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Press releases Treaty bodies
15 February 2016
Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
15 February 2016
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of non-governmental organizations to hear information on the situation of women in Japan, Iceland, Sweden and Mongolia, whose reports will be considered during the first week of the session.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations in Japan presented their concerns with regard to the issues of abortion, discrimination and violence against women from minorities, non-regular working women, and lesbian and bisexual women, and wartime sexual slavery and related impunity.
A non-governmental organization from Iceland addressed the issue of sexual violence being under-reported or prosecuted, women being under-represented, the gender pay gap, and the absence of an action plan on gender equality.
With regard to Sweden, civil society representatives regretted the lack of an action plan, coordination mechanism and funding to implement the Government’s policies on gender equality and gender mainstreaming. They also addressed the issue of impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence and extraterritorial protection of women’s rights.
Turning to Mongolia, speakers from non-governmental organizations regretted the lack of implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and expressed concerns about discrimination and violence against women with disabilities and lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
Non-governmental organizations from Japan included Japan NGO Network for CEDAW, Japan Federation of Bar Association, Outright Action International, Minbyun-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Happiness Realization Research Institute, Japanese Women for Justice and Peace, and Researchers of History on Modern Japan. From Iceland, the non-governmental organization Icelandic Women’s Rights Association addressed the Committee. Representatives of the Swedish civil sector included the Swedish Women’s Lobby, Swedish CEDAW Network, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Mongolian Feminist Network, National Federation of the Blind, and LGBT Centre presented their concerns to the Committee regarding the situation of women in Mongolia.
The Committee will reconvene in public on Tuesday, 16 February at 10 a.m, to begin its consideration of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Japan (CEDAW/C/JPN/7-8).
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
A representative of the Japan NGO Network for CEDAW said that the Civil Code of Japan should be amended in order to repeal distinctions between women and men in relation to the minimum age to marry and to the prohibition of remarriage. She called for the adoption of measures to address discrimination against non-regular working women, and regretted that the Government did not recognize its legal responsibility for the crime of sexual slavery, and did not intend to provide reparation to victims abroad. Further, she expressed concerns that the draft amendment to the Penal Code did not contain important reforms regarding sex crimes or the abolition of the crime of abortion.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations stated that human rights abuses and forced labour of women migrant workers continued and regretted that the Government had not considered the abolition of the crime of abortion. The Government did not recognize the necessity of data survey and measures on women belonging to minorities, especially Ainu, Okinawa, Korean resident and Buraku women, who were in need of assistance especially in the field of labour and education.
Outright Action International highlighted the absence of anti-discrimination legislation and explicit recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination, which made lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people vulnerable to severe stigma, violence, harassment, stereotyping and patriarchal gender norms.
Minbyun-Lawyers for a Democratic Society regretted that Japan had failed to pursue a comprehensive, impartial and lasting resolution of the issue over wartime sexual slavery, and expressed concerns that those responsible were still out there unpunished. The Committee was urged to help bring justice to the victims before it was too late.
Happiness Realization Research Institute said that the allegation that the Japanese military had engaged into forced abduction and sexual slavery during the War was patently false. The claims made by Seiji Yoshida regarding comfort women had since been retracted by him and by others. Women had always been treated with honour and dignity in Japan.
Japanese Women for Justice and Peace suggested that the Committee ask the Japanese Government to clarify the apparent discrepancy between their findings and those of the Coomaraswamy Report, which stated that “the Japanese military forcefully recruited 200,000 Korean women and made them sex slaves”.
Researchers of History on Modern Japan requested the Committee to ask the delegation of Japan to clarify explicitly if the military authorities and the Government had enslaved Korean women during World War II. According to historical documents in the United states National Archives, Japanese military authorities had been involved only to the extent of ensuring the safe transference, working conditions and health care of comfort women.
Icelandic Women’s Rights Association said that sexual violence was rarely prosecuted in Iceland and convictions were rarer. There was little support for victims of domestic and sexual violence outside of the capital. Women were under-represented in the judicial system, while a third of women police officers reported being sexually harassed at work. It then expressed concern about the gender pay gap being unacceptably high, and regretted the lack of guaranteed day care for children aged 9 months to two years, which made the care of children disproportionally fall on women during this gap. The organization regretted the absence of an action plan on gender equality.
Swedish Women’s Lobby stated that the creation of the Discrimination Ombudsman had weakened the institutional structures for gender equality, making discrimination against women less of a priority. It regretted the lack of coordination for gender-mainstreaming and underlined the need for an operational gender equality authority to support, coordinate and monitor gender equality policies. Further, the Municipal Act should be revised to ensure that the budget for local authorities fulfilled requirements for gender mainstreaming. Finally, the organization demanded the establishment of an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
Swedish CEDAW Network was concerned about the pattern of absence of convictions and punishment for the perpetrators of crimes against women. Perpetrators were not held accountable for their crimes, while judicial procedures often vilified victims and further aggravated their vulnerability. Sweden should introduce compulsory training on sexual crimes for all professionals within the legal system. In 2015, only 2.6 percent of all cases reported to the police as rape had led to guilty verdicts.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom raised the issue of extraterritoriality. It considered that the continued transfer of arms from Sweden to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and India risked having dire consequences for women and girls, and it urged Sweden to ensure rigorous, transparent and gender-sensitive risk-assessments of arms transfers and sales. Further, it expressed concerns with the impact of activities of Swedish companies in the textile industry in Bangladesh, where various violations of women workers’ rights persisted.
Mongolian Feminist Network was concerned about the absolute lack of political will to implement the provisions of the Convention. There was a lack of a clear institutional framework for the protection of women, particularly of lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. State institutions prioritized traditional attitudes and practices and there existed negative stigmatization of women, including within school curricula. A lack of media regulation further perpetuated such stereotypes.
National Federation of the Blind regretted that women and girls with disabilities were subject to multiple discrimination in Mongolia, as they continued to be excluded from accessing education, quality sexual and health services, employment as well as full participation in society. They also experienced violence and poverty in higher proportions. While the Criminal Code prohibited forced abortions, the Law on Health permitted forced sterilization and abortion of women with disabilities.
LGBT Centre said that sexual minorities were completely overlooked by State policies and suffered exclusion, marginalization, stereotypes and inhumane social attitudes. Homophobia and transphobia by State actors continued with impunity. Cases of hate crimes against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women went unreported because of the fear of re-victimization by the police or health sectors.
Questions by Committee Experts
Regarding Japan, an Expert asked for details on the situation of women and children following divorce, including child custody and migrant women. Another Expert asked for information regarding civil society participation. On the issue of health, an Expert asked what the position of civil society was regarding abortion, while another raised a question on forced sterilization.
On Iceland, Experts asked about the impacts and consequences of the financial crisis on the rights of women, and measures taken by the Government to prevent negative effects. Was there any chance of seeing the domestication of the Convention into the national legislation?
With regard to Sweden, an Expert asked whether judicial training was organized to strengthen the prosecution rate of sexual violence.
An Expert noted that both Iceland and Sweden had a law criminalizing “sex-purchasers”, or “clients”, and asked about the point of view of non-governmental organizations in that regard.
Turning to Mongolia, Experts asked about the legal framework for the protection of women’s rights, the implementation of the Convention and the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action.
Replies by the Non-governmental Organizations
On Japan, representatives of non-governmental organizations said that the legislation led migrant women separated from their spouses or migrant women victims of domestic violence to refrain from reporting because of the fear of losing their resident status. Custody rights were generally given to women after a divorce. The Government had sought the views of civil society when drafting its Plan for Gender Equality, but there had been no feedback about if and how those contributions had been taken into account. The Committee should ask Japan what steps the Government would take to provide reparation to the survivors of forced sterilization.
Responding to questions on Iceland, a representative of a non-governmental organizations recognized that the Government had made important efforts to limit the negative consequences of the financial crisis on women. A policy to protect single parents had been adopted to further limit the impact of the crisis. Paternity leaves were broadly used, which had had a positive impact on gender equality in the country. Iceland was lacking studies regarding migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who remained invisible and unrepresented. A support centre had been established for migrant women who were victims of violence, which provided free interpretation and legal counsel for victims. Iceland had banned purchase of sex and had decriminalized the sale of one’s body, in line with the Swedish model on prostitution. That policy had proven to be very good, and had given the police the tools to combat sex trafficking.
Civil society representatives from Sweden said that the Swedish people were really proud of the law on prostitution. That law built on international standards relating to combatting human trafficking. Several other countries, including Iceland and France, had also adopted similar norms. The buyer was the one being criminalized, not the person prostituting herself. That law had strengthened police’s response to human trafficking. Trade unions and corporations had also been involved in the implementation of that law. There was no special court to deal with cases of gender violence, meaning that all judges could be faced with such cases. Judges had voluntary access to trainings on addressing violence against women.
On Mongolia, speakers from non-governmental organizations said there was almost no State institution to implement the Convention. There was no law as such against discrimination despite one provision in the Constitution.
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