41st Session of the CEDAW Committee

03/07/2008
Communiqué

The CEDAW process

States that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) are obliged to submit regular reports to a UN Committee on the implementation of their obligations to promote and protect women’s rights. The Committee consists of 23 experts, serving in their personal capacity, from different States. Following dialogue with the state representatives, the Committee formulates recommendations addressed to the state on the priority areas for action and reform to increase respect for women’s rights.

Countries examined at the 41st Session of the CEDAW Committee, 30 June - 18 July 2008 : the role of NGOs

At this session, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is accompanying women from Yemen, Slovakia and Nigeria to present their reports on the situation of women’s rights in their countries to the CEDAW Committee experts. Their participation is essential to provide the experts with first-hand information on the reality of the situation for women in the countries, to complement, clarify and sometimes contradict the information presented in the reports submitted by their governments. The testimonies and concerns raised by NGOs assist the experts to formulate strong and relevant recommendations to governments to improve respect for women’s rights.

The other countries to be examined during this session are : Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Tanzania and the United Kingdom.

YEMEN

Date examined by the CEDAW Committee : 1 July 2008

The Principal Concerns :

Discrimination against women is enshrined in the law, including the Personal Status law and the Nationality law. There are no laws protecting women from violence in the public and private spheres and quasi-official newspapers have recently defamed women activists promoting the adoption of such laws. The national action plan to « end violence against women » remains unimplemented due to lack of funding. Female illiteracy is high and educational policies encourage girls to drop out of school. Yemen has one of the highest rates for maternal mortality. Women are unrepresented in the political sphere.

The Delegation :

Amal Basha is President of Sisters Arabic Forum for Human Rights (SAF), FIDH’s member organisation in Yemen. She also sits as an advisor for the International Coalition on the International Criminal Court and as an advisor for the Ministry of Human Rights. She coordinates several programmes, such as Legal Protections of Prisoners, Legal Rights for Refugees, and a Lawyers Training Programme on Human Rights. In previous years, Ms. Basha has been actively involved with countless Yemeni NGOs and various UN programmes. She served a term as Chairperson for the UN Staff Association and two terms as Vice-President for UN Staff Association of UNDP, UNFPA and WFP. She has also been a member of advisory groups for the Women’s National Committee on Political Participation and the UNFPA programme on WID and Population.

Rasha Rashid Jarhum is journalist and gender activist in Yemen. She is an active member of the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights and the Watan Coalition, advocating for women’s political empowerment. She is author of several publications on women in education attainment, political empowerment, economic participation and amending gender discriminative legislative laws, including "Perceptions towards working women in Yemen" and "The Women Status Report for 2006".

Suha Basharain is a gender and human rights activist with the Sisters Arabic Forum for Human Rights (SAF) and one of the founders of the Watan Coalition. She is author of a number of publications on discrimination and violence against women, including « Quota for Women : Theory and Practice ». She has also conducted an analysis of women’s political empowerment and women’s stereotype in media in Yemen for the National Strategy of Women Advancement.


Lima’s testimony : legal and social injustice

Lima is from a Bedouin community in Abyan Governorate in Yemen. She is married and mother of five children. In February 2004, her husband found his brother in law, Yeslam, and Lima alone in their tent. Suspecting Lima of adultery he shot and killed Yeslam. Lima, who was pregnant attempted to run away but was arrested by the Police.

During the investigation, fearing tribal scandal and stigmatisation, Lima chose to confess to murder rather than admitting to adultery. She was charged with murder and sentenced to death. In 2007 the legal team of the Legal Protection and Advocacy Project obtained Lima’s file and filed an appeal. Lima declared, "I thought that because women and men were not equal in my tribe I would have to share the punishment for murder or be killed".

Despite the lack of evidence, and Lima’s retraction of her confession, the Appeal Court insisted on obtaining the agreement of Yeslam’s « blood owners » (father, mother, uncle, siblings, children) to abandon their personal right to Yeslam’s blood. Yeslam’s relatives did not appear before the court.

Lima delivered her baby son in a small, bad ventilated and dark cell attached to the backyard of Abyan Men’s Central Prison where she has been detained for the last four years, awaiting a decision of the courts.With only 3 judges dealing with about 30 cases a month, cases of powerful tribal men take priority.

In 2004, Lima’s husband was arrested and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for "accomplice to murder". If he had admitted murder, he would have been sentenced to between 6 months and 1 year imprisonment, since his crime would have been considered as an "honour killing".

If Lima admits marital adultery she will face death by stoning. If Yeslam’s blood relatives refuse to abandon their personal right or if the court’s do not find time to deal with her case, Lima will spend her life in jail.

NIGERIA

Date examined by the CEDAW Committee : 3 July 2008

The Principal Concerns :

Discrimination against women in Nigeria is sustained by discriminatory laws, policies and social and cultural practices. Discrimination is enshrined in the constitution, in particular concerning the possibility for women to transfer their nationality. In early 2007, the National Assembly rejected a bill incorporating the CEDAW convention into domestic legislation.

Female genital mutilation, preference for a male child and widowhood rites are still prevalent in most parts of Nigeria. Women face discrimination in access to education, employment and political life.

The Delegation :

Favour Omoye Irabor : Lawyer in Lagos, Favour is an active member of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), FIDH’s member organisation in Nigeria, and Minority Fellow of the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2007, Favour co-edited Closing the Gender Gap : A Handbook on Leadership Development for Young Women in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions.

Other members of the delegation : Titilope Ngozi Akosa-Okunnu, Women Unity Forum ; Nene Marcella Anyanwu-Mgbemere, Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD), Ilemobola Olubukola Akosile, West Africa Network for Peacebuilding ; Risikat Taiwo Amisu, Female Leadership Forum (FLF) ; Adidu Anne Gbemisola, Obinwa Chibogu, Sarah Omonegho Dickson and Fijabi Dasola Mufuliat, Baobab for Women’s Human Rights.

Testimonies

Draft law before the Nigerian Congress criminalising violations of a « personal dress code »

A bill which would set standards for personal dressing and would criminalize those who do not comply with the dress code is currently pending before the Nigerian Congress. The « Bill to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other Related Offences in Nigeria » was sponsored by the Senate Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth. The bill targets Nigerian women and girls and by its nature is in flagrant violation of fundamental freedoms.

Compulsory pregnancy and HIV tests for university students

In July 2007, students in their final year at the Covenant University, a private university in the Ogun State, were required to undergo compulsory testing for pregnancy and HIV before they are allowed to graduate. Female students found to be pregnant were suspended from the University. Pregnancy is seen as a sign of immorality. 10 NGOs have brought a case against the University before the Federal High Court of Justice. Proceedings are ongoing. In response to filing the case, the University now requires students to sign a form consenting to the pregnancy test, yet such consent cannot be considered voluntary given that students cannot graduate without taking such a test.

SLOVAKIA

Date examined by the CEDAW Committee : 14 July 2008

Discrimination against Roma women :

The Slovak Government has failed to properly address and rectify the situation concerning Roma women who are exposed to constant pervasive prejudice and discrimination, in particular in reproductive and maternal health services. There is documented evidence showing that public hospitals segregate Roma women (placing them in « Gypsy Rooms ») and of verbal and physical abuse of Roma women by doctors and nurses, who refer to the women as « dirty, stinky gypsies » or « young whores ». Even more disturbing, Romani women have been subjected to forced and coerced sterilization. The Slovak government fails to respond or conduct an effective and transparent investigation into these practices.

The Delegation :

Ingrid Ginova is a Romani woman from Slovakia. Victim of forced sterilization, she has been litigating her case before the Slovak courts since 2003. Ms Ginova is a member of the Poradna ´s Advisory Board and advocates for justice for victims of forced sterilisation.

Vanda Durbakova works for the Slovakian NGO Poradna, FIDH’s partner organisation in Slovakia, as an attorney in law since 2003, specialising in anti- discrimination. She provides legal representation in national proceedings and before the European Court of Human Rights to Romani women victims of forced sterilizations in Slovakia.

Barbora Bukovska is a lawyer and member of Poradna. She is co-author of Poradna´s report Body and Soul from 2003, she litigates the cases of forced sterilization in front of the European Court on Human Rights and participated on advocacy activities regarding this issue in front of the national and international bodies.


Testimonies from victims of forced sterilisation

In January 2000, when she was 16 years old, Ms X was sterilized during a cesarean section delivery of her second child in a hospital in Krompachy. The sterilization was performed after she came to the hospital in a progressed labor and she gave birth shortly afterwards. It was not until several years later, in 2003, that Ms. X discovered that she had been sterilized, after she and her lawyer examined her medical records from her hospital stay. Ms. X does not remember giving her consent to the sterilization. In any case, Slovak law requires the consent of a legal guardian to the intervention because Ms. X was a minor at the time of sterilization.

Ms. Y, at the age of 30, was sterilized during a cesarean delivery of her fourth and fifth children (twins) in 2002 at a hospital in Krompachy. It was her first delivery performed via cesarean section and the sterilization was performed after she came to the hospital in a progressed labor. Ms. Y was not informed abut the nature of sterilization before it had been performed, its consequences or alternative contraception methods. She only remembers the physician giving her a document to sign when she was released from the hospital seven days later. Only then did the physician inform her that the sterilization had been performed. Ms. Y had not given her prior informed consent to the intervention. Her medical file contains a statement that she requested sterilization for « medical reasons », however, it fails to specify the nature of such grounds.

All the members of the delegations are available for interviews. Please contact :

Julie Gromellon : jgromellon@fidh.org

Mona Patel : monapatel1@gmail.com ; (248)790-6264

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