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UN women’s rights committee publishes findings on China, Germany, Iceland, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Spain, Timor-Leste and Venezuela
30 May 2023
GENEVA (30 May 2023) - The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) today issued its findings on China (including Hong Kong SAR, China and Macao SAR, China), Germany, Iceland, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Spain, Timor-Leste and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, after reviewing these eight States parties during its latest session.
The findings contain positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations. Some of the key issues include:
The Committee noted that the representation of women in political and public life has increased since its consideration of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of the State party. The Committee, however, was concerned that in Mainland China, women represent only 26.54 per cent of deputies to the 14th National People’s Congress, and that since October 2022, there have been no women at the highest executive level. In Hong Kong SAR, the Committee noted with concern that women account for only 19 per cent of the members of the Legislative Council, the Executive Council and the Office of the Chief Executive. The Committee recommended that China adopt temporary special measures, such as statutory quotas and a gender parity system, to accelerate the achievement of equal representation of women in the Government, the National People’s Congress, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the judiciary and foreign service, particularly at decision-making levels.
The Committee was concerned about the excessive restrictions on the registration of non-governmental organisations. It was also concerned about reports of intimidation and harassment against women human rights defenders, including sexual and gender-based violence by the police and other officials, and that these rights defenders might face reprisal for their participation in the Committee’s review. It urged China to repeal the sponsorship requirement and all other disproportionate restrictions on NGO registration. The Committee also asked the State party to ensure that women human rights defenders are not subject to intimidation, harassment and reprisals for their work, including engagement with the Committee. It further called on China to investigate and prosecute those who had harassed and abused women rights defenders, including police officers and other State agents.
With regard to the persistently large gender pay gap, which remains at 18%, in Germany, the Committee recommended that the State party regularly review wages in sectors where women are concentrated. It also suggested that Germany adopt measures to close the income gap, including gender-neutral analytical job classification and evaluation methods, regular pay surveys and enforcing the Pay Transparency Law.
The Committee also raised concern about the potential negative effects on young people being increasingly exposed to death metal music with misogynistic lyrics promoting gender-based violence against women. It recommended that Germany regulate the dissemination of artistic content that promotes gender-based violence against women, develop educational programmes in schools and conduct awareness-raising campaigns, especially for young people, on the negative impact of misogynistic audio-visual content, including songs and music videos, on the Internet.
The Committee expressed concern over the use of gender-neutral language in the State's party legislation, policies and programmes, which makes it difficult to assess the impact of laws on women, particularly women belonging to disadvantaged and marginalised groups and may lead to inadequate protection of women from direct and indirect discrimination. It called upon Iceland to include a gender-responsive rather than gender-neutral approach in its legislation and policies.
The Committee was concerned about the absence of a comprehensive law specifically criminalising all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, and the inadequate protection from gender-based violence of women and girls facing intersecting forms of discrimination. It urged Iceland to adopt a comprehensive law on all forms of gender-based violence against women, particularly domestic violence, establish identification mechanisms, and take into account the special protection needs of disadvantaged and marginalised groups of women, including women with disabilities, migrant women and lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women.
Sao Tome and Principe
In the first coordinated back-to-back reviews, the CEDAW Committee and the Child Rights Committee identified certain issues of common concerns and made joint recommendations. Regarding gender-based violence, both Committees were alarmed by the growing phenomenon of “catorzhinhas/papoite”, the sexual abuse of school girls in exchange for better grades, which sometimes leads to early pregnancy but is not prosecuted as “sexual abuse” in Sao Tome and Principe. The two Committees called on the State party to fully criminalise “catorzhinhas/papoite” as sexual abuse and develop guidelines on preventing and combatting sexual harassment and violence at school. They also asked the State party to set up an effective monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure that all cases of “catorzhinhas/papoite” are investigated and prosecuted as sexual abuse and that girls are provided with the necessary assistance and psycho-social support to continue schooling.
On the problems faced by rural women, CEDAW acknowledged the steps taken by the State party to improve their access to basic services and social protection. The Committee, however, expressed concern that rural women and girls have very limited access to education, health services and transportation and are mostly relegated to traditional care-taking responsibilities. The Committee called on Sao Tome and Principe to improve rural women’s access to essential services, such as healthcare, transportation, education, and adequate water and sanitation facilities.
The Committee was concerned by the rising social media campaign advocating patriarchal family values that overemphasise the roles of women as mothers and caretakers and undermine gender equality measures by labelling them as “gender ideology”. It recommended that Slovakia take effective measures to promote the understanding of gender equality, counter attitudes that downplay the pursuit of gender equality, and adopt legislation to strengthen national standards to prevent hate speech and gender-based discrimination in social media.
Concerning the information provided by civil society on the involuntary sterilisation of transgender women as a pre-condition to gender legal recognition, the Committee recommended that Slovakia take measures to ensure that transgender women can continue to obtain legal recognition of their gender and change their names in civil registries without undergoing involuntary sterilisation. It also asked the State party to commit not to adopt legislation on compulsory sterilisation.
While welcoming a series of laws on the rights of women, such as Organic Law No. 10/2022 on the Comprehensive Guarantee of Sexual Freedom, the Committee, however, raised concerns about the lack of an intersectional approach in implementing these gender equality-based laws to adequately address the situation of Roma women, refugee and migrant women, and other women subjected to intersecting forms of discrimination. The Committee recommended that Spain continue to systematically use temporary special measures to correct imbalances and ensure their effective implementation to anticipate structural changes. It also recommended that the State party urgently tackle the causes and the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls.
The Committee noted the many legislative efforts taken by Spain to build a policy to prevent and address gender-based violence against women. It was, however, concerned by the fact that gender-based violence against women is prevalent with a high rate of femicide, and by the insufficient legislation and efforts to address some specific forms of gender-based violence against women and girls such as pervasive cyber violence against women and girls. It recommended that the State party consolidate its policies on preventing gender-based violence against women, particularly by reinforcing the identification of vulnerable situations and prevention of recidivism, and strengthen its efforts to speedily establish the Observatory of Femicide.
While acknowledging Timor-Leste’s adoption of its first National Action Plan to implement the UN Security Council resolution on “Women, Peace and Security”, the Committee remained concerned about the delay of the second National Action Plan and the lack of effective participation by the civil society in the process. It recommended that Timor-Leste cooperate with women’s civil society organisation representatives to accelerate the adoption of the Second National Action Plan, which would include a model of substantive equality addressing gender-based violence and discrimination against women in all spheres of life.
The Committee noted with concern the persistently high rates of maternal mortality, early pregnancy and malnutrition among women, the low number of births attended by qualified medical personnel, particularly in rural regions, and limited access for women to prenatal and postnatal health services. It called on the State party to step up its efforts in training midwives and other health professionals, especially in rural areas, and to improve women’s access to antenatal, perinatal and postnatal health services in order to minimise maternal mortality.
The Committee expressed concern about the lack of a specific and comprehensive law on trafficking in persons, and the delay in publishing the National Plan against Human Trafficking. It called upon Venezuela to develop a protocol for the early identification and referral of trafficked women and girls to appropriate services, especially in border areas. It also asked the State party to allocate sufficient funding to ensure adequate support services for trafficking victims, including shelters, psycho-social counselling, reintegration programmes and effective access to refugee status determination procedures for those who may need international protection.
The Committee was also concerned about the lack of regulations and gender-sensitive protocols for the implementation of the Organic Law on Women’s Right to a Life Free from Violence. It urged Venezuela to adopt the necessary regulations so that the Organic Law can be implemented without further delay.
The above findings, officially named Concluding Observations, are now available online on the session webpage.
For more information and media requests in Geneva, please contact:
UN Human Rights Office Media Section at [email protected]
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts from around the world elected by the States parties, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
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