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NGOs brief Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on situation in Czech Republic, Vanuatu, Haiti and Tanzania

GENEVA (22 February 2016) - The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to hear information on the situation of women in the Czech Republic, Vanuatu, Haiti and Tanzania, whose reports will be considered this week. 
 
Representatives of NGOs in the Czech Republic presented their concerns with regard to the issue of forced sterilization in the country, and drew the Committee’s attention to discrimination against women with disabilities, Romani women and migrant and asylum-seeking women.
 
NGOs from Vanuatu briefed the Committee on the situation of women with disabilities and rural women, who faced stigmatization and lacked access to justice, as well as health and education services. 
 
With regard to Haiti, civil society representatives said that women, and women with disabilities in particular, continued to face discrimination and gender-based and sexual violence, with continuing impunity for the perpetrators.
 
Turning to Tanzania, speakers from NGOs raised concerns regarding harmful practices against girls, including female genital mutilation, early marriage and polygamy.  They pointed to discrimination against women in the family law. 
 
NGOs from the Czech Republic included Czech Women’s Lobby, League of Human Rights and European Roma Rights Centre.  From Vanuatu, Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association addressed the Committee.  Representatives of civil society organizations from Haiti included Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in a joint statement with Institute for Justice and Democracy and Commission for Women Victims, and Association Filles au Soleil, in a joint statement with Union des Femmes à Mobilité Réduite d’Haiti.  Women’s Legal Aid Centre and MUSAWAH presented their concerns to the Committee regarding the situation of women in Tanzania.    
 
The Committee will reconvene in public on Tuesday, 23 February at 10 a.m., to begin its consideration of the sixth periodic report of the Czech Republic (CEDAW/C/CZE/6). 
 
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
 
Czech Republic
 
Czech Women’s Lobby said that single mothers in the Czech Republic faced greater risks of social exclusion and poverty.  There were still deficiencies in the protection of women’s reproductive rights, including medical interventions that were considered harmful, and that were carried out without women’s free and informed consent.   Lastly, there was a complete failure by the State to ensure the equal participation of women in decision-making processes, and their under-representation in the public and private sectors. 
 
League of Human Rights said that women with mental disabilities could be stripped of their legal capacities, including their right to enter into marriage and their right to free and informed consent, and could be subjected to forced sterilization.  There was also a lack of commitment to ensure inclusive education.  Migrant and asylum seeking women were regularly subjected to indefinite detention.  Many women were outside of the social protection system.   
 
European Roma Rights Centre referred to the coercive sterilization of thousands of Romani women and women with disabilities in the Czech Republic since the 1970s.  The Government, however, refused to provide compensation to victims. 
 
Vanuatu
 
Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association voiced concerns with regard to the situation of women with disabilities and rural women in Vanuatu, who faced stigmatization and lacked access to justice, health and education services.  They were denied their rights to participate in decision-making processes on issues that affected them, including climate change.  National disaster risk reduction policies did not include women with disabilities in practice. 
 
Haiti
 
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, in a joint statement with Institute for Justice and Democracy and Commission for Women Victims, said that women in Haiti continued to face discrimination in the economic, education, health, justice, labour and decision-making sectors.  The Committee should recommend that Haiti strengthen the judicial system in order to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of gender-based violence.
 
Association Filles au Soleil, in a joint statement with Union des Femmes à Mobilité Réduite d’Haiti, said that women with disabilities faced discrimination and higher risks of violence.  They did not have equal opportunities to access the labour market, and suffered discrimination in access to justice, education, and to sexual and reproductive health.
 
Tanzania
 
Women’s Legal Aid Centre referred to legal provisions discriminating against women with regards to inheritance, the division of matrimonial property, land ownership and citizenship.  It pointed to harmful practices existing in Tanzania, including court-ordered early marriages and legal impunity for those perpetrating female genital mutilation on women above 18 years old.  It insisted on the need for the Government to allocate adequate funds to promote girls education and prevent drop out. 
 
MUSAWAH regretted the lack of legal restriction to polygamy, which was on the rise in Tanzania among the Muslim minority, and pointed at the family legislation institutionalizing discrimination against women in the family.  The Committee should recommend that Tanzania abolish polygamy in law and in practice. 
 
Questions by Committee Experts
 
A Committee member asked what the situation of violence against women was in the Czech Republic, and asked what type of services were being provided to support victims of violence, including with regards to compensation.  Was forced sterilization considered an issue of violence against women?  Would the Government ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence?
 
An Expert asked what measures were envisaged by the Government of Vanuatu for the restructuring of the national machinery.  Another Expert requested further details regarding the implementation and results of the national policies relating to persons with disabilities.  Was the Government cooperating with civil society organizations in the implementation of those policies? 
 
With regards to Haiti, an Expert noted the prominence of sexual violence, and asked what had been done to counter negative gender stereotypes.  A question was raised regarding violence against women by United Nations Peacekeepers. 
 
On Tanzania, an Expert raised questions regarding access to safe abortion and teen pregnancies. 
 
Replies by the Non-governmental Organizations
 
On the Czech Republic, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said that violence against women was high on their agenda, and explained that they had been advocating for the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible.  Victims of domestic violence usually received no compensation.  Efforts had to be made to raise public awareness on violence.  In the Czech Republic, forced sterilization was not considered as an act of violence against women, but rather as an infringement of personality rights.  Furthermore, it was not considered a discriminatory practice although it affected Romani women and women with disabilities more than others. 
 
The civil society representative from Vanuatu said that it had not been consulted regarding any project to restructure the governmental machinery.  NGOs had been consulted with regards to the implementation and drafting of national policies relating to persons with disabilities, but women with disabilities had not been consulted. 
 
Turning to the situation in Haiti, a civil society representative said that the legislation criminalizing rape did not cover marital rape.  The Head of the Supreme Court had carried out denigrating media campaigns.  There had been very little progress in terms of a true system for the national protection of women.  Blue Helmets had committed a serious number of offenses against women, and the mechanisms set out by the United Nations for reparation and access to justice for the victims were insufficient and often inaccessible.  Women in rural areas lacked access to education and health. 
 
Abortion in Tanzania was only legal on medical grounds, when the health of the woman was at stake, one civil society representative explained.

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