Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
2-20 July 2001
Consideration of reports of States parties
The Netherlands (Advance Unedited Version)
Second and third periodic reports
1. The Committee considered the second and third periodic reports of the Netherlands (CEDAW/C/NET/2 and Add.1 and 2, CEDAW/C/NET/3 and Add.1 and 2) at its 512th and 513th meetings, on 6 July 2001.
(a) Introduction by the State party
2. In introducing the second and third periodic reports, the representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands indicated that the Netherlands had fully endorsed the Convention and that, during recent decades, a genuine revolution had taken place in the labour market, whereby while in 1988 only a third of women had paid employment, in 2001 the level of participation had risen to 52 per cent. There was, however, still evidence of a "male breadwinner's model of society", as shown by the low numbers of women in senior positions, in technical professions and the large number of women who had part-time jobs which did not provide economic independence. The representative indicated that the Government would remain firm on accelerating the emancipation process.
3. The representative underscored the fact that paid employment was a prerequisite for economic independence and that women's economic independence contributed to a more equal balance of power, which had proved to be the most effective instrument for preventing and combating violence against women. Participation of women in the labour force was the focus of the Government's recent Multi-year Plan on Emancipation Policy, which involved all government ministries. Concrete targets included that 65 per cent of women would have paid employment by 2010 and that 60 per cent of women who currently had part-time jobs would be fully economically independent.
4. The representative indicated that labour participation by women could be increased only through a reallocation of care tasks between women and men and that a number of measures had been taken in that regard, including doubling the capacity of child-care facilities; the introduction of a Work and Care Bill, which included four weeks' leave for foster parents or parents of adopted children; flexible use of the three-months parental leave provisions; 10 days' leave per year to take care of a sick child, partner or parent; and a law giving employees a right to work more or less hours per week. Additionally, the "Daily Routine" project, which aimed at a better alignment of education, child care and leisure facilities, had been established. The Government would be delineating a "Daily Routine" policy in the near future.
5. The strategy of gender mainstreaming had been accepted by the Government and all departments had a responsibility for gender mainstreaming, with each having formulated measurable emancipation tasks. Examples in this regard included a new tax system, which promoted the economic independence of women; the preparation of a tax measure aimed at facilitating women's re-entry into the labour market; and efforts to increase the number of black, ethnic minority and refugee women in local councils.
6. Domestic violence was still a serious problem in the Netherlands, and the Minister of Justice had submitted to the Parliament a plan of action against domestic violence, which included more severe punishments against the perpetrators of domestic violence. In accordance with European Union policy, the Netherlands had appointed a national rapporteur on trafficking in persons and was the first country of the European Union to do so.
7. The representative of the Netherlands highlighted aspects of the Multi-year Plan on Emancipation Policy, including a life-cycle project, which examined diversity in lifestyles.
8. On behalf of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles, another representative explained the restructuring programme and aggressive economic policy in place and indicated that while obstacles existed, developments in gender equality had taken place. Among these were the coming into force of the first part of a new civil code, which abolished a number of discriminatory laws and granted women equal rights in issues pertaining to marriage and the family. Irretrievable breakdown had been delineated as the only ground for divorce and either spouse could request termination of the marriage on that ground. Differences in status between children born in and out of wedlock had been eliminated; a law had been enacted which provided protection to domestic workers, most of whom were women; and termination of labour contracts on the basis of marriage and pregnancy had been prohibited. In addressing increased sexual violence against women, the penal code had been amended to increase the maximum punishment available
for sexual offences and special training had been given to police officers in dealing with victims of domestic violence. Campaigns condemning violence against women had also been carried out in collaboration with local non-governmental organizations. The representative indicated that regional collaboration on gender issues between Aruba, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles was being expanded.
9. Turning to developments in Aruba on behalf of the Government of Aruba, the representative indicated that a National Bureau of Women's Affairs had been established in 1996, and that had had an important role in raising awareness of women's rights, existing discriminatory laws and traditional attitudes and practices. Owing to limited resources, most of the Bureau's projects had been carried out within the context of the regional collaboration between Aruba, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. The three countries had agreed to develop projects on job training for women; gender awareness training for media personnel; sexuality and reproductive health of teenage mothers; and violence against women. A regional meeting would be held on women's participation in leadership and decision-making. The Aruban parliament had approved a new civil code which eliminated existing discriminatory laws, and a medical insurance scheme aimed at providing health care for all persons had been introduced. Efforts were under way to counteract violence against women, including through the establishment of a shelter for battered women and the introduction of draft amendments to the criminal code, which had included marital rape. Also of importance was the establishment of a UNAIDS Theme Group for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in Aruba. In closing, the representative mentioned several few remaining areas of concern, including sex-segregation in the labour force, with the employment of women concentrated in the lower-skilled and lower-paid occupations, and low levels of women's participation in politics and decision-making.
(b) Concluding comments of the Committee
10. The Committee commends the Government of the Netherlands on its second and third periodic reports, which are in accordance with the Committee's guidelines for the preparation of periodic reports. It commends the Government for the comprehensive written replies to the questions posed by the Committee's pre-session working group, and the oral presentation of the delegation which sought to clarify the current situation of women in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, and provided additional information on the implementation of the Convention. The Committee also welcomes the written responses to a number of its additional questions posed during constructive dialogue which were provided in the final week of the session.
11. The Committee congratulates the Government for its high-level delegation, headed by the Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment. The Committee appreciates the constructive and frank dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee, but regrets that no representatives of the Governments of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba were able to be part of the delegation which presented the reports as this would have enhanced the constructive dialogue.
12. The Committee commends the Government on its conceptual approach to the implementation of each article of the Convention which incorporates, wherever applicable, three policy levels: achievement of complete equality for women before the law; improvement of the position of women; and efforts to confront the dominant gender-based ideology.
13. The Committee commends the Government on its extensive programme of legislative and administrative reforms which contribute to the implementation of the Convention.
14. The Committee also commends the Government on its programme to combat trafficking, particularly on the appointment of a National Rapporteur on Traffic in Persons, whose aim is to provide the Government with recommendations on how best to tackle the problem of trafficking, and for its commitment to combat this phenomenon at the European Union level.
15. The Committee commends that Government for its willingness to place objections to reservations entered by other States parties that it considers incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.
16. The Committee also commends the Government for having accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
17. The Committee welcomes the establishment in Aruba in 1996, in accordance with the Committee's recommendations, of a National Bureau on Women's Affairs.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention
18. The Committee notes that there are no significant factors or difficulties which prevent the effective implementation of the Convention in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
19. The Committee expresses concern that the Netherlands' policy of balanced division of paid work and unpaid care has not produced expected results, as the burden of unpaid care still falls mainly on women. The Committee is also concerned that women who work outside the home devote twice as much time as men to unpaid work, and that there are still insufficient child-care places.
20. The Committee recommends that the policy of balanced division of paid work and unpaid care be reviewed. It also recommends that greater efforts be devoted to the development of additional programmes and policies to encourage men to share family and caring responsibilities. The Committee also recommends that the Government ensure the availability of sufficient child-care places, and an uninterrupted long school day.
21. Despite efforts to combat discrimination in the Netherlands, the Committee expresses concern at the continuing discrimination against immigrant, refugee and minority women who suffer from multiple discrimination, based on their sex and ethnic background in society at large as well as in their own communities, particularly with respect to education, employment and violence against women. The Committee is also concerned about manifestations of racism and xenophobia in the Netherlands.
22. The Committee urges the Government to take effective measures to eliminate discrimination against immigrant, refugee and minority women, both within their communities and society at large. It urges the Government to respect and promote the human rights of women over discriminatory cultural practices, and take effective and proactive measures, including awareness-raising and community sensitizing programmes, to combat patriarchal attitudes, practices and stereotypical roles and to eliminate discrimination and violence against women in immigrant and minority communities. The Committee also urges the Government to eliminate xenophobia and racism in the Netherlands by strengthening its efforts to combat the activities of racist and xenophobic groups based in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
23. The Committee is concerned about the lack of information in the reports on the de facto situation of women of ethnic and minority communities in respect to their access to education, employment and health services. It is also concerned at the limited information on their freedom from violence, including through female genital mutilation, domestic violence and honour crimes, as well as other discriminatory practices such as polygamy, early marriage and forced pregnancy.
24. The Committee urges the Government to provide in its next report detailed information, including statistics disaggregated by sex and ethnicity on the implementation of the Convention with respect to different ethnic and minority groups resident in the territory of the State party.
25. Noting the recent legislation on the abolition of the ban on brothels, which came into effect in October 2000, the Committee underlines the fact that prostitution poses risks for women of exploitation and violence.
26. The Committee urges the Government to begin monitoring this law immediately and provide, in its next report, an assessment of the intended, as well as unintended effects of the law, including with respect to risks of violence and to health, in particular in regard to those women without residence permits who are engaged in prostitution. The Committee also urges the Government to increase its efforts to provide training and education for prostitutes in order to ensure that they have a full range of options for earning their livelihood.
27. The Committee is concerned about non-European women who have been trafficked who fear expulsion to their countries of origin and who might lack the effective protection of their Government on their return.
28. The Committee urges the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to ensure that trafficked women are provided with full protection in their countries of origin or grant them asylum/refugee status.
29. Although acknowledging the efforts undertaken by the Government in solving the problem of discrimination faced by women at the work place through all the legislative measures aimed at improving women's economic status, including, inter alia, the Work and Care Bill, the Flexibility and Security Act, the Working Conditions Act and the Working Hours (Adjustment) Act, the Committee expresses concern over continuing discrimination in employment and business enterprises. The Committee is also concerned with the "horizontal" and "vertical" gender segregation of the labour market, and the concentration of women in part-time employment. The Committee is concerned that in the private sector women earn on average 23% less than men, although when "corrected" in light of the work they do and their personal characteristics, this differential is reduced to 7%.
30. The Committee urges the Government to increase its efforts to eliminate stereotypes relating to traditional areas of employment and education for women. The Committee recommends efforts to improve the conditions for working women so as to enable them to choose full-time, rather than part-time employment, in which they are currently overrepresented. It also urges the Government to eliminate the discrimination part-time workers face in relation to overtime.
31. The Committee is concerned that elderly women might be marginalized within, as well as insufficiently covered by, the health insurance and pension systems and urges the Government to pay special attention to the needs of elderly women in Daily Routine programmes.
32. The Committee is concerned about the low presence of women in high-ranking posts in all areas, and particularly in academia where, according to 1996 figures, women hold only 5 per cent of professorships. The Committee is also concerned about the low participation of women in political and public life. In the present Government, women hold 26.75 per cent of posts in ministries whereas, according to 1998 figures, only 7.5 per cent of posts at the level of ambassadors, permanent representatives and consuls-general are filled by women.
33. The Committee urges the Government to make efforts to facilitate an increase of the numbers of women in high-ranking posts. It recommends the adoption of proactive measures to encourage more women to apply for these positions, as well as through the implementation of temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, where necessary including in decision-making in politics, the economy and academia.
34. The Committee notes with concern that in the Netherlands there is a political party represented in the Parliament which excludes women from membership which is a violation of article 7c of the Convention.
35. The Committee recommends that the State party take urgent measure to address this situation, including through the adoption of legislation that brings the membership of political parties into conformity with the obligations under article 7.
36. The Committee is concerned that there is insufficient information on the issue of HIV/AIDS is included in the reports and requests the Government to provide such information in its next periodic report in accordance with the Committee's general recommendation 15.
37. The Committee is concerned at the absence of information in the reports of tobacco and alcohol addiction among women. It is also concerned at the absence of information on drug addiction among women, particularly in light of the decriminalization of the use of certain drugs. The Committee requests that information on these areas be provided in the next report, and taking account of paragraph 10 of its general recommendation 24 on women and health, on any meaures to address these issues.
38. The Committee is concerned that the new Law on Names provides that where the parents cannot reach an agreement as to the name of a child, the father has the ultimate decision. The Committee considers that this contravenes the basic principle of equality in the Convention and, in particular, article 16 (g).
39. The Committee recommends that the Government review the Law on Names and amend it to comply with the Convention.
40. The Committee found it difficult to evaluate the implementation of the Convention in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba because no representatives of the Governments of those territories were part of the delegation which presented their reports.
41. The Committee urges the Government of the Netherlands to ensure that the Governments of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are sufficiently supported so that they can be part of the delegation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands when it presents its next periodic report to the Committee.
42. Based on the information provided, the Committee expresses concern about the status of women in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba where, despite the strides that have been made towards strengthening women's legal position, gender equality is far from being achieved, and gender-based stereotypes persist. The Committee is particularly concerned about the negative effects which the Structural Adjustment Programmes might have on women in the Netherlands Antilles as well as on the limited resources available to the National Bureau of Women's Affairs in Aruba, which might prevent the effective implementation of projects aimed at empowering women.
43. The Committee urges the Government of the Netherlands to strengthen its economic support to the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, particularly support for programmes on capacity-building to better achieve gender equality, including support for the implementation of the Convention.
44. Noting the positive contributions of the Netherlands to the process of elaboration of the Optional Protocol, the Committee urges the Government to ratify that instrument as soon as possible.
45. The Committee requests the Government to respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention.
46. The Committee requests the wide dissemination in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, of the present concluding comments in order to make the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and particularly government administrators and politicians, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality for women and the future steps required in that regard. It also requests the Government to continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women's and human rights organizations, the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee's general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the results of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace in the twenty-first century".