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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women examines the report of Montenegro

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination  
against Women 

11 July 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the second periodic report of Montenegro on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Mehmed Zenka, Minister for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, introducing the report, said that laws on gender equality and on the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of Montenegro had been revised and strengthened in 2015 while the umbrella Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination had been fully harmonized with European legislation in June 2017.  The new Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2017-2021 had set clear goals for the integration of gender equality in all national and local policies, and the National Gender Equality Council, established in October 2016, was a new institutional mechanism for achieving gender equality.  Significant efforts were being undertaken to eliminate discrimination against women and to combat and prevent violence and domestic violence, which remained a priority issue.  Participation of women in political decision-making was crucial and indispensable in establishing gender equality, said Mr. Zenka, adding that the 30 per cent quotas introduced in electoral legislation had resulted in the increase of women representation to 26 per cent following the local elections in 2014, and 23 per cent following the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Committee Experts welcomed the progress Montenegro had made in the realization of gender equality, and in particular in building national gender machinery at the local level by the way of municipal gender councils and adopting local gender equality plans.  However, the laws often lacked implementation mechanisms and funding, which raised a question about the seriousness of the commitment to the rights of women and gender equality.  Experts asked how the anti-discrimination law defined and addressed direct and indirect discrimination, intersecting and multiple discrimination, gender-based discrimination, and sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination, and also inquired about the reasons for the very low number of complaints of discrimination received.  Gender stereotypes and patriarchy were still very strong in the society, there was a tacit acceptance of violence against women and domestic violence, particularly with regard to Roma and Egyptian women, and convicted perpetrators of violence against women and domestic violence received mild sentences.  Also of concern was the impunity for human trafficking, considering that no one had been convicted of trafficking in persons for the second consecutive year.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Zenka reiterated Montenegro’s determination to progress and its commitment to the Convention and to other international human rights instruments, adding that it was addressing all the challenges, which would lead Montenegro towards the European Union.

The delegation of Montenegro included representatives of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, Supreme Court, Basic State Prosecutor’s Office, and the Permanent Mission of Montenegro to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Wednesday, 12 July, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined fifth to eighth periodic reports of Barbados (CEDAW/C/BRB/5-8).

Report

The second periodic report of Montenegro can be read here: CEDAW/C/MNE/2

Presentation of the Report

MEHMED ZENKA, Minister for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, introducing the report, stressed that the multi-ethnic State of Montenegro had managed, due to its valuable heritage and responsible policies, to preserve the coexistence of Montenegrins, Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians, Roma, and Croats, which was a unique achievement in the Balkan region.  Montenegro was the only country in the former Yugoslavia which had managed to avoid the war and preserve inter-religious and inter-ethnic harmony, a fact that was all the more important considering that Montenegro was the most heterogeneous in terms of religion and ethnicity of all the former Yugoslav republics.  At the moment when Montenegro regained its independence in 2006, the Government had recognized two main foreign policy priorities: to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.  Montenegro was one of 34 countries in the world which regularly reported on all of its international treaties, while the membership in the Human Rights Council 2012 to 2015 provided an opportunity to determine the direction of the human rights policy.  The commitment to the United Nations system was underlined by the fact that Montenegro was a party to the most important international and Council of Europe conventions and instruments, and the text of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was available on the website of the Ministry in Montenegrin and English languages, said Mr. Zenka.

Since the consideration of the previous report, improvements had been made in the legislative and institutional framework for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms.  The umbrella Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination of 2014 had been renewed and fully harmonized with European legislation in June 2017; in 2015, Montenegro had made amendments to the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of Montenegro, and it had adopted the new Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination of Persons with Disabilities and other laws in the area of gender equality and equal opportunities.  However, in practice, women, Roma, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, the elderly and persons with disabilities were still exposed to social marginalization.  That was why the changes to the anti-discrimination legislation had defined more precisely the mandates of existing institutions, but there was a clear need to further strengthen their capacities and resources in order to ensure full protection against discrimination.  A system of functional mechanisms for monitoring and horizontal assessment of human rights and gender equality across institutions had not been sufficiently developed as yet, but the new Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2017-2021 had set clear goals for the integration of gender equality in all national and local policies.

The Minister stressed the significant efforts, including general and special measures, to eliminate discrimination against women, primarily in the economic and political spheres, and to combat and prevent violence and domestic violence, which was one of the priority issues in the country.  The Government was in the process of creating a legal and political framework that provided adequate response to violence against women and domestic violence.  It had established an effective and sustainable system for the protection of victims of domestic violence, while campaigns and education to raise the awareness of all sectors of the society and the public had contributed to the increase in the number of reported cases of violence in recent years.  The National Gender Equality Council had been set up in October 2016 as a new institutional mechanism for achieving gender equality, and it included representatives of relevant institutions and four civil society organizations.  Participation of women in political decision-making at central and local levels was crucial and indispensable in establishing gender equality, said Mr. Zenka, adding that the 30 per cent quotas which had been introduced in electoral legislation, together with two additional special measures, had resulted in the increase of women representation to 26 per cent following the local elections in 2014, and 23 per cent following the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Questions from the Experts
 
Opening the dialogue with the delegation of Montenegro, an Expert welcomed the progress and advances made in the country to improve human rights protection and gender equality; however, the laws lacked implementation mechanisms and funding, which raised questions about the seriousness of the Government’s commitment to the rights of women and gender equality.

With regard to legal infrastructure, what was the exact wording in the amended anti-discrimination law as to the definition of discrimination, direct and indirect; the exact definition of gender equality; whether intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination were addressed; and whether it contained specific references to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity?

What tools were in place to assess the impact and effectiveness of the training activities of State and judicial officials?

The number of complaints of discrimination was very low, and there were in 2015 two mechanisms for filing complaints and obtaining redress, one under the Protector and another under the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights.  Had this changed since 2015 and had the number of complaints increased?

The delegation was asked to comment on the fact that very few women resorted to the possibility of legal aid which might indicate they were unaware of their rights.  Could the delegation comment?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the law on gender equality had been renewed in 2015 and harmonized with European standards; it had introduced sanctions for non-implementation, and it had clearly defined the obligations of legal persons to observe the provisions of the law and ensure the full exercise of the gender equality principle.  The law had also defined for the first time that gender equality involved not only women and men but also persons of different sexual identity, and it extended the responsibility for the implementation of the law to private entities as well. 

Gender-based discrimination, direct and indirect, was tackled by the institution of the Protector, which had taken over those competences from the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights.  The text of the anti-discrimination law in English was available on the website of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, together with the concluding observations and recommendations issued by the Committee following Montenegro’s initial review in 2011, and the text of the Convention.

Gender-based discrimination was described in article 4 of the anti-discrimination law and it was fully aligned with the Convention.  The law defined as discrimination the unfavourable treatment of women during pregnancy and maternity, sexual harassment, and inciting others to discrimination.  The amended law had introduced two new substantive provisions, one on the use of gender-neutral language and another on the mandatory gender training of the staff. 

In terms of access to justice, great progress had been made, thanks also to the adoption of the law on legal aid in 2012 that treated victims of trafficking in persons in a confidential manner and provided unlimited free legal aid.  Over the period from 2014 to 2016, 88 women had sought legal aid for redress in cases of violence, civil and criminal matters.  There was indeed the need to promote the awareness of free legal aid and make it more accessible; this was one of the strategic objectives in the strategy for the reform of the judiciary, which provided guidelines to create greater transparency and public trust in the judiciary, including through making free legal aid more accessible.

Protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was regulated by the law on gender equality and by the anti-discrimination law, which had extended the prohibited grounds for discrimination, including the change of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, and sexual characteristics.  Such discrimination carried very severe fines, which were calculated according to the economic ability of companies and private persons. 

The true national institution for the protection against all forms of discrimination was the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of Montenegro, while the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights was working on raising public awareness on the issues of discrimination, protection of discrimination, and on tolerance and diversity.  The most recent amendments increased the powers and the mandate of the Protector, including to instigate procedures for discrimination before a court or appear before a court as a party in cases where it ascertained that discrimination had happened, even if it involved a physical person.  The number of complaints submitted to the Protector had increased since 2015.

A survey which had recently been conducted in Montenegro had shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were on top of the discriminated groups in the country.

The Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and the National Statistical Bureau had recently signed a memorandum of understanding concerning the collection and processing of gender data, while all entities collecting data had the responsibility to desegregate the data on the basis of gender.  Every two years, a Women and Men in the Society publication was published by the Ministry and the Statistical Bureau to present the situation of women and men in the society.  The Protector also kept data in a disaggregated manner, including on type and kind of discrimination in cases it dealt with. 

The law on health protection, an umbrella law, recognized gender identity as a category.  The sex change procedure was simple and straightforward, and it started with the primary health care doctor.  A person under the age of 16 could not start the procedure, while parental consent was required for those aged 16 to 18.  The sex change procedure was considered a special procedure and was 80 per cent funded by the State, the rest was to be covered by the patient.  There was only one publicly declared person who had changed sex in Montenegro, said a delegate.

The delegation also explained the new model of registration of non-governmental organizations and said that at one time, there had been 15,000 non-governmental organizations registered in the country.  The new model would reduce the number, but would also facilitate State support for non-governmental organizations.

Questions from the Experts
 
Raising the issue of national gender machinery, a Committee Expert recognized the progress made and the efforts put in establishing a gender council and adopting local gender equality plans in a number of municipalities.

What was the role of the National Gender Equality Council set up in October 2016 in the framework of the national machinery, who did it report to and how did it relate to the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights?

The delegation was asked to explain the gender budgeting policy, particularly in the light of the recent withdrawal of social benefits from women with three or more children. 

The Expert commended the setting up of the Montenegrin Parliamentary gender equality group and the adoption of the action plan for a gender responsible parliament of Montenegro, but expressed surprise that there was no women parliamentary group which could bring together all female parliamentarians regardless of political affiliation and be effective in changing policies from a gender perspective.

Responses by the Delegation

In response, the delegation stressed the efforts made to develop the mechanisms of gender equality promotion at local levels and said that it had signed memoranda of understanding with all 23 municipalities to that effect, developed with the support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Guidelines.  In all the municipalities, the network of gender equality coordinators had been expanded, 16 municipalities had adopted gender equality decrees, local gender equality councils had been established in 12 municipalities, while 11 municipalities had adopted local action plans.  At the moment, seven municipalities had already set aside special budgets for the implementation of those plans.

With regard to gender budgeting, a delegate explained that when the Action Plan for Achieving Gender Equality 2013 to 2017 had been adopted, the Ministry of Finance had instructed all institutions involved in the implementation of the plan to allocate funds in their respective budgets for the implementation of gender equality activities.  The law on gender equality stipulated the obligation of all authorities, public enterprises and other public persons to consider the gender impact of all decisions and actions undertaken.

The National Gender Equality Council examined all regulations adopted at central or local levels from a gender perspective.

Questions from the Experts
 
In the next round of questions, a Committee Expert raised questions on the application of temporary special measures for the purpose of the elimination of obstacles to the exercise of the same rights by women, and noted that Montenegro had successfully applied such measures in the area of political representation of women. 

Would Montenegro change its legislative framework and provide better opportunities for political participation of women, for example quotas of 40 per cent in the parliament and at the local level?

What were the plans to raise public awareness concerning the nature of temporary special measures, considering that there existed rather strong resistance to the adoption of such measures?

Would Montenegro introduce incentives for the employment of women and adopt temporary special measures targeting disadvantaged groups of women, including Roma and Egyptian women and women with disabilities?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation explained that quotas had been introduced for the local elections in 2014, and that following the 2016 parliamentary elections, representation of women had increased to 23 per cent and Montenegro was on the way to reaching the set benchmark of 30 per cent.  Montenegro wanted to, by 2020, reach the 40 per cent target for the national parliament; for this to happen, the electoral law must be amended. 

Quotas existed also for the least represented groups at local levels, where after the 2014 elections women represented 26 per cent, and in some municipalities 30 or even 33 per cent.  

The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court had amended their regulations and had introduced the obligation to ensure fair gender representation in new nominations.  A woman was the Chief Supreme Justice, and the representation of women in the judiciary and the prosecutorial services was rather high.

The strategy for the development of female entrepreneurship had been adopted in 2015 to enhance the economic empowerment of women.  Special interest-free credit lines for women had been introduced this year, and there were start-up loans for women who wanted to start or improve their businesses.

Women in Montenegro had been granted the right to vote in 1946, when three women had been elected to parliament; today, 19 women were members of parliament, and there was a group of women parliamentarians which functioned across the party lines.  The parliamentary gender equality group was indeed in place and it was composed not only of women but also of male members of parliament.

In follow-up questions, Experts took up the 2015 law on social and child protection which offered life-time benefits to those who left the labour market and which had then been overturned by the Constitutional Court, and asked about the situation of those women who had already left work and how their re-entry into work would be ensured.

The delegation explained that the 2015 law on social and child protection had been passed in the form of amendments by parliament, which had offered life-long benefits to those women who left work; women who applied were those with four children and 15 years of work experience, women with three children and 25 years of work experience and the women registered with the unemployment bureau.  The Constitutional Court had assessed in April 2017 that some of the provisions of the law were unconstitutional, and it obliged the Government to find a solution and to ensure that women who had exercised their right under the 2015 law were not in the worse situation than before. 

In terms of steps taken to address the situation of the 3,161 women who had left their jobs to receive this benefit, a delegate said that women above the age of 55 would receive life-long benefits, women aged 45 to 55 would receive the benefits for a period of five years, and those under the age of 45 would receive the benefits for one year.  The decision on the life-long benefits had not taken into account the impact it would have: only one year of the paying out the life-long benefit cost the State €69 million, while the size of the social welfare payment for the whole country was a bit over €60 million.  Montenegro had made a mistake and was now doing its best to correct the course.

Questions from the Experts
 
Gender stereotypes and patriarchy were still very strong in the society, noted the Experts and inquired about the steps taken to address this phenomenon, to address the preference for boys and the sex-selective abortion which seemed to be on the increase, and to remove all the provisions from the law which discriminated against women and girls in matters of property and inheritance.

Violence against women and domestic violence continued to be a priority issue in Montenegro, said another Expert and commended Montenegro for acknowledging the extent of the problem.  Montenegro had also taken measures to combat violence, including the adoption of the law, strategy and action plan to fight the phenomenon; it had ratified the Istanbul Convention and provided access to free legal aid.

Why had the definition of rape not been amended to comply with the Convention?  Who was running the shelters for victims of violence and what was the role of the State in supporting shelters and their operators?

The Expert noted that there seemed to be tacit acceptance of violence against women and domestic violence in the society, particularly with regard to Roma and Egyptian women – what was being done to change those attitudes?  It was clear that sentences to perpetrators of violence against women and domestic violence were mild, which indicated the needed work on changing the mind set, particularly of those working directly on the issue, including judges and prosecutors.

Turning to the issue of trafficking in persons, the Experts commended Montenegro for the great efforts undertaken to fight the phenomenon, including the support to non-governmental organizations running shelters for victims, the adoption of the anti-trafficking in persons strategy, and regional and international cooperation on the issue.  However, Montenegro did not meet the minimum standards to combat human trafficking as it had not convicted a perpetrator of trafficking in persons for the second consecutive year, and had not identified cases of sex trafficking, among others.  Therefore, the Committee remained seriously concerned about trafficking in women, and in particular about vulnerable groups such as Roma end Egyptian women, as well as refugee and migrant women.

What was being done to address the gap between the law and policies and their implementation, to involve civil society organizations and the media in efforts to increase the understanding of the problem, and to improve the victim identification procedure?

Another issue of concern was that of prostitution, which was neither legal or illegal in Montenegro.

Responses by the Delegation

In response to the questions raised by the Experts, a delegate said that there had been a custom in the past for men to hold titles to property, but this was no longer the case, as women and men could now hold the title on an equal basis.  The law on abortion, which was available on the website of the Ministry of Health, stipulated the procedure and prohibited sex selective abortion. 

In terms of access to healthcare for women engaged in prostitution, the delegation explained that non-nationals were entitled to emergency health care and even some surgical procedures, with the bills being sent to their country of origin; those women who were nationals of countries with which Montenegro had agreements on social protection received health care on an equal basis as citizens of Montenegro.  All women engaged in prostitution could access HIV testing and counselling services.

The centre for social work assessed the implementation of court decisions concerning custody and alimony; financial support from the State in case on non-payment of the alimony was available only if the parent who had custody lodged a complaint in the court.

A study had been conducted in 2014 which had shown that the media were still reluctant to identify gender equality, and women received less space in their programmes than men or the activities of interest to men such as sports.  The attitudes were slowly changing, and more space was being dedicated to women and their interests, and more materials produced by the State were being disseminated by the media, for example video clips on the economic empowerment of women.

The delegation agreed that most of the rulings on cases concerning violence against women and domestic violence were conditional and suspended sentences, and said that the courts had to deliver their sentences within the ranges set by the law.  Recently, the Montenegro courts had decided in their general session that they needed to be more stringent, not only in domestic violence but in all criminal cases.  The judiciary was aware that it could act preventively as stringent sentences could serve as a deterrent, and it could also encourage more women victims of violence to come forward and report.

The National Anti-Trafficking Office had recently developed draft guidelines against impunity for human traffickers which was based on European standards; it was expected that the final version would be soon adopted.  The Office had been put under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior in May 2017.  There was a working group in place which looked at the implementation of the national anti-trafficking strategy, said the delegation, and added that trafficking in persons was considered one of the worst crimes.  The anti-trafficking activities included repression and prevention, and procedures had been put in place to identify victims and potential victims.

In 2016, Montenegro had adopted the first strategic document on the social integration of Roma and Egyptian populations.  Very good cooperation with Roma non-governmental organizations and the Roma Council had been developed, and they had been involved in the drafting and the implementation of the strategy.  The strategy included activities on the elimination of gender stereotypes and gender-based violence and discrimination against Roma women.

Taking the floor to ask their follow up questions, Experts inquired about the second action plan to prevent violence against women, the existence of hotlines, and measures taken to ensure the effective functioning of free legal aid.  What was being done to eliminate gender stereotypes?  Impunity for human traffickers in the context of early and child marriages was related to the lacuna in the law, remarked Experts, and asked for an answer concerning the amendment of the definition of rape to include lack of consent as the key element.

Montenegro was a State party to the Istanbul Convention and it had in place the national strategy for protection against domestic violence adopted in 2016.  Helplines or SOS lines for victims of violence were available and were operated by a non-governmental organization with the support of the State.  In 2016, a total of 3,384 calls had been received from women and children victims of domestic violence, and efforts were being undertaken to improve services and support to the victims, including the development of general conditions for accreditation of service providers, which could be civil society organizations or churches.

Numerous education and awareness raising activities had been implemented, as well as surveys into the phenomena of violence against women and domestic violence.  The latest survey, conducted earlier this year, focused on institutional response to violence and it also calculated the cost of violence to the State.  Its preliminary findings had shown that in 2016, based on a representative sample, 42 per cent or every other woman, experienced some sort of violence – economic, psychological, physical of social – by their intimate partners, and 18 per cent had experienced violence in the past 12 months.  Psychological violence was the most prevalent form.  Every second citizen in Montenegro felt that it was not necessary to report every form of violence and that some instances of violence should be resolved at home; additionally 67 per cent of respondents thought that reporting domestic violence would result in a divorce.

The definition of rape in the criminal legislation would be soon amended to include lack of consent.

Questions from the Experts
 
A Committee Expert raised a number of questions concerning political representation of women, including the amount of time the media dedicated to female candidates, the support and capacity building provided to young females interested in political participation, and the strategies for relevant media reporting with the view of eliminating the stereotypical representation of the role of women in society.  Were there any plans to collect data on sexism in politics and inform the responses to this phenomenon?

It was reported that women represented 63 per cent of staff in diplomatic and consular services but only 17 per cent of the ambassadorial positions were filled by women – what measures were being envisaged to change this?  What data was available on the representation of women in the judiciary?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that Montenegro was taking firm steps towards increasing the number of women in the positions of ambassadors – soon, a woman would take the position of the Ambassador to Rome.  Women played a very important and visible role in political parties, and the political parties were aware of the need to have as many women as possible in as many high positions as possible.  The 30 per cent quota for the representation of women in elected bodies was enshrined in the law. 

All political parties present in parliament participated in training on gender equality and equal political representation of women as a way to support the parties in advocating for gender equality in their work.  Recently, 16 trainers had been trained and certified in training of political parties.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Experts raised the issues of difficult access to birth registration for children born to single mothers, citizenship of children from previous marriages, and the reasons for delay in processing some asylum applications.  The Committee expressed hope that the strategy for the social inclusion of Roma and Egyptians would be implemented in a speedy manner in order to improve their situation.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the new law on civil procedure simplified the birth registration of children born outside of health institutions by clarifying the procedure to establish the facts in relation to the time and place of birth.  Since the entry into force of the law on nationality in 2008, and until 1 July 2017, some 30,000 persons had received citizenship, representing five per cent of the total population; of those some 1,500 were internally displaced persons. 

A spouse of a Montenegrin citizen could apply for citizenship under the following conditions: being married for at least three years, being a resident in Montenegro for at least three years, providing proof of income and not being subject of a criminal prosecution in Montenegro or in another country.  The procedure requested that a proof of release from citizenship at birth had to be provided.

Questions from the Experts
 
A Committee Expert congratulated Montenegro for its impressive achievements in education, including free education, transport, strategies for early and preschool education, and mediators for Roma students.  However, the support by development partners was project-based which raised concerns about the sustainability of those projects and services, particularly those benefiting Roma and Egyptian children and children with special needs. 

Another issue of concern was the very low enrolment rates of Roma and Egyptian children which stood at 57 and 55 per cent for primary and secondary education respectively, and the high school drop-out rate among this group.

The delegation was asked about gender differences in wages, measures taken to implement the principle of equal pay for equal work, and whether the new gender equality index would focus on gender differences in wages.  How would the participation of women in the workforce be improved and in particular in the male-dominant job areas? What was the percentage of children aged three to six who had access to preschool education and kindergartens? 

The Workers’ Union was proposing flexible working arrangements such as telecommuting, part-time work, home office, etc.: how was the State supporting the plans for flexible working arrangements and how would it ensure that women equally benefitted from such arrangements?

The delegation was asked about sustained access to contraceptives, especially among Roma and Egyptian women where only 4.1 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 used contraceptives regularly.  More than 22 per cent of this group gave birth to at least one child before the age of 18 and their level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS was low.  What was being done to ensure the delivery of primary health services among this population, including to educate and raise awareness on sexually transmitted diseases.  What was being done to ensure universal and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education through school curricula?

Responses by the Delegation

In response, the delegation said that the Bureau for Education was implementing various measures to encourage school enrolment of Roma and Egyptian children, particularly in secondary schools, including through awareness raising, scholarship and advice on school orientation.  Modular education programmes had been developed for children with special educational needs in order to support their school completion and integration in the labour market.

Schools had a set of lessons that covered sexual and reproductive health in several subjects such as in biology or civic education. 

For the past two years, Montenegro had been running a campaign on preschool education in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund, and interactive and mobile pre-school educational services had been put in place, and the results were remarkable, with a 270 per cent increase in the coverage in some municipalities.

Roma represented 0.8 per cent of the total population of Montenegro and Egyptians 0.33 per cent; Roma and Egyptian children represented 0.55 per cent of children in pre-school education, 2.38 per cent in primary and 0.4 per cent in secondary education.

The institute of equal pay for equal work had been introduced and both women and men had equal access to parental leave. 

The reform of the health system had dealt with all three levels of care: primary, secondary and tertiary.  The focus in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services was on primary health care, where services had been developed also in rural areas and in outpatient health centres.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, the delegation was asked about steps taken to implement the recommendations concerning measures to take to increase employment and how the strategy for economic empowerment of women envisaged support to self-employed women and female entrepreneurs.

One third of women in Montenegro lived in rural areas, and had limited access to education, health services and economic opportunities, while life was particularly harsh for the elderly, women with disabilities and for women of different sexual orientation and gender identity.  What steps were being taken to implement the strategy for the social integration of persons with disabilities and Roma, and also to improve the situation of women in detention, particularly in protecting them from violence?

Responses by the Delegation

In response to the questions raised about rural women, the delegation said that a scheme was in place which prioritized rural women in accessing financing, and special social transfers for family farming had been established.  Rural women and men with no other source of income but farming were entitled to social pensions.

Inclusive education for children with disabilities started from an early age, which boys and girls accessed on an equal footing.  Each child had a personalized learning and development plan, and was integrated in a mainstream school. 

In addition to the strategy for the integration of persons with disabilities, Montenegro had adopted an important strategic document on the prohibition of discrimination against this group, and it obligated the authorities to eliminate harmful stereotypes and actions that discriminated against persons with disabilities in all walks of life.  Since 2010, Montenegro had been working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues and had adopted a strategy for improving the conditions of life for those individuals.

Final Round of Questions and Answers

Although the Family Law had been recently amended and had removed the precedence given to the preservation of family unity, even in cases of domestic violence, judges still did not fully take into consideration charges of domestic violence in their child custody and visitation decisions.  What was being done to counter the narrative of men’s advocacy groups which enticed judges to distrust the account of domestic violence by women, and also to address the growing trend of shared physical custody of children despite the fact that it was harmful to children, particularly very young ones?  The delegation was also asked to explain the system of marital property rights and regimes in case of divorce.

Responding, the delegation said that men and women had equal rights to all property gained during the marriage, regardless of the employment status of women.  Answers to other questions would be provided in writing within 48 hours.

Concluding Remarks

MEHMED ZENKA, Minister for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, reiterated Montenegro’s determination to progress and its commitment to the Convention and to other international human rights instruments, adding that it was addressing all the challenges, which would lead Montenegro towards the European Union.

RUTH HALPERIN-KADDARI, Committee Vice-Chairperson, commended Montenegro for its efforts and encouraged it to take all necessary measures to address various recommendations which the Committee would issue with the purpose of more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.

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