Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
655th Meeting (AM)
Angolan women require special attention in effort to achieve equality,
as main victims of colonialism, civil war, committee told
Country’s Representative Describes Government Steps to Comply
With Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention, Despite Adverse Conditions
As the main victims of centuries of colonialism and decades of civil war, women in war-ravaged Angola required special attention in their efforts to achieve equality in all spheres of life, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was told, as it addressed the situation of women in that country today.
Acting in their personal capacities, the Committee’s 23 expert members monitor compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, often referred to as an “international bill of rights for women”. Having ratified the Convention in 1984, Angola was reporting to the Committee for the first time today.
Introducing her country’s reports, Filomena Delgado, Vice-Minister for Family and Promotion of Women, said that despite adverse conditions, Angola’s Government had taken consistent steps to progressively comply with the letter and spirit of the Convention. Angola had taken significant measures to address constraints in meeting its obligations under the Convention, including the promulgation of non-discriminatory legislation at all levels and fields. Other measures included the creation, in 1991, of a State Secretariat for the promotion and development of women. Upgraded to a ministry in 1997, it is charged with defining and executing the national policy for the defence of women’s rights. The Government had taken other initiatives to address the socio-economic, legal and political aspects of gender parity. A strong legal framework was needed for the elimination of discrimination.
Angola’s challenge, she continued, was to eradicate all the problems that affected women’s equality. Women’s status was characterized by a high level of mother/child mortality, malnutrition, illiteracy, poverty, violence, lack of resources and unemployment in both the formal and informal sectors. Women headed most households and they were the most affected by HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Despite legal opportunities and the legal status of women, differences existed, particularly in decision-making, education, health, employment and governance. As Angola’s economy and society modernized, diverse needs had emerged, prompting shifts in traditional roles and responsibilities and value systems. In several rounds of questions and comments that followed, experts commended Angola’s Government for its good intentions and strong political will to ensure the protection and promotion of women’s equal rights. Following the signing in 2000 of the Luena Peace Agreement, the Government had taken a series of prompt actions to address discrimination against women through a process of legal reform. In that context, experts welcomed the progressive tone of Angola’s many legal texts, including provisions for equality within the family, and the Government’s intention to soon adopt a specific law on domestic violence.
Describing the disproportionately grave impact of war on Angolan women, including sexual violence and displacement, as well as women’s historical role as catalysts for change reconciliation, experts also stressed the urgent need to enhance women’s representation in Angolan socio-economic and political life. Strong traditions and stereotypes often stood in the way of the achievement of women’s rights. In that regard, experts stressed the need to adopt temporary special measures to improve the de facto equality of women, noting that by the provisions of the Convention, States parties were obligated to adopt such measures.
The Committee expert from Algeria noted that Africa, the poorest continent, had had outstanding women leaders in the past. While wiping away all the evil that had been perpetrated in Africa throughout centuries of colonialism would not be possible, it was necessary to take account of what could actually be achieved in advancing the continent. In that regard, she stressed the importance of women occupying at least 30 per cent of parliamentary seats. If political parties received State assistance and had a system of quotas and reserved seats, a minimum presence of women in the parliament would be assured. That was a way to get things moving in Africa. Women could change the face of Angola and, as such, they had to be given a chance.
The expert from Sweden, noting that Angola had difficulties implementing domestic laws related to women’s human rights, emphasized the need to strengthen the country’s rule of law and system of justice. Echoing several other experts, he asked whether the international community should do more to assist the country in addressing gender specific rights. Serious civil rights violations had occurred during Angola’s 30 years of civil war, and in that regard, he asked whether the Government had plans to establish a reconciliation committee.
Among the other concerns raised today was the situation of rural and refugee women; measures to promote education among women; health issues facing women, including decreasing life expectancy rates, early marriages and women’s marital rights; and the existence of legal counselling centres and women’s access to them.
Also participating in Angola’s delegation was Ismael Martins, Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations in New York; Ana Maria de Oliveira, member of Parliament-Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), member of the Commission for Central State Administration and Local Government; Beatriz Aida Socola, member of Parliament-National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and Vice-President of Women’s Parliamentarian Caucus; Maria de Luz C.S. Magalhaes, Vice Minister for Assistance and Social Reinsertion; Maria Mpava Medina, National Director for Women’s Rights of the Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women; Ana Maria de Silva, Secretariat of the Cabinet; Maria Isabel Massocolo, Ministry of Health; Antonio Leal Cordeiro, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations; Ondina Neto, Ministry of Public Administration, Employment and Social Protection; Pulgueria Van-Dunen, President of the Provincial Council of Lawyers Association; Emila Fernandes and Branca Neto, Members of the Angolan Women’s Network; Andre Amadeu, Statistics Officer, Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women; Andre Nzinga Nkula, Ministry for Assistance and Social Reinsertion; Mara Franciso, Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations; Dina de Sousa, Focal Point, Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women; and Salvador Allende de Jesus, Ministry of Exterior Relations.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 13 July, at 10:30 a.m. to take up the situation of women in Malta.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to consider Angola’s combined initial, second and third periodic reports (document CEDAW/C/AGO/1-3), which notes that since Angola’s independence in 1975, there have been a number of setbacks in the country’s socio-economic situation. With the intensification of civil war in 1992, the economic situation worsened. Problems include intense migration to urban areas, serious malnutrition, access to basic education, street children and family disintegration. Of the 174 countries listed in the United Nations human development index, Angola ranks 165. Although Angola’s income is classified as “low average”, its people live in abject poverty.
As a result of war, Angola has some 1.3 million displaced persons, of whom about 80 per cent were women and children, the report states. More than 100,000 have been disabled by the war and require special assistance programmes. Because of the prolonged war, the emphasis on interventions has been restricted to emergency assistance and there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Despite those conditions, new initiatives are emerging. Actions following the Beijing Conference include the development of a national strategy for the advancement of women; a seminar on gender issues in the provinces, and the development of a programme of action.
The report notes that Angola’s constitution recognizes the principle of equality and non-discrimination. Equality between the sexes was one of the ramifications of that principle. Actions to make the standards in the Constitution a reality can be found throughout Angola’s legislation and are expressed in the various branches of Angolan law. The Nationality Law, for example, provides that nationality by origin is awarded to children who have an Angolan mother or father, and that nationality by acquisition results from adoption, marriage or a declaration of will. Family relations in Angola are governed by the 1988 Family Code. According to that law, men and women are equal within the family, enjoying the same rights and subject to the same duties. Among other provisions of the law, decisions on vital family issues must be made by both spouses.
On the issue of violence against women, the report notes that there are no laws that specifically condemn sexual crimes against women. Domestic crimes are rarely punished and when complaints are filed, a great deal of leniency is always shown in sentencing men. The traditional view is that the woman is the guilty party and that the husband has the right to punish her. Family members put a lot of pressure on women to discourage her from filing a complaint. Angolan women were also victims of violence during the war. Women were raped by soldiers, forced to do manual labour, identified as “witches” and burned at the stake and used as “couriers”.
The Organization of Angolan Women (OMA), a legal advice centre, has been pressuring the Government and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) -- the party in power -- to put into practice the principle of women’s right to equality. Many of the changes in the law are the result of OMA pressure. There are three legal advice centres in the provinces of Luanda, Benguela and Cabinda. The number of cases brought to the centres does not represent the true situation, as violence is believed to be a private matter.
Regarding women’s place in traditional authority structures, the report says that the Bantu woman occupies a specific and honoured position in society because of her ability to reproduce. Because she is a mother, she occupies first place in the family. In Angola, as in other Bantu countries, there are females among the traditional chiefs, which is evidence of their role in society and their contributions to the battle for emancipation, as well as their struggle against colonialism.
On the issue of employment, the report states that Angola is undergoing a transition from a single-party State to a democratic one. Access to employment at all levels of the population is a basic right. However, the shortage of urban jobs at present, particularly for women, is a fuse that could ignite social unrest and increase the social differences between the sexes. The low purchasing power of wages affects housing and access to employment and is a major factor in household income. To escape that situation, Angolan women need to increase their socio-economic and cultural skills, especially their level of education, the report notes.
The Committee also had before it Angola’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports, which opens with a message from Angolan President José Eduardo Dos Santos. The President underscores his country’s firm intention to implement policies and programmes leading to the end of discrimination and full gender integration. The major role the family played in the upbringing and education of new generations, as well as in peace and national reconciliation, required the Government to prioritize women in its social policies. Legislation against domestic violation would be adopted according to constitutional law and the Convention.
The report details the efforts the country has made to promote gender equality, noting that the Secretariat of State for the Promotion and Development of Women, which was created in 1991, became a ministry in 1997. It also outlines efforts taken to: combat violence against women; eliminate trafficking in women; increase the participation of women in the political, diplomatic and justice fields; eliminate illiteracy and increase women’s access to education; promote women’s labour rights; improve health care, including reproductive services and treatment for HIV/AIDS; increase women’s access to credit; and offer women full rights to inherit.
The report recommends that the Government channel resources permitting the practical implementation of strategies to promote gender equality until the year 2005; pay special attention to implementing projects aimed at reducing poverty among rural women; and that all projects aimed at agriculture and rural development consider rural women, as they make up a large portion of the workforce.
Introduction of Report
FILOMENA DELGADO, Vice-Minister for Family and Promotion of Women, introduced her country’s report, saying the devastating war Angola had faced led to massive socio-economic infrastructure destruction, the existence of street children and handicapped people. Women were affected most and their status was characterized by a high level of mother/child mortality, malnutrition, illiteracy, poverty, violence, lack of resources and unemployment in both the formal and informal sectors. Women headed most households and they were the most affected by HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Angola ratified the Convention in 1984 without reservations, she said. Despite adverse conditions, the Government had taken consistent steps to progressively comply with the letter and spirit of the Convention. The Government had taken significant measures to address constraints in meeting report obligations to the Convention and other international legal instruments, including the promulgation of non-discriminatory legislation at all levels and fields. In March 1991, a State Secretariat for the promotion and development of women had been created. Upgraded to a ministry in 1997, it was charged with defining and executing the national policy for the defense of women’s rights. Part of the Cabinet, the ministry worked closely with non-governmental organizations and women’s organizations and had focal points in almost all ministries and enterprises, with the objective of mainstreaming gender in all government policies, programmes and projects. One of the ministry’s main programmes was to eliminate gender-based poverty through counseling and legal aid, as well as poverty eradication through microcredit projects and other interventions for rural women.
The Government had also taken other initiatives to address the social, economic, legal and political aspects of gender parity and discrimination. The Government believed that there should be a strong legal framework for the elimination of discrimination. Under the constitution, women were guaranteed equality before the law. All other laws sought to protect the special interests and rights of women, namely the Family Code, the Labour Code, HIV/AIDS laws and the Nationality Law. The elimination of all forms of women’s exploitation, including trafficking in women, prostitution and abuse, was also guaranteed in legislation.
Progressive socio-economic development had a direct bearing on the well-being, welfare and position of women, she said. High priority was being given to upgrading the population’s living conditions. The comprehensive reproductive health programme and national plan for education for all to the year 2015 addressed specific needs for women and girls. Despite the existence of a non-discriminatory Labour Law, the public administration employed 60 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women. As the unemployment rate was higher among women, women formed the majority of the informal sector. The empowerment of women in the decision-making process continued to be promoted, albeit slowly. In the current Government, out of 30 ministers only three were women, and of 40 vice-ministers, only five were women. In Parliament, out of 220 parliamentarians, only 36 were women.
Two years after the Luena Agreement, the Angolan Government was taking new initiatives in various fields to improve the living conditions of the entire population, including the strategy and strategic framework for the equality and promotion of women, the strategy for the reduction and elimination of poverty, the strategy for rural development and the programme of family tracing and reunification. Angola’s challenge was to eradicate all problems that affected women’s equality. Despite legal opportunities and the legal status of women, differences existed, particularly in decision-making, education, health, employment and governance. As the economy and society modernized, diverse needs emerged, prompting shifts in the traditional roles and responsibilities, value systems and transformation in family patterns and migration.
Experience showed that women were as capable as men, she said. It was time to remedy the old idea of women’s vulnerability. Marked by centuries of colonialism and decades of war, women, no doubt, had been the main victims. Giving them special attention, therefore, was essential for providing equal opportunities in the fields of assistance, education, training and employment. The paramount role the family played in bringing up new generations, as well as in the process of national reconciliation, required the Government to prioritize women in its social policies. Adequate legislation against domestic violence would be adopted according to Angola’s constitution and the Convention. Households needed to be converted into places of serenity, peace, and mutual respect with the aim of attaining equality.
Questions from Experts
GORAN MELANDER, expert from Sweden, noted that Angola had difficulties implementing domestic laws related to women’s human rights, stressing the need to strengthen the country’s rule of law and system of justice. He asked when the country expected to adopt its national human rights action plan, and whether the international community should do more to assist the country in addressing gender specific rights. Turning to the country’s 30-year civil war, when serious civil rights violations had occurred, he asked whether any reconciliation committee had been set up. Finally, he asked to what extent the Convention was directly applicable before domestic courts.
NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, stressed the importance of following up and integrating activities taken to integrate women into Angola’s economic and political activities. How did the country feel about people displaced by the civil war, and how was it planning to approach that problem? How would the country’s laws and legislation incorporate gender equality, and what were its strategies for the future? Was civil society involved in preparing the country’s report?
KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, asked for information about the scope and quantity of international aid to assist the country in promoting gender equality. What projects were underway, and did aid figures match the country’s needs? How transparent were procedures for receiving international aid, how was it monitored, and how were civil society and women’s organizations involved in using it? Also, how were strategies for gender equality put into practice and how was civil society involved in monitoring them?
FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, said that some of the Convention’s articles had not been fully covered in the country’s reports, and that some had not been fully understood. She noted that women had paid a heavy price during the country’s civil war, and hoped that they would be significantly involved the country’s development.
CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked whether the country’s judiciary was aware of the Convention, and whether training courses on it existed for the judiciary and legal profession. What efforts had been made to assist women in accessing the judicial system in both rural and urban areas, and were other institutions available to them? How was the country’s constitution being revised to contain provisions related to the relationship between international and domestic law? Would the new constitution provide for a constitutional court?
DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked whether the Convention had been domesticated, and whether it would prevail in the event of any conflict with national law. Had the Convention been involved in any litigation before national laws? She also requested information on gender equality and the non-discrimination provisions in the country’s current constitution. In addition, were there any programmes for women and children raped or abducted during the civil war, and how was the Government approaching the prosecution of those responsible? How did the country’s current law address female genital mutilation, and were there any statistics available on the practice?
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked whether legal advice centres in the country were run by the Government or non-governmental organizations. What was the competence of such centres, and what was their relationship to the country’s courts?
HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, noted that the country had drawn up an action plan to address gender equality up until 2005, which had been allotted a budget in 2002 and was to come into effect in 2003. Why the gap of one year before it came into effect? Was the national plan of action not considered important by the Government? Had there been any consultation with non-governmental organizations in formulating the plan?
MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, commended the progressive tone of Angola’s many legal texts, including provisions for equality within the family. She noted, however, the gap between the formal recognition of rights and their real enjoyment by women. Strong traditions and stereotypes stood in the way of the achievement of women’s rights. She also acknowledged the Government’s good intention and political will. She was impressed by the President’s message in which he recognized the need for action for de facto equality and stated that legislation against domestic violence would soon be adopted.
Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked what human and financial ways and means were available to the Women’s Ministry. Did it have focal points within all of the ministries and in all the provinces? How did the Ministry encourage school attendance, combat early marriage and develop family planning? Radio was a strategic media in Africa for disseminating knowledge. Did the Ministry use the radio for that purpose and what was the status of the legal council centres? Did they still exist, and were they established by non-governmental organizations?
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, commended the Government for prompt actions to address discrimination against women through a process of legal reform following the signing of the peace agreement in 2000. On the situation of women in politics and employment, the report acknowledged the lack of women in decision-making positions and in important political posts as a deterrent to the advancement of women. Did the Government envisage adopting temporary special measures to improve the de facto situation of women and achieve equality of results? Also, did the constitution allow for the adoption of special temporary measures?
SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, stressed the urgent need for a specific law on domestic violence. Did the law now being prepared refer to general recommendation 19 of the Convention and was there a time frame for its adoption? Did the Government envisage another law on violence in general? Was gender training for police, media personnel, and judges in the gender action plan for 2001-2005? The role of the media should be enhanced to accelerate awareness of domestic violence. Violence against women should be reported as a violation of human rights. To what extent did the legal advice centres support the Government to enact the law on violence against women now being prepared?
FATIMA KWAKU, expert from Nigeria, asked for further information on the domestic violence law, which would soon be adopted. Was that law restricted to domestic violence only, and how soon would it be enacted? The counselling centres, she noted, appeared only to focus on the issue of domestic violence.
Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, said the early start of sexual life in the life of girls was a crucial problem to be targeted by the Government in the interest of genuine gender equality in the future. She questioned the use of the term “sexual life”. On the basis of the information provided, she felt that the whole notion of early sexuality should be transformed to the area of abuse and targeted as such. What was actually happening to young girls staring their sexual lives at ages 12 or 13? Would the Government be ready to reconceptualize and prosecute those who violated children’s fundamental rights to live as a child until the age of 18?
HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, noted that, according to the report, the conduct of the police force was stigmatized. Their awareness of women’s issues had not been raised. Men were often shown great leniency. Also, the report indicated that organizations to guarantee respect and implementation of the law were not really doing their job. She had expected the fourth and fifth periodic reports to include follow-up on such issues. What was the balance sheet regarding the various issues that had been diagnosed in the first report?
DORCAS AMA FREMA COKER-APIAH, expert from Ghana, addressed the issue of trafficking in women, noting that it was related to prostitution. What efforts was the Government taking to deal with the trafficking in women regarding prostitution?
SELMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, asked about the situation of internally displaced women. In particular, she wanted information on the violence against women during war. Had a war crimes investigation commission been established? What was the role in that regard of the national bureau of investigations? Had the soldiers that had raped women been punished? What arrangements were there for so-called “war babies”? Many families had lost male members. Had funds been established to help families who had lost their primary breadwinners? Regarding the large number of women refugees in neighbouring countries, had any measures been taken for their return?
Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, raised the issue of women’s low level of participation in politics, noting a downward trend since 1992. There was a noticeable absence of women in decision-making positions in the areas of peace, disarmament and national reconciliation. That contradicted the affirmation in the report of African women’s historic role as heroines. Why had there been a decrease?
MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said that Africa, the poorest continent, had had outstanding women leaders in the past. Colonialism had affected Africa more than other areas. After centuries of colonialism, it was not possible to wipe away all the evil that had been perpetrated on the continent. It was necessary to take account of what could actually be achieved in advancing the continent. Algeria had also experienced colonialism and civil war. Without women entering decision-making positions, not much could be achieved. To be effective, at least 30 per cent of parliamentary seats had to be occupied by women. Non-governmental organizations and political parties also had to be involved. If political parties received State assistance and had a system of quotas and reserved seats, success would be possible and a minimum presence of women in the parliament would be assured. That was a way to get things moving in Africa. Women could change the face of Angola. Structural adjustment programmes also posed a problem. Angolan women must be given a chance.
Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked if the Government had taken concrete steps including the use of temporary special measures, to increase the number of women in decision-making positions? Regarding Security Council resolution 1325, did the Government follow that resolution?
Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked about the participation of women in the justice services. Angola had three levels of judges, namely supreme, municipal and provincial. He asked for more information on the gender composition of provincial courts. There was a serious under-representation of women in the justice services. Temporary special measures were not completely at the discretion of governments. States parties were obliged to adopt temporary special measures, if they could be shown as appropriate for developing a specific goal of women’s substantive equality. Was the Government considering the adoption of temporary special measures to increase women’s participation in the justice services?
Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, stressed that the low participation by women at the decision-making level was not linked to a lack of interest of women in politics. While women around the world were interested in politics, they were too busy with other tasks. Men had more time to enter politics. Firm political will was needed to increase women’s participation in politics. Efforts had to be made to increase their representation. Did the delegation expect the situation to change with the upcoming 2004 elections?
Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said that some statements on the right to national identity on page 27 in the combined fourth and fifth reports were confusing, and he asked for clarification.
ROSARIO MANALO, expert from the Philippines, asked what agency was accountable for implementing programmes on gender equality, and whether it had sufficient Government funds to effectively carry them out. What were its other sources of funding? What incentives were offered by the State to attract more women to pursue education? Were there training programmes for teachers, particularly in literacy? How had liberalization of the country’s education system affected women and girls? What percentage of them now attended private schools?
SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, asked whether the study on gender in the combined report included stereotypical differences. If the country’s educational reform did not lead girls to choose non-traditional subjects in school, they would remain in informal labour sectors. How was gender stereotyping avoided in classrooms? Did any statistical data exist on the current illiteracy level among women?
Ms. SAIGA, expert from Japan, noted that education had become a political priority in Angola, but that commitment was lacking. How was the Government trying to encourage children to go to school, and them from dropping out? What was the country doing to improved school access and involve children in education?
NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, stressed that the States should promote equal employment, salaries and social benefits for women in the private sector. Also, how was the country planning to assist women with obtaining credit in the future? She also emphasized the need to develop criteria to end sexual abuse in the workplace.
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked why Angola had adopted no labour legislation prior to the year 2000. Were women being made aware, in both rural and urban areas, of new legislation on gender equality? What were the penalties for infringing on those laws, and were there any special industrial tribunals? Did women have easy access to justice, and were there eligibility criteria for obtaining legal aid? Was there a system of labour inspection that insured compliance with labour laws, salary inequalities, and health and safety regulations? What was the country’s ratification status with the International Labour Organization (ILO)? Did the country have legislation regarding child labour?
SALMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, asked about employment opportunities for youth. Also, what kind of employment opportunities existed for women in the public sector? Did micro credit facilities demand collateral from women? Did women in the private sector receive benefits that were stipulated by law, and equal wages?
Ms. SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked about the status of the country’s five-year plan on gender equality. Was it being evaluated, and how it was being implemented?
Ms. KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, drew attention to the decrease in life expectancy for Angolan women, as well as the country’s high rate of maternal and child mortality. Was there a national health policy to address those problems? Was there a policy for HIV/AIDS?
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked about the extent to which rural areas were setting up or rehabilitating infrastructures to deal with health problems. Also, did the country have a strategic plan for reproductive health? What efforts had the Government made to provide family planning information to women and girls?
Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said women and men should be equally entitled to sports and other recreational activities. He was disappointed to read of the poor state of sports facilities in Angola. The first report noted that Angolan women could be the vector of transmitting Angola’s culture to the world. The second report contained no information on the issue of women’s participation in sports, recreation and cultural life. What was the present situation, and what kind of policies was the Government adopting in that regard? In difficult times, sports and cultures could be a breeding place for reconciliation.
Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, noted that in rural areas, traditional laws governed family relationships. It was important to understand the situation of rural women in Angola, as they played a crucial role in Angolan society, performing myriad tasks, none of which were remunerated. Development policies must focus on improving the conditions for rural women. The rural sector was the second most productive sector in the country. Were there special programmes to aid rural women?
Ms. ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, requested clarification on the kinds of marriage, including how they were dissolved, and on the guardianship of Angolan children. The 1995 Beijing Conference had made a significant contribution to the Convention. Strong political leadership and the provision of financial resources were needed to implement both the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention. Resources must be found to enhance women’s purchasing power. To that end, at the national level, resources had to be mobilized to implement the plan of action referred to in the report. At the regional level, within the context of the African Union, ways must be found to finance the various projects. The United Nations regional and subregional commissions must also be encouraged to make funds available. At the international level, sufficient financial resources must be mobilized. Had Angola received bilateral or multilateral assistance, as enshrined in the Beijing decisions and endorsed by all the countries present in Beijing? The Government must demand its rights.
Ms. GNACADJA, expert from Benin, asked about the conflict between civil and commercial courts regarding material relationships. She also asked for information on the civil, family and penal codes. How did the penal code differentiate between the marital rights of women and men? She encouraged the Government to urgently find a solution to the issue of early marriages. She also asked for more information on the inheritance rights of widows. As women headed most households, what were the legal provisions for women abandoned by their husbands?
Ms. MANALAO, expert from the Philippines, asked if the law sanctioned polygamy. If so, what concrete steps were being taken to eliminate the practice?
Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked if women knew of their rights in terms of the family code. If a husband violated equality provisions by taking another wife, or by mismanaging family property, could the wife file a court case? Had there been coordination with the National Institute of Statistics regarding collecting sex disaggregated data? While the legal marriage age was 18, 15-year-old girls and 16-year-old boys could marry in some circumstances. The criteria would be the physical development of each sex. Who decided if a boy or girl was physically developed? Marriage at 15 or 16 had serious health, educational and numerous other implications. She also asked about the protection of non-registered children living in other families.
Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked about the rights of women who were not legally divorced, but whom their husbands sent away.
Ms. ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, stressed the need to address the issue of women and the environment.
HANNA BEATE SCHOPP SCHILLING, expert from Germany, asked to what extent the country’s formal legal structure contradicted traditional law. The Committee needed information on the existence of traditional practices, and who administered justice in rural areas. Were there any plans to train rural judges with regard to formal law? Had efforts been made to codify laws?
DORCAS AMA FREMA COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, asked whether the work of traditional midwives was continuing. She also asked questions about the existence and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS treatment in the country. What were the rights of boys and girls in inheriting property from their parents?
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