Report of the Committee on the

Elimination of Discrimination 

against Women 

  

 

Thirty-second session 

(10-28 January 2005) 

  

 

Thirty-third session

(5-22 July 2005) 


 …

 Part two 

Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its thirty-third session

  


Chapter IV 

Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention

  

  

 A.   Introduction

 

 

17.   At its thirty-third session, the Committee considered the reports of eight States parties submitted under article 18 of the Convention: the initial report of one State party; the initial and second periodic reports of one State party; the combined initial, second and third periodic reports of two States parties; the third periodic report of one State party; the combined third, fourth, fifth and sixth periodic report of one State party and the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of two States parties.

18.   The Committee prepared concluding comments on each of the States parties’ reports considered. The Committee’s concluding comments, as prepared by members of the Committee, and a summary of the introductory presentations by the representatives of the States parties are set out below.

 

 B.   Consideration of reports of States parties

 

 

 

 2.  Initial and second periodic reports

 

 

   Lebanon 

 

77.   The Committee considered the initial and second periodic reports (see CEDAW/C/LBN/1 and CEDAW/C/LBN/2) of Lebanon at its 691st and 692nd meetings, on 12 July 2005 (see CEDAW/C/SR.691 and 692).

 

    Introduction by the State party

 

78.   In introducing the report, the representative of Lebanon stressed the significance of the ratification of the Convention for Lebanon, which, despite reservations entered upon ratification, underlined the Government’s commitment to and important achievements in the pursuit of gender equality.

79.   Even before ratifying the Convention in 1996, Lebanon had achieved several important milestones towards gender equality, including the granting of political rights to women in 1953, the right of married women to choose their citizenship in 1960, the right of women to be elected to local councils in 1963, the abolishment of the requirement of a husband’s permission for travel in 1974, the abolishment of the prohibition on the use of contraceptives in 1983 and the establishment of equal retirement ages and social security benefits for men and women in 1984.

80.   The Constitution provided for the equality of all persons before the law. Women participated in electoral processes and their representation in administrative and legal fields had increased. Lebanese women today enjoyed legal rights on an equal footing with men — they had the same legal capacity to conclude contracts and own property, and in legal proceedings in courts. Women had the same rights to legal services as men. Women also had the same rights as men to acquire, keep or change their citizenship, and marriage to a foreign national did not automatically deprive a woman of her Lebanese citizenship.

81.   The representative noted that the labour law did not distinguish between women and men in employment and that the principle of equal pay for equal work prevailed. Women participated in the political process on an equal footing with men. Education was guaranteed to all without discrimination and there were no barriers to co-education. The number of women in all educational fields was increasing and women had entered fields traditionally dominated by men. There had been tangible improvements in women’s health indicators and women made up the majority of health workers.

82.   The representative drew attention to the general framework for the protection of human rights in the country and relevant provisions in the preamble to the Constitution. In addition to human rights instruments adopted by the United Nations, including those of particular relevance to women, Lebanon was also party to conventions adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Labour Organization, all of which enhanced the recognition of women’s rights. In 2002, Lebanon acceded to an agreement within the framework of the League of Arab States on the establishment of the Arab Women’s Organization, of which it was an active member.

83.   The representative stated that Lebanon was unable to withdraw its reservations to article 9, paragraph 2; article 16, paragraph 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g); and article 29, paragraph 1. According to the representative, no uniform personal status law applied to all Lebanese. Instead, each Lebanese citizen was subject to the personal status laws and courts of one of the 18 recognized religious communities regulating matters such as marriage, parenthood and inheritance. Religious pluralism had played a major role not only in the Constitution of the Lebanese people but also in the establishment of the Lebanese State and, alongside other economic and political factors, continued to play an extremely important role.

84.   While the State party had to address many priorities, women’s issues were among the most salient. The efforts of the State and civil society were coordinated in many ways and led to action on issues such as violence against women, resulting in the provision of assistance to victims, legislative initiatives and the punishment of perpetrators. Those efforts had also resulted in increased awareness of gender issues in society. Civil society organizations operated freely in the country.

85.   Recent parliamentary elections had resulted in an increase in the number of women in Parliament from three in 2000 to six, even though no quota system was in place. It was anticipated that Parliament would continue to amend legislation, such as the Penal Code, in conformity with the Convention.

86.   In conclusion, the representative stressed that wars had obstructed the struggle for women’s equality in Lebanon, and noted that peace was essential for giving such rights and issues the attention they deserved.

    Concluding comments of the Committee

   Introduction 

  

87.   The Committee commends the State party for ratifying the Convention and expresses its appreciation to the State party for its initial and second periodic reports, while regretting that they did not adhere to the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of reports and that they were overdue. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group and for the oral presentation and further clarifications offered in response to the questions posed orally by the Committee.

88.   The Committee welcomes the State party’s delegation and appreciates the constructive dialogue held between the delegation and members of the Committee.

89.   The Committee notes that Lebanon entered reservations on articles 9 (2), 16 (1) (c), (d), (f), (g), and 29 (1) of the Convention.

 

    Positive aspects

 

90.   The Committee appreciates the progress achieved in the area of women’s education, particularly in institutions of higher education where, in 2002/03, women constituted 53.9 per cent of the total number of students.

91.   The Committee notes with satisfaction the growth in women’s representation in the judiciary, where 5 of the 37 judges at the Court of Cassation and 71 of the 112 apprentice judges are now. It also welcomes the fact that in November 2004, for the first time ever, a woman judge was appointed as public prosecutor to the Court of Cassation, thus having the opportunity to enter the High Council of the Judiciary.

92.   The Committee welcomes the fact that women’s participation in the labour market has increased to 25 per cent and that there have been improvements in women’s participation in both the private and public sectors of the economy.

 

    Principal areas of concern and recommendations

 

93.   The Committee expresses concern that the State party continues to have reservations to article 9, paragraph 2, and article 16, paragraph 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g), of the Convention. The Committee considers that the reservations to articles 9 and 16 are contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.

94.   The Committee urges the State party to expedite the necessary steps to limit and ultimately withdraw its reservations to the Convention.

95.   The Committee is concerned that the State party’s legislation does not contain provisions guaranteeing equality on the basis of sex as required under article 2 (a) of the Convention.

96.   The Committee urges the State party to include provisions guaranteeing equality on the basis of sex, in line with article 2 (a) of the Convention, in the Constitution or in other appropriate legislation. In this regard, the Committee recommends that consideration be given to including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women among the international human rights instruments mentioned in the preamble to the Constitution.

97.   The Committee is concerned that the State party’s efforts to reform discriminatory legislation so as to bring it into compliance with the Convention have been proceeding on an ad hoc basis. The Committee expresses concern about the State party’s limited understanding of its obligations under the Convention, and in particular about the State party’s focus on formal equality and lack of progress in achieving de facto equality in many sectors, including the absence of time-bound targets.

98.   The Committee recommends that the State party put in place a strategy, including time-bound targets, for a systematic review and revision of all legislation so as to achieve full compliance with the provisions of the Convention. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure that women enjoy de facto equality with men, according to the Convention. It requests the State party to systematically monitor the impact of its legislation, policies and programmes and to provide in its next periodic report information on the impact of these measures and concrete progress achieved.

99.   The Committee is concerned that no unified personal status law exists in the country and that each Lebanese citizen is subject to the laws and courts pertaining to his or her religious community in regard to the regulation of personal status. The Committee notes that insufficient information has been provided in the reports and oral presentation on the religious communities existing in the country, including information on the various personal status codes governing these communities, in particular their scope and impact on women’s equality.

100.   The Committee urges the State party to adopt a unified personal status code which is in line with the Convention and would be applicable to all women in Lebanon, irrespective of their religious affiliation. The Committee recommends that the State party include, in its next periodic report, detailed information on the various religious communities existing in the country, including on the various personal status codes affecting women.

101.   While welcoming the efforts of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, the Committee is concerned that the national machinery for the advancement of women does not have sufficient power or financial and human resources to effectively promote gender equality, the advancement of women and implementation of the Convention.

102.   The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen the existing national machinery by providing it with adequate power and human and financial resources at all levels so as to make it more effective in the fulfilment of its mandate. It also recommends that a gender perspective be mainstreamed in all policies and programmes in all sectors, including through training and capacity-building measures on gender issues and the creation of gender focal points.

103.   The Committee notes with concern that violence against women and girls persists, including domestic violence, rape and crimes committed in the name of honour. The Committee is especially concerned about article 562 of the Lebanese penal code, which allows mitigation of the penalty for crimes committed in the name of honour, and the apparent lack of sensitization efforts in the State party to reject a concept of honour that perpetuates and condones the killing of women.

104. 104.   The Committee urges the State party to accord priority attention to the adoption of a comprehensive approach to address violence against women and girls, taking into account the Committee’s general recommendation 19 on violence against women. The Committee calls on the State party to amend article 562 of the Lebanese penal code, which allows mitigation of the penalty for crimes committed in the name of honour, and to adopt specific legislation on violence against women, including domestic violence, within a clear time frame so as to ensure that women and girls who are victims of violence have access to protection and effective redress, and that perpetrators of such acts are effectively prosecuted and punished. The Committee also recommends gender-sensitive training on violence against women for public officials, particularly law enforcement personnel, the judiciary and health service providers, so as to ensure that they are sensitized to all forms of violence against women and can adequately respond to it. The Committee also calls on the State party to take measures towards modifying social, cultural and traditional attitudes, including the concept of honour, that remain permissive of violence against women.

105.   The Committee is strongly concerned about the pervasiveness of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted traditional and cultural stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family, in the workplace and in society, thus constituting serious obstacles to women’s enjoyment of their human rights and impeding the full implementation of the Convention.

106.   The Committee urges the State party to increase its efforts to design and implement comprehensive awareness-raising programmes to foster a better understanding of and support for equality between women and men at all levels of society. Such efforts should aim at modifying stereotypical attitudes and traditional norms about the responsibilities and roles of women and men in the family, the workplace and in society, as required under articles 2 (f) and 5 (a) of the Convention, and to strengthen societal support for equality between women and men.

107.   While welcoming the fact that the percentage of women deputies in the National Assembly has doubled from 2.3 per cent in 1992 to 4.3 per cent in 2005, the Committee remains concerned about the very low level of representation of women in decision-making positions, particularly in elected and appointed bodies at all levels, and their representation in the administration and foreign service.

108.   The Committee encourages the State party to take sustained measures, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25, to accelerate the increase in the representation of women in elected and appointed bodies in all areas of public life.

109.   The Committee notes with concern that, despite law reform in the field of employment, women remain disadvantaged in the labour market, which is characterized by strong occupational segregation and the persistence of a gender wage gap.

110.   The Committee requests the State party to step up its efforts to eliminate occupational segregation and to ensure equal opportunities for women and men in the labour market. It also recommends that the State party establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure the enforcement of legislation requiring employers to provide equal pay for work of equal value. The Committee requests that effective measures be taken to support the reconciliation of family and professional responsibilities and to promote the sharing of domestic and family responsibilities between women and men.

111.   While welcoming the incorporation of reproductive health services into the primary health-care system, the Committee remains concerned that not all women have access to such services, especially in the rural areas. It is also concerned about women’s deaths resulting from clandestine abortions.

112.   The Committee urges the Government to strengthen, especially in the rural areas, the implementation of programmes and policies aimed at providing effective access for women to health-care information and services, in particular regarding reproductive health and affordable contraceptive methods, with the aim also of preventing clandestine abortions. The Committee further urges the State party to decriminalize abortion where there are mitigating circumstances. The Committee recommends the implementation of measures to protect women from the negative effects on their health of unsafe abortions, in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

113.   The Committee notes with concern the high incidence of HIV/AIDS among women, who make up 18.2 per cent of those infected, and that no special programmes have been designed to protect women from HIV/AIDS.

114.   The Committee urges the State party to design and implement comprehensive gender-sensitive programmes and allocate sufficient funds to combat HIV/AIDS, to step up preventive measures, including awareness-raising, and to ensure that women and girls infected with HIV/AIDS are not discriminated against and are given appropriate assistance and treatment.

115.   The Committee observes a lack of up-to-date sex-disaggregated data in the reports, including in the areas of women migrant workers and violence against women.

116.   The Committee recommends that the State party put in place comprehensive data collection that covers all areas of the Convention, including the situation of women migrant workers and violence against women, so as to be able to assess trends and the impact of programmes on women, and to include such data and related analysis in its next periodic report.

117.   While noting the reduction in the general illiteracy rate of women, the Committee is concerned that the illiteracy rate remains high among rural women. The Committee is also concerned about the insufficient legislative protection of the status of rural women.

118.   The Committee encourages the State party to implement further programmes specifically designed to reduce illiteracy rates among rural women and to introduce new laws relating to this group of women, so as to ensure the full implementation of article 14 of the Convention.

119.   While welcoming the presence of a vibrant civil society, the Committee is concerned about the lack of cooperation of the authorities with non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the Convention. The Committee expresses concern about the apparent lack of understanding on the part of the State party about the obligations of the State and the role of non-governmental organizations in regard to the implementation of the Convention and the promotion of gender equality.

120.   The Committee urges the State party to cooperate more effectively with non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the Convention, while assuming full responsibility for fulfilling its obligations under the Convention. The Committee further recommends that the State party consult with non-governmental organizations during the preparation of its next periodic report.

121.   The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.

122.   The Committee urges the State party to utilize fully in its implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.

123.   The Committee also emphasizes that a full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It calls for the integration of a gender perspective and the explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.

124.   The Committee notes that States’ adherence to the seven major international human rights instruments 1 enhances the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. Therefore, the Committee encourages the Government of Lebanon to consider ratifying the treaty to which it is not yet a party, namely, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

125.125.   The Committee requests the wide dissemination in Lebanon of the present concluding comments in order to make the people of Lebanon, including government officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality for women and the future steps required in that regard. It also requests the State party to continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

126.   The Committee requests the State party to respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report submitted under article 18 of the Convention, which is due in May 2006.

 

 

  4.  Third periodic report

 

 

   Israel 

 

221.   The Committee considered the third periodic report of Israel (CEDAW/C/ISR/3) at its 685th and 686th meetings, on 6 July 2005 (see CEDAW/C/SR.685 and 686).

 

    Introduction by the State party

 

222.   In introducing the report and up-to-date information, the representative of Israel indicated that these were the result of a collaborative effort by various government bodies, together with inputs from non-governmental organizations. Equality and the promotion of women’s rights were of the utmost importance to the Government and society. The representative emphasized that Israeli women were a vibrant, vocal, integral part of every aspect of society, which they shaped and took part in as members of every profession. Drawing attention to progress in many areas, the representative noted remaining gaps still to be addre ssed. Since the submission of the previous report, concerted efforts had been made, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to promote equality between men and women, Jews and non-Jews of all ethnic and religious backgrounds alike. The representative emphasized that Israeli women awaited the day when they and Palestinian women, especially under the new Palestinian leadership, would no longer know the grief of loss but only the joy of equality, building and progress.

223.   Efforts to eliminate discrimination against women in the legislative arena had been wide-ranging. Recent laws complemented one another, representing a new approach of “women’s legislation”. These laws covered a variety of issues, including women’s equal rights, sexual harassment, stalking, governmental responsibility for gender equality, the rights of women victims and prevention of discrimination in the private sector. They provided a broad vision of social change and complete transformation of gender power and relations. Measures had also been taken to guarantee implementation.

224.   The Government had taken steps, including affirmative action, to eliminate discrimination against women, for example by supporting the integration of single mothers into the labour market. The courts continued to play a crucial role in promoting women’s rights. Recent court decisions had approved governmental affirmative action measures in funding women’s sports activities, secured women’s equal retirement rights and granted a battered wife punitive damages for abuse suffered.

225.   The representative stressed that combined efforts were necessary to eliminate discrimination against women, as demonstrated by action taken by the legislative, judicial and executive branches, in cooperation with civil society, to combat trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. This included the amendment of the Penal Code to include a prohibition against trafficking in persons for purposes of prostitution, followed by the establishment of the Parliamentary Investigative Committee on Trafficking in Persons. That Committee interacted with victims and exercised an oversight function with government agencies. Its work had resulted in further legislative progress, including mandatory minimum imprisonment for violations of the law and expansion of victims’ rights. Additionally, an intra-ministerial committee had been established to recommend measures, which had been adopted and implemented, to combat trafficking more effectively. Law enforcement and the prosecution of traffickers had been enhanced and courts had been issuing more severe sentences and interpreted the law in accordance with the spirit of relevant international treaties. Operational guidelines issued by the Attorney General on combating trafficking had been implemented. Shelters provided medical and psychosocial treatment and free legal aid to trafficking victims . Cooperative arrangements were in place, including with the International Organization for Migration and non-governmental organizations, to arrange for victims’ safe return to countries of origin and to initiate rehabilitation processes.

226.   Turning to measures taken in response to some of the Committee’s concerns expressed in its previous concluding comments, the representative noted the growing number of women in prestigious positions within the Israel Defense Forces and the establishment, in 1998, of the statutory Authority for the Advancement of Women. The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women had also played a pivotal role in women’s issues. Women’s representation in political life had progressed, with 18 members, or 15 per cent, in the Knesset — the highest rate ever, three ministers, four deputy ministers and five director-generals of ministries.

227.   Addressing another of the Committee’s concerns, the representative drew attention to the substantial rise in Bedouin students taking matriculation exams and receiving baccalaureates. More Bedouin women than men were studying for Bachelor’s degrees. Steps were being taken to increase the number of Bedouin women admitted to the faculty of medicine, while the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports granted scholarships to Bedouin students and had taken steps to increase attendance and prevent dropout.

228.   In conclusion, the representative stressed that the delegation, consisting of high-ranking officials from the relevant ministries, was prepared to engage in a constructive and fruitful dialogue with the Committee on the implementation of the Convention.

 

    Concluding comments of the Committee

 

 

   Introduction 

  

229.   The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its third periodic report, which is in compliance with the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of periodic reports. It commends the State party for the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group and for the oral presentation.

230.   The Committee commends the State party for its delegation, made up of representatives of different ministries with responsibility for several areas of the Convention.

231.   The Committee notes that Israel continues to retain its reservations to articles 7 (b) and 16 of the Convention.

 

    Positive aspects

 

232.   The Committee notes with appreciation the significant law reform, undertaken since its consideration of the State party’s combined initial and second report (CEDAW/C/ISR/1-2) in 1997, aimed at the promotion of gender equality and elimination of discrimination against women and at achieving compliance with the obligations under the Convention, including amendments to the Women’s Equal Rights Law, the Employment of Women Law (Amendment 19), the Prevention of Violence in the Family Law and the Civil Service Law (Appointments) and enactment of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law (1998), the Victims of Offences Rights Law (2001), the Prevention of Stalking Law (2001) and the Local Councils Law (Adv iser on the Status of Women) (2000).

233.   The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Authority for the Advancement of Women in 1998.

 

    Principal areas of concern and recommendations

 

234.   The Committee notes the State party’s obligation for the systematic and continuing implementation of all the provisions of the Convention. At the same time, it is the Committee’s view that the concerns and recommendations identified in the present concluding comments require the State party’s priority attention between now and the submission of the next periodic report. Consequently, the Committee calls upon the State party to focus on those areas in its implementation activities and to report on action taken and results achieved in its next periodic report. It calls on the State party to submit the present concluding comments to all relevant ministries and to the Knesset so as to ensure their full implementation.

235.   The Committee is concerned that the State party has not taken adequate steps to implement the recommendations in regard to some concerns raised in its previous concluding comments adopted in 1997 (A/52/38/Rev.1, part two, paras. 147-183). In particular, the Committee finds that its concerns reflected in paragraphs 170, 171 and 173 have been insufficiently addressed.

236.   The Committee reiterates these concerns and recommendations and urges the State party to proceed without delay with the implementation of the recommendations.

237.   The Committee is concerned that the right to equality between women and men and the prohibition of both direct and indirect discrimination against women has not been reflected in the Constitution or in a basic law.

238.   The Committee recommends that a definition of discrimination in line with article 1 of the Convention, as well as provisions on the equal rights of women in line with article 2 (a) of the Convention, be included in the new Constitution that is in the process of being drafted, or in a basic law.

239.   The Committee is concerned that only some provisions of the Convention have been incorporated into the domestic legal order. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of mechanisms to monitor and ensure the compatibility of domestic laws with the State party’s obligations under the Convention.

240.   The Committee urges the State party to fully incorporate the provisions of the Convention into its legal order and regularly assess the compatibility of its domestic laws with its obligations under the Convention. The Committee recommends that the State party implement training and awareness-raising programmes to familiarize judges, prosecutors and other members of the legal profession with the provisions of the Convention.

241.   The Committee is aware that the persistence of conflict and violence hinders the full implementation of the Convention and notes that recently steps have been taken towards its resolution. In this regard, the Committee welcomes the draft law on women in peacemaking, which will require 25 per cent participation of women in the peacemaking process.

242.   The Committee encourages the State party to continue its efforts towards conflict resolution and to fully involve all women concerned in all stages of the peace process.

243.   The Committee regrets the State party’s position that the Convention does not apply beyond its own territory and, for that reason, the State party refuses to report on the status of implementation of the Convention in the Occupied Territories, although the delegation acknowledged that the State party had certain responsibilities. The Committee further regrets that the delegation did not respond to questions by the Committee concerning the situation of women in the Occupied Territories. The Committee notes that the State party’s view that the Convention is not applicable in the Occupied Territories is contrary to the views of the Committee and of other treaty bodies, including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee against Torture, and also of the International Court of Justice, which have all noted that obligations under international human rights conventions as well as humanitarian law apply to all persons brought under the jurisdiction or effective control of a State party and have stressed the applicability of the State party’s obligations under international human rights conventions to the Occupied Territories.

244.   The Committee urges the State party to reconsider its position and to give full effect to the implementation of its obligations under the Convention in regard to all persons under its jurisdiction, including women in the Occupied Territories, and to provide in its next periodic report detailed information on the enjoyment by all women, including, if still relevant, women living in the Occupied Territories, of their rights under the Convention.

245.   The Committee remains concerned that the State party continues to retain its reservations to articles 7 (b) and 16 of the Convention. The Committee is particularly concerned at the State party’s statement that such reservations are “unavoidable at this point in time” and its position that laws based on religious values cannot be reformed.

246.   The Committee urges the State party to consider withdrawing its reservations to articles 7 (b) and 16, which are contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.

247.   While welcoming the establishment of the Authority for the Advancement of Women as an important measure towards strengthening the national mechanism for the advancement of women, the Committee is concerned that the Authority may not have sufficient power, visibility and human and financial resources for the effective promotion of the advancement of women and gender equality.

248.   The Committee calls on the State party to strengthen the Authority for the Advancement of Women. In particular, it calls on the State party to ensure that the Authority is provided with the power, location within the executive branch of Government and necessary human and financial resources to enable it to carry out effectively the promotion of the advancement of women and gender equality throughout all sectors of government.

249.   While appreciating the State party’s efforts to address the issue of trafficking in women and girls, including ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2000 and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in 2001, the establishment of a Parliamentary Investigative Committee on trafficking of women and an amendment to the Penal Law prohibiting trafficking, the Committee is concerned that domestic legislation has not been brought into conformity with international obligations. While noting that a bill to broaden the definition of trafficking is under preparation, the Committee is concerned that the current definition of trafficking in the Penal Law addresses trafficking only for prostitution and bondage and does not cover trafficking for other forms of exploitation. The Committee also expresses concern about the lack of a comprehensive plan to prevent and eliminate trafficking in women and to protect victims, as well as the lack of systematic data collection on this phenomenon.

250.   The Committee urges the State party to intensify its efforts to combat all forms of trafficking in women and girls, including by expanding the provision in the Penal Code to bring it into line with the definition contained in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. The Committee also urges the State party to increase its efforts at international, regional and bilateral cooperation with countries of origin and transit so as to address more effectively the causes of trafficking and improve prevention of trafficking through information exchange. The Committee urges the State party to continue to collect and analyse data from the police and international sources, prosecute and punish traffickers, and ensure the protection of the human rights of trafficked women and girls. The Committee further calls on the State party to take all appropriate measures to suppress exploitation of prostitution of women, including discouraging the male demand for prostitution. The Committee calls on the State party to ensure that trafficked women and girls have adequate support to be in a position to provide testimony against their traffickers.

251.   While noting the increase in the number of women in the Knesset, the Committee remains concerned about the low level of representation of women in decision-making positions in local authorities. It is also concerned that the number of women in high-level positions in the civil service and foreign service remains low. The Committee is further concerned about the low level of representation of Israeli Arab women in these areas.

252. 252.   The Committee encourages the State party to take sustained measures, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25, and to establish concrete goals and timetables so as to accelerate the increase in the representation of women, including Israeli Arab women, in elected and appointed bodies in all areas of public life.

253.   The Committee is concerned about the State party’s temporary suspension order of May 2002, enacted into law as the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) of 31 July 2003, which suspends the possibility, subject to limited and subjective exceptions, of family reunification, especially in cases of marriages between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the Occupied Territories. The Committee notes with concern that the suspension order, which has been extended until the end of August 2005, has already adversely affected the marriages and family life of Israeli Arab women citizens and Palestinian women from the Occupied Territories.

254.   The Committee calls on the State party to balance its security interests with the human rights of persons affected by such policies, and to reconsider them with a view to facilitating family reunification of all citizens and permanent residents. It calls on the State party to bring the Nationality and Entry into Israel law (Temporary Order) of 31 July 2003 into line with articles 9 and 16 of the Convention. It requests the State party to provide, in its next periodic report, detailed statistical information and analysis of the short- and long-term impact of this Order on affected women.

255.   While appreciating the progress made in the fields of women’s education and health, the Committee is concerned that Israeli Arab women remain in a vulnerable and marginalized situation, especially in regard to education and health. While efforts have been made to eliminate gender stereotypes from textbooks, the Committee is concerned that these persist in the Arab education system.

256.   The Committee recommends that the State party take urgent measures to reduce the drop-out rates of Israeli Arab girls and increase the number of Israeli Arab women at institutions of higher education, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25. The Committee also urges the State party to review and revise textbooks in the Arab education system in order to eradicate gender stereotypes. The Committee recommends that the State party allocate adequate resources to improve the status of Israeli Arab women’s health, in particular with regard to infant mortality, and to provide in its next periodic report a comprehensive picture of the situation of Israeli Arab women.

257.   The Committee is concerned about the number of incidents at Israeli checkpoints which have a negative impact on the rights of Palestinian women, including the right of access to health-care services for pregnant women.

258.   The Committee calls upon the State party to ensure that the Israeli authorities at the checkpoints are instructed to ensure access to health-care services for pregnant women, while protecting the security of Israel.

259.   The Committee is concerned that Bedouin women living in the Negev desert remain in a vulnerable and marginalized situation, especially in regard to education, employment and health. The Committee is especially concerned about the situation of Bedouin women who live in unrecognized villages with poor housing conditions and limited or no access to water, electricity and sanitation.

260.   The Committee requests the State party to take effective measures to eliminate discrimination against Bedouin women and to enhance respect for their human rights through effective and proactive measures, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25, in the fields of education, employment and health. The Committee calls upon the State party to provide, in its next periodic report, a comprehensive picture of the situation of Bedouin women and girls in regard to their educational opportunities and achievements, and access to employment and health-care services, and to provide an assessment of the impact of policies in those areas that directly affect them.

261.   The Committee is concerned by the State party’s assertion that it is not in a position to implement the law prohibiting polygamy and enforce the minimum age of marriage owing to respect for the privacy rights of persons engaging in such practices. The Committee is further concerned that petitions for the under-age marriage of girls are regularly granted.

262.   The Committee urges the State party to take active measures to enforce the prohibition of polygamy and enforce adherence to the minimum age of marriage. The Committee recommends that the State party take comprehensive and effective measures, including public awareness-raising campaigns, aimed at eliminating the practices of polygamy and early-age marriage.

263.   The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.

264.   The Committee urges the State party to utilize fully, in its implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.

265.   The Committee also emphasizes that a full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It calls for the integration of a gender perspective and the explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.

266.   The Committee notes that States’ adherence to the seven major international human rights instruments 1 enhances the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. Therefore, the Committee encourages the Government of Israel to consider ratifying the treaty to which it is not yet a party, namely, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

267.   The Committee requests the wide dissemination of the present concluding comments in order to make all people, including government officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality for women and the future steps required in that regard. It also requests the State party to continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

268.   The Committee requests the State party to respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report submitted under article 18 of the Convention, which is due in November 2008.

… 

 Notes

1The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

—–