Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Gabon on Measures Taken to Deal with Girls School Dropout Rates and Ask about Human Trafficking and Early Pregnancy
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its review of the seventh periodic report of Gabon, with Expert congratulating Gabon on measures taken to deal with school dropout rates for girls, and asking about human trafficking in the country and the issue of pregnancy in girls and how this affected their schooling.
A Committee Expert congratulated Gabon on having one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa, on their bold management of menstruation among girls, which was a taboo subject, and on their competency in dealing with girls’ school dropout rates. One Expert noted that the report did not mention human trafficking although this was a significant problem in Gabon. Why had the Government not adopted an action plan for trafficking or set up an inter-ministerial coordinating committee on trafficking. A Committee member asked the delegation about pregnancy in teenagers, noting that this resulted in academic dropout – what were the statistics of girls falling pregnant and how many returned to school? A Committee member also enquired about whether there was a specific law preventing girls from returning to school if they fell pregnant.
In response to the questions on trafficking, the delegation said that combatting trafficking was a priority for the Government. Gabon had put in place an action plan since 2010, which involved training the community about trafficking, especially women. In 2019, Gabon had criminalised trafficking in human beings generally – not just that of children, with cases of trafficking heard in the courts and punishable by seven or more years in prison. The action plan on trafficking was currently being revised and updated under this context. Regarding pregnancy in girls, the delegation said that there was no expulsion mandate for girls who had become pregnant, instead they were supported and enabled – this was seen as a top priority for the Government. Data on pregnancy in schools was also routinely gathered.
The delegation of Gabon was led by Prisca Raymonda Nlend Koho, Minister of Social Affairs and Women’s Rights, who said that the strategy for the promotion of women's rights and the reduction of inequality between women and men being developed was among the strongest commitments of Gabon in terms of women's rights. The drafting of this strategy consisted of a situational analysis of the status of women’s lives, including political, legal, economic, social, educational and health levels, highlighting the discriminatory provisions of the national legal system. This had led to the revision of the Civil Code, the Penal Code, the Labour Code, and the adoption of a law in September 2021 on the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
On education, Ms. Nlend Koho said a distance learning programme had been initiated as soon as the pandemic had emerged to prevent school dropouts, which particularly affected young girls due to early pregnancies. She emphasised the issue of early pregnancy, particularly in schools, as a concern for Gabon.
The delegation of Gabon was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Social Development and Women’s Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Directorate for Citizens’ Economic and Social Promotion; the Magistrates Office; and the Permanent Mission of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Nlend Koho thanked the Committee, saying their comments enabled Gabon to realise how much they had done to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and how determined they were to honour it.
Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chair of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, saying the situation of women in Gabon was understood, with significant strides forward made since 2013. The Chair asked the State party to address all the recommendations of the Committee, for the benefit of all women and girls in the country.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-first session is being held from 7 to 18 February. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 February to continue its consideration of the eighth periodic report of Panama (CEDAW/C/PAN/8) .
The Committee has before it the seventh periodic report of Gabon (CEDAW/C/GAB/7).
Presentation of Report
MIREILLE SARAH NZENZE, Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed regret at the Gabonese delegation not being able to be at the Committee in person due to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. She underlined the Gabonese Government’s commitment to the United Nations.
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation of Gabon, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had led the authorities of Gabon to take social, economic and political measures in order to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable populations, particularly women and girls. With the support of the World Bank, Gabon was committed to update the National File of Economically Weak Gabonese, allowing for a more relevant and appropriate determination of the beneficiary base, according to the new definition. A Solidarity Fund, used to cover water, electricity, rent and transport costs was created in April 2020 to support these vulnerable populations. A Food Bank was also set up to support vulnerable families, with women being the main beneficiaries.
Non-governmental organizations in Gabon had recorded more cases of violence against women, with 106 women requiring care in 2020, due to the context of confinement due to isolation - the highest figure yet. In response to the vulnerability of women during the pandemic, the Government had implemented the Gabonese programme for the qualification of women as digital entrepreneurs which aimed to empower women through digital technology, by training women in digital techniques, enabling them to showcase their expertise and sell their products online. Gabon had conducted awareness campaigns on domestic violence to prevent the risk of renewed violence during periods of confinement.
On education, a distance learning programme had been initiated as soon as the pandemic had emerged to prevent school dropouts, which particularly affected young girls due to early pregnancies. Ms. Nlend Koho emphasised the issue of early pregnancy, particularly in schools, as a concern for Gabon, when a survey conducted in 2015 by the Ministry of National Education on the recommendation of the United Nations Children’s Fund in Libreville had shown that 81 per cent of girls became pregnant before the age of 20 and 29 per cent before the age of 15. Of those, 69 per cent of them, aged 19, had not crossed the threshold of lower secondary school. Gabon had adopted a hybrid education system, both in-person and distance learning, to ensure the continuity of learning in the primary and secondary cycles. A national strategy to combat violence in schools had also been implemented, including emergency numbers which allowed for the exchange of information on the scourges faced by young people, and the reporting of violence against children.
The strategy for the promotion of women's rights and the reduction of inequality between women and men (Gabon-Equality), was currently in progress, being developed in tandem with a Government programme for a more egalitarian Gabonese society. This strategy was submitted to the Head of State in September 2020 and included 33 measures being implemented by 7 ministerial departments since October 2020; it was among the strongest commitments of Gabon in terms of women's rights. The drafting of this strategy consisted of a situational analysis of the status of women’s lives, including political, legal, economic, social, educational and health levels, highlighting the discriminatory provisions of the national legal system. This had led to the revision of the Civil Code, the Penal Code, the Labour Code, and the adoption of a law in September 2021 on the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
A platform had been created to enable reporting of perpetrators of violence and to support victims, providing access to the various support services available, including the follow-up of girls and women who had suffered violence; with another dedicated to the follow-up of widows and orphans. Since the free call centre opened 9 months ago, 2,021 calls reporting violence had been registered and treated, including 85 cases of victims of physical violence; 320 cases had received counselling. A shelter for women victims and their children was being created in response to this.
Taking into account the low representation of women in the political sphere, a political mentoring programme had been implemented; 100 mentors and 50 mentees, including four women living with a disability, had been identified to date.
Gabon had made significant progress in the legal field, enacting the Penal Code regarding the decriminalisation of voluntary interruption of pregnancy for women in distress and increasing the penalty for harassment in the workplace. This new Penal Code gave a definition of discrimination for the first time. Marital rape was recognised as an offense, with penalties reinforced for all intra-family violence. In regard to the Civil Code, the reforms had resulted in the extension of the time limit for the declaration of births from three days to two weeks after delivery, with an obligation to declare births at medical institutions or hospitals.
The law recognised the possibility for the wife to exercise the profession of her choice with the choice of the marital home being the responsibility of both spouses, and no longer only the husband. Spouses were free to open an individual bank account; however, consent of both spouses was required for contracts involving family property. Divorce by mutual consent had been introduced and could be jointly requested.
Ms. Nlend Koho reaffirmed the will shown by Gabon to pursue the efforts started in favour of the promotion and protection of the rights of the Gabonese girl and woman, noting the women held the position of Prime Minister and Head of Government, President of the Senate, and President of the Constitutional Court, among others. Also, there were 30 per cent of women in the Government. She concluded by stating that the permanent commitment of Gabon should lead to a general awareness of the fundamental role of women and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against them.
Questions by Committee Experts
FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Rapporteur for the report of Gabon, welcomed the delegation, noting that Gabon was a young country, and through its rich population and high levels of primary education coverage, the Committee welcomed efforts to implement the Convention. Ms. Toe Bouda noted efforts described in the seventh report to the Committee. She commended Gabon on the review of the Civil Code and the establishment of the 30 per cent quota. However, she remained concerned about a number of issues. Ms. Toe Bouda wished the delegation an excellent two days.
A Committee Expert commended Gabon on their presentation of the report and asked about equality and women’s rights. The State promoted equal access to electoral mandates and laws to promote equality in the workplace. However, there was no clear definition of discrimination against women – how did Gabon intend to harmonise legislation, assess draft laws submitted, and adapt laws contradictory to the Convention? Problems like legal aid were exacerbated in vulnerable groups – what measures were being taken to ensure that women were aware of their rights under the Convention and to better ensure their access to justice, including free legal aid? Would a necessary budget be allocated in the short term and what measures would be put in place for women and other vulnerable groups?
Response by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, responding to the question on the legislative framework, outlined the exhaustive amendments to the Criminal Code in 2021, which provided a detailed definition of discrimination. The situations in which discrimination could occur were outlined.
The delegation highlighted that discrimination could incur up to two years in prison and monetary fines. Responding to the question on legal aid, the legal provisions were in place with a lawyer’s office set up to support victims. It was noted that the budgetary allocation needed to be revised upwards. All provincial capitals were equipped with courts where everyone had access to the court premises, with accommodations taken into account for people with disabilities.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert asked about the definition of discrimination, stating that this needed to be included in civil law. All sectors needed to be covered and Gabon needed to consider adopting an act with a clear definition of discrimination. How was women’s access to justice structured on a regional level and how were victims supported?
Response by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, noted that Gabon had the special characteristic of having a jurisdiction in each province. The Ministry of Social Affairs provided support to the justice system and assisted victims. Social workers across the country also provided support to victims.
Questions by the Committee Experts
A Committee Expert congratulated Gabon on the presentation, report and progress seen since 2015 in key areas, stating that this review was an opportunity to breath new life into the policy. The Expert noted some legal shortcomings in some local laws, which had resulted in some sluggishness in their implementation, and enquired as to the general consolidation of human rights in Gabon and the setting up of a strengthened measure for cooperation with other institutions. Was earmarking for funding planned? Would gender-sensitive funding occur to ensure that women’s rights were a priority investment? Was the training mechanism at the heart of the implementation level of laws planned for? What rule was given to civil society organizations and what financial resources were available to promote the necessary outreach? What procedure was envisaged to raise the profile of the concluding observations with a view to their implementation and how would the strategies be converged? The Committee Expert noted that the strategies which pertained to violence and equality were excellent and commended them. Who organized these strategies and how would they be optimised?
A Committee Expert addressed the issue of women exercising the same rights as men and asked what measures had been taken to ensure this had been achieved in terms of decision making. Noting a scholarship programme and a contract and fund which enabled young people to undertake their own business, the Expert asked for the statistics on the women involved in this project and other special measures being undertaken, to achieve substantial equality between women and men in all areas.
Responses by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, said the issue of gender sensitive budgeting was being studied and was being set up as part of the Government strategy. In terms of statistics, Gabon had established an observatory on the rights of women, which would be the first Government authority to have a clear view on the Government’s programmes regarding women’s rights.
Addressing the issue of coordinating strategies, Ms. Nlend Koho said the Prime Minister of Gabon was part of a taskforce whose goal was to ensure progress on the measures of implementation.
On support for people living with disabilities, the delegation said a booklet would be provided on the care available for widows, and the Ministry of Social Affairs was working on scholarships for people with disabilities, most notably young girls as a priority.
Regarding what the Government was doing to coordinate activity across the various areas of the country, as part of the reforms initiated, there had been participatory work which had brought leaders around the table and all segments of society had been heard. Gabon was striving to keep that momentum going.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked a question on the prohibition of child marriage and of rape within the family environment, stating that the measures in place were not efficient. All segments, including men, boys, religious leaders and the media, needed to be targeted to address these attitudes in society and harmful traditional practices. The Committee Expert asked what measures were planned and what steps were being taken within the education system to overcome these problems.
A Committee Expert welcomed the high-level delegation from Gabon and addressed questions on exploitation and the prostitution of women, noting that there was no mention of human trafficking although this was a significant problem in the country. Why had the Government not yet managed to adopt an action plan for trafficking? Why had an inter-ministerial coordinating committee on trafficking not been established? What support was being provided by the Government to non-governmental organizations to facilitate the management of shelters and what were plans for the future to provide support to victims? Concerning the hotlines set up in the case of violence – could they be used for victims of trafficking? Regarding the exploitation of prostitution of women, why were the penalties for prostitution not as severe as those for crimes such as rape? Was the Government taking steps to limit the demand for prostitution?
A Committee Expert commended Gabon on the training given to the Gabonese troops for deployment as part of the peacekeeping effort, stating this was very important.
Response by the Delegation
The delegation said hotlines had been put in place, which enabled women who suffered from violence to be protected by anonymity. These listening units helped people to meet specialists who would support women as they should be supported.
Regarding the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee on trafficking, the delegation said that trafficking involved the countries of Togo and Benin. Gabon was working with the Governments of those two countries to assist victims of trafficking.
Adultery remained a ground for divorce, with a new law being brought into effect to punish perpetrators and take care of the victims. Regarding stereotypes, the delegation noted that combatting trafficking was a priority for the Government. Gabon had put in place an action plan since 2010, which involved training the community about trafficking, especially women. In 2019, Gabon had criminalised trafficking in human beings generally – not just that of children. Cases of trafficking were heard in the courts and were punishable by seven or more years in prison. The action plan on trafficking was currently being revised and updated under the context of trafficking being considered more broadly.
On questions regarding the effect of reforms on customary practices, the delegation said that the Department of Women’s Rights worked closely with civil society to raise awareness of campaigns – the power was not being seized from men and given to women. Regarding stereotypes, there was training being carried out by organizations like the United Nations, including showing that there were no typical jobs for men or women, with the aim of raising awareness amongst men in order to sensitise them to stereotypes.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert asked about the issue of victims of trafficking and the importance of developing identification of victims of trafficking. Gabon had set an example by making the issue of governance a priority, including the appointment of a female Prime Minister. However, the parliament had a lower level with just 20 per cent being made up of women, and a national action plan would be necessary to combat this. Could the delegation explain whether real substantive work had been undertaken to ensure a real right against violence? The Committee Expert welcomed the recently adopted security and police plan and asked how the plan was financed. In the process of appointing people to diplomatic posts, was there a process to create a generational effect of parity at all levels?
Responses by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, discussed the political mentoring programme put in place, to take on board the new generation, highlighting the good work being done in Rwanda in regard to women and politics. Training modules had been implemented to assist with the representation of women in politics and in parliament with the goal to enable women to fully participate in political life. Ms. Nlend Koho noted that there was a problem of interest, stating that many women were not interested in politics and the Government aimed to teach them.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert was concerned about the 11 per cent of children born in Gabon whose birth was not registered – could the State party inform about the strategy in place to ensure universal birth registration? The Committee noted the cost in asking for a birth certificate, stating that this could deter people from registering births. Had the State party implemented any action to ensure there were no costs?
Another Committee Expert asked about Gabon’s plans to address the gender dimension of poverty. How were women from vulnerable groups involved in the development and implementation of these plans? What measure were included to ensure a more consistent involvement of women in income generating activities, including entrepreneurship activities?
One Committee Expert asked questions on rural women and vulnerable groups. On rural women, what measures had the State party taken to improve their access to basic services, including healthcare and education, and to improve sanitation and health structures? What had been done in terms of the land allocation plan to encourage access to land for rural and indigenous women? What policies had been adopted to put an end to sexual violence against indigenous women? What was Gabon planning to do to bring the internet to rural areas and promote the use of technologies? Regarding migrant women, what actions had been taken to replace the national fund for social action through which micro credits were offered to migrant women? How was forced labour and domestic servitude being fought? Did refugee women have health insurance coverage which would cover free pregnancy and birth care and when would this be implemented if that was not already the case? How was Gabon guaranteeing access to justice for those who were victims of violence and those with disabilities? How many prosecutions and court cases were carried out over the past year where the victim had a disability? Were all women with disabilities given identity documents? What actions had the State party taken to combat acts of discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women and women with HIV? What measures would the State party take to ensure that detained women were heard in line with international standards?
A Committee member congratulated Gabon on having one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa, on their bold management of menstruation among girls, which was a taboo subject, and on their competency in dealing with girls’ school dropout rates. Gabon was also congratulated on the revision of the curriculum on accounts of violence. The Committee member asked the delegation about pregnancy in teenagers, noting that this resulted in academic dropout – what were the statistics of girls falling pregnant and how many returned to school? The Committee member noted a lack of information on the content of education, stating that the prevention of early pregnancy should be considered – how were these included in training programmes for teachers? The Committee enquired as to how many girls in Gabon had chosen employment options traditionally designed for men, particularly in the science and technology sectors? The Committee member noted that girls and boys in Gabon received the same education in the same classes but cited that girls had a poorer academic performance, asking the delegation to look at discrimination factors which may have caused this, especially in the case of scholarships.
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chair of the Committee, said the Committee was delighted to note the adoption of the new law in 2021 in Gabon, in regard to discrimination in the area of work, and asked about the active unemployment rate of women, which was 22 per cent compared to 13 per cent for men – what was Gabon doing to improve this unemployment rate? What was being planned to eradicate the pay gap between the sexes? What measures were being taken in the post-Covid situation to reintegrate women into the workforce?
Responses by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, said education in Gabon was compulsory from the age of 3 to 16. Pregnant girls were not removed from schools, rather it was ensured they could continue their schooling with day care services made available after birth, so they could continue with schooling once the baby was born. There were no issues with pregnant girls dropping out – like all other girls they were supported and received the same education and training on an equal basis with young men. In regard to the matter of scientific careers, action had been taken to raise the proportion of girls undertaking scientific careers.
The delegation responded on the question of sexual health, saying boys and girls equally took part in school education classes relating to sexual and reproductive health with no stereotyping involved. These classes were introduced in pre-primary school, meaning children had access to information in order to adopt healthy behaviour at an early age, with no restriction on this information. Syllabuses and teacher training programmes in primary and secondary schools in regard to sexual and reproductive health had been addressed and strengthened, with early pregnancy being a focus. There was no expulsion mandate for girls who had become pregnant, rather they were supported and enabled to continue their education and were not discriminated against. Data on pregnancy in schools was gathered routinely.
Ms. Nlend Koho spoke about scholarships which she said were awarded based on an average grade, with no difference between boys and girls. On construction, public works and other male oriented jobs, she said that Gabon aimed to steer girls into these jobs through training programmes. The overall aim was to empower women through them having access to jobs traditionally occupied by men. This also applied to young women at secondary schools and those with a disability.
Ms. Nlend Koho said vulnerable women, including those with a disability, were covered by a National Fund for Social Action, with the budget dedicated to support those women. This included school subsidies and access to vocational training. Several vocational training schools existed in Gabon, with the curriculum revisited regularly to ensure that women could be efficiently trained and become more empowered. On wages, Ms. Nlend Koho said that in the civil service, men and women received the same pay. In the private sector, an observatory for women’s rights and parity would enable Gabon to recognise the work which needed to be done in terms of wage disparity for men and women. A framework fund was being set up with the World Bank, which would consider the informal sector and people working in independent jobs.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee asked for statistics on pregnant girls in school. She also asked whether an actual law was in place which forced girls to leave school if they fell pregnant and enquired around targeted interventions based on a report about girls in school. The Committee Expert asked for further statistical analysis on women taking up scientific-based jobs, saying this would enrich the process.
Another Committee Expert enquired about the law on violence against women which had been previously discussed. Was this purely a criminal law or was it a mixed-hybrid law with urgent protection mechanisms which could be triggered in an emergency? Would a civil court be empowered to order those protection measures?
Responses by the Delegation
Regarding statistics, the delegation said that a survey had been carried out nationwide to gain an understanding of school pregnancies and violence in schools with strategies developed to combat these issues. The delegation reiterated that there was no law permitting the expulsion of a girl if she became pregnant and on the contrary, everything was being done to keep these girls in school. There was also a broad sexual education programme as Gabon was committed to helping women and girls and ensuring their education was not interrupted in any way.
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, said that existing instruments would allow statistics to be gathered in the future, including the telephone lines that were set up to combat violence in schools.
Citing the law on violence against women which had been developed, the delegation said this covered both criminal and civil sectors with provisions available to put an end to violence. Regarding access to justice for women living with a disability, mobile courts could be invoked in order to bring justice to the people.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert commended Gabon for increasing the health care budget, with the budget having doubled between 2015 and 2018. The Committee Expert asked whether this budget was increased through to 2022 and whether this covered medical care in all regions, including remote areas. A gap between the healthcare supply and demand was noted – what measures were being taken to reduce this gap? The Committee Expert welcomed that Gabon had made pre-natal and post-natal care free, asking if this also applied to young girls under the age of 18. The Expert asked about all costs related to contraception and the need to remedy the problem of contraception being out of stock. Could statistics on the rate of clandestine abortions be provided? The phenomenon of HIV/AIDS and the discrimination of those living with the disease remained a cause for concern, with the Committee Expert noting there was no law or measure to support people living with HIV and their stigmatisation. What measures were being taken to address this?
A Committee Expert asked if Gabon planned to give married women the same rights as men to open bank accounts in formal financial insinuations and remove codes which were discriminatory in nature. Currently, discriminatory practices prevented women from inheriting or owning land – what was being done to allow women to manage key assets, including agricultural land, something the Committee Expert said had the potential to increase women’s empowerment and to have positive effects on their welfare. Were strategies planned to change social practices governing household assets in marriage and inheritance which prevented women’s ownership of land?
A Committee Expert asked about the legislation of customary and religious matters, asking about child marriage and what was being done to prevent polyamorous marriages.
Responses by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, said that each of the nine provinces in Gabon had their own regional hospital. A universal healthcare policy was being pursued across the whole country, with new hospitals being built in partnership with financial backers. A policy had been put in place to make medicine available in all remote areas, with medical staff assigned to ensure the health policy was being brought to rural regions. Travelling medical units for vulnerable people were also available. Ms. Nlend Koho said that health care was a primary concern and was being addressed at the highest level. She said that children under the age of 18 whose parents were members would also benefit from the health care benefits. She assured the Committee that both men and women were able to have access to bank accounts and women who had experienced violence would have access to credit. There was a procedure that both men and women needed to go through to access agricultural land; this was open to both genders.
On the issue of a woman needing her husband’s permission to obtain a passport, the delegation said this practice had been denounced. Everyone in Gabon had the ability to open a bank account alone, with no permission of the spouse required. Regarding the rights to inherit, married women could inherit according to the provisions which governed marriage and women could inherit from their husbands. The delegation said it was prohibited to marry a child who was under the age of 18, with the proof of consent still required even over the age of 18. The delegation noted that the old code used to invoke a patriarchal structure, but the new code was much more egalitarian, stating that things had significantly moved on in Gabon.
Questions and Comments by Committee Experts
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chair of the Committee, said that Gabon had adopted new laws which were bringing in new effects, highlighting the mismatch between the image the Committee had of Gabon and the way Gabonese viewed their country.
A Committee Expert asked about the issue of early pregnancy and pre-natal care provided free of charge. The Expert asked whether parents would accompany their children for free treatment and asked what the delegation was doing to ensure this occurred.
Another Committee Expert reiterated a question on polygamy and asked about religious and customary marriages – was this included in the national legislation act and what was the State doing to prevent polyamorous marriages?
Responses by the Delegation
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, assured the Committee that the telephone line implemented meant any person could report any kind of violence at any time. Legal clinics were available to provide information to vulnerable women. The utmost was being done to address issues of early pregnancies, as it was found that girls who fell pregnant dropped out of school despite being top performers, with everything being done by the Government to prevent school dropouts. One of the 33 measures was designed specifically to target this. Treatment for pregnancies was free for everyone, including vulnerable women. Ms. Nlend Koho said it was difficult to provide marital statistics.
On polygamy, religious and traditional marriages, the delegation said this was a cause of concern for the Government, stating that a national commission had been previously set up to explore this. The delegation said that polygamy remained an option which could be chosen by a couple.
Comment by the Chair of the Committee
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chair of the Committee, said that she was excited about the thought of the next Gabon report saying that the recent regulatory frameworks were promising and there was hope to achieve de-facto equality.
PRISCA RAYMONDA NLEND KOHO, Minister of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs and Head of Delegation, concluded by thanking the Chair and the Committee Experts, saying their comments enabled Gabon to realise how much they had done to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and how determined Gabon was to honour it. Gabon was full of enthusiasm, despite not being able to meet in person. Ms. Nlend Koho said the dialogue had been informative and enthusiastic and she thanked the Chair for coaching the delegation.
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chair of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, saying the situation of women in Gabon was understood, with significant strides forward made since 2013. The Chair asked the State party to address all the recommendations of the Committee, for the benefit of all women and girls in the country.
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