13 July 2005
Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Takes up Lebanon’s Report, Commends Impressive Steps Taken to Promote Gender Equality
Also Urges Elimination of Discrimination in Family Relations, Citizenship, more Attention to Violence against Women
NEW YORK, 12 July (UN Headquarters) -- While commending Lebanon for taking impressive steps to promote gender equality, members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged the country to eliminate discrimination in marital and family relations, as well as citizenship, combat persistent gender stereotypes, and focus more attention on violence against women, as it took up that country’s reports today.
Acting in their personal capacities, the Committee’s 23 expert members monitor compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, often referred to as an “international bill of rights for women”.
Experts expressed particular concern about the country’s reservations to article 16 of the Convention (on marriage and the family), which stemmed from the country’s reliance on religious, rather than civil, laws and courts. Noting that women lived in a patriarchal State, while enjoying Constitutional equality, they questioned whether the country had any concrete plans to reintroduce a failed draft law on civil marriages, or to create a truly lay, non-religious State.
Responding to concerns about article 16, Leila Azouri, of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, said Lebanon was made up of several denominations with their own personal status codes, as well as courts and laws. Adding that the country must overcome that hurdle to pass the law on civil marriages, she assured the Committee that Lebanon possessed the will and the desire to evolve into a society of civil laws.
Experts also highlighted the country’s reservations to article 9 of the Convention (on citizenship), questioning whether Lebanese women who married foreigners could keep their nationality. According to the report, they pointed out, only the father could transfer nationality to his children, which violated women’s rights and was contrary to the Convention. Cornelis Flinterman, expert from the Netherlands, stressed that the Convention obliged States to eliminate such discriminatory provisions from their statutory laws.
Addressing those queries, a Lebanese representative said the primary concern of the country’s legislature was to ensure that every child on Lebanese territory possessed citizenship, which was determined through paternal blood ties. An attempt had been made in the mid-1990s to allow citizenship through a Lebanese mother, but non-governmental organizations had rejected the draft law, due to restrictive conditions attached to it.
Experts also lamented the lack of specific mechanisms to protect women victims of violence, and that investigations into such acts were hindered by traditions of “family privacy”. Noting that the Government had promoted legislation to prevent violence against women, other experts asked about support for battered women, and the existence of training programmes for police, as well as workers in religious courts. They also emphasized the importance of annulling certain articles in the country’s Penal Code, especially those on same-sex activity and honour crimes.
Addressing those comments, Azza Beydoun, of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, said the Government was receptive to discussions about domestic violence, and had shown a willingness to enact laws to combat it and punish the perpetrators. The country had progressed far beyond raising awareness and training to specific programmes aimed at combating violence against women. Adding that more women were reporting such incidents now, she said crimes against women had decreased from 1,519 in 2000 to 332 in 2004.
Regarding honour crimes, she acknowledged that the Penal Code discriminated against women concerning that practice, but said the country planned to amend the Code in favour of gender equality. The Commission was following up work done in that area by the Parliamentarian Committee for Justice, and would persist until the amendment to the Penal Code took honour crimes into consideration.
Several experts also noted the absence of mechanisms for monitoring gender stereotyping in the media and in textbooks, stressing that the Lebanese Government should lay down a firm policy to combat it. Noting that the report had recognized continuing prejudices and patriarchal attitudes, they asked how the Government cooperated with non-governmental organizations to counter the existing mentality, and what measures it was taking to revise school curricula.
Responding, Ms. Beydoun said Lebanon had integrated Convention principles into textbooks to combat stereotyping, but emphasized that the practice was psychological, as well as intellectual. When the Government had reviewed and evaluated that effort, it had discovered that teachers were resisting, even though they had attended training and awareness-raising programmes.
In concluding remarks, Committee Chairperson Rosario Manalo recommended that Lebanon lift its reservations to the Convention as soon as possible, especially to articles 9 and 16. The country should also strive for gender equality in its laws, consider defining discrimination in accordance with the Convention, and ensure that the National Commission for Lebanese Women had sufficient resources to effectively carry out its mandate.
She also noted that violence had been accepted as a way of life in the country, and urged the Government to take serious measures to eradicate it by enacting laws and training judges, lawyers, and the police. Other measures should be taken to address honour crimes, assault, and violence against migrant workers, and to establish a single, secular national court.
Lebanon’s delegation also consisted of Maha Mokaddem, and Ghada Hamdan, also of the National Commission for Lebanese Women.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 July, to consider the combined fourth and fifth reports of Ireland.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to consider Lebanon’s initial and second reports (document CEDAW/C/LBN/1 and 2) on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which it ratified in 1996. The report notes the country’s reservations to the Convention, and covers developments in such areas as legislation, stereotyping, citizenship, employment, rural women, political representation, and education.
Outlining Lebanon’s reservations to Convention article 16 on marital and family relations, the report explains that the country abides by denominational laws and courts, which not only discriminate between men and women, but between citizens themselves. It also expresses reservations to article 9 on citizenship, which is transmitted in the country by paternity, giving the Lebanese husband the right to pass his citizenship to his foreign wife –- a right forbidden to the Lebanese woman. The law also gives foreign women, who have acquired Lebanese citizenship, the right to grant minor children this citizenship after their Lebanese husbands’ death, favouring them over Lebanese women.
As for legislation, recent developments favouring women include the right to conclude contracts and manage their properties; receive health care, including contraception; and sign contracts for credit, real estate and other properties. They are also treated on an equal basis with men before the courts, with the right to sue, be sued, or lodge complaints under their own name. Women and men also have equal rights to freedom of movement and choice of domicile, although traditions and customs restrict women, since their domicile is first their father’s and then their husband’s.
However, the country’s Penal Code still discriminates against women when it comes to honour crimes, adultery, abortion, assault on honour, and prostitution, according to the report. One article, for example, states that a woman shall be considered an adulteress whether the act of adultery had taken place in the marital house or in any other place, whereas the adulterer shall only be punished if the act of adultery had taken place in the marital house, or if he has openly taken to himself a mistress in any place whatsoever.
On gender stereotyping, the report observes that Lebanese law does not expressly “prohibit” either sex from having a job, but widespread stereotyped notions about women and men determine “appropriate” specializations and professions for women, particularly in education and health. Moreover, girls mainly help their mothers, or sometimes replace her in doing chores, which generally affects their schoolwork, when boys devote themselves to studying or playing.
Regarding violence against women, the “sanctity of the home” in Lebanon requires disregard of any violence within, except in exceptional cases when it is considered a misdemeanour or crime. The media has helped to publicize domestic violence and break the wall of silence around it, which has encouraged women to speak out about it, shown by an increase of violence cases filed with security forces. In an effort to assist the victims of such violence, the Lebanese Commission for Fighting Violence against Women was set up in the wake of the Beijing conference -- the country’s sole body concerned with the problem.
In the labour field, women may be denied welfare benefits enjoyed by men, even though women’s contributions are equal to men’s, the report states. Women have also been discriminated against when it comes to health care, hospitalization and other social benefits for family members. In addition, Lebanese labour law prohibits the hiring of women in all mechanical and manual industries, and appoints specific working hours for women.
As for rural employment, the report notes that women agricultural workers are excluded from Lebanese laws, and that no development grants have been allocated to rural areas to improve women’s opportunities. It also observes that women’s contribution to agriculture (11.8 per cent) has been shrinking due to competition, stagnation, decline in incomes, weak incentives and narrow frameworks of participation.
In addition, women go unrecognized in agricultural and economic development plans, despite their significant contribution to production, according to the report. Wages earned by rural women are low compared to the national average, and environmental conditions often poor, with water failing to reach some 40 per cent of them. The report also notes a lack of sewage systems, adding that some waste must be disposed of in open valleys, causing environmental damage and health hazards.
As for political participation, Lebanese women have gained the right to vote, hold public office, elect and be elected in municipal councils. However, the pervasive chauvinistic mentality in the country hinders their efforts at leadership. At the international level, regulations stipulate that female candidates for Foreign Service third category posts must be unmarried, and forbids wives of Foreign Service employees to work. Women have the right to participate in diplomatic delegations, but representation is actually delegated to men, even if a conference theme concerns women.
On education, the report observes that primary education is free and compulsory by parliamentary decree, but that the Ministry of Education has yet to ensure a place for each child. Illiteracy rates for girls over 10 reach 16 per cent, compared to about 7.2 per cent for boys, and 20 per cent for women over 15, compared to 10 per cent for men. The percentage of girls registered in higher education has been rising over the past four years, however, and now reaches 51 per cent of the total. According to 1996 statistics, the majority of working women with university degrees specialized in the field of arts and social sciences (30.4 percent), as opposed to economy and business management (18.4 per cent), suggesting that female university entrance is still concentrated in the “feminine fields”.
Presentation of Reports
LEILA AZOURI, member of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, introducing her country’s initial and second reports (CEDAW/C/LBN/1 and CEDAW/C/LBN/2), said that men and women in Lebanon enjoyed equal opportunities with regard to legal services, including legal assistance, which was provided free of charge. They also enjoyed equal rights to acquire, maintain or change their citizenship, and were only required to give up their citizenship if they wished to. If citizenship was given up upon marriage to a foreigner, both sexes could recover it, if that union was dissolved.
Turning to work and social security, she said that Lebanese labour law did not distinguish between men and women on any grounds. The first report had noted some discrimination in social benefits, but those differences had been corrected, as clarified in the second report.
Education was guaranteed to all at the primary, secondary, technical and college levels without discrimination, she said. The law allowed co-education, and that form of schooling overwhelmed single gender education in all regions. Educational facilities also did not discriminate between men and women with regard to curriculum, tests, or the right to educational specialities. Female participation in education had increased at all levels, the degree of illiteracy had decreased, and women had entered specialities that were monopolized by men in the past.
Regarding health, she said women were allowed to benefit from all types of health care, including family planning, without the consent of their spouses. The reports showed tangible improvement in health indicators, especially in the areas of child mortality, women’s mortality during childbirth, and reproductive care. The period between the two reports saw the adoption and implementation of an optional health-care system and a special law for the handicapped.
On political life, she noted that all people had the right to participate in politics and to assume public office, and that women’s participation had increased, as indicated in the reports. Over the past few months, Lebanon had carried out parliamentary elections, which had resulted in a marked rise in the number of women elected -- from three in the 2000 elections to six in 2005 -- as well as an increase in participation.
It was assumed that Lebanon’s new Parliament would continue working to amend the country’s Penal Code, so that it fell more in line with the country’s international commitments. A new measure would require that requests for minor children’s passports be signed by the mother and father. Previously, they were only signed by the father.
As for civil society, she said establishing non-governmental organizations in the country was relatively simple and that the sector had become sizeable, as mentioned in the second report. The State and civil society coordinated their work in many cases, including in the area of violence against women, and especially in the areas of victim protection and enactment of legislation to punish perpetrators.
Experts’ Comments and Questions
The Committee began its discussion with questions concerning the first six articles of the Convention, which cover such issues: as official policy measures taken to eliminate discrimination and ensure full development and advancement of women vis-à-vis their basic human rights on an equal basis with men; temporary measures to achieve equality and government actions to modify cultural discriminatory patterns; and, finally, trafficking and prostitution of women.
NAELA MOHAMED GABR, an expert from Egypt, expressed appreciation for efforts to enact legislation that would promote equality for women. Referring to the failed attempt in the past to introduce a draft law on civil marriages, she asked what was the possibility of the law being re-introduced?
DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Rapporteur, an expert from Croatia, requested clarification of the Convention’s status vis-à-vis the Lebanese Constitution. Was the Convention explicitly included in the preamble in the Constitution and was it applicable in the courts? Also, while she commended the declaration that women’s rights were human rights, reservations were contrary to the main purpose of the Convention. What were the main obstacles to lifting the reservations?
SALMA KHAN, an expert from Bangladesh, said that the explanations offered in the reports for the continuation of the reservations on articles 9 and 16 were confusing and she asked for further information.
ZOU XIAOQIAO, an expert from China, said that it was clear from the report that, while there had been progress, there were still serious discrimination issues. In addition to more information on the legislation asked about, could the Committee be provided with further details on government efforts to publicize the Convention? Also, which specific agency was supervising efforts?
MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, an expert from Portugal, asked whether the issue of gender equality was a real political matter that involved the whole of society or just an issue for only women to be concerned about. Were the stereotypes that were clearly strong really being challenged?
FRANÇOISE GASPARD, an expert from France, noted that the reports submitted did not fully comply with the guidelines and hoped there would be a difference in the future. She asked about the efforts to move forward on the civil marriage bill.
LEILA AZOURI, referring to Lebanon’s reservation to article 16 of the Convention covering marriage and family, said that the fabric of Lebanon was very specific, containing people of many different denominations. The country had been established on the basis of consensus. There was an independence of personal status codes for all the various Lebanese, with each one subject to the courts and laws pertaining to his or her denomination.
As a result, she continued, overcoming that hurdle in order to pass the law on civil marriage was not an easy matter. If not for the 1975 war, perhaps the world would be witnessing a different Lebanon today, with a different level of development and awareness. She could not give a specific time for when the bill on civil marriages might be revived again in Parliament, but she assured the Committee that the will and the desire to evolve into a society of civil laws was there.
Clarifying the status of the Convention within the judicial framework of Lebanon, she said that the Lebanese Constitution superseded all other legal instruments. The Constitution explicitly stipulated equality for women before the law. Furthermore, the preamble to the Constitution made a commitment to the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No new legislative text that might be discriminatory could be passed without being challenged as a result of the foregoing. Concerning the Convention specifically, international law superseded local provisions. Lebanon’s reservations to the Convention, however, had to be taken into account.
As to efforts to promote awareness of the Convention, she said that, upon ratification, the Convention had been published in the gazette and publicized to all branches of government and universities, as well as other interested parties. The Lebanese University had organized a seminar on integrating the Convention into law school curricula.
She said the country’s main concern when preparing the second report was to align it with the style of the first, and incorporate the Committee’s recommendations. The majority of experts who had worked on the report were also members of active non-governmental organizations, and most information included in the report was taken from non-governmental organization literature.
CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, an expert from the Netherlands, asked for clarification on the division of power between the State Constitutional Council and the State Consultative Council. He also asked whether the Consultative Council was aware of Lebanon’s obligations under international conventions. The human rights of women were inclusive and did not exclude any woman, regardless of religion, living place or sexual orientation.
HEISOO SHIN, an expert from the Republic of Korea, asked whether an individual woman could bring a case to the Constitutional Court. She also noted that the country was late in reporting and that a third and fourth report would be due by 2009. In addition, she encouraged the delegation to consult with various women’s organizations in writing the report.
HANNA BEATE SCHÖPP-SCHILLING, an expert from Germany, asked whether the delegation was aware of the statement by the Committee in 1988 that reservations to article 16 went against the purpose of the Convention. In addition, the report failed to indicate a time frame or any negative effects of the country’s reservations to the Convention. Regarding article 9, were there any effects on access to education, health care or other areas?
Regarding reservations on article 16, noting the fragile balance within Lebanon’s religious communities, she asked to what extent the Government had attempted to create discussions within the country’s religious communities, in an effort to stimulate changes to specific laws from within those communities.
SILVIA PIMENTEL, an expert from Brazil, noted that there appeared to be no specific mechanisms to deal with victims of violence. Moreover, no investigations were allowed due to family privacy. The Government had promoted legislative measures to prevent violence against women, but was it planning to adopt a specific strategy? She emphasized the importance of annulling some articles of the Penal Code, especially those on same sex activity and honour crimes.
TIZIANA MAIOLO, an expert from Italy, noted the contradiction between Lebanon as a liberal State and the religious nature of it laws. Women lived in a patriarchal situation, although they were granted equality in the Constitution. Were there any concrete proposals to create a true, lay, non-religious State?
ROSARIO MANALO, an expert from the Philippines, asked for clarification on the relationship between the State Consultative Council and State Constitutional Council.
Ms. AZOURI said the Consultative Council was not really consultative, as such, but the country’s principle legislative and administrative body. The Council could be called upon, for example, if there was a decree from the Office of the Prime Minister that ran counter to legislative text. As for the Constitutional Council, it could annul legislative texts that were out of line with the Constitution or with certain international conventions. There was no direct relationship between the two Councils, and one could not be affected by the decisions of the other.
She added that certain religious sects could call for the annulment of texts that did not comply with the Constitution, and could promulgate laws applicable to their sects. The Constitution gave that freedom to all religious sects.
Women could not table bills to the Constitutions Council, she said, but there was a legislative body working within the framework of the Organization of Arabic Women that was attempting to change that.
On the delay of the current report, she said it had more to do with administration than anything else, and the country’s future report should be prepared by 2006.
As for the country’s reservation under article 9 and the nationality of children, she said the fact that Lebanese women could not pass on nationality to their children had no negative effects on children’s social benefits. There was no discrimination in terms of schooling, or the professions they decided on. They could obtain a work permit, regardless of their mother’s citizenship.
AZZA BEYDOUN, of the Commission for Lebanese Women, responding to questions on domestic violence, said the Government was receptive to discussion about domestic violence, laws to combat it, and punishment for the perpetrators. There were various programmes to combat violence against women, which went far beyond raising awareness and training. But the country still needed to embed articles against such violence in the Constitution and enact laws to combat it.
Another representative said violence against women had decreased as a result of more reporting on it. The number of crimes against women in 2004 was 332, compared to 1,519 in 2000. Regarding honour crimes, she said that practice was part of the country’s Penal Code, but plans were afoot to amend the Code in favour of gender equality. The Commission was following up work of the Parliamentarian Committee for Justice and would persist until the amendment to the Penal Code took honour crimes into consideration.
SALMA KHAN, an expert from Bangladesh, asked whether non-governmental organizations were represented in the National Commission. Also, how were the members of the Commission chosen?
NAELA MOHAMED GABR, an expert from Egypt, asked whether men participated in the Lebanese lobby for women. Also, was there coordination with other Arab organizations on women’s issues? What was the role of the Council concerning stereotyping and combating domestic violence?
HEISOO SHIN, an expert from the Republic of Korea, noting that the Beijing Conference called for coordinated efforts by the government, asked if there was a national plan of action for gender equality. What were the priorities? Were goals and objectives time-bound?
FUMIKO SAIGA, an expert from Japan, asked who took the initiative and pushed proposals concerning women. Where did recommendations go from the National Commission?
HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, an expert from Benin, said there appeared to be a permissive attitude on the part of the Government and called for the political will and commitment toward achieving full equality and rights for women. There was subtle difference, for example, between full equality under the law and the absence of any explicit denial of rights. What was the real political power of the Government in Lebanon?
MARY SHANTHI DAIRIAM, an expert from Malaysia, asked what was the long-term plan for implementation of obligations under the Convention.
Regarding the National Commission for Lebanese Women, a representative said it was a specific entity linked to the office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. The Commission was made up of 24 members, the majority of which were women who had affiliations with non-governmental organizations, rather than with political or denominational groups. Ministers and women parliamentarians within the Commission were not considered to be political representatives.
Regarding discrimination within families, she stressed the responsibility that fell to mothers to raise their children without discrimination between girls and boys, although the law also had a role to play.
Regarding the Commission’s strategy, it had set forth four objectives –- adherence to international conventions, implementation of legal texts guaranteeing women’s rights, developing new legislation for women’s rights, and inserting women’s rights within all legislative texts. It was also determined to delete all of the country’s reservations to the Convention.
The Lebanese Government had expressed a readiness to adopt those objectives, she said. It did not stand silent before the concerns of its citizens, including women, although the Commission may not be able to reach all of its objectives at once. On common Arab work towards gender equality, she said such collaboration would definitely have positive results.
GLENDA SIMMS, an expert from Jamaica, stressed that the National Commission should consider the human rights of all women, not just Lebanese women. There was only one paragraph in the report on trafficking and little about prostitution. The Commission should also consider foreign women performing domestic work, many of whom came from Africa or Asia. Adding that they often endured horrible working conditions, from which there was no escape, she said the Commission should think about how it could develop a strategy to address that issue.
Ms. SAIGA, an expert from Japan, said there appeared to be no mechanisms for monitoring gender stereotyping in the media and in textbooks. The Government needed to take the initiative and to proceed with a firm policy. What was the Government specifically doing to overcome some of the concrete obstacles mentioned in the report?
VICTORIA POPESCU, an expert from Romania, noting that the report recognized the continuation of prejudices and patriarchal attitudes, asked how the Government cooperated or coordinated with non-governmental organizations to counter the existing mentality. What measures was the Government taking to revise school curricula?
DORCAS COKER-APPIAH, an expert from Ghana, asked what steps the Government was taking to change gender stereotypes and rules in school textbooks since it was well known that stereotypes were learned at an early age. She also asked for information on resources and support available to battered women, such as counselling and shelter, as well as training programmes for police or those working in religious courts.
KRISZTINA MORVAI, an expert from Hungary, in questioning the attitude of the Government towards domestic violence, asked for information on statistics on violence against women in Lebanon. How many criminal proceedings or convictions were there for violence against women? What were the systems of legal protection, e.g., restraining orders?
MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, an expert from Portugal, asked to what extent did trafficking in women exist in Lebanon and what measures were there to prevent it?
Ms. BEYDOUN, said Lebanon had shouldered its full responsibility in integrating Convention principles into textbooks to combat stereotyping, but stereotyping was not just intellectual, but psychological, as well. When the Government had reviewed and evaluated the effort, it had discovered that teachers were resisting, even though teachers had attended training and awareness-raising programmes. The Government was faced with the difficulty of changing mindsets. It was aware of the problem with textbooks and continued to monitor the writers of textbooks.
As to the issue of domestic violence, civil society had been the first to try to combat violence by publicizing in the media and starting a hotline. The Government and non-governmental organizations worked together to set up shelters. She acknowledged that the issue of combating violence was a new one. Until recently it was considered a private, family matter. This was the case in many countries.
Ms. MORVAI, an expert from Hungary, expressed puzzlement over cases of prostitution involving juveniles and punishment in the report. Did Lebanon consider prostitutes criminals even if they were minors? Also, what was the treatment of clients, that is, men, in terms of prostitution? The person who had the moral and criminal problems was the client and not the prostitute, as the report indicated.
Ms. BEYDOUN responded by pointing out that there was very recent legislation protecting minors against those who would try to exploit them. Treatment of minor delinquents had also been separated from the general criminal code.
As for monitoring of the media, she said the State did not have laws and rules to supervise the media concerning the perpetuation of the stereotyping of women. While it was a challenging issue, the media was free in Lebanon and there was no support at this time for State interference. However, she added that there was a movement toward mainstreaming women into the media and now a majority of announcers were women.
As for the situation of maids working in houses in Lebanon, while it was true that the labour laws did not cover them for historical judicial reasons dating back to 1946, they were governed by civil rather than labour laws. So, they were not completely unprotected.
ZOU XIAOQIAO, an expert from China, noting that the percentage of women in Parliament was still very low, asked whether Lebanon had adopted any measures, such as a quota system, to close the gap.
VICTORIA POPESCU, an expert from Romania, noted that, while there had been some progress, there was still underrepresentation of women nationally and locally. If not a quota system, what specific measures did the Government envisage to promote greater representation? What measures were being taken to increase interest and participation in political parties?
MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, an expert from Algeria, noted that the country had been through a lengthy war, making compliance with the Convention a difficult process. Women had still made progress in attaining their rights, although they still faced considerable challenges. To increase their political representation, she recommended instituting the quota system as a temporary measure, and providing women in the non-public sector with resources to assist them in conforming to the Beijing Declaration.
MAGALYS AROCHA DOMÍNGUEZ, an expert from Cuba, noted that several factors had influenced the representation of women, including a lack of administrative interest in promoting women, and insufficient resources to promote women in public life. Was the Government planning concrete measures to promote women in politics and in the administration?
Ms. GASPARD, an expert from France, asked whether Lebanese women who married foreigners could keep their nationality. According to the report, only the father could transfer his nationality to children, which was contrary to the Convention.
MR. FLINTERMAN, of the Netherlands, questioned whether the country’s reservation to article 9 on citizenship was compatible with the Convention. The Convention had three basic objectives -– to eliminate discriminatory legal provisions, to achieve de jure and de facto equality, and to eliminate stereotypical thinking. As such, States had an obligation to eliminate discriminatory provisions from their statutory laws.
Ms. COKER-APPIAH, encouraged Lebanon to take a second look at its reservations to article 9, with a view of lifting them.
The representatives from Lebanon responded that political and economic life in Lebanon had been virtually paralysed from 1973 to 1991. Parliamentary life had only begun to resume in the 1990s and the gains for women in public life had been made during that recent time. Even the last elections, though, were carried out on a basis no longer accepted by all. There was the hope that new legislation and conditions would soon allow women greater participation in Parliament and in political parties.
There were no legal impediments in Lebanese law nor its Constitution to women’s participation in political life, she added. The law provided women all rights, but certain conditions were not conducive to women’s access. There was an intention to propose a quota principle for women in the near future for the new Parliament. Even if the quota principle was not adopted, though, at least the participation of women would now be further encouraged.
As to the issue of citizenship, the primary concern of the legislature was not to leave any child on Lebanese territory without citizenship, she said. Citizenship was determined through blood ties on the basis of the father. However, there had been an attempt in the mid-1990s to allow citizenship through a Lebanese mother, but non-governmental organizations had rejected the draft law because of certain restrictive conditions attached to it. But, the fact that such an attempt had been made opened the door for a successful change of the law in the future.
SILVIA PIMENTEL, an expert from Brazil, asked whether there was a specific gender perspective built into the education plan.
Ms. AROCHA DOMÍNGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked for data on illiteracy that distinguished between urban and rural areas. Were there adult women classes? Did women have the opportunity to continue studies? Had measures been decided upon to improve vocational training for young girls?
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, stating that there was a difference in quality and cost of education, asked what measures the Government had taken to allocate financial, human, and technical resources to address the gender disparity in education. Also, vocational guidance was closely linked with employment opportunities. Had the government adopted any temporary measures such as scholarships, to address the gender disparity? Also, were there initiatives for leadership training for women?
Ms. KAHN said women in urban and rural areas enjoyed comparable rights to education and employment, although gender stereotypes still restricted them at the executive level. Why were women unable to progress upwards in the labour market? What was the wage structure in the private sector, and how was it monitored? Was there a law on salaries, and how was it applied?
She also noted that Lebanon had a large migrant workforce, and questioned which laws –- denominational or civil -– governed it. Was there a specific department in the Labour Ministry that dealt with foreign workers?
Ms. PATTEN noted that the country had inadequate anti-discrimination laws in the labour sector. What was the Government doing to address current negative patterns of employment? What measures had been introduced to eliminate social segregation in the labour sector, or promote diversification of women’s educational choices, especially in science and technology?
Ms. BEYDOUN said efforts had been made to broaden educational opportunities for both sexes, although the State had still not managed to guarantee universal education for all. Public schools were practically free, many were co-educational, and additional schools had been opened to accommodate migration from rural to urban areas. Rural schools had instituted flexible programmes, so that children could help with agriculture during growing seasons.
Illiteracy had markedly decreased, she said, and courses to eradicate it were offered on a non-discriminatory basis. Illiteracy figures were still high, however, in outlying, as compared to urban, areas.
Ms. AZOURI said foreign workers were governed by the same labour laws as Lebanese in the labour market, except that they must have work permits. There was no discrimination with respect to social benefits or other aspects of the working situation, such as dismissal. Regarding wages, regulations prohibited differences between men’s and women’s salaries in the public sector, but private sector workers were governed by separate labour contracts.
Ms. PIMENTAL, asked if there were studies on unwanted pregnancies and clandestine abortions?
Ms. DAIRIAM, asked for more information on access to free health care. What health programs were specifically targeted to elderly women? What services were available free of charge? Were there plans to amend the law dealing with adultery and incest?
Ms. TAN, inquired about measures to remedy the situation of rural women that would improve their economic situation and other aspects that dealt with the Convention.
Ms. SCHÖPP-SCHILLING also asked if the Government had an integrated, holistic strategy to improve the situation of rural women. Which department would be responsible for that plan?
Ms. SIMMS asked if the “urban drift” was continuing. She also pointed out that the labour laws did not cover agricultural workers, yet most of those workers were women.
The representative said there were no studies concerning abortion. Even non-governmental organizations had not made an issue of it, but she agreed that the matter need to be studied. There was no discrimination between women and men in health care, she added, but statistics by sex were not available. Also, the situation of rural women had improved somewhat, in terms of better access to health care and education. Problems remained in access to drinking water in some remote areas.
Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, Ms. TAN, and Ms. GNACADJA spoke of the discriminatory laws that existed concerning women and violence such as those dealing with adultery, incest, honour crimes and domestic violence and asked if there were any plans to amend those laws and penalize those crimes.
Ms. ZERDANI inquired if there were plans to introduce a family code that would apply to all.
The representative said the old attitude that domestic violence concerned only the family as a private matter was slowly changing. It was hoped that in the near future the issue would be considered in an open fashion. The criminal code was undergoing review, although no final action had been taken. Efforts would continue on behalf of enacting legislation to prevent all forms of discrimination against women.
ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Chairperson, commended Lebanon for its efforts to improve the country’s situation for women, but recommended it ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol, and lift its reservations to the Convention as soon as possible, especially to articles 9 and 16. The country should also strive for gender equality in its laws, and consider defining discrimination in accordance with the Convention.
The Lebanese Government should also ensure that the National Commission for Lebanese Women had sufficient resources to effectively carry out its mandate, she said. The National Commission should establish a strategic vision for gender equality, supported by a plan of action with timelines. The Government should address the participation of women in political life and decision-making by adopting temporary special measures in accordance with the Convention.
She also noted that violence had been accepted as a way of life in the country, and urged the Government to take serious measures to eradicate it by enacting laws and training judges, lawyers, and the police. Other measures should be taken to address honour crimes, assault, and violence against migrant workers, and to put women on an equal footing with men in all areas. In addition, the country needed a single, secular national court to improve the quality of life for women in Lebanese society, and to allow for more effective compliance with the Convention.
Ms. AZOURI thanked the Committee and urged it to forge ahead with its efforts to achieve gender equality. Expressing hope that the Committee had understood the Lebanese condition, she said the National Commission would continue the process of achieving gender equality, despite the constraints and difficulties it faced.
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