Discrimination against Women
* Adopted by the Committee at its fifty-ninth session, meeting from 20 October to 7 November 2014.
Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela *
1.The Committee considered the combined seventh and eight periodic reports of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (CEDAW/C/VEN/7-8) at its 1247th and 1248th meetings, on 21 October 2014 (see CEDAW/C/SR.1247 and 1248). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/VEN/Q/7-8 and the responses of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are contained in CEDAW/C/VEN/Q/7-8/Add.1.
2.The Committee appreciates that the State party submitted its combined seventh and eight 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 for its high-level delegation, which was headed by the Minister of People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality, Andreina Tarazon, and included representatives of the National Gender Justice Commission, the National Institute for Women, the national Human Rights Council, the Ministry of People’s Power for Health, the Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.
4.The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since the consideration in 2006 of the State party’s combined fourth to sixth periodic reports (CEDAW/C/VEN/4-6) in undertaking legislative reforms, in particular the adoption of the following:
(a)Labour Act, in 2012;
(b)Act on Women’s Right to a Life Free from Violence, in 2007;
(c)Act on the Promotion of Breastfeeding, in 2007.
5.The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to improve its institutional framework aimed at accelerating the elimination of discrimination against women and promoting gender equality, such as the establishment of the following:
(a)National Commission for Gender Justice, in 2011;
(b)Ministry of People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality, in 2007.
6.The Committee welcomes the fact that, in the period since the consideration of the previous report, the State party has acceded to or signed the following international instruments:
(a)Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, in 2013;
(b)Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in 2011.
C.Principal areas of concern and recommendations
7. 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 the National Assembly, 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.
8.The Committee notes the decisions taken by the Constitutional Chamber nullifying discriminatory legal provisions, such as the provision in the Civil Code establishing a different minimum age of marriage for girls and boys. The Committee remains concerned, however, that the review of legislation, in particular the Civil and Penal Codes, has not been completed so as to eliminate all discriminatory provisions. It also notes with concern that the adoption of the bill on the rights of women to gender equality and equity has been delayed.
9. The Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party urgently undertake a comprehensive review of legislation, in particular the Civil and Penal Codes, with a view to eliminating all discriminatory provisions. It also recommends that the State party expedite the adoption of the bill on the rights of women to gender equality and equity and that it ensure that the bill is in full compliance with the Convention and that the views of relevant civil society organizations active in women’s rights are duly taken into consideration. The State party should provide adequate human, financial and technical resources for the implementation of the bill and establish a monitoring mechanism.
Access to justice
10.The Committee notes the measures taken by the State party to facilitate women’s access to justice, such as the establishment of the National Commission for Gender Justice. The Committee notes with concern, however, that many women have no effective access to justice, in the absence of effective strategies aimed at facilitating such access. The Committee is also concerned that the State party denounced the American Convention on Human Rights in 2012, thereby excluding the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
11. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Design a comprehensive judicial policy to eliminate the institutional, social, economic, technological and other barriers faced by women in obtaining access to justice and provide adequate human, financial and technical resources, as well as indicators and a monitoring mechanism for its implementation;
(b) Ensure that women who are victims of sex- and gender-based discrimination have access to effective redress and facilitate their access to legal aid;
(c) Enhance women’s awareness of their rights and legal literacy in all areas of the law, with a view to empowering women to avail themselves of procedures and remedies to claim their rights under the Convention;
(d) Evaluate the impact of capacity-building programmes on women’s rights and gender equality for lawyers, judges, prosecutors and police officers and, on the basis of the results, enhance the quality of those programmes and the number of beneficiaries;
(e) Reconsider its withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights, with a view to readhering to it, since that Convention and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are mutually reinforcing.
National machinery for the advancement of women
12.The Committee notes the establishment of various institutions to advance women’s rights, in particular the Ministry of People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality. It remains concerned, however, about the lack of effective mechanisms in place to design, implement and monitor the relevant policies and programmes. It particularly regrets that the State party has not undertaken an adequate evaluation of the implementation of the Juana Ramírez La Avanzadora Equality Plan for Women 2009-2013 as a basis for the design of the current “Mamá Rosa” Gender Equality and Equity Plan (2013-2019).
13. The Committee recommends that the State party evaluate the impact of the former Equality Plan for Women 2009-2013 and review the current Gender Equality and Equity Plan (2013-2019) with a view to ensuring that it adequately addresses all areas covered by the Convention, includes measurable indicators, a time frame and a monitoring mechanism, and that adequate financial, human and technical resources are allocated for its implementation. The Committee invites the State party to involve women’s rights organizations, including the autonomous organizations, in the review of the Plan.
Temporary special measures
14.The Committee remains concerned that the State party does not use temporary special measures as part of a necessary strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive or de facto equality of women and men in all areas where women are disadvantaged or underrepresented, as prescribed by article 21 (2) of its Constitution and article 4 (1) of the Convention. The Committee reiterates its concern at the lack of understanding by the State party’s authorities of the purpose and scope of temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 on the subject.
15. In the light of its previous concluding observations on the combined fourth to sixth periodic reports of the State party ( CEDAW/C/VEN/CO/6 ), the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Use temporary special measures, including quotas, with specific targets and time frames, as a systematic component of a strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive gender equality in all areas in which women are underrepresented or disadvantaged, such as participation in political, public, economic, social and cultural life, education and employment. To this end, the State party should pay particular attention to indigenous and Afro-descendant women, women with disabilities, rural women, older women and migrant women;
(b) Ensure that all relevant officials are familiar with the concept of temporary special measures and clearly distinguish between general social and economic policies and programmes, which also benefit women, and temporary special measures under article 4 (1) of the Convention, as defined in the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25.
16.The Committee remains deeply concerned about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family, in society and in institutional practices, especially the portrayal of women as sexual objects in the media. While noting the initiatives taken by the State party to eliminate gender stereotypes, such as the establishment of an observatory to monitor discrimination against women in the media, the Committee is concerned that the measures are not sufficiently comprehensive to eliminate gender stereotypes in all spheres.
17. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Review the “Mamá Rosa” Gender Equality and Equity Plan (2013-2019) and include as a key priority the elimination of patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against women;
(b) Strengthen public education and awareness-raising programmes on the negative impact of such stereotypes on women’s enjoyment of their rights;
(c) Ensure that all authorities and civil servants are sensitized to the negative impact of gender stereotypes on women’s rights;
(d) Conduct a study on how stereotyping by the judiciary affects women’s right to a fair trial and ensure that judges, prosecutors, lawyers and law enforcement officers benefit from capacity-building programmes regarding gender stereotypes, so as to ensure that stereotypes and gender bias do not affect court proceedings and decision-making;
(e) Ensure that teachers also benefit from adequate capacity-building programmes regarding gender stereotypes and that curricula and teaching materials at all levels of education promote a positive and non-stereotypical portrayal of women and men;
(f) Continue monitoring the portrayal of women in the media and on the Internet, as well as in statements by public officials, use innovative measures targeting the media to enhance understanding of the concept of equality of women and men and encourage the media to convey positive images of women and their equal status with men in public and private life and to eliminate the portrayal of women as sexual objects in the media and advertisements.
Violence against women
18.The Committee notes the adoption of the Act on Women’s Right to a Life Free from Violence. It is deeply concerned, however, that violence against women and girls is widespread and on the rise. It is particularly concerned about:
(a)The lack of information regarding the forms, prevalence and root causes of violence against women and the absence of a system for collecting disaggregated data;
(b)The insufficient implementation of the Act;
(c)The lack of effective access to justice for all women victims of violence throughout the territory of the State party, as a result of the insufficient structures and inadequate functioning of the justice system, in particular considering the low number of cases prosecuted, and the fact that specialized courts have been established in only 16 states;
(d)The insufficient number of shelters available for victims, with only six shelters having been established thus far, while the Act requires one in each state.
19. The Committee urges the State party:
(a) To accord priority to the full implementation of the Act on Women’s Right to a Life Free from Violence, including by adopting the necessary regulations and protocols, and to reconsider the definition of femicide in the reform of the Act in order to ensure that it is in accordance with international standards;
(b) To adopt a national action plan on addressing violence against women and include specific measures to address all forms of violence, including the emerging violence that women experience online. The plan should also provide for a national violence coordination and monitoring mechanism, specific indicators and a clear time frame, as well as sufficient budget allocations, and ensure that all relevant stakeholders are specifically targeted;
(c) To establish a regular system for the collection of statistical data on violence against women, disaggregated by form of violence and the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, and on the number of complaints, prosecutions, convictions and sentences imposed on perpetrators, as well as on reparations provided to victims;
(d) To ensure that women, including refugee and migrant women, have effective access to justice throughout the State party, by establishing specialized courts on violence against women in all states, including in rural areas and border zones, strengthening gender-sensitive complaints mechanisms, strengthening legal aid programmes, prosecuting and adequately punishing perpetrators of violence against women and compensating victims;
(e) To take measures to improve support services for women and girls who are victims of violence, including by establishing sufficient shelters throughout the territory and strengthening the psychosocial rehabilitation and reintegration programmes available;
(f) To continue to provide capacity-building programmes on combating gender-based violence to relevant professional groups and to conduct awareness-raising campaigns among children, teachers, women, men, the media and the population at large, including, but not exclusively, through the Internet and other information and communications technologies.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
20.The Committee is concerned at the prevalence of trafficking in women and girls, in particular in border areas, and about reports that women and girls are sexually exploited in tourist areas in the State party. It particularly regrets the delay in adopting comprehensive legislation to prevent and assist victims of trafficking in accordance with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking in Persons Protocol). The Committee remains concerned that the State party has not adopted a comprehensive strategy to address the phenomenon of women and girls in prostitution.
21. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Conduct a study to investigate the extent and root causes of trafficking in women and girls as well as their forced prostitution, including through the collection and analysis of data on trafficking and exploitation of women and girls in prostitution;
(b) Expeditiously adopt the draft comprehensive legislation on trafficking in persons, ensure that it is gender-sensitive, in accordance with the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, and take effective measures to prevent trafficking, including through early identification and warning systems, prosecution and conviction of perpetrators. The State party should provide free legal and psychological support for girls and women who are victims and dedicated shelters for them;
(c) Review legislation with a view to ensuring that all aspects of child prostitution, including the demand for adolescents in prostitution, are prohibited and duly sanctioned;
(d) Adopt measures to address the exploitation of women and girls in prostitution, including through the Internet and the media, provide assistance and rehabilitation to victims and provide women with economic alternatives to prostitution while empowering them to make their own choices concerning their lives.
Participation in political and public life
22.The Committee notes the measures taken by the State party to increase the participation of women in political and public life. However, it is concerned:
(a)That women’s representation in the National Assembly is below the regional and world average and only a few women have been elected as state governors and mayors;
(b)That only 5 of 31 ministries are headed by women;
(c)That the State party has not applied the effective temporary special measures required as a part of a comprehensive strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive equality of women and men in all spheres of political and public life, including of women from disadvantaged groups in political and public life. It regrets that the measures taken to promote parity in elections are not mandatory.
23. In line with its general recommendation No. 23 on women in political and public life, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Continue its efforts to ensure women’s equal representation in the Government at high levels of decision-making, the National Assembly, the judiciary, the decentralized bodies and in the civil service at the national, state and local levels;
(b) Adopt in the legislation a gender parity system for women’s representation in political and public life, especially in the electoral law, including sanctions in case of non-compliance by political parties, and adopt temporary special measures for appointments or nominations in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25;
(c) Enhance awareness-raising campaigns targeting both women and men with the aim of eliminating stereotypes regarding roles for men and women and highlighting the importance of women’s full and equal participation in political and public life. Raising awareness among leaders of political parties should be a particular focus of such campaigns;
(d) Increase its efforts to provide capacity-building in order to enable women to participate in political and public life.
24.The Committee is concerned at consistent reports of threats and intimidation against civil society members, including women, who are exposed to a climate of fear. The Committee is particularly concerned that some women and girls were detained arbitrarily and/or harassed during the demonstrations that took place early in 2014.
25. The Committee recommends that the State party create an enabling environment for the participation of women and girls, in particular women human rights defenders, in public life. It urges the State party to ensure their right to participate in demonstrations as well as their right to express their opinions, in accordance with international standards, and to take all measures necessary to protect women and girls from arbitrary detention and harassment.
26.The Committee welcomes the fact that illiteracy among young people has been eradicated. It also notes the measures taken by the State party to ensure equal access to education for girls and women at all levels of education. It is concerned, however, about the poor quality of education, the lack of qualified teachers in areas such as science and the emphasis on military-related subjects in education. It is also concerned at reports about the rate of dropout from education among adolescent mothers and about the absence of age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights in school curricula. The Committee is further concerned about the persistent feminization of certain fields of education.
27. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Expeditiously take measures to improve the quality of education, building on the results of the current consultation process, ensure that a gender perspective is adequately included in, and military-related subjects are eliminated from, the curricula and address the shortage of qualified teachers;
(b) Use temporary special measures to promote the education of indigenous and Afro-descendant girls and women, girls and women living in poverty and in rural areas and girls with disabilities;
(c) Promote the retention of pregnant girls in school and the reintegration of mothers after childbirth;
(d) Implement comprehensive programmes on sexual and reproductive health and rights as a regular part of the school curriculum, providing girls and boys with adequate, age-appropriate information on responsible sexual choices. The programmes should address the right of women to make their own choices with regard to reproductive and sexual health and provide information on how to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Teachers should be provided with adequate training to handle such issues with sensitivity and professionalism;
(e) Eliminate gender stereotypes and structural barriers that may deter girls and young women from enrolling in non-traditional educational and occupational fields, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, at all levels of education.
28.While welcoming the adoption of the Labour Act, the Committee is concerned about its inadequate protection of domestic workers’ rights. It is also concerned at the vertical and horizontal segregation of women in the labour market and the persistent gender wage gap. The Committee regrets the high rate of unemployment among women of reproductive age and the high number of women employed in the informal sector. The Committee also regrets the restrictive definition of sexual harassment and the lack of adequate measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
29. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure the adequate implementation of the Labour Act, including through the adoption of special laws, regulations and protocols, as required;
(b) Strengthen the mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the Labour Act and ensure the rights of all workers, especially domestic workers, to prenatal and postnatal leave, maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks, as well as paternity leave for fathers;
(c) Adopt measures to implement the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in order to narrow and close the gender wage gap;
(d) Strengthen its efforts to eliminate horizontal and vertical gender segregation in the labour market, promote access of women to employment in the formal sector and reduce unemployment among women of reproductive age, including through the use of temporary special measures;
(e) Ensure access to justice for women in the field of employment, including by strengthening the complaint mechanisms and adequately sanctioning discriminatory employment practices;
(f) Broaden the definition of sexual harassment to include conduct that creates a hostile working environment, in accordance with its general recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, and adopt effective measures to prevent, monitor and adequately punish sexual harassment in the workplace.
30.The Committee is deeply concerned about:
(a)The high maternal mortality ratio, the measures taken to reduce it notwithstanding;
(b)The high number of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting in maternal mortality;
(c)Reports that adequate health services, in particular sexual and reproductive health services, cancer treatment and contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives, are not always available and accessible;
(d)The restrictive abortion law forcing women to resort to unsafe abortion, which often damages the health of the pregnant woman and sometimes results in death;
(e)The shortages of antiretroviral treatment for women living with HIV/AIDS and the discrimination faced by them.
31. The Committee urges the State party:
(a) To enhance efforts to reduce maternal mortality by adopting a comprehensive strategy that provides for the effective implementation of the existing protocol on prenatal care and emergency obstetric care, a monitoring mechanism and adequate sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, antenatal, delivery, postnatal and post-abortion services. To that end, the State party is encouraged to consider the technical guidance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal morbidity and mortality ( A/HRC/21/22 and Corr. 1 and 2);
(b) To allocate sufficient financial, human and technical resources to ensure that adequate health services, including those aimed at preventing and treating cancer, are available throughout the State and in particular in rural areas and for indigenous, Afro-descendant and older women and women with disabilities;
(c) To intensify efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies, including by ensuring access to age-appropriate information and education on sexual and reproductive health and rights for girls and boys;
(d) To amend its legislation to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, risk to the health of the mother and severe foetal impairment, remove punitive measures for women who undergo abortion and ensure the availability of abortion services;
(e) To address the shortages of antiretroviral drugs for women and girls living with HIV/AIDS, ensure that all pregnant women living with HIV/AIDS receive adequate treatment and expedite the adoption of the bill on HIV/AIDS.
Economic empowerment of women
32.The Committee commends the State party’s system of microcredits for women and the social programmes to involve women in income-generating projects. It is nonetheless concerned about the lack of information provided on the results achieved with those programmes and on their sustainability. It is also concerned at reports that those programmes, which aim to empower women, may create dependency among some women.
33. The Committee recommends that the State party continue to strengthen the financial schemes available to women, paying special attention to women in rural areas, indigenous and Afro-descendant women, women with disabilities and older women. It also recommends that the State party review its social programmes to ensure that they produce sustainable results, empower women and do not increase dependency.
34.The Committee notes the initiatives taken by the State party to support women involved in agriculture. It regrets, however, that the State party has not adopted a comprehensive strategy to ensure access to basic services, justice, economic opportunities and political participation for rural women and girls.
35. The Committee recommends that the State party review the “Mamá Rosa” Gender Equality and Equity Plan (2013-2019) with a view to adequately addressing the situation and needs of women and girls living in rural areas. Special attention should be given to their access to basic services, justice, economic opportunities, land tenure, credit facilities and political participation, in particular as regards rural development.
Disadvantaged groups of women
36.The Committee regrets the lack of effective measures taken to address discrimination and violence faced by disadvantaged groups of women, such as indigenous and Afro-descendant women, migrant women, older women and women with disabilities, as well as lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, and other women facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
37. The Committee recommends that the State party adopt appropriate measures to address the particular needs of disadvantaged groups of women. The State party should provide comprehensive information and disaggregated data in its next periodic report on the situation of those women and the measures adopted to address their specific needs.
Women in detention
38.The Committee is concerned at reports that women in detention are subjected to violence and that many such cases are not adequately investigated and prosecuted. It is particularly concerned at reports that a judge, María Lourdes Afiuni, was allegedly arbitrary detained and subjected to sexual violence while in detention and that the investigation launched by the State party has not yet produced any results.
39. The Committee recommends that the State party investigate and prosecute all cases of arbitrary detention of women and violence against them while in detention, including the case of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni, and compensate victims.
Marriage and family relations
40.The Committee notes the decision taken by the Constitutional Chamber nullifying the discriminatory provision of the Civil Code establishing a different minimum age of marriage for girls and boys and setting the minimum age at 16 years old for both girls and boys. The Committee remains concerned, however, that the minimum age of marriage is not in line with international obligations set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee also notes that the State party has a community property marital regime by default. It is concerned, however, that intangible assets, including work-related benefits, are not considered to be a part of the joint property to be divided upon the dissolution of a marriage.
41. The Committee recommends that the State party raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years for both girls and boys, in line with article 16 (2) of the Convention, the Committee’s general recommendation No. 21 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee also recommends that the State party take the legislative measures necessary to recognize intangible property, such as pension and insurance benefits, as part of the joint property to be divided upon divorce, in line with article 16 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 29.
Amendment to article 20 (1) of the Convention
42. The Committee encourages the State party to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20 (1) of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
43. 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.
Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development framework
44. The Committee calls for the integration of a gender perspective, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, into all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and into the post-2015 development framework.
45. The Committee recalls the obligation of the State party to systematically and continuously implement the provisions of the Convention. It urges the State party to give priority attention to the implementation of the present concluding observations and recommendations between now and the submission of the next periodic report. The Committee therefore requests that the present concluding observations be disseminated in a timely manner, 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, the National Assembly and the judiciary, to enable their full implementation. It encourages the State party to collaborate with all stakeholders concerned, such as employers’ associations, trade unions, human rights and women’s organizations, universities, research institutions and the media. It recommends that the present concluding observations be disseminated in an appropriate form at the local community level to enable their implementation. In addition, the Committee requests the State party to continue to disseminate the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto and relevant jurisprudence, in addition to the Committee’s general recommendations, to all stakeholders.
46. The Committee recommends that the State party link the implementation of the Convention to its development efforts and that it avail itself of regional or international technical assistance in this respect, including through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ratification of other treaties
47. 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 on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which it is not yet a party.
Follow-up to the concluding observations
48. The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps taken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 19 (a), (b) and (d) and 31 (a), (c) and (d) above.
Preparation of the next report
49. The Committee invites the State party to submit its ninth periodic report in November 2018.
50. 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).