|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
771st & 772nd Meetings (AM & PM)
ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE URGES TAJIKISTAN TO GO BEYOND DECLARATORY
LAWS, USE PRACTICAL MEASURES, LIKE QUOTAS, TO ADVANCE WOMEN’S EQUALITY
Department Head Dealing with Rights Protection Introduces First Report;
Anti-Violence Legislation, Stereotypes, Polygamy among Issues Discussed
While commending Tajikistan’s political will to improve the status of women, members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- during their first-ever dialogue with that country today -- urged the Government to go beyond adoption of declarative laws and bold plans to introduce practical measures, including quotas, for the advancement of women and eliminate negative stereotypes that hindered achievement of de facto equality.
Acting in their personal capacity, the Committee’s 23 expert members monitor compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, often referred to as an “international bill of rights for women”. Having ratified the Convention in 1993, Tajikistan was reporting to the Committee for the first time today. In that connection, several experts noted that the country’s first report was almost 11 years overdue and that, in fact, Tajikistan’s fourth report had been due last year.
Introducing the reports, Khalifabobo Khamidov, Chief, Department of Constitutional Guarantees of the Rights of Citizens in the Executive Office of the President of Tajikistan, outlined the country’s national machinery and laws for the advancement of women, saying that, despite recent civil war, dire poverty and economic crisis, Tajikistan adhered to the principles of international human rights law. The Government had sought not to present “a rosy picture”, but to present its position on the situation of women and gender equality, to allow members of the Committee to form an objective opinion in that regard.
Members of the Committee welcomed the fact that the principle of gender equality and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex were firmly embedded in Tajikistan’s Constitution and applauded the adoption in 2005 of the Law on Equal Rights, although commenting on that instrument’s declaratory nature. The Law did not specify the complaint mechanisms and remedies for alleged rights violations, an expert said, but the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which Tajikistan was considering, was based on the idea that adequate local remedies existed.
Many questions were asked about the contents of Tajikistan’s anti-violence draft law, measures to combat trafficking in women and the Government’s efforts to eliminate negative sexual stereotypes. Many experts noted that a patriarchal mindset still prevails in Tajikistan, with women being considered subordinate to men. Members of the Committee were worried about the situation of second and third wives in polygamous marriages, with one expert saying that their rights were not regulated by law. Those women were duty bound to bear any kind of violence from their husbands and relatives. Every woman in the world deserved respect for her rights and tools to defend such rights, and the existing situation was of grave concern.
Yet another expert urged the Government to pay attention to the situation of women who had been left behind by thousands of migrant workers. Some of those women were second or third wives. Those women were disadvantaged, for each got a half or one third of what the husband could afford to send home.
There was also concern expressed about forced and under-age marriages, and one expert commented that, according to some sources, some 5 per cent of marriages involved young girls in a polygamous situation.
In numerous responses, members of the delegation explained that nowadays, most of those practices were extremely rare, because timely legislative measures had helped to curtail them. However, polygamy was, indeed, a burning issue and the State was fully committed to dealing with it. Under the law, cohabitation with two or more women in the same household is criminally punishable under the country’s Criminal Code, but women still agree to such marriages because of poverty and the demographic imbalance following the country’s civil war. The State was adopting every possible legal measure to radically reduce the number of men with two or more wives and to uphold the rights of children, who had equal rights to inheritance, the full right to ownership, property and the family name.
The wide-ranging discussion also touched on the situation of rural women, who constitute up to 60 to 70 per cent of farm workers, women’s participation in public life and health and reproductive rights of women.
The Committee will meet to conclude its session on 2 February.
In a plenary meeting, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women took up Tajikistan’s combined first through third reports (document CEDAW/C/TJK/1-3) today. The country ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in June 1993.
According to the report, discrimination is taken to mean any difference, exclusion or restriction for reason of sex that is intended to weaken or nullify the declaration of equal rights for men and women in political, economic, social or cultural areas or any other area.
After the ratification of the Convention, its text had been translated into the State language, published in the official press, as well as in brochures in Russian and Tajik, and had been widely disseminated among State employees, scholars, students and other segments of the population.
The Government reports that Tajikistan’s model for a policy for the advancement of women is based on political and economic realities and culture-specific features. On the road to further democratization of society, the country is faced with many socio-economic difficulties. The status of women, more so than that of men, is complicated by many factors, among them the decline in the standard of living during the transition period and the growth of unemployment. In connection with that, the Government is devoting particular attention to the indigent segments of the population.
Questions associated with the status of women are overseen by a Deputy Prime Minister. The Committee on Women and the Family was created in 1991 to promote and implement a policy for the advancement of women in all spheres of public life. The Committee is taking part in drafting and implementing programmes for the socio-economic development and advancement of women and the protection of the family, maternity and children and is assisting in the social protection of women, the implementation of their rights to work and, among other things, the improvement of medical services. The Committee’s objectives also include informing appropriate ministries and departments on issues involving problems of the family and women and the protection of maternity and children. The Committee’s structure includes a gender department. Structures subordinate to that Committee have been created at the local level. Also participating in the drafting of gender policy is the Committee on the Family, Health Care, Social Protection and the Environment.
Ministries and departments of the social sector have subdivisions directly involved in solving problems of women, family and children. For example, the Coordinating Council on Gender Problems was created in the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, along with a specialized division. Employment services and other State agencies are involved in resolving issues associated with labour and the daily lives of women.
According to the report, for historical reasons, a traditionally patriarchal mindset still prevails among the public and “the belief in the unquestioned social leadership of men and in the accompanying subordination of women is the predominant attitude about gender”. The custom from the past of paying a “bride-price” has not been fully eradicated. Also found in the past were “arranged marriages”, in which the bride and groom hadn’t even ever seen each other before the wedding. Today, such practices are extremely rare, because timely legislative measures have helped to curtail them.
Bigamy and polygamy are not rare, the report states, although cohabitation with two or more women in the same household is criminally punishable (article 170 of the Criminal Code). Women agree to such marriages for various reasons: the demographic imbalance that resulted from, for example, the civil war or a worsening of one’s material status. Women rarely turn to law-enforcement authorities for protection of their rights.
Introduction of Report
Tajikistan’s delegation, which was headed by Khalifabobo Khamidov, Chief, Department of Constitutional Guarantees of the Rights of Citizens in the Executive Office of the President of Tajikistan, also included: Mehrinisso Nosirova, Representative of the Committee for Women and Family Affairs; Gulchehra Sharipova, First Deputy Minister of Justice; Bahtiya Mukhammadieva, First Deputy Minister of Justice; Shamsiddin Kurbonov, Department Director, Ministry of Health; and Parviz Dodov, Adviser, Department of Treaty Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Presenting the report, Mr. KHAMIDOV said that, since the first days of its existence as a sovereign State, his country had adhered to the principles of international human rights law. For the first time in the history of the country, the Constitution guaranteed the principle of freedoms and rights of a person. The Constitution and other laws of the Republic of Tajikistan did not contain provisions that directly or indirectly restricted the rights or freedoms of women. International legal acts recognized by Tajikistan were an integral part of the country’s legal system. In cases when domestic laws did not coincide with international legal acts, the norms of international instruments were applied.
Challenged with serious economic difficulties and civil strife at the beginning of the 1990s, the Government had been implementing a purposeful economic policy directed towards the creation of market mechanisms, he continued. Large-scale, multi-sectoral reforms had been implemented in Tajikistan. The stabilization of the situation in the country at the end of the century had created conditions for post-conflict reconstruction, widening economic reforms and implementation of development programmes. The Government was now developing a national strategy for development, which would determine the main priorities through 2015.
In conformity with the standards of the Convention, a presidential decree of 1999 on enhancing the role of women in Tajikistan promoted women’s increased participation in public life and decision-making and strengthening of women’s social status. It also aimed to increase women’s role in pursuing peace and unity, as well as strengthening the moral framework of society. In conformity with the 2001 State policy for ensuring equal rights and opportunities, the Government had approved a State programme on selection and recruitment of female administrative personnel. Quotas had been introduced for admitting women to higher education institutions.
Among other legislative steps, he also mentioned the law on State guarantees of equal rights and opportunities of men and women that had been adopted in March 2005. Also important were the legal acts on reproductive health and rights, combating HIV/AIDS and trafficking in people. A law on domestic violence was now under discussion. However, there were significant barriers on the way to gender equality in Tajikistan. It was not easy to overcome traditional attitudes and social stereotypes that had been in place for a long time. For that reason, the achievement of de facto equality of women and men was a long-term process, which required participation of all levels of society.
In preparing the report, the Government had not sought to present “a rosy picture”, he said in conclusion. Instead, it had pursued the goal of presenting its position on the situation of women and gender equality, to allow members of the Committee to form an objective opinion on that matter.
Opening the Committee’s first-ever dialogue with Tajikistan, several experts focused on Tajikistan’s national machinery for the promotion of gender equality, the functioning, structure and role of the Committee on Women and the Family. Experts also asked for more detailed information on the 2005 Law on Guarantees of Equal Rights for Men and Women and Equality Opportunities, the National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women and the Presidential Decree on enhancing the role of women in society.
CEES FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, commended the fact that the principle of gender equality and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex were firmly embedded in Tajikistan’s Constitution. He also commended the adoption in 2005 of the Law on Equal Rights, which was of a strongly declaratory nature. The Law did not specify, however, the complaint mechanisms and remedies for alleged rights violations. In that regard, he requested precise information on the Law. The Optional Protocol, which Tajikistan was considering, was based on the idea that adequate local remedies existed.
HANNA BEATE SCHOPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, said it gave her great pleasure to see a large delegation, which indicated the country’s political will. She wondered if training programmes had been carried out to educate the judiciary about the new law on State guarantees for equal rights for men and women. She, too, was pleased to see a definition of direct and indirect discrimination. She had noted over the years that many former Soviet countries had a lack of understanding of the nature of indirect discrimination. In that regard, what was the Government doing to raise awareness of the nature of indirect discrimination? Tajikistan’s laws, in general, were in order and did not discriminate directly. Yet, there was de facto discrimination. She applauded the Presidential Decree, which was almost ten years old now. What had the Government done to increase legal awareness of the general population, particularly women? She also asked if a specific ministry existed to carry out courses on legal awareness.
HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, said that, while the report was well-written, it was about 11 years overdue. Tajikistan’s fourth report had been due last year. She did not understand the overly delayed reporting, as a Government Committee had been established on Tajikistan’s implementation of its human rights obligations. Given the fact that the Government had already reported to other treaty bodies on conventions adopted after the adoption of the Women’s Convention, she did not understand the reason for the delay. The new 2005 law on equality was an important step, as it fully incorporated the definition of discrimination according to the provisions of the Convention. Many important articles of the law required additional legislation. Public authorities also needed to conduct gender education to further its implementation.
DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, said the preparation of the combined initial, second and third report was an important step at the national level. She asked if the report had been presented to non-governmental organizations and if it had been presented to the Parliament. She also asked if there was any new information on the ratification of the Optional Protocol.
Responding to those questions, Mr. KHAMIDOV acknowledged that the report had been presented late. When preparing reports, the various ministries, including the justice, agriculture, internal affairs, foreign affairs, education and labour ministries, and other committees provided information. The national report on the implementation of the Women’s Convention had been put forward for public discussion. Several seminars had been held in which international experts had participated. Representatives of the Parliament, traditional associations and the union of lawyers and academicians had also participated in the discussion.
On the report’s late issuance, he noted that, between 1992 and 1997, the country had undergone a period of great instability, during which time it had not been possible to prepare a report. The Government would in the future ensure that reports were produced on time.
Regarding the new law, another member of the delegation said the law on equal opportunities and guarantees had been prepared by State workers and non-governmental organizations. It was a very bold law, which contained individual declaratory provisions. Through that law and another law –- the law on citizenship -– citizens had the right to address any party for protection of their interests. A special department on citizen rights had also been created to hear complaints. Some 3,000 complaints had been received this year alone, half of which were from women. If the individuals and non-governmental organization representatives did not respond to or consider a compliant, they could face criminal prosecution. The law had been broadly discussed by civil society and the State. Direct discrimination was not excluded in the law. The law also provided for measures to eliminate indirect discrimination. While indirect discrimination did exist, the Government was taking measures to totally eradicate it. Seminars and consultations had been held on the 1997 Presidential Decree.
Regarding gender and education, she said the State was adopting every kind of measure to further develop the question of gender. An institute for State workers had been created in 2002 and much progress had been made. The institute had worked out a study programme and five study models had been prepared. In 2006, study seminars had been carried out in teaching State workers on gender issues. Roughly 60 participants had taken part and more than 100 people had been educated in rural and village areas. She added that the report would be submitted to Parliament. The report had been sent for discussion to all State bodies, seminars and conferences.
On the ratification of the Optional Protocol, Mr. KHAMIDOV said it had been signed and a process was under way for discussing its ratification.
MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked for more information on the Committee on the Women and Family, which, according to the report, was an independent agency. She also wanted clarification on how the Government’s efforts to promote gender equality were coordinated.
ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, said the report failed to provide detailed information on the Convention’s implementation. She had the impression that the Committee was a coordinating mechanism, but not a functioning body in the Government. In that regard, she wanted to know about the Committee’s structure and the issues it considered. On the gender equality plan, what were the major obstacles to its implementation?
SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked who was responsible for the coordination and implementation of the Convention as a whole. The report included different mechanisms. On the Committee on Women and Family, she did not understand what was meant by “independent”. How did it use its independence as an authority to reach its objectives with other Government agencies? The Committee on Women and Family seemed to lack the capacity and resources to play a full part in monitoring the implementation of gender policies. How did the Government envisage the Committee’s functioning?
Ms. BEATE SCHOPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, wondered to what extent the Convention’s provisions on special political measures to accelerate de facto equality of women had been incorporated into law in Tajikistan. Were there any guidelines to the law that explained the nature of those measures?
Responding to questions, a member of the delegation said that, under the national action plan on gender equality and status of women, training centres had been created to prepare women for leadership positions. Initially financed by non-governmental organizations, since 2004 the centres were financed by the Government. To improve the standard of life of women, labour centres had been created in several parts of the country. Some 40 per cent of women entrepreneurs had received microcredit.
Regarding violence against women, she said that 13 crisis centres had been created and there was a shelter for victims of violence. A draft law on domestic violence had been drafted with the participation of a non-governmental organization of female lawyers.
The Committee on Women and the Family was an autonomous part of the Government, she said. It worked in cooperation with other executive branches of power, as well as local authorities and civil society organizations. The Committee was financed out of the State budget, as well as several new programmes, including the one on preparing female leadership. The Chair and Deputy Chair of the Committee were appointed by the Government. The Committee’s staffing and the salary structure of its 11 staff members were also approved by the Government. Within each ministry, there was a deputy minister responsible for gender issues.
Mr. KHAMIDOV said that there were several examples of temporary special measures. For example, the country had introduced quotas for the benefit of girls coming from distant areas. Special measures were also in place to protect maternity. More remained to be done, but in the future the Government would be able to implement those special measures even more fully. Indeed, a more solid programme for the development and full implementation of article 4 of the Convention was needed.
As the Committee began its next round of questions, experts focused on sexual stereotypes, violence against women and the practice of polygamy and bigamy. Many questions were asked about the contents of the anti-violence draft law, and campaigns to raise awareness and work with the media and civil society to eliminate negative sexual stereotypes. Experts also wondered about the financing of the crisis shelters and the collection of data on domestic violence in Tajikistan.
Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA noted that, from the report, it was clear that patriarchal stereotypes were still prevalent in the country. She wondered about an increase in the incidence of polygamy and bigamy practices in Tajikistan and asked if the Government was taking measures to eliminate stereotypes from school programmes and textbooks. She also stressed the importance of raising the awareness of the population and changing the prevalent frame of mind to combat the subordinate position of women.
Addressing another aspect of polygamy, SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, noted that, according to the document, the rights of the second and third wives were not regulated by law. Those women were duty bound to bear any kind of violence from their husbands and relatives. Every woman in the world deserved respect for her rights and tools to defend such rights, and the situation was of grave concern to her. Were the second and third wives entitled to any rights with regard to their children? she asked.
SHANTI DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, said that violence against women was a manifestation of women’s subordinate position in society. The Office of the Prosecutor General paid particular attention to crimes committed against women and, while that was very commendable, her concern was that he would only be able to analyze the cases that had been reported. However, a number of victims were reluctant to come forward. She wanted to know what the Government intended to do to better understand the nature of the phenomenon. Was there a plan to inform women of their rights and expand the support that women received? She also wondered about the number of suicides among women
A member of the delegation said that school programmes and plans were prepared by the Ministry of Education. Boys and girls were educated in the same classrooms, regardless of the subject, be it physics of food preparation, but were allowed to choose some elective courses. Computer science had been introduced at all school levels. Not all school textbooks had been reviewed and brought up to date, but measures were being taken in that regard.
Polygamy did exist and the Government was working to ensure that the practice ended, including by applying penalties, she added. In 2006, the level of those who had been penalized had considerably increased. In May 2006, the State had created a coordinating council to prevent violence against women.
On violence against women, she noted that 53 cases had been before the court in 2003, 73 in 2005 and 111 in 2006. The law did not defend the right to property for women who were not officially married. Second or third wives enjoyed the right to education for their children, as well as personal rights. Property rights were not ensured. By and large, women voluntarily opted for engaging in such unions. A related issue was the marrying of minors. State structures were adopting measures in that regard. Round tables had been established of State and religious authorities, which were considering the question of religious marriages. She believed further progress would be made.
Regarding the use of mass media to fight polygamy, she said the issue had been discussed and a number of measures adopted to ensure that information and materials were available to the population at large.
Mr. KHAMIDOV added that the State and its Constitution were not based on religion. As such, marriages were considered civil marriages. It was true, however, that there was a sort of collusion and that marriages were not recorded. There were many root causes for the situation, including the country’s civil war, dire poverty and economic crisis, which meant that women had accepted the status of second or third wife out of economic need. The State was adopting every possible legal measure to radically reduce the number of men with two or more wives. To uphold the rights of children, children were fully protected by the law. They had equal rights to inheritance, the full right to ownership, property and the family name. Polygamy was, indeed, a burning issue and the State was fully committed to dealing with it.
Regarding measures to eliminate violence, another member of the delegation said the country had a very active civil society, which was not indifferent to the issue of violence. Non-governmental organizations provided shelter and psychological support for women victims of violence. Those non-governmental organizations were funded largely through international assistance.
An inter-sectoral coordination council for the prevention of violence against women had also been created, another delegate said. Regarding the rehabilitation of victims, 13 crisis centres existed. Resource centres had also been created in various districts and provided legal assistance to women victims of violence. Between 2003 and 2006, the Committee of Women and the Family had created nine crisis centres. Measures were also being taken for a system of statistical selection and information. On the issue of suicide, she said suicide could be considered as violence if certain circumstances had led up to it. Suicide rates had increased, as the courts were more accurately classifying instances of suicide. Regarding deliberate murder, she noted that in 2006 there had been 274 deliberate murders, many of which were women victims of domestic violence.
NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, raising the issue of trafficking, said the question required closer attention by the State. While the laws to punish trafficking had been strengthened, the Committee needed specific statistics. What resources did the State have to apply the law in Tajikistan, which was both a source and transit country? She was especially concerned about the emerging trend of trafficking in children.
Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, commended the country for its many initiatives in regard to trafficking. She wanted to know how non-governmental organizations had participated in the designing of programmes to combat trafficking. She also wondered who would monitor the various programmes. Did the laws and regulations give special treatment to minors who were victims of trafficking? Were there a sufficient number of shelters to assist the victims of trafficking? Had the Government attempted to work with other countries in an effort to combat trafficking?
FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked what effective socio-economic measures had been taken to combat trafficking in general, especially for those of the ethnic minorities. For the law’s successful implementation, the areas in which trafficking existed needed to be identified. Had the routes traffickers used been identified? She also wondered if the State provided for the rehabilitation of victims of traffickers who were returned and whether there was information on victims infected with HIV/AIDS. She asked if policies existed to promote safe migration for women wishing to work abroad and if there was a policy to criminalize the demand side of prostitution. What measures had been taken to provide alternative sources of employment? How many cases had been registered through help lines? she asked.
Regarding trafficking and prostitution, a member of the delegation said that the difficult economic conditions in the country contributed to the problem. As a rule, administrative measures were taken by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in connection with women engaged in prostitution. Some 105 cases had been brought before the authorities in 2005, but that number had dropped to just over 80 in 2006, as the dynamics had changed. The Government had elaborated a programme to fight trafficking. Among other things, a commission had been set up to deal with the problem and local authorities were working to combat trafficking. Many non-governmental organizations were involved in those efforts, as well.
Efforts were being made to explain the dangers to the population, she continued. A number of seminars had been undertaken to educate potential victims of trafficking, in particular minors. Some 75 female victims who had been returned to the country from the United Arab Emirates had been provided with temporary housing. Human trafficking was punishable under the law and numerous cases had been investigated, including many related to minors.
Another member of the delegation said that much work was done regarding migrants working outside the country. The first agreement on cooperation among States of the Commonwealth of Independent States had been ratified in 2004. Measures were being taken to regulate migration. In particular, an agreement had been reached with the Russian Federation to protect the citizens of Tajikistan working in that country.
Mr. KHAMIDOV added that a draft agreement with the United Arab Emirates had been prepared and work was under way to conclude that treaty. Activities would continue to reduce to a minimum the number of individuals trafficked out of the country on the pretext of foreign employment or emigration. Special efforts were being made to address crimes against minors.
Another country representative said that anti-trafficking laws were applied irrespective of the nationality of the victims. The country did not have a specific programme for different ethnic groups, because every citizen was entitled to protection under the law.
In a round of follow-up comments, Ms. PIMENTEL said that, as a law professor, she wanted to draw the Government’s attention to the criminological studies, which indicated that education and prevention measures were often more effective than punishment.
Ms. SHIN asked about the time frame for the adoption of the violence law. She also had questions about the situation of disabled women, asking if any of the country’s 13 shelters were equipped to deal with their needs. The Committee had issued a general recommendation on the situation of disabled women, and the General Assembly had recently adopted a Convention on the rights of people with disabilities. In its next report, Tajikistan should include information in that regard.
Mr. KHAMIDOV agreed that, apart from the penal sanctions, other measures were needed to combat trafficking in people. Efforts were needed to improve the economic situation of the population and educate the people. Regarding the violence law, he said he did not know when exactly it would be adopted, but he believed it would be soon.
Turning to the legal status of the second and third wives, he said that, while they might face some restrictions due to the absence of specific family-related laws, they enjoyed the entire body of the rights and freedoms provided to any person in the Constitution. If violence was perpetrated against them, the person responsible for it was subject to sanctions under the law.
Disabled women did receive some social benefits by the Government, including transportation. The State committee on statistics had been receiving figures on disabled women from the labour ministry. In 2005, 41 per cent of the total number of disabled persons was women.
FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, noted that the electoral commission had been conducting efforts to ensure that women could vote since 2003. Had the practice of family voting in which the man voted for the family receded in the 2005 elections? More than 17 per cent of those elected in the lower chamber were women. How many women were in the higher chamber? Noting that political parties were not obligated to submit a minimum quota for women, she asked if the Government was considering speeding up the entry of women in various levels of the civil service.
VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, asked if the Government planned to introduce provisions and measures in electoral legislation to translate the assurances provided for in the equal rights law for equal opportunities on the electoral lists.
Ms. MAIOLO, expert from Italy, said that, while progress had been made, political problems remained and the role of women was still too weak. In that regard, was the Government considering introducing a quota policy to foster women in elections? On the family vote, was it still the man who voted for the entire family? Were there any circumstances when a woman voted? Was the Government contemplating changing the law and prohibiting the family vote?
Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said Tajikistan was not the country it had been before and that it was getting its institutions in order. She understood the delay in submitting the report, but did not excuse it. While there were many appropriate laws, much remained to be done at the practical level. She requested information on the number of women in Parliament and the issue of voting by proxy. The political will existed to implement the Convention. To do so, the Government could make up for lost time in terms of Government appointments to high posts. She encouraged the Government to “use and abuse” special temporary measures to make up for lost time.
Ms. SHIN agreed that the law on equal rights was very bold. The law provided for the publication of annual reports. Had a report been published in 2006? The payment of registration fees for nominees could be considered indirect discrimination and place a burden on women nominees. Did the Government consider incentives or regulations for political parties to guarantee women’s equal representation? She noted a decrease of women in various Government departments. She also cautioned against having women only in secondary positions, which could send a wrong signal. She also asked about women’s international representation, including whether women were admitted to the diplomatic academy.
Responding to questions, a member of the delegation said that, pursuant to its gender equality law, Tajikistan had adopted a State programme for education and placed women in professional jobs to promote their career development. Citizens of the republic had equal rights to enter civil service. There was a register and the number of women in civil service amounted to some 3,700 or about 24 per cent of the total. In the local organs, women represented 43 per cent. There were 71 women in the Parliament. Twenty-three per cent of the top State officials were women. At the highest level of power, Tajikistan had one female minister and one female Deputy Prime Minister.
Since 1995, there had been quotas for the admission of women to the Diplomatic Academy. In the Foreign Ministry, there were two female heads of department and many women worked in foreign countries. Despite women’s presence in the civil service, however, the gender analysis of all areas of State structures showed that women were not proportionately represented. The reason for that was that there were both direct and indirect barriers, which included gender stereotyping, religious superstitions and the fact that women had many domestic duties. Women were also more vulnerable in society, in particular due to unemployment and a drop in the living standards. Part of the problem was that women were often reluctant to assume responsibility and go for the top positions. That compelled the Government to resolve those problems and take normative and practical steps to promote women. Such initiatives were contained in the national programme to ensure equal rights and opportunities for men and women.
About “family voting”, where some members of the family voted for others, Mr. KHAMIDOV confirmed that it did happen, but the Government took the issue seriously. In the latest elections, each person voted individually. It would also be incorrect to assume that “family voting” always implied voting by men for women. In some cases, women or even children voted for their parents. Therefore, one could not conclude that it was always men who “dragged their women along and voted for them”. It was also not true that it was only men who resolved all political and other issues within the family. While family voting had been rather common in the past, during recent elections the Government had conducted promotion and educational campaigns seeking to explain to the people that voting for others was not acceptable and that voting for somebody else could disqualify the results of the elections.
To a comment that some of the provisions of the gender equality law were of a declarative, rhetorical nature, he said that the aim of the law was to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for participation in the political process. The main issue related to quotas and, on that issue, he agreed with the expert’s statement that society could not develop without women, but emphasized the complex nature of the question. Many developed countries of the world still did not have such quotas. Most countries actually adopted a neutral position in their electoral laws. At present, he could not say whether the Government would take that step. Perhaps, the question of quotas would be studied in Tajikistan, in the light of specific situation and possibilities, and an appropriate decision would be taken, bearing in mind specific circumstances.
Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, said the delegation’s information might not be up to date. Many countries other than Scandinavian countries had implemented quotas, including in Asia and Africa. The way to establish quotas might be different, however. Worldwide, it was the socialist parties that had decided on a 30 per cent quota.
Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovakia, acknowledging the progress achieved on the number of women in elected bodies, said she read the Constitution as the Government’s firm commitment to use all measures available to ensure equal representation of male and female candidates on electoral lists. Other measures were also available, including financial incentives for parties.
Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, echoed the point on the Constitution, noting that the Convention was directly applicable to domestic law and that Tajikistan had not entered any reservations in relation to its provisions on special temporary measures. The Government was obliged to take into consideration those special temporary measures.
Responding, Mr. KHAMIDOV said he was aware that developing countries had adopted such measures. Apart from the “old” European countries of Germany and France, however, Europe in general had not yet tackled the question in a positive way. When Tajikistan ratified the Convention, it had become a source for its domestic legislation. Tajikistan must move towards implementing the Convention. He had not provided a final, categorical statement. He had said that the question was being studied on the basis of specific situations, in light of the Convention’s articles.
Ms. ZOU, expert from China, asked if there were any differences in girls and boys education. The statistics for girls and boys enrolment rates revealed some problems. The dropout rate among girls was very high. In the higher the grades, the difference was even bigger. What special measures would the Government adopt to bridge the gap between the sexes? Did the Government have specific policies to deal with the differences in terms of education? she asked.
Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, noted that educating girls was educating Tajikistan’s future. She, too, was concerned with high dropout rates. As it was difficult for a 15-year old girl to return to classes with 10-year olds, were there special classes for girls who had dropped out? How much money was the Government planning to invest in the education of girls? She welcomed the increase in the salaries of teachers, as well as the quotas for rural girls. Scholarship money was not sufficient to live on, however. The quota system was good, but did not seem to be sufficient.
Responding to those questions, a member of the delegation noted that, in 2005, the attendance rate had been 88 per cent for girls and boys. Some 93 per cent of boys went to school and 92.7 per cent for girls in the beginning classes. Gathering statistical data on girls who dropped out was difficult. In 2005, a commission had been created to restore discipline in the area of school attendance.
On the question of scholarships, in the middle and higher education establishments, students received small scholarships, she said. Each student resolved the situation on an individual basis. She knew it was very difficult, but there was a Tajik tradition in which relatives helped the student in the family to complete his or her studies. That tradition continued. Some 64 per cent of the population was considered too poor to continue their education. With the assistance of international organizations, it would be able to get girls to stay in school. Progress would be made through the use of quotas.
On the issue of employment, PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked how the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value was being promoted. On social partnership agreements and collective agreements, what methodology was being used to evaluate jobs and set wage scales? What complaint procedure was available, and what campaigns to raise legal awareness were being carried out to make women aware of their rights? Did women have recourse to free legal aid? To what extent was the Government acting to address systemic discrimination against women, especially minority women? On female dominated professions, did the Government plan to reformulate the wage structure in order to raise women’s low status and earnings? she asked.
MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked if the national development strategy included specific provisions to mainstream women. What actions would the Government adopt to accelerate the integration of women in top jobs in enterprises and other emerging sectors in future years? What programmes had the Government already adopted to prevent small girls from being employed when they were poor or dropped out of school. She also wondered what kind of training programmes existed for women with disabilities. Given the huge increase in poverty, she asked if the poverty indicator was the same for men and women.
Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, said there seemed to be different mandatory retirement plans for men and women. Did the Government plan to change that?
Responding to that round of questions, a member of the delegation said that, according to the Labour Code, discrimination was prohibited with regard to wages. There was, however, a predominance of women in some professions. The number of women in small enterprises had almost doubled between 2000 and 2005. Women preferred small enterprises in trade and the industrial services area.
She said the employment structure for women per sector had impacted on the monthly wages for women, which was half the monthly wage of men. In the construction sector, women earned much more. The highest paid jobs were in the banking system. In forestry and transportation, the average wage for women was higher than for men. The health and education sectors were not as well paid. For that reason, Tajikistan had adopted a programme to reform that and increase remuneration in that field. While women with disabilities were not differentiated, they had, however, certain benefits, including medication reimbursement and other forms of assistance. The right of women was enshrined in the country’s labour legislation. If a dispute arose, the burden of proof lay with the employer.
Regarding the poverty level, she said one of the functions of the State statistics commission was to determine living standards. According to surveys, the poverty level was 43 per cent, which was below the rate of 80 per cent in the 1990s. The number of poor families was still rather high, however. Gender indicators had been designed for all socio-economic sectors in light of the Millennium Development Goals.
Regarding the pensions, a member of the delegation said that the law in that regard had been adopted in 2000, but many representatives had voted against the increase in the pension age. Now, that question was being further discussed, but there were no specific proposals regarding introducing changes to equalize the pension age.
As the Committee turned to women’s health, Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said that women’s mortality rates were among the most important aspects of that issue. The country had not presented many figures in that regard, particularly the access to health services of rural women. She also encouraged distribution of materials on reproductive health, including contraceptives and abortion. Also important was information on the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Ms. PIMENTEL asked for additional clarifications on reproductive health, saying that, according to the report, all women had access to prenatal and other services and there were reproductive health centres in all the country’s regions. At the same time, the report contained some very upsetting data, including statistics on high maternity mortality figures.
GLENDA SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, noted that poverty remained among the most serious problems that had an effect on the situation of women in Tajikistan. Against that background, she urged the Government to pay attention to the situation of women who had been left behind by thousands of migrant workers. Even though polygamy was not legal, some of those women were second or third wives. Those women were disadvantaged, for each got a half or one third of what the husband could afford to send home.
A country representative said the level of health services in Tajikistan was rather low, but the Government was making many efforts to provide for safe maternity. A special reproductive health and rights law had been adopted in the country. Sections of the national poverty eradication and development strategies were devoted to those issues. Much had been done to ensure the safety of home births, which were widely practiced in Tajikistan. At the end of last year, a law was adopted to encourage and support breastfeeding and protect nursing. Efforts were also made to improve reproductive health services for young people. To address the causes of maternal mortality, a series of national seminars had been conducted to train local health care personnel in providing help if haemorrhaging during childbirth occurred.
On contraceptives, he said that, several years ago, 38 to 40 per cent of women used to give birth with an interval of less than 2 years. According to the latest statistics, that indicator was dropping. At the beginning of the 1990s, the use of contraceptives had been as low as 8 per cent in Tajikistan. Now, up to 30 per cent of the population were using modern contraceptives. Measures were taken to provide access to health care for rural women. A strategy had been adopted to train people at the village level. With support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), contraceptives were distributed free of charge. Consultative services were also provided, with assistance from international agencies. The Health Ministry was developing a package of guaranteed services, which included free services during pregnancy and childbirth. The financial aspects of that programme were being evaluated now.
There were 710 people infected with HIV in Tajikistan, 124 of them women, he said. HIV/AIDS was an urgent problem. Support for the country’s anti-HIV/AIDS programme was provided by international structures. Anonymous testing was free within that project, as well as antiretroviral drugs.
As the Committee turned to the situation of rural women, questions were asked about assistance to the country’s many landmine accident survivors, women’s rights to land, their access to markets and measures to inform women in remote areas about business opportunities, as well as support services for widows.
Ms. TAN noted that not only were 60 to 70 per cent of agricultural workers women, but as many as 40 per cent of rural households were headed by women after the country’s civil war. What was being done to alleviate their situation? Under the law, each member of a collective farm had equal rights in distribution of land. How many plots had been given to women?
HAZEL GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, asked about exact statistics about the number of farms and wanted to know if the process of land registration had been simplified to accommodate the needs of illiterate women.
Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, said it was commendable that the country’s employment programme supported self-employment for women by providing them with microcredit. However, most women seeking microcredit did not know about marketing mechanisms. What had been done to market indigenous products, create demand for home-grown produce and provide export subsidies to rural women? Was there a mechanism in place to protect an appropriate share of profit for women?
Returning to the issue of health, she also commented on a report that said that the majority of girls ages 15 to 19 had not heard of HIV and did not know how to prevent it. What measures was the Government taking to address that situation?
Responding to the questions posed, a member of the delegation noted that, in 2004, the Government had introduced a special accounting mechanism to obtain specific statistics on the “dekhan” farms. The Government’s statistics commission had found that, as of 1 January, there were some 25,000 farms. Women accounted for some 55.7 per cent of the population in rural areas. The number of farms was increasing each year. Women were being made more aware of the issues. Joint work was carried out at the Government level. A statistical textbook had been prepared for 2004-2005 with tables and analyses of women who owned land and produced marketable goods. The land committee paid special attention to widows. Widows with children were given special monthly amounts.
On measures to stimulate jobs in the public sector, she said jobs were introduced by the Ministry of Labour to provide credits. In 2005, some 908 women had received interest-free loans. State banks and financial organizations provided women with microcredit.
Landmines were a dire consequence of the civil war, she added. Minefields still existed within and around the country, posing a threat to civilians. To deal with the problem, the Government had, in 2003, set up a mine centre, financed by donors, to de-mine lands. Mine victims received social assistance.
ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, said she was concerned about the issue of polygamy and bigamy. What sanctions had been meted out in that regard? How many polygamy cases were illegal marriages to minors? While Tajikistan had a perfectly good law and was doing great media work, there seemed to be lack of protection for illegal wives. The State needed to take a position. With the good Family Code, it was vital to eradicate polygamy.
Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked for the number of polygamous households in the country. Also, what were the sanctions and consequences for women who were illegally taken on as a co-spouse? What happened to those women?
Ms. DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, addressed the issue of forced marriages. She wanted the delegation to confirm what she had heard, that about 5 per cent of polygamous marriages involved young girls. She also addressed the issue of transborder marriages, including into Afghanistan, where women were married under religious laws. Was the State doing anything to protect the interests of the women concerned with bilateral relationships?
Ms. SHELTON, expert from South Africa, said South Africa had dealt with the issue by making religious offices into civil offices. As civil offices, they were obligated to register the marriages that took place under their authority.
Ms. ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said she did not share the analysis of her colleagues. Tajikistan had an exemplary Family Code. The Convention on the Rights of the Child established the marriage age at 18 for both girls and boys. Where the marriage age was not in conformity with the Convention, State parties were asked to raise the age in conformity with that Convention. Polygamy was prohibited. Marriage was proven by registration. Any marriage not registered was considered to be cohabitation or a free union. That was also seen in European civil codes, which took into account civil unions. In Tajikistan, religious marriages were not recognized by the State. Women in those non-registered relationships did not have the right to inherit. As far as she was concerned, everything was in conformity with the Convention. Any marriage not registered was not a marriage, but was living together. That was found in the codes of all European countries.
Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked if the Government planned to raise the marriage age and if the Government was planning to bring family law in line with international obligations.
Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, asked for statistical data on children with disabilities.
Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, said a large number of monogamous marriages were also not being registered. In that regard, she asked about the children of such marriages and their rights. What was the Government planning to do to raise the number of registered monogamous marriages? One way would be, she said, to forget about registration fees.
Responding to the questions, a member of delegation thanked the Committee for its support. The State was making a huge effort to eliminate polygamy and needed to speed up work to ensure the achievement of effective results. The courts took the real culprits quite seriously. While polygamy arouse because of poverty, marrying off young girls to lift financial burdens could not be justified. The problem would not disappear overnight. Women needed to be able to enjoy a normal life. They knew they did not enjoy the same rights as the first legal wife.
Children were registered and received birth certificates, she added. If paternity was established, even though the marriage was not registered, the women could receive alimony. The man could be forced to pay alimony. Measures were being taken by the legislative bodies on forced marriages. It was not easy, however, to identify those cases. The girls forced into marriage did not want to make it public in some cases. There were many subtleties that could not easily be resolved. Measures were being taken regarding marriages outside of the country. Raising the marriage age was a controversial question that had been discussed at length.
On the issue of disabilities, according to statistics, she said there were some 1,175 children in 11 special schools under the Ministry of Education, of which 11.3 per cent were schools for the blind. There were also about 227 children in special schools for children with polio. Special schools also existed for orphans or children with one parent households.
In a concluding statement, Mr. KHAMIDOV said a gender movement was afoot throughout the world to recognize the full rights of men and women. No exception to that movement, Tajikistan also sought to achieve the full gender equality.
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