Civil Society Representatives Brief Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Situation of Women in the United Arab Emirates, Bolivia, Mongolia and Morocco
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon heard from representatives of national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the situation of women’s rights in the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Mongolia and Bolivia, whose reports will be reviewed this week.
Non-governmental organizations speaking on the United Arab Emirates raised several issues, including patriarchal family laws; the issue of female genital mutilation; and a disparity in conferring nationality between men and women.
Concerning Morocco, the National Human Rights Council of Morocco said that women in Morocco faced several challenges, including violence, child marriage, access to positions of responsibility, and the issue of abortion, among others. Civil society organizations addressed topics including gaps in rape laws, the situation of lesbian women in the country, and underage marriage.
In regard to Mongolia, the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia said in 2020 the majority of civil servants (60 per cent) were women, but just one quarter were in high-ranking positions. No measures had been taken to implement quotas promoting the laws of gender quality. Non-governmental organizations said the main issues being faced by women in Mongolia were the adverse impacts of mining, and discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
Speaking about Bolivia, non-governmental organizations highlighted high infant mortality rates and abortion as key issues in the country, as well as high rates of violence against women and femicide. The State was urged to guarantee the rights of trans women in Bolivia.
Speaking on the United Arab Emirates were the following non-governmental organizations: Musawah; Equality Now; and Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights.
Speaking on Morocco were the following non-governmental organizations: Harmonisation Now; Kasbah Tal'fin and ILGA; Mobilising for Rights Associates Morocco; and Musawah.
Speaking on Mongolia were the following non-governmental organizations: Oyu Tolgoi Watch; LBGT Centre; and Mongolian Women’s Fund.
Speaking on Bolivia were the following non-governmental organizations: Comunidad de Derechos Humanos; Comité de América Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los derechos de las Mujeres; and EQUAL Bolivia.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-second session is being held from 13 June to 1 July. 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 https://media.un.org/en/webtv.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 June to review the fourth periodic report of the United Arab Emirates (CEDAW/C/ARE/4).
Informal Meeting with National Human Rights Institutions
National Human Rights Council of Morocco said the Council organised annual campaigns dedicated to the fight against all forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities and for their participation in political and social life. Regarding Morocco's implementation of the Convention, progress had been made at the normative, constitutional, legislative and institutional levels since the last review in 2008, which guaranteed better protection of the rights of women and girls. The Council welcomed the completion of the accession process to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which would enter into force for Morocco in July 2022. Several laws had also been adopted, including a law against violence against women and the law establishing the Parity Authority.
However, several challenges remained, including the lack of criminalisation of domestic violence, child marriage, access to positions of responsibility, the issue of abortion, equality in inheritance, access to sexual and reproductive health rights and legal guardianship. There were also shortcomings related to parity and the political representation of women, despite the novelties brought about by the laws relating to elections. The Council invited the Committee to incorporate several recommendations into its concluding observations against Morocco. These included the revision of texts and the legal arsenal, and incorporating provisions guaranteeing the rights of women and girls, including the repeal of the exception which allowed child marriage and the criminalisation of marital rape. The State was also called on to strengthen women’s political participation and facilitate women’s access to decent jobs.
In response to a question by a Committee Expert on how the role of the Convention might be strengthened within the legislative process in the country, the National Human Rights Council of Morocco said that the Council sought to support the harmonisation of domestic legislation with international instruments. Now that Morocco had acceded to the Optional Protocol, there would be discussions with the Committee, which was essential when it came to supporting the legislative process.
A Committee Expert asked about the financing of the national human rights institute, and how work could be supported? Another Committee Expert asked for statistics on individual complaints and on women who had been given rulings on alimony and cases involving violence against women.
Responding to these questions, the Council said that regarding funding, the National Human Rights Council of Morocco, as an independent human rights institution, was financed by the State budget, as provided for in the Paris Principles Act. A small part of its resources came from international cooperation. The legislation on the Parity Authority was adopted in 2017 and the process was now underway to establish it. Members of the Parity Authority still needed to be appointed. This would be an important institution within the Moroccan arsenal for the protection of women’s rights. On the issue of complaints, over 3,000 had been received by the Council, on a variety of topics, with 20 per cent coming from women.
National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia said that in 2020, the majority of civil servants (60 per cent) were women, but just one quarter were in high-ranking positions. No measures had been taken to implement quotas promoting the laws of gender equality. The laws on political parties were not specific on how to ensure equal gender participation in the Council. Influential parties were trying to increase women’s political participation by setting quotas; however, new opportunities for women were limited. Preventative action needed to be taken against deep seated stereotypes which occurred in Mongolia.
A study had been undertaken about sexual harassment in the workplace, and about 70 per cent of employees had admitted to sexual harassment in the workplace. To combat gender-based violence, the baseline challenges ensured effective implementation over the past 10 years. The Commission welcomed that a series of shelters for victims had been expanded, including at a professional level. However, more needed to be done. Regarding political life, it was difficult for women to run in political elections. Concerning the employment law, the Labour Code was renewed in 2021. The Labour Code provided progress in non-discrimination in employment, and included specifications around physical harassment and sexual harassment.
Informal Meeting with Non-Governmental Organizations
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, said this was the second opportunity during the present session for non-governmental organizations to provide information. They would speak on the situation of women in the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Mongolia and Bolivia, whose reports would be considered this week. Representatives of non-governmental organizations had the right to unhindered access to and to communicate with the Committee and its members for the effective implementation of the Committee’s mandate. Individuals or groups facing intimidation for cooperating with the Committee, or their representatives, could inform the rapporteur on reprisals.
United Arab Emirates
Musawah said that the United Arab Emirates’ family laws remained patriarchal. The State had made strides in advancing the opportunities provided to women in the public sphere and had enacted the domestic violence law, but empowerment was hindered by discriminatory practices against women that prevailed in the private sphere. Family laws continued to stereotype women as mothers and wives and the country’s legal framework treated women as subordinate to men. Musawah recommended that the Committee urge the State party to reflect the status of women as full rights holders in legal frameworks; to promote human rights standards as intrinsic to the teachings of Islam; and to support independent national advocacy groups and activists advocating for family law reforms. Musawah encouraged the United Arab Emirates to ensure full legal equality and empowerment for Muslim women, in their public and private lives.
Equality Now called on the Committee to recommend that the United Arab Emirates take action to address the critical issue of female genital mutilation. While the Government had maintained that the traditional practice had died, the latest research, published in 2020, found a female genital mutilation prevalence rate of 41.4 per cent amongst the female participants of the study. To address the harmful practice, the Government needed to gather national-level data on the prevalence of the practice in the country, and urgently adopt a ban which prohibited all healthcare professionals from performing female genital mutilation.
Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights said the United Arab Emirates was one of just 25 countries globally that denied women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men. By law, Emirati men automatically conferred nationality on their child, regardless of the place of birth, while Emirati women only had the right to confer nationality if paternity was not substantiated or the father was unknown or stateless. Since 2017 there had been no action taken by the Government to remove gender discrimination in the nationality law, which put children at a heightened risk of statelessness. The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights urged the Committee to call for the reform of the Nationality Code.
Harmonisation Now said Morocco has seen the rise of a new Government in 2021, which declared itself in favour of women's human rights. However, data provided by non-governmental organizations confirmed that gender gaps were alarming in all areas. Key concerns were the definition of discrimination; the need for a complete overhaul of the Family Code; and the necessity to abolish all provisions perpetuating discrimination, including polygamy and the marriage of minors. Harmonisation Now said that the complete overhaul of the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure for criminal justice for women and for the protection of individual freedoms was required. Many laws needed to be revised, including the law combatting violence against women, which needed to adopt international definitions on discrimination against women, and to not limit the enforcement of protection orders. Several laws, including the combatting of trafficking in human beings, needed to be adopted.
Kasbah Tal'fin and ILGA said that in Morocco, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women lived between their legal criminalisation and the lack of protection from social stigma. There were no clear laws that protected women from violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Urgent legal reforms to protect women on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity were needed.
Mobilising for Rights Associates Morocco said that the Penal Code criminalised victims and promoted violence against women. The criminalisation of sexual relations outside of marriage prevented women from reporting violence to avoid being prosecuted; less than 3 per cent of rape victims reported the crime. The organization said that women victims of violence did not receive adequate protection, and rape and abortion laws in Morocco did not meet international standards. Abortion also remained illegal in the country, even in cases of rape or incest. Underage marriage remained a significant problem, with the Family Code allowing for the marriage of minors. The organization called for a repeal of the Penal Code articles which criminalised sexual relations outside marriage; the authorisation of abortion in coordination with international standards; the need to address gaps in current rape laws; and the necessity to amend the Family Code by setting a minimum age below which marriage was not permitted.
Musawah said that Morocco’s Family Code from 2004 had been a revolutionary law that significantly contributed to spousal equality and gender balance in the law at the time, however, its full implementation remained unsatisfactory. While the minimum age of marriage was fixed at 18 years, judges were given discretion to permit cases of marriage between the ages of 16 and 18. In 2019, out of 32,000 applications for marriage to minors, an alarming 81 per cent was approved by Moroccan courts. Musawah recommended that the Committee urge the State to enact legislation to uphold the minimum age of marriage at 18 years without any exception, and collect and publicise data on the frequency of child and forced marriage, and work with civil society to address the issue. It was also recommended that the Committee undertake public programmes to educate on the usage of the written agreement on the distribution of assets acquired during the marriage.
Oyu Tolgoi Watch said the Government was resisting to disclose data on the impacts of mining’s toxic substances and waste on the environment and human health. Women living in mining affected environments continued to bear infants with congenital malformations, deformations, chromosomal abnormalities, and other forms of disabilities. The organization recommended, among others, that a public health warning be instituted, providing information services on the potential impacts of chemicals and other hazardous materials on health. It was also recommended that grants be provided for upgrading public health care facilities, such as the Mother and Child Health Clinic.
LGBT Centre said that the Mongolian Government had turned a blind eye to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the county, particularly in the healthcare sector. The health issues of this group were mainly discussed and understood within the HIV/STI framework in the healthcare sector. There was insufficient data collection, making it difficult to assess and address violence against this group. The organization recommended that the State ensured that healthcare providers were informed about physical and psychological issues experienced by sexual minorities and that equality and non-discrimination were promoted as ethical standards in the provision of healthcare. Independent trans healthcare standards should also be developed.
Mongolian Women's Fund said the Government lacked ownership and commitment to the elimination of stereotypes and harmful practices about the roles of women and men in society and their social participation, because those issues were mainly addressed by the projects funded and implemented by international organizations. The Committee should recommend that the Government identify and formalise a government body responsible for implementing the Convention. There was no access to long-term rehabilitation services for those who had suffered from gender-based violence, and mental and emotional damage was no recognised or addressed. Mongolia should adopt methodology for the assessment of psychological damage affecting the gender-based violence victims and survivors, and establish clear legal regulations and mechanisms for fair compensation for victims.
Comunidad de Derechos Humanos said that Bolivia continued to have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in South America, although there was no up-to-date data, making it difficult to adopt evidence-based public policies in this and other areas. Access to information and modern contraceptive methods was limited, especially for rural and indigenous populations, and teenage pregnancy continued to remain high. Unsafe abortion was a public health problem and was the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Bolivia because voluntary abortion without causes continued to be criminalised. The organization requested that the Committee recommend that Bolivia adopt legislative, administrative and budgetary measures to address maternal mortality and unmet contraceptive needs; implement comprehensive sexuality education in the education system; and eliminate barriers to access to legal termination of pregnancy in the health system in cases already permitted.
Comité de América Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los derechos de las Mujeres said that violence against girls, adolescents and women in Bolivia was a concern. Despite the existence of a comprehensive law enacted in 2013, the figures were still high. The Committee should recommend that Bolivia increase the human and financial resources of State institutions responsible for combatting violence against women and gender stereotypes. The Criminal Code should also be amended so that the definition of the crime of rape was not based on the requirement to prove the victim's use of force or resistance, but on the victim's lack of consent. It was also recommended that the State implement effective and sustainable gender equality job opportunity programmes and policies that guaranteed women decent and full employment, and equal pay for equal work between men and women.
EQUAL Bolivia said that lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex women had not been explicitly included in protection in Bolivia. The Committee should urge the State to guarantee the exercise of the political rights of trans women, putting an end to discrimination based on gender identity. The State was also urged to adopt
a comprehensive and national affirmative action public policy that guaranteed access to education, health and employability for lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex women, as well as enact a law that punished crimes motivated by prejudice. The Committee should urge Bolivia to enact regulations that guaranteed marriage, free unions, adoption and recognition of children for lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex women.
Questions by Committee Experts
Speaking on the United Arab Emirates, a Committee Expert asked about recommendations to improve the situation for women with disabilities and the elderly. What support was provided to women who were victims of domestic violence or trafficking? Another Committee Expert noted that there was a new body in the United Arab Emirates which specialised in issues relating to women. Could information on this new body be provided?
Addressing Mongolia, a Committee Expert asked about the gender pay gap and for a specific pay gap percentage to be provided. Was there data on sexual discrimination in the workplace? The Expert asked about trafficking and a national action plan on this issue?
Concerning Morocco, a Committee Expert addressed the request to repeal article 489, asking if there were organizations which supported that and an appetite to repeal the article within the country?
On Bolivia, a Committee Expert noted there were no women’s ministry in the country and asked about the three institutions in place in the country?
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, said that because of the lack of time, non-governmental organizations were asked to respond to these questions in writing.
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