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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers reports of Spain

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
against Women

8 July 2015

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Spain on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Ana María Menéndez, Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the report, reiterated that ending gender-based violence and achieving equality between women and men were Spain’s key priorities, and said that the Strategic Plan for Equality in Opportunities 2014-2016 aimed to reduce inequality in the workplace, including through reducing pay gaps and reconciling professional and home life.  Spain had increased by seven per cent its budget to fight violence against women in 2015, and had adopted a National Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in the framework of which a strategy to fight female genital mutilation was being elaborated.  Efforts were being increased to combat trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation, including through the creation of the National Focal Point against Trafficking in Persons, and the comprehensive Plan to Combat Trafficking in Women and Children for purposes of sexual exploitation 2015-2018 was pending in the Council of Ministers.

Committee Experts were disappointed that the report of Spain was silent on the impact of the economic crisis and its disproportionate impact on women in particular. As the economic crisis had the power to modify gender imbalances, depending on the policies adopted, it was crucially important to apply a gender perspective to the analysis of the measures taken in response to the crisis and its consequences.  Disparities between de facto and de iure enjoyment of rights by women could partly be explained by the economic crisis, said Experts, and expressed hope that the action post-crisis would strive to eliminate discrimination against women and increase equality between women and men.  While the Law 1/2004 on gender-based violence was a key emancipating instrument, Experts wondered why Spain did not have a comprehensive legal instrument which dealt with violence as a cross-cutting issue and expanded the focus from violence by intimate partners to all forms of violence. 

In response, the delegation said that Spain was very aware of the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women, including in increasing the precariousness of jobs for women, and that was why equality between women and men was a key priority.  The National Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women expanded the scope of the definition of gender-based violence from intimate-partner violence to include sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women.  In order to deal with gender-based violence, specialised offices had been created in the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the number of courts specialised in gender-based violence had increased, and a comprehensive system of risk evaluation for victims of violence against women and their children was in place.  The National Strategy for Persons with Disabilities 2014-2020 had been adopted, aiming to, inter alia, close the gender gap between women and men with disability, including in the area of employment.

In concluding remarks, Ambassador Menéndez said that Spain appreciated the dialogue with the Committee which allowed it to make progress on very important issues.

The delegation of Spain included representatives of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ministry of Justice, Interior Ministry, Ministry of Employment and Social Security, Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, and the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Wednesday, 8 July, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Gambia (CEDAW/C/GMB/4).

Reports

The combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Spain can be read here: CEDAW/C/ESP/7-8.

Presentation of the Reports of Spain

ANA MARIA MENENDEZ, Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that key priorities of Spain were to stop gender-based violence and the commitment to achieve equality between women and men, particularly in the wake of the economic crisis.  Spain was fully committed to the consolidation of the conditions for equal opportunity between men and women; this was manifested in the 2015 State budget, which increased the resources allocated to the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities by seven per cent compared to 2014.  The Social Inclusion Plan 2013-2016 had a budget of more than €136 million and included actions directed at women who suffered multiple discriminations because they belonged to specific groups that were in a position of greater vulnerability, such as Roma or minorities.  The Strategic Plan for Equality in Opportunities 2014-2016 aimed to reduce inequality in the workplace with a particular focus on reducing pay gaps, to reconcile professional and home life, and to eliminate violence against women.  The Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities had been set up as an institution that promoted equal opportunities for women in all areas of society.  In the area of work and social security, Spain had adopted in February 2015 Law 1/2004 on the protection of part-time workers which ensured the application of equality principles and non-discrimination on the basis of sex in the area of the provision of social security for part-time workers.

With regard to violence against women, Spain said that to date, 19 women had been killed by intimate partners or ex-partners this year; last year, 54 women had been murdered and 347 complaints had been lodged.  The budget for action to fight violence against women had been increased by seven per cent in 2015, and for the first time, one million euro had been allocated for customized plans for victims of gender-based violence.  The 2013-2016 Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women had introduced several innovations, including the recent adoption of a protocol for better management of shelters for women victims of gender violence and their children, the enlargement of the campaign for early detection of attitudes that revealed an attempt to control within the couple, inclusion of Tamazigh, an Arabic dialect used in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in the 016 help line, and the adoption of a common health protocol for female genital mutilation and the elaboration of a strategy to fight female genital mutilation.  The Organic Law 1/2015 had reformed the Criminal Code and introduced new types of violence against women in the Criminal Code, such as forced marriage.  Spain had increased efforts to combat trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and last year it had created the National Focal Point against Trafficking in Persons and had increased by 33 per cent subsidies for women victims of such trafficking.  The Law 4/2015 on status of victims of trafficking prevented secondary victimization during investigation and prosecution, and Spain was also in the process of reforming the system of childhood protection to ensure greater protection to children of victims of violence and victims of trafficking.  The comprehensive Plan to Combat Trafficking in Women and Children for purposes of sexual exploitation 2015-2018 was pending in the Council of Ministers.

Articles 1 to 2: Defining Discrimination and Obligation of States Parties, and Articles 3 and 4: Appropriate Measures and Temporary Special Measures to Combat Discrimination

Questions from the Experts
 
Disparities between de facto and de iure enjoyment of rights by women could be partly explained by the economic crisis; it was hoped that the action post-crisis would strive to eliminate discrimination against women and increase equality between women and men.  The Law 1/2014 on gender-based violence was a key emancipating instrument which consolidated progress so far, but why did Spain not have a comprehensive legal instrument in place which dealt with violence as a cross-cutting issue and expanded the focus from violence by intimate partners to all forms of violence?  What were the reasons for the decrease in access to justice for women that had occurred during the period 2005-2013, particularly for women from autonomous communities and vulnerable women?

Another Expert expressed disappointment that the report was silent on the impact of the crisis on women and stressed the importance of applying a gender perspective to the analysis of the consequences of the economic crisis which had the power to modify gender imbalances, depending on the policies adopted.  Five years into the crisis, there was a wealth of analysis on the impact of the crisis in academia, and yet, the report ignored all those.  Crisis response measures saw significant cuts in social spending and a reduction in the public sector, which had a disproportionate impact on women, and yet, recovery measures were male-focused.  Why did Spain not put pressure on the European Union to ensure that austerity measures were in line with their human rights obligations and obligations under the Convention?  The crisis had seen a reduction in the resources available to combat violence against women and the Committee Expert asked Spain to explain its position regarding the case of Angela Gonzales, a victim of violence against women, whose young daughter had been tragically killed by her violent father.

In connection to Articles 3 and 4, the delegation was asked about evaluations and continuation of important strategies for equality of women and to explain the reasons for the reform of the Ministry for Women and Equality, which was an issue of concern because this removal of gender equality authority from Government structures indicated a weakening in gender equality mechanisms.  In terms of regional and national coordination, Experts wondered what remained to be coordinated after the gender equality budget in some regions and autonomous communities had been cut by 60 or 70 per cent, and asked about temporary special measures in place to ensure gender equality.

Responses by the Delegation

Spain was very aware about the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women, including in increasing the precariousness of jobs for women, and that was why equality between women and men was a key priority for the Government.  To that end, Spain had adopted the Strategic Plan for Equality in Opportunities, which aimed to reduce inequality in the workplace, reconcile home and work life, and eliminate violence against women.  Spain was now in recovery and figures showed an increase in the number of women in social security and in employment.  The Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities ensured mainstreaming of equality in all policies and worked on developing skills and ensuring equality and non-discrimination.

There was a permanent dialogue with autonomous communities, including in the area of gender and equality, through the State Gender Observatory, which produced an annual report. 

The Organic Law 1/2004 had broadened the scope of gender-based violence and sought to provide protection of women across the board, and this was to be done through the National Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which expanded the scope of violence from violence within partnerships to include sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women.  The autonomous communities participated in the formulation of this law because they were also the ones in charge of its implementation.

The evaluation of the National Plan for Social Inclusion 2013-2016 was being carried out at the moment and it was hoped that the Government would have preliminary information available in September 2015.  The Plan also contained measures to combat female poverty and child poverty, the budgets for which had seen an increase. 

The Office of the Public Prosecutor had specialised offices to deal with gender-based violence, including in regions, and there were regular annual meetings between the Attorney General and prosecutors on the subject.  There had been progress in specialization of the Office in this area, including in the increase in the number of specialists and the number of courts specialised in gender-based violence.  Spain had in place a comprehensive system of risk evaluation for victims of violence against women and their children, who continued to enjoy protection regardless of the crisis.

The impact of the crisis on women and men was very unequal, and affected women disproportionately.  However, since 2007, over 3.7 million jobs had been lost, and because the crisis affected real estate and construction sectors, most of the jobs lost had been held by men.

Articles 5 and 6: Modifying Social and Cultural Patterns and Suppressing Exploitation of Women

Questions from the Experts
 
A Committee Expert asked about measures undertaken to eliminate stereotypes and prejudices and to change ideas driving those stereotypes, to protect women belonging to minorities including in the media, and measures undertaken to combat gender-based discrimination in autonomous communities.

Another Expert expressed disappointment at the lack of reference to the Istanbul Convention in the report of Spain, which was an ardent supporter of this instrument, and also expressed concern about contradictory information on budget cuts which led to the reduction of services and closure of service centres in the regions and autonomous areas.  What was the operational definition of gender-based violence in Spain, and did violence other than intimate partner violence receive attention, including non-partner violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence as stipulated in the Istanbul Convention?

Responses by the Delegation

Spain had brought two legal actions concerning media campaigns which were deemed sexist, while a number of initiatives were in place to address stereotypes in the workplace, targeting employers and building skills of women emerging leaders. 

The Government was clearly committed to combat violence against women, and the Council of Minister was seized with this issue.  There was a range of legislative instruments and programmes which set standards, provided free legal aid to all victims of gender-based violence, and elevated the victims of such crimes to higher legal status.  Institutions to address violence against women were in place and Spain was also working on its reservations to the Istanbul Convention.

Concerning measures to fight against stereotypes, the delegation drew attention to the positive discrimination measures for Roma (Gypsies), noting that the action on behalf of these populations focused on sectors of employment, education, housing and health, as well as several cross-cutting sectors, particularly with regard to the inclusion of gender.

The Government had published a study on due diligence in trafficking in persons, providing detailed information about action taken on each of the cases.  Internal coordination activities were being carried out to ensure that the Public Prosecutor Office had information about all cases of trafficking in persons lodged with various agencies in order to develop cases and victim protection.  Coordination and cooperation was also ongoing with non-governmental organizations working on issues of trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation and contemporary forms of slavery.  Trafficking in persons had been criminalized since 2010. 

The Organic Law 1/2004 provided a definition of gender violence, and Spain was aware that this definition was more restrictive than the definition of violence against women contained in the Istanbul Convention.  A gender dimension of violence was an aggravating circumstance in the Criminal Code.

Migrants received language and culture education in migrant reception centres, while interpretation services were provided in hospitals and other social service centres to migrant women who did not speak Spanish.

The Police had adopted this year a plan to combat trafficking in persons, to ensure that the victims of this crime were not invisible, and to ensure access to support of all those in prostitution who might be victims of trafficking in human beings for purposes of sexual exploitation; the police was also considering the use of social and Internet tools in creating alerts for trafficking.  Dedicated research groups had been set up to look into trafficking in persons online and in social media.  The scope of the Framework Protocol for the Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings extended beyond Spanish territory and into autonomous territories.  

Articles 7 to 9: Equality in Political and Public Life at the National and International Levels and Equality in Nationality Laws

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert noted with satisfaction the high representation of women in Parliament and asked how active women Members of Parliament were in their engagement with civil society and whether there was an established link between them as a group and non-governmental organizations working on women’s issues.  It was commendable that at local levels the number of women mayors had increased from 15 per cent in 2007 to 17.7 per cent in 2013, but the political representation of women in regional and autonomous communities parliaments had decreased; could this be due to budgetary cuts for gender equality activities at regional levels?

Replies by the Delegation

Spain appreciated that there was a great deal of work to be carried out in the representation of women in the judiciary, particularly in the Constitutional Court where only 16 per cent of judges were women, but it was important to note that in 2013 a woman had been appointed as an Ombudsperson.  Political representation of women in Spain was above the average of the European Union countries.  Women constituted 23 per cent of the foreign service; 12 of the 199 ambassadors were women, as were 6 out of 15 special mission ambassadors. 

Articles 10 to 14: Equality in Education, in Employment and Labour Rights, and in Access to Health Facilities, Finance and Social Security, and Rural Women

Questions from the Experts
 
Women made up only 26.3 per cent of students of engineering and architecture, and only 8 per cent in sports studies.  What measures were in place to encourage women to enter non-traditional fields of studies and so break down stereotypes in education? Considerable progress had been made in the enrolment of Roma children in primary education, particularly for girls.  Cuts in the education budget especially affected courses in gender equality and there were risks that such courses would disappear from curriculum of some public universities. 

Another Expert took up the issue of equality in employment and labour rights, and noted that Spain had drafted protective policies to protect the right of women to work, which were systematically integrated into the legislation.  However, women still shouldered the responsibilities of motherhood and childcare; unemployment rates of women had doubled since 2005; 70 per cent of part-time workers were women; and pensions for women were about 30 per cent lower than for men.  Spain should ensure that restrictions and measures established by austerity policies were of a temporary nature. 

The delegation was asked whether changes in the day care system were recent and temporary ones, about action to ensure equal participation in the labour market by vulnerable groups such as women with disabilities, minority and migrant women, intentions to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention 198 on decent work for domestic workers, and whether Spain intended to follow the European Union recommendations on the 40 per cent quota for women on the boards of public companies.  What was the situation of rights of migrant women in irregular situation, in particular in access to health care for those who were victims of violence?

Responses by the Delegation

Universities were independent in setting up their curricula, and all had access to the subsidy line of 4 million euro for post-graduate studies, courses, debates and workshops in the area of gender issues.  If the European Union adopted its draft directive of 40 per cent representation of women on company boards, Spain would follow.

One of the objectives for the Roma Strategy 2012-2020 was to increase availability of data on this population group.  Spain was financing a sociological study which looked carefully into the areas of concern for the Strategy, including primary and secondary education, and how to make access more effective.  It was found that compulsory secondary education was a greater issue for Roma children, particularly girls, who suffered greater drop-out rates after the age of 13. 

The National Strategy for Persons with Disabilities 2014-2020 had been adopted, aiming to, inter alia, close the gender gap between women and men with disability, including in the area of employment.  Quotas for the employment of persons with disabilities were in place, and Spain had in place a system of subsidies to companies providing open-ended contracts to persons with disabilities.

With regard to the situation of migrant women in irregular status, the delegation said that the law 16/2012 allowed for free access to health care for girls under the age of 18, pregnant migrant women and for emergency health care for migrant women and men in irregular situation. 

The majority of part-time workers were women and it was important to respect freedom to choose working hours and to note that a significant proportion of those preferring part-time work were women.

Further Questions from the Experts
 
Experts took note of efforts to allow women access to decision-making in the  agriculture sector and asked about examples where women benefitted specifically from subsidies or State support to agriculture.  Could the delegation clarify how Spain supported Roma women by combatting child poverty? 

Further Responses by the Delegation

There was no data available about loans to women, but they were rather limited; more favourable micro loans were being provided to women entrepreneurs.  Under the Strategic Plan for Rural Development 2011-2014, more than 1.3 million euro in subsidies had been awarded to rural women, 434,000 euro had been granted to rural enterprises run by women, and there were grants disbursed for innovation in the rural areas.  The current plan for Social Inclusion took into account the increase in the number of children in the country and had a number of cross-cutting measures to combat child poverty; 17 million euro had been allocated for this purpose, of which one million euro would go towards supporting most vulnerable populations, namely Roma.  A foreign women victim of trafficking was entitled to assistance and support, including housing, material assistance, health and psychological care, interpretation and legal assistance.

Articles 15 and 16: Equality in Legal and Civil Matters and in Family Law

Questions from the Experts
 
A Committee Expert expressed dissatisfaction with the responses of Spain concerning the case of Angela Gonzales and said that 97 per cent of men who were prohibited from contacts with their partners had unsupervised visits with the children, which was an indication that domestic violence was not taken into account in the passing of judgements.  Procedures on domestic violence were very lengthy and it was very difficult to reach judgements on domestic violence.  Safety of children had been scarified to the altar of fathers’ parental rights.  Visitation was suspended in only three per cent of requests for suspension of visitation rights, and this was very alarming as it put children in danger; between 2008 and 2014, 31 minor children had been murdered by their fathers, 20 of them during visitation, showing that the Gonzales case unfortunately was not an exception. 

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation stressed that the issues raised by the Experts were of concern for the Office of the Public Prosecutor.  Measures taken to combat gender violence and other forms of violence had improved the situation, although further progress needed to be made.  Domestic violence concerning children was difficult to deal with, and led to immediate suspension of cohabitation.  As for minors involved in violence in which their mother was a victim, the legislation had measures of criminal order, including precautionary measures and protective orders.  Since January 2013, Spain had started publishing statistics on children victims of fatal gender-based violence, and on women killed by their partners.  

Concluding Remarks

ANA MARÍA MENÉNDEZ, Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Spain appreciated the dialogue with the Committee which allowed it to make progress on those very important issues.

YOKO HAYASHI, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and encouraged it to take all necessary measures to address the various recommendations made by the Committee.

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