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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Policies in Favour of the Family and Women in the Russian Federation and Ask about Gender-Based Violence, and the List of Professions Restricted to Women

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the ninth periodic report of the Russian Federation, with Experts commending policies in favour of the family and women, and asking about gender-based violence, and the list of professions restricted to women.

A Committee Expert commended the Russian Federation for traditionally pursuing policies in favour of the family and women, consisting of awareness-raising projects, policies on prevention of violence and trafficking in persons, as well as open shelters and helplines for victims. The Expert also cited the adoption of strategies in favour of women. One Expert asked whether there were plans for improving a weak national legislative framework to address gender-based violence against women? Were there plans to improve inadequate assistance to victims of gender-based violence? Another Expert asked what measures were adopted to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women from discrimination and violence? One Expert, while commending the Russian Federation’s fairly high level of employment, including of women with children, noted that there were still areas of concern in the labour market, adding that the list of restricted professions generated inequality for women, hindering them from participating in numerous high-paying professions.

The delegation of the Russian Federation explained that when it came to preventing domestic violence, measures were being implemented by municipal programmes, and the police also had a number of inspectors. Preventive work was carried out with regard to individuals who had carried out crimes within the framework of the family. The targeted measures were unique in the world, as the measures were preventive rather than aimed at punishing perpetrators. Work was underway to revise the list of industries where women’s employment was limited. In line with labour legislation, the rights of men and women were the same.

Andrey Pudov, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said traditional values were very important for the Russian Federation, as they were the moral foundation. While the family was the primary unit of society, women should not face a choice between a family and children, or participating in professional life, and the Russian Federation saw the participation of women in State and local governance, in business, in creative industries and as scientific researchers. The updated list of jobs had been reduced from 456 types of professions and types of work to 100 entries for which the employment of women was restricted due to threats to reproductive health. The renewed decree would enter into force in 2022. The levels of grave types of violence against women had decreased, and the country attached importance to providing comprehensive assistance to victims of violence.

Tatiana Moskalkova, High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, said that key problems facing women included domestic violence and violations of labour and educational rights. Her Office was involved in a new programme for law enforcement officers on preventing violence against women and domestic violence, as well as the development of a draft law on combatting domestic violence.

The delegation of the Russian Federation was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development; the Federal State Statistics Service; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs; the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation; the Federal Penitentiary Service; the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the General Prosecutor’s Office; the Ministry of Science and Higher Education; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Health; and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee 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 at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 4 November to begin its consideration of the initial report of South Sudan (CEDAW/C/SSD/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the ninth periodic report of the Russian Federation (CEDAW/C/RUS/9).

Introduction of the Report

ANDREY PUDOV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation and head of the delegation, said that work on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was being carried out in a comprehensive manner in Russia, adding that the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection was the focal point for gender equality issues. Russian and international human rights organizations had prepared alternative reports on the implementation of the Convention. No country in the world had solved the problem of equal rights for women. Traditional values were very important for the Russian Federation, as they were the moral foundation. The family was the primary unit of society, yet women should not face a choice between having a family and children or participating in professional life.

In the Russian Federation, a National Action Strategy for Women had been adopted for 2017-2022, and a Women’s Policy Strategy set out the guidelines for State policy on women. As a result of the implementation of that strategy, the share of female graduates in technical and industrial fields, and in secondary vocational education programmes had increased. There was universal access to State kindergartens for children from age 3, to help women with young children participate in employment. Women could not be terminated from employment during pregnancy and childcare, or during maternity leave. A national project named “Demography” included a programme that provided free retraining for young mothers. Almost half of those working in Russia were women. As part of a transformation of employment centres, career services were provided to working women and young mothers, as well as women in difficult situations.

Women participated in State and corporate governance, with over half of the largest companies having at least one woman on the board. Women were also represented among small and medium-sized businesses, in the service sector, and in creative industries and as scientific researchers. There were 74 women among the deputies of the State Duma.

Support measures for families with children had been expanded over the past year, through providing various levels of support depending on the age and situation of the children concerned. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, simplifying the procedures for receiving assistance had become more important, and the Russian Federation had not reduced funding for any social programmes during that period.

Work was underway to revise the list of industries where women’s employment was limited. The updated list of jobs had been reduced from 456 types of professions and types of work to 100 entries for which the employment of women was restricted due to threats to reproductive health. The renewed decree would enter into force in 2022.

The Criminal Code had been amended in favour of convicted pregnant women and women with small children. The levels of grave types of violence against women had decreased, and the country attached importance to providing comprehensive assistance to victims of violence. The Russian Federation’s Investigative Committee was responsible for investigating the most serious violent crimes and had prepared a draft federal law proposing to make battery a crime when carried out against a family member and other persons close to them.

In the field of education, the Deputy Minister noted that the Russian Federation aimed to increase the number of women involved in science through supporting efforts to promote science and creating world-class competitive centres for scientists. Turning to international standards and bodies, he noted that the Russian Federation was campaigning for re-election to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The Russian Federation held sessions of the Eurasian Women’s Forum on a regular basis, bringing together women leaders.

In conclusion, the Deputy Minister noted that the Russian Federation was home to over 140 different peoples, each with their own traditions, which were respected. The paradigm uniting them was traditional family values, including marriage as the union between a man and a woman. In the Russian Federation, a woman was a wife, mother, daughter, and grandmother nurturing children.

TATIANA MOSKALKOVA, High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, speaking in her capacity as head of the national human rights institution of Russia, said that State bodies had made many advances in supporting women, including through aiding those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, key problems facing women included domestic violence and violations of labour and educational rights. The National Action Plan for 2017-2022 involved a series of workshops, roundtables, mentoring sessions and other events for women as well as non-governmental organizations and the media, focusing among other issues on the prevention of violence and discrimination against women. Her Office was involved in a new programme for law enforcement officers on preventing violence against women and domestic violence, as well as the development of a draft law on combatting domestic violence.

Questions from a Committee Expert

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Vice-Chairperson, noted that the Russian Federation had traditionally pursued policies in favour of the family and women, consisting of awareness-raising projects, policies on the prevention of violence and trafficking in persons, as well as open shelters and helplines for victims. He also cited the adoption of strategies in favour of women. He asked what kind of measures had the Russian Federation adopted to ensure that girls and women victims of conflict situations had access to services? Did the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women prevail over national law? How many court decisions referred to the Convention? Were women involved in peace process negotiations? How were women journalists’ rights to report on matters of public concern protected? What measures protected women’s rights to free expression?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that in the Russian Federation, awareness about the Convention and its Protocols was supported by its free availability on Government websites. All the ministries and agencies were obliged to provide updated information on their websites; most services were now provided in the digital domain. In line with the Constitution, the Russian Federation had established a model of legal standards, with international legal standards at the head. Before ratifying any convention, a comprehensive analysis was carried out to check whether Russian legislation was in line with that convention. Regarding the Convention in the national legal system, the delegation explained that the competence and remit of the Committee was recognised, and that the Committee had a right to receive appeals from citizens of the Russian Federation. On the whole, the norms of the Convention had been incorporated into the legal system.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the questions of women, peace and security were particularly important for the Russian Federation. Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security provided important guidance regarding women in armed conflict, as well as the post-COVID situation.

Turning to the situation of women deprived of liberty, the delegation said that pretrial detention was not allowed, and there could be no discrimination based on gender or any other factor. The legislation of the Russian Federation had a category for people who were least socially protected. That category included women, and they had the right to postpone any sentence in jail until their children had reached the age of four years. Women also had a right to leave jail to meet their children. There was a ban on the use of special measures against pregnant women.

Turning to the situation of women suffering from drug abuse, the delegation said a State drug abuse service had been created, along with drug dispensaries, hospitals and centres where women were provided with high-quality medical assistance for free. The treatment of drug abuse was provided for, financed by the Government.

On the situation of women in Crimea, Sebastopol and the North Caucasus, the delegation said the citizens living there enjoyed all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the human rights treaties, in the same way as in other areas of the Russian Federation. The National Strategy for the Promotion of Women was also applied there. In all municipalities of the regions mentioned, women’s councils were actively functioning, with the objective of involving women in the social, economic and political life of those regions. The key to resolving the internal military conflict in Ukraine was strict implementation of the Minsk Agreement between the parties.

Questions from the Committee Experts

NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Member, focused her questions on the State party’s measures in the political, social, economic and cultural fields for the advancement of women. Did the Russian Federation have any mechanism that reviewed legislation? The Sustainable Development Goals had not been mentioned, was the national plan supposed to replace them? Would the Commissioner for Human Rights be accredited under the Paris Principles? How did Russia ensure that access to justice was uniform for all victims, regardless of which community they belonged to, or other factors?

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked about temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality. What were the results of a study on temporary special measures? As for the national strategy for women, when defining that strategy, had groups of women in a vulnerable situation been involved?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that the primacy of international agreements had not been changed, and they remained an integral component of the legal system. The provisions of international agreements to which the Russian Federation was party continued to have a super-national characteristic in terms of their application. Russian legislation had changed the status of non-commercial organizations which were financed from abroad, but that was not discriminatory. Transparency had to prevail, both financial and in terms of the assets held by organizations intending to exert influence.

As for questions about the national strategy for women, the delegation explained that there was a mandatory procedure for consulting with public organizations which covered those issues. The organizations involved in that procedure included a tripartite commission which considered all the information before it became a document available for signature. All drafts of legal acts were always discussed in hearings of a public council; that was the procedure. Under the “Demographics” project, the Russian Federation was trying to provide social support to families based on specific targeting.

The Russian Federation selected directions relating to the fact that citizens had equal rights but also equal obligations. From the point of view of the law, there were no restrictions or limitations. There was a list of 100 types of activities that women were prohibited from. But if an employer had created safe conditions for employment, then women could hold that position. The principle of quotas was not applied. Compliance with equal rights was the primary approach.

Questions from the Committee Experts

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Member, asked about measures to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, and about violence against women. A renaissance of conservative movements and gender stereotyping was taking place in the Russian Federation, she noted, and stereotyping affected women’s rights, including their right to a fair trial. Were there plans for improving a weak national legislative framework to address gender-based violence against women? Were there plans to improve inadequate assistance to victims of gender-based violence?

NÁELA GABR, Committee Member, asked about measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women and exploitation of prostitution. Did the Russian Federation envisage amending the Criminal Code to bring its definition of trafficking into line with international standards? Assistance to victims was extremely important, she said, noting that some reports mentioned that hundreds of cases of trafficking had been reported to the authorities, but most had been processed according to other administrative or criminal codes. Why was that? What was envisaged as exit strategies provided to women exploited in sex trafficking and prostitution?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that when it came to preventing domestic violence, measures were being implemented by municipal programmes, and the police also had a number of inspectors. Preventive work was carried out with regard to individuals who had carried out crimes within the framework of the family. The targeted measures were unique in the world, as the measures were preventive rather than aimed at punishing perpetrators. An individual was subject to administrative liability for repeated beatings. After the administrative procedure had run its course, the situation entered the criminal sphere. Laws governed the issue of providing assistance to victims, and free assistance was provided to all women and children, including migrant women and children.

As for the issue of trafficking in human beings, the delegation explained that the Russian Federation was party to many protocols on that subject. Trafficking was always under very serious consideration. Crimes related to trafficking in persons for sexual and labour exploitation were recognised in Russian society as one of the most dangerous types of crimes. Therefore, the punishment for committing such acts was one of the most serious ones. Article 134 criminalised sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years. Another question had been put on the issue of female genital mutilation, and the delegation explained that the practice of carrying out such operations without medical necessity was not allowed under Russian law. A 2021 decree on the rules for medical organizations to inform the Ministry of Interior contained the requirements for transmitting information regarding the arrival of patients showing signs of their health having been injured as a result of illegal actions.

There were many nationalities in the Russian Federation, the delegation said. Working together with the Union of Women in Russia, the structure of public organizations included women’s councils that actively worked under the heads of municipalities. The Ministry, together with civil society and agencies dealing with nationalities cooperating with the federal agency, provided State support to socially oriented non-profit organizations in different republics, the aims of which were aimed at improving the status of women, and the situation of families and children.

Questions from the Committee Experts

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Member, asked members of the delegation to share their thoughts about women’s participation in various levels of elected office. How could women’s participation in top decision-making be increased? Russia was last on a list of female representation in diplomacy, why was that? Could the delegation provide data on how many women and jobs in the Russian Federation had been affected by the foreign agent law? Were women losing interest in higher education?

RHODA REDDOCK, Committee Member, congratulated the Russian Federation on its commitment to ratifying the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. In the context of recent amendments to the Federal Act, how many Russian-speaking nationals of former Soviet republics and their descendants had finally been able to receive civil and nationality status? What progress had been made to address the status of the children born to Roma, refugee and asylum-seeking mothers with non-Russian passports or who were denied birth registration and so lacked identity documents? Underscoring the Committee’s concern about the non-recognition of children in the same-sex families of Russian citizens in Russia and overseas, could the delegation advise on efforts being taken to ensure that the rights of all Russian children and children born in Russia were protected, especially in relation to birth registration and identity documents, regardless of the status of their mothers?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that women in Russia participated actively in political life and were represented at all levels of authority. On the whole, an increase had been seen in women holding State and municipal positions. Women participated actively in an open competition called “Russian Leaders,” and made up a third of its participants. According to statistics, Russia was placed highly on lists of the percentage of researchers who were female. The trend was for women to receive doctorates and master’s degrees at higher rates than men did. In response to the question on refugees and children born to refugees, the delegation explained that children could acquire the nationality of their parents, or Russian citizenship if there was a risk they could end up stateless. The registration of children at birth was based on a document issued by the medical organization where the birth took place. Regarding the representation of women in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the delegation said there was a broad practice of involving women in events at the international level. Currently, women with diplomatic rank working at headquarters represented 34 per cent. In the future, there would be even higher numbers of female diplomats.

Questions from Committee Members

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked about matters related to education. What measures had the Russian Federation taken to develop and introduce comprehensive sexuality education into State educational programmes at various levels in the country? Had measures been taken to ensure that migrants, refugees, Roma women and others had access to all levels of education? Was sexual harassment in schools and universities monitored by law enforcement agencies? Would the Russian Federation endorse the Safe Schools Declaration?

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked for further information about female representation in diplomatic missions abroad.

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation said the Russian Federation guaranteed general access to education, and higher education was free, if candidates could pass the exams. Every child must enjoy an education. There were school buses for those living in rural areas. In its previous concluding observations, the Committee had been concerned about education in the area of sexual and reproductive health. In 2016, the federal model educational programmes had been renewed to remove stereotypes vis-à-vis women and girls, and expand sexual and reproductive health education. In primary school, kids started to learn about family relations and traditions, and children aged 11 to 15 learned about biology where the functions and structure of human bodies was reviewed. At higher educational levels, children aged 16 and 17 were taught about human bodies in greater detail, including human genetics. The depth of the study of the different aspects was determined by the programme of each school, taking into account the views of parents.

A system of bodies prevented crimes against minors, and educational organizations also participated in that, the delegation said. Concerning educational organizations, their tasks included ensuring children were safe while they were being educated. The number of psychologists in schools had been increased. Educational institutions were pushed to identify problems in families at an early stage.

Questions from a Committee Member

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Member, congratulated the Russian Federation on its sustained economic indicators and the fairly high level of employment, including of women with children. There were still areas of concern in the labour market, however, such as the gender pay gap. The list of restricted professions generated inequality for women, hindering them from participating in numerous high-paying professions. What concrete steps would be taken to address the wage gap between men and women? What steps would be taken to ensure men and women had equal access to training and employment? What temporary special measures could be adopted to ensure fathers could take leave to care for their children? It did not encourage equality between women and men if it was grandmothers who cared for children.

When would a comprehensive definition of sexual harassment be introduced? Could the delegation provide figures on the number of cases of sexual harassment brought within the last few years? How would the Russian Federation measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s employment?

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation said that in line with labour legislation, the rights of men and women were the same. Any discrimination was banned, and normative documents prohibited the inclusion of gender and age in job announcements. Entrepreneurs had an interest in creating good working conditions so women could work there. As for the pay gap between men and women, there was no discrimination in terms of pay between them. It hinged on the qualifications of the individual and the work they did. If women were underpaid for similar work, those were violations of labour legislation. Women in the Russian Federation were not just labourers, but also mothers. Men ended up being the main wage gainers of the family and that was why there might be such a gap. Work in hazardous conditions was traditionally a male-dominated sector. As for guarantees and compensation related to maternity and family obligations, the Russian Federation had a standard in its labour legislation providing for leave up to three years after childbirth. Over the last two years, an amendment was made to part-time work so that it could be provided to any individual carrying out childcare. Employers had to ensure there was a part-time working week available to anyone needing it in order to care for another person.

Regarding measures in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, amendments had been made concerning remote work. Currently, all workers, including women and individuals with family responsibilities, could work remotely based on their wishes.

Concerning the criminalisation of sexual harassment at work, the Criminal Code punished crimes against women, especially when it was committed by someone in a supervisory relationship to a subordinate. Additional criminalisation was not required for that specific case. As for the question on access to justice for women, the Russian Federation had a federal law regarding citizens’ access to justice. Men and women had equal rights to turn to any bodies of authority for any questions and reasons. In every court and tribunal, there were model forms for complaints. If the citizen could not write the complaint, there was assistance available. Any citizen had the right to turn to the prosecutor’s office, which would automatically look at their complaints and provide the required assistance.

Questions from a Committee Expert

TAMADER AL-RAMMAH, Committee Member, asked which measures were being taken to improve women’s access to effective contraceptive measures? On the subject of the COVID-19 pandemic, did women have access to personal protective equipment in the correct sizes, or was it all made in men’s sizes? What efforts were being made to ensure access to health services for women with disabilities and women with mental difficulties?

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation said that currently, all measures were being taken to reduce the number of abortions in the Russian Federation. Over the past 10 years, a reduction had been achieved. A legal document regulated abortions for medical reasons; the document was being actively discussed by the public and was being considered for changes. If there was a risk to life, then the termination could take place at a later stage, after the 12-week limit. All the measures which were currently being implemented, including pre-abortion counselling, had led to a high percentage of rejections of abortions at the stage of the pre-abortion counselling. All abortion methods and medical assistance, including pre-abortion counselling and examinations, were provided free of charge within the mandatory medical insurance. Medical sterilisation both for females and men on a voluntary basis was also free of charge and was regulated by law. As for female genital mutilation, such practices when there was no medical necessity was not allowed in the Russian Federation. When a patient saw any doctor, if he or she noticed there were grounds to believe that person’s health was being harmed, the Ministry of the Interior had to be informed.

Turning to the use of personal protective equipment by female health workers, all health workers and practitioners were provided with personal protective equipment at all times.

As regards women with drug addictions, that population had access to medical services and a broad range of social measures. All patients during the period of provision of medical assistance could address doctors and other specialists at all times. Any comprehensive interventions aimed at promoting the motivation of victims of drugs to put an end to their addictions were supported. Dealing with drug addiction as a component of medical assistance was connected to the fact that medical assistance was costly.

Questions from a Committee Expert

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Vice-Chairperson, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had had an impact on the economies of all countries. A meeting had taken place where it had been noted that women were suffering in that context. However, the number of female entrepreneurs in the Russian Federation continued to grow. Had benefits been given to female entrepreneurs during the pandemic to support them? What percentage of entrepreneurs was female?

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation said there were over 5 million small- and medium-size enterprises in the Russian Federation, and about 30 per cent of them were represented by women. A lot of them were retail and wholesale services, as well as beauty parlours and restaurants. In 2020, financial organizations provided thousands of micro-loans.

Women entrepreneurs had a priority to access federal micro finance on favourable conditions. The activities of debt collectors were regulated by law in the Russian Federation. The Federal Service of the Legal Executive monitored the legality of collectors’ activities.

Questions from a Committee Expert

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Vice-Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the information provided about rural women. A great deal remained to be done, however, and that was why she wanted to ask which measures would be taken to improve the situation of rural women in the economic and social fields? What type of human rights violations impacted rural women, and which measures of redress had been put in place? How did the Russian Federation guarantee that new draft laws upheld the rights of indigenous women in terms of access to land and the wealth of nature? What measures had been taken against climate change, including its impact on rural women? What measures were being taken to reduce discrimination against Roma and Sinti women, and why did their children not enjoy equal access to inclusive education? Regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender women, a law on the protection of children was aimed against that population. Were there measures to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women from discrimination and violence? How were trans individuals treated in the penitentiary system? Could the delegation elaborate on the situation of migrant women? As for women with disabilities, how was free, prior and informed consent ensured for measures affecting them?

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation explained that women living in rural areas had the right to all forms of social assistance, including allowances if the family had a child under the age of three, or for single parents. Access to free medical care was provided free of charge, especially when special forms of assistance were required. Special medical airplanes existed due to the size of the country.

Questions from a Committee Expert

ARUNA DEVI NARAIN, Committee Rapporteur, asked whether family relations were governed by civil law, religious law, customary law or a combination of those? To what extent were women and men treated equally under those laws? Could the Russian Federation provide data on custody decisions? With regard to the minimum marriage age, would the Russian Federation amend its code to prohibit child marriages throughout its territory? What was the Russian Federation doing to prohibit bride-kidnapping, and were polygamous marriages still allowed? Did women always have the freedom to choose their spouse?

Replies from the Delegation

In response, the delegation said that under the Family Code, both parents had equal rights regarding their children. It was correct that the main rule was that the age of marriage was 18 years, and in some circumstances, it could be allowed from 16 years of age. As for custody, the practice of the courts was to look at all the circumstances, regardless of gender. With everything else being equal, courts would tend to give preference to custody for the mother. If the child was over 10 years of age, the child was consulted.

Concluding Remarks

ANDREY PUDOV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation , thanked the Committee Experts for their active and interested participation. From one report to the next one, the Russian Federation reported to all ministries, and sought to find solutions. In Russia, the foundation for everything was traditional family values, the union of a man and a woman where men and women enjoyed equal rights.

GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and the answers provided.

 

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CEDAW21.019E