Under Examination by Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee, Denmark Underscores Push to Protect Women’s Employment, Curb Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking

WOM/1740
22 July 2009

Under Examination by Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee, Denmark Underscores Push to Protect Women’s Employment, Curb Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking

22 July 2009
General Assembly
WOM/1740
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Chamber B, 888th & 889th Meetings (AM & PM)


UNDER EXAMINATION BY WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE, DENMARK UNDERSCORES


PUSH TO PROTECT WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT, CURB DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, HUMAN TRAFFICKING


Denmark had established strong institutional mechanisms, including a Minister for Gender Equality and a complaints board, to protect women’s rights in the labour market and curb domestic violence and human trafficking for sexual exploitation, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of Denmark’s Department for Gender Equality told the Committee monitoring State parties’ compliance with the Women’s Convention today.


Presenting Denmark’s seventh periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Vibeke Abel underlined the country’s commitment to fully implement the Convention.  Towards that goal, Denmark’s Act on gender equality was continuously being revised -- most recently, in May.  The Minister of Gender Equality had also been transferred to the Ministry of Employment to provide a good opportunity to work harder on issues like the gender pay gap and a gender segregated labour market.


She said that as part of the Danish Government’s overall gender mainstreaming strategy, an inter-ministerial steering committee, as well as gender mainstreaming networks, had also been established.  The single focus on human resource management in those ministries had been replaced by a wider focus on policies, resulting in the formulation of gender equality policies in each ministry and 15 cross-cutting gender equality goals.


Noting that violence against women was a violation of the Danish Criminal Code, she said that from 2001 to 2005, the number of women experiencing partner violence had fallen from 42,000 to 28,000.  To further reduce the ranks of the battered, the Government had also launched a new National Strategy to Combat Violence in Close Relationships 2009-2012.  That strategy placed a special focus on migrant women, who were especially vulnerable and often ignorant of their rights.  Other forms of violence, such as honour-related violence and forced marriages, were also being targeted in a range of initiatives.


While human trafficking was a “horrible crime” and the most obvious example of gender inequality in Denmark, she reported that there were no plans to curb prostitution by targeting clients, as Sweden had done.   Denmark believed that prostitution was a social issue, and while trafficking might include a criminal element, it was also being tackled in the social arena.  To that end, a large-scale initiative aimed at allowing female prostitutes to choose “a different life” had been launched in 2005 and a Competence Centre against Prostitution had been established.


As part of its longer-term vision, Denmark had placed a special focus on educating children and young people about gender roles so gender inequalities in education, employment and family patterns could be broken in the future.  For that purpose, a range of initiatives and debates, including a guide for teachers and a children’s book, had been launched in schools and kindergartens.


Joining Ms. Abel were the Special Adviser of the Faroe Islands Representation in Copenhagen and the Head of Section of Greenland’s Family Affairs and Health, who presented the situations in the self-governing and autonomous territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.


Torben Weyhe said that the entry into force on 21 June of Greenland’s Self-Governance Agreement called for a heightened responsibility in which both Greenlandic men and women contributed equally to and benefited equally from the process of achieving independence.  The new Government of Greenland, which consisted of four women and five men, would continue the work of the previously-established Gender Equality Council by reinforcing the gender equality debate through television campaigns and Internet forums, and placing gender equality ambassadors in every town.


Pol E. Egholm said that since the last time the Faroes had presented on the Convention, a vigorous debate on gender equality in politics had taken place.  In 2005, the Government had established an independent committee, Demokratia, which had encouraged women to participate in politics.  As a result of the November 2008 elections, female parliamentary representation had increased from 9.4 to 21.2 per cent.


While praising Denmark’s continued progress, experts of the Committee voiced concerns that strides towards gender equality in national Government were unmatched at the municipal level.  Several wondered whether women were not motivated to stand for elections or if they were prevented from doing so by other systemic obstacles.  Some asked if the adoption of temporary special measures in the form of quotas had been discussed to encourage women’s increased participation at the local level.  A number of Committee members also expressed reservations that Denmark’s decision not to incorporate the Women’s Convention in national legislation hobbled its ability to fully realize the Convention’s provisions.


Responding to those concerns, delegates said the Convention did not place any obligation on Denmark to incorporate it in Danish law, but only required that the Convention be implemented throughout legislation.  Denmark had several acts that stressed gender equality and, when ratifying the Convention, it had followed standard procedure in assessing how domestic law stood up to the treaty’s provisions.  It took the Convention very seriously and believed it would live up to its highest standard.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Thursday, 23 July, in Chamber B to consider Japan’s sixth periodic report.


Background


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) met today to consider seventh periodic report of Denmark (document CEDAW/C/DEN/7).


Led by Vibeke Abel, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Department for Gender Equality, the Danish delegation also included Kira Appel, Special Adviser in the Department for Gender Equality; Soren Feldbaek, Head of Section of the Department for Gender Equality; Lis Garval, Minister Counsellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Eva Raabyemagle, Counsellor; Vibeke Henriette Hauberg, Head of Division of the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs; Agnette Andersen, Special Adviser of the Ministry of Employment; Mohammed Ahsan, Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Justice; and Thomas Tordal-Mortensen, Head of Section of the Ministry of Justice.


Pol E. Egholm, Special Adviser of the Faroe Islands Representation in Copenhagen, represented the Faroe Islands, and Torben Weyhe, Head of Section of Family Affairs and Health, represented Greenland Home Rule.


Introduction of Report


Introducing the report and noting that representatives from the self-governing and autonomous territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands were included in the Danish delegation, Ms. ABEL stressed that gender equality was a fundamental right that applied to everyone in Denmark.  As part of its commitment to ensuring full implementation of the Convention’s articles through a coordinated and comprehensive strategy across all sectors, the Government had established strong institutional mechanisms, including a Minister for Gender Equality, a complaints board, and nationally-funded independent organizations and research institutions.  The Minister of Gender Equality had recently been transferred to the Ministry of Employment to provide a good opportunity to work harder on issues like the gender pay gap and a gender segregated labour market.


In relation to Part 1 of the Convention, she said all relevant laws were assessed from a gender perspective before being adopted and targeted policy measures were implemented to ensure women enjoyed both de jure and de facto equality.  Denmark’s Act on gender equality was continuously being revised -- most recently in May -- to strengthen the provision on the gender composition on boards and committees appointed by ministers.  Currently, 41 per cent of seats were held by women.  But despite having a fairly gender-equal society, women continued to face gender pay gaps, an unequal balance in top management positions, domestic violence and trafficking, among other ills.


The Government wished to ensure that all citizens were able to utilize their full competences, she said.  It also considered women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights fundamental to their human rights.  Further, the Convention was a relevant source of law in Denmark.  A special focus was placed on gender roles among children and young people so that education, employment and family patterns would be less plagued by stereotypes.  Such early efforts involved women and men and girls and boys.  A range of initiatives and debates, including a guide for teachers and a children’s book, had also been launched in schools and kindergartens to educate children about gender roles.


As part of the overall gender mainstreaming strategy, the Government’s ministries had launched a plan to develop skills and build up competences. Individual e-learning programmes and four operational tools had been developed.  On the management level, an inter-ministerial steering committee had been established along with gender mainstreaming networks.  The single focus on human resource management in those ministries had shifted to a focus on policies, resulting in the formulation of gender equality policies in each ministry and 15 cross-cutting gender equality goals.


Turning to the situation of female prostitutes, she said a large-scale initiative aimed at allowing those women to choose “a different life” had been launched in 2005 and a Competence Centre against Prostitution had been established.  Those efforts aimed to limit prostitution and reduce social, mental and physical consequences.  An evaluation in 2008 showed that prostitutes felt more comforted knowing that help was available if needed.


She said her Government remained concerned about the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, and due to its second national action plan to combat all forms of human trafficking, both the number of women identified as trafficked and the number who had been offered support had grown.  A recent survey showed that 93 per cent of Danes were familiar with the phenomenon of human trafficking and nearly two thirds would immediately contact police if confronted with an example.  In 2007, an anti-trafficking centre had been set up to prevent the phenomenon, provide social protection to victims and bring traffickers to justice.


Regarding articles 7 and 8 of the Convention, she said that as part of efforts to achieve a better gender balance in local government, the Government had distributed a pamphlet to local branches of political parties ahead of the next round of local elections in November.  At the national level, 43 per cent of newly-appointed ambassadors were women.


To promote gender equality in education, particularly at the higher level, Denmark had increased the number of female professors at its biggest university, she said, noting in particular that the number of female professors had risen to 13 per cent from 11.8 per cent since the report’s publication.  From 1994 to 2006, the number of female students in natural sciences had risen remarkably, with women comprising almost half the student body.


She said the employment rate for Danish women was one of the highest in the world.  Yet, migrant women’s employment was still beset with problems, and the labour market overall remained gender segregated with persistent pay differences between men and women.  To address that, the Government was preparing gender-divided wage statistics and working to produce inspirational material to encourage equality in the private sector.  The Government had also launched a charter to promote women in top management in March 2008, shifting the focus from best practices to a more binding strategy under which companies committed themselves to developing ambitious but realistic strategies and goals.  The Government aimed to have 100 enterprises sign the charter by the end of 2010.  Seventy had already done so. It had opted for that approach because it did not believe in quotas, including with respect to women sitting on corporate boards in the private sector.


Violence against women was a violation of the Danish Criminal Code, and two national action plans had been established in the period from 2002 to 2008, she said.  The first aimed at supporting victims and breaking the taboo surrounding domestic violence, while the second included initiatives to support victims, target the perpetrator and disseminate knowledge and information.  From 2001 to 2005, the number of women experiencing partner violence had fallen from 42,000 to 28,000.  A new National Strategy to Combat Violence in Close Relationships 2009-2012 had also been launched.  A special focus was being placed on migrant women, who were especially vulnerable and often ignorant of their rights.  Other forms of violence, such as honour-related violence and forced marriages, were also being targeted in a range of initiatives.


She said Denmark had also mainstreamed gender equality and women’s empowerment in its development cooperation and approach.  It had initiated an international campaign on the third Millennium Development Goal to promote those goals by increasing political priorities on gender equality and increasing official development assistance (ODA).   Denmark had also been the first country to formulate an action plan for implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.


Speaking on behalf of Greenland’s Government, Mr. WEYHE said that Act of Self-Governance of Greenland had entered into force on 21 June, which opened the way for Greenland to become an independent nation in the future.  That arrangement, however, would not influence gender equality formally since it was already under the Greenland Home Rule’s competence.  Yet, it did include heightened responsibility in which both men and women were required to contribute equally to and benefit equally from the process of achieving independence.


He noted that the new Government of Greenland consisted of four women and five men.  In 2008, the Government had nominated a new Gender Equality Council, which consisted of four women and three men.  It planned to reinforce the gender equality debate through television campaigns and Internet forums, and aimed to place gender equality ambassadors in every town.  A specific focus would target violence against women.  A national conference on domestic violence would be held later this year.  The Government was also implementing a special programme for young mothers to provide financial help, guidance and housing.  It was also focusing on prevention through programmes in primary schools.


Meanwhile, legislation on parental leave had been improved and stress put on joint responsibility, he said.  The 2003 Act on Gender Equality stated that gender equality strategies had to be implemented in all business organizations.  Greenland was also working with other Nordic countries to promote gender equality.


Speaking on behalf of the Government of the Faroe Islands, Mr. EGHOLM said the Islands had assumed both legislative and administrative responsibility over matters pertaining to gender equality.  The Faroese Act on Gender Equality ensured that women and men enjoyed the same civil, political, economic and cultural rights on the Faroes.  The legislation provided for a Gender Equality Commission to uphold the law, and progress in achieving such equality had already been made.  Parental leave and compensation legislation had been amended to enhance quality.  Changes had also been made to legislation on housing and social security, with pension reform aiming to increase coverage to groups such as housewives and entrepreneurs who did not have a prior affiliation with the labour market.


He said that since the last time the Faroes had presented on the Convention, progress had been made in implementing the Committee’s recommendations.  In particular, an immense public debate on gender equality in politics had taken place.  In 2005, the Government had established an independent committee, Demokratia, which had encouraged women to participate in politics.  Before the 2008 election, the parliament had also passed legislation creating a single electoral constituency from the seven that had existed.  That had increased the relative weight of voters from urban areas and might have contributed to an observed increase in female parliamentary representation from 9.4 to 21.2 per cent.  At the local level, the number of women on the ballots in the November 2008 elections had increased from 32 per cent to 39 per cent, and the number of municipal council seats held by women had risen from 23 per cent to 31 per cent.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, said the report did not give a full picture of the Convention’s implementation in Greenland and Faroe Islands.  Reports from non-governmental organizations were also needed from these self-governing territories.  Were clear provisions on gender equality in fact part of specific legislation?


NIKLAS BRUUN, expert from Finland, reminded the Danish delegation that implementation of the Convention was a State obligation.  Pointing to article 2, on State parties’ obligation to end discrimination, he said that the report’s emphasis on the work of the self-governing territories should not elide this State responsibility.  Furthermore, while it was Denmark’s choice as to how to incorporate the Convention in its national Constitution, more elaboration on that was needed in the report.


Country Response


Ms. ABEL said it was not her Government’s jurisdiction to impose the Convention in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  The question of incorporating the Convention was not a question of complying with the Convention or not, but a question of the means of doing so.  The Convention did not place any obligation on Denmark to incorporate it in Danish law; it only required that the Convention be implemented throughout its legislation.  To that end, Denmark had several acts that stressed gender equality.  Moreover, when ratifying the Convention, the Government had followed standard procedure in assessing how domestic law stood up to the Convention’s provisions.  It took the Convention very seriously and believed it would live up to its highest standard.


Mr. EGHOLM, addressing the issue of securing the Convention in the Faroe Islands, said there was an internal system of government to that end.  The Faroese Government also cooperated with Denmark regarding its international obligations.  As a small society, it had limited resources for data compilation, but efforts were being made to improve its statistics.  Several non-governmental organizations were active in the Faroe Islands and had been consulted during the report’s preparation.


Mr. WEYHE said it could not be said that the Convention was incorporated in Greenland, but the Government was convinced that its legislation comprised the means for implementing its obligations.  Gender equality existed on a constitutive level, even though that was not the same as actual gender equality.


Ms. ABEL said that while the Government budget had been cut, the funding of non-governmental organizations had stayed at the same level.  It would love to have more money to give, but that was currently not the case.


On the issue of equality in public procurement, another delegation member said there were no specific rules on that, but it was clearly stated in the Danish Act on gender equality that such equality should be promoted in all sectors of society. It followed that gender equality should be part of public procurement.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, noted the changes Denmark had made to better comply with the Convention.  However, she pointed out that the transfer of the Minister of Gender Equality to the Employment Ministry meant the Minister held a lower departmental level since it was no longer part of the Social Welfare Ministry.  Did that have any impact on the bureaucratic procedures?  Was access to decision-makers affected?  Did all ministries have gender mainstreaming contacts?  What was happening on the local government level?


ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked if the Minister of Gender Equality and of Employment was wearing two hats and how his time was split.  Was enough time being spent on dealing with trafficking issues?


PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked about the impact of the executive order of April 2007.  In the Danish effort to encourage women’s participation at the local level of government, had the adoption of temporary special measures in the form of quotas been discussed?  What was the policy of Greenland and the Faroe Islands regarding temporary special measures?


Country Response


Ms. ABEL said the shift in ministries was to ensure that the Minister of Gender Equality was also the Minister of another department.  This was not aimed at scaling down gender equality.  Indeed, the Ministry of Employment was very small but had a vast agency.  Progress on gender mainstreaming was slow, but the steering committee was now responsible for coordinating all work in the State structure.  Each ministry now had a gender mainstreaming policy, as well a plan to raise competences.  People now generally understood what gender mainstreaming was.  Tools such as e-learning programs had been developed and extended to the municipalities.  Their results were publicized so progress could be measured in each municipality.


She stressed that dividing the time between employment and gender equality tasks was difficult for the Minister, since many of those efforts overlapped.  The rule to allow special measures was part of the Executive Order.  Efforts to raise the number of women in top positions among Danish universities were not uniform, but all of them were doing something.  In general, quotas would not be used.  But to encourage more women on corporate boards, the Committee on Corporate Governance had recommended to the Minister of Economics that listed companies had to consider how boards were represented with respect to age and gender.


Mr. WEYHE said Greenland’s Government had sometimes implemented temporary special measures to protect women from violence and sexual abuse.


Mr. EGHOLM said the Faroe Islands had a “hard paragraph” that said companies should have a gender balance.  It was promoting knowledge of its own gender equality law in the public administration and the gender equality commission.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


VIOLET TSISIGA AWORI, expert from Kenya, asked for more information on linkages between au pair girls coming to Denmark and human trafficking.  More information was also requested on whether the Danish anti-trafficking centre had taken up the cases of a dozen minors who had been trafficked in 2008.


NICOLE AMELINE, expert from France, asked if the delegation could better outline Denmark’s legal position on prostitution and whether it was linked to trafficking in women.  Would sanctions be used for pimping and for the clients of sexual services?  How would the “new life” initiative be implemented and would prevention be a part of it?


Ms. SIMONOVIC of Croatia, pointing to the report’s data showing that domestic violence was declining, asked if more recent statistics from 2006 through 2009 were available.  Further, was there any analysis relating the homicides of women to the statistics on domestic violence?  She also sought more information from the Faroe Islands and Greenland regarding domestic violence and social support.


ZOHRA RASEKH, expert from Afghanistan, said the kindergarten program was particularly interesting, but asked why human trafficking was still increasing, given all of the efforts to curb it.  From where were these girls and women trafficked?  Had any regional efforts been made to stem it?  Were girls entering prostitution due to poverty or other reasons?  Were men being targeted in punitive measures and in awareness campaigns? 


Country Response


Ms. ABEL said the research showed no connection between au pairs and trafficking.  It was hard to distinguish between efforts to prevent prostitution and trafficking since it was not easy to determine if women were there voluntarily or by force.  Thus, a wider definition was needed to help women from Denmark and other countries working in the field.  The action plan was being implemented on an ongoing basis via counselling and outreach services.  Because it was also hard for prostitutes to get the help being offered, efforts were being made to bridge the outreach and service work.  Denmark’s police force had developed its own plan with respect to trafficking, and the anti-trafficking centre was being closely linked to those policing efforts.


Calling trafficking a horrible crime, she said it was the most obvious example of gender inequality in Denmark.  There were no new plans to change legislation, particularly by targeting clients as Sweden had done.  Denmark believed that prostitution was a social issue, and while trafficking might include a criminal element, it was also being tackled in the social arena.  The Government had told non-governmental organizations that if they had any suspicion a child was being trafficked, to contact it.  That was not working as well as had been hoped, but progress had been made to establish connections.


Another delegation member said the Danish policy was making a major effort to tackle the interlinked issues of prostitution and trafficking.  Preventive measures were the most effective means to prevent women from coming involuntarily to Denmark to work as prostitutes, and the police were focusing efforts in that area.  As a result, more charges had been brought in recent years.  In the first years of the police strategy, the environment had been carefully mapped, which meant the police were now able to focus their investigations more effectively.  Hopefully that would result in more convictions.


Ms. ABEL said that no new data on violence against women was available.  The Government had opted to gather a wider data set instead of updating the data more frequently.  It had also chosen to work actively with youth and young people in schools through a youth council that provided advice regarding young people and violence.  The Ministry of Justice had also developed a plan relating to honour- and jealousy-related violence.


Mr. AHSAN said honour crimes were not accepted.  Since 2007, and in response to a well-publicized honour killing, the police had set up a strategy to improve investigations in such tragic cases.  That included awareness raising, monitoring schemes and the establishment of special units in local police districts.  


Ms. ABEL said progress in combating trafficking could not be made unless efforts were holistic and included coordination with international partners.  Towards that goal, Denmark was working with countries in the Balkans and other regions.


Follow-up Questions


Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked about curbs on the demand side of prostitution.


Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked how the term “incorporation” regarding the Convention was being interpreted and suggested that clarification on honour killing and jealousy crimes was also needed.


Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, said more information was still needed regarding gender mainstreaming in national legislation in Parliament.  Was the implementation of those bills being monitored?  Did Parliament have any special gender-related body to ensure that bills were analyzed regarding their gender perspective?


Mr. BRUUN, expert from Finland, noting that the Convention was a dynamic instrument, said it was not enough that Denmark had general legislation saying gender equality should apply to all areas of life.  Did specific legislation exist to promote such equality?  Further, were equal treatment clauses used in public procurement mechanisms?


ZOHRA RASEKH, expert from Afghanistan, asked about legislation regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.  Also, did Greenland have specific laws against trafficking?


Country Response


Ms. ABEL said national campaigns had addressed buyers of sexual services, saying “you have a choice, she does not”, but Denmark had no intention to forbid the purchasing of such services.  Every bill in Parliament had to be tested for its gender mainstreaming.  If relevance was found, it had to be part of the bill’s explanations.  Further, sexual harassment was part of both the gender equality and equal treatment acts.


Another member of the delegation said there were procedures to make complaints of sexual harassment and to receive compensation.  If that harassment was “very cruel”, it would also be approached under Denmark’s criminal code.  


Another member of the delegation said it had been recommended by various legal experts that the Convention not be incorporated.  Nevertheless, the Supreme Court had invoked the Convention during a 2004 case.  The Convention was clearly mirrored in acts on equal pay, equal treatment, gender equality and equal treatment of women and men in the occupational social security schemes.  On public procurement, he said there were no equal treatment clauses.


A third member of the delegation said there was a police strategy regarding jealousy crimes, but that was separate from the strategy regarding honour killings.


Mr. WEYHE of Greenland said trafficking was not a major issue in Greenland, but the Government could not say it did not exist at all.  It seemed, however, that the market was small.


Mr. EGHOLM of the Faroe Islands said information on prostitution had been available only after the report was finalized, but he had the information today.  Meanwhile, compensation was regulated in the gender equality law.


Mr. WEYHE said there had been a tendency not to talk about violence against women.  To combat that, a message was being sent that such violence was illegal.  Services had been developed to help battered women, but they did not yet fully cover the need.  Direct dialogue and social awareness campaigns had been launched via television and the Internet and in schools.  In the fall, a national conference on the issue would be held.  A lack of social workers meant that non-governmental organizations were being used in conjunction with Government efforts.


Mr. EGHOLM said a crisis centre had been set up, which included a crisis hotline.  That one centre was able to provide the services required by the small Faroese population.  Other efforts focused on prevention and sought to bring attention to the issue in public debate.  Prosecutions were undertaken through the criminal code. 


Experts’ Comments and Questions


SOLEDAD MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, commended the Danish delegation on their direct answers.  She asked what measures and sanctions would be imposed in the future to ensure that municipalities implemented gender equality measures.  What percentage of municipalities was complying with equality strategies?  She called for greater Government attention to women’s political participation.  Danish legislation stated that public boards should have equal numbers of women and men, but what supervisory mechanisms existed to ensure that parity was achieved in that regard?  Further, it was not just sufficient to say men and women had the same rights; what mechanisms had been set up to ensure equal representation in decision-making posts?


Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, noting that the numbers clearly showed that there was no observed progress in women’s participation in municipal councils, expressed surprise that everything initiated this year had been focused on women.  It was not women alone who should shoulder the burden of attaining equality in decision-making.  Political parties should obey the law and should comply with the Government’s policies in that regard.  While not believing in quotas, the Danish Government should look for other effective mechanisms to achieve equality and to reduce the barriers that kept women from being elected to municipal councils and as mayors.  Had other carrots and sanctions been considered so that women were not left alone to fight for their rights?


Ms. AMELINE, expert from France, suggesting the Danish State had disengaged with respect to women’s participation in local-level government, returned to the issue of quotas.  The Committee really did not understand the stagnant situation at the municipal level and urged Denmark to take the initiative.


MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, noted Denmark’s regular and frequent submission of its reports to the Committee and stressed that in 2006 the Committee had asked the Danish delegation to increase the women’s participation in Parliament and in municipal bodies.  Hopefully, women’s participation would increase in the upcoming elections in November.  She asked if parties were subsidized by the State and if those subsidies linked in any way to an increase in women’s participation.


Country Response


Ms. ABEL emphasized that local elections had not been held since Denmark’s last appearance before the Committee, making it difficult to provide new numbers.  A decrease in the number of women in seats at the local level might be due to the consolidation of 272 municipalities to 98, meaning that there were fewer seats in general.  The aim of the recent national conference on gender equality had been to raise awareness for women and political parties, particularly with respect to the municipal level.  The Government was also working to disseminate information on practices that actually worked to increase representation, but no special measures or economic sanctions were being used.  It was further exploring whose obligation it was to expand women’s participation.  The Government had sought to set the discussions on the local level since that was the locus of women’s selection. 


She went on to say that all political parties in parliament had gender equality spokespersons.  The Committee on Political and Economic Affairs, which was the highest committee in Parliament, discussed gender equality, as did the Social Affairs Committee.  Discussions on the number of women in committees had also been held and, in procedures for choosing committee members, rules called for a man and a woman to be proposed.  If an organization could not carefully explain why it was unable to do so, the seat had to be left open.  Also, political parties had been subsidized on both the parliamentary and municipal levels.


Follow-up Questions


Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, said she was still confused about whether women were not motivated to stand for elections or if they were unable to go through the procedures within political parties to do so.  She further stressed that the Government had a responsibility and should encourage the political actors to comply with the Convention.


Ms. ABEL assured her and the Committee that the Government had taken many steps to encourage women’s participation.  But she was sorry to say that women did not seem very interested in running for office.  Nevertheless, that did not absolve the Government of its responsibility to continue to encourage them.


Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, asked why the numbers for representation from Greenland and the Faroe Island were the way they were and why those representatives could not sit in the European Parliament.  Was that due to discrimination on the part of the European Parliament?


Ms. ABEL said that the Faroe Islands had two seats in the Danish Parliament. To be a member of the European Parliament, a country had to be a part of the European Union, and Greenland had voted not to join.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


BARBARA EVELYN BAILEY, expert from Jamaica, wondered what had been the impact of the initiatives referenced in the report to promote non-specific gender choices and to change gender patterns.  How was the focus on gender issues among guidance counsellors and teachers operationalized?  Alternative sources suggested that the Ministry had laid down guidelines for hiring in academia that did not have a gender perspective.  How could gender equality be pursued without such a perspective?  Further, had the materials that had been disseminated to schoolchildren to encourage gender equality been evaluated, or were they merely assumed to promote such equality?  People from Greenland who hoped to obtain higher education had to go outside the territory; were their needs being studied so they could be addressed better in the future?


Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked what measures had been taken to address systemic discrimination against women in the labour force, particularly against migrant women.  How was the equal participation of women being promoted in highly-skilled jobs and management?  Also, how were views and attitudes towards gender-segregated jobs being addressed?  How was the concept of equal pay for equal work being implemented?  Were measures for objective evaluation of jobs being implemented at the national or sectoral levels?  Was the Government using the guidelines created by the International Labour Organization (ILO) with respect to equal pay for equal work?


Ms. DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, asked if companies were provided with information on gender equality and whether they afforded any advantages if they promoted such equality.  Were women being encouraged to enter jobs traditionally considered to be men’s jobs?  Was there any assessment of how the economic crisis was affecting Danish women?


Highlighting the high proportion of part-time work in Denmark, Mr. BRUUN, expert from Finland, asked what had been done to allow part-time workers to move to full-time work and how the gender perspective was being incorporated into part-time work.  States parties had a clear obligation to try to increase opportunities for women, including in the entrepreneurial sector.  However, it did not seem that Denmark placed a high priority on encouraging women entrepreneurs.  The equal pay report was an obligation for companies with more than 35 employees.  But was equal pay considered a human right and, thus, applicable to companies with 25 or 30 employees?  


Ms. RASEKH, expert from Afghanistan, pointing to increasing and high abortion rates among young women, asked if any analysis had been made of those rates.  Further, was the Government conducting any surveys on the mental health consequences of the high rates of violence among young women?  Were long-term therapeutic services provided to women who faced such violence?  Noting a highly-publicized case among immigrants regarding female genital mutilation, she asked how other such cases were handled and brought to court.


Country Response


Ms. ABEL said the material provided to kindergartners was not gender-neutral, but in fact took the position that boys and girls were not the same.  Indeed, the boy and girl characters in the book were deliberately thrown into situations that were unlike their typical experiences.  Also, guidance counsellors and teachers were trained in that gender curriculum to the extent possible.  Overall, it was hoped that that approach would allow, not only girls, but also boys to make non-traditional gender choices.


She said it was clear that the gender pay gap resulted from gender segregation in the labour market, and not from a general lack of equal pay for equal work.  After a long period of discussion in higher education, changes were finally occurring in terms of the number of women in professorships.  A broad range of initiatives from programmes aimed at aiding family life to the use of gender consultants had been implemented.


Another member of the delegation said part-time work was decreasing in Denmark, although many jobs were open both to full- and part-time workers.  Denmark felt the priority was a high employment rate, and great efforts in the public sector were being made to ensure that persons with disabilities and migrant workers had the chance to work.  But it was more difficult to reduce gender segregation with such a high employment rate.  The cooperation of companies was needed to reduce pay gaps, and Denmark believed the bigger companies had the resources to achieve the best results.  Trade unions had increasingly mentioned job evaluations, but the Danish Government considered that such evaluations should be carefully orchestrated to ensure the cooperation of social partners.


Ms. ABEL said that the unemployment rate had risen for men rather than women as a result of the financial crisis.  Denmark had made nearly 50 initiatives to improve conditions for women’s entrepreneurship and was working hard in this area, particularly to encourage migrant women entrepreneurs.


She went on to say that a new action plan had been adopted to reduce the number of young women seeking abortions.  On female genital mutilation, efforts were being made through a number of different groups and Government agencies, particularly to disseminate information on the practice.  Laws had been amended so that even if the practice occurred outside Denmark, prosecutions were still possible.


Another member of the delegation said a great deal of research demonstrated the serious health and mental impacts on women victims of violence.  There was a good crisis network in place, and several services were available to victims, who were clearly impacted in terms of their ability to work and live healthy lives.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Regarding forced or arranged marriages, Ms. AWORI noted that the Danish delegation would have a report on research in this area in September, but asked for any preliminary indication on what more had been done and what measures or efforts were in place.  Also, could the delegation give any indication about what the research showed regarding family reunification?


A member of the delegation said it was impossible to say what the research showed since the information was not yet available.


Ms. ABEL underlined that preliminary results were not available and no one in the Government had seen them.  But regarding questions on combating arranged marriages, she assured the Committee that several steps had been taken, including rehabilitation and protection measures for women who had been involved in forced marriages and other related incidences of violence.  Hotlines had been set up.  On the political level, agreements had recently been reached to fund different initiatives to combat honour-related violence.


Follow-up Questions


Ms. AMELINE, expert from France, wondered if gender policy could be actively incorporated in sustainable development policies and principles, given the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen.


Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked for more information on the policies regarding residency permits and situations of domestic violence, which had been part of the Committee’s last round of recommendations.  Was Denmark considering possible changes or different angles to address family reunification in cases of domestic violence?  In the Convention’s article 18, State Parties had to report on legislative measures they had adopted to give effect to the treaty, but it seemed it would be hard for Denmark to address the Convention’s Optional Protocol without their incorporation into Danish legislation.


Ms. ABEL agreed that climate change was unevenly impacting women and men and that Denmark and other Nordic countries were giving a lot of consideration to that area.  It had held a side event on the topic during the most recent meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development and would hold other events during the upcoming climate summit.  The short answer on permits was that in 29 of 30 cases where domestic violence affected resident aliens, permits had been granted.


Another delegation member said that victims could indeed submit claims to the Committee since Denmark had ratified the Convention and the Protocol.


Ms. XIAOGIAO said it was clear that the Danish Government had done a lot of work to answer the Committee’s questions on, among other things, violence against women, human trafficking, representation of women in local government, equal pay for equal work and the pay gap. It would of course provide final recommendations in the future.


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