United Nations (UN) women’s rights committee publishes findings on Bahrain, Costa Rica, Georgia, Hungary, Mauritania, Norway, Slovenia and Tunisia
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) today issued its findings on Bahrain, Costa Rica, Georgia, Hungary, Mauritania, Norway, Slovenia and Tunisia, 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:
The Committee was concerned at the shrinking civic space for women human rights defenders and reports of intimidation, harassment, threats, physical abuse, sexual violence, travel bans and arbitrary detention against them. It urged Bahrain to further strengthen and enforce measures to protect women human rights defenders, including journalists and political opposition members, from acts of reprisals.
The Committee noted with concern the absence of a timeline for adopting a draft law amending the Penal Code to remove the exemption from criminal liability if a perpetrator of rape marries the victim. It asked Bahrain to expedite the legislative process to prevent rapists from escaping criminal liability by marrying the victims.
The Committee expressed concern over the authorities’ plans to repeal the technical guidelines for therapeutic termination of pregnancy. It asked Costa Rica to cease any effort to repeal such guidelines but to widely disseminate instructions and standards for therapeutic termination of pregnancy and provide mandatory training to health professionals to eliminate unsafe abortions.
The Committee questioned the lengthy refugee status determination and asylum procedures faced by refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls to obtain identification documents needed to access education, employment, health care, housing and social benefits. It suggested that Costa Rica adopt measures to reduce the delays in refugee determination and appeal procedures, and to increase all kinds of resources for the Refugee Unit and the Restricted Visas and Refugee Commission.
The Committee was concerned about the slow progress in reviewing legislation on gender-based violence, the high incidence and underreporting of domestic and sexual violence, as well as the low number of protection orders issued. It recommended that Georgia expedite its legislative reform to amend its Penal Code to define rape based on the absence of free consent. It also asked Georgia to encourage reporting of domestic violence and ensure that women victims have effective access to protection orders.
Concerning the sexist and misogynist political discourse, sexual harassment, sexism, and intimidation faced by women in political and public life, the Committee recommended that Georgia strengthen measures to combat discrimination and hate speech against women in politics, such as awareness-raising and educational campaigns among politicians, in schools, the media and among the general public.
Although it is legal to terminate pregnancy in Hungary, the Committee noted with concern that medical abortion is still unavailable, and women are required to undergo two counselling sessions and a mandatory three-day waiting period before an abortion. It also expressed concern over the limited access to affordable modern contraceptives in the country. The Committee suggested that Hungary repeal the pre-abortion counselling and waiting period regulations and ensure unhindered access to legal abortion and post-abortion services. It also asked Hungary to ensure that all women and girls have access to adequate sexual and reproductive health services, including modern and emergency contraception.
The Committee remained concerned that Hungary’s equality policy is based exclusively on the concept of family, considering a woman’s primary role being a wife and a mother. It recommended that the State party take measures to address anti-gender public discourse and expand gender equality training for government officials, parliamentarians, leaders of political parties and religious movements, as well as public and private media professionals.
The Committee was disturbed by the high levels of gender-based violence against women and girls in Mauritania, and the near-total impunity of their perpetrators, given women’s and girls’ reluctance to file complaints for fear of retaliation or fear of prosecution under the criminal offence of adultery (zina), which is punishable by the death penalty. It urged Mauritania to immediately release any women and girls detained on charges of zina, drop prosecutions against them, and repeal discriminatory procedural requirements to prove cases of rape, including the requirement to produce four witnesses.
The Committee acknowledged rural women’s vital role in ensuring national food security, given their notable engagement as labourers in fishing and agricultural production. It regretted that rural women are widely unpaid or underpaid for their labour and face exclusion from land ownership and decision-making on the use of natural resources. It recommended that Mauritania dismantle patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotypes that impede rural women’s equal access to land and strengthen their equal participation in decision-making on the use of land and other natural resources, as well as in strategies to mitigate natural disasters and climate change.
The Committee reiterated its concern that Norwegian legislation, policies and programmes are still gender-neutral, which might result in inadequate protection of women against direct and indirect discrimination and hinder the achievement of substantive equality between women and men. It recommended that Norway include a gender-responsive rather than a gender-neutral approach in its legislation, policies and programmes.
The Committee also expressed concerns that the definition of rape in the country’s Penal Code is still based on the use of force or threat by the perpetrator. It recommended that Norway align the definition of rape with international standards based on the lack of consent.
The Committee welcomed the election of women as President of Slovenia and as President of the National Assembly and the appointment of women as State Attorney General and Army Chief of Staff in 2018. It, however, noted with concern the persistence of hate speech and harassment targeting women politicians, activists and journalists. It recommended that Slovenia adopt legislation to prevent harassment and threats against women in political and public life, such as by holding social media companies accountable for discriminatory user-generated content.
The Committee raised its concern that no civil society organization from Slovenia had engaged with the Committee in preparing this country review. It recommended that Slovenia ensure an enabling environment for civil society and women human rights defenders to advocate for women’s rights.
The Committee was alarmed by the high incidence of gender-based violence against women, especially the high number of femicides, which had increased further during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also concerned that the draft law criminalizing marital rape has still not been adopted. It urged Tunisia to adopt a national strategy to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence, expedite the legislative measures to criminalize marital rape, and provide further shelters and support services to women survivors of gender-based violence.
The Committee expressed concern over hate speech and harassment, including non-consensual online use of images and video material, threatening women in political and public life. It also questioned the low representation of women in decision-making positions in the judiciary and the foreign service. It recommended that Tunisia introduce targeted measures to increase women’s participation in the Assembly of People’s Representatives, the judiciary and in the foreign service. It also asked Tunisia to adopt legislation to criminalize hate speech and harassment targeting women in political and public life, and to hold social media companies accountable for users’ discriminatory content.
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).