10 June 1999


10 June 1999

Press Release


19990610 High Level of Teenage Conception, Participation of Men in Family Planning Discussed; United Kingdom Delegation Responds to Experts' Questions

As one of the countries in the world with universal education and health care, and free family planning, why did the United Kingdom have such a big problem with teenage conception? a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women asked as that body concluded its consideration of the United Kingdom's reports on compliance with the Women's Anti- Discrimination Convention.

The United Kingdom had the highest levels of teenage conception in Europe, seven times as high as in the Netherlands, she noted, and the problem was even more serious in Northern Ireland. She also wondered why men did not take part in family planning. There was a need to overcome the cultural and social barriers to men's participation in family planning, since it was a joint responsibility.

The Committee, which monitors States parties compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, was considering the United Kingdom's third and fourth reports.

Cutting the rates of teenage parenthood involved addressing both young men and young women, Tony Kingham, Section Head, International Branch, Department of Health, and member of the United Kingdom delegation, agreed. Teenage parenthood was an issue with many facets and repercussions. Teenage parents faced more social exclusion than their peers.

With regard to women's representation, Fiona Reynolds, Director, Women's Unit, Cabinet Office, said that the Government's commitment to increasing representation was clear. Political parties had implemented a wide variety of measures towards that goal. The Department of Health had 46 per cent women's representation, while the Ministry of Defence was still at 8 per cent. As evidence of its practical commitment to change, the Defence Ministry had drawn up an action plan to increase women's representation.

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In concluding the Committee's remarks, expert Silvia Rose Cartwright, serving as rapporteur for the United Kingdom, reviewed the range of subjects that had been discussed during the day. Those included the special needs of women in outside territories, especially Northern Ireland; violence against women; ethnic minority women; and the needs of the elderly person. Monitoring and evaluation were essential to determine the efficacy of the United Kingdom's many recent initiatives, she stressed.

Also addressing the Committee from the United Kingdom's delegation this afternoon were: Jenny Eastabrook, Department for Education and Employment; Sue Owen, Economic Counsellor; Linda Jones, Prison Service, Home Office; Francine O'Neill, Northern Ireland Office; Garvin Bowen, Department of Social Security; and Paul Fifoot, Consultant to Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, to hear responses from the delegation of Georgia to the Committee's comments and questions voiced at an earlier meeting.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the United Kingdom on legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Government ratified the Convention in 1986.

The Committee had before it more than 400 pages of statistical information, narrative and charts, contained in two reports and six addenda, covering the situation of women and the Convention's implementation, article by article, in Great Britain, with separate sections on Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Falkland Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The United Kingdom's third periodic report (document CEDAW/C/UK/3) covers the period from 1991 through 1995. An addendum covers the period from 1993 to 1997 in the Falkland Islands (document CEDAW/C/UK/3/Add.1) and another, on the Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands (CEDAW/C/UK/3/Add.2) covers the period since 1991.

The country's fourth periodic report (document CEDAW/C/UK/4) describes the situation of women in Great Britain from July 1995 through March 1999, with particular emphasis on the period after 1997, when the new Labour Government was elected. The report focuses on each of the Convention's articles. For the first time, the document specifically outlines how those articles are or will be applied in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, reflecting the constitutional development since May 1997 by which power and responsibility for government was devolved to newly elected representative bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Addenda describe efforts to implement the Convention in the Falkland Islands (document CEDAW/C/UK/4/Add.1); the Virgin Islands (document CEDAW/C/UK/4/Add.2); the Turks and Caicos Islands (document CEDAW/C/UK/4/Add.3); and the Isle of Man (CEDAW/C/UK/4/Add.4).

For further background on the reports, see Press Release WOM/1131 issued this morning.

Comments by Experts

An expert raised the issue of asylum seekers in the United Kingdom and wanted to know how the Government was carrying out its policies with regard to that group. Questions were also raised concerning the situation of rural women, who were more difficult to cater to, and who had a greater lack of

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access to facilities and services. Also, how would the Government ensure that programmes had proper funding to serve those women.

Regarding Northern Ireland, an expert said that the Committee should be kept informed on the United Kingdom's policy of mainstreaming gender equality there. She also wanted to know what sort of programmes were in place to address the problem of domestic violence in Northern Ireland, and how that problem was being monitored. In the report, there had been no reference to the fact that Catholic women were 1.8 per cent more likely to be unemployed than their Protestant sisters. Also, the unemployment rates for ethnic minority women in Northern Ireland were higher than those for white women.

Another expert also stated that the approach of gender mainstreaming was very important. She thought the slogan "better for women, better for all" was very persuasive and would be helpful in the pursuit of the Government's goals. She also noted that the Government did not have any unified national plan of action for women's issues, which, along with effective policy coordination, would help achieve many goals.

Regarding the rights of the family, an expert commended the Government's policy for social protection, while noting that there was insufficient information in the area of divorce. She wondered whether there were any studies in the United Kingdom to determine the causes of divorce. The consequences of family break-up were known to all, and, therefore, it was good that social services were guaranteed, especially for children.

An expert said she shared the concerns expressed regarding ensuring the representation of women in Parliament. While increasing the rate of women in Parliament from 6 to 18 per cent was praiseworthy, she said that further measures should be planned to ensure that that rate did not drop in future elections. What had the United Kingdom prepared to ensure that women were in decision-making capacities in the country and in the overseas territories? she asked.

On the subject of violence, she noted that battered women had refuges available to them where they could go with their children. But was psychological treatment planned for the batterer? she asked. She also asked about measures to prevent violence against women of ethnic minorities and elderly people. What policies were in place for women in the Falkland Islands/Malvinas -- especially regarding education -- to give them real economic possibilities? she asked. Further, what policies existed to ensure that elderly persons were active participants in society, bearing in mind that there were three woman to every man over age 80 in the United Kingdom.

An expert noted that the Equal Opportunities Commission and non- governmental groups had been consulted on amending laws. The Commission had

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recommended ways to improve the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act. When and how would those recommendations be implemented, and in what order?

Efforts to enable women to participate in all facets of society were often impeded by men, she said. To counter this phenomenon, education was important. But forceful measures were sometimes needed as well. For example, regarding parental leave, if the woman was guaranteed some income, she would be the couple's natural choice to stay home with the baby. There should be equal rights for the father to stay at home. Even when legally possible, fathers often did not use parental leave due to pressures from employers. To counter that trend, some Scandinavian countries "forced" men to take part of a couple's parental leave.

An expert applauded the innovative forms of government, such as the "joining-up" mechanisms, as well as the inclusion of the gender perspective. But women's perspective had not been provided in some areas of the report, such as regarding the new deal for disabled people. The gender perspective was overarching; it combined with other issues, such as racial and disabled perspectives.

What mechanisms were in place to ensure that devolution did not lead to fragmentation in the various parts of the country? she asked. There seemed to be different definitions, standards and laws in different areas.

She then said the United Kingdom must reconsider its Sex Discrimination Act in light of the Convention's article 4.1. She did not understand why the United Kingdom was reluctant to implement provisions for temporary special measures. The Government should review the sex discrimination act and legalize article 4.1. The Act had at one time been an inspiration, but today it was outdated.

The Equal Pay Act, too, was somewhat outdated, she continued. It required comparison with male workers, but that impeded progress regarding women's low wages in female-dominated sectors. The United Kingdom should avail itself of the vast amount of research in the United States regarding equal pay for work of equal value. Employers, trade unions, and Government should be educated on that.

Turning to health, and particularly the issue of teenage conception, an expert noted that the United Kingdom had the highest levels of teenage conception in Europe -- even seven times as high as in the Netherlands. The problem was even more serious in Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom was one of the countries in the world which had universal education and health care, and free family planning within its health system. Why, then, she asked, did it have such a big problem with teenage conception. She also wondered why men did not take part in family planning, as stated in the report.

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There was a need to overcome the cultural and social barriers to men's participation in family planning, since it was a joint responsibility, she continued. Also, services needed to be accessible to young teenage girls. In the Government's answers to questions posed in the Committee's pre-sessional working group, it stated that there were no sex-education programmes in primary schools. Such programmes were indeed necessary, since, if left to the secondary level, it might be too late.

Another expert felt that teenage pregnancy was a major cause of school drop-outs and requested information on any programmes in place for the re- entry into the formal and non-formal education system of young mothers.

Male responsibility and a holistic approach to sexual health was emphasized, she said. In addition, violence was another health issue that needed to be raised among young people.

Regarding ageing women, an expert noted that the United Kingdom had the highest death rate from breast cancer in the European Union. Also, once women turned 65, they were no longer invited for mammography screening. Since it had the highest death rate in the Union, she suggested that perhaps the Government should consider extending that invitation to women over 65.

On the issue of abortion, the expert believed the time had come to take a new look at the very restrictive abortion law in Northern Ireland. She wondered whether there were any plans for public consultation for revising the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

An expert raised the issue of foreign female domestic workers, who, according to reports, had a lot of difficulty obtaining working permits. Oddly enough, it was the employer who had to prove that he/she understood the rights of the domestic workers, and many workers themselves were not aware of their rights. Foreign workers were also not allowed to change their employers except in very exceptional cases. She believed the Government had a double standard with regard to laws for domestic workers. If the Government had a policy of admitting foreign workers, then it should seek to abolish those double standards.

To prevent mistreatment of domestic workers, they should be allowed to choose their employers freely, she added. She recommended that the Government establish some type of public employment office to explain to workers that their were rights protected by British laws and to be a source of help and advice to them.

Response by Government Delegation

Replying to comments and questions raised by the Committee, FIONA REYNOLDS, Director, Women's Unit, Cabinet Office, said that with regard to

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women's representation positive actions taken by the Government should not be confused with positive discrimination as recommended in the Convention. Public appointments were based solely on merit. The report had made it clear that there had been a wide variety of measures taken by political parties to increase women's representation. Those measures had been decided on by the parties themselves, who could seek advice from the Equal Opportunities Commission if they needed to do so.

Progress was measured with annual reports and statements on progress, she said. While the current average was 36 per cent, that number should not mislead anyone. The Department of Health had 46 per cent women while the Ministry of Defence was still at 8 per cent. The commitment to change was very clear. The Defence Ministry had drawn up an action plan to increase women's representation, which was clear evidence of its practical commitment.

JENNY EASTABROOK, Head of Sex and Race Equality Division, Department for Education and Employment, addressed issues on ethnic minority women. There was legislative protection for women on grounds of race and gender, and they were of course protected by other national legislation, such as that related to national minimum wage. The Race Relations Act gave parallel protection in education, employment and housing. Cases of race discrimination were heard by the same tribunals that heard cases of sex discrimination, so it was straightforward to bring such cases together.

In addition to mainstreaming gender equality, the United Kingdom was committed to mainstreaming race equality, she continued. The "new deal for young people" was designed to meet the needs of ethnic minority youth. Great effort had been taken to ensure that their needs were met. The Commission for Racial Equality had similar responsibilities to the Commission on Equal Opportunities for Gender.

Regarding career services, she said that innovative action had been taken to encourage Pakistani and Bangladeshi girls and their families to learn more about the career possibilities in the United Kingdom. Regarding equality in education, more remained to be done, despite 20 years of legislation. Following the report of the Social Exclusion Unit last year, the Government had asked local authorities to set targets for reducing exclusion, which would effect minority youth. A ministerial action group was overseeing a programme aimed at improving achievement of those groups in the school system. Government recognized more to be done in relation to health, where language and cultural barriers could prevent women from securing full use of services available. The Government had set targets in a green paper, "Our Healthier Nation", which were relevant to ethnic communities.

Turning to questions about the Equal Opportunities Commission's recommendations on changing legislation, she said the Government was considering them seriously, but would have to consider other factors as well

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before finalizing its conclusions. Those included the linkage with recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equality. She expected that the proposals would be responded to by the end of the year. It was likely that the Government might initially want to identify certain priority areas within the overall Commission recommendations.

Special temporary measures existed with regard to training and encouraging people to compete for public appointments, she said. Throughout the United Kingdom -- not just in the Government -- there was scepticism about the benefits of a formal approach to quotas which tended to imply a departure from the principle of merit. The Commission had not made recommendations on that matter.

Regarding discrimination in labour, she said the high number of cases withdrawn from hearings did not always imply a negative result for the women concerned. Many applications were submitted before internal mechanisms had been fully made use of, and sometimes settlements occurred without further recourse.

On higher education, she said an independent review into paying conditions in higher education was to be issued this month. According to media reports, higher education institutions underpaid women staff and they would need to address that. The commissioning of the review was itself an indicator that the issue was taken seriously. The Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission had jointly developed practical guidance for institutions to develop and monitor policies.

On teacher training, she said teachers were trained to have high expectations for all pupils, irrespective of gender, cultural and racial backgrounds. They were also to give pupils every opportunity to meet those expectations.

SUE OWEN, Economic Counsellor, said the United Kingdom had extensive provision for maternity leave, but no statutory provision for paternity leave. However, about 98 per cent of men did take time off on the birth of the child. About 40 per cent got paternity leave at the time of birth, even if it was not long. The new Employment Relations Bill would provide, from next January, for three months of unpaid parental leave for all employees, for each parent, for each child, subject to a qualifying period of one year's service. Details were being worked out, but it was almost certain that that leave could be taken not only at the time of birth.

LINDA JONES, Head of Women's Policy Group, Prison Service, Home Office, said more women were going through the legal system, and more were being sentenced to custody and for longer sentences in England and Wales. There had been a dramatic increase of women going through the system for drug-related

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reasons. She was pleased to report that large numbers were no longer being sentenced to prison for non-payment of TV licences.

While the number of women going to prison had increased, women were still more likely to be given community service, and were less likely to be sentenced to custody compared to men, she said. In England and Wales, 37 per cent of women in prison were in for drug-related crimes. Another third of those in prison were serving sentences for theft offenses, many of which related to drugs. A comprehensive drug strategy including treatment was being launched. The Government was giving 76 million pounds to the prison service for drug treatment. An innovative measure would be to give drug treatment in the community, instead of sentences.

Ethnic minority women made up 20 per cent of imprisoned women, she said, but 15 per cent were foreign national women in prison for drug offenses. The judiciary must understand how women were being treated by the justice system. The Government was shortly to publish a document "Women in the Criminal Justice System", bringing together research and data on the treatment of women from arrest through custody. Every alternative was pursued before women were sentenced to custody. A priority was to ensure that those who came into custody were provided with relevant education and training programmes that would help them resettle successfully into the community after serving their sentences.

It had been necessary to increase the number of prisons in recent years, to provide inmates with good conditions as close to home as possible, she continued. On 8 March, a new custodial sentence for young people -- the detention and training order -- had been introduced. According to it, in upcoming years, juvenile girls would be placed in local authority care instead of prisons. Meanwhile, they would be accommodated in special units with focus on education and training.

Regarding the prosecution of sexual offenses, she recognized the difficulties facing women and girl victims. Special measures were being introduced to facilitate the process, such as screens ensuring privacy, excluding audiences, and using prerecorded cross-examination. The court would presume that the complainants of sexual crimes would require assistance in giving evidence, and would provide it. It would also prevent those accused of serious sexual crimes from cross-examining witnesses.

On domestic violence, the Government was to publish a document this summer providing guidance and building on existing good practice at the local level, she said. Committed to tackling the issue of domestic violence, the Government had launched a wide range of initiatives ranging from prevention to prosecution of offenders. Those included local strategies, new legislation against harassment and increased support for victims. A magistrate's court

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had been established specifically for domestic violence, as a pilot project. In Scotland, similar initiatives had been adopted.

The United Kingdom's Government was committed to protecting children from the evil of child prostitution, she said. New guidance -- aimed at protecting children and tackling those who corrupted and abused them -- was being issued on how the police should deal with the issue. The emphasis regarding children was to ensure that they could create a more normal lifestyle. The guidance was intended to raise awareness, inform the relevant agencies of the nature of the problem and ensure that the police and social services adopted policies to treat children primarily as victims. Decriminalizing prostitution was not considered a good option. It could increase the number of children involved and send the message that prostitution was accepted.

On overseas domestic workers, she said the conditions of their admittance into the country had been reviewed and a number of changes designed to improve conditions of entry had come into effect last year. Those who had left their employers because of abuse and were thus in an irregular immigration situation could apply for immigration.

FRANCINE O'NEILL, Head of Gender Equality Team, Northern Ireland Office, said that changing any existing legislation was to be taken following consultation with local ministers, and those ministers had not yet been appointed. The United Kingdom's abortion law did not apply to Northern Ireland, and there was strong public opposition to changing the existing law in Northern Ireland. That was an issue to be addressed by the new assembly, and the Women's Civic Forum would provide an opportunity for women to voice their opinion on the matter.

With regard to the differences in unemployment rates for Catholic and Protestant women in Northern Ireland, she said that it was important to put those differences in context, as to why they exist. There were Government actions, which focused on redressing that problem. Regarding public appointment targets, while it was progressing, Northern Ireland was still a traditional society, which explained the low base of women's representation there. The Government had a target of 40 per cent for the 1997-2000 period, although the ideal goal was 50/50 representation. It was looking at ways to make the application process more favourable to women and to get more women to put their names forward in elections.

She said that domestic violence was not a separate criminal offence in Northern Ireland. Women could file complaints of domestic violence under such offences as bodily harm and common assault. A consultation document had recently been published on violence against women. It was an area of great concern and important steps had been taken. For example, since 1997, professionals trained in domestic violence issues had been provided in police

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stations. The consultation period for the document would end on 30 June and that would be followed by the development of an action plan.

TONY KINGHAM, Section Head, International Branch, Department of Health, said that teenage parenthood was an issue that had many different facets. Teenage parents faced more social exclusion than their peers. The issue was so serious that the Prime Minister had asked the Social Exclusion Unit to look at teenage parenthood. The precise remit was to cut the rates of teenage parenthood, which involved addressing young men and young women. As to whether or not sex education and relational training should be included in the primary school syllabus, there was an arrangement by which the ministers of education and health got together to discuss issues relevant to both ministries, and that was one of the topics they discussed.

The previous public health policy had focused on under-age-16 pregnancies, he went on to say. That policy was being updated and a new policy was to be issued soon. Public health issues had to be addressed by complementary strategies, with the overall aim of reducing ill health. Work had begun on the development of a sexual health framework, the aims of which, among others, were to reduce the high rates of teenage parenthood and improve sex and parenthood information.

He said that re-access to education for young mothers should not be a problem. It was an issue related to the family and the support of the child, and was also under consideration by the Social Exclusion Unit. At the time that it was decided to not invite women over 65 for breast screening, evidence had suggested that older women would not accept such an invitation and that was why they were not invited. Screening for older women was widely advertised, and the national screening committee had considered extending the programme to older women.

Turning to access to health care for women in rural areas, he said that the National Health Service was based on the principle of equity, regardless of one's ability to pay. The actual structure and format of the delivery of health care in rural areas was up to the discretion of the local authorities. In Scotland, as part of the public health strategy, a white paper setting national reduction targets for teenage pregnancy and putting forth a project to promote sexual health and reducing sexually transmitted diseases had been issued.

GARVIN BOWEN, Head of Family Policy Unit, Department of Social Security, said that for some reason, generally, women were less provided for in old age, and the majority of pensioners were women. There were a number of activities across Government which had a bearing on old women and poverty. A comprehensive pension review had been undertaken, one of the aims of which was to narrow the pension gap between men and women, and to develop pensions that were flexible enough to cope with women's working patterns. Extra help for

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pensioners had been announced in the new budget. The Government was addressing the issue with three themes: active ageing; consultation; and involvement. Active ageing aimed to bring all initiatives for older people together, to look at ways to keep them active through paid and voluntary work.

PAUL FIFOOT, Consultant to Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said that the devolution provisions had made the question of the Human Rights Act very obscure. In principle, the Act should come into force on 2 October 2000 and the delay was due to the fact that a great deal of training was necessary before it came into force. It applied to every public authority at every level, and required a great deal of education. Under devolution, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Irish Executives were forbidden to act contrary to the laws of the European Convention on Human Rights. They would be obliged to comply with the Human Rights Act. Direct implications of the Act would be seen when it came into force next year.

As to whether the United Kingdom would legislate the Women's Convention into national legislation, he said that the Women's Convention was different than the European Convention on Human Rights. Obligations under the Women's Convention were more problematic in nature, which made it difficult to introduce it into domestic legislation. The Government had not yet taken any decision on the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

Turning to the overseas territories, there was a considerable size difference between those in the Caribbean and the Falkland Islands, and the United Kingdom, he said. The size of the population was a factor, and they did not have the kind of instruments necessary to give effect to the Convention in those territories. Therefore, there was a difference in the comprehensiveness of the reports that came from the islands and those that came from the United Kingdom.

He said that all the territories had a considerable measure of self- governance, and they were in compliance with the Convention over the range of the substantive articles. Education was free and available to all without discrimination, as were sizeable health services, including special services for pregnant women and mothers. Social Security was more limited in the Caribbean islands and in the Falklands than in the United Kingdom, but it was granted without discrimination. The civil service codes in all three territories were models of equality. The upper range of civil service had many women in senior posts.

There was no specific department in the Falkland Islands or in the Turks and Caicos Islands that dealt with women's issues due to their small infrastructures, he said. However, the Virgin Islands had a women's desk. The reports were produced by the territories themselves or by the Foreign Commonwealth Office, following extensive consultation. It contained what the territories themselves had wanted to convey to the Committee. It was

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difficult to make the reports more comprehensive than what the territories themselves allowed for.

Regarding teenage pregnancies in the territories, he said that girls in the top form were allowed to stay in school, but girls in the low form did not have that privilege. The nationality law in the United Kingdom was simple; a child born in the United Kingdom was a British citizen if its parents were United Kingdom nationals or permanent residents. Some loopholes did exist whereby children born without nationality were given British nationality so that the child would not be stateless.

Ms. REYNOLDS said the Government recognized the challenges facing rural women, particularly regarding employment. Women's employment in rural areas was disproportionately in the industries of tourism and service. Government was seeking to ensure that their work was recognized and their needs were met.

An expert recommended that the Government take another look at article 4.1 of the Women's Convention, particularly since the European Convention did not contain any such provisions. She understood the reluctance to implement hard quotas, but soft goals could be legislated. There was a difference between setting targets with no legislation, and setting soft goals within legislation. She was impressed and excited by what was happening in the United Kingdom, but hoped that there would be new thinking on that matter. Further, she sought more coherent information on poverty eradication efforts and asked for follow-up regarding the impact of the devolution.

Another expert said that she had been struck when one member of the delegation had said that inequality such as that in the Virgin Islands did not exist in the Falkland Islands. The elected positions showed a different slant than civil service positions. Every woman had the right to her human rights, no matter how small the territory she lived in was. What programmes were in place to ensure that women in the territories enjoyed their human rights, and the commitments that the United Kingdom had made at the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing? she asked.

Ms. EASTABROOK said the United Kingdom's Government was generally cautious about legislation on matters such as quotas. It was too early to judge whether the kind of normal legislation that had been adopted recently would work. However, the situation would be considered continuously and there might be European developments causing further reflection as well.

Ms. DONNELLY said the Government had published a strategic approach to tackling poverty and addressing excluded people in Scotland. The Government had also published a short leaflet describing the various sources of assistance for families. Recognizing the high cost of the breakdown of the family, it was seeking to address situations when such a breakdown was

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inevitable. Those were considered important initiatives for women and children in Scotland.

Concluding Remarks

Ms. REYNOLDS thanked the Committee for its detailed examination. Her Government was committed to the ongoing process of mainstreaming gender issues. A number of experts had stressed the importance of monitoring and evaluating the many new programmes. The British Government also believed that was of great importance, and would be sure to do so. The devolution had sparked excitement about new developments and new opportunities, and her delegation was pleased that the Committee found it exciting as well. She was aware that devolution presented a series of challenges, including issues related to data collection, and the Government was committed to the overall process.

SYLVIA CARTWRIGHT, the Committee's rapporteur for the United Kingdom, made concluding comments. The report had been presented openly and there was clear demonstration of commitment to the Convention's principles. Clearly, extensive consultations had been held with non-governmental organizations, which enriched the report and led to large number of women being informed about what the Convention offered in terms of opportunities for them. The delegation was large with an exceptionally high level of expertise. The Committee's comments and questions had been responded to in substantive detail, demonstrating commitment to compliance with the Convention.

A wide range of subjects had been discussed today, she said. Those included: the representation of women in public and political life, the special needs of women in outside territories, especially Northern Ireland, women's health and especially teenage conception, violence against women, parental leave, poverty, ethnic minority women, equal pay for women and the needs of the elderly person. It had been stressed that monitoring and evaluation were essential to make sense of the new initiatives, and to see how effective they had been made.

Great progress had been made since the second report, which had been presented in 1991, she said. Due to the length of time since that report, the Committee had been almost overwhelmed by information. She keenly awaited the next report and the chance to learn how much further the United Kingdom had come.

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For information media. Not an official record.