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Civil Society Organizations Brief the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Situation of Women in France, Albania, Malawi, Uruguay and Nicaragua

Meeting Summaries

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was this afternoon briefed by representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions on the situation of women’s rights in France, Albania, Malawi, Uruguay and Nicaragua.

The reports of France, Albania, Malawi and Uruguay will be reviewed by the Committee this week, while the report of Nicaragua will be reviewed by the Committee next week.

In relation to France, speakers raised concerns regarding the women of New Caledonia, nuclear exposure in French Polynesia, the rights of prostitutes and sex workers, and the ban of headscarves and veils in schools and sports, among other issues.

On Albania, speakers addressed several issues, including gender-based violence, labour laws for women, and the challenges faced by lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women in the country.

As for Malawi, speakers raised issues on women with disabilities, the right to abortion, and discrimination against women in the legal system, among other issues.

Concerning Uruguay, speakers discussed a number of issues, including the lack of political clarity, femicide, and the situation of indigenous women.

Regarding Nicaragua, speakers raised the difficult situations of indigenous women, Afro-descendant women, and female political prisoners, among other issues.

The Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme, France, and Défenseure des droits spoke on France, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Kimbe Red, Notre Affaire a Tous NAAT, Union of Francophone Women of Oceania New Caledonia (UFFO NC), Development and Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), STRASS - Syndicat des Travailleuses et Travailleurs du Sexe, Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM), Regards de femmes, TPs de Coordination SUD, and FIDH.

The following non-governmental organizations spoke on Albania: Monitoring Network Against Gender Based Violence, Gender Alliance for Development Centre representing the Albanian Coalition for Labour Rights, Alliance Against Discrimination of LGBTI, and Human Rights in Democracy Centre.

The Malawi Human Rights Commission spoke on Malawi, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Disabled Women Organizations, Ivy Foundation, Young Women's Consortium on Women's Reproductive Rights, and Reprieve.

The National Human Rights Institute of Uruguay spoke on Uruguay as did the following non-governmental organizations: CLADEM, COTIDIANO MUJER, and Consejo de la Nación Charrúa.

The following non-governmental organizations spoke on behalf of Nicaragua: International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights + Rights Livelihood, International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, and International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World).

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-sixth session is being held from 9 to 27 October.  All 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 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 October to consider the ninth periodic report of France (CEDAW/C/FRA/9).

Opening Remarks by the Committee Chair

ANA PELÁEZ NARVÁEZ, Committee Chairperson, said this was the second opportunity during the session for non-governmental organizations to provide information on States parties whose reports were being considered during the second and third weeks, namely France, Albania, Malawi, Uruguay and Nicaragua.

Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations from France, Albania, Malawi, Uruguay and Nicaragua


Kimbe Red said chlordecone poisoning and lack of safe drinking water were two of the major health crises in the French West Indies.  On chlordecone, despite knowledge of its extreme toxicity, France had authorised the pesticide in banana plantations for 20 years, and today chlordecone was everywhere; 90 percent of the population was contaminated, yet, as of December 2022, only 14 people were compensated.  Women were primarily exposed as they would distribute chlordecone with their bare hands under banana trees.  Female diseases such as breast cancer were skyrocketing and pregnant women could pass their chlordecone rate onto their child.  On safe drinking water, in Guadeloupe, water cuts occurred daily and could last over a month.  Available water was often not safe due to failing infrastructure and pollution, which had inhumane consequences on women and girls’ health, hygiene and dignity.  Both issues violated women’s rights, in particular the right to health, in breach of the Convention. 

Notre Affaire a Tous NAAT said France did not mention climate change and its impacts on women's rights in its ninth periodic report, despite being alerted by the Committee in priority issues.  Today, France was failing to significantly reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.  Going forwards, climate change would exacerbate discrimination against women and gender inequalities in all areas covered by the Convention.  It was essential that France meet the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, implement strong climate mitigation measures, and uphold the need to reduce fossil fuels. 

Union of Francophone Women of Oceania New Caledonia (UFFO NC) said women had been forgotten in the decolonisation process of New Caledonia.  A real application of the Convention in New Caledonia was needed to respond to the systemic causes of discrimination and inequalities experienced by women.  It was recommended that New Caledonia be accountable to the Committee for the implementation of the Convention by becoming a full-fledged signatory; that the Convention be enshrined in the legislative provisions of New Caledonia; that France integrate New Caledonia into the High Council for Gender Equality; that ethno-specific and gender-specific data be collected for all public policies; and that women in civil society be included in the discussion spaces. 

Development and Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) said she was Mililani Ganivet from French Polynesia - Mā’ohi Nui where France had conducted 196 nuclear tests over 30 years from 1966 to 1996.  At 14 years old, she had a cancer lymphoma which endangered her life and raised concerns that the treatment would impede her fertility and ability to give birth.  This was the story of many women in the country.  The Committee should call on France to shed light on and address the full impact of French nuclear testing on the health of women and girls.  Those from Mā’ohi Nui demanded truth and justice from France. 

STRASS - Syndicat des Travailleuses et Travailleurs du Sexe said public policies on prostitution undermined the fundamental rights of prostitutes and sex workers.  United Nations entities had shown the detrimental effects of the criminalisation of sex work on the health and safety of sex workers.  Despite the growing consensus, nothing changed: discriminatory laws, combined with restrictive migration policies and stigmatisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, were obstacles to the sex workers community to have access to health and reproductive rights.  The Syndicat demanded the full decriminalisation of sex work, as well as labour rights and access to justice.

Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM) said in France, the authorities decided what women wore, with a series of clothing bans, including any head covering in schools but also in sports, such as the Olympic Games.  Girls and women from ethnic and Muslim minorities were targeted.  No criteria had been decided to define an abaya.  It needed to be ensured that all women and girls could access sport. 

Regards de femmes called on France to suspend any hormonal or surgical treatment of trans-identified minors.  The State should also ensure that the June 2023 law "aimed at combatting the abuses of influencers on social networks" was enforced to protect young gay girls from those who were homophobic.  France was also called on to abolish the laws allowing male-born athletes to compete in women's sports and the incarceration of transitioning transgender people in women's prisons.

TPs de Coordination SUD said France needed to be accountable for its policy of international solidarity, in accordance with articles 3 and 8 of the Convention and the Committee's general recommendations 28 and 30.  The Committee should ask France to define the meaning given to its feminist diplomacy by explaining its objectives and criteria, its means, its scope and its accountability framework.  France should fulfil its commitments to significantly increase gender mainstreaming in its official development assistance by 2025.

FIDH said in 2021, France suffered five months of major supply shortages of one of the two drugs needed to carry out a medical abortion: misoprostol.  The French authorities should set up public production of generics of the two essential drugs for medical abortion: mifepristone and misoprostol.  The national authorities should also ensure full territorial coverage of sexual and reproductive health services in mainland France and the French overseas territories, by organising healthcare systems so that hospitals had at least a minimum number of health professionals willing to perform abortions.


Monitoring Network Against Gender Based Violence said despite improvements in the legal framework, domestic violence remained an issue.  Legislation addressing all forms of gender-based and domestic violence should be improved; rigorous implementation of existing legislation should be undertaken; a femicide watch should be established; and access to justice and to quality services for survivors of violence should be improved.  There needed to be a focus on women’s economic empowerment and employment, including on job training, attendance of vocational courses, and by providing free nurseries and kindergartens for children.  The law on reproductive health should be improved; interventions in infrastructure and services to reduce barriers should be made; and training should be strengthened for healthcare staff.  There needed to be increased support for women living with HIV.  The family law needed to define the minimum age for underage marriages and should regulate co-habitation.

Gender Alliance for Development Centre, representing the Albanian Coalition for Labour Rights said while acknowledging progress made by Albania in implementing article 11 of the Convention concerning women's employment rights, there were several crucial considerations, especially in certain sectors, such as clothing and footwear production, the cleaning sector, call centres, the health sector, and oil manufacturing, that were falling short in providing workers with their full rights and adequate protection.  Employment quality varied across sectors, posing challenges related to working conditions, wages, job security, and opportunities for career advancement.  Albania faced a shortage of effective trade union organizations.  Persistent gender disparities in employment were compounded by the unequal distribution of unpaid family responsibilities in Albania, where women devoted 38 hours weekly to household tasks, compared to men's 14.5 hours.  The Albanian Coalition for Labour Rights called for concerted efforts to address these critical issues and ensure that Albania's workforce, especially women, enjoyed the full protection and benefits of labour rights.

Alliance Against Discrimination of LGBTI highlighted the multifaceted challenges faced by lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women in Albania.  The Constitution lacked specific protections for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  About 40 per cent of this group faced violence or discrimination in the past two years, with 78 per cent linked to their lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women status.  Sixty-five per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students experienced discrimination, affecting their academic performance, causing high dropout rates, and resulting in limited access to the job market after their studies.  Fifty-eight per cent of these individuals faced employment discrimination in the past year, leading to financial instability.  Finally, 70 per cent of transgender women encountered discrimination while seeking healthcare services.  It was imperative that Albania adopt legislation on the recognition of gender identity and sex characteristics for transgender women; implement a blanket ban on non-therapeutic surgeries on intersex babies; introduce legislation ensuring marriage rights for same-sex couples and registration of children from rainbow families; and ensure access to inclusive healthcare for trans women, including hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, among other measures. 

Human Rights in Democracy Centre presented key concerns to Albania to be addressed under the obligations of the Convention, asking: what plans were in place to expand support services for gender-based violence victims; and what measures were being considered to enhance the enforcement of court decisions related to gender-based violence cases?  Could information be provided on Albania's efforts to increase access to social housing for marginalised groups and victims of domestic violence?  What was the status of the comprehensive framework law covering all forms of gender-based violence?  What training initiatives had the Albanian Government undertaken for police officers, prosecutors, healthcare workers, and teachers to implement domestic violence legislation and associated protocols? 


Disabled Women Organizations said while appreciating the Government for its commitment to advance the rights of women, the Committee should know that women with disabilities continued to face discrimination and marginalisation, and that they were side-lined through general laws, policies and action plans.  Efforts to repeal and reform legislation that discriminated against women and girls failed to consider the intersectional nature of discrimination suffered by women and girls with disabilities.  On social protection, for programmes benefiting women with disabilities, around 90 per cent of funding came from donors; this reliance left the national social protection system highly vulnerable to potential funding withdrawals or discontinuation.  It was concerning that girls with disabilities failed to complete levels of education due to lack of inclusive facilities, learning materials, and assistive devices, while others experienced sexual exploitation in the process of accessing education. 

Ivy Foundation said the comprehensive shadow report on Malawi submitted shed light on critical issues undermining the rights and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community, including pervasive discrimination, barriers to healthcare, and limited access to justice.  The prevalent stigma and discrimination within healthcare settings had created significant barriers, deterring individuals from seeking essential medical care, particularly for conditions such as HIV/AIDS.  Furthermore, the lack of comprehensive data on the healthcare needs of the lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex community exacerbated these challenges, resulting in a dearth of tailored healthcare programmes and interventions.  The urgent need for legal reforms to ensure the right to equality and non-discrimination for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community was emphasised.

Young Women's Consortium on Women's Reproductive Rights said the Gender Equality Act of 2013 represented a significant milestone in recognising the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Among others, it enshrined the legal right to terminate a pregnancy when it posed a direct risk to the life of the pregnant individual.  However, criminalisation of abortion remained a formidable legal barrier, perpetuating stigma, fear, and confusion among healthcare providers and those needing abortion services.  This situation tragically extended to child survivors of sexual violence, who were routinely denied access to safe and legal abortion.  Full decriminalisation of abortion was the solution.  In 2015, the Law Commission of Malawi reviewed and proposed a termination of pregnancy bill that, if implemented, would bring about this much-needed decriminalisation.  Regrettably, the executive branch had yet to take action to table the bill before Parliament. 

Reprieve said women faced many injustices in the Malawian legal system; they were repeatedly subject to physical and sexual abuse by police during arrest and while in detention.  In 2019, a group of Malawian police officers raped and sexually assaulted 17 women and girls in retaliation for a police officer’s death during nationwide protests.  Women were also regularly accused of infanticide.  Such cases usually involved stillbirths, and were closely connected to severe poverty and abandonment by fathers.  Due to the lack of psychological support, a woman accused of killing her infant child due to a post-partum psychological disorder was treated in a punitive manner, contrary to the humane intention underpinning infanticide legislation.  People in Malawian prisons also suffered under deplorable conditions, and these were exacerbated for female prisoners. 


CLADEM said the national emergency declared in 2019 regarding gender-based violence had not been adequately resolved due to the insufficient creation of specialised courts with trained officials, among other factors.  Sixty-eight per cent of the 88,000 poor households were headed by women, half of whom were unemployed.  The law on co-responsibility in parenting, based on prejudices and stereotypes, privileged shared custody and visits between children and parents, including those denounced for violence.  The interruption of pregnancy was blocked by institutional violence as reported by 54.5 per cent of women.  There was no political parity.  The quota law was unfairly applied because of the position that women were placed in on elective lists.  In 2020, the Division for the Promotion of Public Policies for Afro-descendants was created, with a budget for affirmative actions, simultaneously eliminating the only targeted racial equity mechanism of INMUJERES, resulting in regression in general public policies.  Furthermore, daily racism was one of the causes of the expulsion of girls and adolescents from the education system.

COTIDIANO MUJER said the number of reports of sexual crimes committed against women and children was concerning, and also the treatment given to their cases at the institutional level, where confidential data and personal information of the victims were often leaked from State agencies.  The number of femicides and attempted femicides was of concern.  By 2021, Uruguay had the third highest femicide rate in South America.  Despite this, no prevention measures had been put in place.  In 2011, 28 women former prisoners denounced military personnel of different ranks for sexual violence and torture.  To date, only one military officer had been prosecuted.  Inequality and ethnic discrimination persisted, especially for women of African descent, who often had to drop out of school early to help their families financially or due to young pregnancy situations.  From 2016 to the present, the number of women deprived of liberty had doubled.  The Uruguayan prison system was not prepared to house the number of women currently deprived of their liberty in dignified conditions, making it a place where the State violated their human rights on a daily basis.

Consejo de la Nación Charrúa said according to the 2011 Census data, 5 per cent of the Uruguayan population was of indigenous descent.  Of this group, 87,162 were women.  So far, no socio-demographic studies had been carried out to provide accurate information on the indigenous population, let alone on indigenous women.  There were no public policies for indigenous women.  They did not have a voice in governmental decision-making processes, nor in citizen dialogues and consultations.  The Committee should recommend that Uruguay promote the carrying out of specific socio-demographic studies on indigenous women and girls; recognise the existence of indigenous peoples in its territory; ensure the participation of indigenous women in institutional gender, racial equity and anti-discrimination mechanisms; and implement comprehensive policies and programmes that guaranteed the right of indigenous women and girls.


International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights + Rights Livelihood said since the Committee's last review, the human rights situation of indigenous women had worsened in a context of critical events, marked by systematic violence with differentiated impacts on women, girls and adolescents due to the actions and omissions of Nicaragua.  Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities continued to suffer massacres, murder and forced displacement, and faced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with total impunity.  This took place in the context of the continuous and growing invasion of settlers in indigenous and Afro-descendant territories, the extraction of natural resources, the closure of civic and democratic spaces, and the persecution, criminalisation and forced exile of community members, indigenous leaders and defenders.  There was no independent mechanism to supervise and accompany the defence of communities in Nicaragua, especially indigenous women. 

International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights said the actions of Nicaragua to comply with the Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action had yet to materialise in public policies, despite the existence of laws aimed at promoting affirmative action and protecting the rights of tribal peoples (Creoles and Garifuna).  The lack of disaggregated data on the Afro-descendant population in the country and an up-to-date census made it difficult to analyse the situation of the rights of Afro-descendant women.  There was a high migration of Afro-descendant women to seek sustenance for their families, especially single mothers who had to leave their children in an attempt to achieve food security.  Women Afro-descendant human rights defenders continued to suffer from ongoing persecution due to their work in the demarcation of territory, including vigils in their homes and periodic arbitrary detentions.  The Committee should make visible in its review the plight of Afro-descendant women in Nicaragua, and urge the State of Nicaragua to comply with its human rights obligations.

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) said Nicaragua was going through the worst social, political, economic and human rights crisis in its history.  As of 30 June 2023, 176 women's associations and 16 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer plus organizations had been arbitrarily closed.  The National Police had not allowed the Pride March since 2018.  Human rights defenders were persecuted and not allowed to return to their country.  The sexual and reproductive rights of lesbian, bisexual and particularly trans women were non-existent.  The Committee should demand that Nicaragua repeal legislation that criminalised women human rights defenders; order the immediate release of the 93 political prisoners, including the 17 women political prisoners; and reverse the legal framework that allowed the cancellation of legal status and confiscation of assets of women's organizations and those for the rights of lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked organizations from Uruguay if more information about abortion could be provided?

Another Expert asked organizations from France about discrimination against migrant workers?  How were women with disabilities represented in employment? 

To organizations from Albania, a Committee Expert asked what had been done by Albania to implement stateless procedures and national action plans?

Statements from National Human Rights Institutions

GRACE MALERA, Commissioner of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, commended the Government of Malawi for the concerted efforts towards promoting and protecting the rights of women in Malawi, even though a number of challenges remained.  Strides were being made by the Government to ensure the advancement of women through various empowerment programmes, including the Malawi Implementation Plan-1 for Malawi 2063.  However, the Government had not funded the Commission to enable the review of the Gender Equality Act.  The Commission commended the Government on the amendment of some laws that had provisions which hindered women from realising their rights and their effective participation in the country’s development.  The Commission urged the Government to expedite the process of their effective operationalisation.  With regard human trafficking, a number of Malawian women had been trafficked to other countries under the guise of labour migration.  The Government must adopt a comprehensive policy on human trafficking.  The Government should also review and re-submit the termination of pregnancy bill to Parliament.  Strides were being made in the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Malawi, however, the Government needed to ensure adequate funding, including to national human rights institutions, gender sensitive budgeting and implementation of programmes, and training of officers and stakeholders in the informal sector.

JIMENA FERNÁNDEZ BONELLI, President of the National Human Rights Institution of Uruguay, said to respond to situations of gender-based violence, law 19.580 was a comprehensive standard with great potential, but it had yet to achieve full implementation.  The comprehensiveness of the inter-institutional response system required the implementation of strong measures for early detection, specialised care, and access to justice.  Specialised care in situations of violence, services for women and children and adolescents were still insufficient, particularly for women with disabilities.  There needed to be an inter-institutional response system that addressed all forms of violence.  Weaknesses persisted in addressing gender-based workplace violence, obstetric violence, violence based on sexual orientation and identity, as well as institutional gender-based violence.  With regard to women's political participation, in practice, the minimalist application of quota laws had prevailed, both in number and position.  With regard to women's economic autonomy, it was necessary to strengthen policies aimed at creating a national care system.  The situation of women deprived of their liberty required urgent action. Finally, it was essential to strengthen gender institutions at all levels, for Uruguay to become a country with strong equality policies and effective measures.

MAGALI LAFOURCADE, Secretary-General of the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme of France, said many women had been protesting for fair salaries, and the reform of pensions was also damaging to women.  The riots this summer had led to a stigmitisation of those with single parent background.  Around 813 women died last year due to violence against them by a past or current partner.  Protection measures and serious danger measures were insufficiently used across the country.  The explosion of cyber violence was also concerning.  There had also been a significant increase of sexual violence, however, only 16 percent of complaints led to prosecutions.  In terms of rape, it was narrowly defined which made prosecution unlikely.  The Committee should urge France to change the criminalisation of rape to make it in line with the Istanbul Convention, with consent at its heart.  Sexual discrimination should be a priority of France.  Female genital mutilation was also a blind spot of public policy.  Sexist behaviour in the workplace was common.  France no longer had a policy on human trafficking.  It was strongly encouraged that this situation be remedied. 

GEORGE PAU-LANGEVIN, Défenseure des droits of France, said since 2001, the law required at least three annual sex education sessions in schools, colleges and high schools.  However, they were far from being achieved.  These obligations needed to be met by providing extensive training to the professionals in charge and by issuing action supports and guides.  Education was essential to preventing and addressing current and future gender-based inequalities and violence.  The principle of "equal pay for work of equal value" required that occupational segregation be taken into account to achieve equal pay but very little was being done to achieve this.  The professional equality index was a step forward but it was recommended that the Government revise this index.  Pregnancy-related discrimination and sexual harassment were still too frequent.  On the subject of sexual harassment in employment, progress had been welcomed in recent years.  There was a lack of harmonisation to recognise in all national codes and laws that a single fact may suffice to characterise sexual harassment.  It was noted that women who wore the veil faced more obstacles in accessing jobs and training, and therefore their prospects for professional integration were reduced.  It was important to alert the Committee to the need for the State to recognise this discrimination. 

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert asked institutions from France if they could provide information about a new study on female genital mutilation, which was building on a pilot study?  What was the view about minors as young as 13 engaging in sexual acts as long as the age gap was no more than five years?  Did this bring up issues of consent?


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