ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe


16 July 2013

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the combined seventh and eighth periodic report of Cape Verde on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Maria Cristina Fontes Lima, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Cape Verde, said in addition to constitutional and institutional provisions promoting gender equality, new rules had been recently approved to allow women to better integrate into the armed forces.   A special law on gender-based violence was in line with United Nations recommendations concerning women’s access to justice, support services and national capacity.  A programme on the prevention of gender-based violence was under way, including the creation of halfway houses, a shelter and three centres to provide services to female victims of violence.  Much remained to be done, given the persistence of a patriarchal society and an intense process of economic change, but the political and civil society sectors were willing to change this.  Cape Verde was on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. 

Committee Experts raised several issues of concern, including the visibility of the CEDAW Convention and whether it was possible for it to be directly invoked at a national level.  The presence of potentially discriminatory language in the constitution of the State party was noted, and questions were asked about the situation and provisions for vulnerable women such as those with disabilities, migrants, single mothers, those with HIV, those in detention and victims of trafficking.  The delegation regularly spoke of the existence of action plans on gender and poverty but Experts asked repeatedly about solid outcomes of these strategies, and the process for reforming these based on the analysis of their outcomes.  Questions were asked about the lack of parity in political participation, and efforts taken to ensure the enrolment of female students to studies in non-traditional subjects, and their pregnant peers in schools. 

In concluding remarks, Ms. Fontes Lima said meeting the Committee was a valuable experience in understanding the current consensus on gender equality and equity.  It was not possible to have development without social inclusion, and men and women working together to ensure the well-being of all.  Cape Verde was a success in the area of human development and she strongly believed that the greater the integration of women, the greater the empowerment of women. 

Also in concluding remarks, Nicole Ameline, Committee Chairperson, thanked the State party for its efforts and answers and encouraged it to take all measures to address the concerns of the Committee. 

The delegation of Cape Verde included representatives of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Permanent Mission of Cape Verde to the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Cape Verde Institute of Gender Equality and Equity.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 17 July at 10 a.m. when it will consider the seventh periodic report of the United Kingdom (CEDAW/C/GBR/7, CEDAW/C/GBR/7/Add.1 and CEDAW/C/GBR/7/Add.2)

Report of Cape Verde

The combined seventh and eighth periodic report of Cape Verde is available here: (CEDAW/C/CPV/7-8).

Presentation of the Report

MARIA CRISTINA FONTES LIMA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Cape Verde, presenting the report (CEDAW/C/CPV/7-8), said that, in addition to constitutional and institutional provisions promoting gender equality, new rules had been recently approved to allow women to better integrate into the armed forces.   A special law on gender-based violence was in line with United Nations recommendations concerning women’s access to justice, support services and national capacity.  A programme on the prevention of gender-based violence was under way, including the creation of halfway houses, a shelter and three centres to provide services to female victims of violence.  A rehabilitation programme for men who had committed acts of gender-based violence had been completed for the first time and, by 2014, would be available in half of the country’s provinces.  Training for legal professionals on the prevention of gender based violence would also start soon.

Cape Verde sought close cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the implementation of these programmes, such as a national campaign underway to promote responsible fatherhood.  Efforts had also been made in the areas of planning and evaluation, creating an action programme for gender equality and national plans on violence against women.  Women parliamentarians had been very active in this area and had received training on a number of issues.  The legal profession had also engaged in monitoring the application of legislation on violence against women.  The production of statistics had also received attention and a survey on sexual and reproductive health would be carried out this year.  The promotion of gender equality was one of four key pillars of economic growth, poverty eradication and the achievement of the remaining Millennium Development Goals.  Government policies had to respond to these criteria to receive a positive assessment.  Large semi-public companies and municipalities had developed equality plans, and a gender observatory had been created to monitor gender indicators. 

A survey conducted by the National Statistics Institute showed that public policies shifted the burden of unpaid work onto women, particularly the poorest.  New policies must provide care and value the economic contribution of unpaid work, which accounted for 74 per cent of the overall workload.  The contribution of families to social welfare was also recognised.  There was a proposal to change the legal framework concerning the preparation of the public budget, and to legally require that a gender perspective was considered.  A gender approach had been included in the recently completed National Plan for Health Development.  The water and sanitation sector had also adopted this practice; a coordinating institute for the sector was being created and would include gender equality as one of its clear principles.  Cape Verde’s female entrepreneurship programme promoted women’s economic empowerment.  A project was in place to increase the number of women in decision making processes in the 2016 local and national elections. 

Much remained to be done, given the persistence of a patriarchal society and an intense process of economic change, but the political and civil society sectors were willing to change this.  Cape Verde was on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. 

Questions by Experts

Experts asked whether the Convention was held above national law and how was its visibility ensured?  Was there a provision for the adoption of temporary special measures and how was Cape Verde addressing instances of multiple discrimination faced by vulnerable women?  Were concluding observations and recommendations used by politicians in their work?  What efforts were being made to remove discriminatory language from the Constitution?  What did the delegation think about the use of the term “equity” over “equality”?  Was the national human rights institution currently functioning and what was the status of the draft law to bring Cape Verde in line with the Paris Principles?  Was the national institute on gender equity given the appropriate resources to monitor the situation of women comprehensively, what was its budget and how many members of staff did it have?  What were the priority areas for the new national action plan on gender?  A proposal to reform the national commission on human rights and citizenship had been drafted, when would it be adopted?  What role did this commission have in the protection of women’s rights?

Response by the Delegation

The Convention had been widely publicised back in 2006.  The Convention had been used in Parliament, 90 per cent or more of the recommendations had been implemented, and politicians did cite its provisions.  The Convention could be directly invoked but the judiciary did not commonly do this.  Training had taken place to increase the awareness of the legal profession regarding the Convention’s application and scope.  Efforts had been made to disseminate this knowledge in all nine islands of Cape Verde.  Some of the references to male gender in the Constitution were due to the Portuguese language, in which plural nouns took a masculine form.  A piece of legislation currently in Parliament referred to support for individuals living with disabilities, establishing a quota for jobs in public service. 

An increasing number of migrants were coming to Cape Verde and steps were being taken to manage this better, including the situation of women.  Cases of female genital mutilation were being carefully monitored.   Gender parity provisions were not included in the Constitution, although there were positive discrimination measures.  There seemed to be an appetite for parity in political posts and this could be implemented in the future.  There was agreement concerning the need for a national body in line with the Paris Principles, though there were discussions on whether this should take the form of a Commission or an Ombudsman.  The current Commission had successfully worked with civil society and caught up on the backlog of reports Cape Verde was required to submit.  An independent national institute defined policies and provided proposals and, while it was not a big structure, it could engage with civil society to implement gender plans.  Inter-institutional and interdisciplinary networks, such as those including the police and justice services, considered a gender perspective. 

Women parliamentarians had played a key role in pushing forward gender equality policies and proposals and supporting outreach.  Equality was generally expressed in all bills, though the real problem concerned access to opportunities.  Tailor-made solutions were needed to favour access to goods and services.  A lot was being done to help people understand the concepts behind equality.  The national institute was part of the Prime Minister’s Office; it was covered by the budget of the office, and was able to make rapid decisions. 

Questions by Experts

Experts asked if civil society was provided with a budget to carry out its work, particularly in relation to disability groups.

Response by the Delegation

There was funding for experts and programme contracts for specific projects, these funds were monitored to ensure that aims were achieved.  Laws in the future would better guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities.

Questions from the Experts

Many of the temporary special measures listed were not in fact temporary special measures, what was the delegation’s understanding of such measures?  Single-headed households seemed to suffer significant hardships, what programmes were in place to assist them?  Were there steps underway to improve the situation of women in detention?  What were the results of policies regarding housing?  What attitudes were found in the social context regarding gender, was male domination widely accepted?  Did women with disabilities face additional stereotypes?  What were the objectives set for the next national plan on gender?  What had been the real impact of networks to fight violence?  Had a timeframe been set up for the new law on disabilities and which groups were involved in its preparation?  Did women with disabilities have real access to justice and were there cases where aggressors had received strong sanctions?  There was no national plan on trafficking, why had the fight against trafficking been linked with more general gender equality plans?  What measures had been taken to address juvenile prostitution and the rehabilitation of victims of trafficking? 

Response by the Delegation

Steps were being taken to eliminate gender stereotypes.  The law on violence against women was based on mainstreaming; and a programme was in place to implement this law, which would include training for teachers to eliminate sexist stereotypes in the classroom.  Access to services for women with disabilities required further attention; it was hoped that the next plan would be completed by 2013 and would include provisions for this group.  Around 2,500 women were using support services, including care centres for victims.  Outreach work was being done in partnership with NGOs.  One in five women in the country had been victims of violence and areas with a higher incidence of violence were being targeted, it was thought that sexual stereotypes lay at the root of this problem. 

A national commission on emigration was being created and issues of trafficking and prostitution would be monitored.  Political will for the promotion and institutionalisation of a gender approach was real.  Women commonly acted as heads of household, often among the poorest elements of society.  The national poverty reduction plan included work with these women, particularly in rural areas, as one of its priorities.  More could be done in terms of temporary special measures, though Cape Verde was still a young nation.  It was necessary to scale up maternal and child healthcare.  Classrooms for children with disabilities were being created and there was greater awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities more generally. 

Without significant natural resources, Cape Verde was trying to become self-sufficient and to effectively use the assistance it received.  It was not sufficient to simply work with education and an additional focus on the rights of boys was perhaps needed.  In some cases, men had been convicted for acts of violence against women.  In 2012, there had been two victims of femicide, a drop from seven or nine in recent years.  More needed to be done to address trafficking and prostitution, as a large coastline had to be monitored.  Maritime security centres had been created and more was being done regarding people entering and exiting the country.  Sex workers were receiving more support and there were plans to expand this in the future. 

Questions from the Experts

An Expert asked why steps had not been taken to ensure participation in international agreements to assist in tackling trafficking.  Was there a register of cases of violence against women?  Did rehabilitation programmes for men replace more formal punishments?  Sometimes such penalties were needed. 

Response by the Delegation

Much had been done to promote joint responsibility in the households and it was hoped to adopt policies that encouraged men to provide for childcare and other needs in the home.  Increasing urbanisation made it necessary to provide childcare so that women could enjoy employment.  Recommendations had been submitted to the Government so that women’s unpaid work was taken into account as part of the gross domestic product. 

There was a register of crimes against women but it needed improvement; a database and protocols for the police had been proposed in this regard.  The rehabilitation of offenders was offered alongside punishment and it was hoped that this would lead to reflection and improved future behaviour. 

A protocol on trafficking and migrants had been signed and would be brought to Parliament shortly.  Prostitution was connected to the development of tourism in Cape Verde and targeted measures were needed to address it.  Many discriminatory laws had been inherited from Portugal after independence.  

Questions by Experts

Experts asked whether parity was applicable at both municipal and national levels.  Why hadn’t parity been achieved?  Did the principle apply to the number of women nominated or to those elected?  Was there a programme to increase the representation of women in management positions in the public service? 

Response by the Delegation

A parity rate of 40/60 was the objective, political parties needed to be won over about this idea and dialogue was ongoing.  There was a proposal to work with women parliamentarians on a parity law.  The burden of work in the private sphere was perhaps holding women back in politics and decision making posts.  Women had access to teaching posts but were underrepresented at the managerial level.  Progress continued in the civil service and gender mainstreaming was strengthening the role of women.  Work was being done from the ground up to ensure that there would be more women in Parliament in 2016, and municipal gender equality plans were being promoted. 

Questions from the Experts

Experts inquired about measures in place to tackle sexual abuse in the context of education.  What percentage of girls in the relevant age group attended secondary school?  There were gender differences in technical education, had the increase in enrolment been translated into a transfer of girls into non-traditional subjects?  What steps had been taken to encourage persons with disabilities to undertake teaching training?  What percentage of children was attending classes and what was their completion rate?  What percentage of pregnant girls permanently dropped out and what kind of training was offered to teachers to support such girls?  Women’s employment rates in the public sector were good, how about in the private sector and how was discrimination in this sector tackled? 

Was there information available concerning the gender pay gap?  What implications had agreements on collective bargaining had?  Were there plans to amend the labour code to include equal work for equal pay?  How was the labour inspectorate monitoring the implementation of the labour code?  How was the Government addressing occupational segregation and what provisions were there for the regulation for rural workers?  Experts also requested information about steps taken to provide women with appropriate pregnancy, birth and post-natal care?  What steps had been taken to ensure that care was based on the consent of those concerned?  Were there legislative plans to protect women from forced sterilisation?  Was abortion legal and were there provisions for abortion in cases of rape or incest?  Were there plans to provide HIV/AIDS treatments?  Did the Government monitor the quality of services provided by NGOs?  Did reproductive health services need to be paid for and did this disadvantage poorer women? 

Response by the Delegation

There were vulnerable groups that needed additional support in integration, beyond those with disabilities.   National health policy established universal coverage, though additional investment was needed in infrastructure.  Maternal mortality had reached an all-time low and both pre- and post-natal care was offered.  A co-payment system based on a progressive scale was available; those without funds did not have to pay and were also treated.  Legislation allowed for abortion up to three months of pregnancy, irrespective of the reason.  Women were not criminalised in this area and hospitals had to offer these services.  The teenage pregnancy rate was a concern.  Forced sterilisation was illegal and punished accordingly.  A charter on the rights of patients had been agreed and all treatments were based on the principle of consent.   A law had been passed on HIV/AIDS punishing discrimination against patients. 

Pre-natal care needed to be improved, including screening and scanning, but Cape Verde was on track to meet its Millennium Development Goals’ obligations.  Children received vaccinations and contraceptives were free of charge.  More men were needed in the health system in order to improve the rates of interaction.  Pregnant girls previously were not treated well in the education system; steps had been taken to allow girls to temporarily leave education and then return but an assessment had shown that this had not been successful and that they did not return.  The institute on children had presented a draft to Parliament requesting the removal of this directive altogether.  The increase in the number of girls in technical education had been the result of a number of measures to awaken girls’ interest in non-traditional subjects, and the provision of gender training for teachers.  The new labour code laid down the principle of equality between workers.  The labour inspectorate worked throughout the territory and counted with technical autonomy and independence.  Given the inequalities in the agricultural sector, actions had been taken in the area of planning.  The agricultural census, to be carried out this year, would provide new statistical data which integrated a gender perspective. 

Questions by Experts

What measures were in place to train teachers and to ensure that teenage pregnancy was handled appropriately?  What steps were being taken to reduce the gender gap in technical education?  Were there plans to adapt national legislation to ensure respect for the principle of “equal pay for work of equal value”?  Was the provision of health services by civil society groups properly monitored?  What protection was afforded to migrant women workers?  Was data available on the number of women who had benefitted from national plans and programmes? 

Response by the Delegation

In response, the delegation said there was a hotline for the reporting of sexual abuse of children.  More details of complaints could be provided.  The sexual and reproductive health programme covered areas such as cervical screening for women and prostate screening for men, as well as sexuality more broadly.  Homosexuality was not punished and there were movements emerging that recognised the right to be sexually different.  A minimum wage had been created and this would assist in fighting the exploitation of migrant workers.  Support was being given to small and medium enterprises to assist them in ensuring social security coverage for their employees.  The process of ensuring decent work for citizens of Cape Verde was ongoing.

Questions from the Experts

An Expert said it was difficult for women to make progress without economic independence.  Were pension programmes part of efforts to alleviate poverty?  What was the situation of disadvantaged women in regards to social or pension benefits?  Which specific measures were in place to implement the second programme against poverty, particularly in relation to rural women?  What legal protections existed to ensure that women’s land rights were recognised?  What actions had the State party taken to ensure women were aware of their land rights?  What measures had been taken to improve the status and conditions of vulnerable women? 

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said that there were two social security systems, the first based on contributions covering civil servants, domestic workers and liberal professions.  The other was non-funded and covered those who could not make contributions.  This system allowed for a minimum benefit provision and covered around 23,000 persons, mostly women.  There was also a social housing programme for house repairs and a system that allowed for the provision of medications to persons with chronic conditions.  Elderly women, those with disabilities and those with AIDS all needed more help.  Microcredit had been offered to lift many women out of poverty and empower women to manage their own funding to break the cycle of poverty.  Women as heads of household and poor women were targeted under the plan on poverty reduction, allowing them to identify their problems and seek solutions.  Specific work on female entrepreneurship had been supported through a programme funded by Spain.  A programme funded by the United States focused on land issues.  There was currently no land registry and a large project was at hand to remedy this.  Widows were able to go to court following the death of their spouse to get access to their shared goods.  This was also the case in de facto relationships.  Survivor pensions were also available to them. 

Questions from the Experts

An Expert asked about the legal protection afforded to women at the end of a relationship?  Was there a waiting period for remarriage following divorce?  What were the provisions for alimony and child support?  Was registration of cohabitation required for women to claim their rights?  Were women in polygamous unions protected when partnerships were dissolved?  How had government campaigns impacted on the practice of polygamy?  What measures had been taken to counter the stigma of single mothers, and did they receive the same rights? 

Response by the Delegation

Polygamy was punishable under law, though social conduct and behaviour meant that this issue was still practised.  The white ribbon campaign to promote alternative paradigms of masculinity had done some work in this area.  There was a stigmatisation of single mothers and steps had been taken to tackle this.  New research had been carried out to understand the structure of modern families.  Unions where persons were not married could be registered after the death for the purposes of inheritance, providing it was for over four years and had been stable.  Women as heads of household had the same rights under the law as other types of families.  Children of polygamous families had the same rights to legal protection as children of individual marriages.  The age of majority in Cape Verde was 18.  There was no waiting period for remarriage following divorce if the woman was not pregnant.  There was support for women leaving polygamous relationships, allowing them access to microcredit and training to empower them to economic independence. 

Concluding Remarks

NICOLE AMELINE, Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the State party for its efforts, saying it had made a lot of progress in the protection of human rights and encouraged it to take all measures to address the concerns of the Committee.  The next periodic report from the Sate party was awaited with interest.

MARIA CRISTINA FONTES LIMA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Cape Verde, said meeting the Committee was a valuable experience as it was very important for her country to understand the current consensus on gender equality and equity.  Progress could be made through such dialogues.  Growth and poverty reduction could be achieved through gender policies.  In 2000, rural women had a literacy rate of 56 per cent and that had now climbed to 68 per cent.  It was not possible to have development without social inclusion, and men and women working together to ensure the well-being of all.  She strongly believed that the greater the integration of women, the greater the empowerment of women.  Cape Verde was a success in the area of human development and 36 years after independence was moving to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, reducing poverty and meeting health indicators. 

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