Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
30 October 2015
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Slovenia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Martina Vuk, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, presenting the report, said that the report had been prepared by all relevant Ministries, governmental offices and non-governmental organizations. The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities had become the key body for gender equality policy. The Act on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men stipulated that each ministry had to appoint a coordinator of equal opportunities for women and men. The draft of the new Protection Against Discrimination Act, which would replace the Principle of Equal Treatment Act, was being currently prepared. The draft law established a new, more independent equality body as required by the European Union directives. The introduction of obligatory quotas for national, local and European elections had resulted in the increased participation of women in political and public life. Slovenia had also managed to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of the Family Violence Prevention Act through a comprehensive multi-sectorial approach.
In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts noted that the draft of the new Protection against Discrimination Act contained general and vague provisions, and was not on the work plan of the Government for 2015. They raised the issues of the availability of free legal aid, and the effect of the economic austerity measures on social protection, and wanted to know which institution women could approach in the case of discrimination. Questions were asked about the implementation of special temporary measures, trafficking of women for commercial prostitution and compensations paid to the victims of trafficking, and shelters for victims of violence. The Experts praised Slovenia for the high percentage of women in the Government and the Parliament, but noted their low participation in local-level decision making. Questions were also asked about the prohibition of dual nationality which could lead to statelessness, low levels of female entrepreneurship, conditions of Roma women and girls, situation of older women, treatment of refugees and migrants, and persons erased from the registers.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Vuk expressed appreciation for the opportunity to provide adequate answers to the questions raised by the Committee. The Committee was furnished with the most recent information.
The delegation of Slovenia included representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, and the Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 2 November at 4 p.m. for an informal meeting with non-governmental organizations, to be followed by an informal meeting with national human rights institutions.
The combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Slovenia (CEDAW/C/SVN/5-6) is available here.
Presentation of the Report
MARTINA VUK, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said that Slovenia attached great importance to the reporting process and highly valued the considerable efforts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in promoting gender equality and protecting the human rights of girls and women. The report had been prepared by all relevant ministries, governmental offices and non-governmental organizations. Explaining changes concerning institutional mechanisms in Slovenia, Ms. Vuk said that in 2012 tasks performed by the Governmental Office for Equal Opportunities had been transferred to the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, which had also become responsible for the gender equality policy. As a consequence, there had been a great demand from academic and civil society organizations to make the unit responsible for gender policy more powerful again. One of their greatest fears was that the small unit within the Ministry would diminish the role of the national gender machinery. Due to budgetary restraints, there had not been political will to re-establish an independent gender equality body. However, there had been a possibility to strengthen the equality mechanisms within the ministry. The first step had been taken in 2013 with the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Department within the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. The second step had been the establishment of an expert advisory body to the minister in December 2014, focusing on the matters relating to the equality of men and women, namely the Expert Council for Gender Equality, composed of 15 members from civil society, academia and the government administration.
The Act on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men stipulated that each ministry had to appoint a coordinator of equal opportunities for women and men. In 2015 ministers reconfirmed or newly appointed coordinators in all ministries. Municipalities were also encouraged to appoint local coordinators. There had been a substantial increase in the budget allocated to the Equal Opportunities Department. Over the past years, considerable efforts had been made in monitoring the implementation of laws, programmes and policies. The new National Programme for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men for 2015-2020 had just been adopted, whereas the previous one had been evaluated. The new programme would focus on economic independence, work-life balance, gender stereotypes, social inclusion, decision-making, violence against women, women’s health, and gender equality in foreign policy and international cooperation. The draft of the new Protection Against Discrimination Act, which would replace the Principle of Equal Treatment Act, was being prepared. The draft law established a new, more independent equality body as required by the European Union directives. The introduction of obligatory quotas for national, local and European elections had resulted in the increased participation of women in political and public life. The share of elected female parliamentarians had significantly increased to 35.6 per cent. In the 2014 local elections, 31.8 per cent of women counsellors had been elected. However, the presence of women in the National Council and among mayors had remained consistently low, namely 7.5 per cent among mayors. The Government planned to amend the Election to the National Assembly Act in order to increase the required quota for each gender to at least 40 per cent representation. The number of women in managerial and leadership positions in companies had been constantly low as well. In 2014, only 5 per cent of women were on the boards of the largest Slovenian companies. Quotas were envisioned in this area as well.
Slovenia had managed to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of the Family Violence Prevention Act through a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach. The Government was currently preparing a new Resolution on the National Programme for the Prevention of Family Violence and Violence against Women. It had also increased efforts to combat trafficking in human beings and it had been providing support to the victims. In July 2015 the National Assembly had adopted an act to amend the Criminal Code, introducing two new offences: stalking and forced marriages and similar partnerships.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert expressed concern that the present legal system of Slovenia was weak due to substantive and procedural law. There were two laws currently and temporary special measures. However, there was no indication of reference to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women or how it had been used. The draft of the new Protection against Discrimination Act had been heavily criticized for general and wage provisions, and it was not on the work plan of the Government for 2015. Legal aid was not commonly available. The system was not transparent and it was difficult to ascertain which authorities to approach in case of discrimination. How many laws would there be? What was the destiny of the Law on Equality? Would it revise provisions for the access to legal redress for women?
It was unclear which actor would be the main actor for the rights of women, the ombudsman or the advocate. Were there any plans to increase legal aid and to drop current fees?
The recent economic situation in Slovenia had created grounds for concern regarding gender mainstreaming in social protection. What measures were in place to offset the negative consequences of the economic situation on women and to prevent the rising gender gap?
Answers by the Delegation
The Equal Opportunities Act was the legal basis that defined the manner for the protection of equality. It dealt with all forms of discrimination in both the private and public sector. A new piece of draft legislation was the Law on the Protection against Discrimination, which would set up a new Advocate for Equal Opportunities, responsible for combatting discrimination on the basis of any personal circumstances, including gender. The new mechanism, which would have a separate budget and staff, would work on raising of awareness and prevention, deal with specific cases and their resolution, and conduct research in this field.
It was true that only few cases of discrimination had been recorded due to the fact that courts did not keep separate records on decisions based on individual grounds. Nevertheless, there were several judgments published. However, statistical data was not readily available to the public. Court fees were charged upon filing a case. However, if the court believed that payment posed a financial burden, the fee could be paid in instalments or waived. There was a system of free legal aid, which meant that a woman who was receiving financial social assistance, or did not have enough funds, could apply for free legal aid.
As for economic measures, the Government aimed to eliminate the gap in employment between men and women, with special emphasis on young women. The aim was to reduce the vertical and horizontal segregation, namely to increase the number of women in “male” professions.
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
An Expert observed that it was still not clear how many legal acts were in place. She also noted that there had been a discrepancy between the mandate and resources of the Advocate for Equal Opportunities? The Human Rights Ombudsman had 39 staff and almost 2 million euros at its disposal. Who would women approach in the case of discrimination? Were there any plans to support civil society organizations that worked on women’s issues? Was there any training of judges to fight against gender stereotypes in the judiciary?
As for austerity economic measures, alternative sources claimed that the effort had not produced sufficient results in making sure that austerity measures did not affect women more than men.
Answers by the Delegation
The Equal Opportunities Act for Men and Women and the Implementation of the Principle of Equal Treatment Act were the two major gender equality legal acts in Slovenia. An amendment to the second act was being prepared, with the aim to strengthen the equality body and increase its powers. The Ombudsman dealt with human rights violations perpetrated by the State, while the new equality body would handle complaints against discrimination in both the public and private sector. While the Ombudsman could only issue warnings, ask for explanations and adopt recommendations, the new Advocate would also have certain inspection powers and could submit cases to the authorities for their mandatory consideration and resolution. A person should turn to the Advocate of the Principle of Equality for a more specific treatment and resolution of his or her discrimination case, and to the Ombudsman in case of State violation of that or any other human right. The Government was trying to employ more people in the Advocate’s Office, which would have an independent budget.
The National Programme 2015-2020 was an umbrella document that covered all areas related to gender equality. It aimed to eliminate inequalities through certain measures and awareness raising. Economic circumstances were now better and certain measures had already been prepared and there should be improvement in the situation of women.
Training for judges was not organized in a systematic manner, except in the case of violence against women.
Responding to the question on how the gender unit coordinated with other ministries, the delegation explained that the key actors at all ministries were the coordinators of equal opportunities who met regularly and specially trained for the task. They exercised supervision over the tasks assigned to ministries in the area of gender equality.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert inquired about temporary special measures, noting that Slovenia seemed to have been very successful in the implementation of such measures. What was the percentage of female judges, prosecutors, as well as in the police, military and female guardians in prisons? Were there any programmes to reach parity? Were there any programmes to encourage girls to enter into technical professions?
Another Expert reminded that Article 5 stipulated the modification of social and cultural patterns to achieve equality between men and women, and the elimination of prejudices and customs that promoted inferiority between men and women. Significant measures had been taken by Slovenia in that respect. Were there planned measures to eliminate stereotypes in society?
An Expert noted that trafficking of women for commercial prostitution remained problematic, especially in the case of Roma women. Was a comprehensive anti-trafficking law envisaged? There were reports of insufficient law enforcement and improper investigation of the cases of trafficked Roma women. Was disaggregated data available on trafficked women by race and ethnicity? Very few cases had been prosecuted and even fewer convictions had been made. What measures were being taken to identify victims? What kind of protection was provided to victims? Alternative sources had indicated that victims from outside Europe had not been given compensation.
Answers by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the Equal Opportunities Act regulated the enactment of temporary special measures as positive discrimination measures.
Regarding the participation of women in the judiciary and security and law enforcement, in 2014 women held 38 per cent of top government positions, 39.4 per cent of higher managerial positions in the public sector, made up more than half of all judges and prosecutors, 27 per cent of ambassadors, 16 per cent of the armed forces, and 25 per cent in the police. Measures had been taken to increase the share of women in civilian missions abroad. There were separate prisons for men and women. Thus there were only female guards in the female prison.
Regarding the question about the effect of austerity measures on the situation of women, the delegation explained that Slovenia provided public education free of charge from the primary level up to and including the tertiary level. There were 67.6 per cent of women at universities. The Government was working on the elimination of stereotypes in professions through programmes that directed girls to non-typical professions and that encouraged them to study technical studies.
The elimination of gender stereotypes was a demanding issue. It took a lot of time to eliminate stereotypes. Surveys were carried out to study the division of household chores and tasks, as well as awareness raising, and media campaigns were organized to that end. Paid paternal leave was being increased. A more responsible division of household duties was addressed through a programme called “We Are All Active.”
As for trafficking in women and forced prostitution, in 2013 police dealt with 38 cases of human trafficking, mostly of women. Some 80 suspects were subjected to investigation. In 2014 there were three cases and eight investigated persons, and in 2015 (first half) there were 20 cases and 66 persons investigated. Forced prostitution (abuse of prostitution) was criminalized. Human trafficking had always been defined as a criminal offence under Slovenian laws. Training was organized for law enforcement forces. Health care and social services were provided to victims, and civil society played an active role in proceedings. Compensation for victims was defined by law. As for the cases of forced marriage of Roma girls, they were investigated and appropriate actions were taken. Many of them came from abroad and such partnerships were concluded on a customary basis, having no legal status. It was difficult to detect such occurrences because they were not registered, and the victims may accept them as custom. Forced marriage had been made a criminal offence under the law.
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
The State party had a very good system for the collection of data. Was data publicly accessible? Was compensation given to all victims of trafficking, including those coming from outside the European Union? Was assistance provided to non-governmental organizations working on the issue of prostitution?
There was no information in the country report on the number of shelters for victims of violence. Were there preventive measures in the area of domestic violence?
Answers by the Delegation
Statistical data was publicly available in Slovenia and anyone could request it. Compensation for victims of trafficking from outside the European Union was not available under the current law. Foreign victims were taken care of in Slovenia and they could remain in the country during recovery. In January 2015 the inter-ministerial Action Plan was adopted and it envisaged various measures to combat human trafficking, to provide services for victims, and to conduct training and information campaigns.
In 2014, 38 programmes on domestic violence were financed, out of which 14 envisaged the creation of shelters for victims. There were projects to raise awareness and build capacity about the issue of domestic violence for both the general public and professionals. One of them was “Vesna”, which had been carried out in 2014 and 2015 by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, together with police and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office. Slovenia defined family violence as a criminal offence, and the Government had increased the protection of children victims of violence through ex-officio procedure.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert commended Slovenia for having increased female participation in the Government and for having achieved parity in that respect. However, representation in local-level decision-making remained low. What was the reason for the absence of plans to increase female participation at the local level? What was the State party doing to combat gender stereotypes in the private sector? Much higher expectations were placed on female politicians and women in decision-making positions.
Another Expert commended Slovenia for having a gender neutral nationality law. However, she warned that women continued to be more likely to change their nationality to the nationality of their foreign spouse. The prohibition of dual nationality increased the risk of statelessness. Would the State party consider granting dual nationality? As for the issue of permanent residency and the so-called “erased persons,” the Expert noted that although many of them were naturalized, the issue remained problematic for women because when they married abroad, their families did not have the right to obtain Slovenian citizenship. Were there any plans to change those strict citizenship provisions?
Answers by the Delegation
A significant step forward had been made in terms of female participation in politics at the national level. Progress had also been made in local councils. However, among mayors there were indeed very few women. The only solution was to change the electoral system, but that was not being considered by the Government at the moment. The Government also addressed the persistent stereotypes about women in leadership positions. In the business sector, the Government welcomed female mentorship programmes and networking.
As for citizenship, the delegation highlighted that a woman foreigner who married a Slovenian citizen could obtain citizenship within three years of the marriage, provided she resided in Slovenia. A child also obtained citizenship if the parents had Slovenian citizenship. As for the “erased persons,” in 2014 an amendment had been adopted to cover those who still had not had their status regulated. In line with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, a special law on a compensation scheme had been adopted. Compensation could be claimed by those who were erased from the Register of Permanent Residence. Higher compensation claims were currently under review.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert raised the issue of gender segregation in certain educational fields, such as mathematics, natural science, engineering, and computer science. What changes had been made in the choice of subjects among female students? Was there a set of comprehensive measures to motivate girls to go into non-traditional professions? Roma women and girls remained in a vulnerable and disadvantaged situation with respect to education, with a high drop-out rate.
Another Expert expressed concern that many austerity measures were gender blind. For example, it was reported in alternative sources that the welfare programme to encourage youth employment did not take into consideration maternity leave. There was also a low level of female entrepreneurship. How was the Government addressing those issues? Salary differentials between men and women existed and were caused by gender discrimination. Roma women and women with disabilities were particularly vulnerable on the labour market.
Access to a wide range of health care services for women had been significantly improved in Slovenia. However, the risk to decrease of access was high due to austerity policies. What integrated health care strategies were in place to stop the negative impact of the economic crisis? The access of Roma women and girls to sexual and reproductive health services was limited.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that the difference between citizenship and permanent residence was enshrined in the Slovenian legislation. Social and healthcare rights, inter alia, belonged to permanent residents and not only citizens. Persons with dual citizenship in Slovenia were an exception and had to fulfil certain conditions for that to occur. Normally, a person would need to give up his original citizenship and submit a certificate that he had indeed done so. However, measures were in place to prevent statelessness. Citizens of the European Union could keep their original citizenship. The joining of families was enabled by the Slovenian legislation and was not limited to those with Slovenian citizenship only.
Regarding the questions on education, a delegate noted that the share of women in sciences and technical studies was lower than that of men, and a discussion was underway on how to convince young men to go into what was traditionally perceived as female fields of study. Quotas could have an adverse effect, which was why the Government had adopted a softer approach. Equality was of special importance in the area of education, the delegation stressed. There were still between 65 and 70 per cent of women in both humanities and social sciences, while their percentage in computer sciences stood at 41 per cent. In technical studies, about one quarter of students was female.
A project was conducted to combat negative gender stereotypes and introduce gender-neutral language in education curricula. For the long-term elimination of deeply rooted stereotypes, efforts needed to be made in the pre-school education as well. Through the curricula and training courses for teachers, and in cooperation with parents, further progress could be made towards equal opportunities.
The participation of Roma in the education system had been enabled for years. Pre-school classes envisaged the involvement of the Roma. The Roma culture and the Roma language were given due attention. In 32 kindergartens and schools there were Roma assistants, who represented a bridge between parents and schools. The State party was aware that the social and human capital of the Roma minority ought to be increased. In 2014, the Employment Service had organized activities for 2,440 Roma, half of whom had been female.
It was explained that a number of measures were in place to promote the employment of young people. The share of unemployed young people had increased significantly, more than that of other categories, due to the economic crisis. Active employment policies provided various incentives for the employers. The share of women in the workforce had increased over the previous four years. The unemployment rate among educated young women, however, had not been decreasing as fast as among other categories. The promotion of both men and women in the public administration, which was still frozen due to the austerity measures, would soon be allowed again.
The rate of women with disabilities who were unemployed stood for 42 per cent; the same rate for men with disabilities was 58 per cent. Incentives were in place for employers who hired persons with disabilities; the State also supported so-called sheltered workshops, where the majority of employees were persons with disabilities.
The pay gap between women and men was among the lowest in Europe. The average gross salary of men and women was the same in civil service, while in other professions men had slightly higher wages, especially in the age group 55-64. The “equal pay for equal work” principle was generally functioning well. There were fewer self-employed women than men. The effectiveness of programmes promoting female entrepreneurship was regularly monitored.
The delegation informed that Slovenia had the system of public and mandatory health insurance, covering all inhabitants and based on the principle of solidarity. As many as 95 per cent of Slovenian inhabitants were also covered by additional voluntary insurance. Those entitled to social payments were also entitled to the payment of their public and voluntary health insurance. Emergency services and primary health care clinics were meanwhile made available to all, irrespective of their insurance or status.
Regarding the reproductive health of women, a delegate stated that gynaecological services were provided at the primary level, which meant that every woman had her selected gynaecologist.
Sexual education was part of the regular curriculum in primary and secondary schools, and was provided within health lessons. It was an obligatory subject. The National Health Institute had published leaflets for safe sex life of adolescents and contraception methods. There were very few teenage pregnancies and the abortion rates were also low. A recent survey had shown that teenagers were aware of the risks associated with unprotected sex.
Questions by Experts
An Expert said that the situation of women pension recipients and single mothers had been worsening significantly, and the majority of people living in poverty were women. What measures had been taken by the State party to address those issues, especially for the women belonging to vulnerable groups? What proactive measures were in place to achieve the objectives of lifting 40,000 people out of poverty by 2020, in accordance with the Government’s plans?
The delegation was asked to provide details of the new programme on the equality between women and men. What was the budgetary allocation for the implementation of the new programme? What were the plans in place to increase the rates of women’s entrepreneurship?
The issue of rural women was raised by another Expert, who asked about the assessment of the national efforts in that regard.
Life expectancy for women in Slovenia was 83 years and was going up, but that also meant that the State party needed to take care of that population. Poverty among elderly women was a matter of concern, particularly among those women in single person households or belonging to minorities. Pensions of women were often lower than those of men. How was the violence against old women tackled?
The problem of refugees was a global one, noted the Expert. Slovenia as a small State was facing challenges in that regard; it was important to differentiate between economic migrants and refugees. Slovenia had a legal obligation to act in that regard. Women and children refugees especially needed protection.
More information was sought about the situation of women with disabilities.
When was the State party planning to remove its reservations to the Istanbul Convention?
Was the State party planning to introduce some measures to prevent violence against women by their intimate partners?
The need for disaggregated data was stressed by another Expert. Was there one law in place that instructed the Statistics Office to disaggregate the data, and to make it accessible in one central location?
Replies by the Delegation
Considering the large influx of migrants across Europe and Slovenia in particular, the delegation said that more than 100,000 migrants had entered the country over the previous weeks. A large number of people entering Slovenia saw it primarily as a country of transit, which was why they did not apply for international protection in Slovenia. Women and children were given priority when assigning beds in buildings. Pregnant women had access to medical and emergency services. Women who had given birth sometimes left hospitals as soon as they could despite medical advice, with the view of reaching their final destination fast.
In 2012, new legislation on social rights had entered into force. Its implementation had coincided with the period when the Slovenian citizens had been most affected by the economic crisis, the delegation said. The number of recipients of social assistance had not decreased, half of whom were women. Elderly women with low pensions, who were the most vulnerable group, were entitled to a special allowance, which topped their pensions. The number of applicants for that allowance had decreased. While real-estate and other property was now included in the computing of personal wealth, the property of lesser value would not be taken into account when deciding on granting the allowance. The pension reform had introduced equal pensions for men and women.
The delegation informed that the risk of poverty had not changed since 2014. It was expected that the data in 2017 would demonstrate that poverty rates had decreased. The poverty risk for women was constantly one per cent higher than that for men.
The so-called “Roma incubators” were helpful for carrying out measures for social mobilization, and helped bring together all stakeholders involved in Roma issues. Social mobilization should bring the population facing poverty closer to the labour market.
In the new National Programme for Equal Opportunities for Men and Women, adopted just the previous week, there were measures in place for the promotion of women entrepreneurs, details of which were to be specified.
It was explained that the percentage of rural women in Slovenia stood at nine per cent. They were generally well educated and many amongst them were young. More and more young women farmers were less dependent of men than had been the case before. It was mostly older men who owned agricultural holdings, and that gender segregation needed to be changed. Women followed recent trends in agriculture and were thus enable to take over the farms.
Slovenia had expressed a reservation to Article 59 of the Istanbul Convention, because it had wanted to have some more time to adopt its legislation. The issue in question was regulated by the Aliens Act, which was now being reviewed. Slovenia was proud to have ratified the Istanbul Convention and would want to implement it in its entirety, but examination was underway to see in which pieces of the legislation the Convention should be incorporated.
Erased persons had had to submit requests to resolve their status by an expedited procedure by 2013. If for any reason the procedure had been stopped, the deadline had been extended until 2017. Almost 97 per cent of the received requests had been positively resolved.
Amendments to the Act on Violence against Women were being currently prepared. There were a number of crisis centres for women and children across Slovenia. Women and children could spend up to three weeks in such centres, in order to break the cycle of violence.
Most data in Slovenia was gender-segregated, the delegation said. Problems still occurred regarding personal data protection and data on ethnicity. The authorities could not request data on ethnicity from people, as identification on the basis of ethnicity and race was voluntary.
Questions by Experts
An Expert asked about the measures taken to help the working family women, who had multiple family obligations.
The Family Law could be considered somewhat outdated, as the social norms across Europe had changed since its adoption. Could the delegation comment?
The Government seemed not to be doing enough to change the attitude towards early marriage.
Replies by the Delegation
Forced marriages were a criminal offence, and early marriages were closely linked to them, and neither was tolerated by the State party.
For part-time working mothers with young children, the gap in their insurance schemes was covered by the State, so that their eventual pensions were not reduced. There were higher poverty rates in single-parent families, which was why child benefits were higher for single parents. Women often took care of the elderly parents of their partners.
MARTINA VUK, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, appreciated the opportunity to provide adequate answers to the majority of questions raised by the Committee. The Committee was furnished with the most recent information. Ms. Vuk thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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