20 August 2002


Press Release

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

586th and 587th Meetings (AM & PM)



The low level of participation by Hungarian women in political life, concerns about a national family concept policy and the situation of Roma women were among the issues raised by the expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today.

The Committee was considering the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Hungary on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as it continued its three-week exceptional session, being held to reduce a backlog of country reports.

Introducing the report, Erzsebet Kaponyi, head of delegation and Associate Professor at the University of Economics and Public Administration in Budapest said that since elections in May, some major changes had taken place in Hungary.  The number of women elected to Parliament was greater than ever before and there were three female ministers.  Structural changes regarding the institutional framework dealing with women had also taken place.  Within the Ministry of Employment Policy and Labour, a new Directorate-General for Equal Opportunities had been established to elaborate the policy for promotion of equality for women, rehabilitation of the disabled and employment of Romas.

The expert from Italy, however, pointed out that Hungary, as an aspiring member of the European Union, could not improve democracy when some 50 per cent of its population did not actively participate in political decision-making.  In a country where women had achieved high levels of education and professional activity, the argument could not be made that women were not interested in politics or political parties.  Active promotion of the role of women in the political arena was necessary.

Experts pointed out that a national family concept policy seemed to encourage motherhood.  Without measures to encourage fathers to take their responsibilities in family life, the expert of Turkey remarked, the concept could become a discriminatory policy for women.

Addressing many experts concerns about the situation of Roma women,

Ms. Kaponyi said the lack of Roma women in public and social life was regrettable.  Roma women were often represented by male representatives and their voice was, therefore, seldom heard.  They were likely to suffer from two-fold discrimination, as women and as Roma.  Real efforts were necessary to integrate women Roma in politics.

The Committee will meet again on Friday, 24 August, at a time to be announced to conclude its exceptional session.


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) met this morning to consider the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Hungary (document CEDAW/C/HUN/4-5). 

The report states that two questions would be addressed regarding compliance with each article of the Convention: legal background, changes of legal acts, exposition of current situation; and political measures and obstacles in the realization of legal acts and initiatives of the Government.  The report's authors used the 1999 MONEE project Regional Monitoring Report No.5, "Women in Transition", published by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).  The study is of extreme importance to Hungarian public opinion, since it reviews developments in the region.

A section on women's representation says that following the collapse of the state-socialist system, several fundamental economic and national questions remained unresolved, including the issue of equality between men and women.  The "missing achievements" were tightly linked with the lack of market forces and the disregard of civil society.  Basically, these are the fields where changes have started. 

A subheading entitled "Women under specific conditions" states that families with more children than average and the several single (at least legally) young mothers were in need of support "as a matter of course".  The report addresses the situation of Roma mothers, since problems related to Romas require advantaged programmes and action plans in many fields of Hungarian society and dialogues are carried out with, or in relation with, the Romas.  Among Romas, over and above the gradual adjusting to social progressions, the rate of childbirth is still much higher than in other areas of society, and young girls become mothers much earlier than the average. 

Also, mainly as a consequence of the low educational level within the Roma population, the unemployment rate is much higher than in the total population.  Thus, Roma people bringing up children are in an "extraordinarily bad" situation.  There are Roma villages where almost the entire population is unemployed (particularly in the northern and north-eastern parts of the country) and the large extent of "pauperization" obviously afflicts the children most.  A multitude of Roma families live solely off support.  Malnutrition, bad housing and unhygienic circumstances have affected the health of families, as well.  According to health-care workers who regularly visit Roma families, young mothers are in need of psychological health-care and mental care.

"Among violent criminal offences, the volume of crimes committed within the family, most often within the walls of the home, is extremely high", the report states.  For women, the most dangerous milieu is the family, the most dangerous place is the home and the most likely perpetrator is the husband, life companion, ex-husband or ex-life-companion.  To measure the volume of abuse, an extensive survey was carried out on the unlawful extinction of life of the offended party.  The research counted both murder and grievous bodily harm with fatal consequences.  Following that study, the Government decided to introduce the "most significant Hungarian legal rules" related to domestic violence. 

Services supporting victims of family violence include civil organizations equipped with telephone and legal advice services, a national network of family-aid services and the Office for Women's Issues.  A serious problem for victims is that there are only a few lawyers who are aware of the nature of violence in the family and of wife abuse, or who have proper expertise in this field to enable them to handle a party's case with empathy.  The Office for Women's Issues has implemented a victim protection experimental programme on the training of lawyers, social workers, policemen and doctors.

Introduction of Reports

ERZSEBET KAPONYI, head of the delegation and Associate Professor at the University of Economics and Public Administration in Budapest, said her Government shared entirely the norms and values enshrined in the Convention. Emphasizing that protection of the rights and promotion of equal opportunities for women, and elimination of any kind of discrimination against them, began at home, she underlined Hungary’s firm commitment to the full implementation of the Convention.

Since elections in May, some major changes had taken place in her country. The number of women elected to Parliament was greater than ever before. The spokesperson for Parliament was a woman and more women were elected to chair Parliament committees.  Women were heading the ministries of interior, of environment and water resources, and of welfare, social and family affairs.

She said structural changes regarding the institutional framework dealing with women had taken place, as well. Within the Ministry of Employment Policy and Labour, a new Directorate-General for Equal Opportunities had been established to elaborate the policy for promotion of equality for women, rehabilitation of the disabled, and employment of Romas. It would propose special anti-discrimination law, incorporating existing anti-discriminatory elements of the legal system. It would also develop a new national plan of action.  A project had been developed, in cooperation with PHARE, aimed at developing employment opportunities for women above the age of 40 and those re-entering the labour market after the child-care period.

International experience had shown that discrimination could not be tackled by governmental measures alone, she said. It was, therefore, of particular importance that civil society had become very active in combating discrimination, including that against women. The Government continuously gave high priority to involvement of civil society in improving equal opportunities for women in all spheres and at all levels of life. Cooperation between civil society, academic circles, women parliamentarians and other politicians in initiating programmes with a view to promoting gender equality had been most promising.

Anti-discrimination legislation and policy would not be fully effective unless they were accompanied by activities that sought to address the deeply- rooted social attitudes and tried to increase mutual understanding. Changing attitudes required public awareness and education, she said.

The situation of the Roma community differed in many aspects from that of other minorities. The social integration of the Roma population required establishment of a tolerant social environment. At the same time, the great majority of Hungarian society was still not aware of the problems of the Roma community. To change that social attitude, it was essential to expose the reasons for prejudice. Education alone would not eliminate discrimination, and no positive results could be achieved without economic reforms and new financial resources.

Hungary had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2001, with Act LX.  She regretted, however, that one could not be satisfied with the results of dissemination of the Convention and the Protocol.  The Government had, therefore, decided to introduce to the public its activities that promoted the rights of women, using regular programmes of mass media and organizing conferences and seminars on violence, human trafficking, prostitution and the elimination of stereotypes.

All those steps signaled Hungary’s commitment to genuinely improve the situation and equality of women, as well as giving maximum support to the implementation of the provisions contained in the Convention, she said.

Experts' Questions

AYSE FERIDE ACAR, expert from Turkey, congratulated the delegation for presenting a “dense” report, which provided much food for thought. She also congratulated Hungary on its ratification of the Convention’s Optional Protocol.  The greater participation of women in public and political office following recent elections was also welcome news.

One issue of concern, however, was the extent of participation and cooperation of non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the report and drafting of national laws, she said.  Had non-governmental organizations been consulted in preparation of the report?  Had they been incorporated in the preparation of draft laws of particular concern to women?  On the function and role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights, the report indicated that the Commissioner had not looked into gender issues. The Commissioner’s mandate allowed him to initiate legislation on gender issues.  Was that being done?  The incorporation of the gender dimension into the role of the Commissioner seemed lacking.

The continued presence of gender stereotypes was also a concern, she added.  What were the Government’s plans for the national family policy concept?  That policy seemed to encourage motherhood at the expense of parenthood.  While motherhood was dear to all, when it was not complemented by policies that encouraged the changing role of men in the private sphere, it became a discriminatory policy for women.  What was the Government’s intention regarding the national policy?

MARIA YOLANDA FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, said gender stereotypes, the ageing of the population and the decrease in birth rates were critical issues in Hungary.  Women, however, must not be expected to assume full responsibility in resolving such issues. The emotional support of fathers in family life was also important. What kind of family model was being referred to in the report?  Was it one in which family responsibilities were shared?  The vast majority of women shouldered family responsibilities alone. If the family policy was not accompanied by systematic work to transform society and change behavioural patterns, the goals of the policy would not be attained.

She noted that the number of violent offences committed in the home was high in many cases.  The family environment was sometimes the most dangerous place to be, the report pointed out. The report also points out strong discrimination against the Roma population. They lived in inferior situations and a policy must be established to deal with them.

HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked for further information on the Hungarian national machinery for women, such as personnel and budget for the Council and the Office for women’s issues.  What was the number of personnel working in the Office of Women’s Affairs and its budget, both in terms of numbers and percentages? If the Office, the main body responsible for implementing the Convention, wanted to draft legislation, what procedure would the head of that Office follow?  Did the Office have the power to propose legislation to the minister?  Legislation in various fields was needed to implement the Convention.

She also asked for more information on the composition of the Council for Women’s Issues.  Was it a consultative body?  Did it have decision-making power?  How did it relate to other ministries?  Were there focal points in the various ministries to ensure that the Council’s decisions were carried out?  How much power did the Office and the Council have vis-à-vis other Government bodies.

MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked for clarification on the role of the Office, which was now a directorate.  Was it in charge of specific activities or did it coordinate gender mainstreaming?  What was the power of the machinery?  Could it hold the various sectors of Government accountable?  She also had concerns regarding the treatment of the Roma population.

Some concepts in the report were ambiguous, she added.  The terms “positive” and “negative” discrimination were inaccurate and misleading -- no kind of discrimination was positive.  There was a need to rethink certain concepts, using the formulation of the Convention as a basis.

GORAN MELANDER, expert from Sweden, asked the delegation to what extent the Convention formed a part of domestic law.  Could a court refer to the Convention and make use of it as part of domestic law?  Would the Convention have to be transformed into domestic law first, as was often the case?  The Constitution did prohibit discrimination, but not in line with the provisions of the Convention.  Had there been discussion on whether to issue legislation containing a definition of discrimination against women in line with article 1 of the Convention?

She added that Hungarian women were not aware of the Convention in general, and the Optional Protocol in particular.  Were there educational activities in the field of human rights?  Did universities offer courses on human rights?  Were law enforcement officials educated in the field of human and women’s rights?  He also asked for information on the three cases before the constitutional court mentioned in the report.

Country Response

ROBERT KISS, Deputy Director of the Directorate-General for Equal Opportunities, said the name change of the Directorate showed changes in the philosophy concerning gender issues and mainstreaming. It was located within the Ministry of Employment and Labour on the level of State Secretary. The head of the Directorate was the Minister Commissioner for Equal Opportunities, who reported directly to the Minister.

In September, proposals would be made to change the ministerial decree about the roles and procedures of the Council of Women Representation. That Council would include representatives from the ministries and non-governmental organizations.  It would focus on initiation of legislation, coordination between ministries and having focal points within ministries. Another aim of the reform was to have more democratic representation of non-governmental organizations.  The Director-General had the right to initiate legislation to the Minister. He was going to renew efforts, including lobbying, to adopt an anti-discrimination act in Parliament. Contacts had been established with women parliamentarians. There were also good contacts with the Commission of Human Rights and Minority Issues.

The fact that women, and employment issues of disabled and Roma were under one Directorate was a practical manner, as no agreement had been possible regarding a general name for the Directorate. Matters addressing the disabled and Roma were exclusively related to employment issues. The sub-department for equal opportunities for women and men was the exclusive body in the Government structure working for gender mainstreaming.

The Committee for Women Representation and its non-governmental organization side had been involved in the preparation of the report, he continued. Some of its authors had been nominated by the non-governmental organizations. For the future, there were proposals for the Council and its non-governmental-side to promote and draft laws.

CSILLA KOLLONAY LEHOCZKY, head of the Department of Legal Studies of the Central European University in Budapest, said the Convention had been adopted by Parliament and promulgated as part of law. It was not directly enforceable in court, as it had not established individual rights. Modifications in the law to correct that situation were being heavily discussed. Case law of the Constitutional Court had not always been in the spirit of the Convention. Nevertheless, there was some reason for optimism.  The Constitutional Court, in interpreting the article of the Constitution prohibiting discrimination, said that equality had to take into account individual consideration of the person. That meant women had to be treated equally on women’s standards, not measured against male standards.

She opposed the term “positive discrimination”, which had been originated by the Constitutional Court in 1990.  There was more to it than only terminology. Equal treatment meant treating people equally according to their standards.  The ruling of the Constitutional Court that “differentiation between persons of different social situations might be possible”, meant that positive action, including quotas, might be considered constitutional.

As parents staying home on parental leave might loose knowledge and the opportunity to adjust to developments in their industry, they could now enter higher education without a fee, she said.  Huge numbers of women had made use of that opportunity, which could also be an encouragement for fathers to stay home on parental leave. The Law on Employment and Assistance to the Unemployed had been adjusted to allow people on parental leave to participate in training programmes.

Mr. KISS said eight people within the Directorate–General were working on gender-mainstreaming issues. The Directorate had a technical budget, which had been reduced from 20 million florins to 18 this year [250 florins equals $1]. For next year, he hoped the budget would be increased by 150 per cent. The professional programmes budget had been reduced from 40 to 20 million florins. He hoped it would be doubled for next year. A third part of budget included funds available from European Union resources. That part was not directly administered by the Directorate.

Ms. KOLLONAY LEHOCZKY said the three Constitutional Court cases referred to by one expert regarded widows’ pensions, compensation of child-caring parents in case of early retirement and pension rights of textile workers. In her opinion, the decisions were not of particular disadvantage to the equal treatment of women.

Ms. KAPONYI said the poverty of the Roma was a complex issue, which included areas of education, employment and the social sector. Since it was not possible to collect data on ethnic grounds, only estimated figures were available.  The discriminative patterns against the Roma was persuasive, including in education, employment, housing and health.   The majority of the Roma population lived in slum-like conditions. Poverty among the Roma had increased since the transformations from the 1980s and originated in the employment situation. At present, the unemployment rate of the Roma was several times higher than of the rest of the population, sometimes as high as 100 per cent.

LENKE FEHER, Special Adviser of the Legal Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, said Hungary was fully aware of the problem of violence against women, including violence in the family, problems of prostitution and human trafficking. The Penal Code did not contain a special provision concerning domestic violence. Domestic violence could be punished under several other provisions, such as crimes against persons and different types of sexual crimes. In the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs, a special committee had been established to prepare a draft concept on violence against women.

The Committee’s draft concept dealt with the problems in the Penal Code and improvement of regulations for the police to intervene in family violence. Several research projects had indicated action in the matter was urgent and non-governmental organizations were very active in the field. There had been improvements in raising awareness. The Ministry of Social and Family Affairs had established two successful training programmes dealing with the trafficking of women.

Ms. KAPONYI said the dissemination of the Convention and the Optional Protocol was not satisfactory. Further efforts would include new technologies, such as the Internet.  Raising awareness and disseminating the Convention required the help of non-governmental organizations.  She had been teaching the Convention at the university as an independent subject for 10 years.  After ratification, the Optional Protocol should be disseminated in the same way.

The Ombudsperson of Civil and Political Rights had not had concrete cases of discrimination against women. The Council of Europe had a special programme to develop the teaching of human rights, which had been integrated to Hungary’s curricula and student interest in the matter was increasing.

Addressing a question about the National Family Policy, Mr. KISS said it was not the Government’s task to think for the citizens, but rather to provide the possibilities for choice. The Government did not want to interfere in the lives of families, but to promote the idea of partnership and sharing of responsibility within the family.

Experts' Questions

FENG CUI, expert from China, speaking on the participation of women in political life, said she was glad that the delegation had referred to the results of the recent election in Hungary.  The ratio of women’s participation had increased.  She congratulated Hungary for that achievement.  At the same time, however, a general strategy to promote the rights of women was needed.  Did the Ministry have a strategy in that respect?  The report had only mentioned concrete activities.  What did the Government intend to do about women, including Roma women?  Some political parties were not interested in nominating female candidates.  How did the Government intend to promote the participation of women in political life? 

IVANKA CORTI, expert from Italy, congratulated Ms. Kaponyi for teaching the Convention in the university.  Regarding political participation, she was sad to read the replies of the Government.  In a country where women had achieved such a high level of education and professional activity, how could it be said that politics and political parties were not interesting to women?  As a member of the European Union, how would Hungary expect to improve democracy when some

50 per cent of its population did not actively participate in political decision-making?  In all other European Union countries, the national machinery actively promoted the role of women in the political arena.  Non-governmental organizations must be encouraged to lobby for women’s political participation. She was hopeful that Hungary’s next report would include positive results on the subject.

FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, thanked the delegation for the comprehensive answers it had provided during the dialogue.  The issue of prostitution, however, had not been fully addressed.  On trafficking of women, were there any specific programmes in the pipeline to deal with the issue?  Regarding prostitution, the criminalization of pimping only seemed to make the situation worse for prostitutes.

On the increased involvement of women in Parliament as a result of recent elections, she noted that the report did not supply the actual number of women elected to Parliament.  On the gypsy population, had any Roma candidates been elected to Parliament or to municipal offices?

SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, also wanted to know the situation of women in municipalities.  To what extent had the political parties been invited to discuss women’s participation in political life?  Two major groups must be targeted: the political parties and women.  Unless the political parties were convinced about women’s right to participate in political life, democratization would not be possible.  In the future, did the Government intend to increase the participation of non-governmental organizations in dealing with political parties?

How did the delegation envisage empowering women? she asked.  Well educated women in all countries had been conditioned to think that political life was a man’s world.  Women needed to be encouraged to enter political life.  Would training be organized to make women aware of their rights and political responsibilities?  The report said there was no national machinery at the local government level.  Action was needed in that regard.

Country Reply

Ms. LENKE FEHER said that many steps had been taken regarding violence against women.  Further actions were needed concerning the law on the books and in action.  Regarding prostitution, the ideology behind the law on the issue was to promote the greater independence of women from pimps and procurers.  It had not been possible to totally regulate prostitution. The related legislation had mapped out zones of protection and zones of tolerance where prostitution could be practised.  In the capital, there were few places where prostitution could be practised without violating established rules.  The Government had issued special maps to inform prostitutes in which zones they could function without sanction.  It had become more difficult to practise prostitution without fines and punishment. 

The regulations intended to promote the independence of women, had, in fact, increased the number of pimps, she said.  A new draft law with three different alternatives was currently being discussed.  It had been widely discussed by non-governmental organizations and the ministries.  Discussions were currently under way on how to regulate prostitution.  It was difficult to differentiate between forced prostitution and prostitution as a choice.  On support and assistance to prostitutes, many initiatives were under way.  Non-governmental organizations and different networks worked in the field to support the families of prostitutes. 

There had been many positive developments in the area of human trafficking, she added.  Strict penalties were imposed, including in transborder trafficking, forced work and prostitution.  Hungary was focused on the problem, both in terms of the penal code regulations and victim protection.  Several new laws on the protection of victims and witnesses had been established.  There was also a centre to deal with transnational organized crime.

Mr. KISS said during the elections of 1998, 32 women had been elected to Parliament, constituting 8.3 per cent. This year 35 women were elected; a percentage of 9.1. The Speaker of the Parliament was a woman, as was one deputy speaker among a total of five. There were three female and 13 male ministers in government. The top political tier of decision-making included seven women and

55 men.  Thirteen per cent of mayors were women, as were 25 per cent of members of municipal councils. The Subcommittee for Women Rights within the Committee on Human Rights in Parliament had been re-established.

As participation of women was not only about figures, but also about real influence; he added there were plans to introduce specific training courses for women entering public life at any level, including on management of non-governmental organizations and influencing party politicians, as well as plans to create a strong women’s lobby in Parliament.

Addressing possible measures for promoting women in politics,

Ms. KAPONYI said the Copenhagen criteria had to be fulfilled by Hungary in order to gain membership to the European Union. Efforts were necessary to realize the

de facto participation of women and men in politics, and legislative measures for positive action, including candidate quotas on election lists. In the area of reconciliation of family and public responsibilities, appropriate legislation should improve the working conditions of elected representatives. She said

recruitment and appointment processes for decision-making positions were currently not very gender-sensitive and transparent.

The lack of Roma women in public and social life was regrettable, she said.  Four parliamentarians were Roma, but they were all men. Roma women were often represented by male representatives and their voice was, therefore, seldom heard. Women Roma were likely to suffer from two-fold discrimination, as women and as Roma. Real efforts were necessary to integrate women Roma in politics. Every ministry had a new task force for Roma issues and the majority of the ministerial commissioners dealing with Roma issues were women.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, said the report indicated a number of persistent problems.  While there had been a decrease in the number of abortions, the figures were still very high.  An even greater effort to provide sex and health education was needed.  Health education should be geared to both women and men, as men must be made aware of their responsibility in avoiding undesired pregnancies and abortions.  More information must be made available to women about the health risks of abortion.  It was important to inform people of the attendant health risks and the even greater risks of repeated abortions. 

The report did not include data on general women’s health, she continued.  The right to health and health care was crucial and it would be helpful for the Committee to have more information about the general health policy of the Government, including information on the health care situation in rural areas.  Drug addiction was a problem around the world, but the report contained no information on various addictions.  Did the delegation have data on the main causes of death among women?  What was being done to prevent various forms of cancer? she asked.

HANNA BEATE SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, addressed the need for a specific law on violence against women, saying that the existing law covered only the ordinary kinds of violence.  While the Government was to be applauded on its research, it was time to legislate.  Protection orders, training and shelters were needed.  Regarding the Roma people, she said the report lacked data according to sex.  The Convention was not about the protection of minorities but women.  The next report should include such data that was disaggregated by sex.  Only then could the Committee gauge the true situation of Roma women.

She said the high rate of unemployment and the disappearance of women from the employment market was a concern.  How would the Government handle that issue?  Did the right to parental leave connect to a legal claim for retraining when the mother or father wanted to re-enter the labour market?  Was there a regulation to guarantee that men and women were represented in measures according to the percentage of male and female unemployed? she asked.  Applauding Hungary’s ratification of the Optional Protocol, she asked whether there was a timetable by which the Committee could expect Hungary to support the amendment to the Convention’s article 20(1).

She also asked several questions on behalf of Frances Livingston Raday, the expert from Israel.  Regarding equal pay for work of equal value, did Hungary intend to re-evaluate jobs in the public and private sectors and use classification tables that had been checked for stereotypical notions of men’s and women’s work?  What was the attitude of the trade unions in that regard?  Would they be opposed to that?  Did the Government intend to follow the Swedish example in which a certain part of parental leave was allocated to the father, which would be lost unless the father took that leave?

Country Response

Ms. LEHOCZKY agreed with experts that bans on certain kinds of work for pregnant women and mothers were impairing chances for women to work and should be changed.  Over the last five years, two such measures had been maintained, one banning overwork and night shifts for pregnant women and mothers and the other connected to consent of the women.  As overtime and night shift might pay more and offer chances for promotion, measures to ban them should also be linked to consent, despite the danger that women could easily be pressured into consent by the employer.  There was also some discrimination against single fathers involved in the issue.

She said it was true that data indicating that female unemployment was lower than male unemployment data had only limited reliability.  One explanation might be that many females had just withdrawn from the labour market, or that restructuring favoured industries where the majority of employees were males, such as the mining industry.  Fighting against the trend was only possible with the intensive promotion of more equal child benefits. She hoped the Swedish model would become law in Hungary, as it was also advantageous for the father.

It was impossible to give very accurate statistics on the wage gap, which might explain fluctuations in data, she continued.  The gap in the overall situation was around 20 per cent, although compared to similar types of jobs, it could be 12 per cent.  There was a new provision requiring employers to pay an equal wage, but awareness of that provision was not widespread.  The European Union gave support for the training of judges and labour inspectors so they would know the rules.  In September, wages for public employment would be increased by 50 per cent, which could influence the general labour market as one third of women were employed in the public sector.

Ms. FEHER said all scientific research and international experience, as well as the basic principles of the Convention and human rights instruments had made clear that domestic violence was not a private matter, as the Government had recognized.  The concept of a new law in that regard had been prepared by the former Government and it was hoped that work on it would continue.  The Penal Code was also in need of harmonization and modernization, regarding crimes against sexual morality.  In the meantime, it was important to use the police measures that allowed for interference in domestic violence.  The police, however, needed guidance in that regard.

Mr. KISS referred health issues to the next report.  Regarding

article 20(1), the Government considered the Committee’s work to be of utmost importance and was aware of its workload.  For the moment, however, the question of accepting the amendment to article 20 was under consideration and required a change in the law.  He promised that the issue would be raised in the delegation’s report to the Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Affairs.

Ms. KAPONYI said a new strategy on health care could not be presented yet.  Hungary would like to establish independent health care services, offering gender-sensitive information, education and practical care.  Gender-sensitive problems had been invisible so far and public discussion must be created.  A change in health care practices was necessary, as was the integration of gender-related skills in public health care policy at the local, regional and national levels. 

Experts' Questions

SAVITRI GOONESEKERE, expert from Sri Lanka, said in regard to the exploitation of women in prostitution that violence and intimidation were a matter of concern.  Calling for laws on trafficking, she said Internet communications fed into international networks on trafficking and pornography.  However, there had been only few prosecutions.  Given that Hungary had ratified the Optional Protocol, the failure of local legal systems could be a basis for turning to internal forums.

Stressing the need to address the law on sexual offences, she noted that the present Penal Code referred to sexual offences as crimes against morality.  There had to be a basic conceptual shift, which recognized that sexual offences violated a woman’s right to bodily security.  The Government must also look at its rape laws, which were gender biased.  According to those laws, it was necessary to prove the use of violence.  Rape was sexual intercourse without consent, but the definition of seduction seemed to go into the area of statutory rape.  Raping an under-age girl was rape, not seduction.

Regarding equality in parental responsibilities, she emphasized the importance of understanding the interface between parental rights and responsibility and other aspects of law.  It was important to become familiar with the current discourse which said that parenting was a social responsibility and something that society owned to children.  She asked that comparative approaches be examined in the process of legal reform.

FATIMA KWAKU, expert from Nigeria, noted that according to Hungarian law, the legal age of marriage was 18 and that girls between the ages of 16 and 18 might get married subject to public guardianship authority, while those below the age of 16 could not get married even with the permission of Public Guardianship Authority.  What was Public Guardianship Authority and how did it function? she asked.  Could female minors under the age of 16 cohabit and did the delegation have data on that kind of cohabitation?  What percentage of young people were living together without getting married and what percentage of that age group had children? she asked.  Did they have children at the ages of 14, 15 or 16 and did the State provide for them?

According to the same law, bigamy was rendered impossible, she said, wondering whether that applied to foreigners living in Hungary.  What happened to the children in cases of bigamous marriage?  Were the rights of second wives protected? she asked.  What was the difference in rights for women living under common law marriage?  She also sought clarification on the abortion law, asking what constituted a “serious crisis” according to that law.

Country Response

Ms. KAPONYI said she agreed with comments about laws dealing with trafficking in human beings, and those comments would be taken into consideration for the next report.

Ms. LEHOCZKY said that those who could not marry were allowed to live together, except if their parents prohibited it.  Cohabitation of children between ages of 14 and 16 did occur sporadically but that was a crime under the law.  Cultural traditions were conflicting with the law of the land.  A parent under the age of 18 who had not become an adult with permission from the Public Guardianship Authority could not exercise parental rights.  That Authority was an institution of the local government consisting of trained personnel who exercised guardianship rights if there were no parents.

Ms. FEHER said bigamy laws addressed situations in which somebody who was already married, married again, or somebody married somebody who was already married.  In the case of a Hungarian citizen marrying a foreigner in a foreign country or a foreigner marrying a Hungarian citizen in Hungary, the conditions of the marriage should be investigated according to the law of both parties.  A Hungarians could, therefore, commit bigamy if they married somebody in a foreign country.

She said there were very strict and modern regulations concerning human trafficking.  Numerous cases were already before the courts.  Further details would be given in the next report.  The law on pornography had also been changed. Where formerly only the producers of images of minors were punished, possession or offering of pornographic images of minors by any means was now punishable. On the basis of the former regulations, three offenders had been imprisoned and two had been given suspended sentences in 2000.  In 2001, five offenders had been sent to prison.  The police were also obliged to pursue those cases in which the Internet was used in pornography.

The Government recognized that the chapter of the Penal Code regarding sexual morality was outdated and that not every type of crime under the chapter was gender-neutral, she said.  The codification procedure addressing the issue would be finished in 2004, although modifications could take place in the meantime.  The problem of stalking had been dealt with in the codification process.  On another issue, she said that independent of ownership, the aggressor in a case of domestic violence should leave the dwelling.  Restraining orders and restrictions on communication with the victim would also be included.

Mr. KISS said that while abortion was controversial and society was deeply divided on the issue, the formulation “serious crisis” was a compromise solution.  Legislators had opted for that choice to avoid the abolition of the law itself.  There was no definition of “crisis”.  While it was usually understood to include social or financial crisis, in this case, it was based on the declaration of the pregnant woman who was seeking an abortion.

Experts' Questions

ROSALYN HAZELLE, Committee rapporteur and expert from Saint Kitts and Nevis, noted the lack of a specific definition of incest.  The section of the law dealing with statutory rape referred to difference in punishment if a person under the age of 14 was involved in a sexual act with a relative.  Once over the age of 14, however, there did not seem to be a law dealing with sexual relations between relatives.

FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, referring to questions raised in the morning session about Hungary’s national machinery, said the process of restructuring now under way made it more difficult to obtain a clear picture of the system.  When did the delegation expect the new system to be in place? she asked

Ms. LENKE FEHER said that according to the Penal Code, a person who had sex with his or her sibling should be punishable for up to two years.  Concerning rape, there was an element of force, not only non-consent.  The whole section was currently under revision.

Mr. KISS said the question of the national machinery was confusing, but that situation was transitory.  The Ministry of Labour Affairs was new and the Government was working on the exact procedures and structures within that Ministry.  It had placed the Director-General for Equal Opportunities at a high level.  On the coordinating role of the Director-General, it was related more to an inter-departmental commission, which would be part of the Committee on Women’s Representation.  A clear-cut idea of the structure would be available by the end of the year, he said.

CHARLOTTE ABAKA (Ghana), Committee Chairperson, expressed her disappointment with the punishment of perpetrators of incest, which was, after all, one of the worst forms of rape.  Since the law was under revision, she recommended that the crime be taken very seriously and that punishment be more severe.

Ms. KAPALATA, expert from the United Republic of Tanzania,fully endorsed comments about the necessity for a real and comprehensive review of the law and for an increase of the number of women in high diplomatic positions.

Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, sought clarification of provisions regarding sexual intercourse between parent and child, as only sexual intercourse between siblings had been addressed.

Ms. FEHER said sexual intercourse between parent and child was more severely punished than that between siblings.  Addressing comments about children, she stressed that Hungary made many efforts to protect children in every respect.  Not only their sexual, but also their economical and moral well-being were addressed. The Penal Code had a separate chapter dealing with crimes against children and provided severe sanctions.

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For information media. Not an official record.