ព័ត៌មានថ្មីៗពី វិទ្យុ សំឡេងកម្ពុជាក្រោម (VOICE OF KAMPUCHEA-KROM)

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Civil Society Representatives brief CEDAW on situation of women in Senegal, Spain, The Gambia, and Viet Nam


6 July 2015




6 July 2015
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of non-governmental organizations to hear information on the situation of women in Senegal, Spain, the Gambia, and Viet Nam, whose reports will be considered during the first week of the session.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations in Senegal expressed concerns about the situation of rural women, and in particular their access to land, agricultural inputs and credit.  Speakers urged the Committee to ask Senegal to put in place measures and incentives to increase the retention of girls in higher education, and to revise its laws concerning access to medical abortion.
Spanish non-governmental organizations drew the Committee’s attention to the disproportionate impact of the economic and financial crisis on women.  Women bore the brunt of job precariousness.  There was discrimination in the access of women to health services as a result of cuts, affecting also immigrants, while victims of trafficking and gender-based violence were entitled only to emergency services. 
In the Gambia, violence against women was a common practice.  The low representation of women in governance and leadership made it very difficult to pass gender sensitive laws, including to fix a minimum age for marriage and to criminalize harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, which affected 73 per cent of women and girls.
Speakers from civil society in Viet Nam described problems women faced in that country, including discrimination against women in some laws and State-funded programmes, lack of facilities for health care for vulnerable women, and lack of effective remedy and a specialized monitoring mechanism to protect women’s human rights. 
Non-governmental organizations from Senegal included FEMNET Senegal, PAN Africa, and Association des Juristes Senegalaises; representatives from Spanish civil society organizations were Spanish CEDAW Shadow Platform, Women’s Link Worldwide, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Amnesty International; from the Gambia, the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, and Musawa took the floor; and civil society organizations representatives from Viet Nam included Gender and Community Development Network, Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, and Four Freedoms Forum.
The Committee will reconvene in public on Tuesday, 7 July at 10 a.m., to begin its consideration of the combined third to seventh periodic reports of Senegal (CEDAW/C/SEN/3).

Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
Senegal

A speaker for FEMNET SENEGAL said that rural women represented 52 per cent of the population and 68 per cent of the labour force; however, the laws and the Constitution had not changed the situation with regard to their access to land.  Women did not have the status of head of household, thus limiting their access to agricultural inputs and credits.  Tendency towards land grabs by agro conglomerates further compounded the access of women to land and land rights. 
A representative of PAN Africa said that laws in Senegal were in conformity with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women but their implementation was problematic in many areas of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly in education.  Low representation of women in higher education was linked to child and early marriages, and 14.5 per cent of girls were married before the age of 18.  The Government should put in place measures and incentives to keep girls in higher education and to increase the number of girls in secondary school. 

Association des Juristes Senegalaises took the floor and spoke about access to medical abortion.  Senegal was signatory of several regional instruments which guaranteed access to abortion in case of rape or incest, the risk to the life to the mother, and congenital malformations.  However, the Criminal Code considered abortion a serious offence and the Medical Code of Ethics authorised it only when the life of mother was in danger.  Restriction of access to medical abortion was a form of violence against women.

Spain

A representative of Spanish CEDAW Shadow Platform spoke about the disproportionate impact of the economic and financial crisis on women and said that labour reforms and anti-crisis measures were gender blind.  There was discrimination in the access to health services as a result of cuts; health cards had been withdrawn from a large number of immigrants, while victims of trafficking and gender-based violence were entitled only to emergency services.  The current Act on Gender Violence only covered the violence committed by the partner or ex-partner and structures to address other forms of violence against women were lacking.

A speaker for Women’s Link Worldwide spoke about the lack of compliance of Spain with the Committee’s recommendations set out in its Views and Communication N°47/2012, on the case of Angela Gonzalez v. Spain.  Ms. Gonzales had not received any compensation, and no concrete legislative measures had been taken to ensure that children of domestic violence victims were protected from their violent fathers.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said that Spain was one of the main arms exporters in the world, with sale of arms and ammunitions authorised to countries in conflict, and countries in which human rights violations occurred, and those with a high prevalence of various forms of violence against women.
A representative of Amnesty International expressed concern about the lack of implementation of measures to address violence against women, including lack of due diligence on the part of courts, leading to high rates of dismissal of cases.  Despite the improvement in witness protection, through the issuing of protective orders, the capacity for their implementation was low.

The Gambia
The Association of Non-Governmental Organizations said that violence against women was a common practice and the implementation of the 2013 Domestic Act and the 2013 Sexual Violence Act was inadequate; the matter of violence against women was still adjudicated under the Criminal Code Act 2007.  The low representation of women in governance and leadership made it very difficult to pass gender sensitive laws, including to fix a minimum age for marriage and to criminalize harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation.
A representative of The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children said that 76.3 per cent of women and girls were affected by female genital mutilation, and that the practice was carried out on children without their consent.  The Committee should urge the State party to prohibit this practice.  The definition of discrimination in the 1997 Constitution did not cover issues relating to adoption, marriage, divorce and inheritance and was inconsistent with the international standards of women’s equal right to marriage and divorce under Article 16.  Women’s issues were mainly addressed in Cadi courts, which used non-codified Sharia laws and principles, and not the Women’s Act 2010.
A speaker for Musawa said that discriminatory laws and practices, even those justified in the name of religion, could and should be changed to ensure equality and justice for women.  States parties such as the Gambia that used Islam as a source of law and public policy could not continue to hide behind the shield that those laws were divine and therefore perfect and unchangeable.  There were juristic tools and concepts that existed within Islamic legal theory that could be used to reform discriminatory Muslim laws.  The issue was not about Islam or about Sharia, but whether the State party had the political will to end discrimination against women and whether it chose to legitimise the voice of traditional patriarchs among those in religious authority over the voice of women who suffered discrimination and injustice on a daily basis.

Viet Nam

A representative of Gender and Community Development Network drew the attention of the Committee to three key issues, namely discrimination against women in some laws and State-funded programmes, lack of facilities for health care for vulnerable women, and lack of effective remedy and a specialized monitoring mechanism to protect women’s human rights.
A representative of Vietnamese Women for Human Rights said that the laws and decrees on associations were used as a means of firm control and regulation, often blocking the establishment of independent groups.  Female dissidents, journalists and human rights activists were tracked, harassed, arrested and imprisoned by the Government and police.  Repressive articles in the Penal Code punished individuals for exercising their fundamental rights, and at the moment there were 19 female prisoners of conscience.
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation said that indigenous Khmer-Krom women suffered double discrimination, first because they were Khmer-Krom and secondly because they were women.  Viet Nam should invite the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly to investigate the rights of Khmer-Krom women to assembly and association.
A speaker for Four Freedoms Forum spoke about discrimination in education, where indigenous languages, including Khmer-Krom were excluded which deprived young children to learn their mother tongue.  Because of poverty in some regions, many girls had to drop out of school in order to help their families.  The most pressing issues for the Khmer-Krom was access to land and preventative medical care.

Questions by Committee Members
An Expert took up the issue of non-voluntary repatriation of women with no legal status in Spain, such as refugees or asylum seekers and the impact of their situation on their human rights.  Another Expert asked whether there had been any debate concerning the report issued by the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice which had visited Spain in December 2014, and also about a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the austerity and the crisis policy.  The representatives of civil society were also asked about the Equality and Opportunity Act, weakening of the protective mechanism for women’s rights, and the cross-cutting impact of austerity measures on different aspects of the Convention.
A Committee Expert asked how to strengthen gender machinery in Viet Nam in order to strengthen the situation of women, and about the current situation of rural women.
Committee Experts asked about access to justice for women in Senegal, and about specific violations of women’s rights in conflicts that had taken place in 2012 during the pre-electoral phase.
Experts asked about the reasons why the 2013 Domestic Law in the Gambia was not being used, and about access to civil courts for women.

Response by Non-governmental Organizations 
Representatives of non-governmental organizations took the floor to respond to questions posed by the Committee on Senegal and said concerning women’s access to justice that obstacles were in the language of the laws, which was complex and unknown to many people, distance from courts, length of judicial proceedings, and the mistrust of the people in the system.  In 2012, Senegal had suffered widespread violence in the country, but this violence did not seem gender-specific.  The Committee should ask the State party about the frequent reports of rape in the areas of Southern Casamance.
There had been no discussions in Spain about the recommendations in the report of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, and civil society organizations were not aware of any evaluation of the impact of austerity measures, including by the European Union.  Quotas for political participation of women were in place, but they were not legally binding.  On the lack of compliance of the State with the Committee’s views and the Istanbul Convention, non-governmental organizations said that Spain was very open to signing international instruments, but there was lack of implementation and lack of effective protection of women in practice.  Also, there was an important protection gap for women due to the lack of implementation of the laws, and also because of gender stereotypes in the judiciary.  Reporting of violence or gender-based violence by women without legal status could result in non-voluntary repatriation, and it had been recommended to Spain to amend its Alien Act to ensure the protection of undocumented migrant women from violence, including sexual violence.
The Sexual Offence Act and the Domestic Violence Act were not being used in civil courts in the Gambia; civil society organizations were active in raising awareness among women and leaders about those two laws and how they could be used for the protection of women from violence.  It was not clear where obstacles to their implementation by courts were. 
In Viet Nam, rural migrant women had difficulties accessing basic social services, and the violation of their right to vote and the right to political participation.  It was very difficult to find data and statistics for indigenous people, including for Khmer-Krom.  This community was affected by migration of youth to urban areas, where they were incorporating themselves into mainstream Vietnamese society, and so losing their language and cultural identity.
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