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Civil Society Representatives Brief Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on Situation in Egypt, Yemen, Indonesia and Ecuador

25 October 2021

Civil society representatives this afternoon briefed the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the situation of women in Egypt, Yemen, Indonesia and Ecuador, whose reports will be reviewed by the Committee this week.

Speaking on Egypt were the following non-governmental organizations: Association of the Egyptian Female Lawyers, Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, Egyptian Feminist Union, International Service for Human Rights, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Speaking on Yemen were the following non-governmental organizations: Peace Track Initiative, Musawah, Wogood for Human Security Foundation, Civil Alliance for Rights and Feminism, Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights/NGOs CEDAW Coalition, and Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association.

Speaking on Indonesia were the following non-governmental organizations: Papua Network, NGO Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, NGO Network on Women’s Rights to Development, NGO Network on Legal Framework and Impunity Issues, and NGO Network on Marriage and Family Relationships Issues.

Speaking on Ecuador were the following non-governmental organizations: Coalicion Nacional De Mujeres Del Ecuador Y Dignidad+Derechos, Centre for Reproductive Rights, FIAN-Red De Mujeres Rurales/Mujeres De Asfalto, Confederación De Nacionalidades Indígenas Del Ecuador, and Red de Mujerres Políticas del Ecuador y Coalicion Nacionad de Mujeres des Ecuador.

Following the discussion with non-governmental organizations, the Committee was briefed by Moushira Khattab, President of Egypt’s Council for Human Rights, and Andy Yentriyani, Chairperson of the Indonesian National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan).

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The meetings summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 26 October, when it will start its consideration of the combined eighth to tenth periodic report of Egypt (CEDAW/C/EGY/8-10).

Discussion on Situation of Women in Egypt

Concerning the situation in Egypt, speakers urged the Government to take effective measures in the labour market to fill the gender gap with regard to salaries and to address sexual harassment in the workplace. The family law in its current form established gender-based violence and discrimination against women and children in different spheres of life. A law based on equality and justice needed to be issued and the Government should commit to implementing it. One speaker said Egypt was conducting initiatives relating to violence against women, sexual harassment and female genital mutilation. However, the problem was the actual implementation of the law. There was no comprehensive law against violence against women, which was increasing, particularly domestic violence. There must be further efforts to criminalise violence against women. Equality must be ensured so that women could pass on their nationality to their children. The law provided for equality but in practise discrimination continued. Another speaker said family law was quite discriminatory against women. Many women did not report sexual violence to police and there was an acute shortage of shelters for survivors of violence.

One speaker said women could not participate through their civil society organizations to influence decision making processes concerning the response to COVID-19. Another speaker spoke about extrajudicial killings of women by State actors; enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention of women for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, expression and association; misuse of counter-terrorism measures and restrictive laws to quash women human rights defenders; and patterns of mass sexual assaults by non-State actors and the barriers to access justice for women survivors. One speaker said more than 4.2 million women had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces and institutions. The Government recognised the problem but the measures to protect women were not enough. One speaker said the continuing repression of civil society in Egypt had exacerbated in 2020 with specific implications on women human rights defenders. The crackdown on women social media influencers followed a pattern used by the Government against women human rights defenders. Authorities must respect and protect the right of peaceful assembly and regulate the use of force and firearms by security forces during assemblies. Egypt must cease online targeting and cyberattacks against women human rights defenders as well as against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals.

Discussion on Situation of Women in Yemen

One speaker said that grave violations and abuses against women and girls had reached an unprecedented level in Yemen. Discriminatory legal provisions coupled with the collapse of the legal system had contributed to the deterioration of the protection of women and enhanced impunity. There were no support structures for victiMs. The use of gender-based violence by parties to the conflict, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, had been reported. The Government was not prioritising gender justice and continued to violate women’s rights. Another speaker said there was no functioning legal system through which family laws could operate. The Committee must highlight the injustices against Yemeni women caused by the discriminatory legal framework, which had been exacerbated for years by the conflict. One speaker welcomed the positive steps taken by the Yemeni Government to amend the nationality law to expand the right of Yemeni women to confer nationality on their children. However, this right for women, which included a retroactive application of only three years, had not been widely implemented due to the conflict.

One speaker said there were still women in Yemen being deprived of their right to access justice and a fair trial. Hundreds women were placed under arbitrary detention because of their political stances and their social and humanitarian activities, and so they were deprived of their rights to a fair trial due to the lack of legal aid or recourse, the slow pace of the litigation procedures by the judges, as well as the high financial cost for litigation and the suspension of judicial work due to the judicial strike, which had resulted in an increase of violence against women and exposed them to exploitation. Another speaker said women were ruled out of any decision-making process and there was no female Minister. Women were totally excluded from public life. This situation could be seen in all sectors. One speaker said there were many violations of international law, particularly for women who were in prison.

Discussion on Situation of Women in Indonesia

One speaker raised the situation of women in West Papua, who continued to suffer since the army conflict began in 2018. Women human rights defenders in West Papua continued to be intimidated by the police. Another speaker said the COVID-19 confinement policy had impacted domestic violence victims, including lesbian, bisexual and trans gender people who experienced violence from parents and family members. Women with intellectual disabilities were at the highest risk of sexual violence, with the perpetrators mostly being persons close to them. One speaker, raising the issue of women’s right to development, said there was a disregard of Indonesian women’s right to participation, full development and advancement, and to work, among others. In this context, women and children with disabilities were especially left behind and victimised.

On impunity issues, one speaker said Indonesia had many policies that discriminated against women. Another speaker expressed concern about the status of women in marriage and family relations in Indonesia, 37 years after the State had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Women and girls still faced discrimination and gender-based violence such as polygamy, forced marriage, kidnapped and wed (kawin tangkap); and problems on recognition of interfaith marriages, and on diversities of forms of family relations. The impact of the existing discriminatory marriage law and policies had become worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies reported increased numbers of domestic violence cases, and cases of incest, sexual assault and exploitation of girls. Women experienced multiple burdens and there was feminisation of poverty, and increased maternal deaths.

Discussion on Situation of Women in Ecuador

On the situation in Ecuador, one speaker said that gender inequalities had historically been a structural trait in the country, hindering the achievement of Ecuador’s goals of respecting, protecting and complying with women’s human rights in the Convention and the Constitution. The deepening of inequalities had risen because of the COVID-19 pandemic and had resulted in an emergency situation for women and girls. Ecuador was making progress on the de-criminalisation of abortion in cases of rape, however, there was still work to be done to make it a reality. Another speaker addressed the issue of barriers to access legal abortion and unwanted pregnancies as a result of a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health. On 28 April this year, the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court had issued a ruling decriminalising abortion in all cases of pregnancy resulting from rape. However, even though the ruling was a major step, Ecuadorian women faced many barriers to accessing legal abortion. Additionally, there was a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health in Ecuador. The Committee should recommend that Ecuador legalise abortion, and guarantee effective access to safe and legal abortion, including in cases of rape and when the woman’s life or health was at risk.

One speaker said that women in Ecuador made up more than 49 per cent of the rural population, and represented 61 per cent of the workforce in peasant family agriculture, which was responsible for producing 6 per cent of the food consumed by Ecuadorian families. Despite this, women only had access to 21.7 per cent of the land. Among others, the Committee should urge Ecuador to implement programmes with adequate budgets to promote the political participation of rural women; evaluate and revise within the political parties the processes of parity, proportionality and constancy; and ensure that the Code of Democracy be reviewed under these aspects. Another speaker said indigenous peoples and women faced major challenges when it came to overcoming historical factors affecting their collective rights. The Constitution of Ecuador guaranteed the right to free, prior and informed consent, and that guarantee, plus a mechanism for dialogue for a culture of peace, could have helped Ecuadorian women overcome a lot of the problems that they faced. Ecuador must focus on measures to ensure collective rights for indigenous peoples and women. One speaker said there was a need to pass laws that protected gender equality, equal marriage rights, and other matters concerning hate crimes. The pandemic had seen an increase in femicides.

Discussion

The Chair of the Committee said that because of time constraints, the Committee Experts would voice their questions, but non-organizational organizations would have to respond in writing.

There were no questions on the situation in Egypt.

Concerning Yemen, a Committee Member said one speaker had spoken about shelters. Many women in that part of the world did not like going to shelters, so what could the non-governmental organizations do to encourage women to go to shelters. Was there an organization in Yemen that focused on the issue of nationality? Was data available on the increase of statelessness in Yemen as a result of the discrimination against women on the issue of nationality? Could more information be received on the “mohamasheen” minority? More information was requested on who the women in detention were - were they human rights defenders or had they broken rules?

As for Indonesia, clarification was requested on the omnibus bill regarding job creation.

Concerning Ecuador, more information was requested about the child marriage law as well as the communal land and property law and how they affected women.

Discussion with the President of Egypt’s Council for Human Rights

MOUSHIRA KHATTAB, President of Egypt’s Council for Human Rights, said that the Egyptian Constitution guaranteed equal rights for women and criminalised discrimination. Political will was at its highest level to guarantee the rights of women in their entirety. Religious leaders were encouraged if not gently pushed to adopt a more rights-based approach that treated women as equal full-fledged rights holders. Implementation on the ground was active and the space for women was growing bigger than ever. At the same time, there was a looming battle over the civil status law. Eliminating gender-based discrimination under the Criminal Code was another battle awaiting women’s organizations and the National Council of Women. In conclusion, Ms. Khattab said that in Egypt, the glass ceiling had been chattered and areas of discrimination and violence against women were shrinking more than ever, yet the road was still long. Global challenges such as the pandemic, demographics and climate change had encroached on women’s rights. The global campaign to build back better should turn the crisis into an opportunity. The national hype against violence against women was strong and should be maintained and nurtured, as well as capacity building for all professionals working with or for women.

One Committee Member asked how Ms. Khattab saw her role as President of the Council for Human Rights of Egypt and if the Council received individual complaints from women. Another Committee Expert asked whether religious leaders or the Government was the biggest obstacle. What was the role of the Council in building awareness among women, asked one Committee Member?

The Chair asked Ms. Khattab to respond to the Committee in writing.

Discussion with the Chairperson of the Indonesian National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan)

ANDY YENTRIYANI, Chairperson of the Indonesian National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said there had been encouraging developments regarding the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Indonesia. There had been enormous activities to raise the awareness of gender equality amongst State apparatus, law enforcers and the public conducted by the Indonesian Government and by the Indonesian civil society organizations. A better monitoring and evaluation process on the impacts of these raising awareness policies and activities had to be installed in order to ensure the achievement of expected impact.

Several national laws were arguably still in contradiction to the Convention, including the law on pornography and the law on electronic information and transactions. Also, there were discriminatory bylaws in the name of majority, local autonomy and also religion. Komnas Perempuan urged the Committee to request Indonesia to carry out a national review of the criminal local regulations in Aceh (Qanun Jinayat, 2014) that contributed to the exclusion of women victims from access to justice and remedies, particularly in the cases of rape and sexual harassment. It also expected the Committee to draw attention to the stagnation in dealing with gender-based violence in the context of past violations of human rights in Indonesia. There was a need for the Indonesian Government to carry out a thorough review of the impact of the special autonomy status for women victims in Aceh and Papua. Recently, Komnas Perempuan had also observed the intensifying intimidations and attacks against the Ahmadiyya congregation. Women, as in many conflict situations, suffered with multiple impacts and their leaderships was mostly unrecognised in formal meetings to resolve the cases. The Commission also recommended that the Committee discuss steps to eradicate harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and female circumcision, and abduction–marriage.

The Chair asked Ms. Yentriyani to respond in writing.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/10/le-comite-pour-lelimination-de-la-discrimination-legard-des-1