Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
13 February–2 March 2012
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
1.The Committee considered the eighth periodic report of Norway (CEDAW/C/NOR/8) at its 1024th and 1025th meetings, on 16 February 2012 (see CEDAW/C/SR.1024 and 1025). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/NOR/Q/8 and the responses of the Government of Norway are contained in CEDAW/C/NOR/Q/8/Add.1.
2.The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its eighth periodic report, which was submitted on time, followed the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of reports, took into account the Committee’s previous concluding observations and was prepared through a consultative process with the participation of Government bodies and civil society. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its oral presentation, the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by its pre-session working group and the further clarifications to the questions posed orally by the Committee.
3.The Committee commends the State party’s large high level delegation, headed by Audun Lysbakken, the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway, which included also several representatives from relevant ministries, and representatives of the Norwegian Sámi Parliament, with expertise in the areas covered by the Convention. The Committee appreciates the open and constructive dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee.
4.The Committee commends the State party for its financial support of women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the finalization of a shadow report and for travelling expenses to both the pre-session working group and the session.
5.The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since the adoption of its last concluding observations in 2007, including the legislative reforms that have been undertaken and the adoption of a range of legislative measures and policies. Specific reference is made to the:
(a)Incorporation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol into the Human Rights Act (Act relating to the strengthening of the status of human rights in Norwegian law 1999-05-21-30), which gives precedence in case of any conflict with domestic legislation (2009);
(b)Adoption of the first National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2011–2014 (2011) which specifically addresses the Convention and the State party’s obligations under it;
(c)Appointment of the commission to assess the existing gender equality policies (2011);
(d)Adoption of the Action Plan to Promote Equality and Prevent Ethnic Discrimination 2009–2012 (2009), containing measures to include minorities into the labour market;
(e)Amendment of section 202a of the Penal Code, recognizing a purchase of sexual activity or a sexual act from adults as a criminal offence (2009);
(f)Priority given to Security Council resolution 1325 (2006) as part of the State Party’s foreign policy; and
(g)The successful implementation of the rules concerning gender balance on boards of both publicly and privately owned public limited companies, requiring gender balance of at least 40 per cent of each gender on their boards.
6.The Committee also commends the State party for its signature of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence on 7 July 2011 and the commitment of the State party expressed during the dialogue to ratify it.
C.Principal areas of concern and recommendations
7.The Committee recalls the obligation of the State party to systematically and continuously implement all the provisions of the Convention and views the concerns and recommendations identified in the present concluding observations as requiring the priority attention of the State party between now and the submission of the next periodic report. Consequently, the Committee urges the State party to focus on those areas in its implementation activities and to report on actions taken and results achieved in its next periodic report. The Committee calls upon the State party to submit the present concluding observations to all relevant ministries, the Parliament and the judiciary, so as to ensure their full implementation.
8. While reaffirming that the Government has the primary responsibility and is particularly accountable for the full implementation of the obligations of the State party under the Convention, the Committee stresses that the Convention is binding on all branches of Government and invites the State party to encourage the Parliament, in line with its procedures, where appropriate, to take the necessary steps with regard to the implementation of the present concluding observations and the Government’s next reporting process under the Convention.
Definition of gender discrimination and gender equality
9.The Committee notes the upcoming White Paper and a Bill on the State party’s future gender equality policies aimed at adjusting existing anti-discrimination legislation with an aim to harmonizing the rules in different legal acts. The Committee is concerned at the lack of guarantee or definition of gender equality in the State party’s Constitution or other appropriate legislation. The Committee is also concerned that the use of gender-neutral legislation, policies and programmes might lead to inadequate protection of women against direct and indirect discrimination and hinder the achievement of substantive equality between women and men. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned at the lack of attention, in some laws and policies, to the specific needs of minority groups of women, including women with ethnic minority background and women with disabilities, often leading to intersectional discrimination.
10. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Embody the principle of equality of women and men into the Constitution or other appropriate legislation in accordance with a rticle 2 of the Convention;
(b) Adopt a more gender - specific approach for its legislation, policies and programmes; and
(c) Raise awareness of the nature of indirect discrimination and the principle of equality for all women, including women from ethnic minority background s and women with disabilities, among Government officials, the judiciary and the general public.
Visibility of the Convention and its Optional Protocol
11.The Committee is concerned at the general lack of awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocol in the State party, in particular, among Government officials, the judiciary and other law enforcement officials; at the lack of case law, including Supreme Court case law, referring to the Convention; and that it had not been included in the new judicial training programme mentioned by the Minister during the dialogue. It is further concerned that women themselves are not aware of their rights under the Convention or of the communication and inquiry procedures under the Optional Protocol, and thus lack the necessary information to claim their rights.
12. The Committee calls on the State party to:
(a) Take the necessary steps to ensure the adequate dissemination of the Convention, the Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations among all stakeholders, including Government ministries, parliamentarians, the judiciary jury and law enforcement officers;
(b) Include the Convention, the views adopted on individual communications and inquiries under the Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations into judicial training programs; and
(c) Intensify its efforts to raise awareness among women on their rights under the Convention and the communication and inquiry procedures by its Optional Protocol.
National mechanisms for the advancement of women
13.The Committee welcomes the adoption of the first Action Plan for Gender Equality for 2011–2014 (2011) and the establishment of a commission to assess gender equality policies, strengthening the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud’s and the Tribunal’s mandate in relation to promoting gender equality and the advancement of women. The Committee, however, expresses its concern that neither the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud nor the Tribunal are authorized to hear cases of sexual harassment.
14. The Committee encourages the State party to:
(a) Further strengthen the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, by providing it with adequate human and technical resources and consider authorizing the Ombud and the Tribunal to hear cases of sexual harassment;
(b) Strengthen its impact assessment of measures taken so as to ensure that such measures achieve their goals and targets; and
(c) Raise awareness about the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, in particular, among women with a minority background.
National human rights institutions
15.The Committee is concerned that the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, as a university institute, can no longer fulfil its mandate as the national human rights institution, and that it is about to be downgraded to B-status in October 2012 by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
16. The Committee encourages the Norwegian Government to initiate a speedy, open and consultative process for the re - establishment of its national human rights institution in full compliance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights ( Paris Principles) .
Temporary special measures and permanent measures
17.The Committee commends the State party for the high level of participation of women in many fields. However, the Committee regrets the decrease in the number of women represented at local government level after the 2011 municipal elections (4,115 women and 6,670 men), compared to the outcome of 2007 elections, as indicated in the delegation’s introductory statement. The Committee also reiterates its concern at the low numbers of women professors in academia and of women judges at all levels of the judiciary, and at the inadequate representation of women with minority backgrounds therein.
18. The Committee encourages the State party to:
(a) Consider further adoption and implementation of measures, either as temporary special measures or as permanent measures aimed at achieving substantive equality of women and men in all areas;
(b) Consider expanding the rules concerning gender balance on boards of public limited companies to other types of enterprises and other areas of the private sector; and
(c) Enhance programmes of capacity - building for women of minority background to encourage their participation in public and political life.
Participation of women in peace process
19.The Committee commends the State party’s commitment to the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), including the launch of the relevant action plan and its generalfinancial support for the implementation of this resolution in countries affected by conflict. However, the Committee is concerned about the lack of a measurable impact on women on the ground in conflict and post conflict countries, where women are continuously excluded from the peace negotiations, security discussions and reconstruction processes.
20. The Committee encourages the State party to :
(a) Require full accountability on Security Council r esolution 1325 (2000) in countries where Norway is supporting its implementation to ensure full participation of women in peace negotiations , security and reconstruction processes;
(b) Increase support to local women’s organizations and networks that are active in peace initiatives and post-conflict reconstruction processes; and
(c) Strengthen the activities under the action plan , including constructing effective tools for measuring its outcomes .
21.While welcoming the dialogue that the State party’s Government opened with the commercial and the fashion industry, the Committee is concerned about the omnipresence of media-driven hyper-sexualised and commodified representations of girls and women, potentially leading to gender discrimination of a more violent nature, notwithstanding section 2 of the Marketing Control Act and the media’s code of ethics in confronting this issue.
22. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Conduct a study on the possible impact of over-sexualized representation of girls and women in the media on increasing levels of gender - based violence against women;
(b) Use innovative measures that target media people to strengthen understanding of the equality of women and men and through the educational system to enhance a positive and non-stereotypical portrayal of women; and
(c) Monitor the measures taken in order to assess their impact and review them, if necessary, in order to achieve the objectives of such measures.
Violence against women
23.While welcoming the launch in January 2012 of the new Plan of Action to Combat Domestic Violence and the establishment of the duty to contact the police or otherwise attempt to prevent domestic violence (sect. 139 of the Penal Code), the Committee expresses its concern at the high prevalence of violence against women in the State party, in particular, domestic and sexual violence, including rape and marital rape in some communities, the high level of acquittals, the lenient sentences imposed on perpetrators which may be partly attributed to lack of gender training of lay judges who serve as jury in criminal cases, the absence of surveys and research on root causes of violence against women. It is also concerned at the apparent lack of awareness among women that marital rape is criminalized in the State party. The Committee reiterates its previous concerns at the lack of a comprehensive law on prevention of violence against women. The Committee is also concerned that the definition of rape contained in the General Penal Code maintains the requirement of the use of threat or force. While noting the adoption in 2009 of the new Act relating to provision of municipal crisis centres (Crisis Centre Act), which directs all municipalities to have a shelter for women, men and children victims of violence and abuse in close relationships, the Committee is concerned that, of 51 shelters, 22 shelters are for men and 10 of them remain empty, apparently due to inadequate estimation of the needs for this type of establishment, and that only half are accessible for women with physical disabilities.
24. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Give high priority to the enactment of comprehensive specific legislation on domestic violence, to put in place comprehensive measures to prevent and address violence against women and girls, including marital rape, to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished commensurate with the gravity of their crimes, in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 19 (1992) on violence against women and to raise awareness among women that marital rape i s criminalized ;
(b) Adopt a legal definition of rape in the Penal Code so as to place the lack of consent at its centre, in line with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 19, and the Vertido case ( communication No. 18/2008 );
(c) Train lay judges on the subject of violence against women;
(d) Provide adequate assistance and protection to women victims of violence, including to women with disabilities, by strengthening the capacity of shelters and crisis centres, and ensure that the need to help men victims of violence is addressed without detriment to the needs of women victims of violence; and
(e) Set a time frame for ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
25.While welcoming the enactment of the Government’s Plan of Action against Human Trafficking 2011–2014 (2011), the establishment of the National Coordination Unit for Victims of Human Trafficking (KOM) and the criminalization of the purchase of sexual activity or a sexual act from adults, the Committee remains concerned that the number of victims of trafficking is constantly increasing (203 in 2007, 256 in 2008 and 292 in 2009), and that the reporting rate remains low. Notwithstanding the recent changes in the State party’s au pair scheme, the Committee is also concerned at the lack of monitoring of the au pair system and insufficient protection of women and girls working as au pair, which can lead to exploitation.
26. The Committee calls upon the State party to fully implement article 6 of the Convention, including through:
(a) Effective implementation of the existing legislation and the new Plan of Action against human trafficking, ensuring that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished and victims are adequately identified, protected and assisted;
(b) Ensuring a systematic monitoring and periodic evaluation, including the collection and analysis of data on trafficking and exploitation of women in prostitution, as well as of the au pair system and to include such data in its next periodic report;
(c) Increasing efforts at international, regional and bilateral cooperation with countries of origin, transit and destination to prevent trafficking through information exchange and to harmonize legal procedures aiming at prosecution of traffickers;
(d) Taking necessary steps to ensure that trafficked women and girls have access to quality medical care, counselling, financial support, adequate housing and programmes for reintegration in the education system and labour market, as well as access to free legal services, regardless of their availability or willingness to testify against their traffickers; and
(e) Studying the effects of the amendment of section 202a of the Penal Code, including on the type and extent of prostitution and trafficking, as well as on social perceptions on prostitution and on the purchase of sex services, as well as on women who engage in prostitution.
27.While welcoming the range of positive measures taken by the State party, the Committee notes the persistence of gender segregation in the field of education, starting with day care and preschools (which are still 90 per cent female-dominated), and particularly in vocational training and higher education, as well as stereotyped educational choices by girls and boys. It notes with concern also the lack of qualified personnel to implement gender perspective in early childhood education. The Committee expresses its concern at the persistence of appointment practices in universities that are advantageous to men, resulting in women accounting for only 18 per cent of full professors in 2007, as indicates the State party’s report, although there is no shortage of qualified and suitable women candidates.
28. The Committee urges the State party to enhance its compliance with article 10 of the Convention and to raise awareness of the important role of educational system in overcoming differentiated professional choices and potentially unequal future prospects of women and men. To this end, it urges the State party to:
(a) Implement measures to eliminate gender stereotypes and structural barriers that might deter girls’ and boys’ enrolment in non- traditional educational and occupational choices, including by better training careers and vocational advice service providers throughout all levels of educational system; and
(b) Consider adopting temporary special measures to accelerate advancement of women in academia, through women specific grants and other affirmative action measures such as setting clear targets and time frame for improvement of this situation without delay.
29.While noting the adoption by the Parliament of a white paper on equal pay in April 2011 to implement the recommendations of the 2008 Equal Pay Commission, the Committee remains concerned at the deep horizontal segregation in the area of employment and at the persistence of a wage gap, which is increasing as the level of education rises. The Committee notes that while unemployment rate in general is 2.2 per cent, it is 7.6 per cent among women with minority backgrounds and growing. It also notes the limitation placed by some institutional regulations regarding access of women to certain positions on the basis of their way of dressing, such as wearing a headscarf. The Committee is also concerned that 10 per cent of the women who work part-time do so involuntarily. In this regard, the Committee expresses concern that the State party overestimates the degree to which part-time employment is the result of women’s choice. The Committee is also concerned at reports of discrimination against women on account of pregnancy and childbirth. The Committee is deeply concerned at the risk of indirect discrimination posed by the new pension system which replaced the calculation of pension based on the 20 best qualifying years of employment by basing it on all years that a person has worked. The Committee further expresses its concern that vocational training programmes for women belonging to minority groups do not lead to longer-term employment for these women and do not structurally improve the position of women belonging to minority groups in the labour market. The Committee also expresses its concern that the Norwegian Public Procurement Act does not contain specific measures in public procurement to promote gender equality.
30. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Implement legislation guaranteeing equal pay for work of equal value, to narrow and close the wage gap between women and men in accordance with the International Labour Organization Convention No. 100 (1951) concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value , and hasten the process of adopting the proposed legislation that will, along with other measures, provide for transparency in wages and mandate information provision from employers whenever discrimination is suspected;
(b) Take effective measures to prevent discrimination against women on account of pregnancy and childbirth, and ensure that all women and men in public and private sectors are guaranteed paid parental leave;
(c) Implement policies targeted at women, including the adoption of temporary special measures to curb women’s unemployment and involuntary part-time employment, to create more opportunities for women to extend their working hours including by mandating reduction of the scope of part-time posts especially in the governmental and public service, to gain priority access to full-time employment and guarantee all women employees with the right to choose full - time work and to strengthen its measures to promote women’s entry into growth sectors of the economy;
(d) Adopt more vigorous measures to accelerate the eradication of pay discrimination against women, including job evaluations across market sectors, the collection of data, the organization of a nationwide equal pay campaign and the provision of increased assistance to social partners in collective wage bargaining, in particular in determining wage structures in sectors dominated by women;
(e) Re-evaluate the new pension reform both under the state pension system and the employer-related pension system, with a view to identifying its potential disparate impact on women and men and rectify any disparities to ensure an equal impact on women and men;
(f) Improve the access and participation of women from a minority background in the labour market by providing adequate information and training and by facilitating the accreditation and approval of prior education and work experience , as well as by conducting research on the impact of institutional regulations that limit women, in particular migrant women of ethnic and minority communities, on the basis of their way of dress ing , such as wearing a headscarf, with a view to ensure their full enjoyment of rights enshrined under the Convention ; and
(g) Ensure that the implementation of a gender - equality policy, including pay equity guarantees and the use of special temporary measures, when necessary, constitutes a legal requirement for granting public procurement contracts.
31.While acknowledging the increased supportive measures for Sami women regarding social and health services, the Committee is concerned that Sami women continue to face multiple discrimination, including difficulty in accessing adequate health care, owing inter alia to the unavailability of adequate services for the Sami women living outside the defined Sami area. The Committee is also concerned at disturbing evidence regarding outcome of the voluntary interviews and examination offered by municipalities under the Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation 2008–2011, which may result in further stigmatization of communities of ethnic minorities, while its success in reducing the extent of the phenomenon is unclear.
32. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Ensure that all Sami women are provided with adequate social and health services, including mental health services;
(b) Ensure that gender perspectives are mainstreamed in all policies and programmes regarding the Sami people; and
(c) Re-evaluate the Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation 2008 – 2011 with a view to revitalising the role of civil society in the effort to combat female genital mutilation .
33.While noting the elaboration of a bill “prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”, which will be presented to the Parliament in 2013, and the establishment of the national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Knowledge Centre in 2011, the Committee is concerned at the discrimination in the State party against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women in the provision of health-care services.
34. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Accelerate adoption of the relevant legislation mentioned above ensuring non-discrimination in the health care system ; and
(b) Provide appropriate training to health - service providers, in order to avoid abuse and mistreatment of these women.
Disadvantaged groups of women
35.The Committee is concerned about the situation of disadvantaged groups of women, including women with disabilities, women of ethnic and minority communities and migrant women, who may be more vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination with respect to education, health, social and political participation and employment. The Committee is concerned that requirements under the national legislation, such as proof of at least three years of marriage as precondition for claiming residency by foreign women or of difficulties in social integration in the country of origin, may pose difficulties for women victims of violence to acquire or renew residency or asylum permits and may continue to prevent them from leaving abusive relationships and seeking assistance. The Committee notes difficulties some lesbian and transgendered asylum-seekers have faced due to narrow construction of gender-related persecution as a relevant factor when considering asylum, as acknowledged by the State party.
36. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Take effective measures to eliminate discrimination against women of ethnic and minority communities and migrant women, irrespective of country of origin, both in society at large and within their communities;
(b) Take proactive measures, including through the development of targeted programmes and strategies, to increase women of ethnic and minority communities’ and migrant women’s awareness of and access to education, health and social services, legal aid, training and employment;
(c) Keep under review and carefully monitor the impact of its laws and policies on women of ethnic and minority communities and on migrant women, with a view to taking remedial measures that effectively respond to the needs of these women; and
(d) Take specific measures to address difficulties faced by lesbian and transgendered asylum seekers.
Marriage and family relations
37.The Committee is concerned that the State party’s current law on property distribution upon divorce (Norwegian Marriage Act) does not adequately address gender-based economic disparities between spouses resulting from traditional work and family-life patterns. These disparities often lead to enhanced human capital and earning potential of men while women may experience the opposite, so that spouses currently do not equitably share in the economic consequences of the marriage and its dissolution. Specifically, the Committee is concerned that the concept of joint property does not extend to intangible property such as pension rights. The Committee is further concerned that neither existing legislation nor case law address distribution of future earning capacity or human capital so as to redress possible gender-based economic disparities between spouses. While welcoming the two Supreme Court decisions from 2011 (HR-2011-1739 and HR-2011-1740), the Committee is concerned that women living in de facto relationships still have no economic rights and protection when such relationships dissolve.
38. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Ensure that the concept of joint marital property extends to intangible property, including pension and insurance benefits and other career assets and that joint property is divided equally regardless of each spouse’s individual contribution, and take further legal measures, as needed, so as to compensate for the unequal share of women in unpaid work;
(b) Undertake research on the economic consequences of divorce on both spouses, giving specific attention to the enhanced human capital and earning potential of male spouses on the basis of their full-time and uninterrupted career pattern, and include information on the outcome of such research in its next periodic report; and
(c) Adopt the legal measures necessary to guarantee women living in de facto relationships economic protection equal to married women, in the form of recognizing their rights in the property accumulated during the relationship, in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 21 (1994) on equality in marriage and family relations .
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
39. The Committee urges the State party, in the implementation of its obligations under the Convention, to fully utilize the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
Millennium Development Goals
40. The Committee emphasizes that full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It calls for the integration of a gender perspective and an explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
41. The Committee requests the wide dissemination in Norway of the present concluding observations in order to make the people, G overnment officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure the de jure and de facto equality of women and the further steps that are required in th at regard. The Committee requests the State party to continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on the theme “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
Ratification of other treaties
42. The Committee notes that the adherence of Norway to the nine major international human rights instruments would enhance the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. The Committee therefore encourages Norway to consider ratifying the treaties to which it is not yet a party, i.e. the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Follow-up to concluding observations
43. The Committee requests the state party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 24 and 30 above.
Preparation of next report
44. The Committee requests the State party to ensure the wide participation of all ministries and public bodies in the preparation of its next report, as well as to consult a variety of women’s and human rights organizations during that phase.
45. The Committee requests the State party to respond to concerns expressed in present concluding observations in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention. The Committee invites the State party to submit its next periodic report in February 2016.
46. The Committee invites the State party to follow the h armonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents, approved at the fifth i nter- c ommittee m eeting of the human rights treaty bodies in June 2006 (see HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6 ). The treaty-specific reporting guidelines, adopted by the Committee at its fortieth session, in January 2008, must be applied in conjunction with the harmonized reporting guidelines on a common core document. Together they constitute the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the Convention on the Elimination of A ll forms of Discrimination against Women. The treaty-specific document should be limited to 40 pages, while the updated common core document should not exceed 80 pages.