TRADITIONS, CULTURAL ATTITUDES COULD NOT JUSTIFY DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN, EXPERT COMMITTEE TELLS MOZAMBICAN DELEGATION

23 May 2007
WOM/1629

TRADITIONS, CULTURAL ATTITUDES COULD NOT JUSTIFY DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN, EXPERT COMMITTEE TELLS MOZAMBICAN DELEGATION

23 May 2007
General Assembly
WOM/1629
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

783rd & 784th Meetings (AM & PM)

TRADITIONS, CULTURAL ATTITUDES COULD NOT JUSTIFY DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN,

EXPERT COMMITTEE TELLS MOZAMBICAN DELEGATION

 

Mozambique, a young East African country with a majority of its 17 million people living in conditions of extreme poverty, nevertheless had its feet firmly on the ground and was strongly committed to ridding its society of discrimination against women, its delegation told the expert body monitoring States’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women today.

Introducing the country’s initial and second periodic report on steps the Government had taken to implement the treaty, Virgilia Dos Santos Matabele, Minister of Women and Social Affairs of Mozambique, affirmed the Government’s commitment to identify strategies and adopt initiatives to make the spirit of the Convention a reality in her country.  She acknowledged, however, that despite that commitment and efforts to ensure women’s equal participation in all spheres of life, a connection between cultural practices and formal law was essentially absent.  For instance, the land law had brought advances by establishing equal rights in the use of land.  However, traditional values gave greater power to men in decision-making, which negated the effects of the law and limited women’s access and control over the land.

Efforts to improve women’s status in decision-making had yielded fruit, she noted.  Women now held 37 per cent of the 250 seats in Parliament, an increase from 28 per cent in 1997.  Women’s representation in the legislative organ was one of the highest, not only in Southern Africa, but also in the world, representing the fulfilment of the Government’s commitment in the 1997 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Declaration.  The post of Prime Minister was held by a woman, and six ministers, four vice-ministers, six permanent secretaries and, for the first time, two provincial governors were also women.

According to the written report, violence against women was prevalent and was a “manifestation of power inequalities between men and women”.  To curb it, the delegation said that Government and civil society institutions had taken several actions, including training police in women’s rights and assistance to the victims of violence; creating counselling services to assist the victims; creating a database on domestic violence; and installing “SOS” lines.  Admittedly, however, such efforts faced several constraints, including difficulties involving men in programmes to combat domestic violence due to tradition and customary practice.

The expert from Cuba, saying she strongly defended cultural roots in the face of the invasion of Western culture, said, however, that no cultural attitude could justify discrimination against women.  She was rather disconcerted at the restrictive way in which the issues of discrimination had been presented; the explanations had been confined to explaining the goals, rather than offering more substantive arguments explaining the programmes already being implemented to bring about a radical change in behaviour.  Women’s fight for their rights was not only the struggle of women, but a societal struggle, and it was the duty of the State to see that it was done in an effective manner.

Noting that the delegation had said that women and children were the most vulnerable population groups, the expert from Jamaica said that, under the Convention’s article 5, the Government committed itself to modifying the cultural and social patterns of conduct of men and women to eliminate prejudices.  She was not sure that the efforts that had been made were making a lot of difference because women were still seen as “property” in Mozambique.  It was men who made the laws and ensured that women were kept in their place.

She said that women continued to face domestic violence because womanhood was devalued, because women in Mozambique thought men had a right to beat them, and thought they were being loved if they were beaten.  It was Mozambique’s challenge to go beyond the legislative framework and tell men that they needed to “see life differently” and tell women that women’s rights were human rights.  The men of Mozambique must understand that, she stressed.

The expert from Ghana also re-emphasized the Government’s obligation under article 5 to modify discriminatory cultural and social patterns.  She felt that the Government had handed that responsibility over to civil society organizations, which appeared to be the only ones doing anything about sensitizing the public.  With the issue of culture directly linked to women’s subordination and to violence against them, she hoped the Government was seeking to establish a linkage between culture and violence, leading to effective policies to combat the crime.

Along with the expert from Bangladesh, she drew attention to older Mozambican women who were branded as witches and subjected to violence.  It was a shame that women, who during their productive lives had supported their families, were treated in such a way at the time when they needed their families’ support.  Both experts hoped the Government was taking steps to redress that situation.

Also participating in the delegation was Josefa Langa, National Director for Women; Agueda Nhantumbo, Executive Secretary of the National Council of the Advancement of Women; Celia Buque Armando, Legal Adviser to the Minister for Women and Social Affairs; Albachir Macassar, Head of Department for the Promotion and Development of Human Rights, Ministry of Justice; Zilda Massango, Head of Department, Ministry of Agriculture; Esmeralda Muthemba, Gender Focal Point, Ministry of Education; and Amelia Zandamela, Gender Focal Point, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

The Committee will meet again on Thursday, 24 May, at 10 a.m. to consider Syria’s initial report.

Background

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to take up Mozambique’s combined initial and second periodic report (CEDAW/C/MOZ/1-2).

Heading the delegation of Mozambique was Virgilia Dos Santos Matabele, Minister of Women and Social Affairs of Mozambique.  Also participating in the delegation was Josefa Langa, National Director for Women; Agueda Nhantumbo, Executive Secretary of the National Council of the Advancement of Women; Celia Buque Armando, Legal Adviser to the Minister for Women and Social Affairs; Albachir Macassar, Head of Department for the Promotion and Development of Human Rights, Ministry of Justice; Zilda Massango, Head of Department, Ministry of Agriculture; Esmeralda Muthemba, Gender Focal Point, Ministry of Education; and Amelia Zandamela, Gender Focal Point, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Introduction of Report

Introducing the report, VIRGILIA DOS SANTOS MATABELE, Minister of Women and Social Affairs of Mozambique, said her country was fully committed to the creation of a society of social justice, where women and men enjoyed equal rights and opportunities to participate in all spheres of society.  The Government’s political will to promote equal rights and opportunities between women and men was expressed in different ways.  A democratic and pluralistic society had led to the creation of an environment that was conducive to the exercise of women’s rights.  Mozambique’s Constitution, adopted in 2004, also provided for the equality of rights between women and men.  Efforts had been made by State institutions and civil society to ensure the effective implementation of the Constitution’s provisions.

The Government’s Programme for 2005-2009 encouraged gender mainstreaming in the planning and implementation of sectoral development programmes to ensure the Convention’s implementation, she said.  The adoption of the Gender Policy and its implementing strategy was aimed at promoting gender equality and strengthening women’s participation in national development activities.  Mozambique had been working to strengthen its institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, including the National Council for the Advancement of Women, the Parliamentary Commission on Social, Gender and Environmental Affairs and the Forum for Women Parliamentarians.  The recently launched network of female ministers and parliamentarians was a forum in which women could exchange ideas and define strategies.  Such mechanisms were intended to strengthen the agenda for the advancement of women and create a permanent dialogue with civil society.

Regarding Mozambique’s legal framework, she noted that the Family Law, approved in 2004, introduced measures aimed at eradicating stereotypes and discriminatory practices, and recognized equal treatment in family relations.  The 1997 Land Law stated that women, as well as men, had the right to land use including the rights to succession and land possession papers.  The recently approved Labour Law, among other things, recognized equal rights for both men and women with regard to remuneration, provided for sanctions for sexual harassment and, for the first time, introduced paternity leave.  Within the context of continued efforts to revise discriminatory legislation, the Commercial Code and the Registry Code had also been revised.  The Penal Code and the Succession Law were under revision.  A proposed domestic violence law had been drafted, as well as a proposed law on the prevention and combat of human trafficking.

Efforts to improve women’s status in decision-making, particularly in public administration, had been developed to achieve gender equality in the Government and Parliament, she said.  Women currently held some 37 per cent of the 250 seats in Parliament, an increase from 28 per cent in 1997.  Women’s representation in the legislative organ was one of the highest not only in Southern Africa, but also in the world, representing the fulfilment of the Government’s commitment in the 1997 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Declaration.  The post of Prime Minister was held by a woman.  In addition, six ministers, four vice-ministers, six permanent secretaries and, for the first time, two provincial governors were women.  While women’s representation in decision-making had increased, female representation at the local level remained low.  To monitor national policies related to public administration, a National Authority for Public Administration had been created, chaired by a woman.

The violation of women’s rights constituted an obstacle to social harmony, as women constituted a fundamental pillar of socio-economic development, she said.  Based on that philosophy, government and civil society institutions had taken several actions, including training police in women’s rights and assistance to the victims of violence; creating counselling services to assist the victims of violence; creating a database on domestic violence; and installing “SOS” lines to provide assistance.  Such efforts faced several constraints, however, including difficulties in involving men in programmes to combat domestic violence due to tradition and customary practice.

Regarding women’s access to health services, she noted that life expectancy was higher for women, and that maternal mortality rates had declined in the last 10 years.  The Strategic Plan in the Health Sector 2001-2010 foresaw the reduction of maternal mortality through the increase and use of basic obstetric care and preventive measures, including family planning, and prenatal, birth and after-birth care.  The involvement of men in reproductive health services had also been included in the strategy.

Continuing, she noted that Mozambique had one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world.  According to recent data, some 16.2 per cent of Mozambique’s adult population was HIV-positive.  In 2004, some 1.4 million Mozambicans were HIV-positive, of which 58 per cent were women.  Three out of four HIV-infected people between the ages of 20 and 24 were women.  Counselling services were provided for infected women to reduce the number of children born infected with HIV.  Together with the United Nations, the Government and civil society organizations had developed a strong partnership in the area of HIV/AIDS through the Programme Acceleration Fund.  That initiative would focus on assessment of the country’s response to HIV/AIDS, the promotion of a multisectoral action plan and awareness activities.

Despite such efforts, the health sector faced many constraints, she said.  Health facilities were few and located far from population centres.  Most health units provided only primary care and the majority lacked the capacity to provide adequate obstetric assistance.  Less than 50 per cent provided prenatal assistance and family planning and only 20 per cent provided diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infection.

In the labour sector, some 84 per cent of workers were employed in the informal sector, she said.  Women’s increased participation in non-agricultural sectors was notable, especially in urban areas.  More than half of the country’s working women developed income-generating activities.  Education constituted a strategic tool in poverty alleviation and was a fundamental right for each citizen.  The Strategic Plan for the Development of Education focused on three areas, namely increased access, improved education and the development of institutional capacity-building.  Gender units had been created within all the Education Provincial Directorates, representing an important strategic step forward in achieving gender equity in education.

In spite of progress achieved regarding women’s participation in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, the country had a long way to go, she said.  Huge challenges remained in ensuring women’s effective and substantial participation in decision-making processes.  The implementation of several existing mechanisms was another challenge in ensuring gender equality.  Such facts, combined with a lack of staff specialized in gender issues, had resulted in a weak capacity to influence the management of gender issues at different levels.  Mozambique was committed to developing better strategies for the creation of a fair and non-discriminatory society.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, questioned the status of the Convention in “the domestic order”.  It seemed that the Convention did not have primacy over national legislation, which could lead to violations of the treaty.  How did the Government ensure that domestic legislation was in full conformity with the Convention, and how did it see to it that domestic legislation was interpreted by the judiciary in conformity with the treaty?  He understood that Mozambique was facing serious problems and that access to the judiciary was costly and difficult, but what measures was the Government considering to strengthen the judiciary and provide access for women?  He also asked several questions about the 1,500 community tribunals, such as their scope and composition, the law they applied and how much awareness they had of the provisions of the Convention.

FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, noted that the report had stated that the Constitution and Penal and Civil Codes were under review and that there were draft laws against domestic violence and trafficking in women and children.  She wanted to know the status of those reviews and drafts.  Mozambique needed a “very comprehensive” review of existing laws.  Did the Government have a legal review commission for that purpose, she asked, adding that the situation seemed ad hoc.

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Committee Chairperson and expert from Croatia, said it was not clear whether the Convention was higher than domestic laws or vice versa.  Specifically, what was the hierarchy or position of the Convention?  The delegation had said that there was a provision in the Constitution on the equal rights of women and men in line with the treaty.  Indeed, it was the requirement of all States parties to proceed without delay with policies to eliminate discrimination and provide for the treaty’s practical implementation.  That meant that it was very important to put all laws in line with the Convention, which was a legally binding human rights instrument.  Was it used by the Ministry as a legally binding instrument?

The delegation had also said that the report had been prepared with the assistance of non-governmental organizations, she noted.  Had it also been prepared with the Parliamentary Committee on Social Rights and Gender Equality, she asked, noting the increased percentage of women in Parliament.

Delegation’s Response

Ms. MATABELE said that, since Mozambique’s ratification of the Convention, the instrument had been used to prepare domestic legislation.  It had also been incorporated into the Government’s five-year programme for women’s advancement.  Regarding the involvement of men in the process of improving women’s status, she agreed that that was a necessary component, and it was encouraged.  Men’s involvement would also contribute to decreasing domestic violence against women and children, and efforts were also being made in that regard.

She said there was a legislative review committee, which was situated in the Ministry of Justice, and it encompassed several line ministries involved with the question of legislation.  The Ministry of Women and Social Affairs was part of that committee.

As for the report’s preparation, she said it had involved certain non-governmental organizations linked to women and gender issues.  The Government received some financial assistance in the preparation of its report.

Regarding the two draft laws, they were already in the final stage and should be approved at Parliament’s next session, she said.

Another member explained that the Convention, once ratified, had been published in the country’s official journal.  There was the same commitment to the treaty as to domestic laws, and as international conventions such as the Women’s Convention had special legal requisites regarding the prosecution of certain cases, special laws had been prepared.  For instance, laws concerning adoption and trafficking in persons, he said.

He said that the community tribunals worked on the basis of a local law, which defined their creation by the Ministry of Justice.  A proposal for their establishment usually emanated from the provincial committees.  Seven judges sat on those local courts or tribunals, and their appointments were based on their reputation and integrity.  The tribunals conciliated formal laws and the cultures and traditions of each place in which they operated.  There was “room” for women to be integrated into the process.  Often, the courts handled family conflicts, and women were often more “sensitive” to those kinds of cases.

Another member added that, once ratified, the Convention had the same relevance as all other internal instruments, but as a way of increasing that relevance, that practice had been to insert it into internal laws.  Thus, the legislative review process sought to incorporate some aspects of the Convention into the new laws.  At the same time, the Convention could still be invoked “in and of itself”, but basically, the great majority of its articles had been “inserted” into internal tools, she said.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked about the national machinery.  She was very worried that, based on the report, the Committee’s concluding comments “will disappear up in the air somewhere until we see you again”.  She wondered whether the National Council of the Advancement of Women could be formally and legally institutionalized and given the task of monitoring implementation of the Convention.  A capacity-building programme could be undertaken, instead of establishing another inter-ministerial body.  She also wished to know whether the National Plan of Action for 2006 had been evaluated.  In her view, the strategies and plans were “all mixed up”, and she wanted to know which ones the Government was using.

MARY SHANTHI DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, said it seemed that implementation of the obligations under the Convention was seen as a separate exercise rather than an integrated one with the Convention providing a holistic human rights framework for a national development plan and gender policy.  If that latter approach was taken, many other elements relating to the elimination of discrimination against women could be integrated.

On women’s access to justice, she pressed further about the community tribunals, asking if their personnel were trained on the Convention, whether they knew about it, and whether their work was monitored.  She also asked several questions about women’s access to legal aid and their treatment in prisons.

FRANÇOISE GASPARD, Vice-Chairperson and expert from France, said she was still somewhat puzzled.  What were the human and financial resources available to the Ministry for Women and Social Affairs?  She also asked for more details about the focal points, specifically whether they had copies of the Convention.  Also, was there a network of women members of Parliament?

VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, posed a number of questions about the institutional machinery within the Government structure and Parliament, and in relation to the policy framework, namely implementation of the action plans.  She also asked about the capacities, in terms of human and financial resources, to fulfil the mandates.  Her queries also concerned training and awareness-raising about the treaty.

Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ asked if sanctions were needed in the national law in cases of violations.  She also asked if the Government had any plans to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol, specifically, whether the Ministry was working on that.

Delegation’s Response

A member of the delegation said the technical council included focal points and members of Government, civil society, religious groups and the private sector.  The National Council for the Advancement of Women included 12 women and four men.  The Council, which met every three months and held extraordinary meetings when necessary, discussed a full range of issues at the highest level.  Replicas of the Council existed at the district level.  It was through that coordination mechanism that gender activities were implemented.  Members of civil society and religious groups were also part of the process.   The National Plan for the advancement of women had been prepared by both the technical council and the National Council.  The Plan contained strategies, objectives, activities and goals regarding the critical areas identified in Mozambique following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.  It was an ongoing process and the members of the councils would continue in their efforts for the advancement of women.

Regarding access to courts, another member of the delegation said seven judges were elected by secret vote by the registered voters in the area where the court was established.  Some of the judges were magistrates, while others were jurists.  The Government sought to train the judiciary and community leaders about the Convention and human rights in general.  Although community courts were not completely informal, they tended to be classified in that way.  The courts were monitored, however, and did not operate in a vacuum.  The Constitution contained two articles regarding discrimination.  One mentioned universal equality before the law, while the other referred to the principle of gender equality.  Those articles had been used as a basis for formulating the Family Law and other laws.

There was no room for discrimination according to Mozambique’s Constitution, another speaker added.  The Convention, as well as other international instruments, was used when reviewing the country’s laws.

Regarding legal aid, Ms. MATABELE said the Government faced budgetary limitations in that area.  The Government tried to work with civil society organizations, however, to provide such services.  A strong female presence was needed in the field of justice, and very strong women were already contributing to the process.  Human and financial resources were limited for reasons well known to the Committee.  Mozambique was a poor country, but had great political will to bring social justice to the country.  The Ministry of Women and Social Affairs was comprised of various organic units, including the national directory of social action, which dealt with women in the workplace and women’s empowerment.  The Ministry had tried to implement programmes to reduce absolute poverty.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, said article 4 of the Convention saw two modalities -- temporary special measures to accelerate equality and measures to protect maternity, which, by nature, were not temporary.  While they were of a different nature, both were necessary.  Mozambique’s report reflected an unclear understanding of measures called for under article 4.  Measures to protect maternity were not affirmative action in the sense of temporary special measures.  They were there to protect women in their reproductive function and, as such, there was no comparison.  While Mozambique had adopted temporary special measures, there was no legal basis to guarantee their adoption.  While she congratulated the Government for those measures, she recommended further study on the issue, especially in light of general recommendation 25 of the Committee.

Delegation’s Response

Ms. MATABELE said Mozambique was in its infancy.  While it was a young nation, its feet were firmly on the ground.  She would take that recommendation to her country.

Another member noted that quotas existed in the area of teacher training.  Some 60 per cent of teaching positions had to be filled by women.  The Government was planning to train as many women as possible so that they could become role models for girls, especially in rural areas.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

GLENDA SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, noting that the delegation had said that women and children were the most vulnerable population groups, said that, under the Convention’s article 5, the Government committed to modify the cultural and social patterns of conduct of men and women to eliminate prejudices.  She was not sure that the efforts that had been made were making a lot of difference because women were still seen as “property” in Mozambique, and it was the men in that country who benefited from the property value of women; it was men who made the laws and ensured that women were kept in their place.  If a woman was married, for example, she could not work unless the man gave her permission.

Noting that the delegation had also talked about the reason women continued to face domestic violence, she said that was because womanhood was devalued, because women in Mozambique thought men had a right to beat them, and thought they were being loved if they were beaten.  It was Mozambique’s challenge to go beyond the legislative framework and tell men that they needed to “see life differently” and tell women that women’s rights were human rights.  The men of Mozambique must understand that, she stressed.

TIZIANA MAIOLO, expert from Italy, noted that the marriage age was 18 for boys and girls but that, exceptionally, it was 16 years for public interest motives.  What were those public interest motives?  The present law covered monogamous marriage, but she wanted to know more about polygamy.  The report said it was prohibited by law, but it was an accepted customary practice in Mozambique.  Were polygamists imprisoned and did they have any rights, and what was the Government going to do to combat that phenomenon?

MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, said she was rather disconcerted at the restrictive way in which the issues of discrimination had been presented in the report and the responses given by the delegation to the questions put by the experts today.  The explanations had been confined to explaining the goals, whereas the Committee was lacking more substantive arguments explaining the programmes already being implemented to bring about a radical change in behaviour.

She said she strongly applauded and defended cultural roots in the face of the invasion of western culture, which was “hostile and strange” as far as Cuba’s development was concerned.  However, no cultural attitude could justify discrimination against women or prejudice against them when it came to women’s health or women’s rights.  She wished to glimpse a more specific picture of the measures that were actually being taken to educate in the schools in order to give greater value to that point.  She was saddened that families often did not want to invest in girls since girls sometimes were not given their proper value in society.  Something radical needed to be done to rid society of that concept.

Women were being trained to fight for their rights, but that was not only the struggle of women, but a societal struggle, and it was the duty of the State to see that it was done in an effective manner, she said.

Picking up on the question of polygamy and early marriage, SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, also pointed out that those practices were not recognized by law, but were widely practiced in Mozambique.  What concrete measures was the Government undertaking to prevent those practices?  What acts of violence against women did the draft law address?  The report stated that the State offices for the assistance of women and children victims of violence were not prepared to deal with the many dimensions of the problem.  What had been done to protect the victims, such as medical care, protection from the aggressor, and so on?  Such violence, according to the report, was “extensively practiced”, against which there was extensive silence.  Was there a campaign to change women’s attitudes about their rights?  Did schools deal with violence against women, and attempt to promote a change in students’ attitudes about the problem?

FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, noted that about 5.3 per cent of the population was elderly, and of those, 63 per cent were older women.  According to the report, older women experienced gender-based violence and many were denied access to their rights because they did not have sufficient identity.  What steps was the Government taking to redress that, and did it have a database on older persons?  Was a media campaign being utilized to address such harmful traditional practices against older women as stereotyping them and accusing them of witchcraft?

Also, she noted, women with disabilities in Mozambique suffered social exclusion and neglect and were often deprived of government services and facilities.  What steps had the Government taken to safeguard their interests and prevent their stigmatization and social exclusion, and to make all necessary financial support available to them?  The report had said that schoolbooks and the mass media perpetuated stereotypes, such as girls playing with dolls and doing household chores and boys bearing the responsibility for earning livelihoods.  Those stereotypes only served to perpetuate harmful traditional practices, which contributed to maintaining women in subordinate roles.  What steps had the Government taken to address stereotypes?

DORCAS COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, re-emphasizing the Government’s obligation under article 5 to modify discriminatory cultural and social patterns, said the Government seemed to have handed that responsibility over to civil society organizations, which appeared to be the only ones doing anything about sensitizing the public.  Exactly what was the Government doing to take up the responsibility to ensure that those cultural stereotypes and patterns of conduct were reviewed and removed?  The issue of culture was directly linked to women’s subordination and to violence against them.  Had the Government done any studies about that or did it intend to establish a linkage between culture and violence?  Without some data, it was difficult to have policies to deal with that.

Also drawing attention to older women who had been branded as witches and subjected to violence, she said it was a shame that women, who during their productive lives had supported their families, were treated in such a way at the time when they needed their families’ support in return.  What was the Government doing to address the complicated situation of those women?

HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, wondered how such deeply rooted traditional beliefs and stereotypes in Mozambique could be changed.  There was a saying in Mozambican society that the more a man beat you, the more he loved you.  Was any campaign being carried out -- nationwide and systematic -- to raise awareness about that and about violence against women in general?  She recommended that the delegation read the recent study conducted by the United Nations on violence against women and that the Government calculate the cost of violence in Mozambique and try to tackle it because violence was an obstacle to development.

Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked a series of questions about child marriage.  That practice was considered by some in Mozambique to be a benefit to the child, yet it was a terrible form of violence against a child.  What was the position of the Government regarding that ongoing debate?  Was there a strategy in place to ensure that cultural values were not in conflict with women’s rights?  The Government should take a very clear stand on those issues; cultural values could not go against women’s human rights, or they were not values anymore.

Delegation’s Response

Responding, Ms. MATABELE said the Government did have a policy of assistance for elderly people.  Elderly people provided a great wealth of knowledge.  Her Ministry had the responsibility to protect them, including by sensitizing the public and involving civil society, particularly religious and community groups, on ways to change traditional attitudes.  When things went wrong, grandmothers and mothers would be called witches.  At a time in her life when she most needed her family, she was called a witch, accused of carrying all of the family’s evil spirits.  That did happen in Mozambique.  While those crimes were punished, there was a need to create the conditions that would change society’s thinking.  The Government was also making efforts to protect people with disabilities so that they could become active members of society.

The draft law on violence was awaiting approval, she added, saying she was hopeful that it might be approved at the next session of Parliament.  Some 151 centres had been created for abused women and children.  Many professionals had been trained to deal with violence.  The Government was also working with non-governmental organizations, including the Organization of Mozambican Women.  It was also working to create shelters for abused women.  The problem was lack of resources.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was providing some support for the shelter project to assist victims of violence.  She agreed with the need to carry out a study on violence.  She was sure that efforts to eliminate extreme poverty would help other efforts as well.

While campaigns had been carried out against violence, no administrative decree could stop that scourge, she said.  Women needed to hold hands and fight.  Love was not expressed through beatings.  When united, they would be victorious.  Education to overcome stereotypes, she added, began in the home.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, noted that a law on trafficking had been drafted.  How and when would that law be promulgated?  Did the Penal Code contain a clear definition of human trafficking so that victims could be properly identified and assisted?  Was there a plan of action to combat prostitution among children and women?  How many shelters were operated by the Government and non-governmental organizations to help the victims of trafficking?  Were there statistics on the number of victims and traffickers?  What attitude did law enforcement officials have towards prostitution and trafficking?

Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, also expressed concern about the issue of child prostitution.  On the general issue of prostitution, he noted that the report stated that prostitution was “frighteningly” on the increase and a source of concern for health workers.  It was not clear, however, whether that increase was a concern for the Government.  Was there data on the exploitation of women for prostitution?  Were there programmes for the victims of such exploitation?

Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, asked for a more accurate picture of the extent of prostitution in Mozambique.  She also wanted to know if any concrete steps had been taken to help girls and women to leave the world of abuse and exploitation.  What concrete solutions did legislation provide for?

Delegation’s Response

Responding to that round of questions, a member of the delegation noted that the law on trafficking had, from the outset, been a Government initiative.  The law, among other things, provided for measures to protect the victims.  The Penal Code did contain mechanisms to regulate trafficking of human beings.  That Code was currently being reviewed.  He did not know of a law pertaining to the prostitution of women and children.  There was, however, a law prohibiting children from accessing nightclubs.  While there was a draft law on the prevention of trafficking in human beings, there were no shelters for the victims.

Another member of the delegation noted that, following its establishment in 2000, the Ministry of Culture had worked with the Ministry of Education to address the issue.  The Government also worked with civil society on campaigns to combat abuse, trafficking and other negative practices.  The Government was also trying to raise awareness in school boards so that they could understand Government policies and open dialogue on harmful cultural practices, while preserving the positive ones.

Ms. MATABELE said that, while she could not provide data at the present time, the Government was, however, in the process of creating a database on the issue.  She hoped the next report would contain statistics.  Law enforcement agencies were trained in the area of trafficking.  Border police were also well informed on how to behave in certain circumstances regarding human trafficking.  Prostitution had been on the increase because of increased poverty.  Eliminating extreme poverty was, therefore, the Government’s greatest focus.  The Government was committed to taking children out of prostitution.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, congratulated Mozambique for its achievements in promoting women’s participation in politics.  Her first question was about quotas.  While political will was important, a legal basis for quotas was also essential.  Did the Government plan to formulate special legislation or policies on a quota system to guarantee women’s participation in politics?  At the moment, women were underrepresented in the public sector and at the local level.  Did the Government plan to introduce temporary special measures in that regard, including a quota system?

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said it was with deep emotion and pride that she had listened to the delegation this morning, as the free voice of Mozambique was making itself heard.  Following its independence in 1975, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique had drawn up Mozambique’s first Constitution.  Another Constitution had been adopted in 1990 and the country had seen the transformation from a single-party system to a parliamentary republic.  Mozambique, however, had extremely important problems to resolve.

She noted that some 37 per cent of the Parliament was made up of women.  Mozambique also had the good fortune of having a woman Prime Minister.  At the local level, however, women were not in positions of power.  Did parliamentarians have the right to introduce bills together with bills proposed by the Government?  Many bills were pending introduction in the Parliament.  On the problem of resources, she encouraged the Government to claim the commitment of wealthy countries to providing 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product in official development assistance (ODA).

Delegation’s Response

Ms. MATABELE noted that, in principle, Mozambique did not have a quota system.  During Mozambique’s liberation period, women had fought side by side with men to make Mozambique the reality it was today.  There was a need to define a quota.  There had been great change in the country.  Women needed to be trained and motivated to believe in themselves and to advance.  At the same time, quality was more important than quantity.  Women of quality were currently serving the country.  She was sure that the next generation of women would have greater capacity and power.

Another representative of the delegation explained that the Government was currently considering ratifying the Optional Protocol.  She expected that it would be ratified sometime in 2007 or 2008.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, said she wanted to make sure that the law in Mozambique was in accordance with article 9 of the Convention on nationality.

Delegation’s Response

Responding, a member of the delegation noted that, according to the Constitution, citizenship was acquired by marriage, naturalization and affiliation.  In the current Constitution, a foreigner -- man or woman -- could obtain citizenship.  A spouse could acquire citizenship if he or she wished.  Citizenship through naturalization was granted to foreigners that met certain requirements.  Children of those who acquired citizenship could be given citizenship.  There was no discrimination in that area.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, expressing concern about the research on education, said the issue of sexual abuse in the formal school system, including at the primary school level, was extremely frightening.  Her information was that that kind of sexual abuse was happening in the provinces, and that some of the teachers themselves were the abusers.  The “over-sexualization” of girls was related to poverty; that made them resort to prostitution, which exposed them to HIV/AIDS and made them demonized in their communities.

NAELA MOHAMED GABR, expert from Egypt, asked for the budgetary amount allocated for education and non-traditional means of schooling, such as professional training and remote learning centres.  She also asked for more information about night schools, saying that, with no real protection of girls or real training of schoolteachers, night schools were of concern to her.  Regarding the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention against Discrimination in Education, she asked why Mozambique had not adhered to it, particularly since it offered joint programmes and projects with UNESCO.

Delegation’s Response

Regarding the imbalance in education between girls and boys, a member of the delegation said that progress had been made and there was an upward trend in favour of girls.  There was no imbalance in Mozambique in the basic education between boys and girls, although there were still some problems in some regions of the country.  The Government was trying to solve that problem, and the school boards and gender units were examples of the kind of activities being implemented to promote advancement of young girls and increase the quality of their schooling.

Regarding the sexual abuse of schoolchildren, the Ministry of Education was implementing several measures to combat the problem, she said.  The Government was “aware of some of what is going on, but the sexual abuse of young girls can happen outside the school”, such as when walking to their homes.  The Ministry wanted to expand the school networks in order to decrease the distance children had to travel between their homes and schools.  Teachers who had abused their young female children were punished according to the Penal Code.

In order to solve the problem internally, the Education Ministry had created Decree 39, which said that, when a teacher abused a student, that teacher should be suspended from his job without pay.  The Ministry was also working with community leaders, as rural areas were the most vulnerable.  In light of the many difficulties faced by the country, it was not possible to “cover” the educational needs of all children during the day, and that was why night schools were necessary.

Ms. MATABELE added that education was one priority of the Government, but there was also health, potable water, and ensuring the necessary infrastructure in rural areas to lift the population out of poverty.  There were not enough resources to tackle those concerns.  As for remote learning, an effort was being made to expand teaching to rural zones through long-distance learning via television.  As electricity came to those far-flung districts, so could remote learning opportunities.  Regarding night courses, despite the fact that many spoke of a high level of crime and violence in Mozambique, those classes offered opportunity, whether held at night or during the day.  She added that the majority of students in adult education classes were women.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, posing a series of questions about the new labour law, asked if it prohibited discrimination on the basis of marriage and pregnancy.  She also asked for a definition of a “risk pregnancy”, concerned that the clause could amount to “retrograde” legislation that, in the end, did more harm than good to women.  What sanctions were written into the labour act in case of violations, and was there any monitoring?  She also asked several questions about the right to collective bargaining and trade union activities.

Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, pointed to the International Labour Organization’s standards on equal pay for work of equal value.  Although Mozambique’s new labour law embodied the principle of equal remuneration, women were not getting equal compensation since, for example, the housing allowance and medical expenses were primarily constructed around the society’s patriarchal structure.  So, the woman was not getting the housing allowance benefit because she was living with her husband or father.

Delegation’s Response

The delegation responded that union meetings were allowed as long as they did not interfere with work, and firing of those employees involved in union activities was prohibited without just cause.  If an individual was fired without just cause, there was legal recourse for compensation.  As for ensuring equal pay for equal work, it was possible for the worker to seek redress.

As far as maternity leave was concerned, she said that the new labour law added more days -- 90 as opposed to the previous 60.  Another innovation had been the granting of paternity leave.  The day after a child’s birth, the father had the right to one day of leave, and that right could be exercised every two years.  That presumed that the man would have children with the same woman and was intended to encourage him to stay with his wife.  As for risk pregnancies, those referred to pregnancies that placed women at risk and required special medical treatment and follow-up, for which a woman had the right to leave work without being penalized.

Ms. MATABELE added that there were monitors who rigorously inspected companies so as to guarantee that workers’ rights were honoured.  As far as employees and unionization, she noted that she herself was a State employee and not unionized, but there was an effort by employees to try to institutionalize the union of State employees; it was still in the planning stage.

Gender strategies, along with being implemented as part of the national plan for women’s advancement, were also part and parcel of the culture and education strategies, and the health sector was presently elaborating a gender strategy as well, another member said.  Gender issues were being incorporated into the plans of each department, she said.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. ZOU, expert from China, said she had not yet seen any programme to address the serious issue of HIV/AIDS.  Did the Government have any HIV/AIDS treatment or prevention plans?  The feminization of AIDS was another great concern.  Did the Government have any programmes targeted at young women to raise awareness of the issue and better protect themselves?

Ms. DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, noted efforts to reduce high maternal mortality rates.  What priorities were being set, and did the Government have benchmarks for reducing maternal mortality?  Teenage pregnancy was also high in Mozambique, with some 24 per cent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 already having had at least two children.  Were those girls married by force or by choice?  Did the country have a minimum age for marriage?  How had custom, culture and religion influenced the use of contraception?  Had there been a study on the link between illegal abortions and mortality?

Ms. DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, noted that, while maternal mortality had declined, the rate was still high.  On women’s health in general, she noted that the life expectancy for women was 47 years -- one of the lowest levels in the world.  She also asked for information about other women’s health programmes.  What were the other causes of women’s mortality in the country?  Given the high degree of maternal mortality and the high HIV/AIDS prevalence, she was concerned about women’s health in general.

Ms. BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked what facilities and services were available for AIDS orphans.  It appeared that one third of maternal mortalities were the result of unsafe abortion.  Did the Government plan to legalize abortion?  Did it plan to provide safe abortion facilities to pregnant adolescent women?  On the few and far-flung health centres, given the country’s health crisis, had the Government considered adopting a holistic approach to deal with the issue?  Fistula was another problem, she noted.

Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, asked if the Government planned to distribute antiretroviral drugs, given the increasing rate of HIV/AIDS.  She also asked about access to health services by elderly women.  Would the Government consider providing free access to health care?  What initiatives had the Government taken to promote medical -are services throughout the country?

Delegation’s Response

Responding, a member of the delegation noted that the Government had created the National Council against AIDS, which consisted not only of Government members but also members from the fields of education, health, youth and sport.  A strategic plan for combating AIDS did exist.  The country was currently in the second phase of the plan.  HIV/AIDS was considered a national emergency, and the President had launched a national campaign against the disease.  It had, unfortunately, not achieved the results hoped for.  “Perhaps our messages are not reaching the segment of society that we want to reach”, she said.  The Government was working to try to change those messages.  Influential leaders had been enlisted to take the message to the country.

Unfortunately, women were the greatest victims of HIV/AIDS, she added.  The Government was doing everything possible to work with women and young girls to ensure a real reduction in the pandemic’s spread.  The Ministry of Health was undertaking efforts to expand antiretroviral treatment to all districts of the country.  Groups had been mobilized to provide counselling to young women.  A national action plan had been developed to address the issue of AIDS orphans.  On the elderly, she noted that the Government was working to provide direct medical service without the need for documentation.  It was also trying to promote their identification.

Education was the best way to avoid teenage pregnancy, she added.  As abortion was a controversial issue, the Government was working with civil society to face it in a real way.  Regarding medical services in rural areas, the Government’s goal was to place doctors in the various districts.  A strategic plan had been developed to reduce maternal mortality rates.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, noted that some 84 per cent of workers were employed in the informal sector, and 95 per cent of the women in that group worked in rural areas.  What was the Government doing to ensure that that group was entitled to benefits?  Were policies in place for women-headed households?

Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked about the 1999-2004 programme regarding women in the agricultural sector.  She, too, was concerned about the plight of rural women.  What measures were being taken to improve access to food for women in rural areas?  Poverty and environmental degradation were closely related.  What measures were envisaged to include rural women at all levels of policymaking in environmental management?  What measures were being taken to enhance their knowledge and skills?

ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, raised the issue of land rights.  Did civil law override customary law in cases of conflict?  She also asked for information on the number of internally displaced persons and refugees in Mozambique.  What was being done to ensure rural women’s participation in decision-making?  How had the five-year programme improved the quality of life for rural women?

Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said that agricultural property was a very important matter for women.  Insurance and microcredit for rural women needed to be encouraged.  How would rural women be made aware of their rights in that regard?  She also stressed the importance of social and health services for rural women.  The responses to those questions had not been entirely clear.

Delegation’s Response

A member of the delegation noted that women had access to training in the area of business.   They also received literacy and life-skills training.  Women heads of households were chosen to work with various State institutions in one-year programmes.  During that time, they benefited from specific training.  A national microfinance policy to reduce poverty, especially in the poorest parts of society, was currently in place.

Another member of the delegation said the Ministry of Agriculture had a programme specifically geared towards women peasants.  So-called local development plans had been created for rural women.  In another project, a foreign donor provided funds to train women on sustainable land use.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. TAN, expert from Singapore, noted that, according to the report, Mozambique did not have a family law.  A draft family law was soon to be adopted, however.  Did the draft law comply with all the provisions of the Convention?  Once passed, would it be civil law?  If there was a conflict between custom and civil law, which law would prevail?  Were polygamous marriages permissible under Muslim law?  Had there been any efforts to educate the people on the oppressive conditions that such marriages created for women?

Delegation’s Response

Responding, a member of the delegation noted that a new family law had been approved in 2004.  The new law set the marriage age as 18, as opposed to the previous law, which had differentiated between the marriage age for girls and boys.  There were exceptions to the law, however, which allowed girls to marry at 16 in case of pregnancy.  The new law defined marriage as monogamous.  Religious, traditional and civil modalities governed marriage.  Regarding Islamic law, for a polygamous marriage to be legal, it must be approved by the State.  The State could only approve one marriage.  Legislators sought to protect people living in polygamous situations.

On the issue of divorce, according to the Constitution, children should not be discriminated against because of their parents’ marital status.  In cases of conflict between traditional and formal law, formal law prevailed.

In closing, Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, Committee Chair and expert from Croatia, thanked the delegation and the experts for today’s very constructive dialogue.  The report was almost 10 years overdue, but she hoped for regular dialogues with Mozambique in the future and looked forward to progress in the next report.  It was also important for the Government to consider ratification of the Optional Protocol.  She had been very encouraged by the delegation’s last words that it would take the Convention home as a strong legally binding human rights instrument.  It had also been very encouraging to hear that its members had learned a lot; it had also been a learning experience for the Committee.  That women were represented at 37 per cent in Parliament put Mozambique in the top 10 in the world in terms of women’s participation in Parliament.  She hoped that all women in Parliament, as well as the Prime Minister and all other members of the Government, would use the Convention as a tool.

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