ROMANIA QUICK TO INCORPORATE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION MEASURES INTO DOMESTIC LAW, BUT EQUAL ATTENTION NEEDED TO ENSURE RESULTS, COMMITTEE EXPERTS SAY

26 May 2006
WOM/1564

ROMANIA QUICK TO INCORPORATE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION MEASURES INTO DOMESTIC LAW, BUT EQUAL ATTENTION NEEDED TO ENSURE RESULTS, COMMITTEE EXPERTS SAY

26 May 2006
General Assembly
WOM/1564
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

735th & 736th Meetings (AM & PM)

ROMANIA QUICK TO INCORPORATE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION MEASURES INTO DOMESTIC LAW,

BUT EQUAL ATTENTION NEEDED TO ENSURE RESULTS, COMMITTEE EXPERTS SAY

More Gender-Based Disaggregated Data Needed

To Evaluate Country’s Programmes Benefiting Women

Romania had been quick to incorporate anti-discrimination measures into its domestic legislation, but equal attention must be paid to ensuring results, members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said today, as they considered Romania’s sixth periodic report.

Unless Romania collected more gender-based disaggregated data, it would not be possible to satisfactorily evaluate the country’s numerous programmes to benefit women, expert members stressed further.

In her introductory remarks, the president of Romania’s National Agency for Equal Opportunities, Maria Mota, spoke at length about the Agency’s mandate, which was to create national action plans for the advancement of women and oversee the activities of other agencies in the area.  That agency was assisted by the National Agency for Family Protection, which dealt specifically with domestic violence issues, and the National Agency for Trafficking.  Their efforts were further supplemented by activities of the National Commission for Equal Opportunity, a body comprising ministry representatives, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and employers, as well as the National Council for Combating Discrimination, which had the authority to hear complaints and mete out sanctions.

Ms. Mota said that the Agency for Equal Opportunities conducted vigorous awareness-raising campaigns in conjunction with several ministries to educate society on measures implemented so far, resulting in the publication of a magazine, website and video.  The National Council for Combating Discrimination organized training courses for magistrates and judges.

However, expert members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of concrete data on how Romanian women had benefited from the new laws, programmes and institutions as compared to men, and whether women continued to encounter discrimination, despite such efforts by the Government.  The low representation of women in Parliament, for instance, indicated that women faced difficulties in the political sphere.

One expert pointed out that actions to eliminate sex-role stereotyping had so far been limited to schools -- for instance, in the training of textbook evaluators and teachers -- and that the Agency’s sensitization efforts should be widened to target political parties and the business sector.

The Committee also expressed concern over the dearth of gender disaggregated data on the Roma community, whose population stood at 500,000, according to data from 1995.  The delegation, however, did identify efforts to end the mistreatment of Roma women by the police, through the launching of community training programmes in 2005, to sensitize police officers on Roma culture.  There had been no discussion at all on disabled women.

The Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had before it Romania’s sixth periodic report (document CEDAW/C/ROM/6) on that country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women from 1998 to 2002.  Romania ratified the Convention in 1982 and is also a signatory to its Optional Protocol, which it ratified in 2003.

According to the report, a change in political leadership in November 2000 provided an opportunity to promote women’s rights in a dynamic fashion.  Since its last report to the Committee, Romania has adopted an ordinance on the prevention of all forms of discrimination, making it the first Eastern or Central European country to adopt anti-discrimination regulations.  Under that law (Ordinance No. 137/2000), individuals or human rights organizations may bring complaints before the National Council for Combating Discrimination, a Government entity that has received more than 100 complaints since its inception in August 2002.  It deals with accusations of differentiated treatment between women and men in the workplace, unequal access to leadership positions, discrimination against the Roma community, and discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Also discussed in the report is a National Action Plan to speed up the harmonization of domestic and international regulations, described as the “legislative approximation process”.  The primary vehicle for drafting policies in that area is the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family, through its Service for Equal Opportunities Programme.  May 2002 saw the introduction of a law on Equal Opportunities and Treatment for Women and Men (Law No. 202), which covers sexual harassment, equal participation in the decision-making process, the freedom to choose and exercise one’s profession, and equal income for equal work, among other things.  It was the first law to enforce sanctions for the practice of direct, as well as indirect, discrimination.

Addressing women’s participation in political and public life, the report states that Romanian authorities and the Council of Europe developed a 2000-2001 programme to promote the balanced representation of women and men in the country’s political and administrative decision-making bodies.  Among the activities conducted was a gender-equality training workshop called “Political Campaign on Women’s Role for Good Governance”, and a seminar on gender mainstreaming called “Measures and actions to promote women in decision-making”.  The Ministry of Labour has also collaborated with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to develop programmes on women’s health, the elimination of violence against women and children, and in publishing guidelines on maternity rights.

Romania is notable for being a country of both origin and transit for internationally trafficked women and girls, with 13-to-26-year-old females being the most frequent victims, the report says, describing several anti-trafficking laws adopted in 2001.  They cover acts committed by Romanian citizens outside the country or by Stateless persons living in Romania.  A National Coordinator oversees the inter-ministerial committee responsible for monitoring the crime.

During preparation of the report, an inter-ministerial group was working to develop strategies for preventing, monitoring and controlling domestic violence.  Other topics covered include the impact on women of the Family Code and a project to encourage the economic empowerment of rural women.

Introduction of Reports

Introducing the report, MARIA MOTA, President of Romania’s National Agency for Equal Opportunities, said that between 1999 and 2006, the country had adopted a package of legal instruments and related special temporary measures to counter gender-based discrimination, trafficking in persons and domestic violence, as well as create equal opportunities between women and men and protect women during pregnancy and motherhood.  The National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD), established in 2003, monitored the implementation of those laws, investigated allegations of discrimination, imposed sanctions, assisted victims and disseminated relevant information on those issues.

She said that in December 2005, a national agency had been established to prevent trafficking in persons and monitor assistance under the guidance of the National Strategy against Trafficking in Persons.  On the request of victims, the Ministry of Administration and Interior provided physical protection and temporary accommodation in seven governmental centres while non-governmental organizations provided long-term social reintegration programmes.  Foreign citizens were sheltered in special centres and could obtain protection through legal procedures accorded to them under Romanian law.  Special job fairs aimed at improving the economic and social status of persons at risk of trafficking had resulted in placements for 7,000 women in the textiles, services, agricultural and construction sectors.

In the same year, the National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men (NAEO) had been established with the support of the Interagency National Commission for Equal Opportunities and a network of county commissions, she said.  County commissions met regularly to develop plans of action in accordance with the National Strategy for Equal Opportunities.  To tackle domestic violence, a National Agency for Family Protection had created county offices, as well as an Information and Assistance Centre for the Family and a Pilot Centre, both in Bucharest, for rendering assistance to victims.

Beginning in 2006, she said, the Ministry of Justice had developed statistical indicators used to monitor cases of domestic violence pending before the courts.  An action plan had been drafted to identify the root causes of domestic violence and communities prone to violence.  Gender-disaggregated data had found that almost 42 per cent of victims were women, of which 7 per cent were older than 15 years.  A database on crimes such as murder, aggression and rape indicated that out of 167 persons convicted in 2005, 149 were men.  Some 45 people had been jailed and 62 fined.  The National Council for Combating Discrimination provided input for classes given to judges and prosecutors on combating discrimination.

On the participation of women in political and public life, she said that their representation in Parliament had doubled since Romania’s last report.  Currently, 11 per cent of the Lower House membership was made up of women, as was 9 per cent of the Senate and more than 60 per cent of the judiciary.  Three Cabinet Ministers and 10 State Secretaries were also women.  At the local level, three women were governmental representatives (prefects).  In addition, some 50 per cent of headquarters-based foreign-service employees were women, as were 36 per cent of those serving in diplomatic missions abroad.  Of those, 14 were ambassadors, consuls-general or chiefs of mission.

With respect to Roma women, she said that the policies of the recently established National Agency for Roma had helped to bring about a 2006-2008 Plan of Measures to prevent discrimination against them.  Some 240 Roma health mediators and a system of 536 community medical nurses helped to deliver health services to lower-income Roma populations in both urban and rural areas.  Health policies targeting women in general included:  the national strategy to promote breastfeeding in Romania; the strategy for the monitoring, controlling and prevention of HIV/AIDS; and the national strategy for preventing sexually transmitted diseases.  There had been a significant fall in the number of abortions and disadvantaged women had free access to contraceptives.

This year, the National Agency for Equal Opportunities had launched a website containing information on legislative frameworks at the international, European and national levels, she said.  A large part of the site dealt with gender-based violence, providing links to the home pages of non-governmental organizations active in that field and that of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women.  Res Publica, a magazine on equal opportunities between women and men, and a video promoting the cause were produced by local and national television networks under the theme “Is there anybody missing?  You’re the one missing.  Women are missing.”

Accompanying Ms. Mota in the Romanian delegation were:  Mihnea Motoc, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations; Octavian Stamate, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission; Dumitru Licsandru, President, National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings and Assistance for Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings; Liliana Preoteasa, Director-General, Ministry of Education and Research; Adrian Pastrascu, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Education and Research; Ana-Maria Rusu, Counsellor, National Agency for Gender Equality; Adrian Bunoaica, Counsellor, National Council for Combating Discrimination; Daniel Verman, Counsellor, Ministry of Health; Diana Serban, Counsellor, National Anti-Drug Agency; Ruxandra Iliescu, Counsellor, National Anti-Drug Agency; Claudia Grosu, Counsellor, National Agency for Roma; Cristina Gaginsky, Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Amelia Mladin, Second Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Rapporteur of the Committee and expert from Croatia, asked if non-governmental organizations had been consulted during preparation of the report and what level of involvement they had had in putting together the 2006-2009 strategy on equal opportunities.  How did the Government follow up with their recommendations?

She also asked whether the Government’s definition of discrimination covered all fields prohibited by the Convention, and if discrimination by persons and enterprises was prohibited.  What was the full scope of legal coverage regarding the prevention of domestic violence, and did victims have a right to psychological and social measures under the law?  Was marital rape sanctioned by the Penal Code?

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Chairperson and expert from the Philippines, sought information about the effective power and mandate of the National Agency for Equal Opportunities, asking whether it was more of an advisory body to the Government, if it had real executive power to pursue projects and draft legislative proposals, and what its real mandate was.  How well were the different ministries represented in the Interagency National Commission for Equal Opportunities?  Could their representatives make decisions in their own areas or were they just technical people?  Where was the Commission located, and what were its human and financial resources?  Could the delegation elaborate on sex-role stereotyping and prejudice in the media?  What measures were there to address violence in schools?

Country Response

In response, a delegate said the Government had consulted civil society and had a good working relationship with non-governmental organizations in implementing the 2006-2009 national strategy.  The National Commission on Equal Opportunities comprised representatives from different ministries and trade unions and worked closely with the National Agency for Equal Opportunities to monitor progress in achieving gender equality in various economic sectors.

She said the National Agency for Roma did not compile official gender-based statistics.  According to a 1998 survey, the Roma population stood at 500,000 and approximately 27 per cent of them were fully employed, of whom 30 per cent were women.  The agency had a national strategy to improve health, education and employment opportunities for the Roma community and to eliminate negative stereotyping in the media.

Another delegate said that Law 202 on equal opportunities, enacted in 2002, defined discrimination in the same way as it was defined in the Convention and dealt with gender equality as it related to employment, education, health care, access to culture, information and decision-making.  Government Ordinance 137 on preventing and sanctioning all forms of discrimination, established in 2000, concerned the use of the Convention in the courts to combat direct and indirect discrimination, including harassment.

The definition of discrimination applied to persons and enterprises, another delegate said.  The National Council for Combating Discrimination and the National Institute for Magistracy had a common protocol of cooperation to facilitate access to updated information.  They organized training courses for magistrates and judges.

With respect to the use of the Convention in the courts, he said the magistrate had jurisdiction over whether to invoke it.  As for discrimination in the mass media, a Government department monitored print and broadcast media.

He said the National Council for Combating Discrimination prohibited gender-based advertisement of jobs and had imposed sanctions in 28 cases of discrimination in both the print and broadcast media.  However, it was often difficult to distinguish between discrimination and freedom of speech.

Regarding protection for victims of domestic violence, another delegation member said shelters provided free food, lodging, psychological counselling and legal aid to victims and their families.  Judges, prosecutors and police officers must inform victims of domestic violence, either verbally or in writing, about the services available to them.  The courts also referred victims to psychological counselling services, while victims of severe physical violence were referred for medical treatment.

Another delegate said the Ministry of Health no longer oversaw psychological and social assistance for domestic violence victims and the Ministry of Labour was now charged with ending domestic violence.  Law 217 on preventing and combating domestic violence, passed in 2003, had mandated the creation of the National Agency for Family Protection.  The Ministry had collaborated with representatives of non-governmental organizations, the Inter-Ministerial Commission, other Government offices and Parliament to draft the law, bearing in mind that most domestic violence victims were women.  Pilot programmes initiated by the Ministry of Health and subsequently taken over by the Ministry of Labour provided assistance and protection for domestic violence victims.  Training programmes had been set up to sensitize doctors, nurses, social workers, judges, police officers and other entities involved in rooting out domestic violence.

On violence in schools, another delegate said it was prohibited and teachers committing violent acts against students would lose their jobs.  A special ministerial order had been issued to ensure security in schools, as well as partnerships with police and local authorities.  The Ministry of Education and Research had also set up programmes to promote regular meetings with parents and school counsellors.  Less than 2 per cent of violent acts in schools were actually physical and most involved students bullying and mocking each other.  The National Institute of Pedagogical Sciences and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had conducted a national study of different forms of violence by students against teachers.

There was currently no data collection on domestic violence within Roma families since it was not thought to be characteristic of that community, the delegate said.

Another delegation member said the implementation of equal opportunity strategies was the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family.  Its National Agency on Equal Opportunity had been tasked with introducing bills in Parliament, creating action plans and integrating the activities of other governmental agencies.  That agency dealt with complaints from the public and enforced sanctions in cases involving all forms of discrimination.  It frequently worked with county commissions (comprising non-governmental organizations, trade unions and employers), as well as the National Commission for Equal Opportunity.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, asked whether Government ministries had small units or focal points collecting gender-disaggregated data, and whether ministries practiced gender-responsive budgeting.  Did Romania have a human rights commission and, if so, what was the gender distribution among its membership?  What temporary special measures did the Government have in place?

MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, sought a more systematic description of actions to eliminate sex-role stereotyping and better data on sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls.  How was the National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking structured, and what training did its staff undergo?

Country Response

Regarding preparation of the report, the head of the delegation said that each participating ministry was simultaneously a member of the National Commission of Equal Opportunity, whose 32 members included six women.  There was an equivalent body in the Senate and in the lower house of Parliament, the directors of which were both women.

On education, another representative said there had been significant curriculum changes relating to human rights, discrimination and equal opportunity.  Discrimination issues existed in the textbooks and curricula rather than the administration.  Many textbooks were produced under ministry regulation and a policy was being developed to create appropriate guidelines.  Training would also be conducted for those evaluating the textbooks.  Additionally, teachers had been given training regarding trafficking, which had been made a compulsory subject for the upper years.

Another delegate, addressing the question of temporary special measures, conceded that Romania had no quota system.

Revisiting the issue of trafficking, another delegation member assured the Committee that the issue was a priority.  It had taken the Government by surprise in the 1990s, but a legal framework and institutional structure involving police, border police, and a specialized network of 56 judges were now in place to combat it.  Some 2,551 victims had been counted in 2005, of whom 78 per cent were women of which, in turn, 24 per cent were victims of domestic trafficking.  Some 1,600 cases had appeared in court, leading to the repatriation of 951 victims.

He said there were no known cases of juvenile prostitution, and that sex with a minor was considered a crime, regardless of whether or not consent had been given.  Child traffickers were punished like all other traffickers, but out of 945 trafficking cases, only two had involved children.  The National Authority for Child Protection had established shelters intended to help victims reintegrate into the family and the community.  The reintegration was monitored by the Government and supplemented by surveys performed jointly with non-governmental and international organizations and with financial support from UNICEF.  The National Authority had been formed in December 2005 under the purview of the Interior Ministry to oversee and assess the activities of all agencies involved in that area and to develop national standards.  It had a staff of 50.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

HANNA BEATE SCHÖPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany and a Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked how the Government planned to educate the public on the gravity of trafficking and violence against women and children, and on the importance of the related legal standards.

SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil and a Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked how many non-governmental organizations had worked on the country report, and whether measures to combat domestic violence integrated a gender perspective.

Ms. MANALO, expert from the Philippines, asked whether the Agency was considering other avenues to fight sex-role stereotyping beyond schools.  How many people worked at the National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking, and what was its budget?  Did Romanian law have a definition of marital rape?

Country Response

Regarding measures to educate society on measures implemented by the National Agency on Equal Opportunity, the head of the delegation said that vigorous awareness-raising campaigns had been conducted in conjunction with several ministries, resulting in the publication of a magazine, the establishment of a website and the production of a video.

She said high-powered non-governmental organizations had participated in writing Romania’s report.

Another delegate said with respect to domestic violence that shelters established by the Government and non-governmental organizations paid special attention to the needs of women and girls.  Police officers and shelter workers were trained to be sensitive to their requirements, including their medical needs.  The National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking had 50 people on its staff.  However, it did not receive its own money after approval of the national budget in March, but would receive money by way of the Interior Ministry.

Regarding marital rape, another delegation member explained that laws governing rape also penalized anyone who victimized members of his own family, including his wife.  Therefore, marital rape was indeed covered by Romanian law.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, noting that stereotypical attitudes were reflected in the low representation of women in political and public life, asked what measures were being taken to address the issue, since overlooking a candidate’s “competence” was not valid as a special measure.

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria and a Committee Vice-Chairperson, expressed vigorous concern over the low-level representation of women in Parliament and emphasized the need for political parties to put up more female candidates.

Country Response

The head of the delegation explained that financial problems often presented obstacles to women’s participation in politics.  The National Strategy for Equal Opportunity between Women and Men had proposed amending the election laws to include a 30 per cent policy, but political parties had not integrated that issue into their agenda and such a policy was not enforceable.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. SCHÖPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, pointed out that Romania gave prominence to European Union provisions and asked why it did not give equal importance to the Convention.

FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, sought clarification regarding the election law pertaining to the balance of men and women candidates.  What was the attitude of politicians and political parties towards that issue?

Country Response

A delegate said the election law would be modified further to include provisions that would facilitate the inclusion of more women in decision-making.  Politicians should advocate more for an equal balance of men and women candidates.  By implementing more European Union recommendations, Romania would achieve better results in the election process.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, said the report provided no new data regarding education among the Roma population and asked whether different agencies cooperated on gender mainstreaming for the Roma.  What measures did the Government envisage to address illiteracy among Roma women and the school dropout rate among Roma girls?  Could the delegation provide more information on reproductive sex education in schools?  What Government measures were being taken to decrease further the maternal mortality rate, and how was the Government addressing the fact that hospitals had specific rooms for the Roma?  Who would sanction discrimination in those cases?

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, noting that Romania and other Central and Eastern European countries had adopted a decade for educational integration, asked about Romania’s main health and education objectives for the decade.  Did any of its programmes have a gender-specific perspective, and how was it ensuring a balance between the Roma population’s linguistic identity and its integration into mainstream society?  Could the delegation provide statistics on the rate of illiteracy of women over age 50?

Ms. AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked what specific measures had been taken to encourage greater participation by women in the labour market, and what was being done to eliminate the pay gap between men and women.  What was being done to ensure that pay for women in traditional female occupations did not lag behind that of men?  Could the delegation provide sufficient information to facilitate analysis of the make-up of Romania’s manpower?  What sectors were women working in, and how many women worked in the urban and rural areas?

She also asked how many Roma women were employed in the labour market and what kinds of jobs they held.  Could the delegation provide a breakdown of the labour force by gender, in both the rural and urban areas?  What access did women in rural areas have to credit and bank loans, and how did access differ for Roma women?

ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, asked for examples of awareness campaigns to teach rural women about their rights.  She commended the July 2003 revision to the education law to provide girls and women with literacy programmes and supplementary courses at the secondary level.  Was there an age limit for enrolment in these programmes?  Were special efforts made to enrol illiterate single mothers in literacy programmes?  Were there any plans to replicate the existing rural health project in other rural areas?  How many women were participating in the project?  What had been the impact on rural women?  When would the project end?  How effective were the family planning campaigns in rural areas?  How much had unwanted pregnancy decreased, thanks to those campaigns?  Could the delegation provide gender disaggregated data on the percentage of the rural population that had benefited from these programmes?

She asked what plans the Government had to build health centres in rural areas.  The country report said 60 per cent of the rural population was not familiar with the National Council for Combating Discrimination.  Did girls and women account for the majority of that 60 per cent?  How could women and girls from rural areas seek redress?  How was Law 202 on equal opportunities applied at the local level?  Could the delegation elaborate on measures to be carried out in rural areas to end trafficking, where women tended to fall prey more easily to that practice?  Were family planning centres located in rural communities as well?

Country Response

Regarding the educational gap of women in rural and urban area, one delegate said, all provisions of article 10 of the Convention concerning education had been included in the Romanian Constitution and Educational Act, which guaranteed equal access to education for girls and boys.  According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, girls performed better in primary and secondary school than boys and, therefore, had better chances to continue their studies.  In 2004-2005, the school dropout rate in primary grades had been 1.3 per cent overall; the dropout rates among boys had been 1.5 per cent and among girls it had been 1.2 per cent.  The rate in lower secondary grades had been 2 per cent overall, 2.3 per cent among boys and 1.7 per cent among girls.  In high school, the rate had been 2.3 per cent overall, 2 per cent among girls and 2.6 per cent among boys.

She said that in the professional grades, the last two years of compulsory education, the dropout rate had been 5.5 per cent overall, 5.9 per cent among girls and 5.3 per cent among boys.  The Ministry of Education had not conducted research on the cause of the higher dropout rate among girls than boys at the professional education level.  However, she said professional education was not very popular among young people.  Girls, in particular, often preferred general education courses to technical, professional courses.

In terms of the educational gap between urban and rural areas, at the primary school level, she said the dropout rate had been 1.3 per cent in urban areas and 1.4 per cent in rural areas.  In the lower secondary grade, the dropout rate had been 1.8 per cent in urban areas and 2.2 per cent in rural areas.  Data was not available at the high school level.

The problems with rural education had mainly to do with poverty, she said.  Many children in rural areas did not continue school after the eighth, and last year of compulsory education, in order to enter the work force.  There existed a disparity, as well, in the quality of education in rural and urban areas.  A national programme funded by the World Bank aimed to improve the quality of education in rural areas.  There still existed a high number of unqualified teachers in rural areas.  The Ministry of Education was looking into training programmes for teachers to end that disparity.

Concerning the illiteracy among women over 50 years of age, she said the national illiteracy rate overall was 3 per cent, and was 1 per cent higher among women than men of all ages.  She did not have data for women aged 50 and above.  However, there was great interest among adults to complete their primary education, particularly among Roma women, who wanted to be able to help their children with homework.

The dropout rate was higher in the Roma population than the population at large, she added.  The Ministry of Education’s educational assistance programme for disadvantaged groups had been installed in 15 counties and it intended to expand the programme to all remaining counties in the future.  The programmes ensured marginalized groups access to pre-school education and offered after-school programmes to underperforming children, as well as special courses for dropouts, particularly among the Roma population.  Programmes in 10 counties had produced very positive results, as had training of school mediators, who worked with schools and families.  The Ministry’s aim was to increase enrolment of Roma children and improve their academic performance.

In terms of allowing the Roma population to maintain its linguistic identity, while integrating that population into mainstream society, she said all minorities had the right to be educated in their native language.  There was only one school in Romania were classes were exclusively taught in the Roma language.  Courses in the Roma language were offered, but all other subjects were taught in Romanian.  Segregation did exist, but it was due to the fact that, in some communities, the population was entirely Roma.  There was no planned segregation in schools to separate Roma children from the rest of the population.  In some cases, Roma parents would try to register their children for school in October, after the school session had already begun.  Legal measures had been adopted to prevent teachers and schools from discriminating against these Roma children.

In terms of age limits in education, she said people of all ages could enrol in the “Second Chance” literacy programme, and a “Second Chance” programme for general and professional education classes enabled adults to earn educational certificates.  She added that information technology courses were now compulsory subjects in the ninth and tenth grades, and business courses were compulsory in the tenth grade.

Responding to a question on Roma integration, a delegate spoke of the “Decade of Roma Inclusion” programme focusing on education, employment, housing and health, and touching on media portrayal of the Roma.  Efforts had been undertaken to reduce the school drop-out rate among Roma girls, and special centres had been established to provide family planning services to Roma women.  Many health and school mediators were Roma women, and most experts dealing with Roma issues were women.

Regarding Roma mothers’ access to hospitals, another delegate said that an enclave of Muslim Roma received care in special hospitals, in line with their religious needs.  Collaboration with non-governmental organizations on Roma issues was good.

Turning to abortion and maternal mortality, another delegate said the rates for both had decreased.  A new health structure dealing with mother and child issues had been created, with a budget of €20 million.  In the mid-1990s, the number of abortions had stood at 1 million, and it had fallen to 150,000 due to aggressive policies to discourage women from using abortion as a method of contraception.  More than 250,000 specially-trained family practitioners served the rural areas through health centres, offering free contraceptives, and more than 180,000 women had benefited from family planning services in 2004.  An education programme, created in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, also dealt with sexually transmitted diseases.  In areas not covered by such health centres, a network of community nurses had been able to fill the gap.

Romania was the only country that had a national agency dealing with domestic violence, he added.

Another delegate said the National Council to Combat Discrimination heard, filed and investigated complaints.  The plaintiff and the offender had a right to present their points of view in writing or in a hearing to the steering committee, which would then decide on the case and impose sanctions if necessary.  Efforts were being undertaken to enhance the Council’s image through media campaigns, and an opinion poll conducted last year had showed that it had a 38 per cent approval rating, an increase of almost 20 per cent over the previous year.

On how to increase the number of women in the workforce and reduce the wage gap between men and women, another delegation member said that six job fairs had been organized with a focus on increasing employment among women.  It had resulted in the placement of 7,000 women.  Other measures included educating women on their rights under the labour code, especially in rural areas, and special action to improve women’s access to fields in which they were underrepresented, such as information technology and construction.

With respect to rural women, the head of the delegation said that a photography exhibit on that issue was being set up in cooperation with a Spanish group.  Additionally, Res Publica magazine contained a section dedicated to rural women.  The Ministry of European Integration would soon create a programme dealing with rural women.  There was equal access to State allowance at the rural level.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

MARY SHANTHI DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, inquired about the significance of girls dropping out of professional level courses.  How comprehensive was the new health package?  Would it look at women’s general health concerns, and not just family planning?

Ms. MANALO, expert from the Philippines, asked the delegation to review the definition of marital rape under the Penal Code.

Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked why there were so few court cases of discrimination against women.  How many shelters were there for domestic violence victims?  How many were funded by the Government?  Could women use protection orders?  Could the delegation provide statistics on that?

GLENDA SIMMS, an expert from Jamaica, said Romania needed special measures to target discrimination against the Roma population.  Was the Government aware of police brutality against the Roma population?  Were there any special measures for dealing with violence against women by the police and security forces?

Ms. SCHÖPP-SCHILLING, an expert from Germany, asked if Romania separated boys from girls in information technology classes.  Sometimes the availability of contraception gave young boys the impression that young girls were more sexually available.  Was there a dimension within the reproductive health education programmes to empower young girls to say no to sex?  Did the Government have plans to reassess pay scales for women-dominated jobs?

Country response

A delegate said many parents and girls frowned upon professional level courses, viewing them as a preparation for direct entry into vocational jobs and careers only.  The Ministry of Education had changed the rules, to give students more options.  Starting in 2003, students who had entered art or trade schools had the same opportunity to take baccalaureate entrance exams as those who had opted for general education studies.  Since girls performed better in schools, they usually had a better chance to get into universities and later obtain jobs requiring higher education.

Information technology courses were co-educational. They were highly desired among boys and girls.

Turning to the definition of marital rape, another delegate said that a husband’s violation of his wife against her will or his taking advantage of her lack of defence was punishable by a prison term of five to 18 years.

Concerning the low number of court cases of gender-based discrimination, another delegate said the country report included only those court cases for which information was available at the time of publication. However, there had been many more cases in which no sanctions were applied or which had been referred to other Government authorities. Complaints made by women to the Ombudsman’s Office would be sent to the National Council for Combating Discrimination.

According to the National Agency for Family Protection, there were 33 shelters for victim of domestic violence.  Most were in Bucharest and run by non-governmental organizations.  However, the Agency’s 2006-2007 strategy was to build six more shelters in different counties and to offer financial support for eight more.  The law mandated that every county have a shelter.  However, it was up to local authorities to provide such a service.  The Agency had begun compiling statistics on domestic violence cases in 2005.  Of the 9,537 cases reported, 17 per cent had been reported by men and 83 per cent by women.  Female victims were referred to the police, forensic departments and non-governmental organizations for legal and psychological counselling.  Some were sent directly to hospitals.

Concerning the mistreatment of Roma women by the police, another delegate said the Ministry of the Interior and the National Agency for Family Protection were informed of such cases.  There were cases in Roma communities where Roma women would not respect police intervention, and would try to prevent the police from arresting Roma men.  Such cases were investigated by prosecutors and courts.  Efforts were also under way to encourage the Roma population and other minorities to respect police authority.  In 2005, the Ministry of Interior had launched local community training programmes to sensitize police officers on how to respect the human rights and practices of minority groups, while in such conflict situations.  Romani Cris, a Roma non-governmental organization, had a project to address cultural differences.  Police training programmes were open to both male and female officers, as was enrolment in the Police Academy.

Another delegate added that the National Agency for Roma was developing community programmes to educate all Government ministries and local authorities about Roma culture.  She said the Agency hoped to develop similar programmes at the national level for police officers.

Another delegate said Romania’s European Union accession process had led to a decrease in the pay gap between men and women.

Concerning the health law package, another delegate said the medical community had made a serious effort to focus more on preventive medicine, to empower family practitioners to encourage healthy lifestyles among their patients and expand health care services.  He said the goal was to hire 4,000 community nurses to work in poor communities.  Basic health care was free in Romania, and the new health package was comprehensive in scope.  The predominance of anaemia, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases among Romanian women was the same as it was in other countries.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. TAN, expert from Singapore, asked what was being done by the Inspectorate for Data Records to provide identity papers for the Roma population.  Also, how were former spouses protected from acts of violence, and could people seek protection in cases where the potential for violence existed?  Did the courts have the legal mandate to send victims, potential victims and perpetrators to counselling, and did the Ministry of Justice intend to collect statistics on people complaining about gender-related discrimination?

Country Response

Responding on the lack of identification papers among the Roma community, a delegate said that the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family, jointly with a non-governmental organization on Roma issues, were currently undertaking a programme to encourage the Roma to come forward for registration, where, for example, the Roma were told that, in order to marry they were required to present identity papers.

Another delegate said that the programme would cost €4.5 million.

To tackle domestic violence, another delegate acknowledged the narrow definition of domestic violence in the current law, but that it would hopefully be expanded soon, to include the wider World Health Organization (WHO) definition of violence: any kind of physical or verbal aggression by family members that caused physical or psychological pain.  It was also hoped that more attention would be given to the social re-integration of abusers following rehabilitation.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, noted that the Romanian minimum age limit for marriage was 18 for boys and 15 for girls, which was inconsistent with the Convention’s provision on equal age limits for both sexes.

HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, asked whether minorities were, in fact, treated equally in the eyes of the law, given the problem of language barriers in some cases, and the inability to bear court costs.  Could judges and magistrates invoke Romania’s ordinance on the prevention of all forms of discrimination, to ensure equal access to all?  Had use of the ordinance been integrated in the training programme for judges and magistrates?

Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said his question was the same as that of Ms. GNACADJA.

Country Response

The Romanian Parliament was currently working on a new family law to equalize the minimum age for marriage for women and men, a delegate said.

As for equal access of minorities, another delegate said that their access to justice was indeed assured through awareness-raising campaigns on all their legal provisions and rights.  Special courses on anti-discrimination legislation had been included in the curriculum of judges and magistrates, as well as courses on international tools, such as the Convention and related European Union directives.

Another representative explained that the practice code that regulated activities in the courts required that proceedings be made in the language of the minorities, when needed, or that they be provided with interpreters.  A procedural code also established that, in certain situations, court services would be free of charge.

In closing the day’s dialogue, the head of the delegation reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to advancing the rights of women and assured the Committee that its inputs from today would be incorporated in their working agenda.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.