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Violence against women, stereotypes and gender pay gap at the centre of the dialogue between the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Republic of Moldova

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
  against Women

20 February 2020

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today reviewed the sixth periodic report of the Republic of Moldova on how it implements the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Committee Experts inquired about violence against women, patriarchal stereotypes and the gender pay gap, among other issues.

Committee Experts said the Republic of Moldova was making progress in curbing poverty and inequality and in strengthening the legal framework for the advancement of women’s rights.  In this respect, the decision to ratify the Istanbul Convention was a major achievement.  However, additional cultural, structural and institutional reforms were needed to remove obstacles to further progress.  Violence against women remained a priority issue - 63 per cent of Moldovan women suffered intimate partner violence at some stage of their lives.

Stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes held women back from achieving substantive equality in all spheres, the Experts said.  They influenced the choice of profession and led to gender segregation in employment and, as a consequence, to the gender pay gap.  While on average women were paid 13 per cent less than men, the wage gap ranged from 0.3 per cent in education to 41 per cent in the financial sector. 

Djulieta Popescu, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova, said in her opening remarks that the Government had initiated the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and was working on raising the awareness of the population and training the judiciary and police about this treaty. 

Violence against women, domestic violence and trafficking in human beings continued to pose considerable challenges, the delegation said.  In 2019, there was a 2.5 per cent drop in reported cases of violence against women, and 1,609 cases of domestic violence had been brought before the criminal court.  The law on support to victims of crimes, including victims of violence, provided free legal aid and financial compensation.

Stereotypes were at the root of gender inequality and violence against women, said a delegate.  All policies and strategies on gender equality, preventing and combatting violence against women, and fighting discrimination sought to eliminate them.  The National Audio-visual Council had developed monitoring indicators for gender issues and sexism in the media and advertising.  A guide on the application of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value helped the analysis and processing of complaints of discrimination in pay and employment. 

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Popescu said that even though much had been done to advance the status of women, further efforts were needed to address the persisting challenges.  The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations would be used to develop laws and policies.

Lia Nadaraia, Committee Rapporteur on the Republic of Moldova, in her concluding remarks, thanked the delegation and commended the Republic of Moldova for its efforts.

The delegation of the Republic of Moldova consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment, Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, Ministry of Interior and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of the Republic of Moldova at the end of its seventy-fifth session on 28 February.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will reconvene on Friday, 21 February at 10 a.m.  to consider the combined initial to third periodic reports of Kiribati (CEDAW/C/KIR/1-3).

Report

The Committee has before it the sixth periodic report of the Republic of Moldova (CEDAW/C/MDA/6).

Presentation of the Report

DJULIETA POPESCU, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova, introducing the report, said that several legislative amendments had stipulated the principle of equal rights and opportunities for women and men in all areas.  Signing the Istanbul Convention in 2017 and initiating its ratification had been an important step to align the Republic of Moldova with the international norms related to the rights of women, the State Secretary said.

The progress made during the reporting period included the establishment of the institutional gender equality mechanism at all levels, adoption of a quota of 40 per cent women representation in decision-making positions, and the development of the strategies and legal amendments related to gender equality, preventing violence against women and domestic violence, and combatting trafficking in human beings.  The Republic of Moldova had also initiated reforms to strengthen gender equality and the empowerment of women, including the reform of the pension system, salary system, employment and protection of persons with disabilities. 

With those amendments, equality in retirement and the contribution period for women and men would be achieved by 2028.  In employment, a new law and strategy for the 2017-2022 period had been adopted.  The Republic of Moldova had also adopted the 2017-2022 National Programme for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, while a deinstitutionalization programme for the 2018-2026 period laid down the foundations of the alternative system based on community and family-type social services.  Legislative amendments had been made to improve the reconciliation between work and family life of parents, while measures taken in the area of health had reduced maternal and infant mortality rates and strengthened the access of girls and women with disabilities to reproductive health services. 

With the support of international partners, the Republic of Moldova had assessed gender equality in areas such as healthcare, social protection, labour market, human trafficking and domestic violence, to identify the problems and needs of women and men and so inform the policy.  Considerable efforts had been made to promote the principle of gender equality in the security and defence sector, including the approval of the 2018-2021 national action plan on the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

Despite the progress made in reducing poverty, the average income available per family member covered only 92 per cent of the subsistence minimum.  The exodus of the working population in search of attractive jobs outside the country had a negative impact on the demographic growth.  Despite their high professional qualifications, women continued to be employed in lower-paying jobs, while the division of professions as specific male and specific female persisted.  The shortage of pre-school education services prevented women with young children from integrating into the labour market.

Even though the number of women in decision-making positions was on the increase, they remained under-represented in higher hierarchical positions.  In Parliament, women represented 21 per cent, while following the local elections in 2019, the share of women in the mayoral positions had increased to 21.1 per cent.

Ms. Popescu said that violence against women, domestic violence and trafficking in human beings continued to pose considerable challenges, while there was an additional need to inform and educate the population about gender equality.

Questions by Committee Experts

Opening the dialogue with the Republic of Moldova, a Committee Expert noted the progress made in curbing poverty and inequality trends and the steps taken to strengthen the strategic and legal framework for the protection of women’s rights.  The draft law for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention was a major achievement.

Still, additional cultural, structural and institutional reforms were needed to improve the implementation of the Convention and remove obstacles to further progress.  The Republic of Moldova needed to increase the visibility of the Convention and raise awareness about it among the judiciary, police and other public officials.

Despite the legal framework on equality and anti-discrimination, protection against multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination was lacking and women continued to encounter serious barriers to equality in the private sphere.

The Expert was concerned about the hate speech against women in public and in political positions and the fact that they did not have adequate access to protection and justice.  She asked about the protection of the rights of women and girls in Transnistria and their protection from violence.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that the 2017-2021 Gender Equality Strategy included articles of the Convention and had five objectives.  The planned amendment to this strategy, to be completed by the end of 2020, would address the gaps that the Government and the Committee had identified. 

With the support of the European Union, a programme that raised awareness on international treaties, especially the Istanbul Convention and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, was being implemented throughout the country.  One of its outputs would be a training manual on international treaties – focused on the two conventions - for legal and judicial professionals.

The Ministry of Justice had drafted a law on the capacity of the National Council on Discrimination and Equality to effectively address complaints and implement the equality and anti-discrimination legislation.  Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination would be included in the amendments to the anti-discrimination and equality legislation.

As for the protection of the rights of women and girls in Transnistria, the delegation said that 10 inter-sectoral groups had been set up and that regular meetings took place with the representatives of the Transnistria region.  The efforts were supported by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United States.

Questions by Committee Experts

There was an adequate legal framework for the protection and advancement of women’s rights in the Republic of Moldova, especially considering the imminent ratification of the Istanbul Convention.  However, the coordination and accountability mechanisms were not clear, said the Expert, and asked about the timeframe and content of the amendments to the regulation of the Government Commission on Gender Equality, Division for Gender Equality Policies.  What steps were being taken to adequately resource the main institutions entrusted with the policy implementation, especially the Office of the People’s Advocate, to enable it to discharge its mandate in full compliance with the Paris Principles?

The Experts welcomed the 2016 amendments to the Electoral Code and the Law on Political Parties, which had introduced a 40 per cent quota for representation of both sexes in the political and public decision-making process.  How were the political representation quotas implemented in practice and how was the Republic of Moldova using temporary special measures to achieve substantive equality of women, including vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of women?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that a number of institutions in charge of the monitoring of implementation of human rights had been revitalized.  This was especially the case after the recent establishment of a sub-division in the State Chancellery, which provided organizational and information assistance in areas such as human rights, child protection, combatting human trafficking, road safety and others.

Gender equality groups and focal points in ministries had been set up.  Their training and capacity building activities included the topics of the Convention.  A platform of gender equality focal points had been established, which had, inter alia, received training and support in examining policies and strategies from a gender equality perspective. 

The Central Electoral Committee, in collaboration with civil society organizations, had prepared a report on the implementation of the Law on Elections in the 2019 elections, which the Government had discussed.  There were quotas and positive measures for the participation of women and vulnerable groups in public and political positions, in education and in defence and security sectors.  Today, because of those measures, women made up 18.8 per cent of the staff in the security sector.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts commended the efforts to address sexist stereotypes, including the reform of curricula and the amendments to the law on media and the law on publicity to prevent the use of sexist language.  The decision to ratify the Istanbul Convention was a particularly welcome development.

Still, three out of four women agreed that it was a “woman’s job” to change nappies; men continued to dominate professions in science and technology, while women remained relegated to social sectors.  Single women, especially single mothers, faced strong stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes.

With 63 per cent of women suffering intimate partner violence at some point of their lives, violence against women remained a priority issue in the Republic of Moldova.  The Experts asked about concrete steps to protect women from violence, support the victims, and prosecute and sanction the perpetrators.

The Republic of Moldova was increasingly becoming a country of origin, transit and destination of trafficked persons, both nationals and refugees and migrants, but a system for the identification of victims was absent.  Transnistria remained a source of victims for labour trafficking, while undocumented and stateless persons, including the Romani community, remained vulnerable to exploitation, primarily in the agricultural sector.  The Republic of Moldova should tackle internal demand for slavery-like work, said the Expert, and take steps to stop child sex tourism, which was one of the Committee’s concerns.

Replies by the Delegation

The Republic of Moldova had identified gender stereotypes as the root of gender inequality and violence against women.  That was why its policies and strategies on gender equality, preventing and combatting violence against women, and fighting discrimination, included activities to eliminate such stereotypes.

The reform of the school curriculum provided an opportunity to discuss family life and stereotypes and increase students’ awareness and knowledge of gender equality.  In partnership with UN Women, the Government had produced and broadcast several television spots on issues such as parental leave, participation of women in high-level political and public positions, and discrimination against women.

As for the elimination of sexist stereotypes from the media, a workshop on the self-assessment of media organizations had been organized.  The National Audio-visual Council had developed indicators for monitoring gender issues in the media and advertising companies, while the gender equality media programme developed with UN Women targeted journalists from all kinds of media.  An award for gender equality in the media had been instituted.

The Government was working on removing sexist language from the classification of occupations to ensure that each position was clearly open to women and men. 

A broad reform of the education sector had started in 2018 with the goal of making it more accessible to all and including values such as tolerance and respect in the curriculum.  A mandatory one-hour a week introduced in 2019 allowed the students to focus on personal development goals and explore questions such as personal relationships, stereotypes, family life, the value of non-violence and others.  The national programme of teacher training included topics such as equity, human rights and tolerance.

The Republic of Moldova had adopted the law on support to victims of crimes, including victims of violence against women and trafficking in persons.  It provided for guaranteed legal assistance and financial compensation.  Each victim was informed of their rights and how to claim them.  Legal aid was free of charge and had been provided to more than 60,000 persons during the period 2016 to 2018. 

In 2019, the Republic of Moldova had registered a 2.5 per cent drop in reported cases of violence against women and had brought 1,609 cases of domestic violence before the criminal court.  The amended code of criminal offences had redefined the weight of the crimes of violence against women – which, until then had been considered as minor offences and therefore not been adequately prosecuted – thus contributing to greater accountability. 

The delegation said that 857 men and 112 women had been convicted as aggressors.  Of the 629 crimes of sexual violence reported in 2019, 320 cases involved rape.  Over 500 police officers had been trained in violence against women and a curriculum on investigation of sexual violence had been developed.

Human trafficking was a very sensitive issue for the Republic of Moldova, said the delegate.  The General Police Inspectorate had a specialized unit on combatting human trafficking.  The Centre for Combatting Corruption and Trafficking in Persons worked on the identification of ill-gotten gains from trafficking in persons; it had confiscated 1 million leu since its inception two years ago.  The Republic of Moldova had accumulated significant experience in working together with other countries in combatting trafficking in persons, and in other forms of trafficking such as drugs.

Questions by Committee Experts

An Expert said that in a republic, there should be a clear separation between the church and the State.  In the Republic of Moldova, certain conservative politicians engaged in hate speech against women, which represented an obstacle to the advancement of their rights and the participation in public and political life.  She inquired about the possibility for women to develop careers in diplomacy, to become professional and high-ranked members of the military, and to obtain high-level civil service positions.

Another Expert noted the innovative elements introduced in the Law on Citizenship in 2017, such as the expansion of the right to acquire citizenship for the beneficiaries of international protection and to a child born on the national territory.  Did women from Transnistria and Gagauzia and Roma women experience any obstacles in the sphere of nationality and citizenship?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that draft legal amendments aimed to introduce hate speech as a crime, and awareness raising activities about hate speech were taking place at the national level.  The Criminal Code defined criminal liability for any violation of equality of citizens, including in the political sphere; the law also defined aggravating circumstances.

The law regulating diplomatic and civil service did not include any discriminatory provisions and guaranteed the equality of women and men. 

Questions by Committee Experts

Continuing the dialogue, an Expert commended the Republic of Moldova on the new education law and strategy and The GirlsGoIT initiative to train girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Girls and women with disabilities had less access to mainstream education than boys with disabilities and seldom reached secondary education.  They were thus twice as likely to be unemployed than men with disabilities.  Young women still tended to choose traditional fields of studies and professions; rural areas lacked educational institutions to deliver vocational or lifelong learning training to women; and Roma girls had limited access to quality education.  The high dropout rate among rural girls and girls from ethnic minority groups remained a concern.

Horizontal and vertical gender segregation in occupations had an important impact on the gender pay gap, which stood at about 13 per cent on average, from 0.3 per cent in education to 41 per cent in finance.  Why was the work of women not as well paid as the same work done by men?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said the Republic of Moldova had taken various measures to encourage girls to opt for science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.  In addition to The GirlsGoIT initiative, there were national competitions in robotics, science, computer science and mathematics; and support for the participation of girls in international and regional competitions in these subjects. 

Digital education had been introduced from the first grade and the approach to teaching informatics encouraged its application.  It was interesting to note that girls had obtained better results than boys in the 2015 PISA tests.  Of the 2,000 students in the science and technology university, 610 were women and women also made up 50 per cent of the cadets in the military academy.  There was a 20 per cent quota in higher education for students from disadvantaged background.

The Republic of Moldova was implementing the national action plan for inclusive education.  To date, 388 schools had been equipped with access ramps and 160 institutions had accessible toilets.  There were 917 resource centres for children with disabilities and 89 specialized teachers who taught alongside teachers in classes attended by a child with disabilities, while 2 per cent of the district education budget was earmarked for children with disabilities.

The law did not discriminate against women in the area of employment.  Women and men had an equal right to stay home to take care of the children; however, it was mostly women who did so.  The Government had drafted a guide on the application of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, which helped the analysis and processing of complaints of discrimination in pay and employment. 

In 1993, the Republic of Moldova had adopted a list of occupations that were too dangerous for women and to which women were not allowed.  While still in force, the list was no longer used and would soon be abolished. 

Questions by Committee Experts

While further progress had been made in reducing maternal and infant mortality, they remained 39 and 78 per cent higher than the averages in the region, respectively.  More than three out of four deaths were caused by non-communicable diseases even though infectious diseases, especially tuberculosis, still represented a considerable burden.  The Committee highlighted that 44 per cent of the population did not have access to safe drinking water.

Corruption and formal and informal out-of-pocket payments hindered women’s access to health services, especially in rural areas where health facilities were underdeveloped.  Low salaries and poor working conditions pushed health professionals to emigrate abroad. 

The Committee asked about the protection of retired and elderly women from poverty; access of Roma women to the social protection system and benefits; and successes in the social inclusion of women with disabilities.  What support was available to women entrepreneurs and what strategies were in place to promote the return of migrant women, particularly those who had achieved social and economic success?

Women held only 30 per cent of land and 12 per cent of agricultural assets, noted another Expert, and asked about the impact of the projects and initiatives taken to improve the situation of rural women.

An Expert raised serious concern about abuses, such as rape, forced abortion and use of restraints, against persons with disabilities in residential facilities and psychiatric facilities.  The law still allowed the interruption of pregnancy without the consent of women with disabilities and prohibited marriage on the grounds of disabilities.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the Government was developing a new health strategy, which would take into account the Sustainable Development Goals and the recommendations made to the Republic of Moldova by various experts.

The shorter life expectancy for men was explained by their lifestyles, more dangerous professions and road accidents.  Women and men enjoyed equal access to medical services, health insurance and State-funded health programmes.  Fighting cancer was one of the priorities, and the focus was on breast and cervical cancer for women.  Mammography screenings were available in and outside of the capital and allowed for early detection and higher survival rates.

In recent years, medical facilities had received modern technology and equipment and more than 200 facilities had been renovated, including in rural areas.  A strategy to combat corruption in the health system had been put in place, the implementation of which was being closely monitored by the Ministry of Health.  There was more transparency concerning medical services covered by medical insurance – a list of such services had been made and shared with the population.

The national development strategy to 2030 aimed to fight discrimination and corruption and build institutions.  There were subsidies for women entrepreneurs; the national fund for support of entrepreneurship in rural areas offered opportunities for women to access funding; and advance grants were available for young and female farmers to encourage the creation of small businesses. 

The delegation stressed that the Government paid particular attention to vulnerable groups of women, including women in detention.  They had access to vocational training and had could enter into paid work, for example as seasonal agriculture workers.

Concluding Remarks

DJULIETA POPESCU, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova, said in her concluding remarks that even though much had been done to advance the status of women, further efforts were needed to address the persisting challenges.  The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations would be used to develop laws and policies.

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Rapporteur, in her concluding remarks, commended the efforts of the Republic of Moldova and invited it to pay particular attention to the concluding observations that would be identified for immediate follow up.

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