17 August 2006
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Commends Moldova's Legislative Efforts to Promote Gender Equality, Combat Trafficking in Persons
Experts also Highlight Need for Increased Women's Participation in Public Life, Introduction of Special Measures for Women's Advancement
NEW YORK, 16 August (UN Headquarters) -- While commending the Republic of Moldova's legislative efforts to promote and protect women's rights, including this year's gender-equality law and measures to combat trafficking in women, members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women emphasized the Government's obligation to seek increased women's representation in public and political life, combat negative stereotypes and introduce special measures for the advancement of women.
Having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1994, the Republic of Moldova presented its second and third report to the experts in Chamber B as the Committee considered the situation of women in two countries in parallel meetings today -- a format introduced this year, to promote effective time management.
Moldova's Chief of the Department of Social Protection of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection,Tatiana Gribincea, who presented the reports, informed the Committee that the country had acceded to the Convention's Optional Protocol in December last year. Among other important developments, she highlighted the fact that, last month, the draft law on violence against women had been adopted in the first reading by the Parliament. The subject had been incorporated in the national plans for the promotion of gender equality for 2003-2005 and 2006-2009. A national legislative framework had also been elaborated on trafficking in people.
The experts had many questions regarding the 2006 law on equal opportunities, with one expert drawing attention to the lack of a provision for how to achieve equality of opportunity for men and women as the law's main shortcoming. Experts asked for the elaboration of concrete measures under the national action plans for human rights and gender equality.
Members of the Committee also commented on the Parliament's rejection of a 40 per cent quota proposed in the initial version of the equal opportunity law, and noted that the country's report was silent on special temporary measures for the advancement of women. Despite some progress achieved, women's representation still remained low in decision-making positions, particularly due to their traditional roles and family responsibilities, an expert said. It was important to correct that imbalance, the expert continued, as equality in decision-making was essential to the empowerment of women. Several experts also noted that the situation was particularly surprising, given the women's high level of education in Moldova.
Responding to those concerns, a member of the delegation said that the country's transition from a planned economy had not been easy, but steps -- admittedly small ones -- were being taken to increase women's participation in public life. The stereotypical perception of women as homebodies and housewives was a hindrance to their active involvement in politics and, yet, they were entering the political arena once given opportunities, such as those arising from the provision of day-care centres for children, which enabled them to have the time to be involved.
According to the information provided by the delegation, the number of women elected had grown to 14.8 per cent following the 2005 local elections. The same year, there had been an over 10 per cent increase in the number of women candidates. The number of women in the country's Parliament had increased from 4 in 1994 to 21 in 2005. At present, there was one female Deputy Prime Minister, one minister and four deputy ministers, as well as five female ambassadors out of the total number of 25.
Moldova was known as a source country for trafficking in women, an expert said, commending the country for its initiatives to combat that phenomenon. However, there was room for improvement in the implementation of related laws, which also had some fundamental flaws requiring revision. For example, a provision regarding the victim's consent should be deleted because such a question was improper if there was coercion or deception. Also, if victims were treated as offenders under migration or labour laws, they would not come forward. It was necessary to provide assistance to victims and ensure their confidentiality.
Participating in the dialogue with the delegation in Chamber B were experts Rosario Manalo from the Philippines, the Committee Chairperson; Magalys Arocha Dominguez from Cuba; Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani from Algeria; Mary Shanthi Dairiam from Malaysia; Cees Flinterman from the Netherlands; Naela Gabr from Egypt; Salma Khan from Bangladesh; Tiziana Maiolo from Italy; Pramila Patten from Mauritius; Victoria Popescu from Romania; Maria Regina Tavares da Silva from Portugal; and Heisoo Shin from the Republic of Korea.
The Committee will continue its work in Chamber B at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 17 August, when it will consider Mexico's reports.
The Committee had before it the combined second and third periodic report of the Republic of Moldova (document CEDAW/C/MDA/2-3), whose initial report was presented in 2000. The Government explains the delay in the presentation of the current report by "the need to have a more detailed view on the major trends of the institutional and legislative reforms of the human rights generally and women's rights particularly".
The report states that the country's per capita income is among the lowest in Europe. As of January 2003, there were some 24,000 registered unemployed, 51 per cent of them women. To solve the poverty problem, the Government, with assistance from international organizations, has initiated a strategy for economic growth and poverty alleviation.
The country's efforts to achieve gender equality have been hampered by instability in the implementation and "the failure of previous Governments to meet their obligations", the report states. There was no continuity in the gender policy, and some of the links within the national gender-equality mechanism ceased to exist. For example, the Committee for Women and Family Affairs with the President of the Republic functioned only from 1999 through January 2001.
The country's national machinery now includes the governmental Committee for Women's Issues, gender focal points within all ministries and local women's committees. Such projects as "Gender in Development" and "Leadership Programme", aim to promote the advancement of women. Another structure created in the country is the Department for Equal Opportunities and Family Policy Division within the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family. At the central level, the Department for Social Assistance was set up, containing the Division for Equal Opportunities.
Women and men are equal under the country's Constitution, according to the report. The Law on Political Parties determines that "parties and other social-political organizations will promote the principal of gender equality … at all levels of the decision making structures". However, there is no mechanism in place to ensure accountability for violating that requirement, and women's representation in leadership positions remains insignificant. There are now 16 women in the legislative forum out of 101 deputies; one woman holds the position of Chairman of Parliament. There is one female minister and seven deputy ministers within the Cabinet. The Chairman of the Supreme Court is also a woman.
Among the Government's efforts to improve the situation, the report lists a study on the matter and a project to expand the number of women on the lists of independent and party candidates during the elections in spring of 2003. Training was provided to some 1,580 women in developing skills for getting involved in political life.
The Government has accepted the development of a legal frame on equal opportunities as an immediate priority and is aware of the need to develop a special law on equal opportunities, the report states. Following a review of existing laws, work on drafting the new legislation has begun. Gender-related provisions of the new Penal Code include a prohibition on taking into custody pregnant women and women with children under the age of 8. Life detention for women is also prohibited. The report also refers to the National Action Plan for human rights, which "constitutes a satisfactory legal procedure to consolidate all needed mechanisms that will ensure compliance with human rights and fundamental freedoms".
The Government has also has approved a National Plan for the promotion of gender equality for the period 2003-2005. Among other measures, the document lists the law on maternity leave, which includes antenatal leave of 70 calendar days and postnatal leave of 56 calendar days (70 days are provided in cases of birth complications or multiple births).
While women are traditionally believed to be inferior to men, this concept "is not very strong and has a rather general character", the Government reports. To address that problem, the education system now includes a "gender education" subject at all stages. However, traditional attitudes still persist at such educational institutions as the Military Institute and the Police Academy, which registered only men for 2003-2004 academic year. Another important point is that many women continue to carry double loads, having to work, do housework and take care of the children. In most cases of divorce, the courts give custody to the mother. Consequently, most single-parent families are headed by women.
To counteract dissemination of movies and publications containing pornography and violence, police authorities verify the activity of economic agents, persons, and movie theatres, the report states. Based on an assessment performed by the State Agency for the Protection of Morality, guilty parties are subject to administrative fines.
Despite the Government's efforts to stop violence against women, it is a persisting phenomenon, aggravated by socio-economic problems. In cases of domestic violence, law-enforcement bodies get involved only in cases with severe consequences, others being categorized as ordinary domestic conflicts. There were 105 domestic violence offences in 2002, including 71 deliberate murders and 34 severe bodily injury cases. The Government is addressing the problem not only by providing assistance and protecting victims, but also by introducing preventive and awareness-raising measures among the population. Local and national newspapers published articles on the subject, and information was disseminated through broadcasting. The penalties for domestic violence were increased under the country's Penal Code.
Regarding trafficking in women -- a significant problem for the Republic of Moldova -- the report states that the number of Moldovan citizens who have left the country, temporarily or permanently, varies between 600,000 and 700,000, many of them becoming victims of criminal networks. Included in the new Penal Code, the trafficking offence is subject to a prison term of 7 to 25 years, or life imprisonment. Child trafficking is punishable with 10 to 25 years in jail or life detention. In 2001, the National Action Plan was adopted to counteract the phenomenon of human trafficking, and a national committee was set up, comprising three groups of experts. The Government is also cooperating with several countries to stop trafficking in humans.
Introduction of Report
Presenting the country's reports was Tatiana Gribincea, Chief of the Department of Social Protection of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova. The delegation also included Lilia Pascal, Principal Adviser of the Department for Equal Opportunities and Family Policies of the country's Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and Victor Leu of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations.
TATIANA GRIBINCEA said the Government had taken into consideration the Committee's recommendation regarding the elaboration of the law guaranteeing opportunities for men and women. Such a law had been adopted in February this year. It contained provisions on gender mainstreaming, affirmative action, direct and indirect discrimination, gender equality and sexual harassment. According to the provisions of article 15 of the law, the following bodies were empowered to implement measures for gender equality: the Parliament, the Government, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, gender focal points within various ministries and administrative bodies, and local public administration authorities.
She also announced that, on 15 December 2005, the Republic of Moldova had adopted the law regarding its adhesion to the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
Regarding women's representation, she said that, after local elections in 1999, women had constituted only 10.9 per cent (93 women) of Mayors. In 2005, their number had grown to 14.8 per cent. In 2005, there had been over a 10 per cent increase in the number of women candidates. As a result of the policy promoted at the State level, the efforts of non-governmental organizations and women from political parties, the number of women in the country's Parliament had increased from 4 women in 1994 to 21 in 2005. At present, there was one female Deputy Prime Minister, one minister, and four deputy ministers. There were five female ambassadors, out of the total number of 25.
On violence against women, she said that, last month, the draft law on that matter had been adopted in the first reading in the Parliament. The subject had been incorporated in the national plans for the promotion of gender equality for 2003-2005 and 2006-2009. A national legislative framework had been elaborated on trafficking in people.
The legislation concerning employment did not contain any discriminatory provisions and assured equality between men and women. The situation on the labour market was at the centre of attention of the Government, in particular within the framework of the programmes on the modernization of the country and the welfare of the population, and the national programme " Moldovan Village". The labour market was treated "as a market in development and promotion of active measures directed towards creation of new qualified work places, increase in the employment level and decrease of unemployment among the population".
While some progress had been achieved in the promotion of gender equality, much remained to be done, she said. The main priorities included elaboration of a gender-mainstreaming strategy, adjustment of national legislation, adoption of the domestic violence law, development of the national mechanism's capacity, development of gender statistics and education of the population.
In accordance with the Committee's usual practice, the experts began their dialogue with the delegation from the Republic of Moldova by addressing issues covered by articles 1 through 6 of the Convention, relating to discrimination; policy measures; guarantees of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms; special measures, sexual stereotypes and prejudice; and prostitution.
The exchange began with an acknowledgement that the Republic had adopted the Optional Protocol last year. An expert commended the definition of both direct and indirect discrimination in Moldova's new 2006 law on equal opportunity, and asked for a fuller definition of the terms within the legal framework. Other experts asked for definitions of terms referring to temporary special measures and sexual harassment, along with clarification on the kinds of recourse offered in instances of rights violations.
A shortcoming was the lack of a provision for how to achieve the equality of opportunities for men and women, an expert pointed out. Experts asked for elaboration of gender-equity measures under the National Action Plan for human rights, as related to a 2006-2009 proposed national plan specifically for the promotion of gender equality. Where was funding for implementation coming from? What was being done about the negative stereotyping that led to other inequalities in work and earning power, for example? What kind of gender education was being carried out, since the report seemed to indicate a deficiency in training teachers on gender sensitivity and in programmes for sensitizing the media to gender equality? Were any programmes being carried out to sensitize men? What was the definition of marital rape?
Experts also asked for clarification concerning legislation on violence against women, in terms of both the new 2006 law on equality and the forthcoming national plan. What was the relationship between the new plan and an existing internal action plan on employment? As for the institutional mechanisms anticipated by the new law, how would the sectors of Government and ministries be involved? What was the status of the Government commission? An expert noted that the equality issue in the report seemed to be a matter of social concern rather than one of human rights, with the example of domestic violence, which was a social concern, but certainly also much more, in terms of violating an individual's personal human rights.
Finally, another expert recalled that treaties were agreements entailing contractual obligations requiring the establishment of national mechanisms for operation, funding and lines of responsibility for coordination. What exactly were the roles of those involved in advancing gender equality in Moldova? Who did what in each of the bodies involved? What was the 2006-2009 plan; was there a budget; and who would be responsible for follow-up? How was the stereotyping issue being addressed, and by what means?
Responding, a delegate from Moldova said the 2006 law on equal opportunity provided for insuring that all had equal access to legislation protecting rights and that officials involved in law enforcement would be trained in administering the law. The text of the law had been circulated to all relevant entities, and a pamphlet on gender equality had been issued and distributed, based on the Committee's previous recommendations. Once the law had been drafted, all interested non-governmental organizations, ministries and academic institutions had participated in its implementation. The national plan for 2006-2009 on gender equality would be implemented with assistance from Sweden, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Committee and other partners. It would build on steps that had already been taken, and had already yielded progress as reflected in the political arena. Moldova now had 93 elected women officials.
A delegate said Moldova's approach to gender equality was comprehensive, including with regard to temporary measures. The term "gender equality" covered all aspects of life, including opportunities for employment, and the elimination of discrimination against women and violence against them. There was no gender commission yet in Parliament, but there were two human rights commissions involved in promoting gender equality. One was the commission that dealt with matters related to ethnicity; the other concerned social protections and family and health matters. They devised, implemented and monitored measures for achieving equality of attention to gender in the development of strategies, policies and allocation of resources.
Elaborating further, she said there were plans for the establishment of a commission on gender equality that would be an advisory body to the Government, with the power to coordinate activities of relevant entities and to secure their cooperation on measures to be taken. Its competence would include setting up gender focal points and monitoring implementation. While the commission itself was not yet operative, its functions were already being carried out by officials involved in the commission on family and child protection. That structure had been set up, and those functions had been handed over after the Government's gender-related offices had closed in 2003. Local implementation was financed by local budgets. In the new plan of action for 2006-2009, the Ministry of Health would oversee implementation, and Sweden would assist with the basic financing that would be budgeted to the Government through direct and other budgetary mechanisms in cooperation with other relevant ministries.
On other matters, a Moldova representative said attention was being turned to monetary discrimination based on gender in the rural areas of Moldova. Labour inspectors dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace. A media liaison component had been established to recruit the media for the promotion of gender equality in the rural areas, including in the eastern part of Moldova.
A law that dealt specifically with domestic violence was being elaborated now, a delegate continued. It was expected to be fully implemented by 2009, with the assistance of non-governmental organizations and the assignment of implementation officers.
The 2006 national plan on gender equality had been formulated on the basis of the previous plan, she continued. Those in charge of implementation had monitored elements of the plan and had made annual reports on what had been possible, what had worked and what remained undone. The implementation had been carried out by ministries and Government departments working with non-governmental organizations. The new plan provided for implementation of the 2006 equal opportunity law and established the financing authority in line with the budgets of both central and local governments.
On other legal matters, a Government representative said the training programme for judges in the field of gender equality had begun, and would be expanded to train judges at all levels in the new equal-opportunity law. Legal aid was available for both men and women. An ombudsman's office on gender equality had been created, but the resource limitations had not yet allowed for establishment of that body. Parliamentary Advocates would be pursuing implementation of that office. Among the many measures taken to eliminate violence against women as called for in the new law were publicity campaigns, open debates in the media and special event presentations. The new law provided for measures to be taken against perpetrators of violence, which was the first time such provisions had been included, since previous laws had related only to the victim and not the aggressor.
While commending the Government's efforts to promote and protect women's rights, including the new gender equality law, several experts, in a new round of questions, addressed the issues of special temporary measures for the promotion of gender equality and the country's efforts to stop trafficking in women. Questions were also asked about the shelters for victims of violence, the use of the terms "equity" and "equality" by the delegation and the mandate of the Parliamentary Advocates, as well as the concept of marital rape in the national legislation.
On special temporary measures, an expert noted with concern that there was nothing in the report regarding the implementation of related provisions of the Convention. She drew the delegation's attention to the Committee's general recommendation aimed to clarify the nature and meaning of those provisions and highlighted the fact that States parties should provide an explanation for any failure to introduce special temporary measures. Despite some progress achieved, according to the report, women's representation still remained low in decision-making positions, particularly due to remaining sexual stereotypes. It was important to correct that imbalance. Equality in decision-making was essential to the empowerment of women.
According to reports by non-governmental organizations, the Government had taken an unfavourable stance as far as the introduction of special temporary measures was concerned, she said. For example, the Parliament had recently rejected the introduction of certain quotas. While some of the national legislation's provisions stipulated the need to achieve balance in public representation, she wanted to know about concrete actions to promote equal participation of women in the Republic of Moldova.
Moldova was known as a source country for trafficking in women, another expert said, commending the country for its initiatives to combat that phenomenon. However, there was room for improvement in the implementation of related laws, which also had some fundamental flaws, requiring revision. For example, a provision regarding the victim's consent should be deleted because such a question was improper if there was coercion or deception. Also, if victims were treated as offenders under migration, customs or labour laws, they would not come forward. It was necessary to provide assistance to victims and ensure their confidentiality. She also wanted to know why clients of prostitutes were not penalized under the country's laws, and asked about the Government's efforts to punish the procurers, brothel owners and pimps.
An expert noted that the gender-equality law referred to the need to ensure gender mainstreaming in all spheres of the Government's efforts, and wanted to know how those provisions were implemented. Who was responsible for their implementation and how was it monitored?
A country representative emphasized the country's commitment to combating trafficking in women. As of 2006, a national system of assistance to the victims of trafficking had been initiated, which included the creation of shelters. Of great importance was the issue of rehabilitation. For that reason, long-term assistance was emphasized by the Government. The network of assistance included multidisciplinary support groups, comprising representatives of various departments. Particular attention was paid to assistance through enhanced training and provision of jobs.
Members of the delegation also elaborated on the social protection measures for victims of violence, saying that multidisciplinary teams worked with both the victim and the perpetrator, as well as other members of the family, to stop the incidence of domestic violence. After up to a month in a shelter, women were reintegrated into the family. The perpetrators were warned that they should not see the victims for a certain period of time. Punitive measures could be determined by the courts for the perpetrators of violence, who could be fined "for their behaviour and their negative attitude to family members". Other punitive measures related to imprisonment. As for removing the victim from the family, such measures were being discussed. Right now, the focus was on the services. There were no separate provisions in place to deal with marital rape, but such cases could be dealt with under other provisions of the Penal Code.
An awareness programme had also been initiated, with assistance from the International Organization for Migration. At the local level, attention was also paid to potential victims of trafficking. Confidentiality clauses were provided for under the newly introduced system. Prostitution was not legalized in the country, and sanctions were in place against the pimps under Moldova's Criminal Code, she continued. Procurers were also punished.
Regarding women's participation, she said that much had been achieved. The number of women in decision-making positions was growing. For instance, the country now had a female Deputy Prime Minister. Efforts were being made to educate women and improve their competency to be promoted on the basis of merit. Transition from planned economy had not been easy, but steps -- admittedly small ones -- were being taken to increase women's participation in public life. The plan for 2006-2009 was very important in that regard. Initially, the equal opportunity law had included a 40 per cent quota, but that provision had later been abandoned. In their statutes, several parties now provided for 30 per cent quotas for women.
Responding to several follow-up questions, a member of the delegation said the Government Commission on Equality and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection were the special bodies to deal with gender-equality issues. They were also the competent bodies responsible for the coordination of the measures for the advancement of women. Parliamentary Advocates did not deal with women's issues exclusively, but gender-related complaints were within their competence, along with other human rights matters. Currently, there were three such Advocates in place.
Experts began by asking what the State was doing to promote the broader entrance of women into decision-making roles. Had any statistical studies been conducted to show why women were so underrepresented in both elected and non-elected posts? How did the idea of equality reconcile with the rejection of special measures? Moldova's new law called for equality of representation, but what were the sanctions if the law was not implemented in the political sphere or by the media?
Moldova's representative said the stereotype of being homebodies and housewives was a hindrance to women's active involvement in politics and, yet, they were entering the political arena once they were given opportunities, such as day-care centres to look after the children, which gave them free time to be involved. The fact that there were now 21 women members of Parliament in a small country was a testament to that progress, and the new law on equality had been drafted in that context. A strong foundation had been established with the mass media and an understanding had been reached on their role in promoting gender equality.
These were all new steps for her country, the representative said. Outside assistance was helping to accelerate progress through training programmes and the holding of seminars on issues such as how to integrate a gender perspective into other agendas. Perhaps the achievements seemed minor, but they reflected progress that had led to other steps, including the training by now of nearly 1,500 women for political involvement at the local level. The statistics department was gathering and analyzing more such data in preparation for the new 2006-2009 national plan.
Several experts commented on women's participation in Moldova, stressing that, while some progress had been achieved, and 21 per cent of the members of the country's Parliament were women, the Government had an obligation to do more to ensure gender equality in public and political life.
Moldovan women should not be just happy with their presence in the Parliament, an expert said, and it was the obligation of the State party to step up its efforts. With their high level of education, women were in a position to play a larger role in society, and it was important to increase their presence. While much depended on political will, it was also important to put an end to negative stereotypes.
If the difficulties of women's access to decision-making were linked to their traditional roles and family responsibilities, what was the responsibility of the State to reconcile women's roles in public and family life? another expert asked. One of the lines of action was to promote sharing of family responsibilities by men and women, as well as to create a social environment that would promote the advancement of women.
With the law on equal opportunities containing significant provisions regarding women's participation, those provisions now needed to be implemented, another member of the Committee stressed. Equality could not come about, unless men and women shared their family responsibilities. She recommended that laws on political parties provide for subsidies to those parties that reached a certain threshold of women's participation.
A country representative replied that the law on the parties actually did include a provision that made women's participation compulsory and gave them an opportunity to stand for election and join parties. However, there was no mechanism to monitor that aspect.
The education opportunities were equal for men and women in Moldova, but women were involved in housework, she continued. To promote their participation, special courses and social services were being offered. A woman who wanted to be in Parliament had to work harder, and female members of Parliament had been working very hard and were very interested in learning. Increasing women's participation was a priority task for the Government, and that had been included in the national plan. Also important were the measures aimed at strengthening the family. By promoting family values based on gender equality, it would be possible to achieve the desired results.
The Convention dealt with the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including asylum seekers and refugees, an expert commented, noting that the Republic of Moldova had adopted national legislation to implement its responsibilities under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Given their importance for women, he wondered if the national legislation included procedures for the determination of refugee status on the basis of sexual violence.
An expert recognized the importance of gender-equality law regarding the protection against discrimination in the employment area, as well as the addition of the definition of sexual harassment. The country's labour laws also contained important provisions, including prohibition of arbitrary dismissal. However, the report was difficult to read, and it was hard to determine the real employment situation in the country from it. Women seemed to be concentrated in low-paying jobs, and she wanted to know what was being done to address that situation. She also had several questions regarding sexual harassment and commented on some seemingly "overly-protective" provisions, which prevented women from being hired.
Under existing sexual stereotypes, women were expected to stay home and take care of the children, the expert said. As a result, they did not actively seek employment and were not included in the statistics. Another aspect that she noticed was that, under the country's legislation, a woman who had suffered discrimination in the workplace was supposed to request a written explanation from the employer. Had there actually been any cases when such an explanation was provided?
A Committee expert noted the 43 per cent female enrolment level among all students in higher education in Moldova, and asked for comments on that situation and also on what could be done to break the gender segregation in the workplace. Was there some connection between higher education and women's inability to find a job without that education?
Another expert noted that employment had risen for both women and men in their traditional sectors until 2003, when it had reversed for both. What had happened to cause that phenomenon and how could women be introduced into industries where men predominated, such as mining and manufacturing? What about women in the informal sector? Was agricultural work seasonal?
On the subject of stereotypes in the workplace and reversing them, a country representative said textbooks were being reissued under a programme that would be accelerated under the new law. There were more women than men in the labour market overall, and in the traditional women's sectors of health services and education. Men were concentrated in the physical labour fields and women in the service area. Among the remedies instituted to rectify imbalances were retraining programmes, unemployment benefit payment and hiring for public work. As had been noted previously and in other venues, the labour market in Moldova was a developing one, and new guidelines were being implemented to bring the labour sector more in line with European practice and law, including for women in rural areas. Use was made of media and information campaigns to promote knowledge of the gender approach, even at the local level in rural areas. The same level of effort would be directed to gender sensitizing the educational sector.
An expert then addressed the issues of women's employment and economic situation, asking questions about gender disparities in the country's economy and the Government's efforts to overcome women's unemployment, as well as social security provisions in Moldova, the efforts to do away with the wage gap and improve the women's labour conditions. Women's poverty was directly related to the lack of access to economic opportunities and low representation in decision-making positions, she said. She also drew attention to the reports of labour rights violations in the private sector and asked how those violations were addressed.
Numerous questions were also asked about health-related issues and the Government's efforts to improve women's health. An expert noted many actions in the area of health, including compulsory medical insurance and the national programme on reproductive health. She wondered if the implementation of the insurance scheme was being monitored, including consistency and quality of services in both urban and rural areas. What was being done to cover the socially disadvantaged? Were there any restrictions that prevented access to certain treatments and drugs?
Another member of the Committee said that, according to information from various sources, the situation in the area of health in Moldova presented a cause for concern. The country had one of the highest rates of women suffering from anaemia -- it had reached 41 per cent in 2000. There was also a high maternal mortality rate. Despite the fact that abortion was legal and free of charge, it was puzzling that unsafe abortions were a cause of up to 10 per cent of women's mortality. Other negative trends included the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS among women and the increased consumption of tobacco and narcotic drugs. She wondered what was being done to address that situation.
The country's strategy of economic growth included work on a special programme for persons seeking employment, a country representative said. Job fairs were organized, and training provided to the unemployed. The strategy did not include a gender component at the moment, but there were plans to incorporate that in the future plans for economic growth. The labour inspectorate monitored the implementation of the Labour Code. So far, no cases of sexual harassment had been registered.
Responding to questions on health, she said that women's health was one of the Government's priorities. Among the achievements, she mentioned the newly introduced programme on reproductive health, and the introduction of a prenatal services programme, which included the efforts to retrain obstetrics personnel and the establishment of delivery centres. To reduce maternal mortality, the Ministry of Health was implementing a World Health Organization (WHO) programme, by which terms every case of maternal mortality was investigated and the data was analyzed.
Attention was also being paid to reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission, she said. All pregnant women were tested. Training was also provided to relevant personnel, and epidemiological surveys were carried out to analyze the vertical transmission of HIV. Education and awareness-raising campaigns had been organized to prevent the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and to stop the spread of tobacco smoking and drug use. Propaganda favouring a healthy lifestyle was at the centre of the Government's attention. In 2004, new criteria for the treatment of intravenous drug users had been elaborated, and a draft law on the prevention of HIV/AIDS was now being discussed. Services to pregnant women were free, both before and after birth. Minority women had the same rights and opportunities as others.
On the issue of credit, an expert pointed out the importance of credit for business enterprises, and questioned a requirement by commercial banks that women show background documentation to qualify for loans. Were alternative measures to improve access to credit being planned? A poverty-eradication report prepared by Moldova for the years 2005-2015 focused on raising the income for women year by year but poverty eradication entailed broader measures than that. What was Moldova's comprehensive poverty-reduction plan, including for minorities whose situation was often more difficult than that of the national majority?
Moldova's representative said the poverty-reduction programme was centred at the local level, with a focus on equality between men and women and the promotion of rights for all, including minorities. The new law on equality of opportunities for men and women also applied to minorities, who had not yet registered charges of discrimination concerning their rights. The question of minorities was centred mostly on issues of their integration into the mainstream, rather than on situations of actual discrimination, even in the case of the Roma and of minorities living in the ghettos. The approach to poverty alleviation was comprehensive and focused on economic development, because action on the social aspect was very costly and funding was simply unavailable right now.
An expert asked the delegation of Moldova to provide more data on minorities, such as the Roma and those on the east bank of the Dnestr River, in their next report on access to health services and opportunities for work and education. Another expert supported the request and called for a focus on the gender perspective within the minority groups. Still another expert pointed out the large average pay gap of 34 per cent between the compensation of men and that of women workers.
Responding, a member of the delegation said that men without assets could not get credit, but rural women who wanted to start a business were given access to small grants. In the case of unemployment, a single woman received social benefits, but a married woman who was unemployed received those benefits from her husband.
There were no discriminatory provisions in the legislation that allowed for the salary gap between men and women, she continued. However, such a gap existed in reality, particularly due to the fact that many women were clustered in lower-paying positions. Regarding pensions, she said that, under the country's laws, men reached pensionable age at 62 and women at 57.
As for the Roma women, she said that an analysis of the situation would be made in the next report. She did not think that Roma women were discriminated against, but it was important to evaluate the situation.
As the Committee turned to the family situation of women, an expert said that marriage age had been set at 18 for men and 16 for women, with some exceptions envisioned under the law. That created additional discrimination against women. Did the Government have any plans to equalize the marriage age? Questions were also posed regarding the impact of migration on families and the number of underage marriages.
Regarding the impact of migration on the families, a member of the delegation said that it did, indeed, have consequences because, in some cases, children remained without parents as a result. Provisions were being considered to make assistance available to such children. There was no legal instrument to compel men to send money home.
Responding to another question, she said that one of the Government's tasks was to equalize the age of marriage, and a draft law had been launched in 2004, but unfortunately, it had not been adopted.
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