SHE SHE SHE: ‘Women’s Act 2010 does not adequately address FGM, marital rape, child marriage’

Thursday, August 06, 2015
These were the concerns and recommendations of the concluding observations on the Combined Periodic Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of The Gambia of the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women.

The committee noted that many provisions of the convention have been incorporated into the national law through the adoption of relevant legislation, in particular the Women’s Act in 2010.

However, it remains concerned that this legislation does not adequately addresses female genital mutilation, marital rape or child marriage.

It further remains concerned about the constitutional provision, under which the prohibition of discrimination does not apply in respect of adoption, marriage, divorce, burial and devolution of property on death and the fact that these issues are regulated under personal law, which contains discriminatory provisions, some of which are re-enacted in the Women’s Act.

Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the state party: Harmonize legislation, including the constitution, the Women’s Act and personal laws (Sharia and customary law) with the Convention.

By repealing all discriminatory provisions to ensure that women and girls enjoy equal rights as men in all areas of life; urgently repeal Article 33(5) of the 1997 constitution, which provides that the prohibition of discrimination does not apply in respect of adoption, marriage, divorce, burial and devolution of property on death.

Female genital mutilation

The Committee remains deeply concerned that the practice of female genital mutilation remains widespread, affecting a large majority of girls and women.

While noting that the state party accepted a recommendation in the context of the Universal Periodic Review in 2015 to adopt and implement effective legislation aimed at banning female genital mutilation, the committee is concerned that the state party has not adopted any timeframe to implement this Universal Periodic Review recommendation.

The committee urges the state party to expedite the adoption of legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation, and prosecute and adequately punish those responsible, and compensate victims; raise awareness of health practitioners regarding female genital mutilation and the remedies and assistance available to victims, including psychological counseling; provide alternative means of livelihood for practitioners of female genital mutilation.

Access to Justice

On access to justice by women; the Committee is concerned about the barriers faced by women in accessing justice.

It is particularly concerned that women often must resort to Cadi courts and District Tribunals, which are not gender sensitive and continue applying discriminatory provisions.

While noting that in 2009, the majority of high court judges were women, the Committee notes with concern the lack of information on the gender composition of other courts.

Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the state party design a comprehensive judicial policy to eliminate barriers faced by women and girls in accessing to justice, including legal aid, and provide adequate resources and a monitoring mechanism for its implementation.

Promote the appointment of women judges at all levels of the judiciary, including in Cadi courts and District Tribunals, and adopt special temporary measures in line with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s General Recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures.

Enhance women’s awareness of their rights and legal literacy in all areas of the law and the Convention, to enable women to avail themselves of procedures and remedies to claim their rights under the Convention.

Strengthen efforts to provide training on women’s rights and violence against women to judges, Cadis, prosecutors, police officers and the legal profession.

National machinery for the advancement of women

The committee is concerned that coordination among the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the National Women’s Council and its Bureau remain weak.

Responsibilities are not clearly defined and that their capacities, resources, and/or authority are insufficient. It is also concerned about the insufficient implementation of the Gender Policy 2010-2020 up to date.

Recommendations

The committee recommends that the state party expeditiously review the national machinery for the advancement of women with a view to ensuring the overall coordination among relevant institutions, and that each institution has clearly defined responsibilities, as well as adequate capacity, resources, autonomy and/or authority to effectively operate.

Conduct a mid-term evaluation of the Gender Policy 2010-2020 and ensure that it addresses all areas covered by the convention, including measurable indicators, a timeframe and an effective monitoring mechanism, and that adequate resources are allocated for its implementation.

National Human Rights Institution

The committee is concerned that the state party has not yet established an independent national human rights institution.

The committee urges the state party to establish, within a clear timeframe, an independent national human rights institution, in accordance with the Paris Principles, with a mandate on women’s issues, strong linkages with the women’s machinery and authority to consider and issue opinions on complaints submitted by women alleging violations of their rights.

Temporary special measures

While noting that the Women’s Act calls on all public and private entities to adopt temporary special measures, the Committee is concerned that the state party does not systematically use temporary special measures to accelerate the achievement of substantive or de facto equality of women and men in all areas of the convention.

The committee recommends that the state party effectively implement Article 15 (1) of the Women’s Act and significantly increase the use of temporary special measures in education, health, employment or any other relevant areas, including quotas, with specific targets and time frames in accordance with article 4 (1) of the convention and the Committee’s General Recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, as a necessary strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive equality of women and men in all areas covered by the convention, where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged.

17.The committee recommends that the state party effectively implement Article 15 (1) of the Women’s Act and significantly increase the use of temporary special measures in education, health, employment or any other relevant areas, including quotas, with specific targets and timeframes in accordance with article 4 (1) of the convention and the Committee’s General Recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, as a necessary strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive equality of women and men in all areas covered by the convention, where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged.

Stereotypes and harmful practices

The committee is deeply concerned about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society.

It also remains concerned about the very high prevalence of harmful practices, particularly female genital mutilation, child marriages, polygamy and levirate and the fact that these practices are not prohibited by law.

The Committee urges the state party to adopt legal provisions explicitly prohibiting harmful practices such as polygamy, child marriages, female genital mutilation, levirate, and unequal inheritance rights for women, provide for adequate sanctions and ensure the effective implementation of these provisions.

Expeditiously adopt a comprehensive strategy to eliminate stereotypes and harmful practices that discriminate against women; reinforce awareness-raising programmes, targeting children, men and women, officials at all levels, teachers, parents and traditional and religious leaders, on the negative effects of harmful practices and discriminatory stereotypes on women’s enjoyment of their rights.

Cooperate with the media to enhance understanding of the concept of equality of women and men in public and private life and, convey positive images of women.

Source: Findings of the Concluding Observations of the UN: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Author: Halimatou Ceesay