Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets with NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with non-governmental organizations and three national human rights institutions who briefed Experts on the situation of the rights of women in Cape Verde, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and the United Kingdom. The reports of these four countries will be reviewed by the Committee this week.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Cape Verde said that women with disabilities faced inequality in education and a lack of opportunities based on multiple and historic discrimination.
Speakers from NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina said that laws dealing with violence against women were not well implemented and victims of domestic crime were not well supported. Political participation was lacking and women did not have good access to healthcare, education or legal aid. Rape cases remaining from the conflict were not always tried as crimes against humanity and access to reparations had not improved.
Representatives of NGOs in Serbia said that extremism impacted everyday life. The church still significantly shaped societal norms, affecting the demand for the provision of contraception and abortion. Women with disabilities were inhibited from expressing their sexual and reproductive rights, did not receive priority in social benefits provision, and could be vulnerable to abuse given the lack of support. Roma organizations were struggling in the face of the limited will and funding from the Government.
Organizations speaking about the United Kingdom indicated that women were bearing the brunt of austerity measures affecting the heavily female public sector and cuts on welfare benefits. Changes to the healthcare system were also affecting women’s rights and affordable and accessible childcare was lacking. Abortion was still not freely available in Northern Ireland, despite earlier recommendations. Cuts to legal aid for many private and family matters constituted a step backwards.
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
Women’s Resource Centre said the Government’s austerity programme disproportionately impacted women and some had been made destitute as a result. The high cost of childcare discouraged many women from seeking work at all, and free legal aid for many domestic issues had been removed. Changes to the National Health Service meant women’s needs were not being met. Support services had been cut and measures to tackle violence had not been successful. The lack of disaggregated data prevented current and future measurements of inequality. There were discrepancies on women’s policies across the devolved authorities.
ENGENDER indicated that women had borne the brunt of austerity measures and reductions in the female-dominated public sector. The Scottish Government should identify groups that needed additional support and Scotland must ensure that the action plan from the recent Women’s Employment Summit created significant and measurable outcomes. The NGO welcomed the consideration of childcare provision as infrastructure and universal provision was needed. A system of independent legal representation should be introduced to enable complainants of sexual offences to assert their rights to privacy.
Northern Ireland European Platform Board said that women were under-represented in politics. Despite intense lobbying by non-governmental organizations, Security Council resolution 1325 had not been implemented. Ethnic minority women faced structural barriers and limited data was collected on instances of violence against women in this group. There was no national childcare strategy and women had problems in accessing affordable childcare. Women could not access abortion on grounds of rape, incest or severe abnormality.
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