Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
21 October 2019
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of non-governmental organizations and a national human rights institution to hear information on the situation of women in Iraq, Andorra, Kazakhstan and Seychelles, whose reports will be considered this week.
Speakers from civil society organizations from Iraq said the Government had failed to make any significant progress in implementing the Committee’s recommendations that had been issued after the previous dialogue. Women were excluded from reconciliation and other processes. The fate of thousands of Iraqi women, including Yazidis, remained unknown. Gender sensitive legislation was lacking.
Representative of non-governmental organizations from Andorra said the Government was hypocritical. From the outside, everything seemed marvellous, but behind closed doors, State violence was cruel and savage. The laws were steep with misogyny and religious fundamentalism.
While legislation in Kazakhstan provided for reproductive rights, the practice of forcing women to use contraceptives or terminate pregnancy as well as the forced sterilization of women with disabilities was prevalent, according to speakers from that country. In general, there was no education in the field of sexual and reproductive health for persons with disabilities.
Speakers from Seychelles said there had been no changes made to the Constitution nor had there been any new laws enacted that defined direct or indirect discrimination. It was encouraging that the Penal Code provisions on the criminalization of homosexuality had been repealed. This process should be accelerated.
Speaking in the discussion from Iraq were the Iraqi Women’s Network of Non-Governmental Organizations, Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraqi Alliance of Disability, and the High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq. Feminita, New Generation of Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV and Public Association Amelia delivered statements on Kazakhstan. Citizens Engagement Platform and LGBTI Sey spoke on Seychelles while Stop Violence took the floor on Andorra.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 October, to review the seventh periodic report of Iraq (CEDAW/C/IRQ/7).
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
Iraqi Women’s Network of Non-Governmental Organizations said the Government had failed to make any significant progress in implementing the Committee’s recommendations that had been issued after the previous dialogue. Women were excluded from reconciliation and other processes. The fate of thousands of Iraqi women, including Yazidis, remained unknown. Gender sensitive legislation was lacking. The absence of a human rights mechanism for women had had a negative impact on the development of women. Violence against women, including domestic violence, had grown.
Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq said human rights defenders were being abused for speaking out in the context of the current demonstrations taking place in the country. After the liberation of cities from ISIS, women were not granted liberty but rather were sent back to their tribes, where they were subjected to abuses. Victims of violence against women had nowhere to go to; non-governmental organizations that provided them support were being accused of kidnapping women or running brothels. The Government was turning a blind eye to religious institutions that were encouraging forced early marriages.
Iraqi Alliance of Disability said women with disabilities in Iraq were disadvantaged with respect to other women, and men with disabilities, as they suffered from social isolation and denial of access to education and economic opportunities. National legislation and policies related to the protection from violence, exploitation and abuse lacked effective implementation. Most religious communities and tribes in Iraq treated women with disabilities badly, neglecting their rights. Girls with disabilities were not integrated in mainstream schools. There were no specific provisions to protect girls with disabilities from violence, exploitation and abuse.
Stop Violence said the Government was hypocritical. From the outside, everything seemed marvellous, but behind closed doors, State violence was cruel and savage. The laws were steep with misogyny and religious fundamentalism. The separation of State and Church was not fully realized. Women and women’s rights were not a priority for the Government. When a 12-year-old girl was raped in Andorra and became pregnant, she was forced to give birth. Women from Andorra were already having abortions abroad; they wanted to be able to do so at home. The Government had publicly said that it sought to encourage women to give birth and then put them up for adoption.
Feminita said women were misrepresented in politics with only 31 women holding one of the 154 seats in Parliament. Absence of anti-discrimination legislation and court practices did not allow women to file a complaint regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to seek remedy. There was no explicit prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation under Kazakh national laws. Although consensual same-sex relationships had been decriminalized with the adoption of the Criminal Code in 1999, discriminatory provisions on “sodomy” and “lesbianism” had been introduced, which clearly represented a direct discrimination based on sexual orientation.
New Generation of Human Rights Defenders Coalition said that while legislation provided for reproductive rights in Kazakhstan, the practice of forcing women to use contraceptives or terminate pregnancy as well as the forced sterilization of women with disabilities was prevalent. In general, there was no education in the field of sexual and reproductive health for persons with disabilities. Women under guardianship could not exercise their will or make choices related to marriage or having a baby. Women without legal capacity could not access a fair trial.
Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV said the Government had not provided sufficient information on issues related to the rights of women living with HIV and women with substance use disorders outlined in paragraph 19 of the list of issues. Discriminatory laws had not been amended. New cases of violations were being registered. The Committee should recommend that the State party remove legal barriers that prevented women living with HIV from accessing shelters and adopt guidelines, in consultation with non-governmental organizations, on issues on substance use and substance use disorders related to pregnancy.
Public Association Amelia said there was no place for sex workers in Kazakhstan, even though individual sex work had been decriminalized since 2001. Sex work was not recognized as work; sex workers were therefore deprived of all labour rights. While sex work was decriminalized, police systematically conducted raids, illegally detaining sex workers and blackmailing them. Public Association Amelia asked for the removal of forced HIV testing practices and the prosecution of those who disclosed the HIV status of sex workers.
Citizens Engagement Platform said there had been no changes made to the Constitution nor had there been any new laws enacted that defined direct or indirect discrimination. It was encouraging that the Penal Code provisions on the criminalization of homosexuality had been repealed. This process should be accelerated. Citizens Engagement Platform recommended that training on the Convention be provided on a regular and continuous basis to legal professionals. The situation of gender-based violence remained a great source of concern. A bill which would criminalize domestic violence was still in the drafting process. The Committee should urge the Government to speed up this process.
LGBTI Sey said the Government should implement the 2016 Operational Plan on Sex Workers, the Gender-Based Violence Action Plan and the HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan. Cases of violent crimes committed against individuals based on sexual orientation, status and identity were often not treated with the seriousness that one would expect from a law enforcement institution. LGBTI Sey urged the Committee to encourage the Government to review the existing mechanisms to ensure independence, transparency and autonomy to effectively monitor the conduct of law enforcers; address violence against the communities mentioned; and accelerate the process to solve such crimes.
Questions by Committee Members
On Andorra, Experts requested information about the resources available for girls who wanted to put an end to their pregnancy. Were civil society organizations in Andorra subjected to any kind of harassment or pressure?
Turning to Iraq, Experts inquired about the situation of Yazidi women and requested information about the manner in which quotas were calculated. They raised concerns about marriages registered outside the civil system. Were children who were married outside the civil system accounted for in the dropout rate?
Regarding Seychelles, Experts asked for information on access to abortion. More details on the situation of discrimination were requested.
On Kazakhstan, Experts requested information on the situation of rural women. What were the plans to address the consequences of polygamy and forced child marriages?
Responses by Non-Governmental Organizations
Representatives of non-governmental organizations from Iraq explained that the quota had been put in place as a temporary measure to improve the participation of women in the political arena. According to the Constitution, this quota should be no lower than 25 per cent. About 80 per cent of Yazidi women had gone back to their hometowns, but the children were ostracized at the behest of religious leaders.
Non-governmental organizations from Andorra said it was not easy to be an activist in this country. Standing up to the Government had consequences: a colleague who had stood up to the Government had seen her son taken away from her. This showed that Andorra was an unjust country. The minimum age of sexual consent in Andorra was 14 and it was not clear what could happen, in terms of obtaining contraception between the age of 14 and 16.
Turning to the situation in Kazakhstan, civil society organizations explained that the dismantling of the welfare state had caused the gap between rural and urban women was widening. Feminita had presented a roadmap on the implementation of the recommendations of the treaty bodies system.
On abortion in Seychelles, non-governmental organizations remarked that a lot of clandestine abortions were taking place. The problem was that many of the requests for abortions invoking the legal provisions that allowed them when the women’s wellbeing was jeopardized by the pregnancy, were denied. Women then turned to pills, which they bought illegally, to put an end to their pregnancy.
Dialogue with the High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq
High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq said it had identified challenges that remained with regard to the implementation of the Convention. Perhaps the main challenge in that regard was the absence of a ministry dedicated to women’s issues. The Council of Ministers had adopted a strategy to combat violent extremism, but no chapter had been dedicated to women. Additionally, access to justice and accountability for domestic violence was an issue of concern. There was a lack of legislative frameworks that took into account the needs of women in that regard. What was more, centres to combat domestic violence had not been created. There were significant gaps in the Ministry of Health, and early marriages and polygamy remained an issue. The vast differences between urban and rural areas kept getting wider and wider.
Experts requested additional information about trafficking, including sexual exploitation in detention centres. They inquired about women with disabilities and asked whether they had been provided a universal coverage.
High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq said the Ministry tasked with dealing with terrorism had been overwhelmed, and priority was not given to trafficking. Resources were unfortunately scarce, and there was only one centre supporting victims of trafficking, with the help of a medical team.
On child marriage, it was a matter of customs. Up to now, there had not been interference from the central Government. The Commission was optimistic regarding its ability to continue representing all Iraqis.
There were social benefits for women with disabilities. Appropriate infrastructure, such as ramps, were still lacking. The Commission’s building had a ramp, but it was not the case in most institutions’ buildings. Access to wheelchairs was also difficult, which led to suffering among persons with disabilities.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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