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11/07/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/07/2017 11:53

COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN REVIEWS THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN NORWAY

7 November 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the ninth periodic report of Norway on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Solveig Horne, Minister of Children and Equality of Norway, introducing the report, recalled that Norway had passed its first Gender Equality Act in 1978. It had adopted the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act in June 2017, and would set up a new Equality Tribunal which could award compensation in discrimination cases within working life. Norway had come a long way towards gender equality and ranked third out of 144 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index, one up from 2016; today, women participated in the labour force almost at the same rate as men, which was a great asset for the economy and contributed to the sustainability of the Norwegian welfare State. Still, the challenges remained such as violence against women, gender segregation of education and the labour market, and the need to include more immigrant women in the workforce. In the public sector, organizations and in politics, women held many management positions, but in the 200 largest companies in Norway, 80 per cent of the members of executive committees were men.

Hege Nygård, Director General of the Ministry of Children and Equality of Norway, explained that the new comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act replaced the four current equality and anti-discrimination acts, and prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, parental leave, gender expression, age, and others. While a separate Gender Equality Act could have a symbolic value, the new Act would not weaken women's protection against discrimination.

Jan Austad, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Norway, spoke of new measures to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, such as the reverse attack alarm that an offender could be made to wear as a part of a sentence; the training of the police in the use of the spousal assault risk assessment tool; and the appointment in all police districts of a full-time family violence coordinator to help ensure that the police met victims of violence with understanding, knowledge and insight.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts inquired about the anti-discrimination framework, noting that the new Equality and Anti-discrimination Act in fact weakened the protection of women as individuals because it saw women as a minority group. Another concern was that Norway was mainstreaming gender away from the primacy of women's rights under the guise of gender neutrality in laws. Experts also inquired about efforts to raise awareness about the Convention, cuts in aid to women's legal aid organizations, the application of extraterritorial obligations in the context of offshore drilling, the political participation of women and their participation in leadership and decision-making bodies of private companies, and gender stereotypes. More information was requested on online sexualized hate speech and violence, violence against women and indigenous Saami women, trafficking in persons, the role of women in peace and security, dual nationality, statelessness and family reunification, inequality in educational choices among boys and girls, the school dropout rate among immigrant children, the gender segregated labour market, the gender pay gap, the health of Saami women, accessibility for women and girls with disabilities, pension benefits, and matrimonial property and the economic consequences for women after divorce.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Horne thanked the Committee for the thorough review of the State party's report, noting that the empowerment of women and girls was key to development. The delegation looked forward to receiving the concluding observations of the Committee, which would be very helpful in formulating the country's gender policies.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, commended the State party for its efforts and encouraged it to address the various recommendations of the Committee in order to more comprehensively implement the provisions of the Convention.

The delegation of Norway included representatives of the Ministry of Children and Equality, Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Wednesday, 8 November, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined second to fourth periodic reports of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (CEDAW/C/PRK/2-4).

Report

The Committee has before it the ninth periodic report of Norway CEDAW/C/NOR/9.

Presentation of the Report

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minister of Children and Equality of Norway, said that the Norwegian society was based on equality in general and on gender equality in particular and recalled that Norway had passed its first Gender Equality Act in 1978. In 2014, Norway had amended its Constitution which now included a comprehensive human rights catalogue, and in June this year Parliament had adopted the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act which aimed specifically at improving the position of women and minorities. A new Equality Tribunal would be established which could award compensation in discrimination cases within working life, which was a major improvement. Over the past 50 years, better social services and the increase in higher education opportunities had led to women's entry into paid jobs, while paid parental leave and affordable childcare had made it easier for women to enter the workforce. Today, women participated in the labour force almost at the same rate as men and this was a great asset for the economy and contributed to the sustainability of the Norwegian welfare State.

Norway had come a long way towards gender equality and ranked third out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Index, one up from 2016. Still, challenges remained such as violence against women, gender segregation of education and the labour market, and the need to include more immigrant women in the workforce. Norway shared the Committee's concern about the level of gender-based violence, sexual violence and sexual harassment in the country, and especially that many victims did not report those crimes and did not seek help. The Norwegian Government's view was clear. Violence against women and domestic violence were unacceptable and punishable. They must be prevented, victims must be protected and assisted, and perpetrators must be prosecuted. Norway had ratified the Istanbul Convention to underline its intentions in this field, and had put in place a range of preventive measures.

Another issue was harassment, including sexual harassment online, and Norway intended to present a strategy on Internet-related abuse and would investigate a low-threshold enforcement system for sexual harassment cases. Important steps to improve the situation of women and children affected by violence had been taken, such as ensuring that the police gave higher priority to such cases, and developing more efficient protection of victims through the planned establishment of 12 support offices located in police stations that would give victims advice and practical help, inform them of the status of the criminal case, and assist with the preparation of criminal cases. Norway had adopted an action plan to combat domestic violence for the 2014-2017 period, an action plan to combat negative social control, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and would launch next year a new action plan against rape.

Norway had come a long way towards gender equality in working life, but business and industry remained largely divided by gender; while women accounted for 60 per cent of students in higher education, there was a gender imbalance in the choice of studies. Women made up the majority of students in formerly male dominated studies such as law and medicine, while technological studies remained dominated by men. The Government-supported programme Girls and Technology aimed at increasing the proportion of girls studying mathematics and natural science at all levels. In the public sector, organizations and in politics, women held many management positions, but in the 200 largest companies in Norway, 80 per cent of the members of executive committees were men.

HEGE NYGÅRD, Director General, Ministry of Children and Equality of Norway, explained that the new comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act adopted in June 2017 replaced the four current equality and anti-discrimination acts, and prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, parental leave, gender expression, age, and others. Norway was of the opinion that while a separate Gender Equality Act could have a symbolic value, the new Act would not weaken women's protection against discrimination, especially as it aimed at improving the position of women and minorities, and applied to all areas of society, including family life and other purely personal relationships. The Act would be enforced by a new and strengthened Discrimination Tribunal.

JAN AUSTAD, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Norway, spoke of new measures to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, such as the reverse attack alarm that an offender could be made to wear as a part of a sentence; the training of the police in the use of the spousal assault risk assessment tool; and an appointment in all police districts of a full-time family violence coordinator to help ensure that the police met victims of violence with understanding, knowledge and insights. As part of the ongoing reform of the police, all police districts would establish dedicated teams to work on violence and sexual abuse in intimate relationships.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert addressed the equality and anti-discrimination framework in Norway and said that despite the stated purpose of protecting women and minorities, the new Act in fact weakened the protection of women as individuals as it saw women as a group and a minority group.

Another concern was that Norway was mainstreaming gender but was losing the primacy of women's rights under the guide of gender neutrality in the laws, which were increasingly gender blind. Would Norway reinstate the use of gender perspective in the instructions of the legislative process? What guarantees were there that the principle of gender equality was not losing its primacy in the legislative and judicial processes?

What steps were being taken to raise the awareness of the Convention among the public and the judiciary?

What were the reasons behind the cuts in the Government's support to women's legal aid organizations, especially in the context of the maintained level of support to men's civil society organizations, including those working on women's issues?

Another Expert stressed that climate change was not gender neutral and asked the delegation to explain the application of extraterritorial obligations in the context of offshore drilling.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation recognized the criticism against the holistic legal approach in the new Equality and Anti-discrimination Act, and the abolition of the Gender Equality Act, and stressed that the new act would in fact strengthen the protection of women from discrimination, for example the new act additionally strengthened the protection from pregnancy-related discrimination and thus represented an improvement on the Gender Equality Act. The Act also strengthened the protection from multiple and intersecting discrimination that women often suffered, for example, discrimination on the grounds of gender and ethnicity.

The new Anti-Discrimination Tribunal would be authorized to award redress for discrimination in the working life, said the delegate, explaining that currently neither the Ombudsperson nor any other anti-discrimination body could award redress. Once discrimination was found, the victim had to go to court to obtain redress, which did not often happen.

The proposed allocation for legal aid and legal assistance schemes for this year would represent a reduction of 50 million Norwegian Krone compared to 2016, although the allocation would remain at the level of 2015 and higher than 2014.

For Norway, women's perspective on climate change was a very important issue, and had been included in the Prime Minister's address to the opening of the United Nations General Assembly this year. As recognized in the Paris Agreement, Norway was actively applying gender perspectives in its mitigation and adaptation work, while gender was a cross-cutting issue in all international cooperation, considering that women were hit harder than men by climate change because they lacked resources and empowerment. The women and climate change adaptation programme in agriculture was a programme that was active in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cameroon and other African countries. All climate change financing mechanisms had developed gender policies and Norway had been a strong supporter of this.

The Norwegian instruction for mandatory studies had been revised recently in March 2016; it had not abolished gender equality as an overarching principle, but it was a part of fundamental questions in each ministry. It required public consultations on all policies and laws, which gave anyone an opportunity to comment on the Government's activities in the area of equality. A high-level inter-Ministerial working group on gender equality was in place, chaired by the Ministry of Children and Equality, which discussed the issues of gender equality.

In terms of raising awareness about the Convention and the Committee's concluding observations, a delegate said that the concluding observations were translated and distributed to all ministries, and used in the policy and legislation preparations. For instance, the Committee's concluding observations and general recommendations had been referred to in the preparation of the new Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act.

As for the reduction in the grant scheme for legal assistance, Norway provided legal assistance in accordance with the Legal Aid Act without prejudice to all those who were in need. The Government provided legal assistance to between 25,000 and 35,000 cases each year, to the tune of 700 million Norwegian Krone each year. In addition to government-provided legal aid, the Ministry of Justice was also providing support to organizations providing free legal aid to vulnerable individuals, and the level of funding this year was at the level of the funding allocated in 2015.

The public consultations on the Government's proposals were an important element of democracy in Norway and it often happened that the proposals were significantly changed following public consultations. The consultation period was normally between six weeks and three months and was open to everyone; the period of consultation must be adapted to the importance of the proposals. Norway tried to keep the consultations open for as long as possible, often three months, as it valued the civil society input and contributions.

The new Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act expressly prohibited discrimination on a combination of grounds in order to make the protection from discrimination more efficient. The new Equality Tribunal would open on 1 January 2018 when the Act itself would enter into force, thus at the moment, data was not available on redress and compensation for multiple and intersecting discrimination.

The national climate change goals were in place and Norway was completely committed to the Paris Agreement, and to the green technologies. Important investments to electrify the oil industry were being done. Gas from Norway was replacing coal throughout Europe and this represented a major contribution of Norway to the reduction of greenhouse gasses emissions.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, the delegation was asked about the impact of the new Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act on the institutional architecture in the country, and on the budgetary allocations for gender equality and women's rights.

What measures were being announced to date, particularly in terms of local and decentralized authorities, to implement the new law and the policies?

How would the competence of the Equality Tribunal be defined, and how was its competence delimited from other tribunals? Which body dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace? What were the competencies of the Mediator in relation to the new Anti-Discrimination Tribunal?

How had the general legal and policy framework for the Sustainable Development Goals been organized in Norway and integrated with the relevant national policies?

Committee Experts commended Norway for the use of temporary special measures in a number of fields and for the use of quotas for the political participation of women, and asked whether, in the light of continued under-representation of women in elected local bodies, Norway would consider enshrining mandatory gender quotas in the law to ensure equal representation of women in local elected bodies.

What measures were envisaged to redress the imbalance in the participation of women in leadership and decision-making bodies of private companies?

Responses by the Delegation

On decentralized governance and budgets for local authorities, a delegate said that the budget for municipalities and counties had been increased and was at its highest for the past decade. Local authorities were responsible for the use of the resources allocated to them. The local level played an important role in achieving gender equality, said another delegate, and explained that the Ministry of Children and Equality also addressed the issues of gender equality and discrimination in cooperation with county authorities. A number of municipalities and counties had adopted equality and anti-discrimination plans and policies, and set up their own bodies for their implementation.

The Government regularly reported to Parliament on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and Norway was among the first countries which had voluntarily reported to the United Nations on this matter. In April 2017, Norway had presented a white paper on monitoring of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in international cooperation.

The Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud played an important role in putting the issue of sexual harassment on the political agenda, said a delegate and informed the Committee that the mandate for the investigation was still under consideration. Courts were enforcing sexual harassment cases, although the number of cases was rather low. The reason that it was the courts that had the competence for the investigation of sexual harassment had to do with the complexity of those cases and their investigation. Sexual harassment was a serious problem in Norway today, particularly among young people, while sexual harassment in work-life was currently being discussed with social partners.

With regard to mandatory quotas on the participation of women in leadership positions, the delegation explained that the legal requirement for gender balance in public companies had led to over 40 per cent of representation of women in those companies; at the moment, there were no plans to extend this legal requirement to other sector companies. The Government had hoped that the introduction of gender quotas in the public sector would have a spill-over effect on the private sector but this did not happen, and other measures to increase the participation of women in leadership positions in that sector were being considered. Most political parties had introduced voluntary gender quotas in their electoral lists.

As part of the budget proposal for 2018, the national statistics office had been tasked with analysing the gender-sensitive allocation of resources; the budget contained a number of gender neutral measures that assisted women in various areas of life.

With the establishment of the Equality Tribunal on 1 January 2018, the Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud would no longer handle complaints from individuals and it would remain an important actor in ensuring that the authorities complied with laws and policies in matters of gender equality. According to the principle 'the money follows the task', the budget of the Ombud would see a cut of 12 million Norwegian Koruna, and this money would be allocated to the Equality Tribunal to fund its work on complaints.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Experts raised issues of negative gender stereotypes and harmful traditional practices, and asked about the national strategy to address gender stereotypes, and explicitly about targeted measures that were being taken to address negative stereotypes against indigenous women, and immigrant and refugee women, and also to tackle racial and religious profiling.

Could the delegation explain its strategy to eliminate early marriage and female genital mutilation, including those committed extra-territorially?

The Committee was concerned about online sexualized hate speech and violence, and asked about measures to combat those scourges.

Another Expert addressed violence against women and asked about the factors which impeded the completion of the legislative reform process carried out before the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. Why had Norway failed to adopt a definition of rape which included the element of consent in its Penal Code?

Was there a systematic collection of gender data on all forms of gender-based violence, including on femicide? What was being planned to address the alarming failure of the police officers in the investigation of gender-based violence cases?

An Expert commended Norway for its various efforts taken to address the challenge of trafficking in persons and for meeting the minimum standards in this regard, and stressed that Norway could and should do more and become a leader in preventing trafficking in human beings.

The delegation was asked about international cooperation with countries of origin, transit and destination to prevent trafficking in persons; the assistance provided to victims of trafficking; and steps to be taken to develop the national referral mechanism for women in prostitution and for victims of trafficking in persons.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that Norway was among the first countries which had launched a strategy against hate speech, and this was something Norway was very proud about. Norway was close to establishing a website and a social media campaign aimed at children, parents and teachers, while editors had received guidelines for the moderation of online debates.

Norway aimed to promote a society in which all girls and boys could make their decisions without a regard for gender, and it was clear that gender stereotypes were a limit to this ambition. Measures were in place to support individuals in making unconventional educational and professional choices. Stereotypes were also a ground for hate speech, and the hate speech strategy expanded discrimination grounds to gender and sex.

On the legal definition of rape, a delegate outlined the steps that Norway had taken to implement the Committee's concluding observations to reform the definition of rape which contained the element of the use or threat of use of force, and replace it with a definition which had a lack of consent at its centre. Such a proposal had been made, which had received some positive and some negative reactions, and Norway had decided not to go ahead with the reform. It was important to underline that a change in the legal definition would most likely not lead to an increase in the number of convictions, said the delegate, especially as the current definition already assumed lack of consent.

A report on the quality of investigations into cases of violence in close relationships and rapes in 2016 had shown that such cases had a much higher rate of dismissal and acquittal compared to other cases; the report had shown that the investigation and prosecution of such cases had not met the degree of professionalism as demonstrated in other types of cases. The police and the Office of the Prosecutor were taking steps to address those issues, assured the delegate.

As for violence against indigenous Sami women, which was an issue of concern, the delegation said that national measures for domestic violence covered Sami communities as well; for example, all Norwegian municipalities had to have a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and the Government was funding shelters and support centres for victims of incest and family violence, including in Finnmark. The Government was also funding research and studies on violence against Sami women, and a specific dialogue with the Sami communities and municipalities on issues of sexual violence was in place.

The research conducted in Sami communities had provided a broad picture of barriers to support services for victims of violence, which included barriers of different kinds, such as language and religion. Further research would be conducted in cooperation with the Sami Parliament to find out what more needed to be done to address the issue of violence, sexual violence and abuse, and assist the victims.

Concerning gender segregated data on violence against women, the delegation said that the registration of violence against women was being done by several actors: the police provided a number of registered cases in its annual report. The number of registered cases was on the increase, and this was worrying and alarming; the Government needed to look into the root causes of that increase, whether it was due to better reporting or due to changed realities. Statistics were being provided by shelters for victims of violence as well.

Providing statistics on femicide, a delegate said that in 2016, six women had been killed by their intimate partners or former intimate partners. Research had been launched into all killings of women by their intimate partners during the 1991 to 2012 period to identify risk factors and so contribute to the prevention of this act; it had been found that in 70 per cent of the cases, one or more previous violent episodes had been identified, and that the killings were mostly taking place in marginalized groups.

Norway had initiated a project with civil society organizations in June 2017 to find a better way to assist victims of trafficking in persons, who were mostly foreign women and had issues with legal stay in the country. The new system would provide legal residence to trafficking victims who were needed in police investigations, or were in need of international protection. The delegate stressed that it was not sufficient to be a victim of trafficking in persons to obtain a right to stay in the country. Each victim had the right to a 'reflection period' of six months to consider options and alternatives; at the end of this period, they would be sent back to their countries or to a third country.

As for the efforts of Norway to support international anti-trafficking work, there were programmes and grants to fight organized crime and help countries to establish better structures to prevent and prosecute trafficking, and to assist victims. Norway was also very active within the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and had a positive cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna and also had bilateral cooperation with a number of States.

The delegation confirmed that gender was not included in the Civil Penal Code, which criminalized discriminatory acts, such as hateful expressions based on skin colour, ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation.

Questions by Committee Experts

Women from ethnic minorities seemed to be particularly underrepresented in political life. Had the State party planned measures to increase the representation of women on company management boards? Equal representation of men and women at ambassadorial level seemed almost achieved. How many women from Norway were in senior positions in international organizations?

Turning to the issue of women in peace and security, Experts inquired about how the country planned to increase the participation of women in peace negotiations. Norway was among the top contributors to the United Nations development system. The present Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security proposed greater allocations to women's peace efforts and participation in peace processes.

The strict provisions on dual nationality were likely to create statelessness. Children born in Norway did not automatically gain Norwegian citizenship. Did the State party plan to address gaps in the dual nationality law? What steps would the Government take to amend the Nationality Law to grant nationality to children of asylum seekers and refugees? Was there any compulsory birth registration of children of asylum seeking parents? As for family reunification, conditions were quite difficult to meet and had a disproportionate effect on asylum-seeking and refugee women.

Replies by the Delegation

Norway had seen a steady increase in the number of women in leading positions, and 35 per cent of all public- and private-sector leaders were women. In the private sector, however, almost 70 per cent of leaders were men. There had been little effect of legal requirements for increased female leadership in private companies. The Government would follow that situation closely. Women constituted 46 per cent of seats on company management boards where the State owned stakes.

Norway's Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security demanded that the priorities of men and women be taken into account, and gender perspective should be included in all reports of Norway's peace and security activities abroad. There had been follow-up on six priority countries, namely in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Palestine, South Sudan, and Algeria. Norway had established an allocation for women's role in peace and reconciliation. That allocation was an important dedicated financial tool. Norway supported greater political representation of women in countries in conflict.

As for voter turnout and the participation of minority women in elections, at the past elections the voter turnout was 54 per cent among the immigrant population. The immigrant population was younger and with a lower unemployment rate, which also explained their lower participation in elections. The Government aimed to secure access to information by minority women by providing information in multiple languages, and by offering Norwegian language courses.

Norwegian citizenship should not be easily attained and new citizens should be active participants in the Norwegian society. The Government would propose amendments to the Nationality Act to allow dual citizenship. The mapping of statelessness had been completed by the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2016, and statelessness provisions had been amended in line with European and United Nations standards.

As for family reunification, the rules aimed at stringent migration policies and ensured that each family was self-sufficient. The proof of income had been reduced. In order to receive a permanent residence permits, applicants needed to prove that they had lived in Norway for at least three years. Recently, there was a proposal to raise that period to five years.

Questions by Committee Experts

Experts pointed to the persistent inequality in educational choices made by women and girls, who made up a very low percentage of employees in technology and science. How could the process of including girls in science and technology be speeded up? What rigorous measures did the State party plan in order to reverse that trend? What was the number of women university professors? What measures had the Government taken to tackle the high school dropout rate among migrant children? More information was requested about Norway's sexual and reproductive health education?

Norway still had a gender segregated labour market. More statistics on this situation were requested. Some 93 per cent of top executives were men and only 15 per cent were women in the private sector. What steps had been taken to overcome that situation? There was a 25 per cent gender pay gap at the top salary level. What were the reasons behind that and what measures had been taken to correct it? Women preferred public sector jobs because they were more family friendly. What measures had been taken to make the private sector more women friendly and family friendly? Women and girls under the au pair scheme needed more protection.

Turning to health, Experts commended the State party's system of gender blindness. Nevertheless, the health of Saami women had not improved due to the shortage of midwives and post-natal care. Existing linguistic barriers still hampered access to reproductive health services. Women and girls with disabilities often did not enjoy access to buildings due to physical barriers. Adolescent boys missed important information about sexual education and gender issues. Instead, they gained distorted gender knowledge through pornographic content. Why had the State party cut resources for midwives and post-natal care for Saami women? What was the impact of the gender policies to limit the consequences of Chernobyl?

Replies by the Delegation

Six out of 10 students in higher education were women. Boys and girls had equal formal opportunities. However, they were influenced by gender in their education choices. Gender had to be viewed in conjunction with immigrant background. Gender expectations played a role, particularly in vocational training. The Government was looking into gender challenges of boys and girls in different areas. Women in academia accounted for 43 per cent of associate positions in 2013. That number varied across disciplines.

The gender pay gap was due to the work in different sectors and professions, but it had dropped between 2011 and 2016. Wages were set by the Technical Cooperation Committee for Wages. Norway was looking into Iceland's experience in establishing equal pay. The Government monitored women's representation on company management boards which to some extent named and blamed companies with bad representation of women.

The au pair scheme was not considered an employment scheme, but an opportunity to learn about Norwegian culture. If the host breached an au pair's rights, appropriate sanctions would be applied.

Responding to the question about healthcare services for Saami women, the delegation noted that all citizens had the right to such services, and that Saami language was taken into account in service delivery. The Centre for Saami Health Research received funds every year to study health outcomes among the Saami.

Sexuality education would be included in interdisciplinary courses offered to adolescents, including violence in the digital world. As for accessibility for women and girls with disabilities, all new public buildings were supposed to be universally designed.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

Were there specific programmes to fight school dropout rates among immigrant children? Was the State party prepared to examine laws on family reunification and their disproportionate impact on women?

What were the reasons and remedies for the gender pay gap in the hourly pay for women in low-paying professions, and for women at the top salary level?

Would the State party consider introducing special temporary measures to promote women on the academic ladder? What was the schedule for reinstating the fathers' quota and preferential positions for part-time employees?

Replies by the Delegation

The Government had decided to increase both the mothers' and fathers' quota to 14 weeks of leave. The gender point in education was in force in some areas where girls had low representation. The Government would consider introducing extra study points for boys and girls.

As for the gender pay gap, social partners were responsible for conducting wage negotiations and the Government did not interfere in that process. It was true that sometimes the gender pay gap could not be explained.

On part-time workers' right to extended posts, a number of measures had been introduced to reduce the number of part-time jobs.

Questions by Committee Experts

Turning to the new pension system and the supplementary allowance scheme, the Government stated that there were no plans to amend the National Insurance Act. Were there indications of worrying trends? Were there results on measures needed to improve the situation of women in the pension system, given their higher life expectancy?

On vulnerable groups, Experts drew attention to daily racial discrimination in terms of access to accommodation and labour. Women and girls with cognitive and psycho-social disabilities were some of the vulnerable categories, especially when it came to sexual violence. Women in prison constituted a very low proportion of the overall prison population. Detained women had special needs and wanted to maintain their family relations. What was the number of female prison staff? Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons often suffered from online harassment. What was the number of cases of Internet hate speech against them? What measures had been taken to promote the Saami languages?

Replies by the Delegation

Women in prison served their sentences separate from men, and steps were being taken to meet their needs. Some 39 per cent of the penitentiary staff were women. In 2016 the Government had launched a cross-sectorial action plan to address, among others, hate speech against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The Ministry of Justice had identified vulnerable groups with respect to rape.

Any gender disparity, including among women and girls with disabilities, was monitored. Norway also had a system for monitoring the situation of vulnerable groups. The Saami languages had the status of official languages and minority languages.

The new pension system was aimed at providing equal pensions despite unequal labour contribution. The Government had set aside funds to research the effectiveness of the Norwegian pension system. Life expectancy was used as part of the calculation of the pension amount.

The Ombudsman would take up the issue of daily racism against women. A new tribunal would have the authority to address discrimination cases. Indicators on ethnicity would probably be ready by the autumn of 2018.

Questions by Committee Experts

Cohabitating couples were equated with spouses when they had children. Those who did not have common children did not have any right to inherit from each other. What was the situation of cohabitating couples without common children in terms of receiving economic protection? Were there any studies on the extent of inequalities in such couples? Were people in Norway well aware of the rights and duties in marriage and other unions?

Was intangible property, including pension rights and other work-related benefits, still excluded from the marital property? Had there been any measures to undertake research on the economic consequences of divorce on both spouses?

Replies by the Delegation

Cohabitants represented a much more heterogeneous group than married couples. They had certain rights to common household assets, while inheritance rights of those with common children were the same as those of married couples. In that respect, the Government continued to provide legal information to presumably weak groups.

Concluding Remarks

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minister of Children and Equality of Norway, thanked the Committee for the thorough review of the State party's report. The empowerment of women and girls was key to development. The delegation looked forward to receiving the concluding observations of the Committee, which would be very helpful in formulating the country's gender policies.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended the State party for its efforts and encouraged it to address the various recommendations of the Committee in order to more comprehensively implement the provisions of the Convention.

For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW/17/40E

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