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COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN REVIEWS THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN PARAGUAY

26 October 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the seventh periodic report of Paraguay on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Ana Maria Baiardi, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Paraguay, said in the introduction of the report, that Article 1 of the Convention had been incorporated into the law on rural women and that the Convention had also inspired the drafting of the law No. 5777/16 for the integral protection of women against all forms of violence; this law took into account new forms of violence and incorporated femicide which it punished by 10 to 30 years of imprisonment. Paraguay had further strengthened the legislation on women's social rights in the domestic sphere as well as access to health and retirement, increased the salary level for domestic work from 40 to 60 per cent of the minimum wage, and raised the minimum age for domestic work to 18 years. The National Programme of Justice Centres supported access to justice for most vulnerable groups across the country: 90 per cent of its beneficiaries were women and children. Ciudad Mujer, a unique initiative dedicated to offering women services in the area of sexual and reproductive health, economic empowerment and prevention of violence, would start in February 2018 and would offer 80 free-of-charge services to 25,000 women annually. On violence against women, Ms. Baiardi explained that the plan of action 2015-2020 had been drawn up in collaboration with various sectors of the society, while the campaign “Courtship without Violence” aimed to inform the youth about sexist stereotypes, couple mistreatment, and their influence on relationships.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts commended Paraguay for elevating the Women’s Secretariat to the Ministry for Women’s Affairs which increased its effective influence. They expressed the concern about the deteriorating security of women and about the significant barriers women experienced in accessing justice such as stereotypes on gender competence espoused by members of the justice and law enforcement system. The practice of criadazgo or the recruitment of girls for domestic work based on medieval-like social and cultural practices, and made girls vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual and labour exploitation. Ten girls fell pregnant every day and the number of early pregnancies had increased by more than sixty percent, Experts said and noted with concern high number of deaths due to unsafe abortion. They urged Paraguay to review its legislation and decriminalize abortion for cases of incest, rape and foetal deformations. More than 30 per cent of new-borns seemed not to be registered at birth particularly in the rural areas, Experts said and asked about measures taken to achieve universal birth registration in the country. Finally, Experts asked with concern about the protection from violence and discrimination of four distinct groups of vulnerable women: indigenous women, women with disabilities, women deprived of liberty, and women in prostitution.

Ms. Baiardi, in concluding remarks, said that Paraguay was very aware of the difficulties faced by women and reiterated the commitment to alleviate their situation and enable women and girls to exercise all their rights. The recommendations would be accorded the greatest attention, in order to ensure the full enjoyment of rights by women.

In her concluding remarks, Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for providing further insight in the situation of women in Paraguay and hoped that the dialogue would help in the implementation of the rights under the Convention throughout the entire country.

The delegation of Paraguay included representatives of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Chamber of the Senate, Supreme Court of Justice, Ministry of Justice, Superior Tribunal of Electoral Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Education and Science, National Secretariat for Childhood and Adolescents, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Public Defense, National Police, and the Permanent Mission of Paraguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Friday, 26 October, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined initial to second periodic reports of Nauru (CEDAW/C/NRU/1-2).

Report

The seventh periodic report of Paraguay can be read here: CEDAW/C/PRY/7.

Presentation of the Report

ANA MARIA BAIARDI, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Paraguay, said in the introduction of the report, that Article 1 of the Convention had been incorporated into the law on rural women and that the Convention had also inspired the drafting of the law No. 5777/16 for the integral protection of women against all forms of violence; this law took into account new forms of violence and incorporated femicide which it punished by 10 to 30 years of imprisonment. Paraguay had further strengthened the legislation on women's social rights in the domestic sphere, as well as access to health and retirement, increased the salary level for domestic workers from 40 to 60 per cent of the minimum wage, and raised the minimum age of domestic work to 18 years. Additionally, the rights on maternity and paternal leave had been extended, while a protocol on intervention and assistance aimed to strengthen the management of cases of discrimination and harassment in the workplace in public and private sectors alike. The Gender Secretariat promoted the judicial application of international provisions on the rights of women and worked together with the Justice Observatory on collecting disaggregated data on gender.

The Ministry of Justice had created the National Council for Access to Justice while the National Programme of Justice Centres supported access to justice for most vulnerable groups across the country: 90 per cent of its beneficiaries were women and children who received services in the area of health, civil registration, identity documents, food assistance, and other services. Ciudad Mujer, a unique initiative dedicated to offering women services in the area of sexual and reproductive health, economic empowerment, and prevention of violence, would start in February 2018 and would offer 80 free-of-charge services to 25,000 women annually. Turning to the issue of violence against women, Ms. Baiardi explained that the National Plan of Action on Violence against Women 2015-2020 had been draw up in collaboration with various sectors of the society, while the Programme on the Management of Citizens’ Security, coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, had as one of its objectives the collection of data on domestic violence. The campaign “Courtship without Violence” aimed to inform the youth about sexist stereotypes, couple mistreatment, and their influence on relationships. In the area of trafficking in persons, the Inter-Ministerial Board on the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons had made steady advances in the implementation of identification and assistance to victims, referral of cases, and risk assessment. In order to prevent discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Tekoarandu programme had been set up for female sex workers and transgender persons. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security had launched the programme “Breaking down Sexist Paradigms” to encourage women to enter into non-traditional professions.

The “No More Child Labour” campaign was launched in 2016 to prevent child labour and domestic work. The National Plan on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014-2018 focused on establishing technical mechanisms to ensure access to safe maternity including through determining risks of maternal and infant mortality and providing family planning services to women and men. In the past four years, the number of rural women with access to credit had increased from ten to 28 per cent; a number of programmes were in place to support access of indigenous women to education, health and credit assistance, and the participation of indigenous women in the design of policies and programmes that concerned them had been increased. A ministerial order of 2 March 2015 had been adopted to improve detention conditions for women and had established the effective separation of women and men in places of deprivation of liberty.

Questions from Committee Experts

Experts inquired about the measures taken to systematically ensure practical implementation of new and revised laws. Were there any plans to harmonize laws on gender? To what extent was gender equality, as defined in the legal order, incorporated in the National Plan on Gender Equality? Where did the country stand in terms of the implementation of the recommendations made by the Office of the Ombudsman?

Experts expressed concern about the situation of women’s security, which was increasingly deteriorating, as well as about the silencing of lawyers’ voices in that respect. Where did the State party stand with the adoption of the bill on the freedom of expression and the protection of human rights defenders and journalists? Did the bill take into account the specific situation of women?

As for access to justice, women faced greater barriers than men. Challenges included systemic barriers, such as stereotypes on gender competence espoused by members of the justice and law enforcement system. How did the State party plan to improve that situation? Did the State party resort to the Committee’s General Recommendation No. 33 on enabling access to justice for women, including women in vulnerable situations?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation agreed that there was a corpus of laws that was implemented with great difficulty. That included the Law on Discrimination, which had been rejected in 2014, and thereafter resubmitted. That law was currently before different parliamentary committees.

The delegation underlined the increase in the wages of domestic workers from 40 to 60 per cent of the average wage. A draft law was in place to increase it to 100 per cent. There had also been an increase of the minimum age of domestic workers to 18.
As for the right to a public lawyer, it was up to a judicial oversight council to make a decision to call on a public lawyer. That mechanism was within the powers of the Supreme Court for supervision and oversight in the administrative areas. A specific office received victims who could remain anonymous, and it first dealt with administrative rulings, followed by a referral to a prosecutor judge who received and investigated cases. A draft law was being considered on the issue of nepotism among civil servants.

The Government had developed indicators for the reduction of poverty among women, looking at equal opportunities, physical and political empowerment. That plan was having an impact, and it was transforming reality for women. Various institutions were involved to achieve those goals, including a round-table of the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Finance.

Training of officials was a big challenge. Inter-institutional meetings on trafficking in persons, health care, and other issues related to gender and women’s empowerment were ongoing. Women’s associations, committees and networks were having an impact on the policies on the municipal, departmental and public policy level.

Follow-Up Questions and Answers

Even though the law on domestic work had been adopted, there were still concerns that it did not show improvement in wages for domestic workers. What impact had this initiative had in order to ensure domestic workers got paid?

The delegation responded by explaining that the draft law on domestic work was currently before the Parliament. Women domestic workers were very well organized and supported by the Ministry for Women, and a lot of progress had been achieved in that respect.

In terms of female representation in the judiciary, there were nine female judges, which was an increase by four, over the past seven years. The Ministry of Public Defence was the institution competent for receiving criminal, civil, child, labour and other cases. There were 846 women in the penitentiary system, of which over 800 were represented by lawyers from the public system. Those figures indicated that access to justice for women had been provided.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Experts congratulated the State party for the improvements made in the national gender machinery and commended the elevation of the Women’s Secretariat to the Ministry for Women’s Affairs which increased its effective influence. Another improvement was the National Plan on Gender Equality, and the National Plan for Development of 2030, which included crosscutting gender policies. The Committee was also pleased that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs had an equal seat at the Council of Ministers.

How was the National Plan on Gender Equality coordinated with other Ministries? What percentage of the national budget was allocated to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in comparison to other ministries? What were the plans of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to strengthen institutional services for women in the rural areas?

Experts noted that the quota of 20 per cent of female representatives in public and political life had been in force since 1996. What temporary special measures were envisaged by Paraguay in the sectors where women were underrepresented?

Replies by the Delegation

The new legislation providing training for public officials on violence against women was a great improvement. It also provided for dismissal of public officials. In addition, the Government had imposed a ban for public officials promoting conciliation instead of prevention of violence against women. The Gender Secretariat worked on addressing the reported cases of violence against women, and it examined how many of them ended up in a sentence being passed. Nevertheless, records were not always objective since there was no database. Femicide had been criminalized in 2016, and it would enter into force in 2017.

The Government was working intensively to break down the pattern of violence within the family, and especially violence against children, namely through a draft law to minimize child abuse. There was also an emergency hotline for reports of abuse against children. In 2016, 21,000 such calls had been received. Specialized care was provided which allowed to identify and assist girls victims of violence.

Paraguay had passed a decree that criminalized paid domestic child labour. There were reintegration programmes in place, as well as methods of protection and re-building the link with the family.

Questions by the Committee Experts

With respect to sex trafficking and forced labour, Experts raised concern about girls recruited in the so-called criadazgo practice whereby they worked in domestic labour and were particularly at risk of forced labour and sex trafficking. Was the Anti-Trafficking Law of 2012 in line with international standards? Was it true that according to that law, the use of coercion was an aggravating factor rather than a crime in itself? What were challenges in the implementation of the National Policy on Combatting Trafficking?

As for the protection of victims of sex trafficking and forced labour, sources had claimed that the Government was not proactive, especially in regard to indigenous workers, domestic workers, street children, asylum seekers, and migrant workers. Could the Delegation specify what it was doing in terms of the development of procedures for protection, as well as the establishment of comprehensive services for victims of sex trafficking? Were specialized law enforcement officers used to screen potential victims in order to ensure that they were not penalized? What were the guidelines for identifying and dealing with trafficking cases?

It seemed that access to justice was a major problem for sex workers. A study had noted that over 80 per cent of them had not filed any complaints. Had the State party addressed the root causes of sex trafficking, including poverty?

Replies by the Delegation

Important mechanisms had been put in place to respond to challenges related to sex trafficking and forced labour. It was true that there was no investment fund to address trafficking, but significant efforts had been made and there was an annual budget and an operational plan. Paraguay did not have a single registry of data on trafficking.

The trafficking of indigenous children and girls had been detected in the most remote areas of the country. Significant inter-institutional work had been initiated to recover two girls that had disappeared along the border, one of which had been engaged in forced sexual work in Argentina. Another girl had been taken forcibly from her town and was a victim of labour trafficking. Many girls in those areas tended to be put to work on farms and ranches. Over the past year, 77 cases of trafficking had been registered, of which 39 convictions had been handed down.

The National Police had a specialised unit that addressed trafficking and that provided relevant training. The highest priority was to provide care for victims. Police offices in the inland parts of the country, and technical specialized personnel worked together with the Public Ministry, the Women’s Ministry and the National Trafficking Department.

Follow-up Questions and Answers

Experts referred to the different data provided by the police, judiciary, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and other bodies, noting that there was a need for unified data. What was the timeline for putting in place a unified data system? What was done to ensure that gender-based violence reported to the police were transferred to the judiciary?

Regarding the criadazgo practice, Experts voiced concern that it constituted more than just trafficking and that it consisted of social and cultural practices similar to medieval practices. Had there been any cases of criminalization of criadazgo?

Could the Delegation respond to cases of exploitation of prostitution? Had the State party considered the root causes for prostitution, including poverty? Had it considered the re-integration of sex workers into society?

The delegation agreed that not having a single unified data registry was indeed a weakness and informed that a law on a single unified data registry was currently being drafted. It would enter into force by the end of the year. Under-registration and under-reporting was also a problem.

Regarding femicide, the Criminal Code did establish that family violence could be punished by law. Cases were investigated even when the victim did not press for charges or when they withdrew charges. An inter-institutional mechanism was in place, including the Ombudsman’s Office and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, to ensure the undertaking of immediate action on such cases.

The delegation informed that according to domestic legislation, 23 worst types of child labor had been recorded, including domestic work. In order to fight child labour, it had been defined as a criminal offence, with the sentencing in line with the gravity of the crime. There were situations that began as forced and domestic labour, leading to trafficking. As of 2016, 48 cases of forced domestic labour had been reported.

The delegation agreed that there was a high level of organized crime, adding that it carried a sentence of eight years of prison without aggravating circumstances. In case of aggravating circumstances, the sentence could amount to over 20 years in prison. The Government ensured that victims could reintegrate into society. Prosecutors sought to ensure that victims received needed care and that they were sent back home.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Experts said that women continued to be underrepresented in political life and public affairs. What additional strong measures did the State party intend to take to significantly improve women’s representation at all levels? There were 15 per cent of women in the Parliament and 25 per cent in the Senate.

As for the Government’s policy for women in rural areas, had relevant articles been implemented? What was the representation of indigenous women in the civil administration? Were indigenous women enrolled in military forces?

The legislation on nationality was in line with the provisions of the Convention, Experts said and noted with concern that more than 30 per cent of new-borns seemed not to be registered at birth particularly in the rural areas. Was there a national plan to ensure universal birth registration of all children in the country?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation expressed hope that the new legislation promoting the political participation of women would have a positive impact of women’s political representation at the 2020 elections, and noted that it would not have an immediate effect on the 2018 elections. Although the encouragement of women participation in politics and the workforce was a challenge, significant improvements had been made: currently seven of seventeen ministerial positions were held by women, for example.

According to the law, access to the police force and the diplomatic career was merit-based and noted that the ideals of equal opportunities and parity were evident in the public service. Currently 20 per cent of the ambassadors in the diplomatic service were women, as many as 552 women worked in the municipal units, and in the Chamber of Senators nine of the twenty-five benches were occupied by women. There were thirty-five women in the departmental council, and three Supreme Court Justices out of six were women.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Experts asked about the action taken to confront various problems in related to education and about the plans to allow sexual education in schools. The delegation was also asked about measures taken to reduce illiteracy rate which allegedly stood at 40 per cent, address the root causes of high school drop-out, and promote the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and math fields of study.

What was being done to increase the number of women in high quality and high paying professions and what were the perspectives to ensure higher remunerations for women? How was the growing establishment of the maquiladora industries been regarded by the Government? Women suffered many violations in those institutions.

The Special Rapporteur on Slavery had highlighted a concern that the domestic workers law was not being implemented in Paraguay, remarked an Expert and asked about the level of awareness of domestic workers rights by employers and the employees.

Deaths due to abortion were extremely high, Experts said with concern, adding that ten girls fell pregnant every day that the number of early pregnancies had increased by more than sixty percent. Given the dangers early pregnancies posed to teenage girls, it might be wise for the State party to review its abortion legislation and decriminalize abortion for cases of incest, rape and foetal deformations.

What plans were in place to improve sexual education and ensure that all victims of sexual violence received proper medical care? What would be done to increase family planning services and make reproductive and sexual health services accessible in the rural communities? What were the results of the Ombudsman’s investigation into these services? Allegedly, the primary cause of death among women was breast and cervical cancer - what was being done to prevent this?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the investment in education was a priority, and Paraguay was putting efforts to ensure that at least seven per cent of the gross domestic product was allocated to education. Investment plans were in place for the construction of additional 800 schools and additional funds were available for school rehabilitation and repairs, and for the training of teachers including abroad; a budget of 120 million dollars was devoted to information and communication technologies in the education system.

The Government would be adopting measures to broaden sexual education in all areas of education. A programme was in place to encourage women, including indigenous women, to choose a study in one of the technological fields. The new organisational structure of the Ministry of Education established a gender and equity department which would offer trainings to teachers where gender perspectives were cross-cutting.

Measures were in place to fight the scourge of maternal mortality including through the pillars of reproductive health and a systematic analysis and centralization of data.
On the work being done for women with cervical cancer, women had access to free services for pap smears, human papilloma virus vaccination, and other services.

Birth registration was free-of-charge and measures are being taken to ensure that parents registered the birth of their children including in remote areas of the country.

The authorities were aware of the problem posed by teenage pregnancies and had set up information centers for young people, the delegation said. Paraguay was working with its neighbors in the area of unwanted pregnancies, and the Code of Childhood and Adolescence guaranteed the right to sexual education. National and regional action plan on adolescent or child pregnancy was being executed, and it contained three pillars: the first focused on prevention, the second on the need for correct information in the education process and on awareness raising campaigns; and the third pillar contained the response measures.

Questions from the Experts

In the series of questions concerning work and employment, Committee Experts asked about the measures to increase the economic empowerment of women and said that abject and extreme poverty was a challenge. Unpaid family care-related work was a significant obstacle for the economic lives of women, thus municipal decentralised centres were needed to care for the elderly and reduce the burden on women. What was being done to address women’s unpaid care work and to guarantee monetary transfers to care-giving women?

Another important aspect in economic empowerment was access to loans. The increase in loans was a positive trend, however what special measures would be undertaken to ensure that fifty percent of the clients were women? What was being done to ensure that women were not subjected to usury practices? How many women were employed in medium and large scale enterprises and what plans were in place to increase their numbers?

Reports of discrimination against women who played football were disturbing. What kind of activities were being undertaken to prevent this kind of discrimination?

The Committee had received information that women were systematically expulsed from their land, including by police and agents - what was being done to combat this?

There were four distinct groups of disadvantaged women – indigenous women, women with disabilities, women deprived of liberty, and women in prostitution. They faced a number of challenges, including a lack of quality health care, and high instances of school dropout. Up to thirty percent of indigenous women did not go to school, women with disabilities were exposed to forced sterilisation and did not have the right to have a family and a private life, 65 per cent of women deprived of liberty did not receive a sentence in 2016 and 50 per cent of mothers deprived of liberty did not have a right to stay with their children including for breastfeeding, and women in prostitution faced abuse by the customers and the police. What was being done to protect the rights of those women and protect them from violence and discrimination?

Responses by the Delegation

Paraguay was aware that the additional burden of child and elderly care was borne by the woman, which significantly limited her working and leisure time and was currently drafting a policy on the care of children and elderly. The policy was coordinated by the Secretariat for Planning and Women’s Management, and would be part of the social protection that would be provided. The Government aimed to have not only a policy but a legislation on this matter.

Families that had a child with disability received four times the amount of subsidy of other families. The vast majority of social programmes were in the rural areas, where up to 78 per cent of recipients were women. Women received these benefits in their own name.

Paraguay had received funding thanks to which ninety percent of the indigenous peoples were now covered under the Protocol for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A specific protocol for indigenous women had been created, under which indigenous women received loans, technical assistance, financial education and support to increase their financial management capacities.

Referring to a question on the right of women to live in prison with their children, of the over one hundred persons that were deprived of liberty, two were women, and they did not have children. Training was in place in prison facilities, and this had resulted in a woman leaving the facility with a university education.

Questions from the Experts

In a series of questions related to marriage and family relations, Experts asked about the protections against underage marriage, the legal order governing the naming of children if parents did not agree for the child to carry the father’s name, and the marital property regimes.

It had been reported that, unless the father recognized the paternity, women who had children out of wedlock could not receive child support, and apparently women often gave up receiving support and alimony due to all these obstacles. Were there plans to alleviate the burden of proof and make the father pay the cost of paternity tests and to ease the formalities related to DNA testing? The second difficulty was to obtain support if the child was born within marriage. The Committee had received reports of the complete neglect of mothers and children due to the father’s refusal to pay any kind of alimony or support.

The Expert reminded the delegation about the Committee Recommendations No. 21 and 29 regarding the family unit, emphasizing that the family rights could not replace individual rights of women.

Replies by the Delegation

A guide for mothers has been published so that they knew their rights in cases of paternity recognition, said the delegation, recalling that in the past, the steps were solely the responsibility of the mother who had to pay from her own pocket a possible genetic test.

Concluding Remarks

ANA MARIA BAIARDI, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Paraguay, said that Paraguay was very aware of the difficulties faced by women and reiterated the commitment to alleviate their situation and enable women and girls to exercise all their rights. There was indeed a strong limitation of funds, and thus it had been difficult to achieve the desired results. The recommendations would be accorded the greatest attention, in order to ensure the full enjoyment of rights by women.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for providing further insight in the situation of women in the country and hoped that the dialogue would help Paraguay to implement the rights under the Convention throughout the entire country.



For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW/17/32E