24 January 2007


24 January 2007
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Chamber B, 767th & 768th Meetings (AM & PM)




Dutch Representatives Highlight Benefits of Legalizing Brothels, Including

Health-Care Services for Sex Workers; Protection against Violence, Trafficking

Amid tough scrutiny from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Dutch officials defended the Netherlands’ decision to legalize brothels and shed light on Dutch policies to protect women against domestic violence and trafficking.

Presenting the fourth periodic reports on the Netherlands and Aruba, representatives of the 14-member Dutch delegation (and two-member Aruban delegation) stressed that prostitution was not considered a normal profession in the Netherlands.  Employment offices did not help women get jobs in brothels.  On the contrary, job training and counselling programmes run by the Government and non-governmental organizations aimed to help prostitutes leave the sex industry.

Legalized prostitution meant better health-care services for sex workers and increased protection against unsafe work conditions, human trafficking and violence.  Government acts according to an action plan on regulating the sex trade, and research on the link between prostitution policy and the prostitutes’ social status were under way.  The lifting of that ban had received broad support from the Dutch Parliament, citizens and non-governmental organizations.  In April, Dutch officials would publish the results of its second analysis on the ban’s removal.

But Committee members questioned the validity of recent studies in the Netherlands that showed prostitution was a profession of choice and that obstacles to leaving the sex trade were less than previously feared.  They expressed concern that 80 per cent of sex workers were foreign women, while 20 per cent were of Dutch origin, noting that foreigners often lacked the language, education and technical skills to compete for jobs in the traditional labour market.

On other questions, some experts voiced their dismay that a country report had not been prepared on the Netherlands Antilles and that the Dutch Civil Code was not applicable there.  They also questioned the Dutch delegation on such concerns as whether there was free legal aid as well as police protection for victims of domestic violence, including for migrant women regardless of their legal status.

The delegation shed light on that matter, noting that, according to the biennial Emancipation Monitor and police reports, more than 40 per cent of the Dutch population -– mostly women -- had experienced some level of domestic violence in their lifetime.  A bill before Parliament would allow police to remove domestic violence perpetrators from the homes they shared with their victims for 10 days.  The Public Prosecutor had issued guidelines for apprehending and interrogating suspects.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment was funding 50 small grass-roots projects that had thus far assisted 5,000 women victims, while the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport had set up women’s support centres and shelters in 35 municipalities, a delegate said.  Victim’s legal assistance bureaus located throughout the country provided free legal aid and helped victims prepare criminal cases and lawsuits.  The Government also granted independent residence permits to certain dependent permit holders who could prove they had been victims by presenting medical certificates and reporting the violence to the police.

Turning to the issue of trafficking, delegates noted that the Government of Aruba had introduced laws to implement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and protocols that extended the terms by which human trafficking was punishable and made human smuggling a punishable offence.  The Victims Support Centre, set up in August 2005, provided emotional and legal support to victims.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 25 January, to consider Colombia’s fifth and sixth periodic reports.


Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met in Chamber B this morning to consider the fourth periodic report of the Netherlands and the fourth periodic report of the Netherlands on Aruba.

The delegation was headed by A.J. de Geus, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment and included:  F.G. Licher, Directorate for the Coordination of Emancipation Policy, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment; Frank Majoor, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations; Jeroen Steeghs, Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations; Jonna Jeurlink, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations; Alette van Leur, Personal Secretary of the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment; and P.R. de Leeuw, Senior Policy Officer, Directorate for the Coordination of Emancipation Policy, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

Other delegation members included:  G. Sert, Policy Officer, Directorate for the Coordination of Emancipation Policy, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment; E.J.H.M. Lousberg, Senior Policy Officer, Directorate Industrial Relations, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment; E.E. Bleeker, Policy Adviser, Immigration Policy Department, Ministry of Justice; L.M.C. van der Zaal-Van Bommel, Policy Adviser, Immigration Policy Department, Ministry of Justice; T. Dopheide, Legal Adviser, Human Rights, Directorate of Legislation, Ministry of Justice; G.C.H.M. Bogers, Senior Policy Officer, Law Enforcement Department, Unit Organized Crime, Ministry of Justice; C.C.M. Verhagen, Policy Officer, Directorate of Labour Market & Personnel Policy, Culture and Science, Ministry of Education; J.M.M. Croes, Policy Adviser, Ministry of Education, Social Affairs and Infrastructure; and O.M. Croes, Policy Officer, Ministry of General Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Presentation of Report on Netherlands

Presenting the country report on the Netherlands, AART-JAN DE GEUS, Minister for Social Affairs and Employment, said the Netherlands regretted and objected to the reservations some States had made to the Convention.  All reservations were incompatible with the Convention’s aims.  Since it last reported to the Committee, the Netherlands had worked hard to implement the Committee’s recommendations, which had been translated and made public on the Internet.  Non-governmental organizations had been subsidized to prepare a shadow report and conduct research.

The Netherlands had made significant progress in achieving gender equality, he said.  Fifty years ago women needed their husbands’ consent to enter into employment contracts.  The percentage of women in the labour force had jumped from 22 per cent in 1960 to 65 per cent today, at present, just 10 per cent of women left the workforce after having their first child.  Still much remained to be done to fully achieve gender equality and gender mainstreaming in all policies of Government bodies and civil society organizations was needed.  The Auditing Committee on Emancipation, an independent body, was working to mainstream gender issues into all ministerial policies.  The Committee reported directly to the Dutch Parliament and its findings were discussed at the highest political level.  Individual ministers were held to account for the results of gender mainstreaming in their fields.

He said gender equality policy in recent years had focused on the labour market, ethnic minority women, safety and security, social participation, the glass ceiling, the SGP political party and prostitution.  In 2006, 56 per cent of women had been part of the labour force.  Between 2002 and 2005, women’s participation in the labour market had stagnated between 53 per cent and 54 per cent as a result of the Netherlands’ economic recession.  In the post-recession period, women’s participation in the labour market had grown 2 per cent annually.  An annual 2 per cent growth rate would enable the Netherlands to reach its 2010 target of having 65 per cent of all women working at least 12 hours per week.

During the recession, the Netherlands had introduced reforms, made investments and developed new policies in order to capitalize fully on the economic upturn, he continued.  For example, the Law on Child Care entered into force in January 2005.  The Netherlands had invested considerably in child-care facilities.  There were 200,000 facilities and that number continued to rise.  Since January, all schools were required to provide child care from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Child care had been made affordable for all income groups.  Parents now paid no more than one third of child care costs, the lowest percentage ever.  Working parents were entitled to parental leave and tax breaks during that leave.  The new “life-course savings scheme” helped working people take leave.  While many women chose to work part time, the 2006 Dutch Women’s Rights Monitor showed that many women did not always have full freedom of choice, as many had a greater burden of domestic responsibilities than men.  Employers still did not sufficiently take that into account when devising work schedules.  That disparity must be addressed.

While women’s participation in the labour market had remained constant between 2002 and 2005, the participation of ethnic minority women had decreased over the same period, he said.  The Dutch Government had set up a special high-level task force, the Participation of Women from Ethnic Minorities Committee, to address that worrisome trend.  The Ethnic Minorities Committee worked to encourage minority women and girls in the country’s 30 largest cities who remained at home to participate in society.  A Plan of Action on Emancipation and Integration aimed to increase the social participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged women from ethnic minorities.  Such women were poorly educated and often unemployed or poorly paid.  Many spoke little or no Dutch, leaving them socially isolated.

As few women in such groups had been reached thus far, local authorities had developed policies to gain insight into these groups, he said.  They had set up teams of ethnic minority women to advise the local authorities and serve as liaisons between the target groups and policy makers.  Such partnerships had led to dialogue between men and women of ethnic minority groups on taboo subjects such as honour crimes, “lover boys” and safety and security.  A national network of anti-discrimination bureaus was being set up.  Ethnic minority women and girls were performing progressively better in education and training than their male counterparts.

The Netherlands was also taking steps to combat domestic violence, sexual violence, honour related violence, genital mutilation and human trafficking, he continued.  A bill before Parliament would ban domestic violence perpetrators from the homes they shared with their victims for 10 days.  Pilot programmes in two police regions had strengthened law enforcement’s understanding of honour-related violence, and female victims of domestic violence were entitled to independent residence permits within three years of settling in the Netherlands.  Also the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment was funding anti-violence projects undertaken by women and women’s organizations, including 50 small grass-roots projects that had assisted 5,000 women so far.

There were 20,000 vulnerable and isolated women in the Netherlands, he said.  Volunteer work could be a stepping stone for them to a paid job.  A project in six municipalities encouraged ethnic minority women to do volunteer work and become active in their communities.  The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment financed projects aimed at 50,000 women over a three-year period.

Five years ago the Committee had criticized the subsidies paid to the SGP, a political party that excluded women from its membership, he stated.  Those subsidies had since been eliminated.  A court ruling had determined that the Dutch State was violating article 7 (a) and (c) of the Convention.  The State appealed the court’s ruling to the Court of Appeals.  The Dutch Government believed that intervention in political parties’ constitutions should be undertaken cautiously, as various fundamental rights and freedoms were at stake.  It was important to balance election rights and the prohibition of discrimination with a political party’s freedom of assembly.  A court decision was expected by year’s end.  In the meantime, women had been allowed to become SGP members, but were still barred from representative positions in the party.

The Netherlands had been criticized for lifting the ban on brothels, he said.  However, the Dutch Parliament, citizens and non-governmental organizations broadly supported the legalization of brothels.  That policy on prostitution had improved the Government’s prospects for protecting sex workers, having more control over the sex industry and combating human trafficking.  Local authorities could issue work permits for brothels and could thus control safety, health and working conditions.  Brothels were regularly inspected for compliance with regulations and for signs of human trafficking.  Brothel owners who broke the rules lost their permits.  The second evaluation of the lifting of the ban on brothels would be published in April.  The same month, the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings would publish her findings on the effectiveness of Dutch anti-trafficking policy.  The next Government would respond to those findings and if necessary adjust policy accordingly.

Presentation of Report on Aruba

JOCELYNE M.M. CROES, Policy Adviser to the Minister of Education, Social Affairs and Infrastructure, then presented the country report on Aruba, saying there had been several new developments since the report was written.

The Government’s social policy aimed to improve the socio-economic position of vulnerable groups in society, including women, through decentralized Government services and strong civil society organizations, she said.  The primary focus on programmes to strengthen women’s position was on reintegrating welfare recipients into the labour market, most of whom were women.  Maternity leave in the private sector had been extended to 12 weeks and benefits had been increased to 100 per cent of regular pay, making the benefits equal to those in the public sector.  New legislation would provide special measures to support working women who breastfed.  Newly built homes and the introduction of a special fund for low-income people to rent and buy homes had given more women access to affordable housing.

The National Bureau of Women’s Affairs continued to focus on awareness raising of gender equality concerns at various levels through community level and school projects, she said.  Community empowerment training projects focused on improving women’s status.  The media were provided with gender awareness training to end gender stereotyping.  School lectures on gender issues and new school curricula aimed to prevent stereotyping.

The Government aimed to strengthen national machinery in order to mainstream gender concerns across the board, she continued.  Recently it had merged the Bureau of Women’s Affairs with the new Human Rights Coordination Centre at the Department of Social Affairs, in order to focus on a rights-based approach in programming.  The Government had earmarked $417,000 for 2006-2009 to strengthen gender mainstreaming and rights-based programming.  In August 2002, the Facultative Protocol of the Convention had gone into effect in Aruba and in October 2006, the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography had gone into effect.  In January 2002 the updated Civil Code had come into force, abolishing a large number of discriminatory provisions relevant to the Convention.

In August 2003, a new law on sexual offences had entered into force, amending, extending or introducing penalties for sexual offences, she said.  The new law extended victims’ rights to a broader group and extended the timeframe for reporting sexual assaults.  It contained provisions on marital rape; trade in and possession and distribution of child pornography; forced prostitution; and stalking.  Incitement to child prostitution was heavily penalized, as was child trafficking.  The new law also increased sentences for forced prostitution and prostitution of minors. 

The prohibition of trafficking in women had been expanded to a prohibition on trafficking in human beings, she added, and laws had been introduced to implement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and protocols that extended the terms by which human trafficking was punishable and made human smuggling a punishable offence.  The Victims Support Centre, set up in August 2005, provided emotional and legal support to victims, employing a female social worker to help women victims.

Experts’ Questions and Comments -- Articles 1-6

PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, wondered why a separate report did not exist for the Dutch Antilles.  Could the panel provide information on that?

Noting a lack of data desegregated by sex and ethnic background, she said information about women from ethnic minorities was vital in monitoring the impact of policies on women.

On the definition of discrimination, she said policies had been formulated in gender-neutral language, which was associated with a denial of the gender character of violence.

Further, she asked about the absence of free legal assistance for victims of domestic violence and other forms of gender related violence.  Did the Government have information on that issue?  As the State was obliged to protect women, how was the Government dealing with women with insecure resident status?  Did they have access to shelters?

She said she had been informed that, within the “Safe Country Where Women Want to Live” document, the Convention could not have full effect.  What were the Government’s views on the status of the Convention within the context of policy goals?

FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked the panel to update the Committee on the Emancipation Policy.  Had an impact analysis been conducted?  She also wondered about the gender-based mainstreaming policy.

Noting there was concern from non-governmental organizations that the Convention articles were not being taken seriously, she asked why the Government had not disseminated the Convention among officials and politicians.

She further wondered why women were not allowed to participate in a certain Dutch political party and asked what the Government was doing to remove obstacles.

Given the number of existing and new laws banning discrimination against women, in line with article 1, she could not accept the imposition of a ban on headscarves of Muslim women.  Because of that ban, Muslim women were facing difficulties in public life, schools and elsewhere.  What measures had been taken to address that issue?

Committee Chairwoman, DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ from Croatia, following up on importance of the Convention in the legal system, said all countries with different legal systems, including those needing to change national laws, must provide remedies at the national level.  Would the Government consider doing that?  It was important to see how the Government would provide for the full implementation of the Convention at the national level.

She wondered whether the Government would present its report to Parliament, in order to give it national visibility.  If not, would the Government consider that in the future?

FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, congratulating the Netherlands on its ratification of the Optional Protocol and research done to promote women and combat violence, said implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 was important for women in conflict situations.  She was concerned at its implementation in the Antilles and Aruba.

The word “emancipation” was used in Government policies.  Since women were already emancipated, the question now was that they were subject to forms of discrimination, she said.  The plan adopted in 2000 was commendable, but an assessment was needed.  Wording about the developments in emancipation policies had caused concern, as there was no focus on preventing discrimination.  Further, the report noted that each ministry would be responsible for policies, but there had been a withdrawal of the Ministry of Social Affairs on that question.

Further, mainstreaming of gender policies was key and various ministries should have guidelines to ensure robust coordination, she continued.  In 2004, Government had sought out an independent committee to audit that policy.  Would the Netherlands consider making that committee a permanent one?

MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, commending the Netherlands on its commitment to article 5 of the Convention, said stereotypes were seen, in part due to girls’ marked preference for certain university disciplines.  Freedom of job choice was not perfect and the idea of paternal leave was still limited.  More measures to combat stereotyping were needed.  Measures in the report were discussed in the form of “wishful thinking”, rather than concrete action.  What measures existed to ensure that girls could be guided more directly into technical scientific disciplines?  Had the Government adopted a project to introduce into schools training to ensure that masculine and feminine stereotyping could be changed?  What had been done to integrate women in professional sectors, ensuring more equity of remuneration?

HAZEL GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, asked about a comprehensive strategy to facilitate the mainstreaming of the elimination of stereotypes.

Noting that violence against women was a problem in the Netherlands, she asked what was being done to combat violence in the home.  What was being done with non-governmental organizations on that issue?  Had the Government taken steps to eliminate stereotyping among minority women?  Did Aruba have a comprehensive strategy to deal with that question?  Was there an analysis on where those stereotypes occurred?

Country Response

Responding to the question on why there was no report on the Dutch Antilles, Mr. de Geus said he had no explanation for that issue.

On protecting undocumented women, another delegate referred to the Linkage Act.  Access to social benefits was based on having legal documents, making it unlikely for undocumented people to have access to them.  There were exceptions, she said, noting access to medical aid in urgent cases.  Minors also had education rights, irrespective of residence.  However, shelters were not available for undocumented women.

On the status of the Convention, another delegate clarified that the Government did not challenge the legally binding character of the Convention.  By ratifying the Convention, it understood that.  However, not all of the Convention’s provisions could be seen as binding and articles 93 and 94 of the Dutch Constitution had provided for that possibility.  Under article 94, international norms directly applicable to individuals took priority over national law.  It was the responsibility of the national court to decide whether a provision of international law was directly applicable in a given situation.

On the dissemination of the Convention in the Netherlands, another delegate said the publication had been delivered to Parliament and discussed with non-governmental organizations.  The recommendations had been translated into Dutch and were accessible on the website.  Moreover, the Government had conducted five studies on the implementation of the Convention.  The next national report on the implementation of the Convention would be published in 2007.

Turning to the question on statistical data, he said the Government had extensive reports and disaggregated data on ethnic minorities.  Additionally, the “Emancipation Monitor” was published biennially, as was an integration report on women from ethnic minorities.  A social atlas, or compendium of minority women in Dutch society, was also developed biannually.

Regarding gender mainstreaming, he said that was the responsibility of each individual ministry.  In the National and International Emancipation Policy for 2006-2010, those responsibilities had been stepped up.  The multi-year plan had included goals for women’s safety, economic independence and participation in decision-making and management situations.  Ministers would have to report on progress to Parliament and evaluation would be conducted by an external auditing committee.

On coordinating mechanisms, he said the Government was stimulating concrete projects and supporting the activities of individual ministers, especially through the Equality Centre, which provided information on gender, family and diversity.  The Ministry of Social Affairs was also working with other departments in the area of women in peacekeeping operations.

Regarding head scarves, a delegate clarified that no ban existed on wearing headscarves, but preparations were being made for garments covering the face.  Explaining the background on that issue, she said that, in October 2005, a member of Parliament had requested the prohibition of burqas.  That motion was adopted and the possibility of banning garments covering the face arose.  Due to the complexity of doing that, experts were consulted.  They concluded that doing so would constitute discrimination against the freedom of religion.

On article 1 and the definition of discrimination, another delegate said that equal treatment was a fundamental right, especially addressed by article 1 of the Dutch Constitution.  Rules regarding equal treatment were further outlined in the Equal Treatment Act and the Equal Treatment (Men and Women) Act.  The ban on discrimination includes direct and indirect discrimination.  Moreover, discrimination against migrant Muslim women wearing head scarves was perceived as a form of direct discrimination on the basis of religion, rather than sex.

On breaking down stereotypes, another delegate noted that some subjects remained more popular among girls than boys, and the consequences of that were seen in professions that were dominated by males or females.  To change that situation, various projects were under way.  A current project aimed to encourage gender neutral choices.  The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science had also launched a programme to increase interest in science.  The number of female professors had increased from 6 per cent to 10 per cent since 2000, and the goal was to achieve 50 per cent by 2010.  Much work was needed, as the Netherlands lagged compared to other European countries.  There would be a focus on funding studies and challenging universities and research institutions on diversity issues.

Anther delegate added that a campaign on men in the household had been carried out.  The Government had collaborated with the media and social partners, including mosques and imams to have discussion on stereotypes.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, referring to the exclusion of women from a specific political party, asked why the Government had not accepted the decision of the court and had appealed to a higher court.  Would the Government follow the same line if a policy of excluding women was applied by a company?

ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked whether the Ministry of Social Affairs was responsible for the implementation of the Convention and implementation of recommendations from the Committee.  In the Ministry, were there any female vice-ministers?  Was someone specifically responsible for gender equality?

Further, the Netherlands hoped to provide more economic support to Aruba; however, due to a lack of resources and mechanisms, implementation of gender equality had not been smooth, she said.  Did Aruba receive support from the Government of the Netherlands?

SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, wondered who oversaw target setting.  Would an inter-ministerial body be helpful in terms of monitoring?  What was the role of women in the eradication of stereotyping?

Committee Chairwoman, DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ from Croatia, said, regarding the legally binding nature of the Convention, that some provisions could be directly applicable.  Which of the 16 articles were directly applicable?  Was article 11 on maternity leave perceived as directly applicable?

Country Response

Responding to the question on the political party that had not included women as members, Mr. de Geus said the Government did not support the political ideas of that party.  It represented 3 of the 150 Government seats.  The Government faced a difficult decision.  It must ensure that the party was free to have its own rules of constituency; however, there was an offence on the point of discrimination.  It was important that the highest court give its judgement on that question of confronting fundamental rights.  The Government would wait for the court of appeal to make its decision.

On the roles of women in Government, he said women within the Ministry of Social Affairs held high-ranking positions and represented 40 per cent of those in Government.

On targets for women, he said that, in public governance, the Netherlands had set quantified targets.  The Government followed whether the process of integrating women into labour markets was increasing or stagnating.  Research had shown that men were not taking over other tasks as new responsibilities for women arose in society.  That was a cultural phenomenon and there was a need to influence men in their parental tasks.

A delegate from the Ministry of Justice said that national legislation was needed to fully implement provisions of the Convention.

Regarding economic support to Aruba and gender mainstreaming there, a delegate responded that a new form of development cooperation had been introduced in 2000.  By 2010, Aruba would no longer receive development assistance from Holland.  The Development Assistance Fund programme had been approved by both Aruba and Holland.  Funds for 2006-2009 had been made available for the social sector.  A decision had been made by the Ministry of Social Affairs to implement a gender mainstreaming policy.  A vacancy for an expert had been placed; however, that position remained open, as Aruba did not have many experts in that area.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, noting that the Netherlands had been among the first countries to appoint an independent rapporteur on trafficking in human beings, said that could be a model for other countries.  How had that person been appointed?  To whom did that person report?  What important elements were contained in the fifth report?

On the lifting of the ban on brothels and prostitution, she said non-governmental organizations had supported the lifting of the ban, but the Government still had limitations.  What could the Government do to ease those problems of lifting the ban?  Studies by neutral bodies should be carried out.  Would the Government consider that?  An action plan had been submitted to the House of Representatives.  What had happened to that plan?

The report stated that, out of the total number of prostitutes known, 80 per cent were foreign women.  Migrant women were known to work in that sector.  How did the Government address assistance to victims of prostitution?

TIZIANA MAIOLO, expert from Italy, on prostitution, wondered about the results of the 2000 survey.  Did a black market exist for undocumented women?

Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, wondered about combating domestic violence.  Was there a provision for free legal aid to victims?  Did migrant women qualify for financial and legal help from the Government?  How many shelters were run by Government versus non-governmental organizations?  Would there be adverse effects on younger generations by the lifting of the ban on prostitution?  Could the panel provide information on measures to support prostitutes who wished to leave that profession?

Committee Chairwoman, DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ from Croatia, wondered whether the plan to combat domestic violence had been adopted.  Referring to the Netherlands’ plan to adopt a law that would protect women for 10 days, she wondered what happened after 10 days.

Country Response

Addressing the question on the national independent rapporteur on human trafficking, a delegate from the Ministry of Justice said that person had been appointed by the entire Government.  Since 2000, that person had informed the Government about the scope of trafficking and had advised it on policy improvements.  That person was supported by a bureau, which took a multi-disciplinary approach to trafficking.  Four reports had been published.  The fifth report would possibly arrive in April, after which the Government would issue a reaction. 

Regarding legalization of prostitution, another delegate said the local brothel licensing system aimed to better protect sex workers, break the link between prostitution and common offences associated with it, and break its ties to trafficking.  Local authorities were working with health-care groups and other non-governmental organizations to set up local policy.  Legislation combined with the local licensing system had proven successful.  There were no signs of increased trafficking as such.  However police were able to track more cases of trafficking due to transparency in the prostitution sector.  Research showed that it would take time to set up local policy and for it to be effective.

Municipalities had different methods to address local prostitution.  The Association of Netherlands Municipalities had issued handbooks, he said.  An action plan on regulation and protection was being developed and had been discussed in Parliament.  The next evaluation would be published in April 2007.  A research project under way would address local prostitution policy as it related to the social position of prostitutes and their risk for exploitation, including exploitation of minors.

The Government had a vigorous stance against forced prostitution.  Regarding the position of the national committee monitoring legalization of prostitution, he said it was difficult to anticipate their findings, which were due to be published in April.  They were expected to answer three issues mentioned by the research proposal.

Regarding the lack of information on domestic violence, he said statistics were provided by the annual Emancipation Monitor and police information systems.  Domestic violence was the most extensive form of violence in Dutch society and occurred among all socio-economic groups.  More than 40 per cent of the Dutch population had experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives.  Of that percentage, 10 per cent experienced it weekly and nearly one third had found their lives dramatically affected by the violence.  Eighty per cent of all domestic violence was committed by men.  Police reports showed that 40 per cent of incidents reported had led to victims’ lodging official complaints with the police.  In 50 per cent of reported incidents, the perpetrators were actually apprehended by the police.  Domestic violence was not treated as a gender specific issue or an ethnic issue in order to avoid stereotyping.  Temporary support initiatives were targeted at vulnerable groups.  Women’s and children’s shelters existed for domestic violence victims.

From 2003 to 2007, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities was implementing a large comprehensive anti-domestic violence programme, he continued.  It included campaigns to encourage local authorities to carry out anti-violence publicity campaigns.  A nationwide publicity campaign would be launched in March 2007.

The Government was working on legislation to impose a 10-day restraining order on perpetrators in acute cases, he said.  The Public Prosecutor’s guidelines addressed domestic violence very specifically, spelling out the procedure for apprehending and interrogating suspects.  The police, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations and victims’ rights organizations would need to figure out procedures to follow after the 10-day restraining order had expired.  They would need to take into account the complex personal relationship between victims and their perpetrators.

The State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport had set up women’s support centres and shelters in 35 municipalities, he added.  It had introduced basic counselling courses to help perpetrators as well. 

Regarding legal aid for domestic violence victims, he said the Netherlands had a national subsidized legal aid system that provided aid to domestic violence victims.  Aid depended on the urgency of the matter and the seriousness of victims’ injuries.  Free or partly free legal aid was available.  Victims with sufficient incomes or savings would pay more. 

Victims could request financial compensation in court and were entitled to free assistance and information about police and prosecutors from victim’s legal assistance bureaus located throughout the country.  He said such bureaus helped victims prepare criminal charges and understand criminal law procedures.  The Criminal Injury Compensation Fund for victims was financed by the Ministry of Justice.

Regarding how illegal migrants reported trafficking issues to the police, another delegate said police usually detected victims of trafficking and were specifically trained to do so.  Victims of trafficking who reported to the police were granted residence.  A special police team had been set up in 2000 to focus on trafficking.  An illegal migrant who wanted to report directly to the police would be granted a residence permit upon reporting.

As to whether all trafficking victims who did not report incidents to the police received the same treatment as those who did, she said Dutch regulations on the matter were in line with European Union guidelines.  A residence permit was only granted if the victim cooperated.  Those who did not cooperate had to return home but they could receive assistance from the International Organization for Migration and non-governmental organizations.

Regarding independent residence permits for migrant women, she said that, upon arrival, migrant women who applied for residents on the ground of marriage were granted dependent permits.  After residing in the country for three years, migrant women could obtain full independent residence permits.  Women victims of domestic violence could get permits beforehand if they presented medical proof of the abuse and reported the incidents to the police.

Regarding protection of underage asylum seekers, she said they were particularly vulnerable to trafficking.  The Government had various policies to protect them upon arrival, including a 24-hour presence of mentors, video surveillance cameras and key cards as well as free counselling on the dangers of trafficking.  This year, a new pilot programme would support the creation of small-scale reception centres for minors from at-risk groups.

In terms of exit programmes for prostitutes, another delegate said the “red thread” organization for prostitutes focused on helping them acquire skills to switch to other jobs.  Another programme focused on the factors that made it difficult for many women to leave prostitution, notably personal debts and the inability to adapt to a different life style.  Local governments had been encouraged to implement such programmes.  Recent research showed that a large percentage of women were able to leave prostitution when they wanted to.  This indicated that barriers for leaving were not as great as feared.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked if the law on prostitution applied to Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles.  The country report on Aruba did not have data on trafficking.  When would the Government conduct research on protection against trafficking in Aruba?  Was there any data on the Netherlands Antilles?

Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked if viewing prostitution as a business was not a form of inequality since buyers and sellers were men and the products were women.  Eighty per cent of prostitutes were migrant women and only 20 per cent were Dutch.  Did studies really show that prostitution was a free choice?

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, suggested that it was more efficient to remove the male perpetrator of domestic violence from the home over the long term instead of just for 10 days. 

Ms. GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, said the country report discussed the difficulty women faced when trying to leave prostitution, but the delegations’ comments this morning said it was easy for women to leave.  Could the delegation clarify this discrepancy?

Committee Chairwoman DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked for disaggregated data on the kind of domestic violence that occurred in the Netherlands, including statistics on the number of women murdered by their husbands.

Country Response

Regarding the legal status of prostitution in Aruba, a delegate said soliciting in public places was prohibited but prostitution itself was not a criminal offence.

Trafficking data on Aruba was not available.  The Government was conducting interviews of illegal migrants.  The legal basis for protection of victims had yet to be formalized.  Recently an intergovernmental committee began to advise the Government on migration policy and legislation, including on human trafficking and smuggling.

Another delegate stressed that prostitution was not a normal profession in the Netherlands or anywhere else.  The Dutch Government legalized it in order to better control it and ensure that safety and health of prostitutes were respected.  Dutch employment offices did not encourage people to take jobs in prostitution nor did they set up job interviews for brothel work.  On the contrary, the Dutch Government had programmes to help prostitutes obtain jobs in other areas.  Women of Dutch origin who spoke Dutch and were usually better educated than migrant women had less problems finding jobs in a restaurant or in other services because they were more qualified.  Migrant women had more difficulty leaving prostitution because they had fewer language and job skills.  Non-governmental organizations played an important role in helping women make the transition out of prostitution.  Women were often influenced and pressured not to leave, but once they did, they indeed had opportunities.  Non-governmental organizations helped sex workers understand what skills they would need to get other jobs.

In terms of Government financing of NGOs, he said in the past the Government subsidized non-governmental organizations.  Government policy had changed whereby financing was provided for specific NGO programmes.

Concerning extending the 10-day restraining order against perpetrators of domestic violence, another delegate said the restraining order was a preventive measure and offered victims immediate relief.  Criminal measures also applied, but in order for that to happen it had to be proven that the offence had in fact occurred.

Another delegate said prostitution was not a form of trafficking or exploitation.  However forced prostitution, which was illegal, was indeed.  In that regard, the Netherlands had adopted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and had harmonized national legislation in line with that Convention.  In 2005, it had broadened the definition to include other forms of exploitation beyond sexual exploitation.

Another delegate said that, under a 2005 covenant between the Ministry of Justice and Dutch newspapers, advertisers must include in all sex ads their brothel permit numbers and ZIP codes.  In January 2006, a publicity campaign would be launched to increase awareness among brothels customers of trafficking of women and girls for prostitution.

Regarding crime-specific information on domestic violence, he said the Emancipation Monitor provided statistics on prosecution and investigation.  Police in The Hague gathered statistics on honour-related violence.  Pilot projects to end honour-related violence had started in October 2004 in two police regions.  From October 2004 to March 2006, a total of 279 cases of honour-related crimes had been reported.  Most of the victims were women mainly of Turkish, Moroccan, Pakistani, Sudanese, Kosovar, Afghan and Colombian descent.  Fifty per cent were under the age of 25.

In terms of independent residence permits for migrant women who did not press domestic violence charges against their husbands, another delegate said the male perpetrators could be prosecuted even if their wives had not requested it.  Migrant women victims of domestic violence could apply for residence permits on humanitarian grounds, such as in cases where the women had children who were Dutch citizens or born and raised in the Netherlands, or in cases where it was not feasible for the women to return to their countries.

Experts’ Questions and Comments -- Articles 7-9

Ms. XIAOQIAO, expert from China, said the Government had adopted a multi-year law for equal treatment that stated there would be 45 per cent women in Government posts by 2010.  However, there was not much change in women’s representation in public office between 2003 and 2006.  Moreover, there had been a recession in some areas.  What would the Government do to attain the 45 per cent?

Attaching special importance to the issue of women in political life, she also noted that the percentage of women in education and academia was small, particularly in decision-making positions.  Had targeted studies been done to discover why the participation rate was so low?  Did the Government plan to take action to boost the participation of women in all areas?  Did training programmes exist to promote participation?  Were men being made aware of what must be done?

She also requested information on the participation of minorities in political life.

Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, referring to article 7, said the table on women in local decision-making posts was difficult to understand.  Why had only 17 per cent of women been elected to municipal posts?  Noting that mayors had been nominated, she asked the Government to explain why only 20 per cent of mayors were women.  She also requested more information on the situations in the Antilles and Aruba.

Ms. GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, on article 8, asked whether targets had been met for representation of women in foreign affairs.  Were there also statistics on women in higher decision-making posts within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?  What percentage of women in the judiciary had held higher ranking posts?

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, wondered about the number of women in Government and legislative assemblies.  Progress was needed to increase women’s representation in the Senate.  Did islands other than Aruba and the Antilles have representation in the Government?  What about the islands that had not achieved autonomy?  Also, did the Government have the political will to implement article 7 of the Convention?

She also wondered whether members of the large Muslim community held Netherlands’ nationality.  Were there women who had been elected to represent those communities?  On the political party that had banned women, was it a religious party?

Country Response

Quantitative targets for 2010 were based on the acceleration of trends, one delegate responded, noting that they were performance indicators rather than quotas.  Implementation of any policy that would break glass ceilings was a shared responsibility and it was in the interest of all political parties and companies alike.  The Government’s job was to stimulate cultural change, as top-down legal quotas were unproductive.

The potential of women must be harvested, as that led to better governance, he continued.  Women accounted for 44 per cent of the working population.  However, they represented 60 per cent of the lowest salary group and only 20 per cent of the highest one.  About 70 per cent of women worked part time, which was an obstacle for creating fully balanced representation of men and women in high ranking jobs.

On political representation, he said that 9 of the 150 Parliamentarians were women.  Three members of ethnic minorities were in the lower house.  The number of ethnic minority women in the lower councils had about doubled from 53 representatives in 2002 to 106 representatives in 2006.  The number of women in local councils had increased from 23 per cent to 26 per cent.  The number of municipal counsellors was lower.

On women’s representation in Aruba, a member of the Aruba delegation noted that efforts to increase public awareness of stereotypes and provide emancipatory education would lead to the advancement of women in general and the Government was promoting participation among youth by subsidizing the Youth Parliament.  The President and Vice-President of Parliament were both women.  As Aruba had its own Parliament and Government, it was the responsibility of Aruba’s Government to implement the Convention.

On promoting the participation of women in politics, another delegate responded that several measures existed and target figures were used.  Ambassador networks had written to political parties asking them to nominate women.  That had been done prior to the national elections.  The Ministry of Social Affairs had conducted a campaign to encourage voters to ensure women were elected.  Further, a special programme had been developed to motivate women of ethnic minorities to become involved in local politics.

On the judiciary figures, he said 47 per cent represented the number of female judges in the judiciary.  On foreign affairs, 6 of the 17 newly appointed ambassadors in 2006 were women.  The programme also had formed target figures for the 2005-2010 period.

Another delegate added that the party which had banned women was a traditional religious party in the Parliament.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked about the policy to fulfil equality and equal representation at top management levels.

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, wondered whether the six other islands that had not achieved the status of autonomous province had the possibility for national representation in the Parliament.

Ms. GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, asked if there were any women who were heads of permanent representation.

Country Response

The delegate said the islands without autonomous province status were not represented in the Dutch Parliament.

Another delegate responded that there were no female heads of permanent representation.

Experts’ Questions and Comments -- Articles 10-14

Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, commending the Government’s efforts to address discrimination in economic life, asked about the wage gap.  The 2004 report of the labour inspectorate had revealed a slight decrease.  However, inequalities persisted for men and women doing the same job within the same enterprise.  How did the Government address that remaining wage inequality?  Had there been research to determine the causes of that gap?  What were the underlying reasons for it?  Had a gender impact assessment been conducted to address the horizontal and vertical segregation of the labour market?

She also asked about measures for women to secure full-time employment.  What specific measures had been taken to address discrimination against women with disabilities and elderly women?

Ms. XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked what was meant by full-time employment.  Did that mean the person worked more than 12 hours per week?  Did it mean the person was economically independent?

Ms. AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked the delegation to elaborate on programmes to assist women with disabilities.

Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked for information on the gender pay gap.

ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, asked for statistics on deaths resulting from abortion in Aruba.  Were migrant women entitled to the same benefits and social insurances as men?  Ms. DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked why the Netherlands did not consider violence against women as grounds for asylum.  What barriers, such as the high cost of mandatory courses, did migrant women face due to the new Integration Act?

Country Response

Concerning HIV/AIDS in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba and whether women were in a position to negotiate safe sex, a delegate said that, from 1987 to December 2005, a total of 435 HIV/AIDS cases were reported to the Department of Public Health.  Thirty-five per cent of the new HIV/AIDS patients were female.  On average there were 25 new infections annually.  The 2003-2007 National Strategic Plan was developed with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funds and submitted to the European Union for funding.  Approval was still pending.  Meantime, awareness-raising and other projects with UNAIDS themes had been implemented.  However, projects on capacity-building and surveillance had not been implemented due to a lack of funds.

A delegate said abortion was illegal in Aruba.  There were no statistics on deaths resulting from abortion in Aruba.

Regarding teen pregnancy prevention programmes, another delegate said sex education was offered in schools as part of the curriculum.  Most schools allowed girls to stay in class until their seventh month of pregnancy and to return to school a few weeks after giving birth.  Some schools provided childcare facilities.  In addition, CEMBRAH, a network of government and non-governmental organizations, provided information in schools on pregnancy prevention and gave girls referrals for further assistance.  The Government subsidized different organizations that also provided assistance to teenage mothers.

Another delegate said equal pay was a shared responsibility.  The Equal Pay Action Plan had been submitted to Parliament in 2000.  An equal pay progress report was submitted to Parliament every two years.  The Government had set up an Equal Pay Working Group in December 2005 to increase knowledge of regulations of equal pay among employers and employee organizations and to increase compliance with equal pay regulations.  That Group would hold a final conference on Thursday during which it would provide recommendations for Government, social partners, employers and others involved in the labour force on how to better close the gender pay gap.

In terms of the pay gap between full-time and part-time workers, she said the reason was due to the fact that a large number of 18 to 21 year olds worked less than 12 hours a week in low-wage jobs.

The delegate said the new integration act entered into force in January.  The aim was to help unsettled migrants integrate into society.

Turning to women in rural areas, another delegate said the Ministry of Agriculture had pursued targets, but the level of rural women’s education was lower than that of urban women.  Further, their net labour participation rate was three percentage points lower than among urban women and they were less likely to make themselves available for work.

Moreover, rural women attached less importance to paid employment than those in cities, the delegate said.  They were more likely to be employed in 12-19 hours per week jobs and spent 3.9 hours more per week than urban women on unpaid work.  Formal childcare also was less available.  Specific data on migrant women in the agricultural sector was not available.

On the subject of “au pairs”, another delegate said au pairs were not required to have a work permit, as labour was not allowed for them.  They were allowed only to perform light activities in a guest-family household.  On the subject of violence against women as grounds for asylum, a delegate said the Dutch Aliens Act did not recognize fear of sexual or domestic violence or fear of honour killings as grounds for asylum.  However, the Netherlands did consider such cases under existing asylum grounds and issued residence permits under such grounds.  The Aliens Act Implementation Guidelines contained rules and a gender-inclusive approach to asylum applications.

Concerning the new Integration Act, a delegate said the Act aimed to enable new and settled migrants to participate in Dutch society.  Integration was important for the empowerment of migrant women.  Additional resources promoted migrant women’s civic integration and participation in 2006 and 2007.  That made it possible for migrant women to receive integration training at low cost.

When assessing a work permit application, the available national supply of workers was evaluated, another delegate said.  On part-time and full-time work, he noted that more than 90 per cent of women were satisfied with the number of hours they worked.  The Government was stimulating women to work more hours per week through fiscal measures.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked about insurance policies for entrepreneurs and the absence of a scheme for pregnant self-employed women.  She wondered how the Government would help assure an income for them.

Noting entrenched discrimination against women of non-Dutch origin and a negative attitude towards women wearing head scarves, she urged the Government to take positive action on that issue.

Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, on article 11, asked about women from ethnic and racial minorities living in poor conditions.  What was the Government’s plan to address their situation?  Had the Government considered microfinance or self-employment schemes to create entrepreneurship opportunities for those women?  Was there job security or pension benefits for part-time jobs?  Separately, were there plans to increase the number of ethnic minority women who made themselves available for breast and cervical cancer screenings?

Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, said there were reports of au pairs working more than 30 hours per week.  That issue was controversial and there had been a judgment in 2004 recognizing their right to a minimum wage.

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, reiterated her concern that the Dutch Antilles had not been represented with women.

Country Response

On the negative attitude towards migrant women with head scarves, one delegate said that analysis showed that both immigrant boys and girls faced problems looking for work, and thus solutions should be aimed at both boys and girls.

On specific insurance policies for pregnant female entrepreneurs, the Equal Treatment Act applied to private insurance, another delegate said, noting that discrimination based on sex was forbidden for such insurance.  Many insurance companies had specified a waiting period before pregnancy and maternal leave allowance could be claimed.  Court cases dealing with that issue were awaiting a verdict.  Another delegate added that the verdict of the court on that case would give important guidance on that issue.

On cancer screenings for ethnic minority women, the number of minority women taking part in them was below average.  Public information would be tailored to targeted audiences and projects were under way to increase participation.  On cost reimbursement for contraceptives, the delegate said that in 2004, 64.5 per cent of women aged 24-29 had used the contraceptive pill.  The general use of contraception, including the pill, had not decreased.

On single mothers and poverty, the best way to emerge from poverty was to find work, another delegate added.  Microfinance was developing quickly in the Netherlands and was a possible instrument for those who did not have access to bank financing. 

On au pairs, another delegate said au pairs and host families must sign a statement.  A call centre at the immigration service had been installed and the number was given to au pairs upon arrival to the Netherlands.

Experts’ Questions and Comments -– Articles 14-16

Ms. TAN, expert from Singapore, referring to data showing that between March 1999 and January 2001 experiments on mediation in divorce had been conducted, wondered if an evaluation of those experiments had been conducted.  Would mediation be an alternative to dispute resolution?  What happened when mediation failed?  Was free legal aid available to everyone, or only to Dutch citizens?  On domestic violence, could the Government confirm how many women had obtained free legal aid in 2005 or 2006?  Did the Government provide free legal counselling?  On the draft law regarding perpetrators, would the Government provide free legal aid to the victims?

Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, referring to family reunification, asked whether the rise in the income requirement had affected women.  Had the Government evaluated the negative aspects of legislation that would be indirectly discriminatory against women?

Country Response

On family reunification, one delegate distinguished between family reunification and family formation.  Family formation was when a relation arose while the spouse was a legal resident.  For that situation, the requirement had been raised.  Because of the financial implications, the Government placed paramount importance on completion of education prior to arrival in the Netherlands.  There would be an evaluation on the effects on women; however, it was unclear as to when.

Turning to free legal assistance, another delegate said there was free legal aid when request for compensation in criminal procedures or civil suits were started.  There was subsidized legal aid in cases that dealt with urgent matters and civil suits which allowed for a certain amount of compensation.  That amount was calculated on the basis of income.  Further, migrants could apply for free legal aid.

On whether changes in Aruba’s legal provisions had brought about a change of attitude, another delegate noted that stereotypes remained.  The Government of Aruba’s awareness-raising in the media and inclusion of emancipatory education in kindergarten through higher education levels would help in that regard.

Experts’ Questions and Comments

Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked if the Government was going to review the Civil Code to bring it in line with article 16 of the Convention.  Did the Dutch Civil Code apply in the Netherlands Antilles?  She requested that the next country report provide information on that.

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, criticized the delegation for not preparing and submitting a report on the Netherlands Antilles.  She also asked for information about the applicability of the Dutch Civil Code in the Netherlands Antilles.

Country Response

A delegate said the Dutch Civil Code was only applicable in the Netherlands.  He said the delegation could not immediately respond to questions on the Netherlands Antilles because it did not have a report on the subject.  He said the experts’ criticisms had been duly noted.

* *** *


*     Revised to reflect addition information received.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.