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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women examines reports of Mozambique

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
  against Women 

3 July 2019

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today reviewed the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Mozambique on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Francelina Romao, Health Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the reports, stressed that Mozambique embraced the principles of women’s active participation in all walks of life, to have power to take decisions, to have and keep a job, to be self-reliant, and to have access to basic services and justice, without any discrimination.  The Constitution affirmed the principle of universality, equality, and gender equality, while the Family Law established the equality of rights between women and men, as well as the shared leadership in the family and the recognition of couples living together.  Mozambique was aware that without the economic, social, and political empowerment of women and the changing of gender roles in the society, the elimination of harmful traditional practices would not be possible.  In this context, activities to promote women’s literacy, improve the rates of girls’ literacy, and reduce the incidence of early marriage of girls were being taken, among others. 

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts congratulated Mozambique on its resilience in addressing the two deadly cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, that had hit the country earlier this year.  They welcomed the enactment of several laws to combat discrimination against women and girls and the strengthening of the principle of gender equality in the existing laws, but raised concern about the implementation gap in many of the courageous laws that the country had enacted, which led to persistent discrimination, especially in inheritance and access to land.  The use of temporary special measures had resulted in the greater participation of women in public and political life, but such measures fell short from achieving progress in critical areas, especially in education and employment, and for particular groups of women who suffered intersecting forms of discrimination, such as women heads of household, refugee and asylum-seeking women, and women with disabilities.  Domestic violence remained a major problem that affected almost 40 per cent of women and remained largely unreported, while rape and incest of young girls by family members were common but a taboo subject.  Domestic servitude, forced labour, and sex trafficking remained crucial problems. 

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Romao noted that the review was indeed a learning process and said that Mozambique’s next report would be much richer in data and information.

Hilary Gbedemah, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, said that Mozambique was associated with the Maputo Protocol (to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa), a ground-breaking instrument that at the time of its adoption had not had a parallel.  This trailblazing document, which would always be associated with Mozambique, would hopefully be an inspiration for the country.

The delegation of Mozambique in Geneva consisted of representatives of the Permanent Mission of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, while the delegation in Maputo, which participated in the interactive dialogue via a video-link, was composed of representatives of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action of Mozambique. 

The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Mozambique at the end of its seventy-third session on 19 July.  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 in public on Friday, 5 July at 10 a.m. to consider the fourth periodic report of Côte d’Ivoire (CEDAW/C/CIV/4 ).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Mozambique (CEDAW/C/MOZ/3-5 ).

Presentation of the Report

FRANCELINA ROMAO, Health Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the reports, stressed that Mozambique embraced the principles of women’s active participation in all walks of life, to have power to take decisions, to have and keep a job, to be self-reliant, to have a house, and to have access to basic services and justice, without any discrimination.  The country’s population was very young: 45 per cent were under the age of 15 and 19 per cent were aged between 15 and 25, while 31 per cent of the households were headed by women.  The 2013 Human Development Report had ranked Mozambique 185th of the 187 analysed countries, and 54.7 per cent of the population was poor.  Women represented 28 per cent of ministers, 40 per cent of members of parliament, 36 per cent of provincial governors, 24 per cent of diplomats, and 29 per cent of the District Consultative Councils, said Ms. Romao.

The Constitution affirmed the principles of universality, equality, and gender equality, while the Family Law established the equality of rights between women and men, as well as the shared leadership in the family and the recognition of couples living together.  The National Council for the Advancement of Women managed the strategy for the prevention of discrimination against women and its activities, and it coordinated 27 Gender Units that had been set up in each government sector.  Seven ministries had gender strategies that guided their respective activities concerning gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Ministry of Planning and Development had developed guidelines for the integration of gender and development in economic and social plans and budgets, and at provincial and district levels, District Councils for the Advancement of Women had been created.  The Cabinet of Parliamentary Women at the Assembly of the Republic ensured that gender matters and the fight against poverty were included in the deliberations, while Mozambique was in the process of setting up a Network of Ministers and Parliamentary Women to strengthen awareness raising and advocacy on the inclusion of gender equality in the revisions of laws and policies that constituted bottlenecks for the promotion of women’s rights and development.

Mozambique, Ms. Romao continued, was aware that without the economic, social, and political empowerment of women and the changing of gender roles in the society, the elimination of harmful traditional practices would not be possible.  In this context, activities to promote women’s literacy, improve the rates of girls’ literacy, and reduce the incidence of early marriage of girls were being taken, among others.  Several strategies had been put in place to improve the participation of girls in education and their educational outcomes, such as scholarships for girls, strengthening the capacity of boys and girls to challenge unequal gender relations and gender stereotypes, provision of free school meals, efforts to prevent early pregnancy, and awareness raising about the importance of the education of girls among parents.  Still challenges persisted, notably early marriages and early entry into the labour market. 

In order to improve the participation of women in public and political life, a Gender Strategy for the Public Sector 2009-2013 had been adopted and it also served as a facilitating tool to eliminate sex-based discrimination, promote gender equality in the sector, and serve as a catapulting factor of change.  The 2007 Labour Law consecrated the principle of equality and non-discrimination, supported the principle of equal opportunities, and recognized the possibility of the adoption of special measures and affirmative action in order to secure de facto equality between women and men.  The law however, did not include informal sector workers who were mostly women.  Mozambique had passed the laws on social protection, on social security, and on domestic labour, she said, noting that the social security reform opened the space for informal sector workers to put a part of their income into the social providence and save for a dignified pension. 

Questions by Committee Experts

Committee Experts welcomed the enactment of several laws to combat discrimination against women and the strengthening of the principle of gender equality in existing laws, and remarked that, although equality was guaranteed by the Constitution, in practice discrimination persisted due to lack of information about the new legal provisions which complicated the implementation of the new laws, in particular those related to access of women to employment, health care, and education, as well as discrimination against women in matters of inheritance and land ownership.  Would Mozambique put in place a clear mechanism to ensure the implementation and monitoring of its courageous laws, ensure the inclusion of a clear definition of direct and indirect discrimination against women into the national legal framework, remove discriminatory provisions from the existing laws, and amend the Family Code to ensure the right of widows to inherit, especially land?

The delegation was asked about the mandate and the budget of the national human rights commission, its accreditation under the Paris Principles, the level of independence it enjoyed, and whether it could initiate a complaint or investigation on its own initiative (in motu proprio).  Welcoming the establishment of a fund for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Experts asked whether it had sufficient resources, particularly for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation stressed that the Constitution enshrined the principles of equality and non-discrimination, while the revised Penal Code had recognized unsafe abortion as a public health problem and criminalized sexual intercourse with a conscious intention to transmit a disease, which aimed to protect women from being intentionally infected with HIV/AIDS.  Mozambique had adopted a national action plan on women, peace and security and had set up the National Women and Children Office, which provided integrated support services to the victims of violence against women and children and introduced the issue of domestic violence into the training of the police.  The Constitution contained the definition of gender-based discrimination, while the upcoming revision of the Family Law would speak directly to the issue of gender-based discrimination.

In terms of access to justice for victims of domestic violence, the delegation stressed that due process was in place while legal aid had been extended to more than 900 victims to assist women victims of domestic violence.  Judges, lawyers, paralegals, and other justice sector personnel had been trained on the protection of women from domestic violence.

The national human rights commission had the mandate to intervene and to respond to complaints related to all aspects of the Government’s work and to conduct its own investigations, but it was not yet accredited under the Paris Principles.  It could intervene at all levels of the State, national, provincial, and district levels and reported directly to the President of the Republic.

Mozambique was a country with one of the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, said a delegate, adding that due to concerted action by the Government, civil society organizations, and bilateral and multilateral partners, the rates were declining although they remained high.  This was particularly the case for rural girls who often did not have access to education and were subjected to various social and cultural traditions and practices, often harmful.  Much attention was being given to sanction and bring to justice the perpetrators of child marriage, which was a crime.  There was zero tolerance for child marriage, the delegation stressed. 

Questions by Committee Experts

Committee Experts commended the initiative to set up mechanisms to promote women’s human rights and remarked that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action appeared to have an opportunity to ensure effective public policy on substantive equality between women and men, decisive gender mainstreaming in all Ministries, and the reinforcement of gender policies throughout the State.  The delegation was asked to clarify the relationship between the National Council for the Advancement of Women, and the institutional gender mechanism in the Ministry, especially with regard to enhancing accountability for gender equality.  What legal, policy, and social protection measures existed to promote and protect women’s rights across sectors in line with the Convention principles?

The Expert asked about the effectiveness of the gender focal points and substantive equality results they achieved; the measurable results of the gender strategies concerning education, agriculture, public service, health, environment, climate change, and fisheries; and a principal achievement to date with regard to the advancement of women’s human rights in compliance with the Convention.

The use of temporary special measures had resulted in the greater participation of women in public and political life, but such measures fell short from achieving progress in critical areas, especially in education and employment, and for particular groups of women who suffered intersecting forms of discrimination, such as women heads of household, refugee and asylum-seeking women, and women with disabilities.

Replies by the Delegation

The national machinery for the advancement of women was composed of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Action, which coordinated all issues related to social action in this domain and promoted the integration of a gender perspective in national policies.  The National Council for the Advancement of Women was also included.  Major priorities for the advancement of women were health, education and agriculture, said the delegation, and explained that each sector had an obligation to draft its own annual activity plan, which was approved by the Council of Ministers.

Mozambique had adopted a number of sector-specific strategies to achieve substantive gender equality and had put in place measures that had increased the participation of women in elected bodies, for example, women represented 43 per cent of the members of the National Assembly.  A law on the rights of persons with disabilities was in the process of adoption.

Work had been initiated to integrate gender issues into extractive industries and to sensitize this sector on issues such as the impact of resettlement on women’s rights.  Access to land and access to funding were among the challenges that women faced.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts commended the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women without any reservations; the adoption of legislative measures to combat and prevent violence against women, such as the 2009 domestic violence law; and positive changes against discrimination against women in the Penal Code, such as the repeal of the provisions which forced victims of rape to marry the perpetrators.

Domestic violence remained a major problem that affected almost 40 per cent of women, the Experts said, noting that most women remained silent and that the preferred way of dealing with the phenomenon was informally, within the family.  Rape and incest of young girls by family members were common but a taboo subject, while more than one in three women lived in polygamous marriages even though those were prohibited.  The delegation was asked about measures taken to address those problems, especially the pending law on rape and incest, as well as to promote a positive non-stereotypical image of women in curricula and in the media and to protect women from violence and abuse of power by public officials.

Domestic servitude, forced labour, and sex trafficking remained crucial problems, it was noted, compounded by a lack of a mechanism for victim identification and integrated support, as well as by the poor implementation of the law against trafficking in persons, including due to corruption.  What was the situation with shelters for victims and how did the cooperation with non-governmental organizations take place?  The Committee was very concerned about the reports which claimed that 145,000 people lived in slavery, the Experts said, and asked the delegation to clarify this situation.  What efforts were being made to stop the crime of illegal smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal?

Another Expert then turned to women’s political representation, which she said was inadequate, and asked about problems which hindered further progress in this domain and in women’s participation in public life, notably the judiciary.  What incentives had been put in place to support and encourage women to enter politics and public life?  How many women served in the diplomatic service, in the police and in the army, and what was being done to attract more women?

What was being done to develop the code of human rights defenders and to support their work?  

Replies by the Delegation 

Responding, the delegation agreed that violence against women was a long-standing problem in Mozambique and stressed that the Government was working in a concerted manner to reduce and eliminate early marriages, including through the 2015 strategy on early marriages which affected 45 per cent of the girls.  The strategy aimed to increase the retention of girls in school and enable them to receive education which would empower them; remove girls from forced and early unions which were often concluded with relatives; and to increase the awareness on this issue, especially among community and traditional leaders.  To date, more than 9,400 girls forced into early marriage had been identified and over 4,000 had been reintegrated into school.  This showed the increasing understanding of communities, families and girls about the harmful effects of early marriage.

Gender-based violence was a public crime and anyone could report the cases of violence in their local centres, which reduced the practice of these forms of violence being dealt with within the family.  A campaign and an action plan to prevent and combat violence against women and children at the national level was in place and was being implemented in a coordinated manner.  It sought to actively involve men and boys in the implementation.  Perpetrators of gender-based violence were sanctioned and pursued under the Penal Code.

The 2008 law on trafficking in persons was being revised to strengthen the protection of victims as well as individuals who reported the cases, while a national action plan on combatting the phenomenon was being implemented by the Ministry of Interior.

The delegation emphasized the importance of women’s equal participation in public and political life for the achievement of substantive equality, and said that women were indeed judges, lawyers and attorneys.  Women made up around 32 per cent of the executive, 39 per cent of the legislative, 36 per cent of the 11 provincial governorships, and six per cent of permanent representatives, although they were still poorly represented in top positions. 

The women, peace and security national action plan was in place – one of the few in the African continent - and it involved women.  The Government was working on drafting new programmes, in cooperation with civil society organizations and public institutions, that would economically empower women, especially those affected by armed conflict.

The national human rights commission worked on the promotion and protection of human rights and it monitored the compliance with human rights norms and standards, the delegation said.

Questions by Committee Experts 

Committee Experts recognized the commitment to improving the literacy rate of women and girls and observed that a gender approach in education required a holistic approach and a lot of human and financial resources.  Stressing the critical importance of enabling the education of girls, the Experts asked about boarding schools for girls in rural areas, the incentives in place to encourage families to enrol their daughters, and the presence of women and girls in high school and university.  Access to sex education and reproductive health services was essential to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among youth, especially girls, they said.

Committee Experts commended Mozambique for establishing paternal leave, providing for breastfeeding time, and extending maternity leave from two to three months for public sector employees, but noted that the exclusion of women working in the private sector from this benefit was discriminatory.

Mozambique should continue to pursue its path on enhancing access to health care for women and children, Experts said, and went on to raise concern about the continued high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS which stood at 15.5 per cent, as well as about the prevalence rate of cholera which was among the highest in the world.  What was the impact on maternal mortality rates of the 2016 national strategy for the prevention of early marriages, and what measures had been put in place to reduce the number of unsafe abortions and to increase access to sexual and reproductive health services?

Replies by the Delegation

Mozambique was experiencing a financial and budgetary crisis, the delegation said, stressing that incentives were available to support the education of girls, such as exemption from fees, help with buying uniforms, and free school meals for children from poor families.  The delegation stressed that all teachers accused of sexual violence and abuse of schoolgirls were pursued in the justice system and prosecuted.  There were quotas for the enrolment of girls in vocational training, and night shift classes had been instituted to enable pregnant girls to continue their education.

Data collection had identified the place of those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS which lay along the country’s main roads connecting the coast to the continent’s interior and neighbouring countries.  There was much to be done to prevent the transmission of HIV, and one of the most important was to empower women to have a voice and decide how and when the sexual intercourse would be done.  The poverty of women was one of the most important factors that affected the power balance in relationships.  Cholera was a communicable disease that occurred in areas with low access to potable water and thus mostly occurred in communities that shared a water source, such as rivers or wells.

National health services covered only about 60 per cent of the territory and therefore, safe abortion services were available where trained personnel were present, mainly in urban settings.  Young girls did not have access to information about available sexual and reproductive health services that they needed.  The law on abortion was in place.

The labour law criminalized sexual harassment at work and designated complaint mechanisms.

Questions by Committee Experts

Mozambique was the world’s third most vulnerable country to disasters, the Experts noted, and asked about disaster management and mitigation measures reversed the growing poverty, particularly among women.  What programmes were in place to help women exit poverty and earn their livelihoods in a dignified way?  Was Mozambique considering increasing the State contribution to pension contributions for women, who were mostly in unpaid or informal jobs, and so reverse the pension gap?  The Experts raised concern about rampant human rights violations by extractive industry companies and lack of complaint and redress mechanisms.  Which financial products and services were available to unemployed and poor citizens, particularly women, to promote entrepreneurship and businesses?

The Experts asked about the degree to which the rights of rural women were integrated in poverty eradication programmes and the extent to which gender was mainstreamed in agricultural development strategies.  Were there any measures in place to strengthen the social protection of rural women, for example maternity or pension contributions?

The delegation was asked about the protection of persons with albinism from harmful cultural and traditional practices and especially how the mothers and children with albinism were protected from being murdered.

The law on customary courts enabled real progress in advancing the equality of women, although women still continued to be discriminated against by customary law practices, particularly when it came to land inheritance, custody of children, and child and early marriage.  The registration of births remained a great concern, said the Experts, and asked about the measures in place to ensure that children who were not registered could enjoy equal access to health and education.

Replies by the Delegation

The national disaster plan also covered women in rural and in urban areas, the delegation said, while the national plan for the advancement of women contained actions that had been deigned to address the needs in specific areas, rural women in particular.  The new gender policy of 2018 included actions to mitigate the impact of the resettlement of people in the mining areas, said the delegation, highlighting that the extracting industry companies did not always fulfil their obligations under the law.

As for detained women, the delegation said that educational, health and social services were available for these women.  The law on the protection of persons with disabilities was in place.

The delegation said that a programme was in place to increase the number of people who had land certificates, which would also help in protecting the right of a woman to that land if her husband died.  The justice sector was carrying out campaigns in coordination with other partners, mainly in rural areas, to register children who had not been registered at birth for which ever reason.  The certificates were issued free of charge.  A strategy was in place to protect women with albinism.

Concluding Remarks

FRANCELINA ROMAO, Health Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, concluded by saying that the review was indeed a learning process, adding that Mozambique’s next report would be much richer in data and information.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, said that Mozambique was associated with the Maputo Protocol (to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa), a ground-breaking instrument which, at the time of its adoption had not had a parallel.  The Chair hoped that this trailblazing document, which would always be associated with Mozambique, would be an inspiration for the country.  Ms. Gbedemah then invited Mozambique to accept an amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time and urged it to pay particular attention to the Committee’s concluding observations identified for immediate follow up.

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