WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TAKES UP REPORT OF KAZAKHSTAN; TOLD ‘EVOLUTIONARY’ – NOT REVOLUTIONARY – CHANGE SHAPING WOMEN’S PROGRESS
WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TAKES UP REPORT OF KAZAKHSTAN; TOLD ‘EVOLUTIONARY’ – NOT REVOLUTIONARY – CHANGE SHAPING WOMEN’S PROGRESS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
Chamber A, 757th & 758th Meetings (AM & PM)
Women’s anti-discrimination committee takes up report of Kazakhstan; Told
‘evolutionary’ – not revolutionary – change shaping women’s progress
Kazakhstan was approaching the issue of women’s advancement in stages -- from concept to strategy to law -- and believed evolutionary, not revolutionary, change was needed to bring about meaningful progress for Kazakh women, a member of that country’s delegation told the expert Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today.
Introducing Kazakhstan’s second periodic report, Aitkul Samakova, Chairperson of the National Commission on Family Affairs and Gender Policy, said Kazakhstan had succeeded in ensuring peace and accord throughout a complex transition period. Considerable change had taken place since 2001. With one of the 10 most dynamic economies in the world, Kazakhstan enjoyed the highest standard of living in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region. Located at the heart of Eurasia, at the junction of three world religions -– Islam, Christianity and Buddhism –- Kazakhstan today acted as a role model of peaceful coexistence for various cultures and civilizations.
Describing “tangible steps” to strengthen national institutions and legislation, she said one of the most important developments had been the adoption of the 2006-2016 Strategy for Gender Equality in Kazakhstan –- a first in its history, she said. The Parliament’s Majilis was now considering a draft law on equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men. As other CIS countries were only beginning work on similar legislation, Kazakhstan had modelled its draft on the French legislation. A special body -– an envisioned commission on equal rights -- would coordinate efforts to implement the draft law. The law included some quotas, including 30 per cent in the Parliament positions, she added.
While praising the country’s “good work” in achieving gender equality, experts also stressed the need for a time frame for the adoption of legislation. Expressing concern that the country wanted to “take its time”, one expert said that, while a combination of political will and a dynamic economic upsurge had contributed to the country’s success, Kazakh women had a sense of urgency regarding the need to adopt laws that would enhance their possibilities in society, one expert said. Such pressing issues as domestic violence also required immediate action, another expert added.
Noting that Kazakhstan was a source, transit and destination country of trafficking in women, experts also stressed the need for greater focus on that issue. The Convention was the charter of rights for women and States parties had a responsibility to promote the rights of all women in the country, one expert said. While the country had developed protocols with some of the countries to which women were trafficked, combating that crime would be difficult without understanding the driving factors behind it. Describing “a kind of benign neglect” of the issue of prostitution, she noted that, while prostitution was seen as an issue of trafficking, the report provided no sense of the problem inside the country. Although prostitution was not legal in Kazakhstan, the country’s legislation provided no penalty for it. Illegal activities should have sanctions.
Despite the country’s recent economic boom and its potential for women, experts also commented on persistent inequalities in the area of employment, including inequalities in the pension system, traditional areas of women’s work, and the wage gap between women and men. One expert noted that that country’s Strategy for Gender Equality failed to have a goal of addressing inequality of wage for work of equal value. The country’s labour law, moreover, did not even talk about work of equal value. She was afraid that so-called light industry, where women dominated, often translated into lower wages, as well.
Responding to the expert’s comments, Ms. Samakova said the delay in the adoption of the law on domestic violence could be explained by the population’s traditional mentality, which the Government was trying to address. Another member of the delegation added that, while there had been insufficient financial support for its implementation initially, she expected it to be passed in the near future. The issue of trafficking was systematically addressed in Kazakhstan. Apart from a commission on trafficking, a specialized department had been set up within the police system. In 2005, a two-year plan against trafficking of persons had been completed and, in 2006, a new four-year plan had been introduced. Constant efforts to improve legislation included an amendment to a number of articles of criminal and administrative laws, including a decree on a legal situation of foreign citizens in Kazakhstan.
The issue of employment was one of the most important areas of social policy, another member of the delegation added, describing measures to improve women’s access to the labour market at both the macro and micro levels. Vocational training was being encouraged at the level of the State, the private sector and for the unemployed. While the country did have a high level of gross domestic product, another member of the delegation said, the high level had only occurred in the last two or three years. The Government wanted to help women, but it also wanted to help men. The level of wages for men and women was different, as men worked more than women, he added.
Experts participating in the meeting included: Dorcas Coker-Appiah ( Ghana), Shanti Dairiam ( Malaysia), Cornelis Flinterman ( Netherlands), Naela Gabr ( Egypt), Ruth Halperin-Kaddari ( Israel), Violeta Neubauer ( Slovenia), Silvia Pimentel ( Brazil), Fumiko Saiga ( Japan), Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling ( Germany), Heisoo Shin ( Republic of Korea) and Glenda Simms ( Jamaica).
Chamber A of the Committee will meet again tomorrow, 17 January, at 10 a.m. to take up the combined second and third periodic reports of Namibia.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning held parallel meetings to take up the reports of Kazakhstan and Poland. For background, see Press Release WOM/1589.
Chamber A - Introduction of Kazakhstan Report
Kazakhstan’s delegation was headed by Aitkul Samakova, Adviser to the President of Kazakhstan and Chairperson of the National Commission on Family Affairs and Gender Policy. Also participating in the dialogue with the Committee’s experts were: Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative, Yerzhan Kazykhanov; Senators Beksultan Tutkushev and Svetlana Jalmagambetova; Judge of the Supreme Court, Aisulu Shaikenova; Madina Jarbussynova of the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan; Deputy Minister of Justice, Dulat Kustavletov; Aida Kurmangaliyeva of the Ministry of Economics and Budget Planning; Lidiya Grybenko of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection; Rashida Naubetova, Ulan Kassymbekov and Nelly Moiseeva, of the National Commission on Family and Gender Equality Affairs; Saule Dikanbayeva, Director of the National Scientific Centre for Paediatrics and Pediatric Surgery; and Gulira Myrzabayeva, Director of the United Nations Bureau on Gender and Development in Kazakhstan.
Introducing Kazakhstan’s second periodic report (document CEDAW/C/KAZ/2), Ms. SAMAKOVA noted that Kazakhstan had acceded to the Convention in 1998 and became a party to its Optional Protocol in 2001. Kazakhstan had ratified those two instruments without any reservations, as its domestic law was in compliance with international law standards.
Considerable change had taken place since 2001, when Kazakhstan’s initial report had been presented, she said. Today, the country was among the 10 most dynamic economies in the world with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of some 9 to 10 per cent. Regarding the country’s oil reserves, Kazakhstan was now ranked amongst the top 10 producers and was among the top 12 producers of coal, iron ore, copper and zinc, manganese and silver, bauxites and phosphates. It had also become one of the world’s leading grain exporters. A large-scale housing programme was under way. Never in its history had Kazakhstan experienced such rates of residential construction. Living standards had also risen significantly as a result of economic growth. The average monthly wage had doubled since 2001 and unemployment had declined.
Targeted social assistance was extended to low-income families, she said. A one-off allowance was paid on the birth of a child, a childcare allowance was provided until the child was one year old, and benefits were being paid to mothers with many children. Compared to 2001, annual social expenditures under the national budget had grown by 3.5 times and had amounted to 600 billion tenge in 2006, thus amounting to 37 per cent of the State’s budget expenditures. In 2007, social expenditures would increase by another 18 per cent, including a planned 30 per cent increase in public sector employees’ wages. The living standard in Kazakhstan was the highest in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region.
Located at the heart of Eurasia, at the junction of three world religions -- Islam, Christianity and Buddhism -- Kazakhstan today acted as a role model of peaceful coexistence of various cultures and civilizations, she said. Having taken as a basis the political formula “e pluribus unum”, Kazakhstan had succeeded in ensuring peace and accord throughout a complex transition period. Kazakhstan had put in place all legal and political conditions required for the development of civil society institutions, with some nine political parties and about 6,000 non-governmental organizations.
The adoption of the 2006-2016 Strategy for Gender Equality in Kazakhstan –- a first in its history -- had become one of the most important developments in the country’s democratic transformation, she said. The Strategy aimed not only to ensure equal rights as granted by the Constitution, but also to provide equal opportunities. The Government had approved a 2006-2008 strategy implementation plan and it encompassed 45 large-scale activities involving women’s political and economic advancement, protection of women’s reproductive health, combating violence against women and the achievement of gender equality in family relations. Those measures would be implemented by government agencies and funded by national and local budgets, with the involvement of non-governmental organizations.
Following the adoption of the Strategy for Gender Equality, the National Commission on Family and Women Affairs had been reorganized into the National Commission on Family Affairs and Gender Policy, under the country’s President, she said. The Commission’s Chairperson was also an ex-officio adviser to the Head of State. The National Commission –- still a consultative advisory body –- was vested with broad powers. It could participate, among other things, in drafting laws and regulations, as well as in designing concepts and national programmes. To strengthen the National Commission’s efforts, gender focal points had been established in government agencies, with the responsibility of implementing gender policies. The Parliament’s Majilis was now considering a draft law on equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men, which envisaged the establishment of an equal rights body that would monitor the enforcement of, and compliance with, the law on equal rights and equal opportunities. It would be a government agency with field branches and adequate material and financial resources.
“Thus, we have taken tangible steps to implement the CEDAW recommendations related to the strengthening of the national machinery on gender issues, as well as to passing the law on equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men,” she said. Kazakhstan had also implemented the recommendation on the establishment of an Ombudsman Office. The position of a Human Rights Ombudsman was established by a presidential decree in 2002. In its four years of operation, the Office had reviewed more than 24,000 applications, with over half of them being filed by women. Most represent complaints against officials and encompassed issues pertaining to citizenship, alimony payments and health care.
Regarding the concept of gender discrimination, she said that, while that concept was not present in existing legislation, the term was widely used in laws, regulations and legal practice. As international treaties took precedence over the country’s laws, the Convention, which defined the concept of gender-based discrimination, could be invoked. The concept had been, however, incorporated into the draft law on equal rights and equal opportunities, which contained articles that guaranteed equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men in such areas as public administration and electoral rights, education and culture and family relations. The draft law also provided for quotas aimed at having no less than 30 per cent of representatives of each sex in political institutions, in the area of labour relations, as well as in other fields. Parity between women and men was required when lists of candidates for any elected positions, including those from political parties, were finalized.
Continuing, she said a national women’s leadership network had also been established, bringing together 35 non-governmental organizations from all regions in order to train female politicians. Kazakh women had always taken an active part in the country’s public and political life. Thus, women accounted for 57 per cent of public civil servants, including in local executive bodies. Women comprised up to 61 per cent of employees in the judicial system and accounted for 42 per cent of judges, including 35 per cent of Supreme Court justices. The greatest number of women was traditionally employed in education, at 73 per cent, and health care, at 75 per cent. Women, however, mainly performed mid-level jobs. Few were at the decision-making level. Thus, in the Parliament, women accounted for merely 9 per cent. In maslikhats -- or local elected bodies -- they accounted for just 17 per cent. No women were among the regional or city akims. A law on equal rights and opportunities for women and men was, therefore, crucial. The Parliamentarian group “Otbasy” was lobbying for the draft law in the Parliament.
Non-governmental organizations played a major role in public and political life, including in efforts to promote gender equality, she said. A concept of State support in Kazakhstan and a law on socially relevant government contracting had been adopted. Expenditures related to the implementation of non-governmental organizations’ socially relevant projects were growing each year. While Kazakhstan had achieved the Millennium Development Goals in education, gender stereotypes persisted when choosing a career. The situation was gradually changing, however. Women accounted for 62 per cent of college and university faculties. Active efforts were being taken to promote gender education and awareness among the population at large.
Meeting its obligation under article 11 of the Convention regarding the elimination of discrimination in the field of employment, she said a draft labour code was currently under discussion in the Parliament, with its adoption scheduled for this year. The draft labour code set direct and specific labour standards related to women. According to that law, women were offered a maternity leave totalling 70 calendar days prior to delivery and 56 calendar days after delivery, with maternity benefits being paid by the employer, regardless of the length of service. A woman could be granted extended childcare leave, without pay, until the child reaches the age of three and still keep her job. Such standards, once adopted, would considerably enhance legal and social guarantees for women in labour relations.
To ensure women’s employment, great emphasis was placed on the development of entrepreneurship, particularly small-scale business, she said. The establishment of a small-scale entrepreneurship development fund had greatly facilitated efforts in that area. Women worked very closely with numerous microfinance organizations active throughout the country. As a result of steps taken, women now accounted for some 40 per cent of all entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan. The draft law on equal rights and opportunities contained articles that made it mandatory for employers to implement specific programmes in order to bridge the gap in wages of women and men by making sure that they had the same professional training and eliminating unskilled and low-paid jobs. All possible measures were being taken to improve women’s health. Measures were being taken to improve health-care services provided to rural women.
She added that a draft law on domestic violence had been developed and would be forwarded to the Government for consideration this year. The draft law introduced the concept of domestic violence, defined its main manifestations, provided for preventive measures against persons committing domestic violence and established the time frame for their application. Crisis centres for women and children affected by violence had been established, with 26 such centres now operational in the country. Last year, 15 criminal proceedings had been instituted involving trafficking in women in Kazakhstan. To combat that phenomenon, a law on introducing changes and amendments to some legislative acts on suppressing trafficking in persons had been adopted. A 2006-2008 Government action plan to prevent trafficking had been approved.
Concluding, she noted that Kazakhstan was party to over 60 international human rights treaties. Kazakhstan supported the amendment to paragraph one of article 20 of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time.
Expressing their appreciation for the Government’s commitment to the implementation of the Convention, the experts, in the opening round of questions, sought further information on the status of the Convention in Kazakhstan; the country’s legal measures to bring national legislation in line with international law; steps to advance women’s rights, including the draft law on equal rights and opportunities of men and women; and the national machinery and the national plan for the advancement of women.
Questions were also asked about the definition of discrimination in Kazakhstan, the division of labour among various bodies for the advancement of women; collection of sex-disaggregated data; judicial and non-judicial forms of conflict resolution; the impact of the Government’s efforts; and complaints on violations of women’s rights received and resolved by the courts and the Ombudsman.
CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, commended the country for its ratification of many human rights instruments, as well as the Convention’s Optional Protocol, and allowing international agreements to be directly applied in Kazakhstan. In that connection, he wanted to know if international conventions had priority over both existing laws at the time of ratification and laws adopted later by the Parliament. He also asked about the reasons for the lack of direct references to the Women’s Convention in Kazakhstan. Did it mean that women were not aware of their rights? What was being done to raise the legal literacy and awareness of the provisions of the Convention?
Several experts, including SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, wondered about the status of the draft law on domestic violence. Ms. Pimentel also noted that, according to the report, in 2002 and 2003, a number of laws had been passed, incorporating amendments and additions into certain enactments regarding illegal migration, incorporating additions into the Criminal Code and amending the law on tourist activities. She wanted to see data in support of the Government’s claim that “those laws removed many problematic issues and play an important role in the struggle against an anti-social phenomenon, such as trade in persons for purposes of sexual or other exploitation”. Her other questions related to the court cases filed by women facing discrimination and the remedies available to female victims of discrimination, implementation of international standards and norms, and gender-based evaluation of existing laws.
SHANTI DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, recalled that the Committee had urged the Government to take a holistic approach to the implementation of the Convention. Indeed, many attempts had been made to implement that recommendation. Now, it was important to see how “the good work” could be further advanced for the achievement of de facto equality. She wanted to know what was being done to introduce a unified framework for coordination of the efforts of the national machinery and international organizations, which provided assistance to the Government. Unless the country’s policies and plans effectively eliminated both direct and indirect discrimination against women, de facto equality could not be achieved.
Regarding sex-disaggregated statistics, Ms. SAMAKOVA, the head of the delegation, said that since 1999, a gender statistics bulletin entitled “Women and Men of Kazakhstan” had been published in the country, incorporating information on all aspects of life of the population.
She said that the draft law on equal rights and opportunities envisioned special temporary measures for the advancement of women and addressed the issues of gender equality, equal status of men and women, and sought to eliminate gender discrimination and gender-based limitation of human rights. Efforts were being made to make the law more understandable to the population. The Government had sought models to follow in the drafting of the law. As other Commonwealth of Independent States countries were only beginning work on similar legislation, Kazakhstan had modelled its draft on the French legislation. A special body -- an envisioned commission on equal rights -- would coordinate all the efforts to implement the draft law. The law included some quotas, including 30 per cent in the Parliament positions.
On violence against women, she said that, in 1999, a national commission had been set up to address the issue. Some 26 crisis centres had been established to provide assistance to the victims, enabling women to get legal consultations and find out about their rights. The delay in the adoption of the law on domestic violence could be explained by the traditional mentality of the population, which the Government was trying to address.
During four years of its operation, the Office of the Ombudsman had received over 24,000 applications, over half of them from women. She also provided information on several administrative cases considered by relevant bodies in Kazakhstan, including a case on acquisition of citizenship and a case of a girl who was denied her right to education. Women’s issues could be addressed at many levels, from local to the Supreme Court. Many complaints were also sent to the Office of the President.
Regarding women’s representation, in addition to the 30 per cent quotas, she noted the fact that, at the middle level, some 57 per cent of civil servants were women. In the last six years, the number of women in State structures had increased significantly, by about 11 per cent. All the key ministerial posts were occupied by women. There were also female deputy ministers in practically all the ministries. Women could also be found at the head of many enterprises.
Regarding maternity, she said she was pleased to note that the mortality rate had declined. The State had set the goal of lowering Kazakhstan’s population by 2025. A law had been adopted on safety at work and a list of professions involving heavy labour established. Regarding remuneration for women after childbirth, she noted that, as the country’s economic situation was improving, she hoped the State would take on that responsibility. Women were entitled to pensions at an earlier age, namely 53, and the question of raising pension entitlements was being discussed.
Concerning gender stereotypes, she noted that, in 2002, State universities and other higher education institutes had introduced such subjects as the sociology of gender. The media also addressed the issue of family education and the general responsibility of men and women for raising children. A law on marriage and the child established equal responsibility for men and women in the raising of children. On the question of international assistance on gender issues, she said the National Commission was working in close contact with international organizations. The Minister of Economy and Budget Planning coordinated work with international organizations.
Addressing the application of international treaties over domestic legislation, another member of the delegation said that, with the adoption of international treaties, Kazakhstan’s national laws were brought in line with those treaties. There was no contradiction between the two. On the question of article 2 of the Convention and the relationship between international standards and the recommendations of international organizations, he said an inter-ministerial commission looked at Government decrees and national laws in light of all international laws, treaties, standards and principles. A law had been adopted, requiring that non-governmental organizations give their expert opinion on all those laws, as long as they were accredited to those ministries.
Turning to the draft law on equal rights and equal opportunities, another member of the delegation said that law was being adopted in stages, from concept to strategy to draft law. The Government was not hurrying, in that regard, and did not want a revolution. Other republics had adopted such laws, but did not have one woman in parliament. The process was moving slowly, but surely. When the draft was submitted to Parliament, it would go through the various readings and would deal with all human rights. Under the law, a body would be created with the ability to interfere in any ministerial decision that related to discrimination. The law on domestic violence was expected to be adopted in around one and a half years. The Government was trying to approach such issues in an integrated way, establishing standards of law and solutions both at the central and local level. In short, the Government was proceeding in an evolutionary, and not a revolutionary, way.
In a second round of questions and comments, experts sought further clarification on the issue of Kazakhstan’s’ national machinery for the advancement of women, particularly the functioning of the National Commission on Family Affairs. Experts also asked for more information on the role of gender focal points, including procedures for their evaluation and accountability mechanisms.
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, noting that the National Commission had been described as a consultative and advisory body, asked if drafts and plans were first submitted to the Commission for its examination. How often did that body meet and did it have a secretariat to organize its work? She also asked about the anticipated establishment of a new legal rights body. Would that body be the national machinery overseeing the daily implementation of the country’s strategies and policies, not only by the Government, but also in the private sector? She also asked the delegation to elaborate on the relationship between the National Commission and the new body.
HANNA BEATE SCHÖPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, said that while she was impressed by progress achieved since the initial report, she needed more information to understand the country’s success. The existence of some political will and the luck of an economic upsurge had contributed to the process. She was disturbed, however, to hear that the country wanted to “take its time” regarding the adoption of the various laws. There was a certain sense of urgency among Kazakh women, who wanted to see them adopted soon. In that regard, she asked the delegation to provide the exact time frame for the adoption of the equal opportunities law.
On the issue of national machinery, she asked whether the Commission was informed on a regular basis by the ministers of the various ministries. Was there a regular mechanism to ensure the Commission’s involvement? Also, could the Commission initiate suggestions for new laws and legal reforms, and what weight did those suggestions carry? She welcomed the creation of gender focal points, but stressed the need to train the lower echelons of the various ministries. There was a great need for training so that the review of laws, regulations and programmes was a natural governmental function and not passed onto civil society. She also wanted elucidation on the amount of money the Government was intending to spend, in that regard. An enormous training effort was needed.
Concerning the issue of quotas, she asked if the new equal opportunities law included a statement that the application of temporary special measures was not discriminatory. Would that be the case also with the new Labour Code? Educational efforts were needed to educate judges.
Addressing article 5, DORCAS COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, noted that a person’s behaviour and manner of conduct was learned at an early age. A great deal of work was being done to educate children and youth on the basis of gender equality. It appeared that the work being done was being concentrated in institutions of higher learning. What was being done at the primary level to address the concerns addressed by article 5? What measures were being taken to ensure the elimination of discriminatory practices at home? What role did the media play in that regard? Attitudinal change was difficult to achieve and required institutional change.
RUTH HALPERIN-KADDARI, expert from Israel, touched on the issue of gender based violence, expressing concern that the law on domestic violence had not yet been adopted and was now expected to be examined in January 2007. While she appreciated the attitude of evolution, and not revolution, some issues were indeed very pressing, especially the issue of domestic violence. According to the proposed bill, would the level of punishment for wife-beating be increased? She also asked whether the law would deal with formal marriages alone, or situations of domestic partnership, and if programmes existed to train police personnel, as well as judges, to make them aware of the problem of domestic violence. Addressing the issue of crisis centres, she wondered what progress was being made in the direction of subsidies and State support for them.
With Kazakhstan being a source, transit and destination country of trafficking in women, several experts focused on that phenomenon. NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, was among the members of the Committee who wondered about the statistics on trafficking, the penalty for that crime and social safety nets for vulnerable groups of women.
VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, noted with satisfaction the plan of action on trafficking in people and the existence of a commission to address that issue. Cooperation at national and international levels, as well as coordination of all relevant actors’ efforts was needed to tackle the problem. She wanted to know what was being done in that regard. She also insisted on the need to ensure adequate human resources and capacity-building, which would allow the national machinery for the promotion of gender equality to achieve its goals.
GLENDA SIMMS, an expert from Jamaica, said that the Convention was the charter of rights for women, and States parties had a responsibility to promote the rights of all women in the country. No groups of women should be marginalized. While the country had developed protocols with some of the countries to which women were trafficked, including the United Arab Emirates, it would be difficult to combat that crime without understanding the driving factors. In that connection, she wondered if any statistics were available on the countries of demand.
She also noted “a kind of benign neglect” as far as prostitution was concerned. It was seen as an issue of trafficking, but Kazakhstan’s report provided no sense of the problem inside the country. She also asked about the meaning of the fact that, while prostitution was not legal in Kazakhstan, the country’s legislation provided no penalty for it. Illegal activities should have sanctions. She noted that people recruiting prostitutes could be punished under the law. But what about the clients, who were driving the trade? That aspect needed to be dealt with, to eliminate the undesirable practice.
Explaining the functioning of the national machinery for the advancement of women, Ms. SAMAKOVA, the head of the delegation, said that the National Commission on Family and Gender had been set up by the President’s decree. It had 26 members, representing all the regions of the country, non-governmental organizations and trade unions, and had broader powers than preceding bodies. It was an advisory body, which met once a year. Based on its deliberations, the Chairperson of the Commission presented a report to the Head of State, who then directed it to relevant bodies for implementation. The Commission had vertical links to bodies at the regional level. Each ministry had a focal point for gender issues. The Commission was also constantly interacting with various Government structures. In particular, it examined draft laws from the gender perspective.
On the draft rights and opportunities law, she said that it was expected to be handed to the Parliament at the end of August and to be adopted in April next year.
Regarding the delay in adopting the violence law, another member of the delegation said that, initially, there had been insufficient financial support for its implementation, but she expected it to be passed in the near future. So far, resources from the State and regional budgets could not be allocated for the development of the crisis centres, because there was no legislative basis for their existence. Once the law was passed, that difficulty would be eliminated. She also updated the Committee on the training of police and other personnel on violence against women.
Turning to prostitution, she confirmed that, while illegal, it was not prosecuted under the law. Penalty for prostitution had been removed in 2002. However, commercial sex was condemned under the Criminal Code, and eight criminal cases had been brought before the courts in 2003.
Trafficking in people was systematically addressed in Kazakhstan, she said. All the activities were coordinated at the Government level. Apart from the commission on trafficking, a specialized department had been set up within the police system. In 2005, a two-year plan against trafficking of persons had been completed and, in 2006, a new four-year plan had been introduced. Constant efforts to improve legislation included an amendment to a number of articles of criminal and administrative law, including a decree on the legal situation of foreign citizens in Kazakhstan. Among other things, the amendments related to export, import or transit of persons for the purposes of exploitation and envisioned a penalty of up to 15 years’ incarceration for trafficking. There was also a separate, strengthened article on trafficking in minors in the Criminal Code.
Another member of the delegation outlined the country’s efforts to eliminate sexual stereotypes in school textbooks and to promote non-traditional occupations for boys and girls. Measures to eliminate stereotypes included special courses on family relations in upper school grades, training of teachers and introduction of equal rights and opportunities for the education of children. The mass media was also involved, with special budgetary allocations made for the purposes of gender education.
Responding to a round of follow-up questions, Ms. SAMAKOVA said many international organizations were providing assistance to Kazakhstan. Their assistance, both technical and other, was coordinated by the Ministry of the Economy and Budget Planning. Everything went through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Domestic law did take account of the provisions of international law. All international treaties and conventions ratified by the States had prevalence over domestic legislation. On the issue of gender discrimination, she noted that any action or failure to act that was an obstacle to equal opportunity was condemned by the law.
With regard to budgetary resources, she said the 2006-2016 Strategy on Gender Equality had the Government’s agreement. Government ministries and departments were responsible for its various measures. Financial resources for the Strategy’s implementation were, therefore, allocated to the various ministries. Six measures would be financed by international organizations. The draft law on equal rights prohibited direct and indirect discrimination.
Several experts then addressed the issue of public life, expressing concern at women’s low level of participation in politics. While the law on equal rights and opportunities would be important in that regard, equally important was the need to address peoples’ mental attitude towards women in politics. The various strategies did not seem to include specific measures to address stereotypes, including women’s access to political power, an expert said. Would the Government consider introducing quotas to increase women’s participation in politics? If the law on equal opportunities passed by next April, all areas of Kazakh society would be impacted. While the new law would not change things overnight, the Government needed to prepare.
Regarding women’s participation in political parties, experts asked if there had been strong resistance by men to the draft law. Had there been any backlash? an expert asked. It was important not only to change women’s ability and mindsets, but also that of men, so that they could accept that real progress was needed. Were there concrete steps to train women to campaign?
Responding, Ms. SAMAKOVA said quotas for women’s participation had the President’s full support. Women had been encouraged to speak. In 1999, 70 per cent of the elections had women as candidates. The time had come to trust women more to understand that they had the possibility to work and raise children at the same time. Two round tables had recently been held on the draft law. While each person had had a different opinion, by the time of the second meeting, those who had been against the law had changed their position.
Addressing the issue of stereotypes, another member of the delegation added that stereotypes existed in every country. Kazakhstan had started the work of overcoming stereotypes. She had no doubt that the majority would vote for the draft law. On women’s participation in political parties, the Government was working to raise awareness on that issue, holding many seminars in the last year to prepare women leaders. A special series of seminars had been conducted with political parties.
On the issue of trafficking, she noted that a shelter for the victims of trafficking, supported also by international organizations and non-governmental organizations, provided full support for women victims, including by paying rent for apartments and ensuring their physical protection.
Regarding women’s participation in international affairs, a country representative said that men and women had equal rights to represent the country in diplomatic relations. While some sexual stereotypes were present, the situation in that area was “not bad”. Some 41 women occupied diplomatic posts at present and women also represented Kazakhstan in international organizations.
As the Committee turned to the areas of education and health, several experts noted that women predominated in the medical, teaching and humanities fields. In particular, they were widely represented among teachers -- one of the low-paying professions in Kazakhstan. According to the report, some 86 per cent of young girls chose the field of education for a career, whereas most young boys chose electrical engineering. Several members of the Committee agreed that it was important to introduce the gender perspective in the curricula at all levels of education and wondered about the measures to encourage women to pursue non-traditional careers.
As far as gender education was concerned, Ms. SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, noted that the focus seemed to be on the institutions of higher education. However, it was necessary to address the issue of sexual stereotypes since the lowest levels of schooling. She was also curious about the topics for gender education, which included the courses in “modesty and loose behaviour”, “honour in virginity”, and the effects of alcohol and nicotine on girls’ bodies. That seemed to be a perpetration of an idea that the morality rested with women. In fact, in patriarchal societies, it was the loose and immoral behaviour of men that required particular attention. The moral prerogatives of society could not be placed on the shoulders of women alone, and it was important to expand the efforts beyond the narrow focus of the programmes in place now. Gender imbalances were deeply emotional and cultural, and it was necessary to move “out of the box” to achieve success in that regard.
Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, wanted to know what was being done to monitor the measures reported by the Government to provide free obstetric and gynaecological services to women, as well as its efforts to provide free contraception, and programmes to prevent genital and HIV infection and drug addiction. One of the aspects of that question was how the Government could guarantee respect for women’s autonomy and their fundamental human rights. She also had questions on abortion and the country’s law on the reproductive rights of citizens and the guarantees of their exercise, as well as new laws on the protection of women and children.
In the area of employment, Ms. GABR wondered about safety nets for women in coping with the disadvantages of the market system. The Government needed to take measures to address that situation, improving women’s chances of employment and the situation in the working place. She also wondered if medical examinations provided to women had an impact on their employment. Could they prevent women from finding employment or having access to certain posts?
Ms. SCHÖPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, wanted to know about Kazakhstan’s intended pension reform, saying that the current system contained some inequalities for women, compared to men. She also stressed the importance of addressing the wage gap between men and women, expressing concern that the country’s equality strategy did not have a goal of addressing inequality of wage for work of equal value. In fact, Kazakhstan’s Labour Law did not even talk about work of equal value. She asked about the reason for the exclusion of such an important equality measure and drew the Government’s attention to extensive research in the European Union and the United States with respect to that issue. She was afraid that so-called light industry, where women dominated, often translated into lower wages, as well.
Turning to the situation of women in rural areas, she said that she would like to receive more information in that respect. In particular, she wanted to know about the percentage of women holding land shares in comparison with men; and the sort of businesses in which women were trained in rural areas. More data should also be provided on elderly women, including their health situation and income.
Responding to questions and comments, a member of the delegation agreed that the country had stereotypes which needed to be overcome. While girls continued to enter the fields of education and health care, they were also being encouraged to enter technical fields. Women’s representation in the oil industry had increased, for example, and more women now held higher education degrees. The 2006-2016 Strategy included specific measures for education.
Concerning the issue of health, another delegation member said substantial change had been made since 2001, including the adoption of a law on reproductive rights, which guaranteed that the State would ensure the reproductive rights of all citizens. Reproductive health was still a problematic issue, however. Pregnancy testing was available. Providing broad access to family planning and sufficient information on such issues as abortion and the use of contraceptives, not only for adolescents but also children, was crucial. Some 60 per cent of contraceptives were provided free of charge.
Other problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis affected 60 or 70 per cent of the drug user population, she said. Pregnant women who were infected with HIV/AIDS had access to medical care. Turning to the issue of the pay gap, she noted that there was no difference between men and women in the area of health. The highest pay went to those with the greatest physical or psychological burdens, namely surgeons. Regarding elderly women, she said medical care was based on the principle of fairness and accessibility regardless of age or sex. Elderly women were guaranteed medical care.
Regarding the issue of rural women, another delegate noted that women had the same rights of ownership as men. Women also had the right to inherit land. Men and women were on the same footing regarding land ownership in rural areas and a market for women’s goods did exist. In 2000, some 90 agricultural entities had been headed by women. In 2001-2002 some 200 agricultural enterprises were headed by women. Some $4 million had been given to microcredit programmes.
The issue of employment was one of the most important areas of social policy, another delegation member added, noting the measures taken to address employment at both the macro and micro levels. Vocational training was being encouraged at the level of the State, the private sector and for the unemployed. At the micro-level, work was being carried out to eliminate obstacles to the acceptance and use of female labour. There was also a plan to make maternity leave a responsibility of the State, making it a social responsibility. Such an insurance plan would allow women’s pensions not to suffer as a result of maternity leave. A difference in wages did indeed exist, however. The pay level was gradually increasing, however, and there was an attempt to normalize and classify work. The issue of pensions was under constant review.
On reproductive health, experts had questions about the abortion rate among teenagers, equal access to health services and the use of contraceptives, and the rate of pelvic inflammation due to the use of intrauterine devices.
Ms. DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, asked if the Government had assessed the implementation of the laws ensuring formal equality between women and men as far as access to health services was concerned. Services might be available, but monitoring was needed to see if women had equal access in real terms. She also noted that contraceptive prevalence was rather low in Kazakhstan and wondered if a comprehensive range of contraceptive services was available to women. She urged the State party to assess its system of procurement to ensure that women had the most appropriate form of contraceptives to their age and situation. The high abortion rate could be an indication that abortion was being used as a method of birth control. Did the Government have a profile of women seeking abortion?
A member of the delegation replied that, indeed, there was formal equality in access to health services, but there were some difficulties in rural areas. The Government had begun to allocate financing to address that problem, and a new law had been adopted to ensure free access to medical services. Regarding the introduction of contraceptives, he said that the State did not have sufficient funds to buy all kinds of contraceptives. Nevertheless, it was trying to provide access to contraceptives for the population.
The rate of abortions had been reduced, but still remained rather high, especially among teenagers, he continued. Ministries of education and health had worked out a programme to teach reproductive behaviour to schoolchildren, both boys and girls, taking into account their age. The programmes were taught with parental agreement. The country’s policy also drew a clear line between the first and subsequent abortions, keeping in mind that the first abortion could lead to infertility.
Another member of the delegation added that reproductive health and family planning were part of the national policy of Kazakhstan, included in the laws adopted since 1992. Local polyclinics had dedicated offices for family planning, and special doctors provided medical assistance to teenagers at the age of 16 to 19. Part of their work was teaching adolescents regarding desirability of avoiding pregnancy and prudent sexual behaviour.
Several experts then addressed women’s family situation, asking questions regarding the incidence of “religious marriages”, civil laws governing marriage in Kazakhstan, alimony, child support, the rights of people involved in informal cohabitation and child custody after divorce.
Ms. HALPERIN-KADDARI, expert from Israel, said that experience showed that civil law, when implemented in traditional society, could lead to the sustainment of patriarchal norms. She asked for information on the economic consequences of dissolution of marriage and economic consequences of division of family property for women. Reference to some issues was vague in the report. For instance, it was not clear what was considered marital property. She also addressed the issue of the division of labour between husbands and wives within the family and spoke about the situation when husbands accumulated pension and other benefits during marriage, while wives put their efforts into the house and did not get such intangible property.
A member of the delegation said that when men and women formed a religious union, they also needed to have a civil procedure for their marriage to be recognized under the law. Property acquired during the time of cohabitation in legal marriage was considered joint property and was divided in the case of divorce. The property that belonged to one of the spouses prior to entering the marriage was not subject to division. On child custody, he said that, in the case of divorce, in the absence of agreement between husband and wife the courts looked, first and foremost, at the best interests of the child. Division of property in cases of cohabitation did not occur if such unions dissolved.
Country representatives also explained that, while religious marriages did exist, their number was insignificant. Forced marriages were condemned by the law.
In a follow-up round, questions were posed regarding maternity leave, medical insurance provided by the State and employers, the pension age, the legal definition of common property in Kazakhstan, and statistics of underage marriages.
HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, stressed that the Convention was not only about formal, but also substantive equality. The laws giving equal rights might be in place, but it was important to check what was happening on the ground. For example, women had formal equality as far as their rights to land were concerned, but in practice only 30 per cent of women got private ownership of land during the process in which State and collective farm land was privatized.
While looking forward to the adoption of the equal rights and opportunities law, she expressed hope that at least 30 per cent of the country’s ministers would be women. However, that alone would not solve all the problems -- there should be a real effort to change the stereotypes. In that connection, it was important to promote men’s participation in housework and child-rearing. Kazakhstan was a rich country that had a high rate of economic growth, and all policies for development should translate into benefits for women.
Ms. SCHÖPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, drew the delegation’s attention to the Committee’s general recommendation 25 on temporary special measures, saying that the Committee pointed to a clear distinction between quotas in political and employment spheres. She did not have a clear picture how the goal of 30 per cent political representation would be reached.
Another expert noted that, while there was much information on what the State was doing in terms of laws, policies and programmes, statistics on the de facto exercising of rights did not exist. Data was needed to see whether the Convention was having an impact on women. On the issue of health, information was needed on general health conditions in the country, not just reproductive health. She also asked whether religious marriages were legal or illegal.
Responding to the comments on maternity provisions, a member of the delegation said changes had occurred in quantitative terms, not only in terms of State support, but also in terms of creating the appropriate conditions for children. Regarding allocations for children up to the age of 1, she did not agree that that allocation depended on the wish of the employer. The existing labour law provided for additional leave to look after children up until the age of 3. That additional leave did not lead to the termination of employment. The issue was who would take leave, and was not a matter of allocation.
On the question of insurance, she said a multilevel insurance system existed. The Constitution provided for a basic State pension. The system of compulsory social insurance was the result of taxation by corporations. Out of those allocations, three risks were covered, namely the loss of labour ability, the loss of work and the risk of having children. When one occurred, an allocation was received in addition to the basic pension from the social insurance fund. Voluntary insurance was a third level, which had not yet expanded sufficiently. It would take at least five years, she stressed, to introduce a single pensionable age. At present, the issue was merely a proposal.
Regarding the issue of religious marriage, another delegate said the State did not recognize religious laws. Religious marriages were not, therefore, permitted according to the law. While the marriage age was 18 years, the age could be lowered by two years with the agreement of parents. As for the division of property, it was a question of mutual agreement. Any proposal from one spouse entailed the agreement of the other.
On health, a member of the delegation said some 14 per cent of pregnant women had abortions. Kazakhstan had, however, a private system, which did not provide statistical information on the number of abortions. The work being done on family planning was producing favourable results. Regarding the accessibility of women to medical care, all the laws provided for equal access to medical care.
Another member of the delegation addressed the issue of quotas. While it would take several years, he was sure that the next periodic report would show that the 30 per cent quota had been reached. While the country did have a high level of gross domestic product, the high level had only occurred in the last two or three years. And while the country wanted to help women, it also wanted to help men. The level of wages for men and women was different, as men worked more than women. On marriage and property, while religious marriages were not legal, they were not condemned or pursued in the courts. They did not have any particular legal force, but were traditions. Property rights only applied to officially registered marriages.
The question of providing pension benefits at the same age for men and women was still being considered, she said. She added that, as some questions might have been incorrectly translated, the delegation would like to receive all of them in writing.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. SAMAKOVA, the head of the delegation, assured the experts that all the questions posed to the delegation would assist the Government in its efforts to promote gender equality. Kazakhstan was a young State, which had “started from zero” after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Some 15 years ago, the Government had not been aware of the term “gender”. Now, it had achieved progress that would have been unthinkable at that time.
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