21 January 2003


Press Release

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women



Experts Also Note Lack of Women in Key International Posts

Expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today commended El Salvador on the establishment of its Institute for the Advancement of Women, while also noting the severe shortage of women in top political, international and corporate posts and asking if affirmative action might not be used to redress that shortage.

The 23-member body, whose experts serve in their personal capacity, was reviewing the country’s third and fourth combined reports, as well as its fifth and sixth periodic reports, on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the reports, Marisol Argueta, El Salvador's Director General for External Politics, told the Committee that the Institute had been set up in 1996 to oversee national policies for women.  The National Policy for Women was then adopted in 1997 to focus on ten areas of interest to women, and had recently set up a new plan of action.

She said that four bodies assisted the Institute in ensuring implementation of the Convention, although specific areas were dealt with by the ministries of education, labour, and agriculture.  As a policy body, the Institute had a small budget, but each ministry had approximately $1 million for projects to implement international and national standards to advance women and ensure gender equality.

Concerning the lack of women in international posts, specifically as female ambassadors, she explained that foreign service legislation was being considered that would include percentage quotas and incentives for women to participate.  She added that more women than men actually worked in the foreign service, with men serving at the extremes -- the ambassadorial and general service levels.

Experts also pointed out the absence of a clear reference to discrimination in the country’s Constitution, suggesting it be amended to address that lack and comply with the terms of the Convention.  Several asked why El Salvador had yet to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol, since that would reaffirm the Government’s desire to comply with the Convention.

Ms. Argueta responded that the Constitution considered all people equal before the law, but that no direct distinction was made as regarded economic and

Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee   - 1a -                  WOM/1378

599th & 600th Meetings (AM & PM)                                    21 January 2003

social rights.  In that respect, the country’s two legislatures were currently reforming the Constitution.  As for the Convention’s Optional Protocol, she hoped the legislature would ratify it after the country’s upcoming elections.

Another issue raised by the experts concerned the legal protection provided for Salvadoran women, which they said was not sufficiently addressed in the reports.  Further, they asked about the country’s prostitution laws and penalties for trafficking women and girls for the purposes of prostitution.

Zoila de Innocenti, Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Women, told the Committee that the protection of rape victims, as well as their access to the legal system, was the Institute’s major area of work.  A programme entitled “Improving Family Relations” had set up a crisis hotline for rape victims.  On the issue of prostitution, Ms. Argueta said the country currently had laws against promoting and carrying out prostitution.  In addition, trafficking in persons was subject to a four to eight year prison sentence, or longer, if the trafficking involved women or girls.

Experts also expressed sympathy for the difficulties El Salvador faced in recovering from extended armed conflict and recent natural disasters and the impact that had on women’s rights.  Committee Chairperson, Feride Acar, expert from Turkey, noted that tragic events could be used as windows of opportunities to overcome traditional stereotypes, allowing women to assume new roles in rebuilding society.  Others stressed that the 2000-2004 National Policy on Women had been prepared before the earthquakes and must be amended to focus on devastation to the most vulnerable sectors.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 22 January, to consider the fourth periodic report of Luxembourg.


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met to consider El Salvador’s combined third and fourth period reports (document CEDAW/C/SLV/3-4), as well as its fifth and sixth periodic reports (documents CEDAW/C/SLV/5 and CEDAW/C/SLV/6).

The fifth report, covering the period from 1995 to 1998, focuses on the implementation of the National Policy on Women.  With the objective of ensuring equal opportunity and shared responsibility, the Policy comprises 10 areas of action covering the range of concerns of the Women's anti-Discrimination Convention.

In 1996, according to the report, the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women (ISDEMU) was established.   The Institute’s aim is to formulate, direct, execute, advise on and monitor the implementation of the National Policy.  Its governing board includes a female chairperson, heads of government ministries and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The report states that El Salvador's Constitution holds all persons equal before the law, regardless of nationality, race, sex or religion.  Conventions and legislation, most recently the Domestic Violence Act of 1999, have been enacted to counter such violence, and the Family Code, in force since 1994, establishes that spouses have equal rights and duties.  An inter-institutional committee has been set up under the National Policy to improve family relations and to provide protection and care to victims of domestic violence.  Women's access to the administration of justice has been improved by the opening of sub-offices of the Attorney General and the Procurator General, and awareness campaigns against violence have been broadcast.

According to the report, the Labour Code prohibits discrimination in employment; provisions that barred women from unhealthy or dangerous work were dropped.  An award has been established for mass media reporting that portrays women in non-stereotypical ways.

Awareness campaigns for increased participation by women in political and public life have also been carried out, the report states, and the electoral roll has been updated with gender-disaggregated statistical data to provide indicators of women's participation.  In the period 1994 to 1997, there were 14 women deputies in the legislature, out of a total of 84.  The report includes other statistics of posts held by women, as well as women's participation in international conferences.

During the reporting period, according to the report, activity by women's organizations included the preparation of the “Platform for Salvadoran Women, 1997-2000”, which aimed to change the balance of power in political, economic and social areas.

Regarding education, the report states that an objective of the National Policy is to increase the enrolment and retention rates of girls, and programmes towards that goal are described.  The number of girls 15 to 19 years of age enrolled in schools increased only 2 per cent between 1996 and 1997, as compared to 3 per cent for boys.  Adolescent girls of childbearing and bread-winning age are at a disadvantage.

The report states that women encounter serious obstacles in entering the workforce because of family responsibilities, housework and motherhood.  Parity of pay for equal work had increased slightly between 1995 and 1997.  Legal instruments had come into force to prevent maternity from keeping women from exercising their right to work.  The 1998 Penal Code addressed sexual harassment in the workplace.  Under the National Policy, the labour ministry was carrying out an eight-point plan to assist women in improving their employment situation.

The report also describes efforts under the national policy to foster women's rights to participation in social life, the rights of rural women and rights relating to marriage and family.  The combined fourth and fifth periodic reports cover those issues for the years 1987 to 1994.

The first part of the sixth report summarizes important recent measures to implement the provisions of the Convention.  The second part of the report focuses on legal and legislative measures.  It states that El Salvador recognizes the importance of international conventions and treaties, which take precedence over its secondary legislation.

The report notes that according to the Human Development Report2002, El Salvador’s gender empowerment measure ranking is 52 out of 66 countries.  That means that El Salvador has failed significantly to break with the systems and structures that hinder women’s inclusion in decision-making and political life. 

The Government is currently implementing the 2000-2004 Plan of Action of the National Policy on Women based on the Government’s “New Alliance”, the report says.  Salvadoran women’s organizations believe that one of the primary achievements in terms of equitable participation in governmental policy-making is the ISDEMU governing body, which includes two representatives of those organizations, as well as representatives of the main government bodies.  

Women have achieved a historic breakthrough, in that they have gained access to public office and government planning, the report says.  The Government is working to lay a foundation that will guarantee the sustainability of governing planning for the advancement of women.  In 2000, women held only 9.5 per cent of seats in the Legislative Assembly; 33 per cent of legislative, senior Government and managerial positions; and 47 per cent of professional and technical positions.  However, under the National Policy on Women, major efforts are being made to empower women through raising awareness and training activities.  Despite an increase in the number of women in the cabinet, the percentages of women in the most influential ministerial posts remains low.  For the first time, a woman is serving as the Chairman of the Central Reserve Bank.

Women’s lack of integration into the production sector is one of the main obstacles to their advancement, the report states.   While the informal sector is the main sector of the economy in which women find paid employment, it is also the least covered by the social security system and labour legislation.  In 2000, women earned some 35 per cent less than men for equivalent jobs or work.   There is a great disparity between women’s estimated annual earned income of some

$2,347 compared to $6,767 for men.  Labour legislation has not changed significantly since the submission of the fifth periodic report.

The report states that El Salvador signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2001.  Ratification is currently under consideration by various governmental bodies.

Introduction of Reports

MARISOL ARGUETA (El Salvador), introducing the reports, said her country had taken important steps to promote women’s rights since ratifying the Convention in 1981.  In 1996, the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women was established to oversee national policies for women.  The National Policy for Women was adopted in 1997, which the Institute followed up with a technical and participative process to further the advancement of women.  The National Policy focused on 10 areas of interest to women, and has recently set up a new plan of action.

Women made up more than 52 per cent of El Salvador’s population, she continued, and the Government placed great importance on the advancement of women.  Politically, the Constitution enshrined legal equality and prohibited sexual discrimination, and important instruments had been ratified promoting women’s rights.  Participation in governmental and party policy had been limited by the traditional political system, and political parties were only beginning to open up to women with respect to decision-making and leadership.  Recently, a leading political party had been founded and headed by a woman, who stood apart because of her role in the country’s leadership.

The Association of Female Judges and Association of Female Lawyers were active organizations, she said, and had presented candidates for magisterial positions in the country’s Supreme Court.  In addition, a female lawyer held the position of sub-director for schools and legal training.  She noted that several women also served in the current governmental administration, including as ministers.  Two women had held the post as Procurator General for the defense of human rights.  Many women held professional posts at the Institute of Legal Medicine.  Women in the country could also join the army and several served on the police force.

She noted that much progress had been made in terms of gender access to education, but the challenge was to ensure that children continued to attend school, both in urban and rural areas.  The 1990s had seen a positive trend in attendance, but the drop-out rate for girls continued to be problematic.  Since 1998, mixed education had been promoted and the level of public education has improved.  Access for women had been promoted to non-traditional careers in recent years, and an attempt had been made to study barriers keeping women from pursuing those careers.  Indicators had been developed to determine the drop-out rate for pregnant teenagers, so that curricula could be reoriented and attention focused on that area.  Women currently could not be expelled because of pregnancy and an attempt was being made to eliminate the disciplinary measures that had been used against pregnant teenagers in the past.

Since 1987, several activities have been initiated in the women’s health area, she continued.  A special body had been set up for women's health to coordinate activities between the Government and civil society, with a female manager.  Increased services had been provided to identify pregnancy, delivery and post-natal care risks.  Maternal mortality had dropped from 72 to 62 per 100,000 women.  As regards labour, El Salvador had ratified several conventions promoting equal rights for women in the workforce andprohibiting child labour.  The country had developed a national policy on safety, which sought to bring together national and privateendeavours in an effort to promote safer conditions and improve workplace standards.  The national policy was also seeking to eliminate gender discrimination and ensure that women had access to improved training, as well as better paid and more influential positions.

In the social field, married women could now choose their place of residence.  In addition, the grounds for divorce, which previously had focused on the male, were now non-discriminatory.  The Institute had become the guiding body for the implementation of policies to prevent and handle domestic violence, and laws dealing with such issues had been reformed.  In addition, an attempt was being made to ensure that all were made aware of laws against domestic violence, and victims were being assisted through the appropriate bodies.

Expert Comments and Questions

Committee Chairperson, AYSE FERIDE ACAR, expert from Turkey, thanked the delegation for the detailed series of reports, as well as its oral presentation.  El Salvador’s large delegation reflected the Government’s commitment to women’s issues.  The Government ratified the Convention in 1981 and with today’s meeting, its reporting was brought up to date.  She called for the Government’s consideration of ratification to the Convention’s Optional Protocol.  Article 20.1 of the Convention also needed to be ratified by States Parties in order for the Committee to have more time to consider reports. 

Armed conflict and natural disasters were tragic events with great social and human costs, she said.  They imposed heavy burdens on society and governments.  Turkey had also recently lived through the devastating effects of earthquakes.  She was aware of the disproportionate impact of these disasters on women’s rights.  Tragic events, however, could be used as windows of opportunities in overcoming traditional stereotypes and in assuming new and effective roles in the rebuilding of society.  She hoped that El Salvador would be able to put in place measures to ensure that both de jure and de facto equality became a reality.  Efforts to increase women’s visibility in the judiciary were welcome.  Amendments to discriminatory legislation were also welcomed.  Problems in the areas of education, health and socio-cultural issues remained, however. 

MARIA YOLANDA FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, said that terrible natural disasters, specifically the earthquakes of 2001, had indeed affected the population and had disrupted some 70 per cent of the rural infrastructure.  The 2000-2004 National Policy on Women had been prepared before the earthquakes and must be amended to emphasize the devastation to the most vulnerable sectors, in particular.  She requested further information on reconstruction and employment programmes.  How were the women affected by the earthquakes taken into consideration in those programmes?  She also wanted to know if there was a government programme on poverty reduction and, if so, was there a focus on women and poverty? 

Regarding legislation, she said the idea of discrimination as such was not established in El Salvador’s Constitution or legislation.  She wondered if change was being planned in that regard.  Article 247 of the Penal Code provided for penalties in the event of serious discrimination in the workplace.  What constituted “serious” discrimination?  On the law against domestic violence, would reconciliation between victims and aggressors be regarded as something to offset the seriousness of the punishment?  Had work been done to familiarize women with their rights? 

The functions of the Institute had been well outlined, she continued.  However, did it have sufficient legal powers to deal with ministries and to ensure compliance with government commitments?  Was gender mainstreaming a part of government planning?  Was there a link between the Institute and NGOs?  She also asked for information on El Salvador’s indigenous population, including plans for the advancement of indigenous women in rural areas.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, said the question of discrimination was also of great concern to her.  Condemning discrimination was one of the basic principles of articles 1 and 2 of the Convention.  On the Convention’s applicability to national law, she suggested considering amending the Constitution so that discrimination would be explicitly eliminated, thereby following the terms of the Convention.  Why had it not been possible to ensure ratification of the Optional Protocol?  Such ratification was a reaffirmation of the Government’s will and determination to comply with the Convention.

On prostitution, what activities were being carried out to protect prostitutes from violence and exploitation? she asked.  Were the clients of prostitutes sentenced?  Were there re-education programmes for prostitutes, as well as prevention programmes for child prostitution?

HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, said it was extraordinary for the Committee to consider four periodic reports at one time.  It was the obligation of States parties to submit reports in due time.  The third report was 11 years late.  She asked whether NGOs had participated in the process of writing the reports.  How well known was the Convention?  She asked for more information on the Institute’s method of operation.  How often did it meet and how many people did it employ?  She asked what had been the Institute’s most difficult obstacles.

CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said that none of the reports referred to El Salvador’s’ reservation to article 29 of the Convention.  Had the Government considered withdrawing that reservation, in light of the new nature of the International Court of Justice?  He was pleased with the signing of the Optional Protocol.  It had been pending for some time, however.  He asked for a description of the Parliament’s debate on the issue.

MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked for further elaboration on the Plan of Action.  She questioned the frequent use of the word “equity” as compared to “equality”.  Was it a question of language or did the use of “equity” constitute a substantive difference in meaning?  On prostitution and sanctions, she said the report failed to mention the phenomenon of trafficking.  Was it not a problem in El Salvador?

KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, wanted to know who the lead agency within the Government was for the enforcement of the Convention and the “New Alliance” programme.  While the Institute seemed like a very solid organization, it did not seem to have political responsibility.  What was the budget for the New Alliance programme?  Was the domestic application of the Convention part of the curricula in legal educational institutes? 

HUGUETTE BOKPE GNANCADJA, expert from Benin, said she was concerned with legal protection provided to Salvadoran women.  The reports did not sufficiently address that issue.  What were the competent legal bodies to deal with women’s issues?  Were there courts in rural areas and what were the costs involved?  If rural women could not afford legal help, was it provided for them?

FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked for information on the legal status of the Institute and its submission of bills to the Parliament. 

Country Response

Responding to questions about the Institute for the Advancement of Women, Ms. Argueta said the guidelines and role of the Institute were the responsibility of the National Secretary of Women and Children.  Four assisting bodies helped to ensure implementation of the Convention, although specific areas were dealt with by the ministries of education, labour, and agriculture.  As a policy body, the Institute had a small budget, but each Ministry had about $1 million for projects to implement international and national standards to advance women and ensure gender equality.

The Constitution, she said, stated that all people were equal before the law, with no distinction made as regarded economic and social rights.  Discrimination was handled under those terms, and the countries two legislatures were currently proceeding with constitutional reform.  Three-quarters approval was needed in the legislature for ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention, which she hoped would be ratified after the elections.

Turning to a question about the International Court of Justice, she said the Government was not currently considering obligatory jurisdiction with respect to cases submitted to the Court, but would continue to respect voluntary jurisdiction.

Concerning prostitution laws, she said the country currently had laws prohibiting and punishing the promotion and carrying out of prostitution.  Last year, penal legislation advocating four to eight years in prison had been introduced for trafficking in persons.  If the trafficking involved women or girls, the penalty was longer.  Any person who harboured, transported or brought individuals into the country for the purposes of trafficking, or used false documentation to help persons leave the country, was subject to the law.

Regarding prostitution itself, she said that health services and medical attention was given free to those involved.  The Ministry of Health was developing programmes to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and promoting awareness of such illnesses.  Promoting prostitution was a punishable crime, and the act was prohibited in public areas.  As for domestic violence, women first brought charges to the police, and then had access to the court system.  The Institute had developed programmes for national police units and provided information about the Convention, domestic violence and various international and national standards to ensure the rights of women when an accusation was made.

As for El Salvadoran immigrants abroad, she said the country had lobbied countries who took in immigrants, seeking to regularize the situation of migrants in those nations.  The United States had taken in 250,000 persons, acting under its provision for the temporary protection of migrants in an illegal situation, which in this case applied to the situation arising from the recent earthquakes.  The programme had since been extended, with the participation of several European countries.

Responding to questions concerning the Platform, she said it had been vital in preparing the National Policy on Women.  It had consisted of round tables with NGOs and governmental agencies, as well as international bodies, in reaching consensus on national policy for women.

Regarding mental health, the country had received the George Allen international prize for its focus on mental health.  The area of mental health had become crucial after the earthquakes in dealing with the many traumatized individuals.  The country now had a National Council on Mental Health, which would be monitoring programmes in the field.

Turning to poverty reduction, she said the Government believed that providing better employment opportunities was the best strategy.  At the international level, the country had been seeking trade opportunities, and urging greater foreign investment.  Health was also vital in poverty reduction, and the country had been using international standards to protect workers.

ZOILA DE INNOCENTI, Executive Director of the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women, said the Institute had an executive board.  The Executive Director held the rank of minister and was elected by the executive board.  The board was comprised of ministers, vice ministers and representatives of four national NGOs.  The NGOs elected their own representatives.  The executive board met on the second Wednesday of every month of the year.

The Institute provided legal assistance, she added.  For example, a commission had been set up to carry out a study on the law against domestic violence.  The executive board met in August and provided information to the Legislative Assembly, which adopted all of its suggested reforms. 

Regarding major obstacles, she said the Institute’s budget always fell short.  The Institute had 107 employees and occasionally brought in consultants.  The ministers and vice ministers working with the Institute acted as political counterparts.  The Institute’s December meeting was most important, in that outstanding issues and budgetary matters were discussed.  In addition, a network of communicators from all Government institutions met monthly.  That network was obligated to publicize changes in legislation and women’s policies.  While the Institute pursued the same overall policies, it adjusted its plan of action periodically.

Concerning the terms “equality” and “equity”, she said there were varying levels of inequity in El Salvador.  The basic law recognized that all individuals were equal before the law without distinction to race and sex.  All people were clearly not equal, however.  Women, young girls and the elderly, for example, were often vulnerable and required additional assistance.  Equality was the capacity everyone had to find themselves in the same situation.  Equity was the participation of all individuals at the same level.  The distinction was not a discriminatory measure, but was rather positive.

The protection of victims of rape and their access to the legal system was the Institute’s major area of work, she said.  The Institute had representatives in numerous areas of the country to address that issue.  A programme entitled “Improving Family Relations” had set up a crisis hotline for rape victims.  The hotline provided a link to the national civilian police.  Trained social workers and others from the health department were always on hand.  Depending on the seriousness of the case, the individual was brought in for crisis treatment.  If it turned out to be a crime, assistance and treatment was provided to the victim and the case was brought before the courts.  Shelter was also provided.  A national plan on violence had been adopted last year.  Assistance was provided to even the most remote regions.  The Institute also had a large prevention programme to build awareness on the issue. 

LUIS FERNANDO AVEIAR BERMUDEZ, Vice-Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, said that the Constitution seemed to allow for discrimination in the economic and social spheres.  However, the Constitution had a section which dealt exclusively with labour.  El Salvador had also ratified a resolution of the International Labour Organization, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex.  The Constitution could not be interpreted to allow for discrimination, in that it stated that all Salvadorans were entitled to labour rights.  On poverty reduction, he said El Salvador was focusing on the labour market, including training programmes to better qualify individuals for work.  With the two earthquakes in 2001, however, reconstruction replaced training.

HAYDEE PADILLA DE ESCOBAR, of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, said that a number of joint actions had been developed in the area of sexual reproduction and health in the aftermath of the earthquakes.  Given the crisis, mental health was also a priority.  Mobile teams had been set up to attend to people in shelters and in rural areas.  Reproductive health kits had been provided to hospitals.  The earthquakes had provided an open door to provide such services.  Mobile health teams had provided information on sex education and family planning, so that individuals could make informed decisions.  The prevention of diseases such as HIV/AIDS was also mentioned. 

There was also a joint plan of action for indigenous people, she said.  An obstetrics training programme, drafted with the assistance of indigenous women, was being implemented.  Maternal mortality had been reduced and they were trying to work with indigenous women in that area.

Ms. ARGUETA said that the “New Alliance” was a government plan.  Regarding the issue of sexual exploitation, the law did not sufficiently address that issue.  The Government knew that legal protection must be provided for girls and vulnerable groups.  A bill targeting sexual exploitation was currently under consideration.

Questions and Comments

ROSARIO MANALO, expert from the Philippines, asked whether the country’s long-term plan for the empowerment of women would include affirmative action in addition to training, and whether the media would be used to change attitudes.  She also asked about the participation of women in local politics, and noted a serious lack of women in foreign affairs posts.  Finally, she asked whether an immigrant woman’s citizenship was protected under the country’s nationality laws.

CHRISTINE KAPALATA, expert form the United Republic of Tanzania, asked for an explanation for the decline of women participating in international bodies and corporations.

SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, expert from Indonesia, asked whether future efforts to increase the participation of women in political life would include affirmative action.  She also asked which organization was responsible for monitoring the political participation of women, and how the country ensured that participation increased, rather than decreased.  In addition, who was the target group for women in political training programmes, and was such training available at the national, as well as local levels?

VICTORIA POPESCU SANDRU, expert from Romania, asked about the follow-up to a bill on women in politics and whether political parties had begun to implement it.  She also noted a drop in the number of women in the legislature and requested an explanation for the decline.

Country response

Ms. ARGUETA, elaborating further on the work of the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women, said the Institute’s work went far beyond mere training.  The Institute coordinated the work of a number of institutions on such activities as legislation, violence, family and health.  The Institute ensured the consistency of the work of the various institutions in ten focus areas.  Much of the Institute’s work focused on raising awareness and the media.  Recognizing the important role of the media in educating the public, the Institute had established a press award for media that effectively portrayed women in non-stereotypical roles.  A civil society initiative to introduce legislation allowing for quotas in various sectors was also being considered.  School curricula had been expanded to include human rights education.

Regarding the participation of women in local Government, she said very few women served in political life.  That was not because of a systematic policy to exclude women, but because of the electoral process itself.  She shared the expert’s concerns about the lack of female ambassadors.  Legislation on the foreign service was being considered to include quotas and incentives for women to participate.  Self-imposed obstacles to women’s involvement in the foreign service still existed.  Despite the fact that there were very few female ambassadors, more women than men worked in the foreign service.  Men served at the extremes -- at the ambassadorial and general service levels.

There was no distinction between men and women regarding citizenship, she said.  The only way to lose citizenship was to expressly reject it.  On equity and equality, the report would include terminology based on El Salvador’s understanding of it.  She had taken due note of the expert’s comments and would use the terminology correctly in the next report.  Concerning the relationship between training and the involvement of women in Government, there had been labour training days to raise awareness and provide incentives.  There was no information on unions or advisory bodies at the local level.  Women participated at the level of local Government.  Regarding economic activities, research on the number of female employers would soon be concluded.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, asked for a definition of “high-risk”, as it pertained to women in El Salvador who were tested for HIV/AIDS.  Also, were activities aimed at prevention and awareness-raising with respect to AIDS focused on men, as well as women?  In addition, she asked about the relationship in El Salvador between the maternal mortality rate and abortion.  Regarding migrants, she asked about programmes the country had in place for people, particularly women, wishing to return to their homeland.

Ms. FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, asked whether there were any programmes to give women and girls priority in educational programmes, particularly in rural areas.  She noted that the country had high drop-out rates, and commented that one of the prime causes of that was teen pregnancy.

NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, noted the grave disparity in literacy rates between urban and rural areas in El Salvador, and urged the country to stamp out illiteracy.  She questioned whether some of the foreign assistance provided to the country was channeled into social programmes in education and health.

AKUA KUENYEHIA, expert from Ghana, asked about programmes for young mothers to return to school, and the number of those who did.

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked whether the Government annually collected sex-specific statistical data.  Also, what was the percentage of female primary, secondary and university graduates?  She also asked for information about gender-specific education, as well as gender stereotypes in schoolbooks.  In addition, she asked about the current policy for maternity leave in the country, and whether it was possible for men to share that leave.

Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked for an explanation of the imbalances between men’s and women’s wages in certain sectors.  She also noted the low level of contraceptive use in the country, and asked whether abortion was being used as a method of family planning.

PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, emphasized the importance of literacy for girls.  Investing in formal education was one of the best ways of achieving economic growth.  She asked for data on resources allocated to education.  To what extent was the Government including a gender mainstreaming perspective in its policies and programmes?  What concrete steps were being taken to ensure full and equal participation in the educational, policy and decision-making spheres? 

FATIMA KWAKU, expert from Nigeria, noted the creation of the Agricultural Development Bank in El Salvador, which provided credit and technical assistance to men and women alike.  What percentage of that assistance went to women, specifically rural women?  Stringent conditions often barred women from credit.  What was the Government doing to ensure that rural women received credit?  She also asked for information on discriminatory provisions in El Salvador’s agrarian laws.

Ms. GNANCADJA, expert from Benin, asked several questions regarding legal equality between men and women.  Were there legal provisions for women to hold land titles?  Did women in prisons have the same legal standing as men?  She also asked for clarification on women’s inheritance rights.

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said it was difficult to reproach the delegation when the country had experienced ten years of war and two earthquakes.  Women were advancing forward, but there were some mitigating factors.  Regarding marriage, she asked if there was a common law to ensure shared property rights between spouses.  Upon divorce, if a woman retained child custody, did she stay in the family residence?  During marriage, were children under the trusteeship of the father, or was it shared between mothers and families?  Were adopted children given legal status?  Did adopted children have the same rights in terms of inheritance?  Was the mother of an illegitimate child able to pursue legal means to establish paternity?  Were all marriages in El Salvador officially recorded?  On another topic, she asked if political parties received subsidies. 

Country Response

Responding to a question about sexual harassment, Ms. ARGUETA said that crime was included in the penal code and could lead to a period of six months to a year in prison.  If the victim was under the age of 12, the prison sentence ranged from six months to two years.  Turning to the agrarian code, she said there was a strategy to update agrarian laws to promote gender equality.

Regarding migrants, she described two types of individuals who returned -- those who came voluntarily or those who return non-voluntarily, such as through deportation.  No specific data existed on contagious diseases brought back by migrants returning voluntarily, and those returning non-voluntarily had the right to keep from the record that they had been deported due to contagious disease.  That controversial issue of privacy versus society’s right not to be infected was currently being debated in various countries, but the individual’s right to privacy currently prevailed.

El Salvador had a welcome home project, she continued, which welcomed all who returned to the country with a place to sleep, food and other basic services.  Currently, there was much concern about anti-social behaviour on the part of migrants, and a great deal of effort was being focused in that area.  Some special treatment was provided to migrants or returning citizens who were exhibiting such behaviour.

Turning to the question of gender-desegregated data, she said that some was available.  Innovative efforts had been made to completely revamp the country’s census and statistics office, which would undoubtedly include the gender perspective.  She added that reliable data was available on access to micro-credit for both men and women in rural areas.

Mr. BERMUDEZ, responding to the question on assembly line rights, said the regular working day consisted eight hours, and the working week 44.  Generally, people were paid by the hour, and the accepted minimum wage was paid to all.  A regional unemployment centre had been set up with surrounding countries, and the country was also disseminating information and providing training.  As for salaries, he said that the gender gap in earning power had been closing since last year.  Both workers and employers were being trained with respect to equal pay for equal work.  

Ms. PADILLA DE ESCOBAR, of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, said that women’s health focused on three areas:  pregnancy; labour; and the post-partum period.  On abortion-related deaths, World Health Organization statistics showed that deaths were due to toxemia and hemorrhaging.  El Salvador believed in protecting life from the moment of conception.  Abortion was illegal in El Salvador.  Regarding uterine and cervical cancer, the focus had been on detection and prevention.  While the number of women being tested was increasing, women tended not to go in for testing.

By the terms of a June 2000 presidential announcement, preventive health services were free for anyone, she said.  There was a national prevention programme for HIV/AIDS.  At present, the country was making efforts to change traditional patterns regarding the use of family planning methods.  The focus had been on involving men in the health and reproductive area. 

Regarding maternal mortality rates, from 1998 to 2003, there had been

120 deaths per 100,000 live births.  The country had made an effort to monitor maternal mortality at the national level.  Some progress had been made and work was being done at the inter-sectoral and inter-institutional levels.

MATILDE GUERRA DE QUINTANA, Vice-Minister for Education, said the main focus had been on statistics in elementary, secondary and vocational schooling.  For the period under review, there had been considerable improvement in ensuring access to schools for children up to the age of 18.  El Salvador was far from achieving

100 per cent school attendance rates at all ages.  One reason for that was that there had been heavy emphasis on literacy programmes.  Approximately

100,000 people were learning to read and write every year.  To improve the efficiency of the system, the Government was focusing on changes in methodology and teaching materials in educational centres.  There was a programme for both talented children and slow learners. 

Regarding girls who drop out of school, she said the causes included poverty, employment demands and the fact that girls tended to start school two to three years later than boys.  Additional efforts were needed to ensure that girls returned to school following pregnancy.  New initiatives included remote education programmes, which combined printed material and weekly tutoring.  Between 1992 and 2000, school attendance for girls increased from 24 per cent to 44 per cent.

Ms. ARGUETA said the Legal Commission was entrusted with harmonizing national legislation with international standards.  Also, there was no legal distinction in inheritance rights.  On measures related to housing, one third of the country’s homes had been destroyed during the earthquakes and women who headed households were given priority in rebuilding projects.

MARINELA LOPEZ DE ORTIZ, of the National Secretariat of the Family, said that the adoption of the 1993 Family Code had removed a number of discriminatory elements.  All legal acts were outlined in a register in the mayor’s offices.  Women did have legal capacity.  Upon divorce, the judge might determine that women be given the family home, even if the house had been purchased under the father’s name.  All children had equal rights.  Child custody existed for both parents. 

Ms. ACAR, Committee Chairperson, said that due to the lateness of the hour, she would simply thank the delegation for the detailed information it had provided and express the hope that El Salvador would soon ratify the Optional Protocol, as well as the amendment of article 20.1 of the Convention.  The Committee also hoped that El Salvador’s next report would be submitted on time.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.