The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon heard from representatives of non-governmental organizations and a national human rights institution on the situation of women’s rights in Maldives and Sweden, whose reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women will be reviewed this week.
Non-governmental organizations expressed concerns about religious fundamentalism in Maldives, as well as lack of support for the work of human rights defenders. Furthermore, the organizations expressed concerns about labour and contraceptive services, and the need to strengthen them, as well as cases of sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace in Maldives.
In Sweden, civil society organizations talked about problems with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccination, the lack of a gender-specific perspective in the regulation of arms exports, and the lack of statistics on discrimination against women with disabilities. Concerns were expressed about the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, issues concerning economic injustice, healthcare, and sexual harassment.
The following non-governmental organizations spoke on Maldives: Uthema, Hope for Women and Landsea.
The following non-governmental organizations spoke on Sweden: Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, Amnesty International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World of No Sexual Abuse, FQ – Forum Women and Disability and the Swedish Disability Rights Federation, RFSL – the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights, and the Swedish Women’s Lobby.
Moomina Waheed, Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, spoke about the need for criminalising domestic violence, as well as providing better support for the victims of this offense. She furthermore expressed concerns about women’s rights as a whole in the country in almost any sector, and the need for more up to date research in this field, as well as better financial support for the activities needed to promote women’s rights in Maldives.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meetings summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at https://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 October to start its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Maldives (CEDAW/C/MDV/6).
Discussion with Non-Governmental Organizations on Maldives and Sweden
Civil society organizations from Maldives recognised and welcomed the positive development of the appointment of women judges to the Maldives Supreme Court and the Criminal Court, setting historic precedents. Maldives must remove all existing reservations to article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, concerning religion. The patriarchal global menace of religious fundamentalism had arrived in Maldives, with significant negative impacts on the rights, freedoms, life opportunities and experiences of women and girls. The organizations expressed concerns about the impunity with which organised and targeted attacks were directed at women human rights defenders and called for adequate support by the State for strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives was unable to uphold its legal mandate to defend human rights defenders. The Committee was urged to recommend that Maldives adopt mechanisms to understand the frequency of female genital mutilation and increase the level of awareness on this problem from a religious and health perspective. Concerns were expressed about labour and contraceptive services, and the need to strengthen them, as well as cases of sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace in Maldives. The non-governmental organizations called for attention to be paid to the way the Government distributed natural resources as well as the climate actions taken by the State party.
In Sweden, civil society organizations expressed concerns about the way COVID-19 vaccinations were distributed, including concerns about the duties of the Government to meet its international obligations. The organizations raised the issue of sexual crimes in Sweden, as well as the way these cases were investigated, and the measures taken to support victims, including migrant and refugee women. The Committee was encouraged to ask questions and make recommendations about the continued lack of a gender-specific perspective in the regulation of arms exports, as well as regarding the need for strengthening of gender and conflict-prevention expertise at the Swedish arms export control agency. Healthcare for victims of sexual violence was not provisioned in Swedish law, so there was no access to adequate healthcare for them. There was legal uncertainty and inconsistency regarding the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, in particular asylum seekers in Sweden. The organizations reported on issues concerning economic injustice regarding pay gap between women and men; healthcare, especially concerning mental healthcare; discrimination and the way it was defined in Swedish law; and the need for training of officials who worked with women who suffered sexual violence.
The Committee Experts asked non-governmental organizations from Sweden for clarification on the way investigations were carried out in rape cases. Referring to specific obligations on arm exports, the Committee asked whether Sweden took those into consideration. Regarding healthcare, the Committee asked whether there was a problem with mental healthcare specifically or healthcare as a whole in Sweden. Furthermore, the Committee asked for clarification on the upcoming plan, and whether the feminist foreign policy was to be implemented in it. The Committee asked about the healthcare provided to migrant women and their families, as well as to specific groups that suffered income gaps.
The non-governmental organizations from Sweden explained that after a legal change, the number of rape cases had increased, but not the number of convictions. Measures to combat human trafficking were envisaged in Swedish legislation, but more resources were needed for improvement. On income gaps, women pensioners, single moms, as well as migrant groups were reported as the most vulnerable. A new tax reform, as well as a new pensioning system were needed.
Discussion with National Human Rights Institution
MOOMINA WAHEED, Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, expressed concerns about the current state of the legislation concerning domestic violence in Maldives. She noted that new research was needed, as well as criminalising this offense, and providing greater support for the victims, including financial support for the shelters. A few surveys had been conducted in Maldives which had revealed a decline in the support for gender equality, as well as the emerging religious extremist narrative. Another survey had shown that the practice of female circumcision had been declining over the past 50 years and that the prevalence of female circumcision increased steeply with age, but still there was a need for better protection of victims of female genital mutilation. Many other issues concerning women’s rights were listed by Ms. Waheed, including under-representation at the policy and decision-making levels, negative portrayal in the media, lack of affordable health service for people in outer islands, and others. The Commissioner urged Maldives to take the necessary measures to address gender stereotyping and the role of women in economies, as well as measures to facilitate the entry of women to the job market by creating employment opportunities and increasing access to ways to achieve financial independence.
The Committee Experts asked about the available options for women reaching out to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives without exposing them, as well as for possible ways for strengthening the institution. Did the Commission work with the communities?
MOOMINA WAHEED, Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, noted that the support of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives was guaranteed and it was working to establish a network to promote human rights. She explained that good policies were needed, including on women’s and children’s rights. Capacity building was crucial. The Commission believed in collaborative efforts and work with all civil society organizations, as well as the Government, to promote, protect and strengthen women’s rights. The Commission was working on an integrated training to build the capacity of organizations and businesses on the development of women’s rights. It was a new project, which had just started. If this project got sufficient protection, it would be an ideal situation where all the members of the community could be reached. The Human Rights Commission of Maldives called for more proactive work to promote gender rights at the communal level.