The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the tenth periodic report of Ecuador, with Committee Experts asking about women’s access to abortion in the country, and questioning the delegation about how its policies and programmes for gender parity in political representation and public life, including the formal economy, were working in practice.
A Committee Expert welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling decriminalising abortion in the case of rape, yet noted that concerns remained. Did Ecuador intend to legalise abortion in cases of incest and cases of foetal impairment, as well as in cases where there was a risk to the life and health of the mother, and to decriminalise it in all other cases? Another Committee Expert asked if Ecuador was ready to draft a national action plan to expedite parity in all sectors of political and public life. Committee Experts said women had much lower earnings from pensions in Ecuador, and they were overrepresented in informal work. What steps were being taken to establish a social protection floor? What specific measures among the many initiatives outlined by the delegation amounted to temporary special measures? Could the delegation give more information about legislative reform imposing quotas in electoral lists?
The delegation of Ecuador detailed national programmes and initiatives aimed at mitigating violence against women, increasing women’s representation in political and economic life, and tackling sexual abuse in schools. The COVID-19 pandemic had had a severe effect on society, it was also noted, though Ecuador had found innovative ways to ensure continued access to services through “virtual windows” and an electronic signature system as well as a protocol for having hearings.
María-Bernarda Ordóñez, Secretary for Human Rights of Ecuador and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said the Ecuadorian Government recognised that overcoming gender inequality was a matter of social justice and human rights. The prevention of violence against girls and women was everyone’s responsibility, and 16 Ministries were working on specific projects for that purpose. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador had vaccinated over half the population. The crisis generated by the pandemic had had a negative impact on the employment and working conditions of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, generating a setback of more than a decade in the progress achieved in terms of labour participation.
The delegation of Ecuador was made up of representatives of the Secretariat for Human Rights.
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. The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee 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 4 p.m. on Monday, 1 November, to hear a briefing by civil society organizations on Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, South Sudan and South Africa, whose reports will be reviewed by the Committee next week.
The Committee has before it the tenth periodic report of Ecuador (CEDAW/C/ECU/10).
Introduction of the Report
MARÍA-BERNARDA ORDÓÑEZ, Secretary of Human Rights of Ecuador and head of the delegation, said the Ecuadorian Government recognised that overcoming gender inequality was a matter of social justice and human rights. The prevention of violence against girls and women was everyone’s responsibility, and 16 Ministries were working on specific projects for that purpose. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador had vaccinated over half the population, and the State also planned to develop a comprehensive response strategy with the collaboration of the Pan American Health Organization. The crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic had had a negative impact on the employment and working conditions of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, generating a setback, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, of more than a decade in the progress achieved in terms of labour participation.
In 2018, a comprehensive law to prevent and eradicate violence against women was created, along with a national implementation plan. Women’s organizations and feminist organizations had demanded an adequate budget for its implementation. Based on that, Ecuador had constructed several projects, including for comprehensive care centres which would provide specialised services to children, adolescents and women. There was progress in management of information on violence against women, with weekly updates of figures on intentional homicides and femicides from data sources produced by the Judiciary Council, the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of the Interior, among other information sources.
In the area of sexual and reproductive health, a draft law to guarantee the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy in cases of rape was now with legislators for approval. A roadmap had been designed to update the 2015 Clinical Practice Guide on Therapeutic Abortion to include that mandate. The Ministry of Public Health had formed a technical roundtable for that purpose, which had heard over a dozen cases of abortion requests following rape. As part of reparation measures imposed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and in memory of Paola Guzmán Albarracín, a girl who committed suicide as a result of rape suffered at the hands of the vice-rector of the school she attended, Ecuador had decided to identify and take action to address sexual violence in the educational sphere. In that context, an inter-institutional round table was set up to develop a comprehensive public policy.
Turning to issues of migration, she said regularisation processes for migrants aimed to provide a new opportunity for regular stay and socio-economic integration. A priority in Ecuador was the prevention of violence. It cost the lives of women and also negatively affected the economy. That was why Ecuador had invested in the prevention of violence. Ecuador would be issuing updated data on vaccination – almost all those deprived of liberty and those in protection centres and shelters had been vaccinated. Together, with local governments and with the private sector, gender gaps could be closed. Investing in women meant investing in society.
Questions from a Committee Expert
LETICIA BONIFAZ ALFONZO, Committee Member, asked what was being done to strengthen local systems for protection and access to justice? Was Ecuador paying attention to remote areas and indigenous women, as well as women of African descent? Was Ecuador applying the judicial instructions for protective measures? What was being done to strengthen community ombudspersons? In cases of sexual violence and femicide, how was the police assisted with safeguarding evidence? What was being done for indigenous women, so they were treated well in the justice system?
Replies from the Delegation
The delegation explained that in Ecuador, units for rights protection worked on the rights of girls, boys and adolescents, and on the rights of women. The centres were linked with comprehensive protection services provided for by the Secretariat of Human Rights. Ecuador was developing several strategies, including developing “virtual windows” for justice purposes. Justice officials were given sensitisation training, and more information could be provided in writing. Ecuador was identifying obstacles to be overcome to implement the law as regards violence against women. Municipal governments had greater possibility for local action. As for reconciling indigenous justice and ordinary justice, Ecuador aimed to improve areas for dialogue. The Violeta centres were catalysts for implementing the law.
As for access to justice, and to avoid victimisation, the judiciary had set up chambers with protocols for attention to victims of violence, women and children, and young girls, and to have just one testimony taken. When a woman lodged a complaint, measures were taken to protect her.
Follow-Up Questions from a Committee Expert
LETICIA BONIFAZ ALFONZO, Committee Member, asked for data about how much the “virtual windows” established due to the COVID-19 pandemic were used in rural areas. What were the results of the training process for justice staff and police officers? How was the single register working regarding violence against women?
Follow-up Replies from the Delegation
The delegation explained that the “virtual windows” and an electronic signature system, as well as a protocol for having hearings, had been developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, to guarantee services. Approximately 2,000 cases had been registered making use of the virtual windows. As for the single register of cases of violence, seven institutions were working on that area at the moment; data had been registered with different variables, which had to be harmonised.
Questions from Committee Experts
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Member, asked whether the special mechanisms set up in 2015 as a vehicle for the implementation of recommendations from the Committee would again be triggered to ensure delivery of follow-up to the concluding observations arising from the present dialogue? Would the mandate of the Ombudsperson be strengthened to bring it into line with the Paris Principles?
ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked what specific measures among the many initiatives outlined by the delegation amounted to temporary special measures? Could the delegation give more information about legislative reform imposing quotas in electoral lists? Temporary special measures were a specific category of measures, she noted, asking whether any such measures had been enacted for marginalised groups of women?
Responses from the Delegation
The delegation said that the Human Rights Secretariat was the institution which guided human rights public policy. The State used that Secretariat as a vehicle to ensure gender mainstreaming, and to ensure gender was a cross-cutting issue that was considered in all public policy adoption, ensuring it was pro-woman and pro-girl. That meant, for example, with regard to public transport, that the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Tourism were working on safe routes for women. In practice, it meant having well-lit bus stops, bus routes going past busy places like schools and supermarkets, and ensuring public transport remained cheap and within the reach of women and girls.
Two institutions worked on issues for women’s rights and gender equality: the National Council for Gender Equality and the Secretariat for Human Rights. The sub-Secretariat for Diversity was directly charged with working to prevent and eradicate discrimination and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population and those with differing gender and sexual identity. The concept of hate crimes existed in the legal system. As for follow-up to concluding observations from the Committee and other United Nations treaty bodies, all the observations and recommendations as well as indicators and progress were uploaded to a single site. With regard to women’s political participation, Ecuador enjoyed the meaningful participation of women in politics. A woman from the Amazon was the Speaker of the House. For the first time in the country’s history, a woman headed the police force.
Questions from Committee Experts
FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Member, asked about the situation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, noting that there was still homophobia in Ecuadorian society. How did the Violeta centres operate? Were they also shelters? Could indigenous and migrant women benefit from those centres? What measures were taken by the State to put an end to impunity for violence against women?
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Member, asked the delegation to provide more information about Ecuador’s laws against human trafficking. Why had the authorities not prosecuted any cases of forced labour? Noting that prostitution was legal in Ecuador, she asked why the country had large numbers of minors engaged in prostitution?
Responses from the Delegation
The delegation said the Constitutional Court had recently made it possible for there to be voluntary interruption of pregnancy in the case of rape. The Ombudsman’s Office was to be involved in drafting a law, but a legislative framework already existed for therapeutic cases and in cases of rape. The Ministry of Health had received 17 cases.
As for the Violeta centres, they brought together all the actors, institutions and stakeholders to provide timely care to women victims of violence. Two centres would soon be inaugurated; one of them would address trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls. Ecuador had two borders. Along its northern border, problems arose through trafficking in illicit substances. In the south, illicit weapons were the problem. Related crimes led to trafficking and sexual exploitation.
As regards comprehensive reparations and redress for victims, Ecuador tried to work with aggressors and move toward prevention. A commission investigated cases of sexual abuse in the educational sector, finding that it was a problem; that had led to a public policy against abuse in the classroom.
Follow-Up Questions from Committee Experts
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Member, asked about minors involved in trafficking. If Ecuador had legalised prostitution, why were minors involved in prostitution?