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    Press Release No: UNIS/WOM/487
    Release Date:  19 June 2000
    Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Continues
    Consideration of Lithuania's Reports

     NEW YORK, 16 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the only United Nations human rights treaty body that deals exclusively with women’s rights, met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the initial and second periodic reports of Lithuania’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. 

     Countries that have ratified or acceded to the convention are committed to submit national reports after becoming a State party on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.  In addition to reviewing reports and evaluating progress made, the Committee formulates general recommendations to the States parties on eliminating discrimination against women.

     At its morning session, the Committee heard the introduction of Lithuania’s first and second periodic reports, and experts commented on that country’s efforts to implement various articles of the Convention (document CEDAW/C/LTU/1 and 2; for background see Press Release WOM/1220).

     This afternoon, the discussion opened with consideration of article 12 of the Convention, on health care.

     One expert said that the report indicated that women were taken care of in regard to mother-child health care.  At the same time, the report did not provide information on the mental health of women.  The report mentioned the feminization of poverty.  Did women suffer psychological disorders as a result of that?  The report also did not include information on drug and alcohol abuse.  Were there programmes to address drug and alcohol abuse?  It was important that statistical data on the health of the population be disaggragated by sex.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Lithuania expended 5 per cent of its gross domestic product on health.  Was Lithuania considering an increase in the percentage of gross domestic product? 

     Although the report indicated that women lived longer than men, men at age 60 were actually expected to live longer than women, the expert continued.  Women often suffered from chronic illnesses, including cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease.  Women might live longer, but they were not necessarily healthier than men.  What attention was being paid to the life cycle needs of women? 

     On reproductive and sexual health, the expert said that there seemed to be a slight decrease in the abortion rate.  Was that a continuing trend?  Did the law on health insurance on free dispensation of medicine cover contraceptives?  If contraception were covered, it would be an effective measure to reduce abortion rates.  Also, the report did not indicate what had happened to the family planning programme after 1998?  Did the programme cease?  The report noted a significant increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases.  As young women were more vulnerable than young men, proactive measures were needed in that area.

     The Chairperson, Aida Gonzalez-Martinez (Mexico), commenting as an expert, said that better understanding of the impact of tobacco and alcohol on women was needed.  Did Lithuania have information on the use of tobacco, alcohol and psychotropic drugs?  On the matter of sexual reproductive health, her concern was that abortion seemed to be used as a family planning method.  In no circumstance could abortion be used as a tool of family planning.  It was advisable to review the contents of Lithuania’s family planning programme.  While there had been a decrease in the overall rate of abortion between 1994 and 1998, the percentage was still a matter for concern.  What was the strategy for family planning programmes?  Was it still in force and what was the system for the appraisal of its results? 

     Another expert said that the report did not contain information on measures to address occupational health hazards.  Since many women in Lithuania worked in the industrial sector, information on occupational health was necessary.  On maternity leave benefits, to what extent did men use the parental leave provisions?  Clarification was also needed on the policy behind the approach to maternity benefits.  It was important to understand the interface between laws and policies on maternity leaves and the benefits needed.  Were there any policies on  breastfeeding? 

     Turning to article 14, which addresses the situation of rural women, another expert said that Lithuania’s report appeared to show that the economic importance of the rural sector had decreased in recent years.  How had that decrease affected rural women?  She was also concerned about the recent privatization of farms.  There had been reports that new farmers often did not have access to machinery.  She wondered how many women had become owners.  Moreover, what were the conditions of rural girls and elderly women?  Were programmes in place to address their health care needs?  The political life of rural women was also a concern.  Another expert wondered if there were plans in the Government to address the social security concerns of rural women.

     The Committee is expected to hear Lithuania’s replies to its comments and queries at 10 a.m. Thursday, 22 June.  Cuba’s periodic country report will be introduced to the Committee at its next formal meeting on Monday, 19 June.

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