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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Belgium on Tremendous Progress made in Legislation, Ask about Gender-Based Violence and Women in Decision-Making Positions

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the eighth periodic report of Belgium, with Committee Experts commending the State on tremendous progress made in policies and legislation, and asking about specific plans to combat gender-based violence, and what was being done to increase the number of women in decision-making positions.

A Committee Expert said tremendous progress had been made in Belgium’s policies and legislation, in particular the ratification of instruments on domestic workers, as well as the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

One Committee Expert asked how coherence in the policies pertaining to violence against women would be ensured? Some cases of child marriage and female genital mutilation continued to go under reported; how would legislation against harmful practices be reinforced? What help was available for victims? How would the State ensure the implementation of the obligation for the protection of women and girls against gender-based violence over the next three years?

A Committee Expert asked about measures taken to increase the number of women in decision-making positions, particularly in diplomatic positions, and within the peace, security, and development agenda and in the armed forces? What steps were being taken to increase the employment level of women with disabilities? Had the State considered introducing quotas to ensure equal levels of women in elected assemblies, particularly women with disabilities?

The delegation said several initiatives had been taken to combat violence against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and honour violence. Five groups were financed in 2021 for a five-year period. One was tasked with combatting female genital mutilation, another with sexual violence, the third focused on forced marriage and honour violence, while the fourth and fifth groups targeted primary protection against domestic violence and domestic violence against women and children, respectively.

Twenty-four municipalities had more female councillors than males. The Flemish Government aimed for 40 per cent women within the administration and undertook various initiatives to achieve this. Many efforts had been made to improve gender parity in the diplomatic service, and much had been achieved in this area. A great deal of effort had been made to increase the recruitment of women as career diplomats. Currently, 23 per cent of diplomatic positions were held by women.

Introducing the report, Michel Pasteel, Director, Institute for the Equality of Women and Men and Deputy Head of Delegation, said the sexual criminal law was the subject of a major reform in March 2022 to better fight against sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of minors and adults, and a series of penalties had been increased. The creation of an Inter-Ministerial Conference on Women's Rights in December 2019 strengthened cooperation between the different levels of Government and monitoring of actions at the highest political level. Also, in 2021, authorities adopted the National Action Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence. Women represented more than 41 per cent of those elected at all levels. At least one third of all executive bodies were made up of women, and the three Governments had parity, or were made up of more women than men. Despite progress, Belgium was aware that significant efforts needed to be made to eliminate discrimination, and looked forward to guidance from the Committee.

In concluding remarks, Marc Pecsteen, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, thanked the Committee for their pointed questions. The delegation would be providing additional information and statistics to the Committee in writing.

Nahla Haidar, Committee Vice Chairperson, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue which had provided further insight into the situation of women in Belgium. The Committee commended the State party for its progress, encouraging Belgium to implement all recommendations of the Committee.

The delegation of Belgium consisted of representatives from the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men; the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue; Flemish Government (Team Equal Opportunities), Wallonia-Brussels Federation; the Wallonia-Brussels Delegation in Geneva; the Federal Public Service Justice, the Federal Public Service Home affairs, represented by the migration office; the Federal Public Service Social Security; the Permanent Representative of Belgium to the Office of the European Socialists; the Delegate General of the Flemish Government to the United Nations in Geneva; and the Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-third session is being held from 10 to 28 October. 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 via the UN Web TV webpage.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Monday, 17 October, when it will be briefed by non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions on the situation of women in Ukraine, Honduras, and Switzerland, whose reports will be reviewed next week.

Report

The Committee has before it the eighth periodic report of Belgium (CEDAW/C/BEL/8).

Presentation of Report

MARC PECSTEEN, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of the Delegation, reiterated the importance that Belgium attached to the promotion and protection of human rights, and the State’s support of the treaty bodies within the United Nations. Belgium had always been committed to cooperating with the various committees and actively implemented the recommendations made by them. Belgium would continue to follow up on this commitment, and also in relation to the Convention. The report was the result of close collaboration between the various federal and federated entities, to give a global vision of Belgium’s compliance with the provisions of the Convention. Contacts were also made with representatives of civil society prior to the dialogue, and Belgium welcomed their presence during the dialogue.

MICHEL PASTEEL, Director, Institute for the Equality of Women and Men and Deputy Head of Delegation, outlined specific measures with regard to women in all their diversity that the Belgian Governments had adopted following the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the war in Ukraine and its consequences. The pandemic had highlighted the need for gender-sensitive policies within Belgian society. The creation of a Vulnerable Groups Task Force made it possible to set up a short leave for single-parent families, with an increased allowance of up to 150 per cent expanded access to corona parental leave.

Belgium had developed specific protection and support actions for refugees of the war in Ukraine, focusing on their needs and in cooperation with the people concerned and their communities, as well as support on the ground. The consequences of the war in Ukraine had an indirect impact on the Belgian population. Women were disproportionately affected by energy poverty due to structural inequalities in income distribution and their socio-economic status. In 2020, 16.4 per cent of women in Belgium lived in energy poverty, compared to 14.9 per cent of men. The Government had mobilised funds to extend heat and energy subsidies for the most vulnerable, including women.

Legislative amendments were being developed at all levels of government, to improve the handling of complaints from victims of discrimination based on sex, including protection against reprisals or the consideration of multiple discrimination.

Important changes had been made to advance the reconciliation of private and professional lives, including the extension of birth leave for the father or co-parent, from 10 days to 20 days in 2023. Sexual criminal law was the subject of a major reform in March 2022 to better fight against sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of minors and adults, and a series of penalties had been increased. The creation of an Inter-Ministerial Conference on Women's Rights in December 2019 strengthened cooperation between the different levels of Government and monitoring of actions at the highest political level.

In 2021, authorities adopted the National Action Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence. Belgium set up a national platform in June 2022 to ensure independent monitoring of the Plan, and further involvement with civil society. Several initiatives had already been taken within the framework of the Plan, including the extension of multi-disciplinary reception centres throughout the country, to allow each victim of sexual violence to find a centre within one hour of their home. There were seven centres throughout the country, with three new ones due to open in 2023. Training on sexual and domestic violence was now mandatory for all judges. New accommodation facilities for victims of violence and their relatives were being set up by the federated entities, and a mobile alarm device was being developed to combat femicide. Belgium was finalising the ratification process of International Labour Organization Convention 190, which would be fully finalised by the beginning of 2023.

Mr. Pasteel said women represented more than 41 per cent of those elected at all levels. At least one third of all executive bodies were made up of women, and the three Governments had parity, or were made up of more women than men. The law to guarantee the presence of women on boards of directors had quadrupled the proportion of women on boards to 34.1 per cent in 2020, over 10 years. Belgium aimed to strengthen women's economic independence by strengthening early childhood care and reducing the cost of this service. Belgium had celebrated five years of the “SheDecides” movement, which was based on the belief that every girl and woman had the right to make decisions about her own body, life, and future. Belgium intended to remain particularly mobilised on this subject in a context of resurgence of reactionary tendencies pushed by anti-gender, anti-choice and conservative movements. Mr. Pasteel said that despite progress, Belgium was aware that significant efforts needed to be made to eliminate discrimination, and looked forward to guidance from the Committee.

Questions by a Committee Expert

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Belgium, said tremendous progress had been made in Belgium’s policies and legislation, in particular, the ratification of instruments on domestic workers, as well as the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. However, the Convention was not well known within the courts. Did the State party plan to establish official legal safeguards in its legislation which guaranteed the rights enshrined in the Convention? What measures was Belgium taking to ensure that the effective equality between women and men was a fundamental applicable principle within any legislation or State policy? Following reforms, had the criteria for legal aid been simplified? How many women had enjoyed primary and secondary free legal aid? What measures had been taken so that women of under privileged group could lodge a complaint in police stations or in the courts? Were interpreters provided? Was reasonable accommodation offered to these women?

Ms. Pelaez Narvaez asked if the Federal Centre for Migration was competent in dealing with complaints, how many migrant women were able to lodge a complaint, and what the complaints dealt with?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said there was compulsory training of judges since 2020 to tackle gender-based violence; international treaties, including the Convention, were specifically mentioned. Belgium had declared that all principles of the Convention were carried out in line with the fundamentals of the Constitution.

Since 2016, police had been recommended to identify victims of violence and give them special support. A circular for police and public prosecutors had special directions applicable for female victims of violence who did not have documents, allowing them to submit complaints and remain protected, without fearing deportation. Belgium did not wish to add another level of victimisation when the complaint was lodged. All police were made aware that the victim could not be imprisoned or sanctioned, and instead would be referred to the social sectors to be provided with necessary support.

In 2021, 1,200 complaints had been received at the Institute for the Equality of Women and Mn, with 34 per cent concerning the employment sector. Sexual harassment complaints were on the rise, accounting for 21 per cent of complaints in 2021. There were two specialised units on violence against women within the police. Since the creation of the centre on sexual violence, 1,000 special police inspectors had been trained to deal with this phenomena.

. The Belgian authorities had started a concrete policy to improve gender data, including in the field of police and judicial statistics. The availability of sex-disaggregated statistics on the victims of gender-based violence was one of the objectives of this initiative. The quality of legal aid was being improved with the aim of enhancing the service for all beneficiaries, including undocumented women.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert said Belgium enjoyed the highest quality of standards between women and men and played a key role in equality throughout the world. How could Belgium strengthen vertical and horizontal coordination of the National Equality Strategy? Could there be an inter-institutional agreement to give new life to the policy? How would coherence in the architecture be strengthened to ensure a uniform system in law? Was a complaint mechanism in place? Were non-governmental organizations involved? Did human rights defenders enjoy protected status? Was the gender mainstreaming applicable at all levels of federal entities? How could coherence among all plans be ensured? The Committee was counting on Belgium to innovate in the area of law enforcement training.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the Inter-Ministerial Conference on Women’s Rights had helped to strengthen cooperation among various levels of government. It allowed for flexibility and for the strengthening of coordination in various areas. This was something new to Belgium; all six Governments were determined to ensure that follow up was provided through the Inter-Ministerial Conference. Sixteen non-governmental organizations would be reunited on a national platform, to provide advice on the National Action Plan. They would also be a part of some actions of the plan.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert reiterated the Committee’s desire to see the recommendation from the Commission to be translated in concrete terms.

Another Committee Expert commended Belgium on the extensive legislative progress made. How and when would Belgium strengthen the complaints mechanism and ensure redress for women victims? What was the number of reported cases of sexism in the public domain registered in the last three years? Could disaggregated data be provided? How would coherence in the policies pertaining to violence against women be ensured? Some cases of child marriage and female genital mutilation continued to go under reported; how would legislation against harmful practices be reinforced? What help was available for victims? When would Belgium introduce specific provisions in the Penal Code about femicide? How would the State ensure implementation of the obligation for the protection of women and girls against gender-based violence over the next three years?

One Committee Expert said for many years, Belgium had set the standard in its fight against trafficking, including through the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on trafficking. Could the State party explain if the resources to fight trafficking was adequate. Was victim support adequate? The Committee welcomed the new national action plan covering 2021-2025, noting the high number of suspensions when it came to trafficking cases before the court, due to the broad definition of trafficking in the law. Would Belgium consider amending the definition of trafficking in its legislation? The so-called “lover-boy” phenomenon was recognised in Belgium; what were the concrete measures the State planned to take in this regard? What would be the main object of the reform of the law on prostitution, fighting prostitution, or identifying victims of trafficking? How would the State party improve the situation of sex workers?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said there was a new study on the prevalence of female genital mutilation and on those who were at risk. There were issues regarding data collection in this regard. Belgium was working closely with non-governmental organizations to address this issue as they were able to interact with victims in a culturally sensitive way. There would be a new law on the topic of femicide, which would install a new definition and protective mechanisms for potential victims, as well as preventive measures. A lack of crime of femicide in Belgian criminal law did not mean it was not punished; it currently received the most severe sentence of up to 30 years, or even life in prison.

Several initiatives had been taken to combat violence against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and honour violence. Five groups were financed in 2021 for a five-year period. One was tasked with combatting female genital mutilation, another dealt with sexual violence, the third focused on forced marriage and honour violence, while the fourth and fifth groups targeted primary protection against domestic violence, and domestic violence against women and children, respectively. Efforts had been taken to specifically combat forced marriage and honour violence, including through work with the youth sector, to provide care to victims. A study was being carried out on minors who were being sexually exploited, with results expected by 2023.

In 2016, the Flemish Government established an action plan to combat the sexual exploitation of children. An approach was in place to offer sex workers information about sexually transmitted disease testing and early detection. Exit strategies could be set up for those wishing to leave sex work. Sexual criminal legislation had undergone a major reform, strengthening the position of sex workers. The grey zone of prostitution meant sex workers lived in precarious positions; the reform of the law enabled sex workers to perform their function independently. Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and pimping remained sanctioned. One of the shelters in Brussels had been specifically established for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community, who had experienced breakdowns with their families.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked if incest was recognised as a special, distinct crime within the Criminal Code?

Another Committee Expert asked about the resources available to combat human trafficking?

One Committee Expert asked about measures taken to increase the number of women in decision-making positions, particularly in diplomatic positions, and within the peace, security, and development agenda, and the armed forces? What steps were being taken to increase the employment level of women with disabilities? Had the State considered introducing quotas to ensure equal levels of women in elected assemblies, particularly women with disabilities?

A Committee Expert said that cases had been reported where Belgian mothers and their non-Belgian spouses were struggling to obtain citizenship for their children. What was the State party doing to address this? What legal safeguards were in place for women whose nationality had been revoked? What steps had been taken to facilitate the repatriation of all children born to Belgian nationals who found themselves in conflict zones? What guidelines were in place to ensure these children enjoyed reintegration and access to services?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said incest was recognised as a stand-alone, fully fledged offence. An additional 50,000 euros had been earmarked for the human trafficking centre.

Twenty-four municipalities had more female councillors than males. The Flemish Government aimed for 40 per cent women within the administration and was undertaking various initiatives to achieve this. Many efforts had been made to improve gender parity in the diplomatic service, and much had been achieved in this area. A great deal of effort had been made to increase the recruitment of women as career diplomats. Currently, 23 per cent of diplomatic positions in Belgium were held by women.

The federal disability plan specially focused on gender in all its policies. There was a whole raft of measures in place to improve employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. There had been a rise in people with “undetermined nationalities in Belgium”, with actually over 25,000 registered in the State. This aimed to protect children who had not been previously registered in the statistics. This was a good State initiative to ensure these children were counted, provided safeguards, and known to the authorities.

Questions by Committee Experts

One Committee Expert asked for statistics showing the increase of the participation of women. Were women accepted in Belgium’s armed forces?

A Committee Expert asked what was being done to reduce statelessness?

Another Committee Expert commended the high level of education achieved among women in Belgium, and the five-year plan for women in the digital field was welcomed. What were the impacts of the campaigns implemented by the Government, and had there been an increase in the French community of girls enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math subjects? What steps had been taken to prevent any negative consequence that the ban on the use of religious symbols in schools may have on girls’ education? What steps had been taken to combat intimidation and bullying in schools? How did the State address the issue of education for undocumented girls? What steps were being taken to tackle the underrepresentation of vulnerable women, and to improve their access to the labour market?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said women had access to all positions in the armed forces, and had participated in the armed forces for more than 40 years.

Some schools had challenged the banning of religious items; it was up to each school board to decide for themselves, and some schools no longer had bans on religious symbols. The Government did not impose any policy in this regard. Plans had been undertaken to combat hate speech, including through educating influencers regarding the impact that the use of hate speech would have on their followers. An action plan was launched against early school leaving, which focused on extending care to prevent young people from leaving school. A digital module had been established to incorporate science, technology, engineering and math issues.

Schools prohibited discrimination against children based on their religious beliefs. School mediation had been established allowing for the resolution of disputes between students, staff, and parents. A provision was in place to reintegrate migrant students into schools, under the best possible conditions. Nothing prevented undocumented minors from being enrolled in schools. Support mechanisms were in place, ensuring young people could re-enter mainstream education. Belgium followed a holistic approach on corporal punishment, and there was a recent case law which stated this was punishable, pursuant to the Criminal Code. Belgium believed the use of violence within the education setting was unacceptable. A coordination unit was in place to assist children who were victims of neglect.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert asked whether Belgium had considered ratifying the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families? Would measures be taken to combat discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity? What actions had been discussed to eliminate the wage gap? What was being done to encourage people to lodge complaints if there was sexual harassment in the workplace?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Belgium was not in a position to envisage the ratification of the Convention on Migrant Workers. A mechanism was in place in Belgium to combat discrimination based on pregnancy, and this had also been specifically stipulated in anti-discrimination laws. There was a wage gap in Belgium, although it was among the most reduced in Europe. A law was being enacted to make wages more transparent within companies. A measure was being provided to ensure that domestic workers received the same rights as all other workers. A law was being enacted which would ensure that Belgium would ratify International Labour Organization Convention 190. Collaboration had been extended with non-governmental organizations to improve the situation of those whose rights had been violated in the workplace and help them achieve financial compensation from their employer.

On the issue of Belgian children in Syria, the delegation said that Belgium’s policy on the repatriation of children of foreign combatants with Belgian nationality had at its core the best interests of the child. To date, all Belgian children over the age of 12 who had met the repatriation criteria had been repatriated. A project was in place to combat discrimination faced by mothers and fathers in the workplace. An awareness raising campaign had been carried out in 2017 which focused on discrimination in recruitment. Projects had been launched to enable better conditions at work for vulnerable women.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that since 2014, domestic workers were included in social security contributions; was this a special scheme or the normal one?

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Belgium, commended the State on the progress made on health, despite difficult circumstances. Groups of disadvantaged women had limitations which could impact health care. Due to restrictions on abortion, many undocumented women were forced to have forced pregnancies. What was the State party doing to respond to these issues? What was being done to put an end to harmful practices such as forced sterilisation?

Approximately 2,000 people died by suicide in Belgium each year, which was one of the main causes of death. How was the issue of suicide being dealt with, including from a gender standpoint? Incest was a worrying situation which affected many women. How were public healthcare services tackling this practice? How had the reform of the abortion law impacted access for vulnerable groups of women? How was it ensured that migrant women could have access to an abortion?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that concerning social security for domestic workers, this was most likely under the normal scheme, but the delegation would check and answers would be provided in writing.

Specific measures took gender into account when it came to health. The healthcare system in Belgium allowed for abortion to be covered in exceptional circumstances, and therefore it would be free. Actions would be taken to overcome all possible obstacles to accessing abortion centres for vulnerable women, with information to be translated into all languages. When it came to Roma women’s access to healthcare, the cities where Roma were primarily gathered conducted awareness raising on healthcare and there were visiting health professionals. Roma coaches integrated within the communities helped Roma parents realise the necessity of sending their children to school.

An anonymous hotline was available for people who were worried about their sexual feelings towards minors. Since 2022, there was no longer a need to consult a general practitioner before making an appointment with a psychologist. The Flemish Centre for Suicide Prevention offered information and advice, and a hotline was in place to provide support to youths. The HPV vaccine was free of charge for all children in the first years of secondary school.

Questions by Committee Experts

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Belgium, said involuntary sterilisation continued to take place in certain cases, based on exceptions covered under the law. Could clarification be provided regarding involuntary sterilisation? Could some institutions request that women be sterilised?

She also asked about the situation of intersex children?

A Committee Expert asked about Belgium’s position on access to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation stressed that there was a prohibition against involuntarily sterilisation legally speaking. However, figures were lacking on institutions which required sterilisation as a prerequisite for receiving care. The Belgian bioethics committee considered sterilization as unacceptable when it was only for the comfort of caregivers or parents.

Concerning the COVID-19 vaccines, Belgium had always advocated to facilitate trade in medical products and to discourage restrictions on exports.

The delegation said a plan had been adopted on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community to fill current gaps, prohibit conversion therapies, and prohibit operations without the consent of intersex children.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert asked what Belgium planned to do to support migrant, Roma, and homeless women at the economic level? What support had been given to women entrepreneurs during the pandemic? How was Belgium fighting economic discrimination against women in the private sector? How was equality in accessing credit ensured between men and women?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said a plan had been adopted for poverty reduction and gender was mentioned as a cross-cutting concept. Several measures had been taken to benefit homeless women, including the shelters and care centres geared specifically towards women. A programme had been implemented to reduce poverty and inequality in the Brussels region. A taskforce had been launched on vulnerable people, and several actions had been taken. There was a Flemish plan for living together, which aimed to support local authorities, including the guidance of disadvantaged groups towards entrepreneurships. So far, 238 women had taken part in the project. The was a gap in the number of women entrepreneurs compared to men in Belgium. In 2021, proportionately more businesses were opened by women; over 12 per cent by women compared to around 8 per cent for men.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that during the last five years, women entrepreneurships had decreased, but women’s presence in micro businesses this year was up. Could statistical data be provided?

Another Committee Expert asked if statistics could be provided on rural women who owned farmland? How did the national strategy support rural women? How was Belgium ensuring the effectiveness of implementing the circular on preventing illegal women in Belgium from being a victim twice over? How was this information disseminated for women, so that they were aware of their rights? Would the law on aliens be amended? What measures had been incorporated to enhance gender sensitivity in the asylum procedure? When would the State party adopt an inter-federal plan to combat racism, and would this plan specifically address women? What measures would be adopted to do away with the serious and systematic discrimination of women with disabilities? What measures were being taken to accelerate Roma women’s access to education and health care? How many children were born to Roma girls under the age of 18, over the last three years? What measures was the State party taking regarding prison rules, to ensure that the needs of women and their children were taken into account?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said women were present in the agriculture sphere, accounting for 29 per cent in the Walloon region. One woman in 10 was the head of a farm, and around 16 per cent of farms in the region were run by women. These figures had not really changed since 1990. Ongoing training was provided to women in farmland areas, aiming for their active participation in economic, cultural, and social life. Last year, within the Office for Aliens, coordinators had been appointed for gender mainstreaming. It was ensured that women in a family reunion process who had faced domestic violence would not lose their residency status when they separated from their partner. Intensive training was carried out by the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons to protection officers on gender-related issue.

Female detainees were allowed to keep their children with them during the detention if the child was under the age of three. Maximum efforts were being made to give the children the opportunity to develop physically, psychologically, and socially while growing up in detention. Maximum consideration was given to the needs of the mothers and children. In July 2022, a federal measure was adopted to combat various forms of racism, attaching particular attention to those who were the most vulnerable. The family justice centre had a specific approach tailored to women with a migrant background, including a peer learning approach to domestic violence. The Brussels Government had initiated self-defence projects for women with disabilities.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert asked if Belgium would consider amending the law and deleting the exceptions that would allow a child under 18 to marry? A new law on inheritance had the intention to allow people who were aging to be protected until the end of their life. Since the adoption of the law, had there been any negative gendered impact on women?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said no children under the age of 18 had been married in Belgium society in 2020, and two were married in 2021. The law on inheritance strengthened legal inheritance rights of the surviving spouse. There were very few legal marriages involving minors, but there were situations where there were forced cohabitations, based on honour. Between 2017 and 2019, about 50 children applied for services because they were subject to honour-based violence geared towards unwanted marriage. The Government was working with youths to raise awareness in the sector, and youths could be placed in shelters if required. A tool was put in place to help social workers detect unsafe family situations.

Closing Remarks

MARC PECSTEEN, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of the Delegation, thanked the Committee Experts for their pointed questions. The delegation would be providing additional information and statistics to the Committee in writing.

MICHEL PASTEEL, Director, Institute for the Equality of Women and Men and Deputy Head of Delegation, thanked the Committee for the quality of the questions which put the delegation to the test, and hoped that satisfactory answers had been provided.

NAHLA HAIDAR, Committee Vice Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue which had provided further insight into the situation of women in Belgium. The Committee commended the State party for its progress, encouraging Belgium to implement all recommendations of the Committee.

 

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CEDAW22.031E