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COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN REVIEWS THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN CABO VERDE

11 July 2019

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today examined the ninth periodic report of Cabo Verde on its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Maritza Rosabal Peña, Minister of Education and Minister of Family and Social Inclusion of Cabo Verde, introducing the report, said the Government’s Programme 2016-2021 addressed the challenges that women faced and provided for the national mandate for gender equality. Cabo Verde had adopted a gender mainstreaming approach and prioritized issues such as the fight against gender-based violence, the promotion of employment and decent work for women, positive discrimination of women in rural areas, and the adoption of the law on gender equality, among others. Gender equality had been adopted as a cross-cutting measure in the Strategic Sustainable Development Plan 2017-2021, the main planning instrument; 62.8 per cent of its programmes were aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal number 5. Gender was mainstreamed in municipal plans for local development, which focused, inter alia, on the eradication of gender-based violence and the economic empowerment of women. In 2011, Cabo Verde had adopted the law against gender-based violence and a favourable legal framework to guarantee the rights of women. The law 47/2017 eliminated discrimination against pregnant girls from the educational system; the Direction for the Promotion of Citizenry and Inclusive Education was mandated with the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence in the school environment; and the national plan to combat sexual violence against children and youth 2017-2019 was in place.

Committee Experts recognized the progress that Cabo Verde was making in advancing the situation of women: the efforts to implement gender mainstreaming and gender-responsive budgets; universal primary education which ensured that more than 95 per cent of the children were in school; and a free, integrated and gender responsive health service that met human rights standards. While commending the steps taken to protect women from violence, the Experts raised concerns about the deeply entrenched patriarchal gender stereotypes; domestic violence, sexual harassment, and heavy drinking, which often triggered violence against women, were socially accepted. Experts discussed the situation of women and girls with disabilities and urged Cabo Verde to ensure inclusive education for all children with disabilities and eliminate discrimination against women with disabilities in access to health structures and services. Poverty and lack of economic empowerment made it difficult for women to enjoy their rights and fully access services, especially for rural women, said the Experts, and asked how they participated and benefitted from the “blue economy”, the sustainable use of ocean resources for sustainable growth while preserving marine health. They welcomed the country’s vision to become a laboratory of sustainable development and urged it to ensure the leadership and participation of women in this process. Strategies and efforts to develop renewable energy must not neglect the needs of women for reliable, clean and affordable energy.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Rosabal Peña said that she was very honoured to come before the Committee and share the history of her country and the efforts to seek out and break discrimination in life, in language, and in history, and build edifices of society anew.

Hilary Gbedemah, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, thanked the members of the delegation for their willingness to explore, engage and answer all the questions raised during the dialogue.

The delegation of Cabo Verde consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Family and Social Inclusion, Institute for Gender Equality and Equity, and the Permanent Mission of Cabo Verde to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Cabo Verde at the end of its seventy-third session on 19 July. Those, and other 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 can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will reconvene on Friday, 12 July at 10 a.m., to consider the ninth periodic report of Guyana (CEDAW/C/GUY/9).

Report

The Committee has before it the ninth periodic report of Cabo Verde (CEDAW/C/CPV/9).

Presentation of the Report

MARITZA ROSABAL PEÑA, Minister of Education and Minister of Family and Social Inclusion of Cabo Verde, said that Cabo Verde had deployed considerable efforts to improve the situation of women in all areas of life. The Government’s Programme 2016-2021 addressed the challenges that women faced and provided for the national mandate for gender equality. Cabo Verde had adopted a gender mainstreaming approach and prioritized issues such as the fight against gender-based violence, the promotion of employment and decent work for women, positive discrimination of women in rural areas, and the adoption of the law on gender equality, among others. Gender equality had been adopted as a cross-cutting measure in the Strategic Sustainable Development Plan 2017-2021, the main planning instrument. It contained specific gender actions and integrated gender in public policies, thus 62.8 per cent of its programmes were aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal number 5. The Plan’s first pillar was the economy and the new model of economic development, and it comprised activities in tourism, work and employment, and water and sanitation. The second pillar addressed human capital, the quality of life and the fight against inequalities; it integrated sectors such as education, family, health, inclusion and social security, and prioritized programmes that aimed to empower women, address violence against women, increase women’s political participation, strengthen women’s economic empowerment, and ensure sexual and reproductive rights.

The Finance Ministry and the Ministry for Family and Social Inclusion were in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Plan. The latter, created in 2016, was in charge of implementing policies that aimed to achieve gender equality and promote gender mainstreaming in sectoral programmes and policies. The Inter-Ministerial Commission for Gender Mainstreaming had been set up in 2018; among other issues, it was drafting the gender strategy 2019-2021. Gender was mainstreamed in municipal plans for local development, which focused, inter alia, on the eradication of gender-based violence and the economic empowerment of women. In 2011, Cabo Verde adopted the law against gender-based violence and a favourable legal framework to guarantee the rights of women. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labour were working on further strengthening this legal framework, said the Minister, adding that the law on criminal procedure contained provisions for the investigation of crimes against the freedom of self-determination of women and gender-based violence. On 18 March, a proposal had been made for the ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention N°102 on the fundamental principles of social security and the Convention N° 144 on tripartite consultations for the promotion and application of international labour norms. The ratification of those two instruments would allow for the expansion of social security guarantees to important labour sectors, for example domestic work, where women represented a majority, said the Minister.

Police officers were being trained in gender equality, while the integrated platform for the management of information had been introduced to evaluate the risk of aggression and violence, as well as protection needs of victims. The law 47/2017 eliminated discrimination against pregnant girls from the educational system, while the Direction for the Promotion of Citizenry and Inclusive Education had been created, mandated with the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence in the school environment. The national plan to combat sexual violence against children and youth 2017-2019 was in place, and in partnership with civil society organizations, four safe houses had been set up for victims of gender-based violence. Cabo Verde paid particular attention to the equal participation of women in decision-making posts, the Minister said. Currently, women made up 23 per cent of the National Assembly, but the Law on Gender Equality, proposed in March 2019, aimed to establish a 40 per cent quota for women in electoral lists. It was expected that the law would be adopted in July 2019.

Questions by Committee Experts

Committee Experts commended the progress that Cabo Verde was making in advancing the situation of women, despite the fact that, as a self-declared small island development State, it lacked resources and suffered frequent disasters. The Experts welcomed in particular the setting up of gender focal points in the ministries, the increase of funding for the Institute for Gender Equality and Equity in 2018, universal primary education which ensured that more than 95 per cent of the children were in school, the adoption and implementation of the economic assistance plan for women, and the law against gender-based violence. Why was the definition of discrimination, as provided for in article 1 of the Convention, not incorporated in numerous laws and regulations that the country had adopted?

On access to justice, the delegation was asked about the training of judges on the provisions of the Convention and the measures taken to ensure the continued training of all judicial staff in substantive gender equality, elimination of gender stereotypes, gender-based violence, and gender-based discrimination. What was being done to increase the legal literacy of women, strengthen their knowledge about women’s rights, and ensure that victims could seek redress before the courts, including by making free legal aid more accessible and available?

Had the national human rights commission been brought in line with the Paris Principles as far as its independence and autonomy were concerned and could it file a complaint on behalf of victims?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that the Convention was fully integrated in the domestic legal order and had been made an essential part. The Government was under the obligation to eliminate all discriminatory laws and provisions. Cabo Verde was using positive discrimination to advance the situation of women, for example a number of social programmes made women, especially female heads of families, priority beneficiaries. The gender parity bill was currently under discussion. The Gender Commission had been established and it distributed instruments and regulations throughout the Government.

The national sustainable development plan was being implemented at the municipal level; so far, nine municipalities had been integrated and the programme was being rolled out to remaining municipal councils. Eighteen of the 22 municipalities had responsibilities to promote gender equality.

As far as training on the Convention and gender training was concerned, the delegation said that judicial training did not include a specific module on the matter, as had been done in the police; however, the continued education for judges addressed gender issues. Gender issues were mainstreamed in the existing training programmes, for example, into a specific module for prosecutors and court staff on services provided to the public. Legal aid was funnelled through the legal professional bar and was means-tested; those earning less than a minimum wage of 15,000 escudos were entitled to free legal aid.

As for the National Human Rights Commission, the delegation said that the number of Commissioners had been increased to 30, of which 16 were women and 14 were men. A process was underway to change its governing statute.

Questions by Committee Experts

On the need to take all appropriate measures, in all fields, to guarantee women’s enjoyment of their rights on an equal basis with men, the Experts commended Cabo Verde for its efforts to implement gender mainstreaming and gender-responsive budgets, in particular gender markers, as well as the establishment of many mechanisms, programmes, and institutions that made up the national gender machinery.

The coordination of so many institutions was burdensome and not always effective, the Experts noted, and asked whether it would be more cost-effective and efficient to focus on one institution, for example a dedicated Gender Equality Ministry which could ensure a holistic and sustained approach to the advancement of women’s rights? What were the mandates, resources, impacts and outcomes of the Institute for Gender Equality and Equity, and of the Gender Commission?

Temporary special measures must address both vertical and horizontal discrimination and segregation as well as the exclusion of women, in order to achieve fairness and social justice. What variety of legislative and other regulatory instruments had Cabo Verde adopted to advance the situation of women and address historic gaps and injustice, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of women? How effective had those measures been and how had they contributed to solidifying gains towards gender equality?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that the plethora of institutions and mechanisms had been restructured and the Ministry of Family and Social Inclusion had been created, while the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Gender Mainstreaming, which had just started working, was in charge of coordination between the Ministries and was connected with the municipalities. Each Ministry had a gender focal point which directed gender-related activities, while the Treasury had adopted as an overarching goal of gender equality. The second gender equality plan 2019-2021 was being developed.

Temporary special measures had been adopted, for example, the law on gender equality which aimed to strengthen the political participation and representation of women; positive discrimination to increase the access of women to power and decision-making in the education sector, which had resulted in gender parity in one of the municipalities; measures to increase the number of women candidates for the police; while leadership courses had to have 51 per cent participation of women. The political parties law had been reduced recently and the principle of gender equality had been tacitly accepted. Special measures had been adopted for children with disabilities, especially to strengthen early identification and intervention.

Questions by Committee Experts

The Experts commended the steps taken to protect women from violence, but noted with concern that patriarchal gender stereotypes were deeply entrenched. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, and heavy drinking, which often triggered violence against women, were socially accepted. In 2018, eight women had been victims of femicide, and half of the victims had been very young women. The law 85 on gender-based violence was not being prioritized for implementation, and women and girls who were victims of violence did not enjoy adequate protection nor access to support services, including shelters.

In 2015, Cabo Verde had criminalized trafficking in persons, and had increased the age of sexual abuse of minors from 16 to 18 age as an aggravated crime, the Experts noted with satisfaction, and commended cooperation agreements with Brazil, the European Union, and several other countries. However, despite the legal framework and the international cooperation on the matter, the prosecution of perpetrators of trafficking in persons was very low. It seemed that the procedures for the identification of victims of trafficking for the police and social workers were lacking, while the border police had not been trained on procedures. This state of affairs was of major concern since the country was both a country of origin and destination for human trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation, especially of young girls, and for purposes of drug smuggling.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation concurred that patriarchal stereotypes were ingrained in the Cabo Verdean society, as in many other societies across the world. The delegation said that after World War II, as a result of a major drought, many men had migrated abroad, and in the 1960s, it had been said that there were eight women for each man. “Having a man” was socially prestigious and important, additionally feeding into patriarchal stereotypes and male dominance. Today, this situation was changing and women were more empowered. Programmes were in place to support women; they also worked with men to understand their behaviour and change the stereotypes they still often deeply held. The male perpetrators of violence had to attend rehabilitation programmes at the end of which their attitudes significantly changed.

A helpline for victims of violence had been in place for a long time, but since it was linked to fixed telephone lines, which no one was using nowadays, its usage was declining. The authorities were working with phone companies on setting up a help line for mobile telephones. The helpline 132 that facilitated contacting the police was in place, but its opening hours were limited. The Ministry for Family and Social Inclusion was working on strengthening the legal framework for the protection of women and girls from violence and was currently examining the law on gender violence crime. Furthermore, the construction of shelters throughout the country was continuing, and the authorities were working with hotels and guesthouses on the issue of providing shelters to victims

Human trafficking greatly concerned Cabo Verde and the authorities were committed to tackling the problem, said the delegation, noting that because of the lack of data, this was an invisible phenomenon, and this seriously hampered the interventions. The national plan to combat trafficking in human beings had been put in place in 2017, the Observatory had been established to provide the required data, and the institutional victim protection mechanism was set up. All those measures were producing positive results and recently, a trafficking network in one of the islands had been dismantled. Cabo Verde was traditionally a country of emigration and now it had an increasing number of immigrants. A High Council for Migration was being established under the Cabinet of Ministers and it would be mandated with developing an institutional framework and activities to address the trafficking in persons and migrations. The Cabo Verde for All campaign aimed to raise public awareness about those phenomena.

Questions by Committee Experts

The movement of women towards participation in politics and public life had been rather slow, but this was expected to change with the adoption of the gender parity law. What guarantees were there that the law would be indeed passed and what provisions would it contain that would accelerate women’s participation in public life? What was being done to encourage women to pursue careers in diplomacy, in peace processes, and in the defence of the country? The Experts commented on the lack of institutional linkages between the Ministry for Women and Social Inclusion and civil society organizations that would encourage their greater participation in all programmes for the advancement of women.

The delegation was asked to confirm that women and men had the same rights to acquire, change, and retain their nationality, and pass it on to their children and spouses. How many stateless persons or persons of unknown nationality were there in Cabo Verde and were all children born in the country registered at birth?

Replies by the Delegation

The population of Cabo Verde was about 500,000 and there were over 200 organizations and associations; in science alone, 14 non-governmental organizations were active. Therefore, there was a real citizens’ movement and a mechanism was in place to facilitate their engagement. The Government’s cooperation with civil society organizations was arranged in line with the national priorities; currently for example, one specifically targeted area was care and the cooperation was ongoing with those non-governmental organizations which were able to assist in building an adequate care system. Similarly, another priority area which civil society organizations were engaged in was gender-based violence.

The participation of women in diplomatic and foreign service was indeed low, although all the members of the Permanent Mission of Cabo Verde in Geneva were women. The Government was committed to increasing the number of women in international organizations. The national Police Force was the main defence body, it had been entirely made up of men, but women were increasingly joining the service thanks to the adoption of the rule that women had to make up half the new candidates. The National Police and the Defence Forces in 2017 were implementing the national plan for internal and citizen security, with community and grassroots involvement, which was expected to engender change. In 2017, Cabo Verde had presented a report on the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Today, police officials were rolling out a project in the capital with the use of mediators, and one of the main criteria for participation in this project was gender parity.

The gender parity law, first presented in 2018, had not yet been adopted. The law called for 40 per cent women representation in legislative bodies and gender parity in electoral processes at all levels. To date, a number of awareness raising and advocacy activities had been undertaken, particularly targeting women parliamentarians and political organizations. The law was scheduled for discussion on 17 July 2019, although at the moment, consensus on all its articles had not yet been achieved. After the discussion, it would pass for adoption by the special body.

Two-hundred and twenty cases of stateless persons had been resolved between 2013 and 2015.

The issue of the protection of the rights and the elimination of discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had come to the fore with the national action plan against gender-based violence. In 2018, the issue had been put on the policy agenda and Cabo Verde was the first African country to adopt the policy for this population group, and there were three civil society organizations which worked with those individuals. Awareness raising and informative documentaries on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals had been recently broadcast on the national television, but the country was only taking its initial steps in this domain, said the delegation.

Questions by Committee Experts

Continuing the dialogue, Committee Experts addressed the question of education. They raised concerns about the impact of school dropout on girls, and asked about the practical implementation of the regulation that allowed pregnant girls to continue their schooling. Did current educational policies include children with disabilities in mainstream classes rather than allocating them to special education, Experts asked, and requested the delegation to inform on the integration of sexual and reproductive health and education into the curricula at all levels. What measures had been carried out to prevent, eliminate, and sanction sexual violence in schools, especially if perpetrated by teachers?

The Experts commended Cabo Verde for the ratification of all eight core International Labour Organization conventions, including on equal pay for work of equal value, but noted that unfortunately this principle was not yet incorporated in the Labour Law. The delegation was asked to inform on the gender pay gap in informal, public, and private sectors, and in this regard, on measures taken to eliminate vertical and horizontal segregation in occupations and professions. The majority of domestic workers were women, about 90 per cent, an Expert noted, and remarked that although a regulatory framework was in place to protect some of their labour rights, it did not seem to be implemented in practice. Could the delegation brief the Committee on the recently held forum on sexual violence and sexual harassment in the workplace?

Replies by the Delegation

Reducing school dropout rates had been a longstanding priority for Cabo Verde. In 2017/2018, the rate stood at 6.5 per cent, and it had been reduced by one percentage point since. Girls mostly dropped out because of pregnancy and boys because they were looking for work. Canteens had been introduced as had apprentice programmes, and this was proving to be very successful. There had been an increase in enrolment rates, particularly for girls. In 2014, the regulation governing the support of adolescents had been introduced, but the rates of early pregnancies had not dropped. In 2017, the law had been enacted guaranteeing the right of pregnant girls to continue their schooling. The Government was working with the United Nations Children’s Fund to introduce sexual and reproductive health education in curricula at all levels.

The law had been changed in 2018 to guarantee universal access to preschool education, which had increased access of children with disabilities, particularly for low-income families. A bill was being passed to support schools in the provision of special needs education, under which multi-sectoral teams would be set up to support the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education.

Cabo Verde had adopted zero tolerance to sexual violence in schools, while at the national level, a programme to combat sexual violence against children and teenagers had been put in place. It had raised awareness about this phenomenon and more complaints were being received than before. Teachers were being included in the implementation of this programme.

In 2016, only about 10 per cent of domestic workers had been registered; following the awareness campaign, which also promoted the minimum wage, the number of registered domestic workers had increased, and it stood at 31 per cent in 2017. The law set maternity leave at eight weeks, while doctors usually prescribed sick leave for the four weeks before the birth. The Council of Ministers was discussing the ratification of International Labour Organization convention 157 which would extend maternity leave to 14 weeks. The number of women registering their small and medium enterprises was on the increase too. As of today, 41 per cent of the population was registered for the national pension and for the first time ever, the number of women had surpassed that of men, and women represented 59.7 per cent of all registered individuals.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts commended the efforts to provide free health care and an integrated and gender responsive health service that met human rights standards. Concern remained about the obstacles that women with disabilities faced in accessing health structures, and discrimination against them in obtaining services, including the fact that they were often forced to terminate pregnancies. Rural women continued to experience low access to health structures. What was being done to make the health system more inclusive and accessible throughout the country?

Poverty and lack of economic empowerment made it difficult for women to enjoy their rights and fully access services. This was particularly the case for rural women. The Government put a priority on developing tourism, which employed only seven per cent of the population, the Experts said, and urged Cabo Verde to give equal weight to agriculture and related activities. Since more than 40 per cent of the population derived their living from agro-activities, this sector was of vital importance for economic development, the elimination of poverty, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Replies by the Delegation

Health centres could be found throughout the national territory, said the delegation, adding that many had increased accessibility, for example by building access ramps. In order to address the shortage of health personnel, the training of nurses and medical doctors had been prioritized, both in-country, through public-private partnerships, and abroad. The voluntary termination of pregnancy was considered as an essential element of social protection. The rate of mother to child transmission of HIV was very low, while Cabo Verde was committed to eliminating communicable diseases such as malaria or Zika. Efforts were being deployed to reduce the cost of repellents, and public awareness raising and education activities were ongoing.

Tourism represented a significant economic element, for which gender mainstreaming plans had been made. Data showed that poverty was concentrated in three particular areas; activities to address it included women’ access to technology, including digital technology, women’s ownership of land, and capacity-building on forest and biodiversity conservation.

Questions by Committee Experts

The delegation was asked about efforts to develop a “blue economy”; the sustainable use of ocean resources for sustainable growth while preserving the health of oceans could include and benefit rural women and girls. What system was in place to prioritize food and water security of rural women over the needs of tourists, for example? Asking about the national plan for the development of renewable energies, the Experts urged Cabo Verde to ensure that all such strategies took into account the energy needs of rural women, primarily for cooking and lighting, in an affordable manner.

The Civil Code was based on the principle of equality and regulated the regime of de facto union of women and men in a flexible manner. Issues of concern included the translation of the principle of equality in marriage into practice – women had the same rights, but due to poverty, they did not have the same bargaining power. Difficulties women faced in marriage, family life, inheritance and divorce were not due to the legal framework, but to the prevalence of informal systems. What was being done to address this situation and to ensure that all decisions that concerned children were taken with the best interest of the child as a priority?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that for Cabo Verde, a small island developing State, the sea carried an enormous importance for the economy and the culture. The Government was working on supporting women, in particular rural women, to transform their traditional activities towards water-based ones. Over the last several years, access to drinking water had increased considerably, partly through desalination.

Data and statistics on polygamy were not available, although they existed. It seemed that the practice of polygamy was decreasing, mainly due to societal pressure. The average age of marriage was 33. The country was undergoing a demographic shift and a shift in awareness, which was very important for gender equality. Responding to Experts’ concerns that de facto unions could be a gateway to child marriage, the delegation said that those unions must be legally recognized, or retroactively recognized after three years of cohabitation or when the couple had children. The age of marriage was set at 18 for both sexes; marriage at the age of 16 was possible with parental permission. Over the past three years there had been three such cases.

Concluding Remarks

MARITZA ROSABAL PEÑA, Minister of Education and Minister of Family and Social Inclusion of Cabo Verde, in her concluding remarks, said that the dialogue had been very difficult, challenging, and an emotional exercise. The Head of Delegation said she was very honoured to come before the Committee and share the history of her country and the efforts to seek out and break discrimination in life, in language, and in history, and to build edifices of society anew.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for their willingness to explore, engage and answer all the questions raised during the dialogue. The Chair invited Cabo Verde to accept an amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time, and urged it to pay particular attention to the Committee’s concluding observations that would be identified for immediate follow up.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW19.023E