Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
590th and 591st Meetings (AM and PM)
EXPERTS IN WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE RAISE QUESTIONS CONCERNING
REPORTS OF SWITZERLAND ON COMPLIANCE WITH CONVENTION
Noting that Switzerland was in the forefront of many human rights issues, the expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern over the unclear locus of responsibility for further progress in gender equality in the country, given the unique structure of the Swiss Confederation.
The Committee was considering the combined initial and second periodic report of Switzerland on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as it continued its twenty-eighth session.
Introducing the report, Patricia Schultz, Director of Switzerland’s Federal Office for Equality between Women and Men, explained the three-level structure of Switzerland’s Government, consisting of the Federation, the cantons and the communes. The 26 cantons had their own political and judicial organizations and applied their own law as well as federal law, maintaining substantial powers.
That structure, and Switzerland's form of direct democracy, sometimes resulted in slow change, she said. However, a form of monism ensured the primacy of international conventions, including human rights instruments, in domestic law. The new Constitution, which became law in 2000, also contained a rich catalogue of human rights assurances, she said, in particular Article 8, which enshrined equality of men and women.
In the aftermath of the Beijing Conference in 1995, she said, Switzerland created a national action plan for women’s equality, which included actions in areas ranging from health to trafficking in persons, education and economic equality. Gender mainstreaming at the federal level was not yet complete, however; form had not yet systematically been translated into fact.
But formal change, she emphasized, had been extensive. She described recent changes in laws, particularly matrimonial laws and the creation of new institutions. Certain kinds of juridical equality had yet to be achieved, such as in the area of family names. In economic matters, she described the de facto problem of reconciling unpaid family work and the career concerns of women, along with family leave issues. Other members of the delegation outlined recent measures to counter violence against women, trafficking in persons, poverty in women-headed families and other problems.
590th and 591st Meetings (AM and PM)
Many experts, however, were concerned over the pace of change, noting that Switzerland had ratified the Convention relatively late and had only given the vote to women in 1971. It had yet to ratify the optional protocol. The federal system, it seemed to some, was the major obstacle. Given the responsibility of the State Government for implementing international conventions, some wondered what mechanisms existed, both to ensure compliance of the Cantons and to speed up the process of ratification of the optional protocol at that level.
Other experts wondered about the implications of Swiss monism and how often provisions of the Convention were actually applied in judicial procedures. They also expressed concern about paragraphs in the report that seemed to allow for differences in treatment of men and women, as well as a variety of seeming incompatibilities in institutions and legislation.
Some were also concerned about the situation of women who had been victims of sex trafficking. One expert noted the preferred visa status given to cabaret dancers, which seemed to go against, at least, the spirit of the convention. In all areas, including employment issues, more statistics on current trends were requested. It was noted by one expert that in the case of a country that was advancing in many areas, it was crucial to be able to determine if women were keeping up with the progress of the country as a whole.
Responses of the Swiss delegation to questions and comments posed by experts will be given on Friday, 17 January.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning, 15 January, to take up the combined third and fourth periodic report of Kenya.
This morning, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) met to consider the combined initial and second periodic reports of Switzerland (document CEDAW/C/CHE/1-2), which describes Switzerland's implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women since ratifying it in 1997. An addendum to the report (document CEDAW/C/CHE/1-2/Add.1) provides an update on changes in Switzerland's federal law affecting women since 1 January 2002, including changes in the penal law, the Federal Assistance to Women's Act and financial encouragement for the opening of childcare facilities.
Switzerland's new Federal Constitution, which entered into force in January 2000, updates its 1874 Constitution, the report begins. Article 8 of the new Constitution expressly prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, sex and social position among others things. Prior to the entry into force of the new Constitution, that prohibition was inferred. The Constitution also mandates lawmakers to ensure equality both in law and in fact in areas such as family, education and work. In Switzerland, all human beings are equal before the law. Gender equality is a constitutional right that is directly applicable and addresses itself to all law enforcement authorities of the Confederation, cantons and communes.
The report says that in 1996, the “Act on Gender Equality” entered into force with the purpose of promoting de facto equality between women and men in private labour relations as well as those governed by Federal, cantonal or communal public law. In present Swiss law, the status of spouses is still unequal as regards cantonal and communal domicile rights and the family name. Attempts to abolish that inequality were defeated in Parliament in June 2001, because of rules relating to a difference between spouses concerning the choice of the family name of children.
The report lists several recent legislative changes, including a new marriage law, which entered into force in 1988. That law abolished the preponderant role of the husband in the family and the assigning of fixed roles to the husband and wife. Also, the Federal Act on the acquisition and loss of Swiss nationality has been amended to ensure gender equality. Since 1992, the acquisition of Swiss nationality is subject to identical conditions for both sexes.
On the issue of violence against women, according to a 1997 survey, a total of nine per cent of the persons questioned said they had suffered at least one form of violence, including verbal, corporal and property offences. According to a 1997 study on violence against women within the couple, one fifth of respondents between the ages of 20 and 50 said they had suffered physical or sexual violence from their partner at least once in their lives. In addition, 40 per cent of the women questioned said they had suffered psychological violence and 6 per cent said they had suffered physical or sexual violence in the preceding 12 months.
Foreign women are particularly vulnerable to violence from a partner because their right to reside in Switzerland is linked to the duration of their marriage, the report explains. Rape within marriage is now punishable, but only upon complaint. In 1997, however, the National Council approved two parliamentary initiatives by which sexual offences and bodily harm inflicted within the marriage relationship is punishable automatically instead of only upon complaint. A parliamentary committee is currently drafting proposals to amend the Penal Code to that effect.
The report adds that in 1984, a new article was added to the Constitution making it obligatory for the Confederation and the cantons to grant assistance to victims of attacks. The 1993 Assistance to Victims of Offences Act, known as LAVI, provides for assistance including advice, victim protection and payment of compensation and moral damages. The new provisions prohibit any confrontation between a female minor who is the victim of an offence and the accused. They also provide for closed proceedings where the child's interest requires it.
While prostitution is not punishable in Switzerland, the Swiss Penal Code does punish the exploitation of prostitution and traffic in women, the report says. Cantonal laws, however, restrict prostitution. Traffic in women is a concern in Switzerland. Many women from the poorest regions of Europe, Africa, South America and Asia come to Switzerland with bogus offers of work or promises of marriage supplied by criminal organizations. Women from Eastern Europe and third world countries can, however, work legally in Switzerland as cabaret dancers. At the end of 2000, there were some 1,694 cabaret dancers in Switzerland with the largest percentage, 66.2 per cent, coming from European countries.
On the women's role in political and public life, the report says that women won the right to vote and to be eligible for election at the national level only in 1971. While some cantons had granted that right earlier, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden was the last canton to grant women the right to vote in 1991. While women account for 54 per cent of the electorate, they currently hold less than 25 per cent of seats in one-half of the cantonal Parliaments and in the Federal Parliament.
The report also notes that women's service in the Swiss army is optional, whereas for men it is compulsory. Women can be members either of the army or of the Red Cross Service. Women can also chose between armed and unarmed service. Women cannot, however, perform duties that necessitate the use of arms. Infantry, motorized regiments, artillery regiments and anti-aircraft defence remains closed to women.
Introduction of report
PATRICIA SCHULZ, Director of Switzerland’s Federal Office for Equality between Women and Men, introduced her country’s combined initial and second periodic report. Switzerland had signed the Convention in 1987 and ratified it in 1997. In Switzerland, civil society was closely associated with political life. A draft of the report had been sent to a number of non-governmental organizations.
She said Switzerland’s population totalled some 7.3 million, with women accounting for some 51.1 per cent of the population. Life expectancy was about 82.6 years for women and 76.9 for men. The country had an ageing population with 15.3 per cent of the population over the age of 65 years. Single parent families represented some 14 per cent of households.
Switzerland had a tripod governmental structure, consisting of the Federation, the cantons and the communes, she said. The 26 cantons had their own political and judicial organizations and applied their own law as well as federal law, maintaining substantial powers. Switzerland was a direct democracy and people had the right to hold referendums regarding federal laws. Human rights were guaranteed by the Constitution, cantonal constitutions and various international treaties. Female and male citizens could invoke the provisions of treaties before the courts, as the Federal tribunal had confirmed the primacy of international law. A domestic provision which violated CEDAW could, therefore, be challenged in the courts, but Switzerland had not yet ratified the optional protocol to the Convention. Her country had a “monist” tradition: all international treaties were imposed on the whole authority mechanism upon their entry into force. People could go before tribunals with international treaties except those with a programmatic nature.
Regarding Switzerland’s federal Constitution, she said a new Constitution had entered into force in the year 2000. It contained a rich catalogue of human rights, including Article 8, which enshrined the principle of equality between the sexes. Men and women were entitled to equal salaries for work of equal value. The violation of rights could be brought before cantonal courts as well as the Federal court, and Article 8 also authorized legislators to take steps to ensure equality in line with article 4 of the CEDAW Convention. Catalogues of equal rights also existed at the cantonal level.
Regarding major achievements in the advancement of women, she cited several examples, including the establishment of specific institutions with the mandate to address the progress of women. In 1976, the Federal Council created the Federal Commission on Women’s Issues. In 1988, a federal office on the equality between women and men was established to promote equality between the sexes in every part of life. Switzerland had published its national action plan for equality between men and women, which contained some 287 specific measures. Implementation of that plan included the creation of a gender health service and a centre to fight violence against women. Relations between men and women were taken into account when programmes were being devised. Efforts to disseminate information and provide training were also underway.
While equality between the sexes was a reality in form, it still presented a challenge as far as the facts were concerned, she said. The new marriage law of 1988 was based on a spirit of partnership between husbands and wives. A new divorce law entered into force in 2000. It introduced the sharing of retirement benefits and savings accumulated during marriage. The tenth revision of the federal law on old age and life insurance had also introduced a number of innovations. The system of couples’ pensions had been replaced by a system of individual pensions. In a “splitting system”, income accumulated by spouses over marriage was divided by two and credited to each of the spouses. The retirement age for women had been raised to 64 years, with men at 65. An equality law of 1996 was designed to promote equality within professional life. Sexual harassment was seen as a form of discrimination that was particularly degrading. There was, however, no authority to carry out inquiries or launch complaints. Women had the responsibility of ensuring that rights were enforced. Trade unions did have the authority to denounce sexual discrimination before the courts.
Juridical equality had not been fully achieved, she said, including on provisions for the family name. In reconciling professional and family life, men and women were not equal in fact, as the difference in income between men and women was some 21.3 per cent. Women more often worked part time at a limited level. Women with young children worked part time with a 30 per cent employment rate. Women devoted twice as much time to family work, and reconciling family with career presented a challenge. To tackle the roots of that problem, the Confederation had taken a number of steps, including subsidies and programmes to reintroduce women to the work place. The “top sharing” project familiarized cadres with human resources and the advantages to sharing executive level positions. The “Fair play at home”, a campaign which encouraged young parents to equitably share work, was another initiative. The campaign had had major resonance and would be completed in the Spring.
On the issue of paid maternity leave, a new solution would be debated this spring, envisioning a 14 week leave with 80 percent salary financed by a particular insurance programme, she said. Further measures to reconcile paid work with unpaid work were also being planned.
ELISABETH FREIVOGEL, Vice-President of the Federal Commission on Women’s Issues of Switzerland, said that women had won the right to vote in 1971. The lag in winning that right was due to the complications of Cantonal politics. Women were gaining representation in Federal, Cantonal and Municipal politics. Women now made up 20 percent of Cantonal positions, but some Cantons still had exclusively male representatives.
The tool of quotas for women representatives had thus far not been received favourably by either the people or the courts, she said. It was therefore up to the political parties to improve the situation. The media also played a growing role, and studies had shown that women had fewer broadcast opportunities, which was making the media re-examine that role. There was also a mentoring project to increase the number of women in political affairs.
MONICA DUSONG, head of the Department of Justice, Health and Security of the canton of Neuchatel, spoke of measures taken to combat violence against women. In 1997, studies showed that one out of five women were victims of some violence at least once in their life. Current statistics were needed in that area, as well as those on trafficking in women. Since the 1990s, Cantons had organized round tables on combatting both problems. Those round tables included both law enforcement and social services in the interest of improving intervention and stopping violence. Cantons have been introducing measures for those purposes, and sensitization programmes had been instituted along with specific training in the issue for police and social workers.
Foreign women had the same access as citizens to most services. However, there were limitations in fighting spousal abuse, and measures were now being developed. The Federal Council had also been developing a service to combat trafficking in women. Regarding victim’s protection, measures were being considered to allow women who were victims of trafficking to stay in the country and receive other assistance.
Ms. SHULTZ said that women’s health services were extensive. Health insurance was obligatory for the entire population, including those coming from abroad. Men and women enjoyed equal coverage. Voluntary termination of pregnancy had been decriminalized in many cases, and measures for women’s health and AIDS prevention were being instituted at both the Federal and Canton level.
Regarding poverty, she said there was broad social protection. Elderly persons of both sexes were now protected, but current concerns centred on single parent families with young children, usually headed by women. Complementary allocations for such families to guarantee a minimum income could be a solution. Training for women heads of family needed further development as well.
In institutions of education, girls were now more numerous than boys, though they often opted for short-term occupational education and were underrepresented in the advanced studies and specialized schools. To redress that situation, programmes were introduced to sensitize and otherwise assist girls and young migrant women to broaden their educational horizons.
FRANCOIS GESPARD, expert from France, congratulated Switzerland on the quality of its report. A great deal of publicity was given to CEDAW in Switzerland. The neutral country had played a crucial role during the Second World War for persecuted persons in Europe. It was an advanced democracy in that it was a direct democracy with citizens able to put legislative and constitutional changes to referenda. It was also, however, one of the latest countries to recognize the rights of women. Did the late entrance of women as citizens have an impact on women’s rights? Also, to an outsider, it was difficult to understand how a federation worked. What means did the Federation have to call to order a canton that did not conform? Did that have an impact on gender equality?
GORAN MELANDER, the expert from Sweden, addressing relations between international and domestic law, noted that Switzerland was a monistic state in that international law was directly applicable to domestic law with one provision, however. In the Constitution, the principle of equality was expressly provided. Article 1 of the CEDAW contained a definition of the term of discrimination against women in light of the Convention. That article must be incorporated into Swiss law. That definition was not mentioned in the Swiss Constitution. If the system was perfect, why was the Federal Council hesitant to ratify the Optional Protocol? It would be good to include the definition of discrimination against women in the Constitution.
NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, also congratulated the Swiss delegation for its effort in preparing the report. The composition of the delegation reflected the multiple aspects of concern in the subjects the Committee addressed. The delegation also represented the famous Swiss precision in being so punctual. The Swiss trend of approaching perfection and obtaining precision was the underlying force for the country having taken its time to ratify the Convention. Developments in Switzerland would bring about greater interest in joining other international instruments. The Committee would have liked to receive the reports gradually. The initial report had been delayed for four years. It stressed the importance of the cantons. How did Switzerland implement the Convention? Certain aspects of the Convention had not been introduced into Swiss law, she noted.
Despite the primary significance attached to women in Switzerland, ensuring their human rights did not appear to be one of the Government’s utmost concerns, she said. While the Swiss society had achieved a great deal of progress, the status of women was not in line with progress in society in general. On the new package of legislation, although it was positive, the results of implementation of the various laws could not yet be seen.
HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, said the report was both frank and informative. She acknowledged the contributions of non-governmental organizations in its drafting. The statistics attached to the report were difficult to read. Was the Federal Government considering ratifying the Optional Protocol? The Convention had been ratified only in 1997. Was Switzerland considering the withdrawal of reservations to several articles of the Convention?
CORNELIUS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said that Switzerland’s constitutional history seemed to be impeding the implementation of the Convention. However, it was the Federal Government which was responsible for implementing international conventions. In that light, what work had been done with the Cantons to ensure that they complied with the obligations of CEDAW?
He also asked what had been the result of the consultation process with the Cantons regarding ratification of the optional protocol, and whether the Federal Government had other options if the Cantons did not want to ratify. He also asked how the primacy of international conventions over domestic law worked in practice and how often CEDAW had been invoked in judicial proceedings.
DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked if it was possible to have the legislative proceedings, regarding the adoption of the Swiss report, transmitted to the Committee.
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, noted that it had taken Switzerland a long time to ratify the Convention. She asked what the relationships of the Cantons were with the federal offices and commissions for gender equality.
Questions regarding Article 2 of the Convention
YOLAND FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, said she was worried that the Swiss report could allow for different treatment of men and women when male and female characteristics could be considered in various situations. She also asked about a federal tax in paragraph 43.
Mr. MELANDER, expert from Sweden, said that generally, trafficked women were returned to their country of origin, where they faced persecution and possible repeat victimization. Had Switzerland ever considered treating these women as refugees?
HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, said that two principles in Switzerland were contradictory and could slow down the implementation of CEDAW -- the so-called Monist principle and a kind of ping-pong between different branches. How were those issues resolved and who was responsible for the effective implementation of CEDAW?
Ms. SIMONIVIC, expert from Croatia, asked about juridical rights and mechanisms to insure compatibility with the constitution.
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, expressed concern about paragraphs in the report that related to applicability of the Convention, implying that it was largely programmatic. She also asked about State processes addressing juridical incompatibilities.
HANNA BEATE SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, said she was disturbed by some paragraphs in the report which provided a description of action that ought to be done, but did not say the Government was planning to do those things. Where was the political will? The report recognized several problems, but failed to include commitments. Was that a result of consultation process? She also asked for more detail on Switzerland’s reservations to the Convention. On the issue of federalism, she did not get a clear picture of what was happening in the
26 cantons. She wanted to see in future reports a clear, numerical and name description of what each canton was doing or not doing.
On the “programmatic” character of CEDAW, she asked if there had there been a review of the Convention. Which articles were deemed programmatic and which were considered directly applicable? To what extent had international law been incorporated as a mandatory feature at the universities? To what extent was the legal community obliged to do further training since the ratification of the Convention? She also asked for information on the status of the creation of a human rights commission, including a timetable or description of the arguments obstructing its creation.
Ms. SHINN, addressing the issue of gender equality, said she was concerned by Federation’s three layer structure. She asked for explanation of the system of monitoring the discriminatory laws of the three different layers. What kind of structure did Switzerland have to ensure that CEDAW was being implemented at all three levels, especially when cantons and communes had not implemented gender equality principles? While democracy was good at the grass roots level, the principle of gender equality should be upheld.
The Equality Act seemed to address mostly employment issues, she continued. On the human rights commission, the report failed to include whether that commission would be established and to what extent gender equality would be included.
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, said that regarding the new Constitution, Article 8 not only described de jure equality but also de facto equality. What was really happening? What kind of action were lawmakers expected to take to ensure de facto equality?
AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, Mexico’s expert, endorsed the observations raised by experts in asking about the scope of applicability of the Convention in line with the provisions of the Constitution. She also asked for clarification on paragraphs 2 and 3 of the report on the concept of “differentiated treatment” based on objective criteria. What deciding factors would justify such a “differentiation”? What were similar situations where people were dealt with in a similar ways? What were the differentiated situations in which differentiated treatment between men and women could be applied?
Questions on Article 3 of the Convention
Ms. FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, asked about the machinery, at the Federal level, regarding equality between the sexes, and what relationship that machinery had with non-governmental organizations. Regarding the action plan of 1999, she asked to what extent it was in force and what its prospects were.
KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, asked if there were statistics on the trends of the relative poverty of women and men in Switzerland, including women in various situations of vulnerability. Those included in the report were alarming. She said she raised it under article 3 because it related to the advancement of women. Women, she said, must have their share in the advancement of their countries’ economies under that article.
FRANCOISE GASPARD, expert from France, asked about the place of the Office for gender equality in the Swiss Government and if it was able to push forward with gender mainstreaming in all policies at the Confederation level. What was the lack of wherewithall that had been referred to?
VICTORIA POPESCU, expert from Romania, asked for further clarification on the institutional structure of institutions for gender equality at the federal and cantonal level, particularly their individual competencies and their coordination in achieving equality between men and women.
Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, also asked for the responsibilities of the various institutions to be delineated, and for explanation of the implementation of the national action plan, including time frames. She also asked about the specific obstacles in gender mainstreaming.
Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING applauded the Swiss people for the fact that the Constitution contained the phrase of providing for both de facto and de jure equality. How many and which of the 26 cantons had similar provisions? What did the Federal Supreme Court mean by pointing to the system of proportionality vis-a-vis affirmative action for women? She also asked for more information on the reasoning concerning the quota system. She applauded the fact that the federal departments and offices had plans for the advancement of women staff in their structures. Were there sanctions for personnel managers who did not implement plans? She also asked for a target figure for the number of women holding executive positions in 2003.
REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, also asked for more information on the quota system. There had been a strong rejection of quotas of women in politics, the report noted. On the one hand, there was a theoretical defense of positive measures as a way to equality. On the other hand, however, there had been a practical rejection of quotas. The organization of various aspects of Swiss life, including regions, languages and minorities, was based on quotas, which made it all the more difficult to understand why quotas for women were not accepted. She also asked for more information on parliamentary initiatives regarding violence against women.
On the problem of incompatibility of the federal constitutional provisions and cantonal law, she also asked if cantons could be made to apply federal principles. The report contained one example, specifically on the right of women to vote. The Federal Supreme Court had decided on the basis of the constitutional provision of gender equality that legislation regulating that matter did not authorize the cantons to contravene the equality principle. The Supreme Court had obliged the last canton to adopt the law. Had that attitude been taken in other instances?
Ms. PATTEN asked for information on when provisions of the equality act had been invoked. Have any of the vulnerable groups of women addressed in the report, including elderly and foreign women, benefited from positive measures in the cantons? While the principles of nondiscrimination were entrenched in the Constitution and the Federal Supreme Court’s case law, Switzerland did not have a constitutional court. She asked whether Switzerland was considering establishing such a court.
The report was missing measures to redress the problem of violence, she added. There was no indication of the political will to address violence against women, except the signing of the Convention. Did female victims of violence in the various cantons benefit from the same services?
Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, asked the Swiss delegation about the principle of quotas. She also expressed concern about the situation of migrant women in Switzerland.
Ms. FERRAR GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, stressed the need to change deeply rooted cultural patterns in Swiss society. She requested more information on what the Government was doing to address the issue of stereotyping. In the field of education, women seemed to pursue careers that would allow for poorer prospects later on. What role was the mass media playing in the field of stereotypes to educate the public at large? A 1997 study of some 1,500 women showed that police and health workers were not sufficiently prepared to deal with women victims of violence. What measures have been taken to create awareness of the issue of violence?
Ms. SALMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, said the Swiss Government had taken a number of measures to eliminate stereotypes, such as the change in the marriage law. The report noted, however, that society continued to allocate separate roles to men and women. Elimination of cultural stereotypes was one of the most difficult things to achieve. Some of the country’s legal measures reflected the prevalence of stereotypes, for example, the unequal treatment of women regarding social security provisions and the favouring of single income couples.
While congratulating the Government for paying attention to the role of the media in promoting alternate gender relationships, she noted that the Swiss media still emphasized the sexual aspect of some important issues. Was pornography and violence against women on television prohibited? Were minority women represented in the media? Were immigrant women persecuted because of their cultural and religious backgrounds?
Ms. SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert of Indonesia, expressed concern about Switzerland’s federal structure, which seemed to prevent countrywide monitoring of the Convention. Was CEDAW being taught in law schools to ensure its implementation? Had stereotypes been eliminated in the advertising? Stressing the role of the media in countering negative stereotypes, she asked to what extent Government initiatives were being used to eliminate negative stereotypes.
Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, addressed the issue of migrant women working as cabaret dancers. What was so special about cabaret dancing? Of all professions, why did the Government give preferred visa status to women applying as cabaret dancers? Cabaret dancing had obvious links to prostitution and trafficking. Governments had several options, including the enforcement of measures to suppress the exploitation of prostitution and trafficking. Even if it was discrimination in effect, was there will in the Swiss Government to eliminate the visa preference being given to cabaret dancers?
Domestic violence was a life-threatening phenomenon, she added. It was the duty of governments to do something for the effective protection of the life and liberty of the victims of violence. She also expressed concern that the cantons did not comply with the norms and suggested that checklists be used to monitor compliance in the forthcoming report.
AKUA KUENYEHIA, expert from Ghana, addressing the issue of violence against women and trafficking, asked what happened to the victim of trafficking. What kind of measures were being put in place to address violence? She also expressed concern at the discrepancy in application of measures at the cantonal level. In dealing with violence against women, was the emphasis on the victim or on maintaining the status quo?
CHRISTINE KAPALATA, expert from the United Republic of Tanzania, said there seemed to be lethargy on the part of the Government regarding punishment for persons involved in trafficking and the exploitation of prostitution. Given the fact that Switzerland had a long standing commitment in the area of protection of women from trafficking and prostitution, what Conventions had been ratified and how had ratification impacted Government action to eliminate trafficking?
Ms. FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, asked what was being done concerning drug rehabilitation and the prevention of drug consumption. She also asked for updated information on the situation of trafficking in women and child pornography.
Ms. GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, wondered about the frequency of domestic violence and whether there was data on sentences that had been given for such offenses. She also asked for data on trafficking and other sexual abuse against women and girls. She felt that cabaret dancing normally involved victims of trafficking and consideration to such matters was important in visa issues.
Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said that high prostitution statistics were of concern; the problem needed to be combated by the Government.
Questions concerning article 7 of the Convention
Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, wondered why participation in administration was so much lower for women than it was in other areas.
Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, was also concerned about such low figures in administration. Regarding participation in political life, she noted that Switzerland did have quotas for participation of various groups. She disputed a judge’s mention of the Convention as “not binding” in such issues. She wondered why there was such low voter turnout and what the Government could do about it.
MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, expressed approval of Swiss efforts in human rights in many areas and the number of women in the Swiss delegation, but urged further progress, especially in women’s participation in political life. Women must put pressure from within political parties for such progress and must exercise all their rights in all areas. Women must be trained for top positions in order to exert influence. Many such women of influence often come out of non-governmental organizations.
Questions concerning article 8 of the Convention
Ms. POPESCU SANDRU, expert from Romania, asked about women’s low participation in international delegations even though greater participation had been mandated. Were there guidelines for women’s participation in international conferences? She spoke of the importance of women’s participation in upcoming conferences on information technology.
Questions concerning article 9 of the Convention
Ms. Shin, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked for the data on men and women who marry Swiss nationals and the resulting implications for nationality, especially in cases of divorce before the three-year time limit, and more particularly where violence precipitated such a divorce. She also asked about related inequalities at the Commune and Canton levels.
Questions concerning article 10 of the Convention
Ms. TAVARAS DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked for an explanation of the low levels of women in education and vocational training. The educational pattern in Switzerland did not follow the pattern for that part of the world. What kept girls away and what made them drop out? What measures were being used to address the low level of women pursuing university education and vocational training?
Questions concerning article 11 of the Convention
On the issue of equal pay, Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, the expert from Germany, asked what was being done by the Government regarding an evaluation of the remuneration system mentioned in the report. Given the country’s governmental structure, where was the locus of responsibility on that issue? What had been happening at the cantonal level? Had any courts been confronted with pay cases? Were steps being taken in the private sector? Were employers associations picking up on the issue? The Federal Supreme Court seemed to refer to family obligations and market mechanisms as the reasons for pay differentials. The court seemed to be affirming pay differentials rather than destroying them.
Ms. FERRAR, expert from Cuba, asked what protection was given to domestic workers?
Ms. TAVARAS DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, also raised the issue of discrimination in women’s wages.
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked to what extent women were protected from dismissal during pregnancy. Did Article 3 of the Equality Act apply to maternity?
Ms. KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, said that even in a highly developed country like Switzerland, women were faced with disadvantage in the achievement of equal remuneration for work of equal value. Legislation protecting individuals in the private sector did not exist in all parts of the Confederation. The unemployment rate for women was higher compared to men with some 50 per cent of women working part time, compared to 12 per cent of men. Was it that women were still not seen as capable of certain jobs? What was the wage gap between men and women? Was there a wage difference between men and women in government jobs as well? What efforts had been made by the Swiss Government to provide maternity benefits and protection?
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritania, asked what the Government intended to do to equalize women’s access to credit. Ignoring such issues would only perpetrate inequalities, she said. Were measures being taken to promote women’s entrepreneurship and enhance women’s income generating potential in related areas?
Questions concerning article 15 of the Convention
Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, sought more information on new marriage laws in relation to the new constitution.
Questions concerning article 16 of the Convention
Ms. KUENYEHIA, expert from Ghana, asked for further details of factors that were considered in determining alimony under the new divorce laws.
Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, sought further clarification on gender-neutral application of family names, in light of existing legalities, both national and international.
Response of delegation
Ms. SCHULTZ said that, in contrast to the implications of many of the comments of the experts, she wished to emphasize that the relevant provisions of the new Constitution had been in place since 1981.
FERIDE ACAR, Chairperson of the Committee, then informed the Committee that the substantial response of the Swiss delegation to questions and comments posed by experts would be given on Friday morning.
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