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Non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions brief the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the situation in Denmark

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon heard from representatives of non-governmental organizations and of national human rights institutions on the situation of women’s rights in Denmark, whose report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women will be reviewed next week.

The Convention had still not been incorporated into Danish Law, speakers from non-governmental organizations said.  

There was little awareness on women's rights and hesitancy to set up temporary, specific measures aimed at accelerating gender equality.  The Government of Denmark should amend the Criminal Code and the relevant guidance for prosecutors to ensure that oral penetration without consent was included in the definition of rape.  Gender equality was too absent on the political agenda.  More than half of Danish boards consisted of only men - and the development seemed to go in the wrong direction.  The perspective of girls and women with disabilities was generally absent from the existing gender mainstreaming initiatives.  The Government of Denmark had failed, and continued to fail, to properly implement its commitments and obligations under the Convention with respect to its adherence to nuclear deterrence.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Women’s Council Denmark, Amnesty International Denmark, Danish Women’s Society, Disabled People’s Organization Denmark, and a joint statement by Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace, Basel Peace Office, World Future Council and Youth Fusion.

Two national human rights institutions, Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council of Greenland, also made statements. 

The Danish Institute for Human Rights recommended that Denmark take steps to develop preventive actions for children and young people in relation to sex, gender and personal boundaries; ensure that an employer may be liable under the Act on Equal Treatment for sexual harassment committed by employees, if the employer had not taken sufficient measures to prevent and handle sexual harassment; and consider applying section 243 about psychological abuse in the Penal Code in connection with cases of retention in religious marriages. 

The Human Rights Council of Greenland recommended that the Government of Greenland ensure data collection and analysis on violence against children and women, including persons with disabilities; strengthen initiatives against violence and heal repercussions of violence; and coordinate these with initiatives against substance abuse. 

All the 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 next meet at 12 p.m. on Monday, 22 February to consider the ninth periodic report of Denmark (CEDAW/C/DNK/9).

Discussion with Non-Governmental Organizations

Statements

Women’s Council Denmark said the Convention had still not been incorporated into Danish Law.  There was little awareness on women's rights and hesitancy to set up temporary, specific measures aimed at accelerating gender equality.  The strong Danish focus on gender mainstreaming as outlined in the national strategy from 2013 had been severely neglected since the last examination, and had not been revised nor implemented.  Legislation was not being gender mainstreamed according to tools and strategy.  The Government had not taken any specific steps to secure equal representation in politics and decision making.  In the fall of 2020, petitions and testimonials among female politicians shed light on the realities of being a woman in Danish politics.  Sexism and misogyny were still rife.  Gender-based violence was an issue of general concern.  The number of women exposed to domestic violence was not decreasing.  In fact, the numbers of sexual assaults on women seemed to increase.

Amnesty International Denmark recommended that the Government of Denmark amended the Criminal Code and the relevant guidance for prosecutors to ensure that oral penetration without consent was included in the definition of rape.  It further recommended that the Government amend the Criminal Code to ensure that it recognized sexual violence against a current or former partner, as well as sexual violence committed in situations of abuse of power, as aggravating circumstances.

Danish Women’s Society said gender equality was too absent on the political agenda.  More than half of Danish boards consisted of only men - and the development seemed to go in the wrong direction.  There was a disproportionate part of gender-based violence against women and the current pandemic highlighted how insufficient current capacity was; domestic violence had increased during COVID-19.  It was concerning that the women of the Faroe Islands did not hold the same rights to abortion as the women in Denmark and Greenland.

Disabled People’s Organization Denmark said the perspective of girls and women with disabilities was generally absent from the existing gender mainstreaming initiatives.  When gender data was collected, disability was often left out and when collecting disability data, gender was often left out.  On the labour market, the participation of women with disabilities was under 30 per cent.  This was less than that of men with disabilities, and only half of the participation of women with no disabilities. 

Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace, Basel Peace Office, World Future Council and Youth Fusion said the Government of Denmark had failed, and continued to fail, to properly implement its commitments and obligations under the Convention with respect to its adherence to nuclear deterrence and the option to use nuclear weapons.  It failed to address the transgenerational impact on Greenland women and children arising from the nuclear weapons accident at Thule airbase on January 21, 1968.  The adherence of Denmark to nuclear deterrence was inconsistent with the objective of nuclear disarmament outlined in the Convention.

Discussion

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts asked about the access of youth to the labour market.  It seemed the Government’s efforts to include minority groups were insufficient.  How many shelters were there in the country? Did the State provide adequate support for them?

Some Experts expressed concerns about the situation of undocumented women.  In the time of COVID-19, it was crucial to tackle the issue of exploitation.  What were the civil society representatives doing about human trafficking?

Experts inquired about the criminalization of abortion in Faroe Islands.  Why was the legislation different there than in Greenland?

GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, said answers could be provided during an informal meeting scheduled for tomorrow.  She thanked the non-governmental organization representatives for their statements.

Discussion with National Human Rights Institutions

Danish Institute for Human Rights recommended that Denmark take steps to develop preventive actions for children and young people in relation to sex, gender and personal boundaries; ensure that an employer may be liable under the Act on Equal Treatment for sexual harassment committed by employees, if the employer had not taken sufficient measures to prevent and handle sexual harassment; and consider applying section 243 about psychological abuse in the Penal Code in connection with cases of retention in religious marriages.  The Government should also ensure effective law enforcement in relation to liability on social media for unlawful user-generated content; promote female representation in politics, especially at the municipal level; and take measures to reform the Danish legislation on parental leave when implementing the new European Union directives on work-life balance for parents, in order to create a more equal distribution of parental leave.

Human Rights Council of Greenland, on violence against children and women, recommended that the Government of Greenland ensure data collection and analysis on violence against children and women, including persons with disabilities; strengthen initiatives against violence and heal repercussions of violence; and coordinate these with initiatives against substance abuse.  It should also provide information on developments in relation to the goals of their Strategy and Action Plan against Violence, and on how the goals were monitored and followed-up on, as well as strengthen education on children’s rights in primary school and for professionals working with children, including a focus on the right to protection from all forms of violence.  The Government of Greenland should also introduce legislative measures on protection against discrimination on all generally recognized grounds, including establishing an independent appeals board; apply measures to further balance the gender distribution in politics; and provide analysis and funding for research studies on discrimination against women in politics and other decision-making positions.

Discussion

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts inquired about the role played by national human rights institutions on matters related to climate change and human trafficking.

Experts sought information on abortion rights, and the effects of construction companies on rural women in Greenland.  What steps had been taken to address the high rate of suicide?

The issues of sexual violence against girls, as well as the potential avenues for greater cooperation between the two national human rights institutions, were broached by other Experts.  What challenges did women with disabilities face in accessing the labour market?

GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, asked if representatives of national human rights institutions could provide answers in writing within 24 hours.  She thanked all those present for their participation and collaboration.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/02/non-governmental-organizations-and-national-human-rights