* Adopted by the Committee at its sixty-third session (15 February-4 March 2016).
Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Iceland *
1.The Committee considered the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Iceland (CEDAW/C/ISL/7-8) at its 1377th and 1378th meetings, on 17 February 2016 (see CEDAW/C/SR.1377 and 1378). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/ISL/Q/7-8 and the responses of Iceland are contained in CEDAW/C/ISL/Q/7-8/Add.1.
2.The Committee appreciates the submission by the State party of its combined seventh and eighth periodic reports. It also appreciates the State party’s written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-sessional working group and welcomes the oral presentation by the delegation and the further clarifications provided in response to the questions posed orally by the Committee during the dialogue.
3.The Committee commends the State party on its delegation, which was headed by the Ambassador on Human Rights of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, and included representatives of the Ministry of Welfare and the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.
4.The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since the consideration in 2008 of the State party’s fifth and sixth periodic reports (CEDAW/C/ICE/5 and CEDAW/C/ICE/6) in undertaking legislative reforms, in particular the adoption of the following:
(a)Public Financing Act (No. 123/2015), incorporating gender-responsive budgeting;
(b)Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men (No. 10/2008) and its amendments (Acts Nos. 62/2014 and 79/2015), including a new definition of direct and indirect discrimination;
(c)National Plan against Trafficking in Persons (2013-2016), in 2013;
(d)Equal Pay Standard, in 2012;
(e)Plan of Action on Gender Equality regarding Wages, in 2012;
(f)Exclusion Orders and Ejections Act (No. 85/2011);
(g)Act No. 72/2011, amending the General Penal Code by increasing the maximum penalty for the crime of trafficking in persons;
(h)Act No. 13/2010, amending the Public Limited Companies Act and the Private Limited Companies Act by requiring gender quotas on the boards of companies.
5.The Committee welcomes the fact that, in the period since the consideration of the previous report, the State party has ratified or acceded to the following international instruments:
(a)Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in 2014;
(b)United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, in 2010.
C.Principal areas of concern and recommendations
6. The Committee stresses the crucial role of the legislative power in ensuring the full implementation of the Convention (see the statement by the Committee on its relationship with parliamentarians, adopted at the forty-fifth session, in 2010). It invites Parliament, in line with its mandate, to take the necessary steps regarding the implementation of the present concluding observations between now and the next reporting period under the Convention.
Visibility of the Convention, the Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations
7.The Committee notes the public commemoration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the State party. It is concerned, however, that there is a general lack of awareness of the Convention and the Optional Protocol thereto in the State party, in particular among government officials, the judiciary and other law enforcement officials, in addition to a lack of cases adjudicated by the courts, including the Supreme Court, in which reference has been made to the Convention. It is also concerned that women themselves are not aware of their rights under the Convention and of the individual communications and inquiry procedures under the Optional Protocol, and thus lack the information necessary to claim their rights. That may be due to the non-incorporation of the Convention into the national legal order.
8. The Committee calls upon the State party:
(a) To take the steps necessary to ensure the adequate public dissemination of the Convention, the Optional Protocol and the Committee ’ s general recommendations among all stakeholders, including government ministries, parliamentarians, the judiciary and law enforcement officers;
(b) To include the Convention and the Committee ’ s general recommendations in judicial training programmes;
(c) To intensify efforts to raise awareness among women of their rights under the Convention and of the individual communications and inquiry procedures under the Optional Protocol.
9.The Committee notes that, while the State party ratified the Convention in 1985 and the Optional Protocol in 2001, the Convention has still not been incorporated in all aspects into national legislation. It also notes with concern that the European Union directives against discrimination, 2000/78/EU and 2000/43/EU, have still not been implemented by the State party through the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.
10. The Committee recommends that the State party fully incorporate the Convention into, and make it an integral part of, national legislation without delay. It also recommends that the State party adopt comprehensive anti ‑ discrimination legislation, covering all grounds, in line with European Union directives 2000/78/EU and 2000/43/EU.
National machinery for the advancement of women and gender mainstreaming
11.The Committee welcomes the amendment of the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men by introducing a new definition of direct and indirect discrimination, in line with article 2 of the Convention, and takes note of the work of the Gender Equality Forum in preparing a new plan of action on gender equality. The Committee notes with concern, however, the delay since December 2014 in adopting the new action plan. It also notes with concern that the Centre for Gender Equality, tasked with administering the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men, lacks adequate human and financial resources and is remotely located. The Committee is also concerned that there are no full-time gender focal points working on gender mainstreaming in government institutions and that gender-responsive budgeting is not systematically implemented in all programming relevant for achieving the de facto equality of women.
12. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Complete the preparation of and adopt without delay the new plan of action on gender equality, with an adequate budget for there to be gender equality focal points in all relevant government institutions, and ensure gender mainstreaming throughout all government institutions;
(b) Provide the Centre for Gender Equality with adequate human and financial resources and consider relocating it to the capital to make it more accessible;
(c) Systematically implement gender-responsive budgeting in all programming relevant for achieving the de facto equality of women and men.
National human rights institution
13.The Committee notes that the State party is considering establishing a national human rights institution comprehensively covering all human rights issues, including women’s rights. It is concerned, however, that there is no timeline for such establishment.
14. The Committee recommends that the State party establish without delay the planned independent national human rights institution, in accordance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles), with a broad mandate to promote and protect women ’ s rights and gender equality.
Temporary special measures
15.The Committee is concerned about:
(a)The limited use of temporary special measures to accelerate the substantive equality of women and men, in particular as regards the representation of women in decision-making positions at the local level, in academic institutions and in the justice, foreign policy, private and law enforcement sectors;
(b)The increasing use of gender-neutral policies in the State party that could unintentionally result in an increase of substantive inequality between women and men.
16. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Evaluate the impact of existing measures, including through the collection and analysis of data disaggregated by gender, and adopt temporary special measures, in line with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee ’ s general recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, to accelerate the achievement of substantive gender equality in all areas under the Convention in which women continue to be disadvantaged and underrepresented;
(b) Comprehensively address the gender-neutral approach in legislation and policymaking, with an emphasis on the potentially negative implications of gender-neutral policies for public funding programmes specifically for women.
Stereotypes and harmful practices
17.The Committee is concerned about the continuing existence of stereotypes regarding the roles of men and women in the family and society that have a negative impact on women’s position and opportunities, especially in education and the labour market.
18. The Committee recommends that the State party enhance awareness-raising through the media and implement measures to eliminate stereotypes and structural barriers that might deter boys and girls from enrolling in non-traditional educational and occupational choices or impede women ’ s advancement in academic institutions, the labour market, the family and society.
Violence against women
19.The Committee notes with concern that the number of cases of violence against women is increasing. It welcomes the cooperation between the police and child, social and health services, and the establishment of a national prosecution authority in charge of sexual offence cases and of a committee tasked to consider proposals on improvements in the handling of rape cases. The Committee also notes that the State party intends to amend the General Penal Code, specifically to criminalize domestic violence, and to ratify and fully implement the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). The Committee welcomes the new rules, procedures and assessment risk tool issued by the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police in March 2015 for cases of domestic violence. The Committee is, however, concerned about:
(a)The high number of discontinuances in criminal proceedings on charges of violence against women, in particular rape and sexual violence, by the State Prosecutor and the low number of convictions;
(b)The lack of a legal analysis of the high number of acquittals in sexual violence cases;
(c)The absence of a national action plan against sexual and domestic violence that would take into account the specific needs and vulnerabilities of migrant women and women with disabilities;
(d)The absence of legislation specifically criminalizing psychological violence and online harassment and stalking.
20. The Committee calls upon the State party:
(a) To ratify the Istanbul Convention and incorporate it into national legislation to strengthen the legal protection of women from domestic and other forms of violence;
(b) To step up its efforts to prosecute and convict perpetrators of rape and sexual violence against women, and analyse and address the causes of the high number of acquittals in sexual violence cases;
(c) To adopt, without delay, a national plan against sexual and domestic violence that takes into account the specific needs and vulnerabilities of migrant women and women with disabilities, and provide adequate human and financial support to expand to all police districts the cross-cutting approach of the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police to combating domestic violence;
(d) To amend the General Penal Code specifically to criminalize online harassment and psychological violence against women.
21.The Committee welcomes the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Housing and the Women’s Refuge in December 2014, providing for emergency shelter, and the recruitment of two psychologists providing assistance to women who are victims of violence. The Committee emphasizes the need for shelters in addition to the system put in place through the Exclusion Orders and Ejections Act (No. 85/2011). The Committee nevertheless remains concerned:
(a)That there is only one women’s shelter, in Reykjavik, which is not easily accessible by women living outside the capital and women with disabilities;
(b)That the number of services, several of which have been established and are operated by non-governmental organizations, is insufficient and the service providers are inadequately funded to meet the needs of women who are victims of violence;
(c)That there are only two hospitals in the country, which provide specialized treatment and services for women who are victims of sexual violence;
(d)That there is very limited support for women who are victims of violence in rural areas, in particular with regard to access to health and psychosocial services.
22. The Committee urges the State party:
(a) To ensure that, in addition to the Exclusion Orders and Ejections Act (No. 85/2011), sufficient shelters with qualified personnel and adequate financial resources are available to women who are victims of violence, including migrant women, rural women and women with disabilities;
(b) To open rape crisis centres, walk-in centres and 24-hour free-of-charge helplines that provide assistance to women who are victims of violence, including migrant women and women with disabilities;
(c) To ensure that medical and psychosocial services are available to women who are victims of violence in rural areas and that non-governmental organizations providing such services outside the capital receive adequate funding.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
23.The Committee notes the adoption of a national action plan against trafficking in persons covering the period 2013-2016 and legislative changes prohibiting strip clubs. The Committee also notes that the implementation of the legislative changes requires adequate time, funding and well-trained human resources. The Committee also notes the amendment to the General Penal Code (Act No. 54/2009) decriminalizing the selling of sex and criminalizing the purchase of sexual services and the clients. The Committee remains concerned about:
(a)The lack of funding for the implementation of the National Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons (2013-2016), in particular for the police to investigate cases of trafficking;
(b)The lack of prosecutions or inconsistent rate of convictions for crimes relating to trafficking and the lack of data for 2015;
(c)The lack of information disaggregated by gender on the number of persons trafficked for purposes of forced labour;
(d)The disproportionately high number of migrant women working in “champagne clubs”.
24. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that there is funding to effectively implement the existing legislation and the National Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons (2013-2016), including the prosecution and adequate punishment of perpetrators and the early referral of victims to protection and assistance services;
(b) Strengthen the protection and assistance provided to victims of trafficking for sexual purposes;
(c) Collect data on and analyse the extent of trafficking in the State party;
(d) Analyse the root causes of the disproportionately high number of migrant women engaged in “ champagne clubs ” with a view to addressing their specific needs and vulnerabilities;
(e) Offer exit programmes to women wishing to leave prostitution, including migrant women.
Participation in political and public life
25.The Committee commends the State party on the high percentage of women in Parliament (43 per cent) and welcomes the fact that the Ministry of the Interior has taken measures to increase the representation of women in the police. The Committee is nevertheless concerned about the very low number of women police officers and the underrepresentation of women on the Supreme Court and in decision-making positions in the foreign service (ambassadors) and in local government.
26. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take prompt targeted measures, including temporary special measures, with clear time frames, in line with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee ’ s general recommendation No. 25, to rapidly increase the representation of women in the police force, on the Supreme Court and in decision-making positions in the foreign service (ambassadors);
(b) Take measures, including temporary special measures, to increase the participation of women in political and public life, especially in legislative and executive bodies at the municipal level, such as financial incentives for political parties to include an equal number of women and men in their electoral lists or a zipper system for the appointment of women and men to public offices.
27.The Committee welcomes the fact that equality has been one of the pillars of the 2011 national curricula and that the State party intends to prepare an action plan on ways of reducing gender-stereotyped educational and vocational choices. The Committee also notes the establishment of feminist clubs and initiatives by individual teachers to offer gender courses at the secondary level of education. The Committee nevertheless remains concerned about the continued prevalence of stereotypical educational choices by women and girls, as well as by men and boys, resulting in the underrepresentation of women and girls in fields of study that are traditionally dominated by men. It is also concerned about the limited space given to women in the history books used at school, girls’ limited participation in sports education and the reportedly higher dropout rate among migrant girls.
28. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Consider establishing mandatory, age-appropriate women ’ s human rights education, including sexual and reproductive rights, at the primary and secondary levels;
(b) Intensify its efforts to diversify academic and vocational choices for women and girls and men and boys, and take further measures to encourage women and men to choose non-traditional fields of education and career paths;
(c) Further promote and facilitate the upward mobility of women in academic careers, including through special temporary measures;
(d) Review the history books used at school to ensure that the historical roles and contributions of women are adequately reflected;
(e) Take measures to make sports education more attractive and culturally appropriate for girls and promote the participation of women and girls in sports clubs;
(f) Provide information on access by migrant girls to primary and secondary education and take measures to support their integration into the school system, including by providing language classes, if needed.
29.The Committee commends the State party on the development of an equal pay management standard and on the extension of the mandate of the Action Group on Equal Pay until the end of 2016, as well as on its efforts to reduce the gender pay gap and the introduction of quotas for women’s equal representation on governmental committees and on the boards of public and private limited companies. The Committee nevertheless remains concerned about:
(a)The persistent gender wage gap that over the past years has remained at between 7 and 18 per cent and the limited scope of application of article 19 of the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men, which provides that the equal pay principle applies only to women and men working for “the same employer”;
(b)The persistent horizontal and vertical segregation in the labour market and women’s concentration in part-time work, mainly owing to family obligations, which adversely affects their career development and their social and pension benefits;
(c)The lack of adequate human and financial resources enabling the Centre for Gender Equality to effectively monitor compliance by companies with the provisions of the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men;
(d)The lack of women on the boards of companies with 49 or fewer employees;
(e)The high number of reports of women police officers having been sexually harassed in the workplace.
30. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Continue its efforts to fully implement the Equal Pay Management Standard and further amend the legislation in order for the equal pay principle to apply in accordance with article 11 (1) (d) of the Convention, without the limitation to “ the same employer ” ;
(b) Continue its efforts to eradicate the gender wage gap by taking proactive measures to eliminate occupational segregation, including by facilitating women ’ s transition from part-time to full-time employment and creating more opportunities for women to gain access to full-time employment, as well as by strengthening measures to overcome wage discrimination against women;
(c) Provide adequate funding to the Centre for Gender Equality to enable it to monitor compliance by companies with the provisions of the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men;
(d) Develop and implement a plan of action to diversify occupational choices by women and men;
(e) Consider applying gender quotas on the boards of companies with 49 or fewer employees;
(f) Take measures to protect women police officers from sexual harassment at work.
31.The Committee notes that the Action Group on Equal Pay has been asked to submit a plan of action on the reconciliation of family and work life and that the draft family policy for 2015-2020 envisages measures to balance work and family life for parents. The Committee is concerned, however, about:
(a)The lack of guaranteed childcare for children between 9 months and 2 years of age;
(b)The lowering of the ceiling for the Parental Leave Fund, which resulted in fewer parental leave days being taken by fathers between 2008 and 2012.
32. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take measures to reduce the gap between the end of parental leave and the minimum age of eligibility for guaranteed childcare by extending parental leave from 9 to 12 months, accepting children into play schools directly after the end of parental leave and providing adequate human and financial resources to municipalities to enable them to meet the demand for places in play schools;
(b) Provide adequate funding for the Parental Leave Fund and raise the amount of maximum disbursements from the Fund.
33.The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to improve the position of single parents, including through the payment of income-related child benefits, but remains concerned that women account for the large majority of single parents and often suffer from economic difficulties.
34. The Committee recommends that the State party adopt targeted measures to facilitate access by single mothers to the labour market and support them in having a better balance between family and working life.
35.The Committee notes that the State party legalized abortion in 1975 (Act No. 25/1975), but is concerned that some health and social workers who implement aspects of the law such as counselling do so in a way that women seeking an abortion experience as judgmental and humiliating.
36. The Committee recommends that the State party institutionalize gender-sensitive training programmes for health and social workers to enable them to carry out their responsibilities under the law in a way that does not discourage women seeking an abortion. The Committee also recommends that the State party ensure that all women, including young women and rural women, have access to modern contraceptives and information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning, to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
37.The Committee regrets the lack of information on alcohol addiction and of any study on mental health issues and the scope and causes of suicide among women in the State party.
38. The Committee recommends that the State party collect data and provide in its next periodic report information on alcohol addiction, suicide and mental health issues among women in the State party.
Economic and social benefits
39.The Committee is concerned that the funding for female artists in the film and music industry remains low and that the majority of the boards of associations and regulatory bodies responsible for funding are composed of men.
40. The Committee recommends that the State party review its regulations on government funding bodies for culture and explore options to ensure that public funds for culture are divided equally between women and men.
41.The Committee is concerned about the further role of women in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related climate change issues.
42. The Committee recommends that the State party continue to strengthen the role of women in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in related climate change issues.
Disadvantaged groups of women
43.The Committee is concerned about the difficulties encountered by migrant women in employment and health care and about their exposure to violence. It notes that the Multicultural and Information Centre provides migrant women with various types of information, including on new forms of family and divorce procedures, and that the Icelandic Human Rights Centre provides legal counselling to migrant women. The Committee is also concerned that the Multicultural and Information Centre is located outside the capital and not easily accessible. The Committee is further concerned at the lack of disaggregated data and studies on the status of migrant women in the State party, who may encounter difficulties in gaining access to social and protection services for fear of losing their residence permit or of being deported if they are in an irregular situation.
44. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Collect disaggregated data and conduct comprehensive studies on migrant women ’ s access to employment and health care and on the forms of violence that they may experience, identify gaps and establish policies addressing intersecting forms of discrimination against migrant women;
(b) Provide adequate funding for the Multicultural and Information Centre and increase the accessibility of its services;
(c) Develop targeted programmes and strategies to increase the awareness of migrant women of their rights, free legal aid and effective remedies if their rights have been violated.
Rural women, women with disabilities and women in prison
45.The Committee is concerned:
(a)That rural women have limited access to social and protection services and shelter, including those relating to domestic violence, owing to the poor road infrastructure, which is compounded by weather-related problems in the winter;
(b)That women with disabilities have limited access to services and the shelter for women, which lacks the infrastructure for their physical access;
(c)That the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) are not fully implemented in the State party and prison facilities lack appropriate spaces for women and family meetings;
(d)That there is a lack of disaggregated data and studies on the social and protection gaps and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by rural women, women with disabilities and women in prison.
46. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take all measures necessary to improve access to social and protection services and shelters for rural women, by improving the infrastructure and providing those services in remote rural areas;
(b) Make services and the shelter for women accessible to women with disabilities in accordance with their special needs;
(c) Fully implement the Bangkok Rules and provide spaces in prison appropriate for women and family meetings;
(d) Collect disaggregated data and conduct comprehensive studies on the access to employment and health care of rural women, women with disabilities and women in prison, and on the forms of violence that they may experience, with a view to identifying gaps and establishing policies addressing intersecting forms of discrimination.
Marriage and family relations
47.The Committee is concerned that the roles and division of work in the family are still determined by traditional practices, especially in rural areas, whereby women are considered the prime caregivers. The Committee is also concerned that some media contribute to the traditional division of roles in the family between men and women.
48. The Committee recommends that the State party engage with the media with the aim of eliminating the stereotypical presentation of women, especially when it affects their role in the family.
49.The Committee is concerned that the State party’s matrimonial property regime of deferred community property may not adequately address gender-based economic disparities between spouses resulting from traditional work and family-life patterns that often lead to men benefiting from an enhancement of their human capital and greater earning potential, whereas women often experience the reverse. However, neither existing legislation, nor case law or pensions regulations, addresses the questions of how personal goodwill, future earning capacity or increased human capital should be distributed in redressing possible gender-based economic disparities between spouses. The Committee is also concerned at the lack of mechanisms to prevent the concealment of assets before divorce. The Committee is further concerned that, owing to inconsistent case law, the economic rights of women living in de facto relationships are only partially protected.
50. The Committee recommends that the State party conduct research on the economic consequences of divorce on both spouses, taking into account the length of the marriage and the number of children, and adopt such legal measures as may be necessary to redress economic disparities between men and women upon the dissolution of marriage, including, in particular, recognizing all career-related assets (i.e. earning potential, personal goodwill and enhanced human capital) as part of the marital assets to be distributed between the spouses upon divorce or taken into account in the award of post-divorce periodic payments. The Committee also recommends that the State party adopt the legal measures necessary to prevent the concealment of matrimonial property. The Committee urges the State party to adopt the legal measures necessary to guarantee that women living in de facto relationships have economic protection, by recognizing their rights to the property accumulated during the relationship, in line with its general recommendation No. 29 on article 16 of the Convention (economic consequences of marriage, family relations and their dissolution).
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
51. The Committee calls upon the State party to use the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
52. The Committee calls for the realization of substantive gender equality, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, throughout the process of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
53. The Committee requests the State party to ensure the timely dissemination of the present concluding observations, in the official language of the State party, to the relevant State institutions at all levels (national, regional and local), in particular to the Government, the ministries, Parliament and the judiciary, to enable their full implementation.
Ratification of other treaties
54. The Committee notes that the adherence of the State party 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 the State party to consider ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which it is not yet a party.
Follow-up to concluding observations
55. The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps taken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 20 (c) and 26 (a) above.
Preparation of the next report
56. The Committee invites the State party to submit its ninth periodic report in March 2020.
57. The Committee requests the State party to follow the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents ( HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6 , chap. I).