The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) today issued its findings on Armenia, Belgium, Finland, The Gambia, Honduras, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Switzerland and Ukraine, the States parties that it reviewed 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:
Internally displaced women and girls in conflict-affected areas are at higher risk of sexual violence, exploitation, and poverty in Armenia. The Committee calls for sustainable solutions to ensure their rights. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of progress in abolishing the list of jobs considered dangerous for women, minors, and people with disabilities. It urges Armenia to abolish this list of non-recommended occupations restricting women’s access to certain occupations, facilitate women’s access to these occupations, and refocus its employment policies on gender equality.
Legal aid eligibility criteria have been severely restricted and the process to access legal aid has become more complex, despite the Judicial Code amendments in Belgium. The Committee recommends that legal aid and public defence be made accessible, sustainable, and responsive to women's needs. The Committee is concerned that despite existing legislation and measures, there are still harmful practices against women and girls, such as child and/or forced marriage, forced sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities, and invasive and irreversible medical interventions to assign a sex to children. It recommends that Belgium train law enforcement officials to strictly apply legislation prohibiting child and/or forced marriage and raise awareness about its criminal nature.
The Committee urges Finland to take immediate action to repeal legislation that permits the sterilisation of women with mental disabilities. In addition, CEDAW calls for effective remedies to be provided to women who have been subjected to forced or involuntary sterilisation. The Committee notes that mediation in cases of intimate partner violence is being used more frequently and calls on Finland to prioritise prosecution over mediation in cases of intimate partner violence and domestic violence, and to ensure that referral to mediation does not result in the discontinuation of criminal investigation and prosecution in these cases.
A high number of girls are out of school, a situation exacerbated by child marriage, and a correspondingly high illiteracy rate among women and girls in The Gambia. Child marriage was banned in 2016 but there have been no prosecutions. The Committee urges The Gambia to raise awareness about the harmful effects and criminal nature of child marriage; develop child-friendly, confidential and secure mechanisms for reporting cases; and provide mandatory capacity building to religious leaders, law enforcement, health and social workers, to ensure victims have access to support services and perpetrators are punished. The Committee also calls on The Gambia to address attitudes that prevent rural women from inheriting land and to respect its commitment to achieve the African Union goal of allocating 30% of land to women by 2025.
The Committee expresses concern about gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and notes that Honduras had the highest femicide rate in Latin America in 2019. It urges Honduras to amend the Penal Code to increase femicide sentences to match the severity of the crime and take other measures to protect women and girls. The Committee notes that maternal mortality has decreased. However, it is concerned by the criminalisation of abortion and other restrictions on women's bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health rights. The Committee reiterates its call to decriminalise abortion, ensure distribution of emergency contraception, provide access to HIV/AIDS medication, and strengthen initiatives to ensure that adolescents have access to education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
The Criminal Code in Saint Kitts and Nevis does not criminalise gender-based violence against women. The Committee recommends that Saint Kitts and Nevis amend the Criminal Code and relevant legislation to criminalise all forms of gender-based violence against women and girls, including physical, psychological, sexual, economic, domestic, and marital rape, child sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. It is concerned that there is no official policy or programme to protect rural women's rights and recommends the adoption of a Rural Women's Development Programme, train rural women in agricultural practises and provide them with the necessary infrastructure and support.
The Committee notes that the current proposal to revise and strengthen legislation criminalising rape does not define rape based on absence of consent, in line with international standards. The Penal Code's articles punishing sexual offences less serious than rape allow the judge to consider a penalty reduction or full acquittal if the perpetrator is married or in a registered partnership with the victim, even if the victim is a child. The Committee urges Switzerland to amend its Penal Code. It also calls for legal provisions to allow all women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and whose residence status is tied to their husband to leave their abusive spouse without losing their residence status.
Since the Russian Federation's military aggression began, Ukraine has faced a dire situation of conflict-related violence, including sexual and other gender-based violence. The Committee notes that Ukraine has taken steps to protect civilians, including women and girls, from the hostilities. For instance, it notes the establishment of mobile clinics by health professionals trained to recognise gender-based violence. However, it is concerned by the rising sexual violence against women and girls in conflict zones. The Committee also notes the underreporting of sexual violence due to stigma and fear of reprisals, as well as the limited number of investigations into conflict-related sexual violence. It recommends that Ukraine prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of acts of sexual and other forms of conflict-related gender-based violence against women and girls and collect evidence in such cases, in cooperation with civil society organisations and international investigative bodies, including for prosecution before international courts. For the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations, the Committee recommends that Ukraine seek international assistance as needed, including technical assistance from the Committee.
The above findings, officially named Concluding Observations, are now available online on the session webpage.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).