Pre-sessional Working Group of the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Leontine Bijleveld, Hellen Felter and Petra Snelders
Thank you Madam Chair, members of the Committee,
My name is Leontine Bijleveld. To my left is Hellen Felter and to my right Petra Snelders. We represent the Dutch CEDAW-Network which, on behalf of 52 Dutch NGOs, submitted the Shadow report Unfinished Business, Women’s Rights in the Netherlands. In the meantime, 4 more NGOs endorsed the report.
The Network represents a wide diversity of NGOs, indicating broad civil society support. To give an example: both organisations of sex workers and anti-trafficking organisations are among the endorsements, agreeing on the urgent need to protect and promote the human rights of both sex workers and victims of trafficking, whether in forced prostitution or in other sectors, about which the government does not report at all.
Not to be read: we refer to para 13 – 18 of the shadow report.
We speak on behalf of NGOs in the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in securing additional funding for NGOs in the Caribbean to participate in the shadow reporting process and the CEDAW sessions. We regret that the governments of the Dutch Antilles did not follow Recommendation 21 of your 2010 Concluding Observations. The Network wants to compliment SEDA Curacao for compiling its shadow report without any funding.
The Dutch CEDAW Network also expresses its solidarity with the 46 women’s rights organisations, mainly working in the global South, and the report the Women’s Major Group submitted on their behalf. We suggest the Committee to ask for an explanation for the shift in the Dutch international development assistance programme from the direct funding of women’s rights organisations in the global South towards funding large Northern based INGOs.
We fear this will have a similar destructive effect as the cuts and shifts in the funding of Dutch women’s rights organisations over the last 12 years: forced mergers into large predominantly white and general expertise centres, leaving women’s rights organisations without funding. Black and migrant woman’s rights organisations never received any structural money.
Not to be read: we refer to para 3, 6 and 7 of the shadow report.
Status of CEDAW
The NGOs remain concerned about the government’s reticence concerning the status of the Convention. We mention some examples:
- The governments’ refusal to act upon the Committee’s recommendations to compensate the missing maternity benefits between 2004 and 2008, following a complaint under the Optional Protocol.
- The sloppiness in reporting in the follow-up procedure to the latest Concluding Observations, causing the Committee to twice request additional information on the policies on violence against women and trafficking. Information which the government still not provides in its report.
- The partial or non-implementation of several recommendations from the 2010 and 2007 Concluding Observations, including – to mention a few – those on the need for gender specific policies, the strengthening of the national machinery, assessment of the gender impact of legislation and policies, the funding of women’s rights organisations, improving the rights of domestic workers, the discriminatory law on names and the reimbursement of breat implants of transgenders.
- The lack of attention paid to the General Recommendations of the Committee: the latest six were not translated nor actively distributed and, moreover, lacked explicit implementation. Various of the issues mentioned by the NGOs under Article 9 and 16, such as the dependent residence permit, child marriages and forced transnational marriages, would have been met by implementation of GR 31 and 32. Both recommendations have only become more urgent in view of the current refugee crisis and the need to secure the safety of refugee women and girls. In this context we want to stress the importance of female refugees being entitled to independent refugee status instead of a dependent residence permit.
Not to be read out: we refer to para 4-5, 10, 22, 33 – 36 of the shadow report.
Not enough recognition for the obligation to combat stereotypes
The NGOs are concerned about the failure of the government to actively combat gender stereotypes, despite the call of the Committee to strengthen its efforts (para 25 CO). The Governments’ analysis of the causes of inequality between women and men, as well as its measures to address this, seem to be restricted to the social-economic field, while hardly any attention is paid to racial discrimination on the labour market and the hardship this causes for black and migrant women. The difficulties they encounter in obtaining an internship during vocational training is another insufficiently addressed issue.
In the view of the NGOs, as underlined by General Recommendation 28, it is imperative to pay due regard to the differences among women and the intersection of various forms of discrimination. In its report the government only addresses LBT. We suggest the Committee to ask the government about its policies on other forms of intersecting discrimination and special groups.
Moreover, we miss awareness of the Government that the Convention is not only about de jure equality but also about de facto equality of women.
Not to be read out: we refer to para 11-12 and 37-49 of the shadow report.
Income, poverty, economic independence
Recent figures show an increase of the number of people living in poverty and the duration thereof. This contradicts the government’s rosy picture in the report. What the report also not shows is how government polices contribute or even cause the precarious income and labour market position of an increasing number of women.
The economic crisis has had a negative impact on the labour market position of men. However, the government’s austerity measures in response to the economic crisis in particular negatively affected the labour market position of women, thus pushing them further into poverty.
The decentralisation of social care to the local governments, coupled with severe budget cuts, resulted in thousands of redundancies in the (home) care sector, affecting in particular elderly women whose labour position was already precarious. Some were invited to re-apply under the diminished social protection of the Home Help Services Scheme, which despite the Committee’s recommendation (para 39 CO) is still in place. Others have been facing illegal salary cuts, a cut in hours or a shift to partial on-call contracts. At the same time the pressure on women to provide informal, unpaid care for the sick and elderly has increased.
Other precarious groups of women are not even included in the most recent poverty figures: undocumented women working as domestic worker or in the sex sector, female EU-migrants, transgenders having to pay large amounts of money to acquire the desired sex characteristics etc.
Not to be read out: we refer to para 22- 25, 31, 39, 42-44 of the shadow report.
Madam Chair, members of the Committee, thank you.
We look forward to answer your questions.