AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF GERMANY, GOVERNMENT EMPHASIZES RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE AS ‘POLITICAL PRIORITY’

21 January 2004
WOM/1428

AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF GERMANY, GOVERNMENT EMPHASIZES RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE AS ‘POLITICAL PRIORITY’

21/01/2004
Press ReleaseWOM/1428

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

639th & 640th Meetings (AM & PM)

AS WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF GERMANY, GOVERNMENT

EMPHASIZES RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE AS ‘POLITICAL PRIORITY’

There had not necessarily been an increase in the number of cases of violence against women in Germany, but the violence was just more visible, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women heard today during its day-long consideration of Germany’s fifth periodic report.

Germany’s Secretary-of State in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Christel Riemann-Hanewinckel, said that, for constitutional reasons, it was not possible for the Federal Government to provide a nationwide infrastructure of homes for battered women, or counselling or emergency services, such as an emergency hotline.  Setting up and funding such an infrastructure was the responsibility of the Federal Länder and municipalities.

She stressed, however, that the Federal Government had strongly emphasized that the right to a life free of violence must be a political priority.  Towards that goal, several steps had been taken at the Länder or state level, such as reform of police statutes to close the legal vacuum between police action and court ordered protection, but even the best laws would fail if women were not provided with competent support, she acknowledged.

Many of the 23 Committee experts, who serve in their personal capacities to monitor implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, pressed the delegation for more information about the incidences of violence against women, including data about the nature of the victims, whether they were the elderly women or young girls, and to what extent domestic violence existed in the rural areas.  It was also noted that even in much less developed countries, an “early warning system” or hotline had been set up.

The expert from Mexico, for example, said she did not understand why such an economically, culturally, technologically and politically advanced country did not have a system for compiling data on the level of violence against women, both in the home and in society in general.  There seemed to be an increase of violence against women, particularly in the home.  So, one of two things was true:  either the women were not being properly educated about their rights; or no importance had been placed in the police centres on recording those complaints, she said.

The Vice-Chairperson and expert from the Republic of Korea asked whether the “paradigm change” mentioned in the report about combating violence against women had meant that now the focus was not only on women, but also on the behaviour of men.  Since attention had presumably turned to the offenders, she asked whether any changes had occurred in the male perception about violence.  She also wanted to know if the Government had a consistent plan to change the male perception through extensive campaigns around the country.

Among the replies, Ms. Riemann-Hanewinckel said that, for many decades, violence against women had been considered taboo in both parts of the country.  In the west, the stereotype was of a good family in which violence was not discussed, and similarly in the east, the stereotype had been that socialists were good, so no negative data had been recorded in the statistics.  But, the issue of violence against women was now being addressed, that process having begun in 1997.  She said, however, that while much had been achieved, the gains had not been sufficient.

Responding to a series of questions about protection of ethnic minorities in Germany and requests for data disaggregated by those groups, members of the delegation said that everyone enjoyed equal protection under the law.  Instruments were in place for the protection of minorities, and efforts were under way, including in the schools, to overcome discriminatory attitudes.  But, there was a great reservation in Germany concerning the collection of disaggregated statistical data according to “this or that ethnic group”, owing to its historical sensitivities on the subject, a representative said.

Summarizing the discussion, the Committee Chairperson and expert from Turkey, Ayse Feride Acar, said that the Committee had faced a rather unusual situation today.  There had been “striking gaps and glaring examples” of attitudes and behaviours that were “unexpected, if not unbecoming” to a State in a position of such leadership.  In the next report, she looked forward to hearing a more forceful expression of the measures taken to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas, among them, comprehensive data on violence against them, as well as data disaggregated by minority communities.

Joining the State Secretary of Germany were:  Marion Thielenhaus and Renate Augstein, Directors, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth; Peter Rothen, Head of Human Rights Division, Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs; Antje Wunderlich, Cornelia Rogall-Grothe, Advisers; and Gabriele Wolk, advisor.  Christian Simeit and Anneliese Klein served as interpreters.

The following members of the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations also participated in today’s discussion:  Wolfgang Trautwein, Deputy Permanent Representative; Annette Priess, First Secretary; and Ralf Eissler, Assistant Attaché.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to hear replies from the delegation of Bhutan, which presented its initial report last week.

Background

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to consider the situation of women in Germany.  Before the Committee was Germany’s fifth periodic report on compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document CEDAW/C/DEU/5).

The report states that Germany ratified the Convention in 1985 with a reservation to article 7 (b), namely, the right to participate in the formulation of government policy, to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government.  Germany entered this reservation as it contradicted a provision of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, which prohibited the service of women involving the use of arms.  That law was amended in 2001, however, giving women access to all areas of the armed forces.  Subsequently, in 2001 Germany removed its reservation to the Convention.  In 2002, Germany ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  It also deposited its instrument of acceptance regarding the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, on the Committee’s meeting times, in February 2002.

Regarding the situation of women in the new Länder –- or states –- following the reunification of Germany, the report notes that targeted policy measures have been initiated during reporting period to improve the situation of women in the labour market.  The almost-complete collapse of the economy in the former German Democratic Republic after reunification continues to have major consequences on the labour market and the employment of both men and women.

The number of part-time employees subject to social security increased between 1977 and 2000 by some 8 per cent, the report states.  Part-time work is still a woman’s domain:  women accounted for about 86 per cent of all part-time employees in 2000.  Recent trends, however, show that part-time work is increasingly popular among men.  While the number of part-time women workers rose by almost 4 per cent between 1987 and 2000, the growth in the number of part-time male workers was about 46 per cent.  That trend will most likely increase with the entry into force in 2001 of the Act on Part-Time Working and Fixed-Term Employment Contracts.  The goal of the Act, which gives male and female employees a right to part-time work, is to enable both women and men to more easily reconcile family and work life.

Continuing, the report notes that the integration of the definition of direct and indirect discrimination into labour legislation will take place in the context of the implementation of the Directive of the European Parliament and the Council Amending Council Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion and working conditions.  Also, the Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Law is being drafted and will provide a clear signal against discrimination in civil law legal transactions.  The ongoing “women and work” programme has at its core the integration of equality policies in all areas and task of the Federal Government.

“The fight against right-wing extremist and xenophobic tendencies is one of the Federal Government’s domestic policy priorities”, the report says.  The Federation and the Länder have agreed, as of January 2001, to collate politically motivated criminal offences in a new definition system entitled “Politically-motivated crime”.  The possibility of including “hate crime” has been created, a term that would include both “xenophobic” and “anti-Semitic” criminal offences as specific subgroups.  The Government has, for the first time, submitted a special report on the situation of families of foreign origin.  The report portrays the differing aspects of the specific situation of migrant women and their integration into German society.  It contains many recommendations for the various levels of political activity to implement more equal opportunities and improved integration of immigrant women, men and their families into German society.  Elderly female migrants in Germany were also given special attention in the study, which will conclude in 2003.

Concerning female asylum-seekers, the report notes that in 2001 some 88,287 people applied for asylum in Germany, of whom 30 per cent were girls and women.  Most asylum-seekers in 2001 came from Iraq, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia.  Compared to other European countries, Germany ranked second in the number of asylum applications received.  The general administrative provision of the Aliens Act, which entered into force in October 2000, takes greater account the case of female-specific reasons for flight.  Gender-specific violations, such as systematic rapes or other forms of sexual violence, are expressly mentioned.

Regarding the issue of prostitution, the report notes that the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes, which entered into force in January 2002, improved the legal and social protection of prostitutes.  The Prostitution Act enables prostitutes to more easily gain access to social insurance.  Prostitution is no longer considered immoral under civil law and prostitutes have an actionable right to an agreed wage.

Among other measures carried since 1998 to realize the concept of equal rights is the Aliens Act, which entered into force in 2000.  According to the Act, foreign spouses now receive their own right of residence in the event of a separation after two years, instead of the previous four.  The reform of the 2001 Federal Child-Raising Benefit Act improves the conditions for child-raising benefit and child-raising leave, which is now referred to as parental leave.  Parents have a right to parental leave for up to three years for one child, while retaining full protection against dismissal.

The Federal Act on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men in the Federal Administration and in the Courts of the Federation, which entered into force in 2001, places greater emphasis on equality between the staff of the public service of the Federation, the report says.  It replaces the 1994 Federal Act on the Promotion of Women.  According to the Act, women with the same aptitude, qualifications and professional achievements are given preference when filling senior positions if they are underrepresented in the respective field.

Another measure is the Act to Protect against Violence, the report continues.  The Act, which entered into force in January 2002, introduced, in addition to the simplified allocation of the marital home and regulations for a ban on contact, harassment and coming close, also a general right to allocation of the home if violent acts have taken place.  This is conditional on the offender and the victim having a joint household established in the long term, and forms of co-habitation other than marriage also being taken into account.

On women in public life, the report says that the proportion of women in the parliaments has steadily increased in recent years.  In 2002, for example, the highest proportion of women to date in the German Federal Parliament was reached since the Federal Republic’s creation.  In total, after the 1998 election, some 30.9 per cent of the members were women, accounting for 207 women out of a total of 669 members of Parliament.

Introduction of Report

CHRISTEL RIEMANN-HANEWINCKEL, Secretary of State, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, said that never before had a State Secretary from the eastern part of Germany presented a report.  The report provided an overview of the equality policy pursued by the German Government after the change of government in 1998.

In the German Parliament, the Deutsche Bundestag, the Convention now enjoyed unprecedented priority, she said.  Last year, a national Convention report was, for the first time, discussed in Parliament.  All parties represented in the Deutsche Bundestag emphasized the importance of the significant international instrument.  The Convention’s high priority was not only a great success, but also an obligation.

Regarding violence against women, she said the Government had been able to launch successful measures to fight violence against women.  With the plan of action to combat violence against women, the Federal Government had, for the first time, developed a comprehensive overall concept for all levels of the fight against violence.  The decision to continue the action plan would be taken before the end of the current legislation period.

The Federal Act to Protect against Violence helped victims of violence to restore their rights more quickly and obtain court protection against offenders, including violent partners, she said.  Several Federal Länder had reformed their police statutes to avoid a legal vacuum between police action and court ordered protection measures.  The first results from the Federal Länder indicated that the statutory improvements had been effective with increasing numbers of women feeling that their position had been strengthened regarding violent partners.

Even the best laws would fail if women were not provided with competent support, she said.  The survey “Living situation, safety and health of women in Germany”, which would be available in the summer of 2004, indicated that women needed concrete support, as they were often unable to undergo strenuous legal proceedings on their own.  For constitutional reasons, however, it was, in general, not possible for the Federal Government to provide a nationwide infrastructure of homes for battered women, counselling centres for women, women’s refugees, emergency calls services, and intervention projects and centres.  Under the Basic Law, the responsibility for setting up and funding an infrastructure to support women lay with the Federal Länder and the municipalities.  In view of austerity measures of the Federal Länder, the Federal Government had strongly emphasized that the right to a life free of violence must be a political priority.

She said the 1994 Employee Protection Act obliged employers to protect their employees against sexual harassment at work.  The Federal Ministry for Women had commissioned an evaluation of that Act, the results of which were soon to be published.  There were still very few women who had the courage to defend their rights against their employer or enforce them in court.  Much more had to be done at the plant level to bring the law to life.  Difficulties had been encountered regarding the definition of sexual harassment and the “evidence situation”.  With the forthcoming reform of the Employee Protection Act in the wake of the transposition of the European Union anti-discrimination directives into German law, the Federal Government would take account of that evaluation.

She said the overall concept of the plan of action to combat violence against women focused on structural changes.  The implementation of the concept required not only close cooperation of the respective Federal Ministries, but also specific cooperation between the Federal Government and the Federal Länder.

In the fight against trafficking of women, good progress could be made with the help of institutionalized forms of cooperation, she said.  At the European level, the Council of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs had reached political agreement in November 2003 on the proposal for a Council directive on the short-term residence permit issued to victims of actions taken to facilitate illegal immigration or trafficking in human beings who cooperated with the competent authorities.  In Germany, the directive was implemented by the Migration Act.  Victimized witnesses were now given temporary permission to stay in the country for the period in which they were needed for legal or administrative proceedings.  The consolidation of the residence status of victims of trafficking in human beings and the strengthening of support measures was a significant contribution to the protection of victims.

In 1999, the Federal Government made gender mainstreaming the guiding principle of its political action, she said.  Under the leadership of an inter-ministerial working group, pilot projects had been launched to implement the strategy in the Federal administration.  The “Gender Competence Centre” at Humboldt University in Berlin was inaugurated a few weeks ago to support the implementation of the gender-mainstreaming concept in all areas of society, business, politics and administration.  Its tasks included providing advice, coordinating research and training experts.  The establishment of such a centre at a time of budgetary cuts demonstrated the importance attached to gender mainstreaming as a strategy for greater equality of opportunities for women and men.

Beside the traditional policy for the advancement of women, gender mainstreaming had initiated a new, broader stage of equality policy, she said.  Germany had advocated the establishment of the dual strategy for equality policy at the level of the European Union.  While gender mainstreaming aimed at structural change, the policy served to eliminate specific discriminatory situations in individual policy areas.

Development cooperation was a good illustration of a successful gender mainstreaming strategy, she said.  Equal rights for women and men were a horizontal task for all sectors of development cooperation.  The Federal Government pursued a “dual track strategy”.  Gender mainstreaming was meant to ensure that the needs of men and women were taken into account.  Through gender-differentiated planning and implementation of bilateral development cooperation, the specific needs of girls and women were taken into account.

With its Agenda 2010, the Government introduced far-reaching reforms in the portfolios of economics and labour, health, finances and education in recent weeks and months, she said.  Its purpose was to boost the economy and modernize the social systems.  In the labour market reforms, the primary aim was to bring the interests of women and families to bear.  In the past five years, women had benefited “quite considerably” from the labour market policy of the German Red-Green Government, especially with the introduction of parental leave and the legal claim to part-time employment.  Also, women now had better opportunity for promotion.

She said that job centres were being set up, with the aim of integrating hard-to-place and long-term unemployed persons into the labour market, even if those were not entitled to benefits under the employment promotion laws.  The measures, from more intensive assistance by case manager to placement into childcare services, would particularly benefit women returning to gainful employment, single mothers and migrant women.  Above all, single parents who used to receive social assistance would gain from the fact that social insurance coverage had now been extended to all persons who received certain unemployment benefits, meaning that contributions to pension, unemployment and long-tern care insurance were paid on their behalf.

“It is a very special concern of mine that the labour market prospects of women in the eastern part of Germany are further improved”, she stressed.  She herself had come from that part of the country and had seen first-hand the difficulties for women struggling in the economic and social restructuring process.  She had also seen how the women had mastered the situation.  In order to achieve equal opportunities in employment, the conflict of interests between family life and work still had to be solved.  Today, many enterprises, and nearly 50 per cent of large companies, offered possibilities to their employees to reconcile family life and work, and research was under way to ensure that that was integrated into policy, and not exceptional.

Recent experience had also shown that management boards could be persuaded of the equal opportunities issue with “hard economic facts”, she said.  Currently, a national network of local alliances for family and women-friendly working and living conditions was being set up.  Moreover, together with employers’ organizations, the Government was encouraging companies to undergo audits developed for that purpose by non-profit associations and a foundation.  In a few days, the first evaluation would be presented of the activities of the past two years to implement the 2001 Federal Government’s agreement with the Central Associations of German Business.  That agreement sought to promote equal opportunities based on a strategy of cooperation with business.

She said that a special evaluation of the “microcensus”, conducted by the Federal Statistical Office in the fall of 2003, had shown clear differences between women and men in approaches to setting up businesses.  The share of women in start-ups for the purpose of subsidiary gainful activity was higher than in other forms of newly started businesses.  One priority of the 2003 offensive for medium-sized companies, called “Pro Mittelstand”, was to promote women’s self-employment.  The Federal Government was cooperating closely with industrial associations in that field.  It had also set up a national agency for female business starters.  It intended to increase the share of women in technology-oriented business start-ups, and there were plans to improve the financial conditions for starting new businesses.

Overall, she noted that the women’s employment rate had reached 58.8 per cent in 2002.  If the current tendency continued, the target of 60 per cent, laid down in the Lisbon strategy of the European Union in 2000, would probably be reached even before 2010.  The agreement between the Federal Government and the Central Association of German Business had also shown that the position of women in industry could be influenced in a positive way by a broad range of measures and cooperation between politics and the business community.

On childcare, financial resources had been extended to families, and the Government had introduced a new child allowance in the context of new legislation, she said.  That would enable 150,000 children and their parents, mostly single parents, to live without social assistance benefits.  Single parents living alone with their children in a household would receive tax relief of 1,308 euro.  That replaced the household allowance that had been criticized by the Constitutional Court.  The introduction of that benefit was largely attributable to the commitment of the Ministry for Family Affairs.

With Germany ranking among the top 30 per cent of European countries in terms of granting financial benefits for families, “we are last in line when it comes to childcare and education facilities”, she said.  By 2010, it intended to create needs-based offers for children of all ages.  It sought to provide differentiated offers for children and young persons of all ages, which should be of high quality, flexible in terms of time, affordable and varied, in all-day schools and after-school facilities, and all-day kindergartens and nursery schools.  Even with necessary austerity measures, the Federal Government had earmarked 4 billion euros for all-day schools, despite the fact that the Federal Government was neither responsible for schools nor for day nurseries or day-care facilities, which, under the Constitution, was the responsibility of the Länder and the municipalities.

Turning to elderly women, she said that demographic change was the central issue of the Second World Plan of Action on Ageing of the year 2002.  In Germany, that plan would be implemented by means of a national plan of action, which also included the obligation emphasized in the United Nations documents to observe the aspects of gender and equality.  One objective of her country’s equality policy was to strengthen the self-esteem of women in old age.  Enhancing independence and participation in society of senior citizens was a priority of the German Action Programme for the Elderly.  Moreover, the Federal Government supported further education measures for senior citizens, such as in the areas of communication, and it planned to have senior citizens pass on their know-how, under a model programme called “Know-how for Initiatives”.

Expert Comments/Questions

AYSE FERIDE ACAR, Chairperson and expert from Turkey, thanked the delegation for its informative report and congratulated the Government for having ratified the Optional Protocol in 2002.

NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, asked for more information about the nature of the meetings with the non-governmental organizations and the level of cooperation, including for the preparation of the report.  On stereotypes and prejudices, she said that sometimes the media distorted the image of women.  That required additional effort on the Government’s part.  That was of vital importance in changing stereotypes of women and in combating violence against them.  What were the Government’s approaches to that question?

Concerning migrant women, the Committee had voiced concern earlier about migrant workers.  What was the Government’s plan to integrate those workers as full-fledged members of society?  The answers provided thus far had not been sufficient.

MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, appreciated the information on the integrated system in place on gender mainstreaming, but she was still concerned about the stereotypical view of women’s and men’s roles.  That had quite visible consequences in the area of employment, and the Government had not provided much information about efforts to combat that, including through the media.

She pointed to what seemed to be an “unconscious acceptance” of a conservative role for women.  The report had stated that the Federal Government continued to improve the special needs of women, by means of consistently further developing part-time working opportunities.  Those “needs” clearly referred to the responsibility of reconciling family and work.  But, why should that continue to be considered a specific need or responsibility of women, when that must be a need of men on equal terms? she asked.

On the question of violence, she said that the plan and wide-ranging measures to combat that had said nothing about the one area that was fundamental, namely, the support of victims.

CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said that the early ratification of the Optional Protocol had implied that complaints about violations of women’s rights enumerated in the Convention could be brought to the Committee’s attention.  That made it even more important that the legal profession be made fully aware of those rights.  He was somewhat disappointed by the general answer in the report to the Committee’s recommendation in that regard, as only a general reference had been made to training courses on equality for the German Lawyers’ Institute and the Federal Judges Academy.  Do those courses specifically focus on the provisions of the Convention and the Optional Protocol, and was the Government willing to encourage the judges and legislators to attend such courses? he asked.

MARIA YOLANDA FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, said it was her understanding that it was possible in Germany to submit a law to the Parliament on violence in general.  Was it on the legislative programme to adopt such a law?  She also asked for more information on government measures to reduce the use of women as sex objects in the media.  Increasing numbers of entertainment programmes portrayed women as sex objects.  Despite all the positive measures taken, there had been an increase in violence against women, most specifically minority and foreign women.  How was stereotyping against migrant women being tackled? She asked.

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, congratulated the country for timely reporting and the significant progress it had made.  She also stressed the importance of the national preparation of the report.  What was the legal position of the Convention in regard to Germany’s Constitution, and was the Convention directly applicable before German courts?  She noted a lack of sex-disaggregated data on ethnicity, including on the access of foreign women to health and education services.  Data disaggregated by sex was necessary to determine possible multiple discrimination of minority women, especially Roma women.

SALMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, commended the Government’s use of gender-budgeting.  Gender-budgeting raised the question of how to calculate the non-remunerated work shared by men and women.  Was gender-budgeting going to take into account different sectors of the economy?  To what extent would women’s economic opportunities enhance that type of budgeting.  Had a guideline been issued at the Länder level, and would non-governmental organizations (NGOs) be invited to participate in the process? she asked.

Country Response

Addressing the issue of stereotypes, Ms. RIEMANN-HANEWINCKEL said that in the past few years, the Federal Government had tried hard to change the conservative image of women, including by legislation.  Until recently, Germany had a very conservative approach that limited women to household and family life.  Conservative views towards women were hard to change by legislation.  Germany had a divided situation concerning the attitude of women on family and employment.  In the eastern part of the country, it was common for women to be in the labour market.  Women demanded employment there.  Attitudes in the western part of the country were changing.  The main problem, however, was the prevalence of the stereotypical attitudes of men.

On the debate in the Parliament, she said the report had for the first time been debated by the Parliament.  As a result of procedural mechanisms, the report was not, so to speak, “approved” by Parliament.  All parliamentary parties had formulated questions regarding the report.

RENATE AUGSTEIN, Director, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, said Germany had a manifold approach to its work with NGOs.  Non-governmental organizations were involved in major issues, such as sexual violence, where they participated as full members in discussions with the Government.  The Federal Government held regular consultations and talks with human rights organizations and strongly supported NGOs.  It also supported the nationwide networking of NGOs, as the Ministry needed the support and lobbying of women NGOs.  The Statute of the Federal Government provided that nationwide NGOs were heard in legislative procedures.  Non-governmental organizations had been involved in the discussion on the Act to protect against violence, and their comments had led to improvements to the draft law.  Non-governmental organizations were not directly involved in the report preparation, however, as the report was a government product.

Regarding the issue of stereotypes and prejudice in the media and advertising, she said freedom of press and media meant that the Government had very limited ability to exert direct influence.  While there was a prohibition on pornography and the portrayal of abuse, there was no prohibition of the so-called “gray area” in the media, which often depicted women stereotypicaly.  The Advertising Advisory Council sometimes recalled negative ads.  Advertising was a short-lived sector, however.  For that reason, great importance was attached to training young persons on how to sharpen their critical view of the media.  That training was given a high priority.

Regarding the issue of parental leave, she said stereotypical attitudes often prevented young men from applying for parental leave.  Men often feared lost income and career advancement opportunities if they took parental leave.  The Federal Government was interested in encouraging employers to positively respond to applications by men for that leave.

Regarding support for victims of violence, legislation existed to compensate victims of crime, she said.  There were manifold services to support victims in Germany, including counselling services, homes, call services and women’s health centres financed by the Federal Länder, municipalities or individual sponsors.  The situation was not a rosy one, but on a European scale Germany had the closest network of specific counselling services for women.  The Federal Government was not responsible for financing those institutions, but called on the Federal Länder and municipalities to support them.

She agreed that there was some confusion on the question of special temporary measures.  Temporary special measures, such as women’s ministries and commissioner, were institutions that would become redundant at a certain point, but it was impossible to say when.  Apart from the Maternity Protection Act, none of the programmes were aimed especially at women, but at men and women.

Regarding the question on an increase in violence against women in rural areas, she said she could not confirm or deny that.  The Government did not know the extent of violence against women.  While it knew how many women took refuge in homes for battered women, it could not extrapolate the actual extent of violence against women.  A representative survey was being conducted on the extent of violence against women, its background and consequences.  Germany had tried to learn from other European Union countries in that regard.  She looked forward to the outcome of the survey, which would be available in the autumn.

Without the survey, it would be impossible to determine if there had been an increase, as there was no concrete data, she continued.  Incidents of violence were better known, as the discussion of violence against women was no longer considered a taboo and the Act was now in place.  Violence had become more visible.  Changes had also been made to police statutes of the Federal Länder.  The Länder had started to collect data on police intervention in cases of domestic violence.  It was not necessarily an increase in the number of cases, but the increased visibility of those cases.

There had also been an amendment to the foreigners legislation, whereby women who separated from their violent partners now had the right to a residence permit of their own, she added.

On the legal status of the Convention, she had no information on the direct application of the Convention by the German courts.  Regarding gender-budgeting issues, one study had been carried out under the heading of a time-budget study.  Gender-budgeting was a part of gender mainstreaming.  The Federal Government was still trying to choose a strategy to implement gender-budgeting in the Federal Budget.  It had studied the way in which other European Union countries had implemented gender-budgeting.  Individual Federal Länder were in the initial stages of implementing a gender-budgeting approach.

Another representative, addressing questions about part-time employment of women and the persistence of stereotypes in the labour market, said that part-time employment had had a different development in the eastern and western parts of Germany.  Studies had been undertaken in the framework of the micro-census, and recently a large-scale study had been done to investigate the motives of men and women for seeking part-time work.  Whereas the large majority, almost 75 per cent of women in the west, said that part-time employment helped them reconcile working life with family responsibilities, more than 50 per cent of women in the east said they were seeking part-time work because no full-time jobs were available.  The expectations of women in the eastern and western parts of the country were very different.

Concerning working mothers, she said that the clear majority of those working part-time were quite content with their work; they were more content than mothers who did not have a job at all, or than mothers who were working full time.  That was closely connected to the childcare situation, to which she would return later in the discussion.

To overcome stereotypical approaches in labour, a pilot project, which had how become permanent -- Acting in a Partnership Way -- targeted young trainees and trainers.  The aim was make young people, both girls and boys, aware of sexual harassment at work, and to anticipate the issue of reconciling work and family life.

Turning to the situation of migrant women, she said that the findings had not been very informative thus far.  Two surveys had been commissioned and the drafts had been received just before today’s presentation.  A very preliminary look indicated that, on the one hand, young migrant women in Germany faced barriers in education.  The migrant women themselves did not feel that they were disadvantaged or discriminated against, or that their problems at school had been due to barriers in society.  The school barriers, however, were seen as the result of their own deficits and that fact had remained a problem for them in their working life.

She added that the Federal Government had put in place additional promotional instruments targeted at migrant women in districts where there was a very high share of unemployment among migrant workers.  The act to reform the labour market would also have a very positive impact on the situation of migrant women.  According to that Act, persons who were very hard to place would be looked after by case managers, and the barriers encountered as a result of their background would be analysed and remedies would be found.  Offers by job centres ranged from placement to language studies and additional training.

Another representative explained that there was not enough statistical data about minorities.  Germany, in its legislation, did not differentiate between ethnic groups.  They enjoyed equal protection under the law.  Two instruments of protection were in place for minorities, however, including for the Sinte and the Roma.  Also, the Federal Government had adopted a series of measures to encourage the population to overcome discriminatory attitudes.  As an example, the Alliance against Racism and in favour of Tolerance was a very broad initiative of the Federal Government, which comprised all groups of society in its aim of overcoming prejudices.

She added that much was being done in the schools to make the issue of protecting minorities and overcoming prejudices more prominent  Teachers were specifically trained in that regard.  The Federal Government also was providing financing to the Central Council of Sinte and Roma in Germany, and a cultural centre had been established.  In Germany, there was a great reservation concerning the collection of disaggregated statistical data according to “this or that ethnic group”, owing to historical sensitivities on the subject.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, said she did not understand why such an economically, culturally, technologically and politically advanced country did not have a system for compiling data on the level of violence against women, both in the home and in society in general.  Such a system would enable everyone to know which women suffered from violence in the home.  For example, were those elderly women, young women, or girls?  Nor was it known to what extent violence existed against women in the rural areas.

Had the lack of such data meant that due importance had not been given to combating violence against women?  What was going on? she asked.  There seemed to be an increase of violence against women, particularly in the home.  So, one of two things was true:  either women were not being properly educated about their rights in that regard; or there was no importance placed in the police centres to keep a record of those complaints.  How was the protection plan working?  Experts had been told this morning that there was no “early warning system” or hotline, yet in much less developed countries those systems were in place and working, she said.

DORCAS AMA FERMA COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, said she appreciated the efforts of the Federal Government to deal with the vexing issue of trafficking of women and children, as well as the various measures that had been put in place to assist the victims and prosecute the traffickers.  Among the measures adopted had been the granting of temporary permission to the victim to stay in the country.  What was the victim’s situation in that interim period?  Were they also given a work permit in that period to enable them to look after themselves, and, if not, did the special measures include a provision for the authorities to provide some financial support? he asked.

ROSARIO MANALO, expert from the Philippines, wanted to know the situation of migrant domestic workers in the households of diplomats.  She said that some had been forced to work under a situation similar to slavery and under sexual exploitation.  In those situations, the woman was helpless, while the diplomat abused his power and exploited them.  That was far from a normal working relationship.

She had heard this morning that, for the first time, Germany had developed a comprehensive overall concept of fighting violence against women.  In concrete terms, how did that apply to the abused migrant domestic workers, particularly those who were in the service of diplomats?  In the last report, she had asked about the “au pair” system and about the truth of the allegation that many of its embassies provided “au pair” visas when, in reality, the system, under the pretext of cultural exchange, violated the criteria established by the country of origin, as well as the immigration laws of Germany.  There had been no reply in the fifth periodic report to her questions.  She would appreciate a verbal reply on that situation.

HEISOO SHIN, Vice-Chairperson and expert from Republic of Korea, emphasized the importance of partnership with civil society in advancing gender equality, not only at the implementation phase, but at all phases of policy development and evaluation.  She asked whether the “paradigm change” mentioned in the report about combating violence against women had meant that now the focus was not only on women, but also on the behaviour of men.  Since attention had turned to the offenders, had the delegation seen any changes in the male perception about violence, and was that the subject of discussion among men or boys?  And, did the Government have a consistent plan to change that male perception through extensive campaigns throughout the country?

She also asked about the legal status of migrant women who came to Germany as the spouse of a German husband.  She knew there was two-year cohabitation requirement to gain an independent right to stay.  What if the foreign spouse of a German man separated or divorced because the husband had been violent towards her? And, what if sexual violation of the children was committed?  Which law applied then?

KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, asked for data on prostitution in Germany, including the number of prostitutes and their countries of origin.  What was the current trend in prostitution in Germany and what were the sociological characteristics?  Had the Government attempted to target the demand side of prostitutes, namely, the clients, or did it view prostitution as a form of work?  Had there been any research on the realities of prostitution and its connection to violence against women?  The Convention required States parties to adopt a broad strategy against trafficking and prostitution.  What was the Government’s strategy in that regard?  Did it have programmes to prevent women from entering into prostitution, as well as rehabilitation programmes to help women get out of prostitution?  Had the relationship between prostitution and trafficking been researched?  According to the Convention, pimping must be criminalized, she noted.

SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, congratulated the delegation for the timely and comprehensive report.  She stressed, however, the absence of comprehensive data regarding the condition of women migrant workers and asylum-seekers.  While she realized the sensitivity of compiling data according to ethnic groups, such data was needed to seriously address the issue.  She asked if the Gender Competence Centre addressed the issue of women migrants.

Country Response

Ms. RIEMANN-HANEWINCKEL said that, while Germany had done quite a lot in the last decades, for many decades violence against women had been considered taboo in both parts of Germany.  In the west, the stereotype was that of good families in which violence was not discussed.  In the German Democratic Republic, the stereotype had been that socialist people were good.  Since 1997, the issue had been addressed step by step.  Two working groups had been established as a steering body to address the matter.  While much had been achieved in the last few years, more action was needed.  The Parliament had had very difficult discussions on the issue of rape in marriage as an offence, reflecting the strength of the taboo regarding violence against women.  How to proceed with the discussion was another question.

Ms. AUGSTEIN said it might seem strange that such a developed country did not have representative data on violence against women.  The entire issue of violence, up until recently, had been an issue of women’s movement and policy only.  The issue had taken a long time to be incorporated in the general Government’s internal policies.  On data collection, there was a wealth of inside information on violence, but it was not representative.  Women from less privileged spheres were most often found in homes, whereas women from more privileged spheres tended to go to courts to fight violence.  In the past, the courts, judiciary and the police had not taken the issue seriously.  Incidents of violence had been considered “family disputes”.  Only now was violence against women called “domestic violence”.  Police were now required to report violence as domestic violence and pass it on to public prosecutors.  Germany had a very good help system, however, including a full fledged emergency call system.

Germany also had a highly differentiated picture of violence against women, including bodily assault and psychological violence, she added.  Collecting statistical data was very difficult for that reason.

Regarding trafficking, she said that, at present, victims of trafficking had the right to stay in Germany.  Deportation was suspended for at least four weeks.  Deportation was suspended for the entire duration of court proceedings, which could take years.  The Federal Government had tabled a new migration law, which would improve the residence situation of victims of trafficking by giving them temporary residence entitlements.

She went on to say that trafficking in human beings was not always connected with the sex industry.  Germany, at the international level, had worked hard to extend the definition to include that of forced labor.  On the special situation of domestic help in diplomatic households, she said the Federal Government was aware of that problem and was exerting all its efforts in that regard.  Diplomatic immunity made the matter difficult, however.

Regarding the issue of youth, she said it had been a challenge to get boys to think about their role as males.

She said various studies had been carried out on prostitution, including information on clients.  One survey had been carried out on the issue of how to keep clients from unprotected sexual intercourse.  Another survey was carried out on the clients of prostitutes travelling abroad to sexually exploit children.  There were various reasons why women undertook prostitution.  Women who were forced to be prostitutes would not go to counselling services, as they were often in Germany illegally.  There were a huge number of unknown cases.  Germany had not adopted the Swedish, but the Dutch, approach.  There were some 200,000 prostitutes in Germany.  The German approach was not to discriminate against prostitutes in legal terms, by labelling their services as immoral. That approach made clear that the purchase of sexual services was not immoral.  While it was not a desirable transaction from an ethnical point of view, prostitution must not lead to a situation in which women were legally discriminated against.  Prostitutes were protected by law as of January 2002.

Expert questions

FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, noted that German women’s participation in political life had exceeded the critical threshold of 30 per cent.  It would be interesting to provide statistics not only for the Bundestag, but for the Bundesrat.  Regarding communes, she had noted with interest the importance of municipal committees.  Building equality started at the community level.  With respect for local autonomy, did the Federal Government encourage the integration of a gender aspect into local policy?  She noted the low proportion of women in a number of federal bodies, as well as the low number of women ambassadors.  Had studies been conducted on hindrances to women’s participation in public life?

Continuing to respond to expert comments and questions, a representative said that, concerning participation of women in the diplomatic corps, their proportion in senior functions was a bit lower than in other areas of public administration.  The German Foreign Office, however, had committed itself to increase the share of female diplomats in leading functions.  That had begun to bear fruit, so that the proportion of female “beginners” in the foreign service had now risen to 50 per cent.  Also, for the past few years, more women had assumed the level of deputy division heads.

She said she believed that situation would improve as those women’s careers developed.  In contrast to other areas of federal administration, however, the mobility expected from diplomats would make it difficult for women to rise above a certain level of service if the male partner was not prepared to make the move.  Concerning women’s participation in political bodies, the Federal Government could ensure that both a man and a woman were proposed as candidates for posts.

Expert Questions, Comments

Ms. FERRER, expert from Cuba, said the Committee had expressed a concern in Germany’s last report about the increase in the number of women in part-time work, as well as the high level of unemployment among women, both of which were evidence of persistent discrimination.  The report indicated that the problem persisted.  Despite the fact that the delegation stated that equal employment opportunities were offered to men and women, discrimination persisted, and women tended to be involved in part-time work -- up to 42 per cent in eastern Germany, and domestic work prevailed primarily for women.  She was very concerned that part-time work was seen as advantageous.

She asked about the two laws adopted in January 2003 relating to a system to include women into the modern sector of the labour market.  The Committee had also been told that, by 2005, individuals who were still unemployed should accept any job offered to them.  Would any step be taken for women in a much less favourable situation?

Ms. KAHN, expert from Bangladesh, said that women, despite their willingness to work full-time, could not find full-time work.  Had any temporary special measures been introduced to remedy that?  The main reason given today as to why women opted for part-time employment had been that they could not reconcile full-time work with their family life.  Was there affordable childcare and were men being encouraged to share domestic responsibility?

Also, she said, by tying a resident permit to employment meant that when a migrant woman sought a better job, she had to reapply for a work permit.  A policy of that nature would only exploit them further.  Also, could the Federal Government, under the Basic Law, investigate a complaint relating to unequal pay? And, what measures had it taken to remedy the wage gap between men and women?

Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, said the agreement to build partnerships with the labour market was very interesting.  Regarding the reform policy to modernize social systems and the evaluation of new labour market instruments, had the impact of measures on women been present in terms of planning?  Noting numerous references in the report and presentation to various European Union treaties as the basis for Germany’s gender policies, she asked why systematic reference to the Convention’s obligations had not been mentioned as being equally binding.

Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, expressed concern with the problem of part-time work and “mini-jobs”.  Was the delegation aware of the negative implications of that kind of work on women’s pension plans?  Were there plans to deal with the problem of women’s’ economic dependence on their husbands?  On the sharing of childcare responsibilities, awareness raising alone was not enough.  Fathers must be given economic incentives to apply for parental leave.

FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked for information on the parental leave system.  Were both parents entitled to take leave at the same time for up to three years?  How was payment arranged during that period? she asked.

Country Response

A member of the delegation noted that women and men, up to the age of 30, earned about the same.  Inequality in wage earnings was not, therefore, a problem among the younger generation.  While it was true that the majority of women made use of part-time work, the reasons for that were different in the eastern and western part of the country.  Although childcare requirements were sufficient in the eastern part of the country, there were not enough jobs.  In the western part of the country, there was a shortage of childcare facilities.

The Parental Leave Act had been designed to eliminate existing stereotypes, she said.  Men and women could take leave at the same time and were entitled to a certain level of income during that time.  Parents who decided to take time out for their children were provided with economic incentives.  Parents taking one year had a higher budget allocation, however.  Fathers often did not take parental leave in order to maintain income.

Another delegate said German legislation did provide for equal pay for work of equal value.  A continual evaluation of the development of women’s and men’s salaries was needed.  Germany had studied the strategies used in other European Union countries in that regard.  The federal employee tariff had also been reviewed to determine hidden discrimination.  Germany had legal requirements for collective agreements without discrimination.

On the issue of part-time work and “mini-jobs”, she noted that the number of women working part-time jobs in eastern Germany was half the number of women in part-time employment in the west.  Men and women working “mini-jobs” were entitled to minimum social security protection.  So-called “midi-jobs” had also been introduced.  The Federal Government had worked to ensure that employees received minimum social security.  Employers were obligated to pay 25 per cent of tax deductions into the legal pension system.  For the first time, part-time workers were entitled to sick pay.  The mini-jobs of today did not compare with those in the past.  The Federal Government was reviewing whether legal provisions should be tightened to ensure that household help received minimum levels of protection.

Commenting on legislative reform, she said the reform package had been a complex negotiation involving different power structures.  The legislative procedure had carried out in a sensitive political environment.  They had only been partially successful in incorporating gender concerns into the reform process.  No women with a child under the age of three could be obliged to work if childcare was not ensured.

The Federal Government would evaluate the laws and their impact on women, she said.  Appropriate research consortia had been engaged to carry out the evaluation of the legislative process, including how gender-specific issues had been taken into consideration.  She did not share the view that women were experiencing massive disadvantages.  Regarding the social protection of women, it was correct to say that part-time work would only lead to a pension on the basis of contribution made during the employment period, she said.

Women working in diplomatic households had the right to file lawsuits and turn to legal authorities if they are maltreated in any way, she said.  The Federal Government did not have direct influence, however, due to diplomatic immunity.

Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, said that if each prostitute in Germany, based on the Government’s figures, had just one new client each day, that would mean that more than 10 million men were involved in prostitution as clients.  Apart from the right to equality for women in those families –- presumably most clients were married men -– imagine the public health consequences. 

She said it was an illusion that the promotion of condom use could stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.  It could not.  Besides, there were lots of other diseases that spread through an exchange of bodily fluids.  Wouldn’t it be a better idea instead to sit down those 10 million men and say it was not all right to use prostitutes as toilets?  Wouldn’t it be better to tell them to respect women and not to use them as prostitutes?

PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, said she wished to return to the question of the dramatic shift among German women from full-time to part-time work.  She was also concerned about the concentration of women in low- and medium-earning enterprises.  While several studies had indeed been undertaken, did the Federal Government have a concrete strategy with a time frame to address that imbalance?  Also, she noted that the 2001 regulations on parent leave had so far met with much resistance.  Regarding equal pay, she asked about the success of measures already taken by the Federal Government with the business community, the public and private sectors, and the trade unions.

Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, stressed that nothing should prevent the Government from collecting data disaggregated by ethnic minorities, and further broken down by age, gender and location.  It was appropriate to collect such data, in order to provide additional measures in specific situations.  Regarding the education of Sinte and Roma girls, it was well known that in many European countries those girls tended to marry earlier and had higher school dropout rates.  What were those rates in Germany and had the Government formulated any specific programmes for the “dropouts”, or encouraged them to stay in school?

Ms. MANALO, expert from the Philippines, said that in the concluding comments of the fourth periodic report, the Committee had told the German delegation to undertake a study about foreign girls.  She had not found that anywhere in the present report and wondered why.

Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, said that very few statistics had been provided in the report on women in higher education, except that there were very few women in high academic or research posts.  It had been shown in 2000 that more girls than boys were entering the scientific field.  Also four years ago, however, only 7 per cent of the professors were women.  That was a problem confronting several developed countries.  There seemed to be some resistance at the university level for women to accede to high-level posts, yet that was very important since women could serve as role models for both boys and girls, she said.

Concerning part-time employment, she said that statistics from other countries had shown that part-time work was often restrictive and that women were participating in that only because they were not offered full-time employment.  In France, for example, women occupied 80 per cent of part-time employment; 20 per cent were in full-time employment.  Did the Government intend to look at the future situation for retired women, with a view to taking measures to alleviate the great poverty women might face in Germany, particularly in the next 10 to 20 years?

Government Response

The State Secretary said that, according to the association of prostitutes in Germany, there were 1 million clients per day. The Government had not envisaged abolishing prostitution.  That would not make sense because “we wouldn’t be successful”, she said, adding that “no society has been able to do this”.

She said that, when the legislation was reformed, women who worked in prostitution on a voluntary basis had a legal status and a legal protection, with the possibility of working as a self-employed person or for an employer.  They, therefore, had a basis for taking legal action to get their wages.  In Germany, more than 76 per cent of the general population believed that prostitution should have an improved legal and social standing.  Prostitutes in Germany had access to doctors and counselling, and to the health-care system overall.  So, there was no need for action in that regard.

Concerning public health, the association of prostitutes had said that, above all, prostitutes took care of their health.  The problem was not voluntary prostitution, but trafficking for the purpose of forced prostitution.  That group of women needed support and protection.

  Another representative explained that the delegation had not included the results of the study of foreign women in its current report or presentation, as that extensive document had only been made available two weeks ago and had yet to be carefully reviewed.  The study had covered two years.  The female researchers had considered the life situation of young women and girls, with a migration background, and also the situation of elderly female migrants.  The delegation would report on the results of that study in great detail at a later date.

On part-time work, there seemed to be a misunderstanding that there had been a major shift of women who had worked full-time and now had been forced to seek part-time work, another delegate said.  Participation of women as a whole in the labour market had increased considerably in the past 10 years, and part-time work in Germany often was a small step back into continuous employment.

Experts’ Questions

Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked for more information on new provisions for parental custody.

HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, said she was surprised not to have seen any reference to article 15 of the Convention on the equality of women and men before the law.  Each report should contain a minimum of information on each article.  She also asked for information on the amended Alien Act.

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, asked if marriage legislation provided for a general contract at the time the marriage was preformed.  If so, was it a model contract?  Was property equally divided between the spouses upon divorce?  Two feminist authors, in separate publications, had concluded that

99 per cent of the world’s wealth belonged to men, and 1 per cent to women.  She asked for a breakdown of wealth in Germany between men and women.  She also asked for information on Germany’s commitment under the Beijing Platform.

Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, commended the Government for reforms in areas of family law.  To what extent were German women aware of their rights?  Was there a special strategy to target migrant women?  What were the eligibility criteria for legal aid, and was it widely available in the field of family law?  She asked for data on the number of migrant women that had obtained legal aid.  She also drew attention to an increasing problem of forced marriages among the Turkish community.  Had that issue been addressed by the Ministry of Family Affairs?  Was the procedure to apply for an extension of child maintenance beyond three years an easy process?

Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, said the question of forced marriages was a difficult question.  What was the Government doing to inform civil servants about the need to help young women avoid forced marriages?

Country Response

Concerning article 15 of the Convention, a member of the delegation said that the report did not repeat information provided in previous reports if nothing had changed.  Female migrants had the same rights as German women.  Forced marriages were forbidden.  Marriages entered into under pressure were nullified.  The problem was not a lack of legal instruments, but the fact that women would not have the courage to say they did not want to marry.

Forced marriage was a problem, and urgent data was needed in that respect, the delegate said.  It was important to note the results of a survey carried out on foreign girls and women, which showed that while most foreign girls were happy with the education provided by their families, they were strictly against pre-arranged and forced marriages.  They were also strictly against discussing conflict within the family with government agencies.

On model contracts for marriage, in general, the German marriage law covered the issue of wealth distribution within marriage and upon divorce, she added.  The Federal Government did inform the public on the various laws.  It maintained an extensive Web site and carried out major awareness-raising campaigns.

On the issue of family names, when there was no agreement on a family name, the courts would refer the right to one parent to decide, she said.  In the case of illegitimate children, the family name depended on the name of the parent with the right to custody.

On development aid, the Government did everything it could to include a gender perspective in its development assistance.  Women played a major role in development cooperation.

Experts’ Questions

Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, thanked the delegation for correcting her estimate, noting that there were some 365 million clients of prostitution every year in Germany.  Given that figure, was that not a form of emotional abuse of the wives whose husbands were encouraged to use prostitutes?  It was an abusive behaviour on the part of several million husbands.

Ms. MANALO, expert from the Philippines, asked what the Federal Government’s intentions were regarding the removal of immunities.

Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked for a copy of the report to the Parliament on the effects of prostitution.

Country Response

In a concluding comment, a representative of the delegation said the Government did not share the expert’s view on emotional abuse as a result of prostitution.  As for the Vienna Convention, she could not say anything on the removal of diplomatic immunities off the cuff.

Closing Statement by Chairperson

In closing, the Chairperson and expert from Turkey, Ms. ACAR, said that Germany was a leading country in Europe and in the world.  Germany’s policies, therefore, regarding women’s human rights on both the international and domestic levels, were of critical importance.  In that context, she commended the Government for advocating a dual strategy for equality policy at the level of the European Union.  That had been a much-needed emphasis for some time now.  She also commended the Government for including the gender dimension in its development cooperation policies, and she urged it to “keep up the good work” in that regard and to further upgrade it.

In the context of the European Union, she urged Germany to spearhead the specific promotion and advocacy of the Women’s Convention.  That would underscore respect for universal standards of women’s human rights as the legal norms for all members and candidate States of the Union.  That was a very promising course for German policy.  The expectations from Germany were “very high”, given its leadership role.  In that context, she was pleased about the increased salience of the Convention in Germany today, and she commended the Government for the many positive steps it had taken to implement it.

One remaining area of concern was that of the continuation of discriminatory stereotypes in several contexts, she said.  Arguments of freedom of press and media had been touched upon, as well as the difficulties of penetrating the cultural and community spaces.  Those arguments could not be allowed to operate in such a way as to create a space for the perpetuation of discriminatory stereotypes, under the guise either of freedom of expression or anything else.  Whether discriminatory stereotypes and images emanated from culture, tradition, customs or plain patriarchal attitudes, those must be eliminated.  The Federal Government undertook that obligation when it ratified the Convention.  She urged it to address itself more forcefully to that.

On migrant and minority women, she was pleased to hear about the granting of residence permits to foreign women separated from their violent husbands.  That had been underlined in the previous dialogue.  Yet, the protection of the human rights of foreign and minority women in Germany “still leaves much to be desired”.  The Committee, once again, underlined the need for gender disaggregated data on migrant and minority women, including for Sinte and Roma women, especially regarding their access to education, health and employment.  She sought a full-fledged statistical expose on those matters in the next report.

She said that many contradictions had been exposed today, confronting the committee with a rather unusual situation, given that the country was very advanced in political and economic terms and had put in place many admirable measures to implement the Convention and was, by all indications, very committed to that.  Yet, there were “striking gaps and glaring examples” of attitudes and behaviours that were “unexpected, if not unbecoming”, to a State in a position of such leadership.  In the next report, she looked forward to hearing a more forceful expression of the measures taken to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas.  The lack of comprehensive data on violence against women, as well as disaggregated by minority communities, was among those issues needing elaboration.

Keep on carefully evaluating, she urged the Government, especially in the area of employment and the impact of developments such as part-time work on women in the long run, so that it did not evolve into a “default option” for women in the labour market.

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For information media. Not an official record.