Press Releases

                                                                                        8 July 2004

    Women’s Parity in Government, Eliminating Domestic Violence Among Issues, as Anti-Discrimination Committee Considers Spain’s Fifth Report

    NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- While the inclusion of so many women in the Spanish Cabinet was a forceful message for Europe and the rest of the world, the expansion of parity to other parts of the Government left much to be desired, members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women agreed, as they considered the situation of women in that country in two meetings today.

    The Committee’s 23 members, acting in their personal capacities, monitor compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Spain ratified the Convention in 1984 and signed the Optional Protocol, which allows individual women or groups of women to petition the Committee, in 2001.

    Introducing Spain’s fifth periodic report, Soledad Murillo-de-la-Vega, Secretary-General of Equality Policies, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, stressed that her Government was fully devoted to parity and did not just pay lip service.  Currently, there were eight women ministers with important budget responsibilities.  There were also measures in place so men and women could share family responsibilities.

    The judiciary had been strongly feminized, a member of the Spanish delegation noted.  Out of 4,000 judges, 42 per cent were women.  However, Spain was far from achieving parity in the government decision-making bodies.  Seventeen higher courts had no women judges.  Out of the 52 presidencies of provincial hearing chambers, only a few were women.  In the highest court, out of 97 magistrates, there were only 2 women justices. For the first time, however, a woman was appointed to the highest level, the presidency of the Constitutional Court. 

    The expert members of the Committee agreed that Spain’s achievements in putting women in Government needed to be replicated in other high-level decision-making positions, including the judiciary and diplomatic service.  They also questioned measures to ensure parity in political parties, including efforts to amend Spain’s electoral law.  If the Convention took precedence among domestic legislation, the expert from Algeria noted, then the Government could apply parity and equality fully by obliging political parties to have equality in political nominations.  Rather than instituting a quota policy, amending the electoral law would be useful, she said. 

    Eliminating discrimination against women in the labour market was a real challenge for the new Government, the expert from Cuba noted.  With women’s pay some 30 per cent lower than men’s, and with 80 per cent of women working part-time jobs because they could not find full-time employment, the situation facing Spanish women today was still very difficult.  The issue of equal pay for work of comparable worth also needed to be addressed.

    Experts also expressed concern at increased incidents of violence against women.  In that regard, the expert from Mexico stressed the need for Spain’s new draft bill on gender violence to include a definition of violence that applied to both the private and public spheres.  While commending Spain’s Government for steps it had taken to address the issue, she was concerned at news reports of women being killed by their partners. That was painful and tragic, particularly when the abuse of power applied to a relationship that was supposed to be based on love, respect and trust. 

    Responding to that issue, a member of Spain’s delegation noted that with the bill on gender violence, public authorities were committed to completely eliminating the “worst social scourge in Spain”.  In 2003, major legal reforms were undertaken to better combat gender and family violence and provide better protection for victims.  The bill, which was still being amended, contained provisions regarding education, training, the media, as well as protection measures.  Violence against women in the public sphere was already covered under the country’s Penal Code.

    Several experts asked for clarification regarding the relationship between the central Government and the autonomous communities.  For example, the expert from the Netherlands wondered how it was possible to guarantee that human rights treaties were fully complied with in all parts of the country. 

    Another member of the delegation stated that international treaties, once ratified, became part of domestic legislation.  The Convention had been ratified and published in the official State journal, and was, therefore, binding at the national level throughout the territory of Spain, including over autonomous communities.  If there was a discrepancy between the legal actions of an autonomous community and those of the central Government, the Government had powers to require that its actions have precedence over that of the autonomous community.

    Also participating in Spain’s delegation was Montserrat Comas-d’Argemir Cendra, President of the Observatory of Domestic and Gender Violence; Florentina Alvarez Alvarez, Observatory for Equal Opportunities; Mariano Alvaro Page, the Women’s Institute; Paloma Alonso, Ministry of Sanitation and Consumption; Paloma Duran y Lalaguna, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations; Juan Chozas, Counsellor, Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C.; Aurelio Fernandez Lopez, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; Susana Vinuelas Alvarez, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; Cecilia Payno de Orive, Women’s Institute and Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; Pilar Alvarado Ballesteros, Ministry of the Interior; Juan Manuel Garcia Bartolome, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and, Mercedes Munoz-Repiso, Ministry of Education and Science.

    The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 8 July, at 10 a.m. to consider the situation of women in Equatorial Guinea.

    The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to consider the fifth periodic report of Spain (document CEDAW/C/ESP/5), which covers the period from 1999 to 2001, as well certain measures taken in 2002. The reservation that Spain entered when it ratified the Convention in 1983 concerning succession to the Spanish crown, remains valid.  In 2001, Spain ratified the Convention’s Optional Protocol.

    The report states that since its publication, the Convention, in accordance with the 1978 Spanish Constitution and its Civil Code, has been part of Spain’s national legal order.  Spain’s Constitutional Court, which has final authority to interpret the Constitution, has, through its decisions, developed a precise doctrine of the meaning of equality and non-discrimination based on sex.  Decisions handed down by the Constitutional Court during the reporting period stress that the specific prohibition against sex-based discrimination includes both direct and indirect discrimination.

    Efforts have been made, the report says, to strengthen policies, programmes and actions to foster the equal participation of women in society.  Along with the Constitutional Court, the Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Constitution’s mandates. The Ombudsman, who has been designated a High Commissioner of the Cortes Generales, is charged with protecting fundamental rights, including the right to equality.  The Ombudsman submits an annual report on his or her work to the Cortes Generales.  The Ombudsman’s most recent report includes the problem of violence against women, non-payment of alimony and child support, the situation of women in prison and the problems of migrant women.

    Given that the Constitution provides for the establishment of autonomous States, a system of autonomous institutions similar to that of the Ombudsman has been developed, the report adds.  The Spanish State is divided into municipalities, provinces and autonomous communities.  One of the powers provided for in the Statutes of Autonomy governing the autonomous communities set forth in the Constitution includes “social assistance” as an aspect of the right to equal opportunities.  Seventeen autonomous communities currently have mechanisms in place to ensure equality of opportunities in their territories.  Municipalities with populations of more than 20,000 must provide social services, either on their own or in association with other agencies.

    Created in 1983, the Institute for Women’s Issues is the autonomous agency responsible for equal opportunity issues within the Administration, the report explains.  The Institute monitors efforts to bring laws in line with the principle of equality by preparing reports on proposed legislation.  It also processes complaints brought by women to the Institute in connection with specific cases of gender-based discrimination.  Operating under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Institute has a Governing Council that coordinates equality policies within different ministerial departments. 

    Coordination with autonomous communities is channelled through the Sectoral Women’s Conference, which has met since 1995, the report says.  That body provides a forum for discussions aimed primarily at achieving maximum consistency in the establishment and application of equal opportunity policies of the State in the autonomous communities.  During the last period, the Institute signed agreements with all the autonomous communities, with the exception of the Basque Country and Navarra, for carrying out programmes and actions targeting women.

    The Institute for Women’s Issues promotes measures aimed at helping to eliminate discrimination against women through a number of plans, including three equal opportunity plans, yearly plans of action on employment and two plans of action on violence against women.  Others include the Vocational Training Plan, the Comprehensive Family Support Plan and the National Plan of Social Participation.  The first Plan of Action on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (1988-1990) called for a review of legislation with a view to eliminating discriminatory legal provisions in legislation, especially in civil, labour and penal matters.  The main purpose of the second Plan (1993-1995) was the adoption of measures for moving from formal equality to genuine equality, that is, to implement affirmative action, particularly with regard to education, training and employment. 

    The third Plan on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (1997-2000) introduced the equality approach to all government policies and promoted the participation of women in all spheres of social life.  That Plan’s goal is to mainstream the equal opportunity dimension in the design, application and monitoring of all policies, measures and actions.  The fourth Plan, which will cover the period until 2006, is based on the guidelines set down in the Community Framework Strategy on Gender Equality (2001-2005), the fundamental purpose of which is to introduce the equal opportunity dimension into all polices and actions carried out within the European Community.  The plan’s main purpose is to include gender mainstreaming in public policies and it will focus, among other things, on promoting equality between men and women in economic life, decision-making and civic life. 

    On the issue of trafficking and prostitution, the report states that Spain is participating with neighbouring countries in discussions on the sexual exploitation of women and children.  According to the Ministry of Interior, in 2001, 362 networks involved in the trafficking of persons were broken up, and 1,223 people arrested.  Some 70 per cent of the victims were from Central and South America, particularly from Colombia, which accounts for 35 per cent of the total number of foreign victims.  Victims from European countries, especially Russia, accounted for about 17 per cent.  Some 13 per cent of victims were from Africa.

    Regarding the issue of social exclusion, the report notes that in Spain, the term “ethnic minorities” refers to the gypsy population.  While there has been a notable change in their status, the gypsy population has traditionally been marginalized from Spanish society.  Despite advances made, part of the gypsy community still has a very low income and lives under conditions of persistent poverty, inequality and social exclusion.  Since 1998, the Institute for Women’s Affairs has cooperated with the General Secretariat for Gypsies Associations in helping gypsy women find jobs and participate more actively in society.

    Concerning domestic violence, the report notes that complaints of domestic violence rose during 2000 by 35 per cent, from 11,890 in 1999 to 16,083 in 2000.  During the reporting period, Plans against domestic violence were implemented with the approval of the Spanish Government.  A second plan against domestic violence was adopted in 2001 for the period 2001-2004, with a budget of some 73 per cent more than the amount provided for in the first plan.  The second plan is designed to continue addressing issues already dealt with in the first plan, namely prevention and awareness raising, legal and procedural measures, assistance and social intervention and research.

    Introduction of Report

    SOLEDAD MURILLO-DE-LA-VEGA, Secretary-General of Equality Policies, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Spain, introduced her country’s fifth periodic report, saying that the organs of the State were encouraged to promote equality.  Among the action plans of her Government were the plan of action for employment, the Comprehensive Family Support Plan and the Social Inclusion Plan.  Affirmative action measures were a priority for her Government.  Affirmative action dealt differently with those suffering from inequality.  It was a common practice in developed countries to establish affirmative action policies, which were temporary in nature and would cease when the situation improved. 

    Regarding roles and stereotypes, she said that the Women’s Institute had organized programmes to promote equality and a balanced image of women in the media, not a stereotyped image that connected women only to the domestic sphere.  Public campaigns had drawn attention to the problem.  The Institute supported research on the human rights of women, and had conducted meetings on gender issues.  The Observatory for Equality, created in 2000 and whose objectives included progress on gender equality and social policy, paid particular attention to the image of women and stereotypes. 

    She stressed the importance of the establishment of the Secretariat on Equal Opportunities Policy, which aimed to advance the full mainstreaming of women by introducing and developing equality units in the various ministries.  Her Government was fully devoted to parity and did not just pay lip service.  Currently, there were eight women ministers with important budget responsibilities.  There were also measures in place so men and women could share family responsibilities.  The Government was also firmly committed to a protection system to guarantee quality social services.  Another priority was to pay attention to those in obvious vulnerable situations, such as women of immigrant and minority communities.  Immigration was a growing phenomenon in her country.  In 2003, there were 2.6 million immigrants in Spain, 45 per cent of whom were women.

    Irrespective of the situation, she continued, immigrants had guarantees, including free access to health, reproductive health and delivery, education up to age 16, and legal aid in cases of maltreatment.  Other vulnerable women included those who were caretakers and handicapped.  One important problem was trafficking in women and minors, a crime which had increased considerably both in her country and in surrounding countries.  Prostitution, considered a crime under Spanish law, constituted an aspect of that problem, which must be approached from different angles and in an integrative manner. 

    Turning to violence against women, she noted that 90 per cent of the victims who died from gender-related violence had an intimate relationship with the aggressor.  The integral law on gender violence, a bill currently under consideration, specialized in aiding those victims.  An intimate relationship presupposed the difficulty involved in rehabilitating the aggressor, as well as impunity on the part of the aggressor.  The Government was undertaking consultative debates with civil society to work on that bill, which she hoped would come into force in early 2005.

    Expert’s Questions, Comments

    Following the introduction of the oral report, Committee Chairperson AYSE FERIDE ACAR, also an expert from Turkey, said the presentation provided additional information on the situation of women in Spain, as well as a perspective of the Spanish Government’s approach to gender equality and the elimination of discrimination against women. The presentation reflected the roots and the range of discrimination against women in Spain. She congratulated Spain for having ratified the Optional Protocol in 2001.

    FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, said she had long been impressed by Spanish women’s dynamism and resolve to be equal.  She asked for information on the impact of decentralization on women’s rights under the Constitution. She asked how, at both the national and autonomous community level, the Convention was being publicized.  She also wanted to know what method had been adopted for preparing the fifth report.  Had the report been submitted to Parliament for its views?  How did the Government plan to inform people about today’s dialogue?   The equal number of women in the new Spanish Government had impressed many European countries, which was evidence of Spain’s political will.  There were, however, very few women in local-level government.  What methods were being planned to encourage women’s participation at the level of local councils?

    MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, congratulated Spain for its pioneering role in the region, including its adoption of a global plan for equality as early as the 1980s, before the Beijing Conference, as well as its strong autonomous national machinery.  In that regard, she asked for elaboration on new developments in the national machinery for equality.  In particular, she wanted to know if the work of the Secretary-General for Equality applied to all types of equality or specifically to gender equality.  Regarding the various equality plans, she noted a gap of several years between the third plan, which had been adopted after Beijing, and the fourth plan, adopted in 2003.  Why had there been a three-year lapse of time between the plans? 

    On the issue of stereotypes, which was one of the root causes of gender-based violence and the situation of women in the labour force, she noted that studies had been undertaken to address gender-based stereotypes.  However, the matter of reconciliation was seen in some parts of the report -- not all -- as an issue linked to women, as if it were their main business.  Was reconciliation a women’s issue or did it have to with the structural organization of society?

    GÖRAN MELANDER, expert from Sweden, asked about the status of the Convention in domestic law.  Were there any legal cases in which the Convention had been invoked and the Court had made direct reference to it?   On the issue of refugees and gender-based prosecution, there were cases in which it was impossible for the woman to return to her country of origin.  Could she, under Spanish law, be recognized as a convention refugee in such circumstances? 

    AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, expert from Mexico, addressed the issue of violence against women.  While the problem of violence against women was not increasing in itself, as such, there was greater awareness of it, both publicly and privately.  Until recently, violence in the family had been seen as a purely private matter.  She commended Spain’s Government for the steps it had taken in that respect.  In the last few months, there had been much in Spanish news about incidents of women being killed by their partners.   That was painful and tragic, particularly when the abuse of power applied to a relationship that was supposed to be based on love, respect and trust.  She was grateful for the explanation of the new law against violence, which was still being amended.  She was concerned, however, at news that the definition of violence was being amended.  In that respect, she wondered if the Government could use the definition of violence to apply to the private and public sphere, so that the law would have greater impact.

    HANNA BEATE SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, noted that the replies to the written questions posed by the Committee were provided by the previous Government.  She was disturbed by the reply of the previous Government concerning its attitude towards the amendment regarding the Committee’s meeting time.  She pointed out that the Committee dealt with the Convention that had the second highest number of ratifications, and did not understand what kept Spain from accepting that amendment. 

    She also wanted to hear more about the current status of the Women’s Institute vis-à-vis the General Secretariat on Equal Opportunities Policy.  Who was responsible for overall gender mainstreaming in the Government?  While she was pleased at the number of efforts in the area of affirmative action, she felt there was some confusion between general policies and temporary measures to accelerate de facto equality for women. 

    KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, wanted to know more about monitoring of gender action plans. She was a bit disappointed about the non-governmental organization presence in the presentation of the report.  Normally, women’s non-governmental organizations accompany the official delegation and even provide parallel reports to the Committee.  She was also interested to know what the problem was regarding women in prison, and what the current Government was doing about it.  Also, what did the Government plan to do about the problem of non-payment of alimony and child support? In addition, were there training programmes for lawyers for bringing cases under the Optional Protocol before the Committee?  Furthermore, she wanted the delegation to “set the record straight” about Spain’s plans regarding the legalization of prostitution.

    CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, wondered how it was possible to guarantee that human rights treaties were fully complied with in all parts of the country.  What happened if autonomous communities were not willing to comply with the Convention or if they adopted policies not compatible with the Convention?  How could the Government ensure that the Convention was fully complied with? 

    DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, asked if the report had been formally adopted by the Government before being sent to the Committee.  Also, would the Committee’s concluding comments be sent to the Government for implementation?  She noticed that the report did not contain statistical data disaggregated by sex and ethnicity.  It was important to collect disaggregated data by ethnicity to observe the status of women belonging to different groups. She hoped that the next report would include more data disaggregated by sex and ethnicity.  On the legal position of the Convention, she asked if the Convention was part of the country’s legal order. If a conflict arose between the Convention and national law, which took precedence? 

    HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, wanted to know whether there had been an increase in the budget, in terms of a gender-responsive budget. Had there been a commitment in money for gender equality?  The integral law on gender violence should include all aspects of violence, in addition to the issue of domestic violence.  Would all those issues be included?  If not, the bill should be renamed as the law on violence in the family and intimate relationships.  In terms of content, the law should have a number of components, including punishment, protection and job training for divorced women.

    Country Response

    Responding to experts’ comments, Ms. MURILLO-DE-LA-VEGA thanked the experts for their comments on the need of dialogue with non-governmental organizations. There had been consultations with those organizations on the integral law on gender violence. That dialogue would continue within the context of the Cortes Generales. The name of the law represented a problem, which had been the first draft bill submitted by the Government to the NGOs.  Women’s organizations had thought it was necessary to change the title of the bill and a compromise had been reached.  The new title encompassed all types of violence, including physical, social and sexual, and broadened the limits of affectionate relationships.  She would convey to the Government the experts’ comments that the title of the law follow its content. 

    The composition of the Government was very specific, she said.  While the autonomous communities had decision-making power for specific competencies, the law depended on the central Government, however.  Coordination with the autonomous communities took place through various channels, including standing working groups within the Women’s Institute.  The autonomous communities diagnosed the specific needs within their territories and implemented social policies adapted to the characteristics of their populations.  There was a continuous flow of resources between the national Women’s Institute and the Equality Institutes in all the autonomous communities.  Reciprocity, neutral information and cross-cutting procedures were followed.  Dialogue with the machinery within the autonomous communities was perfectly harmonious. 

    A representative of the Ministry of the Interior noted that her Ministry was in charge of specific training of the police force, including the autonomous police.  Under the law, the police were specifically trained in international treaties and agreements.  None of Spain’s laws ran counter to the international treaties ratified by Spain and Spanish police were trained specifically to deal with minorities, the elderly, youth and women from ethnic minorities.  Training was not only offered to new police recruits, but also to police and civil guards.  Since 1986, there had been specific concrete groups in the national police and civil guard devoted to women and child victims of violence.  Those groups received constant training and adapted to any legislative changes.  While there was room for improvement, the country was making progress.  The new law on domestic violence would provide better coverage for the victims.

    On the question of women’s trafficking, she noted that a broader term, namely trafficking of human persons for sexual purposes, was now being used.  Spain did have an organic law on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain.  Foreigners who were victims of trafficking, especially women, could be exempt from administrative accountability.  They did not have to be expelled if they complained to the relevant authorities about those who conducted trafficking.  Those victims who were forced into prostitution that came forth with information to security forces could also remain in Spain.  At their request, victims could either return to their country of origin or remain in Spain.  Spain had a witness protection programme.  The status of refugees had more to do with their political reasons for leaving a country.  She stressed the important work by non-governmental organizations in welcoming victims in their own languages.

    Another member of the delegation drew attention to detailed information provided in the country report on the elimination of racial discrimination.  The Government had not been able to provide breakdowns in terms of ethnicity, as that was regarded as racism.  While it had information on both nationals and non-nationals, it did not provide information broken down on the basis of race or ethnicity. 

    Providing data on immigration, another member of the delegation said that, according to the most recent data, 6 per cent of the total population were foreigners.  The phenomenon of immigration into Spain had been a recent one, since the late 1990s.  In 2002, there was an increase of over 600,000 immigrants into the country.  There were now 2.6 million persons with foreign nationality residing in Spain, over 40 per cent of whom were women.  Since 1999, there had been a quadrupling of immigrants into Spain. 

    That increase, she continued, had not been balanced throughout the territory.  There had been autonomous communities with a large number of immigration, such as Madrid and Valencia, while others did not have much immigration at all.  The country with the largest number of its citizens in Spain was Ecuador, with over 390,000 nationals, followed by Morocco and Colombia.  Spain had a modest fertility rate of 1.3 per cent, which was an increase over the rate in earlier years.  In terms of birth by nationality, the largest birth rate was among Moroccans, followed by Ecuadorians.

    Responding to questions regarding the status of the Convention, another member of the Spanish delegation said that international treaties, once ratified, became part of domestic legislation.  The Convention had been ratified and published in the official State journal, and was, therefore, binding at the national level throughout the territory of Spain, including over autonomous communities.  The Convention was part of the training for the judiciary, beginning in law school.

    The Convention was part of national legislation and all subsequent laws were adapted to the provisions of the Convention.  A Spanish citizen, if he or she felt there was a national law contrary to the Convention, could bring that matter to the court and ask for direct application of the Convention.  If there was a discrepancy between the legal actions of an autonomous community and those of the central Government, the Government had powers to require that its actions have precedence over that of the autonomous community.

    Public authorities were committed, with the bill on gender violence, to completely eliminating family and gender violence.  There were already laws on domestic violence.  In 2003, major legal reforms were undertaken to better combat gender and family violence and provide better protection for victims.  The bill was still being amended, and with it the Government wanted to take another step forward to deal with the “worst social scourge in Spain”, violence against women within the family.  The new bill contained provisions regarding education, training, the media, as well as protection measures.  Violence against women in the public sphere was already covered under the country’s Penal Code.

    On the amendment to Article 20 (1) of the Convention, another member said Spain had always lauded the Committee’s work.  Spain was the first country to host a seminar on the Optional Protocol.  It had also co-sponsored all General Assembly resolutions relevant to the Convention.  Due to the increased number of ratifications, the Committee’s working methods needed reform.  Improvements in the Committee’s working methods, however, needed to be carried out bearing in mind the other treaty bodies.  Spain was prepared to support the reform so that the Committee could review all reports.  A brief debate was needed on the matter, however.

    Another member took the floor to explain the various consecutive equality policies. The time lapse between the end of the third plan and the adoption of the fourth plan  -- two years and three months -- was practically the same as the time lapse between the other plans. Following the adoption of the plan, one year was devoted to evaluation.  During the second year, the process of preparing the next plan began. 

    On the assessment of the plans, he said both quantitative assessments and qualitative assessments of the plans were carried out.  Quantitative assessments included objective information from secondary sources on stereotypes, values and attitudes.  Qualitative assessment included in-depth interviews with the people responsible for implementing the plans. Regarding the structure of the Women’s Institute, he noted that it was organized into three units. 

    Concerning the number of women in prisons, he noted that in 1999, there were some 24,000 persons in prisons, of whom some 8.44 per cent were women. There were currently some 47,500 persons in prison, of whom 8.21 per cent were women.  Those women were particularly vulnerable and were, therefore, being targeted for experimental action programmes.

    Regarding interaction between the Government and the autonomous communities, he said plenary meetings were held with the autonomous communities with persons responsible for equal opportunities polices.  They were held once a year for the purposes of planning activities to be carried out throughout the year. Since 2001, six meetings had been held on the violence-related issues.  Particularly noteworthy of cooperation between the two was the programme to subsidize vacation time for women with dependent children under the age of 14. The Women’s Institute paid for their stay in three- or four-star hotels.  The autonomous communities paid for transportation.  Members of the Women’s Institute monitored the programme and travelled at the beginning and end of vacations.  All communities participated in that programme.

    Experts’ Questions and Comments

    Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said that the present general election law did not contain provisions for women candidates in the electoral lists of political parties.  Had there been any efforts to amend the general election law to address that issue?  What exactly was the scope of the freedom of political parties?  Could not the Government impose on them the obligation to include both men and women in their party lists? 

    MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, applauded the Government on the number of female ministers appointed.  She noted that judges were also appointed and that the Government should apply the “one man, one woman” principle in appointing judges.  In addition, the electoral law should be amended.  If the Convention takes precedence among domestic legislation, then the Government could apply parity and equality fully by obliging political parties to have equality in political nominations.  Rather than instituting a quota policy, amending the electoral law would be useful.  She also expected Spain to apply the one-man, one-woman principle in choosing diplomats at the international level.  She pointed out that Rwanda had 50 per cent women in its parliament.

    Mr. MELANDER, expert from Sweden, noted that the Government provided grants to political parties to meet expenses.  However, financing was not used as a mechanism to achieve gender parity in electoral lists.  Why not?

    Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, congratulated Spain on the number of women ministers in the current Government.  Was the current Government going to change the electoral law to ensure parity?  On the percentage of women in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report indicated that there were only three female ambassadors.  What was the current number of female ambassadors?  What were the plans of the Government to increase that number, as well as to increase the number of women in the diplomatic corps?

    Country Response

    Ms. MURILLO-DE-LA-VEGA said the socialist party had established a policy of quotas.  As usual, affirmative action led to resistance.  Men and women were, for the first time, in a democratic situation and there was no possibility of moving ahead on the basis of past competence.  Political parties were autonomous.  According to the law of association, political parties had a constitutional mission and, therefore, independence in decision-making. 

    Another representative of the delegation said that, from a legal standpoint, the new Government, with its new political configuration, could -- if it agreed to -- withdraw the recourse with which the previous Spanish Government had challenged legislative autonomous agreements.  The Government was currently deciding on whether to maintain the recourse, or to withdraw it, with the understanding that it was competent to take both decisions.  If the Government decided to withdraw the two recourses brought before the Constitutional Court, that Court would not be able to go into the substance of the matter. 

    Regarding Spain’s judiciary, she said it was true that the judiciary had been strongly feminized.  Out of 4,000 judges, 42 per cent were women.  However, Spain was far from achieving parity in the government decision-making bodies.  Seventeen higher courts had no women judges.  Out of the 52 presidencies of provincial hearing chambers, only a few were women.  The appointment of decision-making posts for the judiciary was done at the local level.  In the highest court, out of 97 magistrates, there were only 2 women justices.  For the first time however, a woman was appointed to the highest level, the presidency of the Constitutional Court.  A woman jurist had been named to that position 15 days ago.  She believed it was a sign of modernity, democratic normalcy and progress towards parity and justice, as that Court was the highest legal.

    On the question of the diplomatic corps, another member agreed that the percentage of women in the diplomatic service was low, namely 13 per cent.  Measures were needed in that area.  Women had only been entering the Foreign Service since the late 1970s. There were currently three women ambassadors.  In the previous administration, the Minister for Foreign Affairs was a woman.  There was currently a minimal number of women in the decision-making level in foreign affairs.

    Experts’ Questions and Comments

    MARIA YOLANDA FERRER GOMEZ, expert from Cuba, said that equality for women in the labour field was a real challenge for the new Government, given the discrimination to date in that area.  For example, women’s pay was 30 per cent lower than men’s.  Today, the situation was still very difficult.  According to data, 80 per cent of women were working part-time because they could not find full-time employment.  Also, women’s unemployment was still double that of men.  In addition, women’s pay was still lower than men’s for work of equal value.  She wanted more information about how the Government sought to remedy that situation and what were the prospects for complying with article 11 (employment) of the Convention.  She also wanted to know more about the health situation of women.

    SALMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, recalled that there was a plan in 1997 to address the situation of women in the labour force in Europe.  How many jobs were created through that plan and how many of them were targeted towards women?  Also, what measures were taken so women could have access to those jobs?  In terms of wage differences, she suggested that the Government refer to recommendation no. 13 of the Committee.  She also requested information on the granting of asylum on the basis of gender violence and on the mental health of women.  Also, was violence against women considered a health issue?

    NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, wanted to know what efforts were being taken to integrate refugee women into society.  While she noted that Spain had acceded to various human rights conventions, she did not see a reference to the convention on migrant workers.  What were the Government’s views on that convention?  Also, what was being done for rural women? Noting that Spain had a high percentage of older women, she wanted to know how the Government was dealing with them.

    Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, echoed the concerns of other experts concerning women in the labour market.  Did the Government have data to show that women in the informal sector could live on the wages they earned or whether they were dependent on their husbands?  In addition, she did not have a clear overall picture of the situation of rural women.  How did women’s wages in the agricultural sector compare to men’s?  What was the percentage of legal and illegal migrant women workers in the agricultural sector?  She was concerned by the fact that rural women had more difficulties in accessing health care due to distance problems.

    Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, recalled that the Committee had requested information from Spain on the number and types of courses on gender education at universities. There were only a few lines devoted to that issue in the report. She was gratified to know that all universities had seminars on the issue of gender and it would be useful to have more information in the next report on that issue.  It would also be useful to carry out a study on the participation of girls in higher education.  She noticed that the participation of girls and boys was balanced until the university level.  What had been done to remedy the lack of women at the higher levels of education?

    Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, asked the delegation to reply to her previous question regarding the way the Government planned to address prostitution.  In the area of health, she noted that there was a significant increase in the number of abortions, around 60,000.  Why was it that almost 60,000 women were getting pregnant against their will?  Why did they not have real control over their bodies?  

    Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, wanted further information on the integration of Roma girls in the educational system.  Was there integration or segregation of Roma children in schools?  She also requested information on the drop-out rates for Roma girls, as well as data on the number of early marriages. 

    PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, noted several disturbing reports about discrimination against Roma girls and their segregation.  What measures were envisaged by the current Government to give more access to Roma children?  Was there any training for teachers on the specificities of minority communities?  To what extent were teachers aware of the Convention?  Also, what measures were envisaged to reduce the significant pay gaps between men and women? More specific information was requested on the implementation of the measure regarding equal pay for equal work.  Did the new Government intend to improve monitoring of wage discrimination? 

    Delegation’s Responses

    On access to employment and wage gaps between men and women, a member of the Spanish delegation pointed out that, when compared with other countries of the European Union, the employment and unemployment rates in Spain were more negative than in other European countries.  At the same time, those differences had been growing smaller in the past few years.  The employment volume had been increasing significantly since 1995.  Spain had, along with Ireland, the best data and the highest number of jobs created.  Within the overall improvement in employment, the clear majority of jobs created had gone to women. 

    The total number of women employed since 1997 was 40 per cent, he continued.  More than 1.4 million women had new jobs and the number of unemployed women had decreased by half.  More and more women had been incorporated into the labour market.  In the last year, more than 311,000 new jobs had been created, most of which had gone to women.  The unemployment rate had been reduced by 2.12 per cent.  Eighty per cent of women in the labour force had full-time jobs, while 20 per cent had part time jobs. 

    Regarding the wage gap, he noted that, for the majority of jobs, it was not the Government that set the wages.  In the private sector, businessmen and trade unions freely decided wages for workers.  It was true that there was a difference in wages for men and women, which was based on different factors, such as the size of the company, seniority and age. It was an area of concern not only for the Government, but also for social agencies.  The inclusion of women in the labour market happened later in Spain than in other European countries.  They were concentrated in the service sector, often in smaller companies. 

    He added that the National Statistics Institute would be carrying out an in-depth study on the issue in the near future.  The labour law prohibited any discrimination in access to employment.  He also noted a growing number of female workers in the agricultural sector, particularly from the immigrant community.

    Another member of the delegation addressed the situation of rural women in the agricultural sector.  The Ministry of Agriculture had implemented several programmes and measures to address the issue, which had long been a concern. He noted that rural women had also undergone social transformations.  In spite of undeniable improvements of their situation, there were differences among rural women in the different territories. Problems arising from territorial differences included imbalances in productive generational groups.  Maintaining women in the rural agricultural sectors was difficult.  According to the 2003 census, some 18 per cent of women lived in rural areas smaller than 2,000 in habitants.  Despite the strong urbanization process in Spain, some one million women in Spain worked in agrarian-related jobs. Most women employed in the agricultural sector were found in the autonomous provinces. The role of women in those regions was fundamental. The immigrant population was also indispensable to that sector. 

    The Women’s Institute had historically been concerned with implementing policies to promote women in the rural sectors, he added. The main problem of agriculture in Spain was the generation gap.  As men were not marrying or reproducing, highly skilled, young agricultural women were becoming incorporated into agrarian activities. Regional development policies supported the participation of women in rural development programmes and an important number of women had received aid in rural areas.  In the rural areas of Spain there were some 7,000 municipalities that had less than 2,000 inhabitants.  There had been a greater participation of women in local councils and as mayors.

    Turning to health, another member of the delegation said that the health system had been evaluated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the seven best in the world. She noted that women would go to primary health care centres as soon as they felt sick. Fifty-three per cent of hospital patients were women.  Most of the emergency services were provided to women. Statistics showed that women went to health centres more frequently than men. 

    She said it was not true that access to health services by immigrant women was difficult, as had been stated by one Committee member. Immigrants, legal or illegal, had a right to health care in Spain.  That was not the case in other European countries, she pointed out.  The consumption of alcohol and tobacco was primarily among men.  While women consumed more tranquilizers than men, it was also the case that they faced depression and anxiety three times more than men. Suicide and schizophrenia were higher in men than in women.  Mental health care was one of the basic benefits of the national health system in all the different autonomous communities.  Recently, the Observatory of Health for Women was created, and began work with a budget of nine million euros.  

    Regarding access to health care in rural areas, she said that centres were established in rural areas and the time taken to travel to such a centre should be no more than 10 to 15 minutes. She highlighted the presence of family planning services in various health centres, and the carrying out of information campaigns among adolescents regarding protection, including the use of condoms. 

    In the area of education, a member of the delegation noted that 50 years ago women accounted for only 15 per cent of university students.  Today, 50 per cent of university students were women. She added that, while women began their doctoral studies, they often did not complete their dissertation at the rate that men did.  So progress was slow but regular. 

    With regard to gypsy girls, she said gypsy children were Spanish in every sense of the word and were enrolled in education at all levels. They were never referred to as gypsy children. They were enrolled just like any other children. However, she was aware of the drop-out problem among gypsy children, particularly girls, due to a culture of early marriage. There had been efforts to reduce drop-out rates through such measures as incentives and tutorials. A study was being carried out on incentives that might encourage gypsy girls to stay in school.

    On the issue of elderly women, another member of the delegation noted recent measures to improve the pension system, including an increase in pensions. Over one million women were currently entitled to pension benefits. They had also been improvements in minimum pensions and pensions for widows.  The Government had recently ratified the increase of minimum pensions to 26 per cent.  The increase would affect some 200,000 retired persons, including women in rural areas.  About 375,000 women received minimum widows’ pensions. There was also a need to eliminate the obstacles to membership in special regimes for self-employed women.  Changes had also been made for women over 45 years of age to receive special benefits as self-employed workers. 

    The new Government had made a firm budgetary commitment to building a social security system for independent workers, another representative said.

    Regarding the convention on migrant workers, another delegate said Spain attributed great importance to the human rights of migrant people and was trying to improve legislation in that respect for the full integration of migrants. The recent visit to Spain of the Special Rapporteur for migrant workers was proof of Spain’s goodwill for improving the status of migrant workers. Spain had not ratified the convention, as many of its provisions were incorporated in other treaties. Based on those treaties, Spain was committed to respecting the right of migrant workers. 

    Experts’ Questions and Comments

    ROSARIO MANALO, expert from the Philippines, said that the Committee had received information about impunity relating to violence against women, in particular a lack of diligence in investigations; lack of control over those convicted; lack of effective protection for women victims of violence; and lack of reparations for victims.  What measures would the Government undertake to remedy that situation, and within what period of time?

    HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, said she wanted to know whether the legislative modifications in recent years were applicable in the same way in the autonomous areas.  Also, had the Convention been used by the justice system or directly by judges? 

    Delegation’s Response

    A member of the delegation said that for many years now in Spain there had been a commitment on the part of the Government to eradicate violence against women.  An expression of that commitment was the creation of the Observatory on Domestic and Gender Violence, the main objective of which was to work with a sample of 12,000 judicial decisions and resolutions in which measures to protect the victims had been adopted. That information had been collected and follow-up work had now begun.  The conclusions would be ready in about three months and would be made public, as well as provided to the Committee. 

    She said she did not agree with those that believed there was impunity for those that committed violence against women. Spain had copied the European Union model, by which domestic violence had to be treated as a crime and penalties had to be complied with.  It was not true that there was a lack of control regarding sentences that were not complied with. There was also no lack of protection of victims of domestic violence, or any act of violence in her country.

    On cooperation with the autonomous communities in the area of violence, another member of the delegation pointed to the working groups and meetings held between the Government and those communities. A report was written every year, dealing with subjects such as activities in raising awareness and resources. The autonomous areas also had powers to legislate on those issues. The final version of the report would soon be provided to the Committee.

    Experts’ Comments and Questions

    Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, said that constructive dialogue in accordance with the Convention did not mean reference to available materials. While those materials might satisfy her craving for information, it was not a part of constructive dialogue. In that respect, she asked about the Government’s plans with regard to prostitution. She had heard that brothels had been legalized in Catalonia.  She did not know if her information was false and wanted to set the record straight.

    Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked if the proposed legislation on the integral law on domestic violence would contain preventive education for men and boys. Compared to the previous government, had there been increase in the budget for issues related to gender equality?

    Ms. ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, noted that as Spain had ratified the Optional Protocol, a Spanish citizen could turn to the Convention to begin an investigation. Was bringing a case to the Constitutional Court the last possible procedure or was it a request for protection? she asked. 

    Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked about the status and scope of the General Secretariat on Equality.  In particular, she wanted to know if the Secretary-General was a ministerial post.  She also asked the delegation to describe cooperation between the General Secretariat and the Women’s Institute.  On the issue of Spain’s reservation to the Convention, was there any intention of reviewing the reservation on the question of succession to the throne? 

    Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, noted that the national reporting process was important for the Convention’s implementation.  Had the report been presented to the Parliament?  The organization of the process was important, she noted.

    Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, asked that Spain’s next report include information on equal pay for work of comparable worth.

    Country Response

    Responding, a member of the delegation said prostitution had generated an important debate in Spain.  Certain communities were finding ways to address the complex problem.  An important aspect of the debate was the regulation of prostitution. The Government had not taken any measure without consulting the organizations involved in the matter.  It was important to listen to arguments that were in favour of regularizing prostitution. Regarding Catalonia, there had been no legislation as such, but there was a debate on the topic. The Catalonian Government’s position was closer to legalization.  It was an issue requiring a social study that took into account the respect for human rights. 

    Another member, also addressing the issue, noted that prostitution in Spain did not constitute a crime.  Women were not considered criminals, but victims.  Procurers were considered criminals. Catalonia had legalized the opening of certain establishments to regulate hygiene, for example. It was an administrative regulation in which prostitution might be carried out. The regularization of those establishments would never be allowed in private homes.  Prostitution was a reality that existed around the world and was related to the issue of transnational organized crime.

    Another member of the delegation said that the ministries were responsible for implementing policies and must include planning for equality.  Gender mainstreaming must become a reality within the central nucleus of the Government.  All the ministries had units dedicated to equality, and each unit depended on the General Secretariat for the Equality of Women.

    Regarding employment, another member said that several studies were being carried out on the issue of wage differences.  In many cases, such differences did not relate to discrimination, but to a range of factors.  The Government was legislating to avoid discrimination and he had referred earlier to laws in that regard. 

    Committee Chairperson AYSE FERIDE ACAR thanked the delegation for the information provided.  Members of the Committee had underlined numerous significant accomplishments, as well as of areas of concern regarding the elimination of discrimination against women in Spanish society.  She was most appreciative of steps taken to implement parity in politics in the executive branch.  The inclusion of so many women in the Cabinet was a forceful message for the rest of Europe and the world.  The expansion of parity to other parts of the Government left much to be desired.  There was reason to be concerned about electoral laws, which were discriminatory to women.  She urged the Government to use all its resources, including decisions regarding the allocation of grants to political parties, to ensure that women were included in all party lists.  Spain’s achievements in putting women in Government needed to be replicated in other high-level decision making positions, including the judiciary and diplomatic service. 

    The bottleneck, she continued, lay not only at the top, but also in the cultural fabric of Spanish society.  While there had been significant developments in the integration of women in the labour market, gender discrimination and patriarchal attitudes remained in other areas.  She would like to see evidence of the research undertaken and the measures taken to address gender discrimination, particularly with respect to immigrant communities and rural women, in the next report.  As immigration had increased significantly to Spain, it might be useful to re-evaluate the policy regarding the disaggregation of data on the basis of ethnicity.  Statistics were essential for diagnosing and addressing problems. 

    While she was happy to hear that Spain was committed to eradicating violence against women, she wanted to see in the next report the impact of the measures taken to address the problem.  Concern had been expressed by Committee members about the limited impact of the new integral law on gender violence.  It would be more effective to have a law that covered all forms of violence against women, both in the public and private spheres.  She urged the Government to consider the matter in a holistic perspective.  She also congratulated the Government for ratifying the Optional Protocol as early as 2001.  She reiterated the wish of the Committee that Spain ratify the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention regarding increasing the meeting time for the Committee. 

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