10 August 2006
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Considers Denmark's Report
Experts Point to Strides but Question Treaty's Implementation Throughout Territories under "Home Rule" - Greenland, Faroe Islands
NEW YORK, 9 August (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women applauded the great strides Denmark had made in the advancement of women, but had questions during consideration today of that country's sixth periodic report about certain practices and policies, including implementation of the Women's Convention in the territories under Home Rule, namely, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The Committee monitors compliance with the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Sometimes referred to as the international bill of rights for women, the treaty's States parties commit to ending discrimination against women, including in the legal, civil, political, economic, social, civil and cultural spheres. They also commit to periodically report to the Convention's 23-member expert Committee.
Experts, working in their personal capacity -- for the first time in two chambers to reduce the volume of country reports -- questioned the 13-person delegation on the reasons why different authorities were responsible for compliance with the Convention. The Convention had entered force in Denmark in 1983 without a reservation extending to the Faroe Islands, but the Parliament of the Islands endorsed the Treaty's operation in 1987. Experts stressed that the text should be applicable uniformly throughout the country, including in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. The danger existed that, because of home rule, certain cultural norms contrary to women's advancement would be tolerated.
Members of the delegation, which included the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Department for Gender Equality, Vibeka Abel, assured the Committee experts that the Convention's implementation was a high priority for the whole country. There were no cultural aspects in the territories that put women at a disadvantage, and cultural differences sometimes led to difficult challenges, such as "honour killings", but the Government of Denmark was doing its utmost to address the issues. For example, in one honour killing, a court had not only convicted the murderer, but had sentenced the entire nine-person family.
Highlighting some of Denmark's achievements in the introduction of its report, Ms. Abel said that gender equality and women's equal rights were perceived as fundamental values in Denmark and pre-conditions for economic growth. As a result of Denmark's gender equality work, women and men were equally active in the labour market, with women comprising nearly half of the labour force. There was a flexible parental leave scheme of 52 weeks and financial compensation from the State, as well as guaranteed day care for children more than 30 weeks old.
Still, she acknowledged, gender-based challenges included trafficking in women and prostitution, which had risen in Denmark as the "flip side" of globalization. Demark had implemented an action plan to prevent trafficking and support the victims, which included hotlines, street outreach and shelters. The Government had also launched two consecutive action plans to fight men's violence against women, with a special focus on violence against migrant women. It had also launched strategies to promote women in power and ensure their equal pay.
Experts pressed the delegation about the scant information in the report about prostitution, referring to information obtained from non-governmental organizations, which indicated that there had indeed been a rapid rise in prostitution in Denmark. One expert said she was appalled that Government employees attending to the needs of persons with disabilities helped those persons visit prostitutes. She called for a public statement to correct any notion that the Danish Government endorsed prostitution. Under the Convention, the Government was obliged to implement legislation to protect women from violence. Women trapped in prostitution should be assisted in getting out of that business.
Responding to the series of questions, members of the delegation explained that, as prostitution was legal, it would be strange if disabled persons could not go where everybody else could go. However, the Government attached the highest priority to the problem of prostitution. A new structure had been designed, with street teams contacting prostitutes and collecting data. Prostitutes also had access to psychiatrists, health services and education. In addition, the Government had deployed significant resources and efforts to tackle the very serious problem of trafficking. In Denmark, forcing people into prostitution because of drugs or financial problems was seen as a severe problem, she added.
Experts participating in the meeting were, as Chairperson, Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia); Dorcas Coker-Appiah (Ghana); Françoise Gaspard (France); Huguette Bokpe Gnacadja (Benin); Krisztina Morvai (Hungary); Fumiko Saiga (Japan); Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling (Germany); Glenda P. Simms (Jamaica); Anamah Tan (Singapore); and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).
The Committee's Chamber A will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to consider the second and third periodic reports of Uzbekistan.
Chamber A of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had before it Denmark's sixth periodic report (document CEDAW/C/DNK/6) issued October 2004, introducing the most important gender issues in Denmark, which had emerged in the past three years. The report states that Denmark wants to create equal opportunities for women and men and will strive to break down the barriers preventing individual women and men from leading the lives they want. By European Union standards, Denmark has rather high participation and employment rates, in particular for women. The gender equality policy is targeted at dismantling the gender-segregated labour market, reducing gender pay gaps, and reconciling work and family life.
According to the report, the Danish Government has taken a number of initiatives since June 2002 to further promote gender quality. It had presented a national action plan aimed at combating violence against women. The maximum penalties for violence against persons and rape were increased and the Criminal Code concerning female genital mutilation was amended. Denmark ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, as well as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in September 2003. In August 2003, an action plan for 2003-2005 was presented by the Government. It was aimed at combating forced, quasi-forced and arranged marriages. Gender equality was being sought at universities and government research institutions, and the Government has taken a number of initiatives to maternity and parental schemes.
On articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, on the applicability of the definition of discrimination, and on the Constitution and legislation, the report states that, in Denmark, women and men share the same rights, obligations and opportunities in all areas of society, under the Gender Equality Act. The Danish Constitutional Act contains no special provisions on gender equality between women and men per se, but Denmark has several key acts on gender equality. Among them, the Act on Equal Pay of 6 June 2002, the Equal Treatment Act of 29 August 2002, the Act on Gender Equality of 25 April 2003, and the Act on Equal Treatment of Women and Men in the Occupational Social Security Schemes of 25 February 1998. The report also addresses the situation in the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
In terms of article 3, regarding national policy, the report states that the promotion of gender equality in Denmark applies a two-pronged approach: gender mainstreaming supplemented by a focus on key action areas, requiring specific Government attention. Public authorities in Denmark are obligated to promote gender equality in their work. The principle of gender mainstreaming is a statutory provision in Danish legislation. The Minister for Gender Equality has the responsibility for the overall guidelines and policies, as well as a monitoring function, while the central, local and regional authorities are responsible for implementing the actual gender mainstreaming work.
The report then describes under article 4 the entities tasked with ensuring equality, and temporary measures, and under article 5, it highlights the priorities, including gender mainstreaming, violence against and trafficking in women, gender equality and gender and health. Under article 6, some special issues are addressed, including prostitution, code of conduct in the Ministry of Defence, trafficking and international cooperation in the fight against that scourge.
Regarding article 7, on political rights and participation, and article 8, on representation in the Government, the report states that both women and men have the right to vote and to stand for election. The Danish Electoral Act does not include specific regulations aimed at ensuring women a certain proportion of the lists of candidates. The question of introducing a quota system has been considered; however, such a system was unlikely to be in accordance with the Constitution. But, no regulation forbids an individual political party to introduce a quota system based on gender.
In 2004, the share of female local councillors was 27 per cent and the share of female mayors was 11 per cent. The proportion of women in the Danish Parliament was 38 per cent. The report also describes women's participation in Government institutions, the Armed Forces and other public institutions.
As for article 10, on access to education, the report states that, as in all legislation, in the educational policy, the overall precondition is equality regardless of gender or ethnic origin. Since the fifth periodic report, the Danish Ministry of Education has focused on mainstreaming in the following areas: guidance about youth education; upper secondary education (gymnasium); labour market education; health-care education; and agricultural education. It also addresses initiatives for women of ethnic minorities, with the aim of enhancing their integration in Danish society and the Danish labour market.
The report further addresses measures and initiatives regarding the situation in the labour market (article 11), health (article 12), gender equality in the financial and social life of the country (article 13), rural women (article 14), legal capacity (article 15), and marriage and family relations (article 16). The report also provides comments made by Danish non-governmental organizations, as well as comments by the Danish Women's Council. It also contains a section an on the Convention and the Faroese Authorities, as well as on Greenland's contribution to the report.
Introduction of Report
The delegation of Denmark consisted of representatives of the Department for Gender Equality, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Refugees, Immigration and Integration Affairs, the Ministry of Employment, the Ministry of Justice, the Faroe Islands and the Greenland Home Rule. The head of the delegation, Vibeke Abel, is Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Department for Gender Equality. Kira Appel and Trine Lund Pedersen are also of that Department. Dorthea Damkjaer and Tobias Elling Rehfeld represent the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The Ministry of Refugees, Immigration and Integration Affairs sent Henrik Torp Andersen and Sara Westengaard Nielsen. Agnete Andersen works in the Ministry of Employement, while Joachim Kromann works in the Ministry of Justice. Representing the Faroe Islands is Kitty May Ellefsen, and Adam Worm represents Greenland Home Rule. The delegation's interpreter is Jens Christian Schoenberg.
Introducing the report, VIBEKA ABEL, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Department for Gender Equality of Denmark, said that gender equality and women's equal rights were perceived as fundamental values in Denmark and pre-conditions for economic growth.
Ms. Abel said Denmark applied a two-pronged approach to gender equality: the country mainstreamed gender strategy as it launched special initiatives. As a result of Denmark's gender equality work, women and men were equally active in the labour market, and women accounted for 47.5 per cent of the labour force. Regarding efforts to reconcile family and work life, the Government had a flexible parental leave scheme of 52 weeks and financial compensation from the State, while many companies allowed full wages during the leave. The country also guaranteed day care for children more than 30 weeks old.
Regarding article 5 on sex roles stereotyping and prejudice, the Government had begun campaigns for boys and girls to eliminate prejudice and discriminatory practices and for migrant women's rights, she said.
She said that the sixth report laid out the gender equality challenges, which the Government was seeking to confront with a number of special initiatives. Dealing with trafficking and prostitution was a priority, as the country experienced trafficking in women for prostitution as the flip side of globalization. For the past three years, Demark had implemented an action plan to prevent trafficking and support the victims. The plan included hotlines, street outreach workers, shelters and cooperation between non-governmental organizations and the police.
The Government has launched two consecutive action plans to fight men's violence against women with a special focus on violence against migrant women, a particularly vulnerable group with their own needs, she noted. Denmark had also initiated strategies to promote women in power and provide them with equal pay.
ADAM WORM, a senior consultant at Greenland Representation in Copenhagen, said Greenland had had home rule since 1979, and gender equality was generally administered by the Home Rule Government. Some of the legislation protecting gender equality was identical with the Danish legislation. The Greenland Gender Equality Council, created in 1985, focused in 2005 and 2006 on physical and mental violence against women. The programme involved, among other features, television spots aired on the national television channel.
Regarding public life, the Gender Equality Council had held several courses, aimed at providing women with the tools needed to participate actively in politics, he added. Women made up 38 per cent of Greenland's Parliament and 27 per cent of the members of local councils. Regarding family and the work force, the Greenland Parliament had improved its legislation on parental leave, so there were now at least 21 weeks of leave after birth and the father could choose six weeks of that period.
KITTY MAY ELLEFSEN, Head of Section of the Ministry of Trade and Industry for the Faroe Islands, said the Faroese legislation did not contain any formal impediment to gender equality and did not distinguish between women and men. The Faroese Parliament had passed a law governing gender equality in 1994, whose principal purpose was to eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination.
Ms. Ellefsen said that women and men had the same political rights; still, women were in the minority in the political arenas where public policy decisions were made. For example, of the seven ministries in the Faroe Islands, only the Prime Minister's office had a female senior administrator, while the other six senior administrators were men.
The Government had focused on encouraging more women to enter political life, and in the 2002 Parliamentary election, the Gender Equality Commission had taken a leading role in arranging a forum to promote women's entry into politics. By the end of 2005, the Minister of Gender Equality had appointed a committee mandated to encourage women's political participation.
In conclusion, Ms. ABEL said that her country considered implementation of the Convention as crucial and, therefore, welcomed the Committee's scrutiny. She assured experts that the Committee's conclusions would be disseminated and discussed, and that its recommendations would be considered thoroughly.
Committee experts started the dialogue by addressing issues falling under the first part of the Convention, covering articles 1-6, namely: discrimination; policy measures; guarantee of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms; special measures; sex role stereotyping and prejudice; and prostitution.
Addressing the first two articles, HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, expressed concern about the scope of the Convention throughout the Kingdom, including the areas of Faroe Islands and Greenland. The report had indicated that citizens of those two areas were Danish citizens; however, Danish legislation concerning gender was not applicable to the two territories. If gender equality was valid for all Danish citizens, why was related legislation not applicable to all citizens, including citizens of the Faroe Islands and Greenland? she asked.
Other experts, also focusing on that issue, asked if the concluding comments of the previous session had been discussed in all the territories. Questions were also asked about complaint procedures and remedies in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. As, according to the report, Parliament was presented yearly with achievements under the Convention, an expert asked if the legislature would also be briefed on the Committee's concluding comments. Another question concerned the incorporation of the Convention in national legislation.
In response, members of the delegation said that the Convention did apply to the Faroe Islands and Greenland; however, because of home rule legislation, implementation had been transferred to the home rule authorities. Mr. WORM of Greenland added that gender equality fell under home rule competency and that the Home Rule Government was responsible for the Convention's implementation. Greenland had implemented a new gender equality law in 2003.
Regarding incorporation into national legislation, a country representative said that the Convention was a legally binding instrument, which could be used in court. As a matter of fact, it had been used in a case before the Supreme Court. All proposed legislation was first reviewed by the Ministry of Justice to determine whether it was in compliance with international conventions.
Turning to articles 3, 4 and 5, experts urged a greater focus in future reports on the results of the numerous measures mentioned in the current report. Surprise was expressed that Denmark had not yet submitted a core report under the seven treaty bodies, as requested under the new guidelines, together with a treaty-specific report.
Experts also asked if gender mainstreaming, which had become a statutory principle in member countries of the European Union, was now being implemented by all ministries and bodies, as well as in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Enquiries were also made about the level of resources dedicated to the achievement of gender mainstreaming. Experts also asked for more information on the project of the Ministry of Gender Equality to organize a high-level inter-ministerial group to monitor progress.
Returning to the issue of applicability of the Convention in all territories, some experts noted that the reports of Greenland and Faroe Islands had been annexed to the report, thereby assuring the same status as the non-governmental organization comments, but not the same status as the country report. They asked further about the institutions for gender equality, in particular the Gender Equality Board, which was supposedly established to make access for complainants easier than access to the courts. Was there any procedure whereby complainants not satisfied with the findings of the Board could pursue their issue in court? the delegation was asked.
Another expert expressed concern about how the Convention was being implemented in Denmark to ensure that gender equality was truly achieved throughout Danish society. For example, how was information about the Convention distributed to judges, police officers and members of all ministries? she asked.
In response to a question about measuring results, a country representative said that the report had contained detailed information about the country's results in achieving gender equality and had described the statistical findings and the methods used. Regarding the perception of the role of non-governmental organizations in achieving gender equality, she said that the Danish Government supported the non-governmental organizations economically and continued a strong dialogue with them, especially on issues of trafficking and violence against women. She stressed the importance of the non-governmental organizations' independence and their role in the protection of women.
She said that Greenland and the Faroe Islands conformed to the Convention and had the same obligations and responsibilities to fulfil the treaty's requirements.
She noted that the Danish Minister for Gender Equality usually held another ministerial post as well, presently, in the Social Affairs Ministry. But the Gender Equality Ministry had its own staff of 20 employees and its own operational budget of 15 million Danish kroner, equal to €2.5 million or $3 million. It also had additional monetary resources for special initiatives, such as 60 million kroner for a programme to breakdown gender barriers against minorities.
She said that the Gender Equality Council was an independent body that handled complaints of gender-based discrimination. The Council was a solid tool through which to prevent discrimination against both men and women; it heard equal numbers of complaints from both sexes. It heard 38 cases in 2005 and 20 cases during the first half of this year, and it issued final decisions. The Council was staffed with extremely competent people, and it had a web page by which people could file complaints.
Denmark's report had been prepared before the new guidelines had been elaborated, and future reports would comply with them, she explained. She noted the importance of communication in implementing the gender mainstreaming project, adding that the Ministry had educational programmes in place within various ministries through which to disseminate information about the mainstreaming project.
She said that political parties had been told to place more women on the ballot, and the Ministry had a working group in place to work with local municipalities to ensure gender equality at the local level. She was aware that a greater effort was needed in that area.
Applauding the Danish Government for its research, one expert said, however, that additional efforts were need to translate that information into political action. Regarding article 4, an expert noted the need for temporary special measures that favoured a disadvantaged group for a short period of time over other groups. The European Court of Justice had permitted such action, and the expert wanted more information about Denmark's policies in that regard.
Regarding violence against women, another expert sought information on the situation of women who had been issued special alarm devices by the police after experiencing violence. She also wanted more information on a recent report on violence against women in Greenland, what steps had been taken in Denmark to help foreign women obtain information about residency permits and to make the Danish residency law more user-friendly.
ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, noted that prostitution was given little attention in the report. She was appalled that disabled people received help in visiting prostitutes. The Government was thus promoting vice. She called for a public statement to correct any notion that the Government endorsed prostitution. Under the Convention, the Government was obliged to implement legislation to protect women from violence. Women trapped in prostitution should be given support services that would help them to get out of the prostitution business.
Other experts noted that customers having paid sex with children were criminalized, but that customers engaging in that practice with women over 18 were not criminalized because prostitution was legal. The code of conduct for the Armed Forces stipulated that Danish military abroad should not consort with prostitutes. The question was asked whether they were also trained not to rape.
Experts also asked what aspects of culture in the home rule areas were protected and if there were any cultural factors that were contradictory to the Convention. Regarding domestic violence, questions were asked about statistics and about the availability of shelters for victims of such violence.
Addressing questions about domestic violence, a country representative said that there had been less than anticipated demand for alarm devices supplied by the police, which might indicate that women felt secure in other ways, for instance, through the existence of shelters. Nowadays, there was also support for women leaving shelters, which was especially important for minority women. Women without residence permits who left their partners because of violence would be sheltered. Documentation of abuse was also important and information campaigns were carried out in shelters and hospitals. In 2005, 25 women in Denmark had died as a result of domestic violence. As for shelter capacity, the record indicated that nobody had ever been sent away. In some shelters, a small contribution was required, but inability to pay was not a reason for refusal.
According to the results of an international study about domestic violence, in which Denmark had participated, there had been a drop in the number of women in Denmark exposed to physical violence. It was difficult to compare the figure to other countries, but women in Denmark were at the low end of the scale at risk for being exposed to violence from their partners. Regarding violence from strangers, Danish women were at the same level as some other countries. Victim counselling was seen as adequate both by victims and voluntary counsellors. There had been some criticism about the relationship between the police and volunteers, which was being addressed. For victims, 24-hour counselling was available, and there were other help networks, as well.
The representative from Greenland added that statistics on domestic violence were not available; however, in 2005, there had been 150 cases of rape or attempted rape. Crisis centres were available, and violent men received counselling.
The representative from the Faroe Islands said that the territory, with a population of 48,000 people, had one crisis centre. In 2005, 20 women had stayed there. The centre was funded by the Government, and women would contribute to their stay, if possible. There had not been a murder on the Islands in decades, so no women had been murdered as a result of domestic violence. The results of the combined study of Greenland, Faroe Islands and Iceland had not yet been published.
The Government was very well aware of the gender-divided labour market and was addressing the issue through education, a country representative said in response to another question. Progress was being made. Sometimes, positive discrimination was necessary in order to create equality. It was also necessary to give minority women access to the labour market. There were possibilities for training for the underrepresented gender, in order to attain a more even distribution.
As to the question about culture, a country representative stated that culture was not an excuse for not implementing the Convention's "agenda". Denmark had been confronted by a new phenomenon, however, namely honour killings. The Government had done an "extreme amount of work" to prevent those killings. In one case that had come to court, not only had the person who had carried out the killing been convicted, but the entire family involved, or a total nine people, had been convicted as well.
The representative from Greenland added that the home rule arrangement was a recognition of the existence of a different culture; however, his culture had not taken into account violations of the Women's Convention or other treaties.
Addressing the issue of prostitution, a country representative said that, in Denmark, that forcing people into prostitution because of drugs or financial problems was seen as a severe problem. A new structure had been designed, with street teams contacting prostitutes and collecting data. Prostitutes also had access to psychiatrists, health services and education.
Although it might seem strange that disabled persons were assisted in visiting prostitutes, that should be seen in the context of the fact that, in Denmark, every disabled person was provided with "24/7" help, the speaker said. A disabled person, therefore, could live alone. As prostitution was legal in Denmark, it would be strange for disabled people to have no access to it.
A representative said that the code of conduct for Armed Forces abroad included clear guidelines for sexual conduct, which, of course, included rape. If a soldier had committed rape, he would be sent home immediately for sentencing. It was absurd to even imagine that rape was permitted. In that connection, the Ministry of Defence, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, was implementing the provisions of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
Additional questions by experts touched on whether there were directives to the private and public sectors to use gender equality in their hiring practices and whether the Department for Gender Equality belonged to the Ministry of Social Affairs, as stated in the report, or was separated, as the country representative had noted during her remarks. Other questions focused on trafficking and prostitution: such as why Denmark's report had included so little information about prostitution, whereas the non-governmental organization reports discussed the rapid development of prostitution in Denmark; what measures were being taken to help foreign women engaged in prostitution, if foreign women were brought in to work as domestic workers, as well as prostitutes; and what border controls were in place to stop the illegal activity.
A country representative said that the Government understood the difference between affirmative action and other initiatives, and there was no obligation to choose the least represented sex. With regard to the organization of the Ministry, she said an office of 20 people could not be an independent ministry, and the Department of Gender Equality had to use the resources of a larger ministry. That link helped the Department leverage its resources and, thus, provided it with many advantages.
Regarding foreign prostitution, the Government had deployed significant resources and efforts to tackle the very serious problem of trafficking, she said. Globalization allowed greater contact between countries, and Denmark did not have strict border controls, so European Union citizens could cross the border without showing their passports. But, her Government trained people at airports to be on the alert for frightened women, and special units had been set up within police departments to help identify trafficking victims. The Government also had set up hotlines and shelters, and put in place street workers to make information available to those women. The Government continued to work with non-governmental organizations on the issue and had expanded an action plan to deal with children under 18 years of age. She believed that the trafficking involved women engaged in prostitution, and a few cases involved domestic workers. The Danish Government had always taken the issue very seriously, and the delegation had not meant to give any other impression.
Addressing issues under articles 7, 8 and 9, on political and public life, representation and nationality, experts congratulated the delegation on the high level of participation of women in Parliament. They noted, however, that success in elections at the local level was much lower and asked for an explanation. They also asked about women's extremely low participation in political life in the Faroe Islands. One expert thought it might be a psychological barrier, and suggested a special measure under article 4 to set aside seats for women. Questions were also raised about government financing of women's organizations and about the participation of women at high levels of decision-making in private and academic life. The gender dimensions in Denmark's development cooperation policies were also considered, and more information was sought on the action plan in connection with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
Country representatives, in response, said that Denmark was looking at ways to promote women's involvement in local political parties, as that was the place where participation in politics started. Also, a Parliamentary job was full-time with a full salary. At the municipal level, women could have problems in balancing family, job and work for the council. A salary for those jobs was under consideration, as was the possibility of day care beyond normal working hours. Special measures to reserve seats for female representation were not being considered.
The Government had opened a dialogue with private corporations regarding women in top management positions, a speaker said. It had been pointed out that the corporations with the most women in top management positions made the most profits. It was healthy to use the most qualified people.
A representative of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that an action plan for 2005-2009 had been adopted to increase the number of women in decision-making positions. Of every three posts, two would be assigned to women.
She also noted that the Minister for Development Cooperation had adopted strategies on gender mainstreaming, equal access to resources and equal opportunities. There was also a strategy on HIV and AIDS, which focused on the rights of women, as well as a strategy on the promotion of sexual and reproductive rights.
In cooperation with the Defence Ministry, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had developed an action plan for the implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000). As that plan had been elaborated in 2005, there were no concrete results available. The Ministry of Defence was conducting an assessment on the gender balance of staff members and protection of women's and girls' rights. It was also looking at how to increase women's participation in peacekeeping operations.
Women's organizations received increasing financial support, a country representative said, and there was also support for specific initiatives, such as the counselling of minority women and mentor arrangements.
The representative of the Faroe Islands said her government was not satisfied with figures concerning women and politics. The problem was that women were not willing to run for election. There were indications that, although women were well educated, they were still responsible for raising children. In 2005, the Minister for Gender Equality had appointed a committee to work on the problem.
While noting the country's gains in education for women, one expert asked what steps Denmark was taking to funnel women into jobs and positions of decision-making, and help immigrant women retain their traditional values as they were integrated into the overall society. Another expert wanted clarification on the time period and benefits given to parents taking parental leave for the birth of a child.
Concerning article 11 on employment, experts wanted additional information on migrant workers, such as data on the types of jobs held by migrant women. Steps being taken by the Government to minimize the pay gap between women and men in the private sector were another area of interest.
Regarding rural women and health, the questions posed by experts touched on measures by the Government to promote access to employment and training for women from foreign countries, and the resident status of the wives of migrants if they left their husbands.
Clarifying the parental leave information included in the report, a country representative said that fathers were entitled to two weeks of parental leave before or after confinement, or the birth, of the child. Mothers were entitled to four weeks before confinement, and 14 weeks after confinement. Each parent was allowed 32 weeks of parental leave, but only one parent could receive the State allowance of 162,000 Danish kroner. The private sector also provided benefits to parents, and in order to make the system more equitable among various industries, all employers now had to pay into a fund for parental leave. The Danish benefit system was a complex one, which included a combination of public and private sector payments.
To move women into top management positions, another country representative said that Denmark was working to change an educational system that remained gender-divided. The Government was producing educational materials for the schools, such as Internet-based materials, which students and their parents could use for discussions to broaden students' career choices.
She said her Government was working to integrate women from foreign countries into the educational system and to address prejudices in Danish society, as a way of tapping into the resources of all people living in Denmark. In addition, the Government had an action plan to address barriers to integration. It also had initiatives in place to address gender-based discrimination. Those included encouraging more young men to choose careers in education and attracting ethnic women to the job market.
To close the pay gap between men and women, another representative said that recent studies on pay differentials had motivated action by the Government and the business sector. Companies now know that there was a problem in that area, and the Government had nearly concluded guidelines for companies to correct the problem. The issue was new for many companies, and new legal requirements were in place.
In response to the question on the resident status of women of migrant husbands, a country representative said women who left their husbands as a result of domestic violence would not lose their residency status.
Regarding issues of law and marriage and family life, experts asked about a law, whereby a minimum age of 24 years had been established to ask permission for a spouse from another country to enter Denmark, also known as forming family groups. Questions focused on whether that law had achieved the aim of reducing forced or arranged marriages.
Another expert asked about the impact of a new law that allowed a violent husband to be removed from the home.
A country representative said that the law regarding a minimum age for forming family grouping had indeed been passed with the aim of decreasing forced, quasi-forced and arranged marriages. There were other initiatives in that regard as well, such as professional counselling and intervention. Authorities had been trained to detect suspicious activity. Figures on forced marriages were difficult to obtain, so it was equally difficult to establish whether there had been a decrease in such marriages.
The law to remove a violent husband from the home was a legal experiment, a speaker replied. It seemed more rational to move the man than a whole family. As for application, a lot depended on assessment by the individual police officers at the scene of a violent incident. Experience had indicated that quick intervention after a violent incident was extremely important. The women left behind were provided with assistance, and the violent husband received treatment.
A country representative said that the session has provided Denmark with a valuable opportunity to obtain an external view of its gender equality work. She appreciated the experts' knowledge and time. Their efforts and insights would help the Ministry improve its gender equality work. She would have liked to have more time during the meeting to give concrete examples on the short- and long-term results of its work. She acknowledged that her country had more work ahead, and she thanked all of the participants for their constructive efforts.
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