21 February 2018
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the seventh periodic report of Chile on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Introducing the report, Claudia Pascual Grau, Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Chile, said that Chile had strengthened its legal and institutional architecture to address entrenched discrimination and inequality between women and men and between different groups of women. This included the creation of the Ministry for Women and Gender Equality, the adoption of the Law on Gender Equality, and setting up of the Gender Violence Observatory in the prosecutorial service in 2016 to tackle different manifestations of gender-based violence in different settings. The National Equality Plan, together with the first ever National Human Rights Plan of 2017, were important instruments for the implementation of the State policy.
Gabriela Alejandra Ingeborg Krauss Valle, Minister for Labour and Social Welfare of Chile, said that in August 2017, the political representation of women had achieved the target set by President Bachelet of 40 per cent. Chile had also adopted the law on equal pay in 2009 to accelerate the achievement of full equality.
Paula Veronica Narvaez Ojeda, Minister General Secretariat of the Government of Chile, noted that, in order to advance marriage equality and protect diverse families in Chile, a draft law had been presented to Parliament, which proposed that marriage be defined as a union between two people and not a union between a woman and a man.
Committee Experts said Chile had made very important progress since the last dialogue in 2012, including in the political participation of women, health and education, and praised the impressive consultation process with indigenous peoples on the Constitutional reform. Experts also commended the consultations with civil society and their participation in public debates and encouraged the country to develop a system to ensure their participation in decision-making as well. Chile should replace its current anti-discrimination law with a comprehensive piece of legislation which would recognize intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination, and ensure protection from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Experts were concerned about the reports of abuse of the anti-terrorism law in the context of indigenous peoples fighting for their lands and rights, and inquired about action taken to ensure that the failure of justice, observed in some cases, was not systematic. The adoption of the law on abortion in 2017 represented an important step forward, Experts said, but raised concern that it still limited access to abortion by a way of conscientious objection by healthcare professionals and by requiring prior parental authorisation for children under the age of 14. Abortion should also be allowed in cases in which pregnancy posed a risk to health – and not only life – of the mother, they concluded.
Ms. Pascual Grau, in her closing remarks, said that it was important to recognize and sustain progress made thus far in promoting the rule of law, democracy and human rights, which was an outcome of working together between the Government and civil society. Chile was aware that some challenges persisted and was committed to charting a path forward, with the Committee’s support.
Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, commended Chile for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations, which the Committee would issue with the purpose of the more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.
The delegation of Chile was composed of the representatives of the Ministry for Women and Gender Equality, Ministry General Secretariat of the Government, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Interior and Public Security, Supreme Court, Public Ministry, Ministry of Health, and the Permanent Mission of Chile 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 Thursday, 22 February to consider the eighth periodic report of the Republic of Korea (CEDAW/C/KOR/8).
The Committee has before it the seventh periodic report of Chile (CEDAW/C/CHL/7).
Presentation of the Report
CLAUDIA PASCUAL GRAU, Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Chile, introducing the report, said that since the ratification of the Convention in 1989, Chile had been working to advance legislative and institutional mechanisms for the elimination of discrimination against women and the transformation of cultural attitudes towards gender equality. The State had an obligation to establish solid institutions to address entrenched discrimination and inequality, not only between women and men but between different groups of women as well. An important step in this direction had been the creation of the Ministry for Women and Gender Equality, as well as the adoption of the Law on Gender Equality, which had set up the Gender Equality Service in 2016. The Council of Ministers for Gender Equality had been set up to guide gender mainstreaming in the Government’s policies and programmes. The judiciary had approved a plan to incorporate gender in the administration of justice in 2015, which had then led to the adoption of the gender equality policy, which the Supreme Court had adopted in February 2018. The Gender Violence Observatory had been set up in the prosecutorial service in 2016 in order to tackle different manifestations of gender-based violence in different settings. The National Equality Plan, together with the first ever National Human Rights Plan of 2017, were important instruments for the implementation of the State policy.
In terms of the participation of women in political and public life, Chile had introduced the criteria of gender parity in the reform of the electoral system in 2015, which had resulted in a 7 per cent increase in the participation of women who made up 23 per cent of seats in both chambers of Parliament. Another important step forward was the adoption of the law on abortion in September 2017, which allowed for the voluntary interruption of a pregnancy if it posed a risk to the life of the mother, if the foetus was not viable, and if the pregnancy was a result of rape. The bill on the right of women to a life free of violence, initiated in January 2017, would recognize various forms of violence against women and would incorporate provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Belém do Pará Convention (The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women). The protection against violence had been strengthened by the adoption of a law which criminalized the corporal mistreatment of children under the age of 18 and a law which defined sexual violence as a form of torture.
GABRIELA ALEJANDRA INGEBORG KRAUSS VALLE, Minister for Labour and Social Welfare of Chile, said that in August 2017, the political representation of women had achieved the target set by President Bachelet of 40 per cent. The political representation of women was not enough to achieve full equality, and Chile had adopted the law on equal pay in 2009. Other measures to advance equality in the workplace had been adopted, as well as the law on domestic workers in 2016.
PAULA VERONICA NARVAEZ OJEDA, Minister General Secretariat of the Government of Chile, said that in order to advance marriage equality and to protect diverse families in Chile, a draft law had been presented to Parliament, which proposed a modification of the definition of marriage in the Civil Code to point out that it was a union between two people rather than between a woman and a man. Chile had taken steps to advance the protection and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples, including consultations on the creation of a ministry for indigenous peoples in 2015, and on the constitutional recognition and political participation of indigenous peoples in 2017.
Questions from the Experts
Opening the interactive dialogue with the delegation of Chile, a Committee Expert acknowledged the very important progress made since the last dialogue, and asked about the timetable to finalize the lengthy process for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and the intentions concerning the reform of the current anti-discrimination law into a comprehensive law which would recognize intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination.
With regard to violations of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity, what measures were in place and would be adopted to respond to the violations, including on a law on gender identity.
The Committee noted the impressive consultative process with indigenous peoples on the reform of the Constitution and asked when the reform was to be completed.
What measures were in place to avoid abuse of the anti-terrorism law in the context of indigenous peoples fighting for their lands and rights, and to ensure that the failure of justice, which had been observed in some cases, was not systematic?
Responses by the Delegation
Responding, the delegation said that the bill on the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention was in its final legislative phase in Parliament. There was opposition to the adoption of the bill by some elements of the society.
The revised anti-discrimination law was being developed in consultation with civil society; this reform was one of the objectives of the National Human Rights Plan 2018-2021, which envisaged the participation and contribution of groups that suffered from discrimination. The reform aimed to allow for the creation of a system for the respect of diversity, prevention and sanction for discrimination, creation of a national registry of people convicted and sanctioned for discrimination, and the adoption of standards for communicating the law. As such, the reformed anti-discrimination law would be aligned to the Convention and would contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
As for the application of the anti-terrorism law, the Government was moving forward with an urgent draft act to modify legislation that contravened international law, and include changes in the modified Criminal Code.
Although there was no law on gender identity, the existing laws allowed for the realization of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, for example in matters of protection from discrimination and in name change. A bill on gender identity was in the third constitutional phase and in front of the Senate.
Following the expansive consultations with indigenous peoples in the framework of International Labour Organization conventions, bills had been prepared on the creation of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples in March 2017 and on the Council of Indigenous Peoples in January 2017. Indigenous peoples’ rights were currently regulated by the law on access to resources and land for indigenous peoples, and it was important to say that the proposed constitutional reforms would broaden the scope of the rights to include their constitutional recognition and political participation, and the right to free determination, independence and self-governance.
In their follow-up questions, Experts commended the recent approval of the National Gender Equality Policy by the Supreme Court, and asked about the resources to be allocated to the technical secretariat for gender equality and whether it would have the ability to oversee women’s access to justice.
Responding, a delegate explained that the technical secretariat was strategic in nature; it was a small structure, which worked with other judicial bodies to promote the inclusion of gender perspectives in the work of the judiciary. The technical secretariat worked with the judicial training body to incorporate training on various gender-related issues; for example, in 2016, modules on stereotypes had been included in compulsory judicial training. Also, it had produced a good practice manual for judges for the application of gender perspective in their work. This long-term project aimed to tackle stereotypes in the administration of justice.
Additionally, work was ongoing on the integration of gender perspective in the investigation and prosecutorial services, in particular through the creation of structures dedicated to tackling gender-based violence. The legal aid system in Chile was another element through which most vulnerable individuals in the society were empowered to access justice, particularly women, and the public defenders were supported in mainstreaming gender in their activities.
Questions from the Experts
In the next round of questions, a Committee Expert commended Chile for the impressive achievements in setting up the machinery to enhance equality between women and men and non-discrimination based on sex, in particular the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity and the development of the Fourth Gender Equality and Equity Plan.
The delegation was asked to explain the approach to the implementation of this Plan, inform on the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Women, describe the consultative process with civil society for the advancement of women’s human rights, and share some challenges facing the Ministry.
What were the principal achievements to date in the advancement of women’s human rights in Chile?
Temporary special measures were important for the Committee, as they were an arsenal under the Convention to accelerate de facto equality and consolidate reforms. Those measures were provided for in the law establishing the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, remarked an Expert, and asked how they would be established. Was Chile considering a systematic approach to the implementation of temporary special measures, and what measures could be taken to ensure that women occupied decision-making roles?
Responses by the Delegation
The Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, established about 18 months ago, had expressed special concern about the diverse range of women who lived in Chile and whose rights were not included in the laws of the 1990s. The Ministry had a special obligation to reflect the needs and interests of indigenous women as well. It was a small umbrella organization with a budget of 52 billion pesos. Another role was to guide cultural transformation, coordinate the National Equality Plan 2018-2030, and roll out the national plan to deal with violence against women. It was worth emphasizing that the National Equality Plan 2018-2030, differing from previous such plans, aimed to achieve substantive equality by 2030 and as such was aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.
In terms of the relation with civil society, the Ministry, as any other Ministry, had an agreement in place, and it worked and coordinated with civil society in developing legislation to be presented to Parliament, and in developing indicators for the monitoring the laws. The work with civil society enabled the Ministry to understand diversity concerns which was a key challenge at the moment, and to understand needs and concerns of rural, indigenous and migrant women, and women of different sexual orientation, including trans-women.
The key instrument for the implementation of the Fourth Gender Equality and Equity Plan was the National Human Rights Plan 2018-2021, which contained a chapter on women’s human rights and in which gender perspectives were mainstreamed throughout. The National Human Rights Plan had 64 actions directed towards women, indicators for all the goals, and a monitoring body composed of all responsible ministries and agencies but also of all other organizations which wanted to be part of the monitoring body; those organizations were coordinated by the national human rights institution.
One of the key achievements in the advancement of women’s human rights was the drafting of the law on the rights of women to a life free of violence, which broadened the concept of violence against women. Another achievement was the adoption of temporary special measures for the political participation of women and for their representation in decision-making bodies of the corporation.
Reform of the labour law was another achievement in the advancement of the rights of women and their participation as trade union leaders. In 2018, a commitment had been made to modify the State portal to include a box to allow trans people to use their name and avoid that their job applications were rejected because their names did not match their legal names.
Questions from the Experts
Violence against women was a crosscutting problem in many countries and Chile was not an exception, given the existence of stereotypes and the still prevailing atmosphere of machismo. There was a shortage in the collection of adequate data on violence against women, including on the number of cases, prosecutions and sentences, which made it more difficult to make policies and sanction perpetrators.
What difficulties were there in ascertaining the scope of femicide and what was the status of the law on domestic violence? What recourse would be provided to women victims of domestic violence, both civil and criminal?
The Committee had received reports of sexual violence and abuse against girls in the care of the State. What was being done to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, and protect the children?
Committee Experts noted that Chile remained a source, transit and destination country for trafficking of women and children for sexual and labour exploitation. Sentences for trafficking were weak, hampering efforts to deter trafficking and hold traffickers accountable. What was being done to strengthen sentencing and penalize traffickers of women and girls with sentences proportionate to the severity of the crime; to expand access to specialized shelters for victims of trafficking, including outside of the capital; and to reduce demand for commercial sex and forced labour? Criminalizing trafficking was insufficient to deter organized criminal activity. Had Chile considered the possibility and viability of tracing the money and so deterring criminal activity?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation recognized that sexist stereotypes justified violence against women and said that a number of campaigns had been undertaken to break down the harmful stereotypes, educate the public, and disseminate citizen training. One of the campaigns addressed femicide specifically. In the judiciary, a preventive campaign on what sexual harassment was had been initiated after a study on discrimination had shown that 1 in 10 people had experienced sexual harassment in the judiciary.
The act on domestic violence had been in place since 2005 and it prohibited violence against women at home; it had been amended to criminalize corporal mistreatment of vulnerable members of the family, such as children or persons with disabilities, and it allowed for the transfer of such cases to the criminal court directly. An amendment was being discussed which would broaden the definition of domestic violence against women to include violence between partners who do not live together, and to define sexual harassment in the street and the workplace.
The Criminal Code provided a very limited definition of femicide, which was recognized as a homicide committed by one of the intimate partners who lived or had lived together. An amendment was being proposed to broaden this definition, which would still contain an element of a relationship and would preserve the definition of “intimate femicide”. Another effort was directed toward the harmonization of definitions of femicide used by different institutions.
The definition of torture was in keeping with the United Nations and the Inter-American conventions, and in fact had been broadened to also include psychological pain inflicted by torture and mistreatment.
Chile was undergoing a structural reform of the institutions caring for children while a draft bill proposed the establishment of a civil society council for children. Together with the initiatives coming from the Children’s Ombudsman, and the upcoming establishment of the national preventative mechanism for torture, Chile was now in a position to adequately monitor the situation of children in care of the State.
There was one women’s shelter, which was under the Ministry for Women and Gender Equity. It was not enough to provide support to all victims of violence against women, including victims of trafficking, and additional resources were requested.
Questions from the Experts
A Committee Expert stressed the link between women’s rights and democratic progression and noted the advances Chile had made in the electoral scrutiny, modernization of the political system and the adoption of electoral quotas.
Chile should focus further efforts on increasing the presence of women in the management structures of political parties, ensuring that more women were in positions where they could take decisions on issues that were not only related to their gender, and promote qualitative and not just quantitative participation of women in political and public life. Civil society actively participated in public debate and in consultations, but there must be a path to involve them more in decision-making. It was imperative to ensure the participation of all women, especially indigenous women, in local councils and local power structures.
Responses by the Delegation
In response, the delegation recognized cultural constraints in Chile which had made it difficult to adopt a quota for the 40 per cent representation of women in elected positions, and not only on electoral lists which was now the case. There was a training in leadership available for women, and a new brand of citizen training, which promoted political participation from a diversity perspective, was now compulsory in schools.
As for the representation of women in the diplomatic service, two measures warranted mention: in partnership with academia and targeting university students, an effort was being made to promote women’s involvement in the foreign service, and secondly, the broadening academic qualifications for the posts in the service to also accept graduates of social or language studies. For the past several years, Chile had maintained equal representation of women and men in the selection of new candidates: in 2017 for example, of the 59 selected candidates, 30 were women and 29 were men. The number of women ambassadors had been increased from two in 2014 to 14 in 2018, representing 15 per cent of all ambassadorial posts.
With regard to trafficking in persons, the delegation explained that there were specialized agencies of the State and within the police and prosecution services to deal with money laundering, including in connection with human trafficking; such activities were provided for in the law.
Questions from the Experts
Chile had made important steps forward in the area of education, in particular in school inclusion and higher education. Experts commented on the adoption of the protocol, which had put in place a complaint system for students, and asked whether such a system had been implemented in all schools. What policies were in place to change traditional male and female careers, were textbooks modified to remove harmful stereotypes, and what measures were in place to remove barriers and ensure that indigenous women, particularly those with disabilities, fully enjoyed their right to education?
As for the participation of women in the labour market, the delegation was asked how Chile would resolve segregation in the world of work, promote co-responsibility in work and family life, offer alternatives toward reconciling domestic and professional life such as part-time work, and reduce the gender pay gap. Did the reform of the labour law promote inclusion in social protection systems, what integration measures for foreign and migrant workers were available, and what steps were being taken to eliminate child labour?
The adoption of the law 21030, which allowed abortion when pregnancy posed a risk to life of the mother, or in case of rape or foetal non-viability, was an important step forward. The law however limited free access to abortion as it allowed for barriers such as conscientious objection by healthcare professionals, while the requirement of consent by a legal representative for children under the age of 14 was a serious obstacle, especially as this group was very much affected by sexual violence. The law should be modified to also allow termination of pregnancy arising from incest and when the health and not only life of the mother was at risk. The delegation was asked about forced sterilization of women with disabilities and women with HIV/AIDS, and the requirement of free and informed consent to any surgical interventions and permanent contraception.
Responses by the Delegation
Responding, the delegation said that the protocol on a complaint mechanism applied throughout the country, and that guidelines to identify most prevalent stereotypes in school had been created, including in teaching practices.
There were 1,200 teachers of indigenous background, mostly women, and an intercultural education secretary had been appointed in the Ministry of Education to develop the concept of intercultural education. There were measures to integrate a gender perspective in teacher training in order to create a more inclusive education system.
Chile had committed to increasing female participation in the labour market to 60 per cent by 2030, and to 45 per cent among women in the lowest 20 per cent income group. During the last labour reform, several measures had been included in the law to promote co-responsibility and they had made it possible for trade unions to strike a deal with the employer on telecommuting and home office for workers with families. Another measure was to extend the right to some time off to feed the child to fathers as well, whereas before this right was granted to mothers only. A bill was being developed to enshrine the principle of equal value of women and men, and it included the principle of equal pay. The law would allow women to seek recourse through the justice system, whereas before they had to address the complaint and seek redress from the employer first.
Chile was working hard to increase the number of places in childcare facilities; by the end of President Bachelet’s term, there would be 9,000 new places for pre-school children. Work was ongoing to increase the capacity to care for the elderly and so release women from their caring duties and enable them to pursue other interests and professional advancement.
The delegation explained that, in the law, incest was understood to be rape, which meant that a pregnancy arising from incest could be legally aborted. The law on abortion guaranteed the civil rights of teenagers and mothers and the respect for mothers’ decisions. An interdisciplinary team approved abortion requests. The law established a specific abortion procedure for children under the age of 14, which called for prior authorisation of parents or legal guardians; the child had the right to a recourse if her wishes differed from that of her parents or a legal guardian. The wish of the child would be respected also if there was a suspicion that the pregnancy occurred because of a rape. As for children aged 14 to 18, parental authorization was not required, they were informed of the procedure.
Questions from the Experts
A Committee Expert remarked that, although Chile was not a poor country, there were pockets of poverty and groups more at risk of poverty. Could the delegation elaborate? How was Chile implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that women were in the driving seat?
The delegation was asked to explain how Chile was streamlining the use of natural and mineral resources while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and how it was guaranteeing the respect for prior and informed consent.
What system was in place to ensure that women in rural areas were prepared for disasters?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the solidarity-based pension system had been created under President Bachelet; it provided minimum pensions to over one million most vulnerable persons, 62 per cent of whom were women. There was a proposal for the establishment of the collective contribution pension system, which would be debated by Parliament in the next legislative session. It would contain a bonus for women to balance the gender pension gap and address women’s lower pensions arising from women’s increased life expectancy.
There were working guidelines from 2014 on disaster response, which looked at shelters and mobile kindergartens. Over the past several years, the Public Ministry had increased the participation of isolated and indigenous communities in consultations and decision-making processes. This was a complex and challenging issue, on which Chile was committed to make further advances.
A 2015 study had revealed that the income poverty rate was 14 per cent and multi-dimensional poverty stood at 20 per cent. Advances had been made in reducing income poverty, including among indigenous peoples.
Since 2013, the Government was working with a range of stakeholders on developing human rights based regulations in connection with persons deprived of their liberty, which had been finalized in 2016. A unit for the protection and promotion of human rights had been created within the penitentiary service, to ensure the implementation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules) and the Bangkok Rules (The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders).
Questions from the Experts
In a final series of questions, Committee Experts took note of the bill on raising the age of marriage to 18 and asked what was keeping it from being adopted and whether it would still allow for a marriage under the age of 18 and under which conditions.
Were women well informed about the marital property regimes and the fact that all property brought into the marriage was considered joint property? Were work-related benefits considered to be marital property?
How was domestic violence taken into consideration in child custody issues?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the 2004 law on civil matrimony allowed divorce, and that consensual divorce was possible. Mediation was one of the methods used in divorce but not when there was violence. A partner who was in an economically weaker position could ask for compensation from the other spouse. Economic compensation was not automatically awarded nor was it automatically awarded to women. It was calculated on a case-by-case basis and took into account the length of the marriage, time worked, lost earning potential during the marriage, and other factors.
As for the minimum age of marriage, the delegation explained that previously, it had been 12 for girls and 14 for boys, and that currently it stood at 16 years for both sexes. The delegation explained that the draft bill on the minimum age of marriage at the age of 18 was an initiative by the legislators and not the executive.
Civil unions had been legal for several years now, and there were legal possibilities to recognize de facto relationships of two people living together without getting married or forming a civil union.
CLAUDIA PASCUAL GRAU, Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Chile, stressed that since the return of democracy in the 1990s, Chile had made significant progress in building the rule of law, and a Chile of citizenry aware of its rights. The Government of President Bachelet was characterised by progress in the area of human rights of all in the country. It was important to recognize and sustain progress made thus far, which was an outcome of working together between the Government and civil society. Chile was aware that some challenges persisted and was committed to charting a path forward, with the Committee’s support.
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended Chile for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations, which the Committee would issue with the purpose of the more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.
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