The Committee examined last month Lao’s State report on the implementation by the Lao authorities of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Committee, composed of independent experts, recently made public its comments in that regard.
Noting that Laos is one of the least developed countries, the UN experts specify that “the lack of development should not be an excuse for continuation of discrimination against women”. They express on several occasions their concern regarding the discrimination against rural and ethnic minority women, who are victims of pervasive poverty and underdevelopment. The UN body expresses in particular its concern at the “extremely low literacy rate among ethnic minority women” and urges LPDR to immediately take appropriate measures to provide education to women, including from ethnic minorities. It also recommends the government to step up its efforts to provide ethnic minority women who depend on opium poppy production alternative and sustainable means of livelihood.
“Indeed, we denounce the fact that under the pretext of the implementation of the Programme of eradication of poverty by 2020 and the Project for the eradication of the poppy crops by 2005, the government displaced many people, which resulted in further vulnerability of those populations, which often belong to ethnic minorities”, said Vanida Thephouvanh, President of the LMHR. She added: “Once in the new villages, they face the bad surprise that there is not sufficient arable land, no health care facilities, no school, no job... Nothing is in line with the promises that was made to them”.
The UN body is also seriously concerned about the very high maternal and infant morality rates, especially among rural woman and ethnic minorities. It consequently recommends to the authorities to expand the network of healthcare facilities, to enhance its educational programmes on reproductive health and family planning, and to make contraceptives easily available.
More generally, the UN body expresses concern at the generally low representation of women in the administration and in the judiciary and makes recommendations in that regard. It also expresses concern that “the LPDR is lacking lively, autonomous and active women’s and human rights organisations” and recommends that the State create space for such autonomous organisations.
“It is the very first time that the LPDR submitted its state report under the CEDAW, which is a positive step. However, we hope that the authorities will now duly implement the recommendations issued by the UN experts and disseminate them broadly in Laos”, concluded Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH.