21 August 2006

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Chides Delegation of Cape Verde over Lateness in Submitting First Report

Experts Praise Female Gains in Education, Judicial, Diplomatic Fields

NEW YORK, 18 August (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women chided the delegation of Cape Verde today for having taken more than two decades to submit its first report.

As the Committee's expert members considered the West African island nation's first through sixth periodic reports, they praised its progress since independence from Portugal in 1975 and the gains that women had made in the education, judicial and diplomatic fields.  However, the Government needed to expand the role of women in politics and strengthen its data-collection capabilities to monitor their status in society.

A developing country facing severe economic difficulties and unemployment rates of nearly 56 per cent for young men and 43 per cent for young women, Cape Verde was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which it signed in December 1980.  The treaty entered into force in 1981 and States were required to submit their initial reports within a year.

Maria Cristina Lima, Minister for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, State Reform and National Defense, acknowledged the report's lateness, saying it was due to logistics and the Government had nothing to hide.  Cape Verde was an extremely poor country that was still struggling to create the institutional machinery and judicial system to fully implement the Convention's provisions.  It was difficult for a country with limited personnel and budgetary resources to administer all the United Nations treaties with their various guidelines.

She said her country was committed to improving the status of women and had come a long way since 1975, when a woman could not be a judge and had to seek her husband's permission to conduct trade.  Another member of the delegation pointed out that women now held one of the five positions on the Supreme Court and 33 per cent of certain other judicial posts, as well as 32 per cent of diplomatic slots.

Yet, Committee experts urged the Government to expand the participation of women in political life, which remained below 20 per cent even today.  It should also consider financial incentives and directives specifying the placement of female candidates on election ballots in order to boost the inclusion of women in political parties.

One expert, addressing the issue of marriage and family life, urged the Government to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 years of age in compliance with the Convention.  Another expert expressed concern over the practice of polygamy and the care of children born into polygamous situations.

Ms Lima said that the minimum legal age for marriage did not discriminate against girls as it allowed both boys and girls to marry at the age of 16, with parental permission.   Another delegate said that while polygamy was illegal and subject to civil penalties, some men did have more than one household and the Government was working to curb the practice, which was linked to irresponsible parenting and high birth rates.

The Committee is schedule to meet again on Friday, 25 August, when it is expected to conclude their session.


The Committee had before it a combined first through sixth report of Cape Verde (document CEDAW/C/CPV/1-6), which ratified that instrument on 5 December 1980.  The Government explains a delay in submitting its reports by slow progress in "attaining form and structure" by the State, following the country's independence in 1975, financial and technical difficulties, and bureaucratic changes.  The institution in charge of women's issues, known as the Institute on the Status of Women, was established only in 1994 and its inception was delayed "until such time as it could be fully staffed, a process that is still ongoing".

Cape Verde is a developing country that faces severe economic difficulties and depends on external aid.  Nevertheless, in 2004 it began the transition process to be reclassified as a middle-income developing country, thanks to the improvement in its human development index.  Women have been shown to be the main victims of poverty, in particular female heads of households, unemployed women and women with a low level of education.  Medium- and long-term measures, including the provision of access to credit, education and health, have been taken to improve the situation of women in the country.

The report states that the status of Cape Verdean women has long been inferior to that of men, but issues relating to discrimination against women have been a paramount concern of several successive Governments.  Under the country's law, women are guaranteed equal rights and dignity with men.  Electoral subsidies have been provided since 1999 to political parties or coalitions and to lists put forward by citizens' groups, at least 25 per cent of whose successful candidates for municipal election are women.  An electoral subsidy is also awarded by the State in national elections.  Female workers are entitled to maternity leave without loss of salary or social benefits, and the 1992 Constitution stipulates that the law must provide special protection for the employment of women during pregnancy and following confinement.

Women's rights are promoted by the Government and by non-governmental organizations concerned with women in Cape Verde, the report states.  Knowing their own minds, Cape Verdean women are playing an increasingly active part in national development and contribute significantly to the sectors of industry, agriculture, science, culture, education and public health.  There are currently three women ministers heading the ministries of Justice, Education and Human Resource Development, as well as Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries.  There are eight women members of the National Assembly and, in Cape Verde's 17 cities, 68 women members of local assemblies and municipal councils, two of whom are presidents of their municipal assembly and one of whom is president of her municipality.

The report lists the efforts to disseminate information on women's rights by holding discussions, publishing articles and distributing brochures to the public.  It also describes several programmes for women that had been broadcast by the country's radio stations since the 1980s.  Since 2003, the weekly programme Femina has been broadcast by RTC and, in 2004, the mini-programme Mudjer was aired by the Organization of Cape Verdean Women.  Dealing with such important topics as breastfeeding, employment rights, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, both programmes target the development and advancement of women.

Since its establishment in 1994, the Institute on the Status of Women in 1994 has been seeking to attract greater attention to women's issues.  The work developed through the Institute includes the editing of a guide to women's rights and a study of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Adopted in 1996, the National Action Plan for the Advancement of Women introduced gender mainstreaming into the country's planning.  In 2000 and 2001, the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, the Institute on the Status of Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) worked on a programme for introduction of the gender perspective into development plans and programmes, the reason being that gender mainstreaming had not been sufficiently integrated into development policies and plans.

One of the problems, which the Government of Cape Verde is currently addressing, relates to domestic violence, which is the subject of a national campaign based on combating the subordination of women and gradually eliminating the stereotype of inferiority.  While innumerable explanations, including alcoholism, drugs and unemployment, are given for domestic violence in Cape Verde, the cardinal factors are said to be socio-economic circumstances and machismo; this is still a factor in society.  The campaign on the theme "Are you a victim of domestic violence? We can break the silence" has been popularized through informative brochures and has also been made widely known through announcements on national television.

A Legislative Decree of April 1997 for the first time made it a punishable offence to "mistreat" or overwork minors, people with disabilities, subordinates or one's spouse.  A penalty of one to five years' imprisonment is prescribed for physical and mental cruelty towards a spouse.  The penalty is two to eight years' imprisonment in the event of serious harm to physical or mental health, or 4 to 10 years' imprisonment if the cruel treatment results in death or permanent disability.  Domestic violence is also incorporated into the country's new Penal Code, in force since 1 July 2004.  The same year, a reception centre for victims of domestic violence was opened in the country's capital, Praia.

Regarding employment, the report states that women traditionally play the largest role in the education and informal sectors.  In the latter, many women work in informal commerce, mostly due to a lack of schooling.  The country's efforts to address this problem include the adult literacy system, access to higher education and the granting of scholarships.

An Act of 1986 regulates the abortion and related exceptions, the Government states.  This law stipulates that, in a given set of circumstances, the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is no longer a punishable offence.  Under the country's legislation, anyone who terminates a pregnancy without the woman's consent is subject to two to eight years' imprisonment.  Anyone who terminates a pregnancy with the consent of the woman, but in violation of the provisions of the law, is subject to six months to two years' imprisonment; a woman who induces or agrees to the termination of her pregnancy under conditions, which violate the provisions of the Act, is subject to three months' imprisonment.

All pregnant women who so desire may undergo a free HIV/AIDS test.  If the result is positive, the reproductive health centres provide medical care and drug treatment before, during and following childbirth.

Introduction of Reports

The Cape Verde delegation was headed by Maria Cristina Lima, Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, State Reform and National Defense; and included Maria de Fatima da Veiga, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Cape Verde to the United Nations; Claudia Rodrigues, President of the Capeverdean Institute for Gender Equality and Equity; and Antonio Pieres, Expert of the Minister of Finances and Public Administration.

Introducing the reports, MARIA CRISTINA LIMA, Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Sate Reform and National Defense of Cape Verde, assured the Committee that, despite the late submission of its country reports, Cape Verde was indeed genuinely committed to the implementation of the Convention's provisions.

Cape Verde had made progress in achieving the millennium targets in myriad areas but, improvements to the status and condition of women still lagged, she said.  Since ratifying the Convention in 1980, Cape Verde had undergone a remarkable transformation.  During the previous 500 years of colonial rule in the country, women did not have the right to vote or to obtain loans.  The Education of women was inferior to that of men, and women's reproductive rights were completely ignored.  In 1990, the principles of democracy and respect for basic human rights took hold as the country moved toward a participatory, multiparty system.  The following year, Cape Verde had held its first democratic presidential election.  The 1992 Constitution provided a broad range of guarantees and established a democratic Government system.  Free market reforms and socio-economic progress took root.

At present, Cape Verde had gender parity in primary education, but more boys attended secondary school than girls, she continued.  The human development index had reached 0.75 in 2000, and life expectancy was now 70.5 years.  Six of the 20 members of the President's cabinet were women, including the Minister herself.  Women's participation in the labour market was steadily increasing, but, women were still often relegated to domestic work and denied access to higher education.  In 2000, 48 per cent of women who were economically active earned less than men.

She said the Government had adopted several strategies to correct such imbalances, achieve gender equality and erase gender stereotypes in society.  It had developed programmes to provide women with professional training as well as access to microcredit and education at all levels.  Non-governmental organizations were also involved in women's empowerment, human rights and democracy building.

The Institute for the Status of Women was created in 1994 and then renamed the Cape Verde Institute of Gender Equality and Equity, she continued.  It promoted and assessed progress in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment in public policy.  The 2005-2009 National Plan of Gender Equality and Equity focused particularly on combating violence against women, increasing women's economic opportunities and achieving gender parity in senior political posts.  Reducing poverty and social marginalization among women remained a formidable challenge.

An estimated 55.9 per cent of men aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, versus 42.3 per cent of women in the same age range, she said.  Those young women were more educated then men.  However, the reverse was true for women aged 25 to 49, showing a direct correlation between one's educational level and access to employment.

The 2002-2005 National Development Plan had focused on eradicating poverty and improving employment, health, education and housing, with particular emphasis on assisting women, children and the elderly, she stated.  Cape Verde had achieved the millennium target of establishing gender equity in primary school.  Primary school enrolment was 95.9 per cent for girls and 94.3 per cent for boys, and literacy had risen considerably since independence, reaching 83.5 per cent for men and 67.2 per cent for women.  However, illiteracy levels were greatest among women age 35 to 49.  Women accounted for 65.3 per cent of grade school teachers, while men held 87.6 per cent of primary school administration posts.

Since 1980, Cape Verde had made considerable progress in improving public health, she said.  In 2001, it had launched a National Reproductive Health Programme that aimed to take into account female and male reproductive needs and rights, and Civil society had helped to launch public awareness campaigns on contraception.  Sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, were a great public health concern.  As of January 2006, an estimated 0.52 per cent of the population was infected with HIV/AIDS.  Programmes were developed to focus on the disease from a gender perspective.  No statistical data was available that would permit an effective analysis of breast cancer or cervical cancer in the country.

Regarding domestic violence, she said that, under the Penal Code, spousal abuse was considered a crime and the abuser could be forcibly removed from the married couple's shared dwelling.  The Institute for Gender Equality and Equity was developing a response strategy to domestic violence and was working with institutional networks to provide quick and free legal, medical, psychological and social service for victims.  The Institute and the Ministry of Justice were hammering out a comprehensive national plan to prevent gender-based violence.  Hospital wards and medical personnel had been trained to deal with domestic violence victims.

The National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship, an independent body working to set gender balances, played an important role in drawing up the country reports and, promoting and ensuring implementation of the Convention in Cape Verde.  The 28-member Commission comprised representatives of non-governmental organizations and Government institutions involved in women's issues.

She said Cape Verde was following the recommendations of the Committee and international conferences on women's issues such as the 1985 Third World Conference of Women, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, and the Beijing +5 and +10 conferences, among others.  It had taken such international instruments into account when developing and implementing the 2005-2009 National Plan for Gender Equality.

Experts zeroed in on discrimination and policy measures and had questions and comments about the Cape Verdean legal system and its judiciary, such as why the national courts were not yet applying the principles of the Convention; and, whether the country's interpretation of discrimination included indirect discrimination, as laid out in the Convention.  Stressing the need for Cape Verde to ratify the Optional Protocol, experts also wanted information on the role of the Institute on the status of women in the Government structure, such as its decision-making power, working methods and budget.

A delegate from Cape Verde said the Institute has nine members, and a budget that had increased over the years and was now $36 million.  The budget was sourced by international organizations, primarily the United Nations.  And, since its beginning in 1994, the Institute had worked with non-governmental organizations and was now working with more than seven non-governmental organizations on women's issues that included politics and economics.  The Government helped finance these non-governmental organizations, which used their contacts at the grass-roots level to disseminate the Institute's policies.

Ms. LIMA said no political or philosophical reasons had prevented the Government from ratifying the Protocol or implementing the principles of the Convention, but, bureaucracy was impeding the Protocol's ratification.  She noted the country had only achieved its independence about 30 years ago and was still in the process of creating the institutional machinery and jurisprudence systems to maintain their commitment to all international treaties.  She said it was difficult for the country, with its limited personnel, to administer all the United Nations treaties, as each convention had its own guidelines and demands.  But, she stressed there were no political or philosophical reasons that were delaying the implementation of the Articles of the Convention.  The country had come a long way since 1975, when women couldn't be judges and had to ask for their husbands' permission to conduct trade.

Ms. LIMA said the country was working to improve the training of judges, many of whom remained generalists, and was also working with the Attorney General's office to combat domestic violence.  Most articles of the Convention were already part of Cape Verdean legislation, such as codes regarding employment and violence against women.  The Commission was headed by a woman, more than half of its members were women and, it included representatives of employers, political parties, trade unions and non-governmental organizations.  The country did not yet have a solid statistical system in place, and was working to produce more statistics and detailed information.

The country was using the media to educate women about domestic violence, as evidenced in a television programme, Breaking the Silence.  More complaints of domestic violence were emerging as attention was focused on the issue.  She said the contents of the Convention had been a priority since the independence of the country.  The Government was working with the General Office on planning to weave gender issues into all areas of Government, from the ministries to the local level.

Experts again pointed out that, while there had been legal equality in the country for many years, women continued to be disadvantaged, and the country needed to implement the obligations of the Convention to insure equality for women.  Experts asked questions about gender mainstreaming in the ministries; clarity on how the Government intended to measure gender equality; and whether the Institute for Gender Equality and Equity had enough authority to implement Government policies.  Other experts stressed the importance of collecting data and how statistic-gathering offices could be sure that gender-related information was incorporated into their work.

A delegate said that the National Plan for Women was limited in its budget and data-gathering capacity.  She acknowledged that political participation among women and parity in positions of decision-making were issues needing attention.  Another challenge was increasing economic opportunities for women and reducing violence against women.  The United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank were helping the country finance these activities.

Another delegate said several Government offices as well as the planning offices for each ministry maintained statistics.  He acknowledged the Government's problems with gathering statistics and said the country's low population made it difficult to extrapolate the data on say, maternal mortality.  The Government was working to develop better statistics and making progress on gender equality.

Ms. LIMA added that the country was making progress on gender equality.  More men than women were unemployed.  She added that Cape Verdean immigrants sent money back to the country, which added to the income of men and women.  The country did not yet have quotas.  United Nations indicators show that Cape Verde was moving from status as a least developed country to that of a mid-developed country.

Experts asked about efforts to combat discrimination against darker skinned women and for the Cape Verde definition of domestic violence and trafficking in women.  They wanted to know how many domestic violence victims had been admitted and treated at hospitals and who paid for the service.  An expert also asked why prostitution was not discussed in the original country report, particularly since girls age 13 to 15 were working as prostitutes.

In response, a country representative said racism was a product of Cape Verde's colonial era when the colonial power had defined 17 different races.  However, racism did not exist at present.  Cape Verdean society was well integrated, and there were a large percentage of mixed race people.

Concerning domestic violence prevention, she said the Government's first priority had been to treat victims and remove them from danger.  However, recently the Government had begun to study and implement prevention programmes.  They involved working to educate and change aggressors' behaviour, and promoting greater harmony between men and women; treating and rehabilitating aggressors; and providing victims with legal, psychological, economic and social support.  A study of the correlation between poverty and domestic violence was slated for completion in October.

Another delegate said that, in terms of eliminating stereotyping, the Ministry of Education had begun a pilot project to eliminate gender typecasting in basic and secondary school textbooks.  Textbooks introduced in the schools next year would include new messages that incorporated the principle of gender equality and human rights.  Cape Verde held an annual Children's Parliament and during the last three years had held an annual Girls Parliament.

Concerning prostitution, it was not referred to in the report because the study on prostitution was not available at the time the report was written, a representative said.  Research did not suggest that women were being trafficked.  However, prostitution was indeed a problem and was exacerbated by poverty, tourism and male chauvinism.

As to the definition of rape, she said, it was considered a crime, including the rape of a daughter by her father.  Rapists who used condoms did not receive lighter penalties than those who did not.

Thanks to support from the United Nations, Cape Verde planned to integrate a 2006-2010 domestic violence prevention programme, she said.  Last year, an important provision was introduced into the Penal Code that would allow judges to remove aggressors from the dwelling.  During the last two years, the Government had set up offices in hospitals that were manned 24/7 by women police officers to receive complaints from victims of domestic violence and refer such victims to shelters.  During the first six months, the offices received 250 people.

Regarding women's access to legal assistance, she said a 2005 law mandated free legal aid for Cape Verdeans that could not afford a lawyer.  Japan and the World Bank were funding legal aid projects for women.

Experts wanted to know what was behind the resistance to greater participation of women in elected office even as women logged increases in the judiciary and diplomatic posts.  One expert, noting that women accounted for only 15 per cent of the members of Parliament and few women served at the local level, said the use of special temporary quotas could ensure greater participation of women in political parties.  Yet, another expert said the Government could use vehicles, such as financial incentives and directives regarding the exact location of female candidates on election ballots to expand women's participation in the political process.

In response, a country representative said the question of elections did not centre on legislation, but on representation.  Women did take part in campaigns and there were instances of violence during some elections.  But, maintaining the 25 per cent participation rate was not just a matter of numbers, but of maintaining standards.  At times, women themselves did not understand quota issues and they needed to learn why they were needed.

She said the question of women's readiness was a false one, adding that, at times, those recruiting women were simply disorganized and made contact with potential candidates only the day before elections.  Women also had to pay attention to other tasks, among them ensuring that children were cared for.  Some women were also unaccustomed to the culture of debate and of asserting themselves.  They needed to be taught.  Rather than talking of 30 per cent participation, the talk should be about 50 per cent.  It was, therefore, not a matter of readiness, but of making time in women's busy lives.

In addition, women were at times not well placed for inclusion on electoral lists, she continued.  If there were more women in Parliament and in ministerial positions, they would send the message that women could hold decision-making positions and did not need to be afraid.  Furthermore, the number of positions held by women could be misleading.  In one election, a woman had been elected mayor from a field of five women candidates, a significant number.  One complication with regard to diplomats was the need for women to relocate their families.

Moving on to work and education, experts raised questions about systemic barriers to the advancement of marginalized women, requesting more data in the next report on limited access to education, health services and jobs; the drop-out rate at the elementary and secondary school levels; the literary rate; measures to avoid teenage pregnancy and allowing such girls to continue their education; and, how the country planned to meet the Millennium Development Goals and reduce the gender gap in education.

A delegate said the National Action Plan proposed ways to strengthen women's participation in education, adding that a Government training programme, "Circle of Culture", trained women to read.  Regarding access to technical education, the Department of Education was working to convince girls to enter the technical fields, but, it was a difficult task.  The Government was also conducting a study to find out why more boys than girls dropped out, and investigating the teenage pregnancy rate.

Ms. LIMA said that while the Government understood that remittances were not the only vehicle for reducing poverty, those payments from abroad provided a breathing space as the country worked to strengthen the economy.  The Government was running training programmes to boost employment for women, including microcredit programmes.  A World Bank-funded programme was using radio and television spots to help change behaviour patterns among girls and boys.

Acknowledging that debates with non-governmental organizations had emerged over the suspension of pregnant girls from schools, she said the Government was analyzing that situation and developing ways to ensure that girls obtained their education and were not lost to the system.  Girls were not expelled from school.  HIV/AIDS prevention work was being done in schools.

She said parity had been achieved at the primary level, and that, at the secondary level, there were more girls than boys, who were dropping out at a higher rate.  The Government had introduced, as a school subject, personal and social development, which included information on pregnancy prevention.  Community youth centres and school psychologists provided social support.

Experts asked whether there was a ministry responsible for ensuring gender mainstreaming policies and programmes, how private-sector implementation of labour laws was monitored and the extent to which women were aware of laws to protect them against workplace discrimination.  They requested data on the number of workplace discrimination cases and on wage differentials.  What efforts were being made to ensure that women had equal access to training, particularly for highly skilled jobs, and to encourage their pursuit of professional jobs in science and technology?

One expert asked what types of jobs women held in the tourism industry and whether there was training to help them achieve senior posts.  Another expressed concern over the difference in maternity benefits in the public sector as compared to the private sector.  Did women in the informal sector receive social welfare benefits?

In response, a country representative said the Ministry of Labour and Solidarity was responsible for ensuring gender mainstreaming and for issues concerning social security, the family and labour.  The Labour Inspectorate monitored implementation of labour laws in the public and private sectors.  Women received the same pay for the same work and had the same right to jobs as men.  Professional training programmes were available to women in tourism and industry, particularly those aged 15 to 24.  Women in general had access to job training on an equal footing with men.

Another delegate said the Ministry of Labour kept a watchful eye on workers' rights in general.  However, more efforts were needed to generate awareness about women's issues.  Professional training for women was diversified and included training in electrical engineering and plumbing.

Under the new Penal Code, sexual harassment was considered a crime.  However, to date, there were statistics on sexual harassment, the delegate said, adding that the issue deserved closer analysis and follow-up.

Workers' unions played an important role in closing wage gaps in tourism, light industry and other fields, in both the public and private sectors, she said.  Tourism drove Cape Verde's development more than did light industry since labour was more expensive in that country than in the rest of the region.

Regarding social welfare benefits, she said all public and private sector workers, including those in the informal sector, were covered by the social security system.  A law approved by the Council of Ministers guaranteed social security for domestic workers, who were mainly women, and efforts were under way to make the social security system universal.

Turning to the Convention's Articles 12 through 14 -- on health, economic and social benefits, and rural women -- experts asked for clarification on health care subsidy schemes, the rate of unsafe abortions, and whether women were aware of reproductive and other health care services available to them.

A country representative said most health care centres were accessible within 30 minutes of the population.  Central hospitals had modern equipment and health care services.  There were five regional hospitals on Cape Verde's most populated islands as well as basic health care clinics and centres in other areas.  Access to clinics was not a problem for the population.  Reproductive health services were provided by municipalities to all women and men in need.

An estimated 45 per cent of the adult population used contraceptives, including the recently introduced female condom and implants, which were both expected to boost contraceptive usage rates, she said.  Maternal mortality was decreasing as some 91 per cent of women gave birth in hospitals or clinics.  Since 1987, women had been allowed to have abortions during the first trimester.  No statistics were available at the moment on abortion rates.

Experts then requested statistics on the number of rural women in the labour force, the number of decision-making posts and whether they had access to environmental and agricultural technology and skills.  One expert asked if women working in the fishing sector owned boats and whether the Government had taken steps to promote women's entrepreneurship.

A country representative said women were highly involved in the Government's poverty-reduction programmes, forestry management and the marketing of forestry products and by-products.  Non-governmental organizations such as Morabi provided business management training, financial sustainability and microcredit access programmes for rural women.  The Ministry of Agriculture and Environment had integrated gender mainstreaming into the Second National Environment Action Plan, valid until 2015, with special emphasis on the needs of rural women.

Another delegate noted that there was a National Environmental Action Plan special section devoted to rural women, adding that women in the fishing industry 

owned and participated in cooperatives, whereby they purchased their own boats and fished and marketed their own catches throughout the Cape Verde islands.

The delegate said the Ministry of Labour would be conducting a study on the use of microcredit and would soon launch a programme to promote it nationwide.

With respect to women's participation in decision-making and policymaking, the delegate said that poverty-reduction, literacy and small business entrepreneurship development programmes focused on women's empowerment and participation.

Experts called for the raising of the minimum legal age for marriage to 18 years, as required by the Convention, and asked for information about Government measures regarding the prohibited practice of polygamy.

A delegate said that while polygamy was illegal, it did exist and some men did have more than one family.  The Government was working to combat the practice, which it viewed as psychological violence against women linked to irresponsible parenting.  Women had children with different men, who then failed to assume responsibility for them.

Ms. LIMA said the minimum legal age for marriage applied to both girls and boys so it was not discriminatory and did not violate the Convention.  Children could marry at age 16 with their parents' authorization.  The Government was examining that framework.  Polygamy was not legal and there were civil penalties against it.  The Government needed to work on family structure and the large number of children born to couples who were not married.  Programmes on responsible parenting were working and the average number of births per mother had declined from six to four.

Today's Committee Chairperson, MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI (Algeria), thanked the delegation, for its part in the constructive dialogue, but noted the long time it had taken to produce the initial report since Cape Verde's ratification of the Convention in 1980.  However, the Committee was aware that preparing the report was a difficult first step and trusted that the country had the political will, with the help of non-governmental organizations to improve the status of women.  The Committee looked forward to the seventh report.

Ms. LIMA, acknowledging the late presentation of the report, said Cape Verde would meet the challenge of advancing the cause of gender equality as it paid heed to the Committee's recommendations.  The report's lateness was due to logistics and the Government had nothing to hide.

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