The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of non-governmental organizations and a national human rights institution to hear information on the situation of women in Germany, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Micronesia, whose reports will be considered during the second week of the session.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations from Germany delivered oral reports in which they expressed concerns that the rise in racism was not being adequately addressed and asked the Committee to urge Germany to evaluate structural racism and address its impact on migrant and refugee women. The reform of the Sex Offence Law following the Cologne attacks was welcome but sexism must not be replaced by racism. It was the responsibility of the State to ensure the effective protection of intersex children against treatment performed without their express and informed consent, they said, and also stressed the barriers to access to adequate health services for transgender women.Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).
Civil society representatives stressed that Sri Lanka was engaging in the process of transitional justice and constitution making; the Committee should urge Sri Lanka to ensure that the chapter on fundamental rights explicitly included women’s rights, and to take action to repeal Muslim personal status laws to end systematic discrimination against women and girls, and not leave the issue in the hands of the Muslim community. The criminalization of homosexuality prevented lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women from accessing justice for violence and discrimination, they said, and urged the Committee to address the precarious and vulnerable situation of Tamil women.
Speakers from non-governmental organizations in Rwanda described problems that women faced in that country, including different punishments for rape and marital rape, lack of support to victims of rape, and inadequate investigation and prosecution of cases of sexual violence. The law on abortion was restrictive and aggressively enforced: women imprisoned for abortion represented a quarter of the female population in five prisons in Rwanda according to a 2015 study, and 17,000 women were treated for abortion-related complications every year. Rwanda had one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in Africa, and sexual violence against children was prevalent.
In Micronesia, the three most pressing issues facing women were a lack of a ministry for women and gender machinery in the country, absence of women in the Parliament, and violence against women and girls. Domestic violence was prevalent, and women largely remained silent because they could not escape the situation, and silence was the norm.
Speaking during the discussion were representatives from the Non-governmental Organization Coalition on behalf of CEDAW, ATME Campaign Transsexuality and Human Rights, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (joint statement), FIAN International, Non-governmental Organization Coalition on behalf of StopIGM.org and OII Germany, and Maisha/Medibüro Kiel/Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) from Germany; Women’s Action for CEDAW (joint statement), Muslim Personal Law Reforms Action Group, Equal Ground, FOKUS Women, Women Action Network, International Truth and Justice Project, and Women and Media Collective from Sri Lanka; Non-governmental Organization Coalition for CEDAW and the Centre for Reproductive Rights from Rwanda; and FSM Women non-governmental organization from Micronesia.
Also speaking was the national human rights institution from Germany, the German Institute for Human Rights
When the Committee reconvenes in public on Tuesday, 21 February at 10 a.m., it will begin its consideration of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Germany (CEDAW/C/DEU/7-8).
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
Rwandan Non-governmental Organization Coalition for CEDAW called attention to different punishments for rape and marital rape, with rape being more strictly sanctioned. There was also concern about the lack of support to victims of rape, and the inadequate investigation and prosecution of cases of sexual violence. The new law on disability did not include a gender dimension, and discrimination on the basis of gender was not prohibited elsewhere. The misbelief in the mental capacity of women and girls with disabilities to report rape and sexual violence hampered their effective access to justice. The Coalition also raised issues of access to contraceptive services, particularly for rural and poor women, and about the criminalization of abortion, while legal procedures allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest were long and arduous.
A representative of the Centre for Reproductive Rights said that although maternal mortality rates had improved, Rwanda needed to continue to employ efforts in this regard to reach the Sustainable Development Goal target, and remove barriers to access of women to ante-natal and post-natal care. The law on abortion was restrictive and aggressively enforced. In 2015, women imprisoned for abortion represented a quarter of the female population in five prisons in Rwanda, and 17,000 women were treated for abortion-related complications every year. Rwanda had one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in Africa, and sexual violence against children was prevalent.