees and some had gender advisers, and must report on their actions.
Responding to the question on racism, Mr. WILLE said the Government had adopted a plan of action to combat racism last year, following the Durban racism conference. The plan focused on working life, public services, schools and education, police and prosecutors, the internet and strengthening legal protection. A special committee had proposed eliminating discrimination in all areas, incorporating the Convention against racial discrimination into Norwegian law. The next step was to come up with concrete proposals before the end of 2003.
Regarding the question on incorporating the CEDAW Convention into Norwegian law, Ms. HOLE said it had been used as a tool in illustrating gender equality. The Government’s legal office had used it to argue that Norway could use positive discrimination to promote women in universities, and it had also been used in marketing children’s toys as well as in a police case regarding prostitution.
Questions and Comments
HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked whether Norway was providing mobile violence alarms to victims, as well as whether the alternative to violence centres were being used. Also, was the Government planning any attempt to change violent attitudes in men, or considering separate legislation addressing domestic violence? Was marital rape punishable in Norwegian law? She also asked what the Norwegian Government had done to tackle gender stereotyping and whether it had carried out any research about time spent by men and women in sharing household and child-rearing responsibilities.
FERIDE ACAR, expert from Turkey, asked what was being done about cultural socialization limits to gender equality in Government policy.
AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, asked why questions were lacking with respect to gender equality about health and asylum for migrants, and noted a lack of attention on trafficking in children. She also expressed dismay that there was still an attempt to hide violence against women as “private business” in such an advanced society as Norway. It seemed no steps were being taken to provide education or awareness about the significance of violence within the family. She asked whether any problems existed in Norway regarding violence against children and the elderly.
KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, said that on the incorporation of CEDAW into domestic legislation, one approach was to say that there was normative harmony. CEDAW should be applied by the judiciary. The Convention was not law as such. In the case of Canada, for example, legal decisions had referred directly to CEDAW. Normative harmony was not enough to achieve that. Why, in the haven of gender equality, was the word “women” not in the name of the Ministry responsible for gender issues? CEDAW was based on the idea that women had rights as individuals, not because they were members of families or mothers.
FRANCOISE GASPARD, expert from France, said that Norway was a laboratory in that it showed how, in spite of longstanding policies, there was resistance to equality. She asked for more information on the integration of gender mainstreaming into the draft budget. What criteria would be used to analyze a budget based on gender? She was also interested in the integration of policy assessment at the local and regional levels. It was at the grass-roots level that the fight against discrimination was necessary. What was the policy to integrate gender at the local level? Did the municipalities contain offices to deal with gender issues? She was surprised at the low percentage of women in offices at the municipal level.
DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, commented on the difference in reporting procedures for the two reports. She also questioned the application of the optional protocol in Norwegian law. She asked about the current situation regarding restraining orders.
Mr. WILLE, responding to questions on the incorporation of the Convention into domestic law, said there was normative harmony. Incorporation brought more visibility and made it easier to invoke the Convention before national courts. In cases of conflict, international covenants took precedence. Norway had ratified the optional protocol in March.
Responding to questions on violence against women and children, Ms. HOLE said Norway was, more than ever, addressing men’s roles. Norway was working on a White Paper on family politics to Parliament to be presented in June on family life, co-habitance, fathers and mothers. The paper would discuss several legal instruments and affirmative action measures. In Norway, three different male organizations were supported by Government money, such as the ATV, the Alternative to Violence. The number of calls to the ATV and the Reform Centre was growing. On gender bias, a consumer ombudsperson dealt with advertising and media issues. Norway supported research and development in programmes concerning role models. It financed applied research on how much time mothers and fathers spent at home and in work.
On the name of the Ministry, she said that there had been recent discussion on using the title “Gender Equality Minister” for the Minister for Children and Family Affairs. Regarding gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming, the ministries were increasingly using gender-based statistics. They were working hard to develop methods, using experts from several questions to be on the forefront of gender budgeting. Regarding the municipalities, every year the
434 municipalities met, and it would be interesting to see what would happen following the requirement for annual reporting under the revised Gender equality Act.
Marital rape was punishable, Mr. WILLE said.
On the preparation of the two reports, Ms. HOLE said the Government adopted the reports. NGOs could make their own shadow reports. For the sixth report, there had been a hearing for all the parties.
HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, asked for clarification on the primacy of international legislation over national legislation. What was slowing down the harmonization process? She was convinced that the difficulty was not technical but cultural in nature. In the absence of integrating the Convention into national law, how did Norway execute the measures that were taken without a legal underpinning? What was stopping implementation of measures to promote the status of women? How could one protect women if the legal position of prostitution remained unclear?
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked whether the Norwegian Government expected any difficulties with respect to its gender equality initiative in discussions between trade unions and employers. Could shareholders express comments on the gender makeup of executive boards?
VICTORIA POPESCU SANDRU, expert from Romania, asked whether Norway had taken any measures to discourage women, particularly children, from prostitution, and was educational or job counselling available for individuals giving up prostitution? She also questioned whether the country had any sanctions in place against the perpetrators of child abuse, and whether data about those individuals was available to local communities. In addition, she asked about special provisions the country had in place to combat trafficking in children, whether the country had addressed the demand side of such trafficking and what collaboration it had with trafficking countries of origin.
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked about measures the Norwegian Government envisaged to address the specific needs of disabled women who were abused. Was there any duty to report such abuses under the country’s penal code, and did the code provide for harsher penalties in cases of abused disabled women? On the judicial system and gender-related violence, was legal assistance given to victims of violence at the inquiry and pre-trial stages? Was appeal to the gender equality board of appeal free of charge?
Mr. WILLE said that the passing of the 1999 Human Rights Law removed all doubt regarding the Convention’s applicability to Norwegian domestic law. The purpose of that law was to strengthen the status of human rights in Norwegian law.
Regarding the issue of prostitution, Ms. HOLE said that general prohibition was being openly discussed in the Government. There was not, however, a majority on that in the Parliament. Measures to address child abuse included child psychiatric centres, trauma clinics, a national competence centre on trauma and violence and an Internet-based health network. The Government was also focusing children in the financing of shelters for battered women. A governmental commission on violence against women would also address those issues.
Regarding women in executive positions, she said the right to be represented was part of the discussion on that issue. The general assemblies of private stock board companies elected who they wanted to be on their boards. It was not a question of appointment but election. The legislation calling for 40 per cent representation would be passed by Parliament this year. There were also too few female judges in Norway.
Budgets were decided upon in Parliament, not the Ministries, she said. Using the Board of Complaints was free, as was legal aid in civil cases.
On the issue of violence against women, she said the police directorate had tested the “alarms” system last year. She hoped to soon have mobile telephones and alarms in all police districts.
SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, asked to what extent the proportional electoral system applied at the local level, and whether the system was open or closed. She also questioned why more women were not serving on governmental committees, and what measures had been taken to overcome that.
MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, asked what nationality children born of immigrant women in Norway would be. She also asked why Norway had no law requiring political parties to work within gender quotas, and why women were more successful in the political than economic fields.
The Chairperson, Ms. ACAR, then asked why the proportion of women in the Norwegian Government had declined, and whether that issue had been addressed.
Ms. HOLE, responding to the question on proportional elections, said they were held on both the State and local levels, but that political parties decided who would serve on committees. The number of women chosen, therefore, would likely depend on their representation in the party. Measures should perhaps be taken to better prepare women for political parties. She added that political participation was declining among young people, both men and women. In an effort to reverse that process, politicians were attending schools before the elections to remind young people of important issues.
Regarding the question about women enjoying more success in the political than economic fields, she said an extensive research project on “distributional power” was addressing that issue.
Regarding Norway’s nationality law, he noted that foreigners could acquire Norwegian citizenship by living in the country for seven years or, if they married a Norwegian, in a shorter time.
Ms. HOLE, responding to the Chairman’s question about fewer women in Government, said political parties had been having less success in recruiting or keeping young people in their parties.
Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, posed several questions about working life. In such an advanced system of gender equality, could the expression “paid work” be used rather than just “work”? Differentiating between the two would be a milestone. It was more than a matter of political correctness -- it was a matter of raising awareness.
SALMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, said that with the high education levels and the best childcare and parental leave schemes, why were there so few women in executive positions? Did women face a “glass ceiling”? On the wage gap, a high percentage of women were in part time work -- some 43 per cent. Were day care facilities still unaffordable? Had measures been taken for women who wished to continue in full time employment? She also asked about women’s position in trade unions. Did pension schemes in the private sector discriminate against women? What were the retirement ages for men and women? She also asked for information on ageing trends among Norwegian women.
Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, said that Norway was trying to implement innovative policies, such as the cash benefit scheme. She asked for statistics on the percentage of men and women using that scheme.
AKUA KUENYEHIA, expert from Ghana, said the reports failed to elaborate on the issue of HIV/AIDS. Was that because HIV/AIDS was not a problem in Norway?
Ms. ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, addressed the issue of women in the research sector. She also asked for information on projects to recruit women to the information and communications technologies sectors. To what extent were women’s NGOs and the scientific community involved in the forthcoming World Summit on information and communication technologies?
Ms. HOLE said the cash benefit scheme was a way of recognizing that work at home was work. Raising the status of work at home was important for getting fathers back into the home. A study by seven research institutes had studied the cash benefit scheme. It found that some 80 per cent of parents with one-year-olds and 70 per cent with two year-olds used the scheme. Use of the scheme was linked to the number of day care centres. The day care sector had not been completely built up, and many places for the smallest children were still lacking.
Increasing women’s participation in top-level management positions required not only concrete measures but also the setting of targets and goals, she said. Norway had one of the most segmented labour forces in the world. Many women chose to work part time because Norway had good programmes for staying home. It was a matter of individual choice. It was not that women did not have career possibilities or “employment avenues”. There was no glass ceiling. Assuming the responsibility of advanced positions was a choice that not every woman was ready to take. The pension age was 67 and was gender-neutral. Some 42 per cent of women were members of trade unions.
GORAN MELANDER, expert from Sweden, said there must be a distinction between forced marriages and young marriages. There were two ways to oppose that practice. One was to enact legislation by which marriage would not be permissible until the person had reached a certain age. Could marriages entered into abroad be declared null and void in the Norwegian context?
Ms. KUENYEHIA, expert from Ghana, asked about the distribution of property among divorced couples.
Ms. GNACADJA, expert from Benin, asked for more information on article 15 of the Convention. Was there nothing discriminatory in Norway’s legislator in matters concerning choice of domicile? Were the grounds for divorce the same for men and women?
DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked a question about Norway’s view on presumption of fatherhood in divorce cases. Would that apply only in cases where paternity was contested or in all cases of divorce? Was there also presumption of motherhood?
KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, commenting on the 80 per cent rate of rape cases dismissed in Norway, asked whether such a high dismissal rate applied to other crimes. What happened in the proceedings for rape cases to warrant such a high dismissal rate? Were there any training programmes for judges?
Ms. HOLE, responding to the question about HIV/AIDS, said Norway had put three action plans into effect over the past 10 years to tackle the disease. The most recent specifically targeted young women and prostitutes. Regarding another question on forced and arranged marriages, she noted that those marriages were not prevalent in Norway, but said her department was working to change the marriage law and raise the competence of courts to reverse those marriages. It was also working closely with embassies from countries where those marriages were accepted.
Responding to another question on women judges in Norway, she said the proportion of women judges in the country was now up to 27 per cent. Regarding a query on divorce and property, she said spouses could agree on separate ownership or common property, and that it was also important for young couples to enter into a binding property agreement.
Regarding another question, she said that women could run their own companies in Norway. Regarding a question on the country’s Children’s Act, she said the Act was being changed to include the possibility of DNA testing for fathers, mothers and children, and that the change would enter into force by Spring of this year.
Mr. WILLE, replying to a question on development aid, said Norway had contributed 0.9 per cent of gross domestic product last year, and aimed to raise that to 1.0 per cent by 2005. Regarding a question on the foreign service, he said it employed 15 per cent women as heads of mission and planned to increase that to 25 per cent by 2005. Recruitment was currently equal for men and women, but very few women had applied for posts as mission heads over the past couple of years.
Addressing the question on the high rate of rape case dismissals, Ms. HOLE noted that there was also reluctance in reporting rape, which contributed to the low prosecution rate.
She then turned to the question of elderly women, stating that her Minister was about to put that issue on the agenda. The issue was particularly vital, since women lived longer than men and also had different health problems. Many had difficulties with transportation and access to health services, especially in rural areas.
Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, stated then that she was dissatisfied with Norway’s explanation of the high rape dismissal rate. The issue must be more deeply researched to determine why women either did not report rape or withdrew charges.
Ms. HOLE said she could not adequately explain the high dismissal rate, but said that special centres were helping rape victims and giving them advice, trying to persuade them to report cases.
Addressing the question on information and communication technology (ICT), Ms. HOLE said universities were given certain financial sums for each woman or girl graduating in ICT, while secondary schools were arranging gatherings for ICT groups. ICT could be used in various positive ways to help women, especially in the countryside, in areas such as setting up businesses.
The Chairperson said she was still bothered by the underlying prevalence in cultural values to enhance the caring responsibilities of women at the expense of their equality in the public sphere. She looked forward to efforts that would link family with gender policy, and enhance the position of women in decision making in the economic, judicial and academic fields. She was also concerned about the disproportionate extent that women favoured part time work, which should be perceived as a gender inequality issue.
She urged the Norwegian Government to be cautious about any backsliding in women’s political participation, and also encouraged it to provide more information on immigrant women and compliance with the Convention in the next report.
* *** *