5 July 2018
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the fifth periodic report of Liechtenstein on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Presenting the report, Martin Frick, Director of the Office for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that Liechtenstein had made significant progress in gender equality in the seven years since the last dialogue with the Committee, and stressed that Liechtenstein had achieved full gender equality in the law and had criminalized gender-based discrimination. However, women’s representation in Parliament had declined from 24 to 12 per cent in the latest elections, but this setback reenergized efforts to achieve gender balance in leadership in all spheres. High priority was therefore given to improving the compatibility of family and career, by expanding and subsidizing afterschool and other childcare programs with the help of municipalities and the private sector. At the same time, laws countering violence against women had been strengthened. A new national human rights institution had been put in place along with a process to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and an extensive network of women’s groups had been empowered to interact with the Government and international human rights frameworks.
In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts generally welcomed the structural and legal reforms and social improvements made by Liechtenstein in favour of gender equality, but emphasized that much was expected from the country because of its high level of development and small population. One serious concern was the reservation to the Convention entered by the Government in order to maintain the current succession of the monarchy. In addition, Experts impressed the importance of temporary special measures to close the large gaps in women’s representation in Parliament and asked for more concrete plans to ensure that progress was made in the next election, which was planned for 2019 at the municipal level. The gender wage gap had narrowed very slowly in recent years, Experts said and added that, given the higher educational achievement of girls, there should not be a gender wage gap in the first place.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Frick expressed hope that the delegation had given as complete a picture as possible of the situation of women’s advancement in Liechtenstein, affirming that the recommendations of the Committee were a valuable tool to help the country to make further advances toward achieving gender equality.
Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its answers and commended the country on its advances. She encouraged the State party to address the recommendations that the Committee would issue with the purpose of a more comprehensive implementation of the Convention.
The delegation of Liechtenstein was made up of representatives of the country’s Offices of Education, Social Services, and Foreign Affairs, the Asylum Division of the Migration and Passport Office, the Crime Investigation Division and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 July, to consider the ninth periodic report of Mexico (CEDAW/C/MEX/9).
The Committee has before it the fifth periodic report of Liechtenstein (CEDAW/C/LIE/5).
Presentation of the Report
MARTIN FRICK, Director of the Office for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that his country had made significant progress toward gender equality in the seven years since the last dialogue with the Committee, consistent with the high standard of living and the nurturing environment offered to all inhabitants. De iure full equality of women to men was achieved, he affirmed. Girls performed better throughout the educational system and their enrolment in science and technology subjects was actively promoted by an innovative public/private partnership. There was good gender balance in the Government, with two out of five minsters being women since 2009; half of all missions and embassies abroad were led by women ambassadors; gender parity was almost achieved in the entire diplomatic corps; and many other Governmental units were led by women. However, in the latest elections women’s representation in Parliament declined from 24 to 12 per cent, going against recent trends. The decline resulted in active ongoing discussions on what more needed to be done to achieve gender balance in political bodies, and the major parties had publicly expressed their commitment to gender parity in candidate lists for upcoming municipal polls. The Equal Opportunities Unit was drawing attention to female political leaders as role models to motivate more potential female candidates.
In order to increase women’s share of leadership position in all spheres of life, he said, the Government was giving high priority to improve the compatibility of family and career, by expanding and subsidizing afterschool and other childcare programs with the help of municipalities and the private sector, and giving due consideration to low-income and other special needs following a recent survey. Discrimination by gender had been criminalized in such areas as incitement to hatred or refusing service. In the area of sexual offenses, laws had been revised to enhance victim protection and improve practical protection measures, including in relation to domestic violence, and covered such offenses as stalking and sexual assault in marriage or partnerships. Further expansion of the legal framework was slated to be considered this fall and could include such offenses as luring an adult or child to another state for forced marriage. Laws to improve the financial situation of part-time and domestic workers were improved, with pension disadvantages removed.
In a major structural improvement, he said, a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles was established by Parliament in 2016, which had already submitted a shadow report to the Committee. These and other developments showed that the legislature as well as the society at large was committed to improving social justice and equal opportunities for women and girls. Yearly human rights dialogues with civil society groups provided a regular platform for women’s organizations in that regard, and civil society had also been facilitated to have contact with European and international organizations. Further sustained efforts were needed, he acknowledged, to continue to improve the share of women in leadership positions and to foster their continued economic progress. This past February, the Government had adopted and communicated its national implementation strategy for the Sustainable Development Goals, which included a more active policy stance on gender equality, accompanied by adequate funding, to achieve the Goal 5. This commitment was consistent with Liechtenstein’s international cooperation, the projects of which all aimed at legal and factual gender equality and the socio-economic empowerment of women, he said in conclusion.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert congratulated Liechtenstein on its achievements in social development, legal structures and commitment to human rights frameworks, though she added that there were many areas that needed clarification. Up front, she called male succession to the throne problematic. In addition, she wondered, in the area of access to justice, if there were obstacles to women, minorities and asylum seekers in the system.
Praising the creation of the national human rights institution, the Association for Human Rights in Liechtenstein, the Expert asked whether the human and financial resources were available in a sustainable way, as well as if it could take up cases on its own behalf or be party to a judicial proceeding. Appreciating mention of the Sustainable Development Goals in the report, she said clarification of actions in that regard would be helpful.
The extensive network of civil society groups, an Expert emphasized, did not exempt the Government from its own responsibilities. She said much was expected of Liechtenstein in terms of visibility of efforts, and noted that the Sustainable Development Goals provided a key vehicle for that purpose.
Citing a lack of financial transparency and opportunities for tax evasion in the country, an Expert asked whether a study would be undertaken on how such a financial structure effected women. Experts also expressed concern over the reservation to the Convention, asking whether it was only due to the intention to maintain the current mode of succession to the throne.
Responses by the Delegation
A delegate replied that women’s access to justice was fully guaranteed by law with no exceptions, including for migrant women. Legal advice and legal aid were provided. Sometimes free of charge, to assist women and girls. Free legal advice was made available to all asylum seekers who requested it, and Liechtenstein was currently considering extending this measure to asylum appeal procedures. Training in relation to matters related to the Convention was provided to judges, prosecutors and the national police.
As part of its mandate, the Association for Human Rights in Liechtenstein raised awareness about gender-based discrimination through communication and prevention campaigns. Its mandate was very broad, as it informed citizens about human rights issues, made recommendations and issued opinions, conducted investigations and promoted dialogue. Human resources were adequate for the human rights machinery when considered in light of the small size of the country. The national human rights institution could lodge a complaint on behalf of a victim but not in its own name.
On hereditary succession to the throne, a delegate said that the country had no plans to alter it or withdraw the related reservation from the Convention, which was indeed related to the succession issue.
On a general anti-discrimination law, another delegate said that specialized discrimination laws performed the same function and no consideration was being given to changing that situation at present. Describing the asylum procedure, she said that access to justice was certainly present for applicants.
In terms of the relationship with civil society, the delegation explained that there was a constant conversation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the civil society organizations, as well as the Government and non-governmental organizations, and Parliament and non-governmental organizations. There was an extensive network of civil society groups which played an important role in promoting gender equality in the country; they addressed a whole range of issues, including women’s rights, support to families, legal advice, or support to victims of violence against women.
Liechtenstein was aware that achievement of de facto gender equality required continued efforts, particularly in the area of women’s representation in politics and promoting a balance between family life and career.
The Coalition Agreement between parties contained objectives to remedy gender stereotypes and to promote de facto equality between women and men. New action plans were examples of initiatives inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, which the Government had extensitvely analysed, while a mapping exercise for the implementation was being conducted with the private sector and civil society.
Responding to a question on illicit financial flows, the head of the delegation indicated that his country met international requirements in this regard, and in fact was a leader in international efforts to control such phenomena. Liechtenstein had acceded to the automatic information exchange system and complied with the transparency standards, and there was a permanent dialogue with the European Union on tax law. The head of the delegation acknowledged that it was "difficult to get rid of clichés", but ensured that Liechtenstein's tax law met all the European Union standards against money laundering.
Questions by Committee Experts
Noting the Committee’s previous recommendations on the strengthening national human rights machinery, an Expert praised the creation of the national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, and then asked how many of its staff were women, what kind of background they had, and whether funding was adequate. Did the new national human rights institution have competency to legally intervene in specific cases, and did the Equal Opportunity Office exist in the new structure?
Affirming the importance of temporary special measures, another Expert said that the countries avoidance of them were of concern given the gap in women’s political representation and the difficulty in achieving parity in that area without such measures.
Responses by the Delegation
The Association for Human Rights in Liechtenstein was an independent entity, recalled a delegate, to which the Government contributed 350,000 Swiss francs per year for three years. The Human Rights Association currently had sufficient personnel and financial resources as well as the possibility to generate additional funds. The budget from 2020 onwards lied within the competences of Parliament, the delegate said.
Three out of seven members of the board of the national human rights institution were women, the delegate explained, and noted that the membership was not dictated by the Government. The institution’s Vice President was an extremely experienced woman who had served as an ambassador of Liechtenstein to the United Nations in New York as well as the United States in Washington.
The public responsibilities of the former Equal Opportunities Unit had been transferred to the Office of Social Services, which was now responsible in the field of equal opportunities through its newly created Equal Opportunities Unit. The autonomous responsibilities of the former Equal Opportunities Unit had been delegated to the new human rights institution.
A gender quota as a possible temporary special measure was the subject of much debate in the country, but so far there was not enough political interest to amend the election laws to institute quotas, a delegate said. At the moment, the Government of Liechtenstein had not planned to develop a comprehensive or cross-cutting strategy in this regard, as it preferred to focus the scarce resources on specific targets and interventions.
That said, for fourteen years now the Government organized political courses for women who wished to pursue a career in politics. The course aimed to empower women and encourage them to contribute to the country's political life. In addition, a series of portraits of women active in politics was published in the newspapers to promote women’s political participation.
Questions from the Experts
Expressing appreciation for efforts to eliminate gender stereotypes in Liechtenstein, an Expert took note with concern of the underrepresentation of women in politics and asked what additional awareness measures were planned and what funding would they receive. She queried whether there measures to promote women’s participation in sports and other areas such as digitalization. What was the relationship between religion and stereotypes in Liechtenstein?
Praising the signing of the Istanbul Convention and the strengthening of laws to counter violence against women and domestic violence, another Expert asked about the effective use of the legal instruments and data collection to increase the impact of the strengthened legal regime, particularly given the high threshold of burden of proof in cases of sexual violence. The Expert commented that a comprehensive violence against women law was still needed, and asked for reconsideration of the use of police mediation in situations of domestic violence. Could the delegation inform on the specialized training for judges on domestic violence in conformity with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention?
Noting activities to counter trafficking in persons, another Expert asked whether efforts would be expanded beyond dancers in clubs, to include awareness campaigns and initiatives targeted at unaccompanied minors to prevent future problems.
She asked for more information on efforts involving prostitution and child pornography as well, and the role of the Office of Social Services in this domain. The delegation was asked about the procedures for determining the situation of unaccompanied minors, the statistics on granting of asylum, and measures to address child pornography.
Responses by the Delegation
Currently, the most popular sports figure in Liechtenstein was a woman, who was an excellent role model, said a delegate who then described awareness campaigns to fight stereotypes, which included National Future Day and multi-national efforts coordinated with Austria and Switzerland. Gender awareness and awareness of stereotypes was integrated into educational material from kindergarten onwards as well. A survey of Muslims in Liechtenstein had just been published, while an awareness-raising campaign on European standards on hate speech directed to the media was planned.
With regard to measures to protect women victims of domestic violence, the delegation indicated that the police had a clear mandate to respond to domestic violence. The country had not adopted specific laws on gender-based violence, but the Penal Code offered a range of legal measures to protect against domestic violence, sexual violence, harassment, rape or to prohibit sexual violence and sexual mutilation. The Criminal Code was still being revised to further conform to the Istanbul Convention in anticipation of its ratification, and judges would be trained on new criminal law provisions.
Prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence and victim protections were rigorous, with the law providing for the expulsion from the family home of perpetrators of violence. In 2017, the national police had intervened 21 times; while no expulsion orders had been issued, there had been convictions for domestic violence. The delegation explained that the expulsion decisions and prohibition of entry were used when necessary, and said that the number of interventions for domestic violence was proportional to the population.
Awareness campaigns and monitoring of human trafficking continued although they had changed to conform to regional cooperation on the issue, and penalties for trafficking had been tightened. Liechtenstein attached great importance to the issue of trafficking in persons and worked in cooperation with the Austrian, German and Swiss authorities.
Last year there had been 152 asylum applications, with about ten cases of women traveling alone; so far in 2018, among the 112 asylum applications, three involved women traveling alone including a minor. In 2017, a total of 15 asylum requests had been granted and 19 in the year 2016. This figure might seem low but was related to the status of Dublin, which regulated the issue of migrants in the European Union and often provided for their return to the first country of entry. Most asylum seekers last year came from the Balkans; but the country had also taken in refugees coming through Greece and had collaborated with the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Unaccompanied minors and young people were assisted by the Office of Social Affairs, they enjoyed special protection and were accompanied by dedicated specialists who also acted as their guardian.
Liechtenstein participated in extensive international efforts to monitor and curb online child pornography, the delegates noted and described the services provided by the Office of Social Services to children and others who had special needs. Every unaccompanied minor was assigned a confidant and was housed in a facility with health and counselling services to prevent exploitation.
Questions from the Experts
In the next round of questions, Committee Experts asked what would be specifically be done in the upcoming elections to ensure that the small minority of women represented in municipal Government increased.
The delegation was also asked to provide more details on the effort to recruit women candidates at the municipal level and the possibility of requiring parity in candidate lists, as well as the role of the Global Compact in increasing women’s participation in the private sector at the leadership level, in addition to information on foundation boards.
Response by the Delegation
A delegate replied that a project called Portraits of Women was launched that disseminated role models to encourage women candidates to come forward, in addition to the politics course already described, which would be modified to include more topics, such as gender diversity and social media.
The sharp drop in the number of women parliamentarians had triggered a lively public debate about the introduction of quotas, but thus far, the party “Free List” was the only one in favour of such measures. The parties had however pledged to push the issue of gender parity forward and Government would follow up on this Coalition Agreement.
A study had been conducted to find out why women did not run for political office, which had found that it was primarily due to heavy family obligations that women were reluctant to take on political responsibilities, and secondly, women did not want to belong to a political party. Under the current law, it was not possible to force political parties to impose a parity policy, the delegation noted. Taking the political course that had already been described had helped a number of women to their current positions, in a demonstration of an effectiveness of such programmes.
In regard to the private sector, another delegate described the activities of the Global Compact in Liechtenstein, which was active in promoting women’s representation on private leadership boards.
Questions by the Experts
Noting evidence of stereotypical pursuit of education fields by girls, an Expert asked what plans were in place to change that situation, along with the fact that the highest level of education was filled only one third by women. What were the job prospects of students returning to Liechtenstein from studies abroad?
The Experts asked how gender-sensitive reorientation of the ninth year was, and raised concern about the underperformance of girls in basic and higher-level exams. Could the delegation provide information on scholarships and other incentives, harassment in schools, and programmes to integrate migrant children into the educational system?
As for the economic participation of women, the delegation was asked about the ratification of the core conventions of the International Labour Organization on fair work standards and whether those standards were met in the country. The gender wage gap had narrowed very slowly in recent years - what concrete measures would be instituted to correct the situation, including the placement of an on-line data dissemination system regarding pay rates, and also to ensure the much-needed promotion of equal parenting between men and women? The Expert remarked that, given the higher educational achievement of girls, there should not be a gender wage gap in the first place. What was the situation of women returning from maternity leave?
Abortion had not been decriminalized – how many women travelled abroad for the procedure, and what was the availability of contraception? The delegation was asked about treatments for intersexual children performed abroad, and measures adopted to address the growing phenomena of smoking, drinking, gaming and other addictions among young people.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the schools provided high quality education in which girls performed at a higher level than boys. Only three per cent of all pupils in Liechtenstein needed special education support; of those, girls made up only 30 per cent and boys the remaining 70 per cent. The general Baccalaureate share for girls in Liechtenstein in 2016 was 57.2 per cent. Beyond the mandatory education levels of primary and secondary school, data was not clear because of the number of students that went abroad, and for that reason studies were being undertaken in conjunction with other countries, primarily Switzerland.
The overall data showed that in higher academic and professional education, 45 per cent of all students were women; a new monitoring report was under development to better refine those numbers. Girls scored slightly better in language and social science subjects, with boys slightly better in hard science and math, but measures were being taken to equalize the interests of girls and boys in science and technology. One such initiative was the Peppermint Laboratories which in the past year alone successfully mobilized large numbers of girls, using young women teachers to encourage girls’ interest in science, technology, math and engineering.
Because it was too small a country, Liechtenstein did not join the International Labour Organization, but it was also not a Member States of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, or the Food and Agricultural Organization. The Government prioritized membership in the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and the Council of Europe. The country’s labour standards however were subject to the European Union regulations and so rose to the highest quality among the international community. Migrant workers had the same rights as any nationals: they benefitted from collective agreements and all other agreements provided for by the Labour Law. All foreign workers, other than the Swiss, required a work permit which was only issued if employers conformed to the official labour conditions.
The gender pay gap had narrowed from 1.4 per cent in 2014 to 0.2 per cent in 2017 those aged between 20 and 24 years. It was true that the overall gender gap had only declined slightly in that period, but the outlined initiatives were slowly improving the situation, including the Pay Respect Initiative, Equal Pay Day, a mobile traveling exhibition on the topic, and efforts by the career counselling unit to advise women on how to negotiate salaries better. In addition, the Gender Equality Act provided legal recourse for discriminatory pay rates. A delegate said that he had never heard reports of women dismissed after returning from maternity leave.
A recent family survey would form the basis of assessing the needs of families with regard to parental leave, said the delegation, noting that flexible working hours were being increasingly employed, including home-work options that were supported by the private sector, with many companies providing child care facilities. There was outreach to employees of the national administration to make use of part-time work and to utilize flexible schemes for family leave.
Women were no longer incriminated for abortion, while abortion providers were exempted from prosecution if pregnancy was terminated because of danger to the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy was a result of sexual assault. A counselling office was in place which provided advice on preventing underage and unwanted pregnancies and on a host of other issues including re-entering the work force. Contraceptives were not free, but were paid for by the mandatory health insurance that covered everyone, including migrants.
On the situation of intersex persons, no data was available, but data from neighbouring countries showed that one in 4,000 children was intersex. Costs for treatment and therapy were covered by insurance, but specialist procedures were referred to facilities abroad. On addictions, a delegate did not have access to data, but active monitoring and concrete interventions were comprehensive, utilizing an integrated approach to dealing with alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse.
Questions from the Experts
In the next round of questions, Committee Experts addressed the issue of financial inclusion, especially in the context of Sustainable Development Goals, asking whether employers were aware of the leave no one behind principle of the 2030 Agenda. What kind of labour benefits were standard outside of the banking sector and other major businesses?
Some 90 per cent of the beneficiaries of the Coming Back Programme for return to work were women – did it indicate that women had to work more later in life due to inadequate pensions? Could the delegation explain how women benefitted from mountain agricultural programmes and other development initiatives, and how women’s empowerment agenda was incorporated into all international cooperation projects?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the private sector was involved in a mapping exercise on achievements and necessary initiatives with regard to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Liechtenstein.
Agriculture made up only a tiny sector of the economy and so there were no initiatives involving women’s advancement in that area. All products were imported from other European countries, said the delegation, stressing that the private sector contributed most to the country's gross domestic product. The industry sector, and not the banking sector, employed most labor, too.
The fact that 90 per cent of the participants in the Coming Back Programme were women meant that the programme was serving the people it was meant for, with a success rate of between 49 and 62 per cent.
In Liechtenstein’s international development cooperation, women’s empowerment was addressed through education, along with microfinance and business training. The country was also strongly involved in promoting women’s advancement in the Human Rights Council and in forums that dealt with the problems posed by non-State actors in conflict. Women’s participation in commerce was promoted by the country at the World Trade Organization.
Questions from the Experts
On family law issues, an Expert asked whether the impact of the Law on Registered Partnerships of Same-Sex Couples had been evaluated, and how, in divorce when domestic violence was involved, custody issues played out in the best interest of the child. The delegation was also asked to clarify the inheritance law applicable to different kinds of unions.
Responses by the Delegation
The effects of the Law on Registered Partnerships of Same-Sex Couples had not yet been evaluated, delegates said, and reaffirmed that the welfare of the child was the priority in custody arrangements involving cases of domestic violence, although the desire of the child and its right to visit with both parents would have to be adjudicated in each case. There had been a reform to the inheritance law requiring 50 per cent of assets to go to surviving spouses or registered domestic partners.
MARTIN FRICK, Director of the Office for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, expressed hope that that the delegation had given as complete a picture as possible of the situation of women’s advancement in Liechtenstein, affirming that the recommendations of the Committee were a valuable tool to help the country to make further advances toward achieving gender equality.
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended Liechtenstein for its efforts and the delegation for their answers and encouraged the State party to address the Committee’s recommendations for a more comprehensive implementation of the Convention.
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