Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
3 – 21 October 2011
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
1.The Committee considered the initial report of the Sultanate of Oman (CEDAW/C/OMN/1) at its 998th and 999th meetings, on 4 October 2011 (CEDAW/C/SR.998 and 999). The Committee’s list of issues and questions are contained in CEDAW/C/OMN/Q/1, and the responses of the Sultanate of Oman are contained in CEDAW/C/OMN/Q/1/Add.1.
2.The Committee commends the State party for the submission of its initial report. The Committee also commends the State party for the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group and for the oral presentation and responses to the questions posed by the Committee. The Committee regrets, however, that the report lacks sex disaggregated statistical data and was overdue.
3.The Committee commends the State party for its high-ranking delegation headed by the Minister of Social Development, composed of seven men and six women, which included representatives of various Government ministries and of national committees. The Committee expresses its appreciation for the frank, open and constructive dialogue held between the delegation and the members of the Committee.
4.The Committee notes the State party’s positive record in adhering to international human rights conventions and its willingness to reform its domestic legislation in accordance with its international law obligations. In this context, it notes the measures taken by the State party to address the issue of trafficking in human beings and welcomes the Human Trafficking Act promulgated by Royal Decree No. 126/2008 on combating trafficking in human beings, which defines the offence of human trafficking and prescribes penalties in accordance with the Palermo Protocol.
5.The Committee welcomes the State party’s expressed willingness to review its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, particularly its general reservation with a view to narrowing its content and/or withdrawing it. The Committee also notes the consideration, by the State party, of its possible accession to the Optional Protocol of the Convention.
6.The Committee notes that the fundamental human rights principles are integrated into the State party’s Basic Law (1996) and it’s Civil and Penal Codes do not discriminate between women and men in law, procedures and testimony.
7.The Committee notes the fast-paced improvements in the health and education indicators in the State party in the recent past, including the decline in infant mortality, and maternal mortality rates and the improvement in prenatal and birth care standards.
8.The Committee commends the State party for the commitment and political will expressed by its Head of State for empowerment and participation of women in all walks of life. In this regard, it particularly welcomes the promulgation of the Royal Decree 55/2010that supports women's rights in the private sphere of family relations and marriage by preventing guardians from obstructing women's decision to marry and/ or their choice of husbands.
C.Principal areas of concern and recommendations
9.While recalling the State party’s obligation to systematically and continuously implement all the provisions of the Convention, the Committee 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 calls upon the State party to focus on those areas in its implementation activities and to report on action taken and results achieved in its next periodic report. It also calls upon the State party to submit the present concluding observations to all relevant ministries, to the Parliament and the judiciary, in order to ensure their effective implementation.
10.While reaffirming that the Government has the primary responsibility and is particularly accountable for the full implementation of the State party’s obligations under the Convention, the Committee stresses that the Convention is binding on all branches of the State apparatus(executive, legislative and judiciary ) and it invites the State party to encourage the Consultative Council, in line with its procedures, where appropriate, to take the necessary steps with regard to the implementation of these concluding observations and the Government’s next reporting process under the Convention.
Legal status of the Convention and legislative and institutional framework
11.The Committee notes that despite its status as a duly ratified international treaty that is part of domestic law in Oman, the Convention has not been directly invoked in national courts and there is a lack of awareness about the Convention and its provisions among the judiciary.
12.The Committee calls on the State party to:
(a)Disseminate the Convention and its general recommendations and the present concluding observations widely among all stakeholders, so as to ensure that violations against human rights of women enshrined in the Convention can be easily prosecuted and tried in domestic courts and tribunals;
(b)Provide training to the judiciary and members of the legal profession on the implementation of the Convention.
Definition of non-discrimination
13.While noting that the Basic Law of the State establishes the principle of equality between women and men, the Committee is concerned that in the national legislation there is no explicit prohibition of de jure and de facto discrimination against women in all areas of life as required by article 2 of the Convention. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that, in the State party’s legislation, equality between women and men is limited to the public rights and does not extend to the private sphere relations of family and marriage.
14.The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Expedite the amendment of the Basic Law and/or other appropriate domestic legislation to ensure the incorporationof an explicit prohibition of discrimination against women in line with article 2 of the Convention;
(b)Extend the principle of equality to the private sphere of family and marriage relations in accordance with article 2 (e) with a view to achieving de facto and de jure equality between women and men in all spheres.
15.The Committee takes note of the pledge made by the State party, in the framework of the universal periodic review, to review its general reservation, as well as its reservation to articles 9, paragraph 2; 15, paragraph 4, and 16 (a), (c), and (f) of the Convention as soon as possible. The Committee also takes note of the assurances given by the State party in the dialogue with the Committee that there is no contradiction between the Sharia and the Convention. The Committee is of the opinion that a general reservation, as well as the reservation to article 16 are contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention and are thus impermissible under article 28 of the Convention (Committee’s statement on reservations, A/53/38/Rev.1). The Committee is concerned that no timeframe has been set to undertake the review of these reservations as their withdrawal and/or narrowing is essential for the full implementation of the Convention in the State party.
.The Committee calls upon the State party to expedite the review of its reservations to the Convention, with a view to their withdrawal and narrowing down within an established timeframe and with the full participation of women’s groups from civil society, so as to ensure that women in the State party fully benefit from all the rights enshrined in the Convention, without delay.
National human rights institutions
17.The Committee notes the commitment made by the State party in the universal periodic review to ensure the National Human Rights Commission’s compliance with the Paris Principles. The Committee is concerned, however, about the independence of the National Human Rights Commission. It is further concerned that this mechanism has, to date, not examined any women’s human rights cases. The Committee is further concerned about the lack of any comprehensive and effective complaints mechanism, accessible especially to women, including women migrant workers.
18.The Committee encourages the State party topromptly ensure the institutionalization of an independent national human rights commission, in compliance with the Paris Principles, with sufficient resources, a broad human rights mandate as well as a specific mandate pertaining to gender equalityand women’s human rights; and a legal complaints mechanism for women
National machinery for the advancement of women
19.The Committee notes that the Ministry of Social Development where the General Directorate for Women is placed, is the national machinery for the advancement of women, and that a national committee has been established to monitor the implementation of the Convention, raise awareness of its principles and prepare the reports. It is however concerned about the lack of a coordinated gender mainstreaming strategy by all public institutions. It is also concerned that the national machinery does not have adequate human and financial resources.
20.The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Take steps to accord greater visibility, increased capacity and authority to the national machinery for women by ensuring the provision and sustainability of sufficient staff and budgetary allocations, in order to fully enable it to implement programmes and projects on gender equality and the advancement of women;
(b)Strengthen the capacity of the national machinery to act as a coordinating mechanism, and develop a gender mainstreaming strategy to be used in all policies and programmes. This should also include strengthening the capacity of all ministries and other government bodies to effectively use the gender mainstreaming strategy, in particular through training and capacity-building measures on gender issues for public officials.
Temporary special measures
21.Despite the appointment of 14 women representatives to the Council of State , the Committee is concerned that the State party’s understanding of the purpose of, and need for, temporary special measures is not in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2004) . The Committee is concerned that despite the underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions, including, inter alia, in the political sphere, the National Human Rights Commission has found no reason to expedite the adoption of temporary special measures, including a system of quotas. The Committee is thus concerned that a strategy of temporary special measures is neither in place nor envisaged for the near future to accelerate the achievement of de facto equality between men and women in political and other decision-making positions.
22.The Committee encourages the State party to:
(a)Familiarize relevant officials and political representatives with the concept of temporary special measures described in article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, as elaborated in the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2004);
(b)Include in its legislation specific provisions on the application of temporary special measures that encourage their use both in the public and private economic sectors;
(c)Implement temporary special measures in areas where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged, including the political sphere, the judiciary and the public sector to accelerate de facto equality of women.
Stereotypes and cultural practices
23.While noting the State party’s efforts to exclude gender-role stereotypes in school books and curricula and the positive role played by NGOs to promote a change in the stereotypical roles of women, the Committee is concerned at the pervasive patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes in the State party regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in all spheres of life.
24.The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Adopt policies and measures for changing mind-sets regarding stereotypical roles and modifying discriminatory attitudes towards women by promoting women’s roles in public positions of responsibility and their active presence in society as well as encouraging equal sharing of family responsibilities between women and men in the family;
(b)Strengthen its efforts to combat stereotypes in cooperation with community and religious leaders as well as women’s organizations and the media through awareness-raising campaigns addressed to both women and men.
Female Genital Mutilation
25.The Committee takes note of the Government’s decision which prohibits the performance by medical doctors of FGM in hospitals. It is however deeply concerned at the lack of statistical data on the extent of the prevalence of this practice in the State party despite information indicating that according to some surveys, around 53 per cent of women have undergone the procedure, and that, reportedly, 85 per cent of women are in favour of it. The Committee is particularly concerned that FGM may be taking place clandestinely in other settings, and may be performed by non-medical personnel.
26.The Committee urges the State party to:
(a)Develop a plan of action and undertake efforts to eliminate this harmful practice through awareness-raising among opinion leaders in the communities as well as religious leaders, health and education professionals and general population.
(b)Speedily enact legislation prohibiting FGM and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished;
(c)Collect statistics and data on this practice.
Violence against women
27.The Committee takes note of the measures taken by the State party to protect women against violence, including domestic violence, and appreciates the existence of a housing unit allocated as a temporary refuge for women subjected to violence of any kind, as well as the Ministry of Social Development services’ efforts to follow up on individual cases. The Committee, however, regrets the absence of a specific law on violence against women, including domestic violence; the lack of adequate statistics, research and documentation on the incidence of violence against women, as well as the fact that no specific mechanism exists for women to lodge complaints, get reparations and ensure prosecution of the perpetrators of violence committed against them. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of protection for and the resultant vulnerability of female migrant workers, especially domestic workers, to violence against them by their employers in the privacy of the home-setting.
28.The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a)Adopt a specific law on violence against women, including domestic violence, in line with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 19 (1992) and establish appropriate redress mechanisms accessible to all women including domestic workers, who are victims of violence, and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished;
(b)Strengthen support measures such as shelters, counselling, and rehabilitation services throughout the territory of the State party;
(c)Provide gender-sensitive and violence-focused training for the judiciary and law enforcement officers and health professionals;
(d)Ratify ILO Convention No. 156 (1981) and the Convention on Migrant Workers;
(e)Establish a protection and monitoring system for migrant domestic workers.
Trafficking in persons and exploitation of prostitution
29.Despite the promulgation of the Human Trafficking Act by Royal Decree No. 126/2008 and the establishment of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, which is formulating a plan to combat human trafficking, the Committee is concerned about full implementation of this legislation and functioning of this institution to protect the rights of trafficked persons. In this context, it is particularly concerned at the lack of a mechanism that could provide for the early identification of victims. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of protection of the rights of trafficked women engaged in prostitution.
30.The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a)Ensure that victims of trafficking, including those women engaging in prostitution, are always considered and treated as victims, and are free from prosecution and deportation and are provided with necessary assistance and victim protection;
(b)Increase efforts to detect, investigate, prosecute and punish cases of trafficking through national measures as well as with international, regional and bilateral cooperation with countries of origin and transit, including through the involvement of non-governmental organizations, to prevent trafficking through information sharing and mutual assistance.
Participation in political and public life
31.While recognizing the presence of women in some high ranking posts, the Committee is concerned at the very low representation or absence of women in the Consultative Council, the government, the judiciary and the diplomatic corps. It notes with particular concern that no woman was elected to the Consultative Council in the last elections. The Committee is indeed concerned that, despite the legal possibility for women to be judges and the presence of women in different positions within the judicial system, there are no women judges on the bench. Furthermore, despite the activities of a number of public interest associations in the country, the Committee is concerned about the absence of a vibrant civil society, including autonomous and active women’s human rights organizations.
32.The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a)Adopt laws and policies aimed at the promotion of women’s full and equal participation in decision-making in all areas of public, political and professional life, in accordance with article 7 of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 23 (1997), and adopt temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendationNo. 25 (2004);
(b)Conduct awareness-raising activities for the society at large about the importance of gender equality and women’s participation in decision-making, including providing support for training of women’s NGOs with respect to the provisions of the Conventionand the Committee’s jurisprudence, particularly with regard to articles 7and 8 of the Convention and general recommendationsNos. 23 and 25;
(c)Develop training and mentoring programmes for women candidates and women elected to public office as well as programmes on leadership and negotiation skills for current and future women leaders;
(d)Create and ensure an enabling environment for civil society, particularly for the specialized women’s NGOs.
33.The Committee is deeply concerned that women and men do not enjoy equal rights to nationality in the State party. The Committee notes with concern that Omani women’s legal inability to transfer their nationality to their children if and when the fathers are non-nationals, whereas Omani men are able to do so for their children born of foreign mothers, constitutes a clear violation of women’s equal rights under the Convention. The Committee takes note of the State party’s assurances that this situation does not lead to statelessness of children and/or their being deprived of social and economic benefits, but the Committee reiterates its views that this situation constitutes discrimination of Omani women vis-à-vis Omani men in regard to nationality and citizenship rights. The Committee is also concerned about the discrimination against women with regard to naturalization of their foreign spouses as the conditions for naturalization of foreign spouses are different for men and women under Omani law.
34.The Committee calls upon the State party to withdraw its reservation to article 9 of the Convention and to amend its domestic laws to grant Omani women equal rights with men in regard to transmission of their nationality to their children who have foreign fathers and to their foreign husbands.
35. The Committee commends the State party for the high levels of enrolment of women and girls in all levels of education, and for its advances in fighting illiteracy where the overall rate for women has fallen from 21.9 per cent to 12.2 per cent over the past seven years. It is however concerned at the lack of compulsory free education for all. It is also concerned that information on girls’ dropout rates during the primary, secondary and tertiary stages of education, and its causes is lacking. The Committee is further concerned that in spite of initiatives to provide career and vocational programmes, the traditional views of both students and teachers orient female students into areas of study perceived as appropriate to their social roles and participation in public life. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of information and statistical data regarding the rates of enrolment of various age cohorts and access to education services by women and girls from rural areas, minorities and non-citizens.
36.The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Achieve its vision to make education compulsory and free for all;
(b)Continue its efforts to ensure equal access to education for women and girls;
(c)Take measures to address the traditional gender stereotypes and “mental conditioning” of students and teachers and to ensure that girls gain optimal benefit from career and vocational programmes;
(d)Provide detailed information in its next report, in particular, sex- and age-disaggregated statistics on education, including in rural areas, among minorities and non-citizens, providing net enrolment rates of various age cohorts in different stages of education as well as on the progress achieved in regard to girls’ orientation to non-traditional areas of study.
37.The Committee notes with concern the very low participation of women in the labour force (11 per cent) as well as the fact that women’s labour force participation is concentrated in younger age groups and declines with age, indicating a tendency for women to become exclusively responsible for care work as they get married. Also, the Committee is concerned that working women are concentrated in education and health sectors, which indicates a clear gender-based segregation of the labour force. The Committee notes the legal prohibition of dismissal of women for taking maternity leave as well as the criminalization of sexual harassment in the workplace or elsewhere. While the Committee is concerned about the lack of paid maternity leave for all female workers in the State party, it welcomes the pledge of the State party, in the dialogue with the Committee, to review its legislation and grant women in all sectors paid maternity leave for a period of 60 days before and after childbirth, as well as the possibility to obtain an unpaid leave for up to one year upon request.
38.The Committee urges the State party to:
(a)Adopt ILO Conventions Nos. 100 (1951) and 111 (1958) and guarantee equal application of all labour laws to women and men and ensure equal remuneration for work of equal value;
(b)Put in place policies and measures that promote a balance between family and employment responsibilities, through inter alia, awareness-raising and education initiatives for both men and women of equal share of care and domestic responsibilities; and
(c)Regulate paid maternity leave for all working women, including migrant women and those in domestic service, in line with article 11 (b) without delay.
39.The Committee also requests the State party to provide in its next periodic report statistical data and information on the situation of women in employment, including incidents of harassment at work, and with regard to domestic workers’ enjoyment of the rights established by the Convention.
40.The Committee takes note of the assurances of the State party in its dialogue with the Committee that contraceptives are is free of charge to all women in Oman, and that information on reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases is provided. It also welcomes the information that no authorization is necessary for women to have access to reproductive health care. It is nonetheless concerned that less than half (41.4 per cent) of married women in the age group 15 – 49 use modern contraceptive methods. The Committee also remains concerned about the incidence of clandestine abortions which often result in serious health complications for women. It is further concerned that special needs of women with disabilities are not identified and addressed.
41.The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Continue efforts to increase access to safe and affordable contraceptive services throughout the country and ensure thatwomen in rural areas do not face barriers in accessing family planning information;
(b)Provide education and awareness-raising programmes on the importance of the use of contraceptives, risks of unsafe abortion and women’s reproductive health rights;
(c)Strengthen implementation of programmes and policies aimed at providing effective access for women to health-care information and affordable services, in particular regarding reproductive health and contraceptive methods and ensure provision of psychosocial counselling services to women and girls;
(d)Pay special attention to the health needs of women with disabilities, ensuring their inclusive access to support services that include rehabilitation and psychosocial care.
Disadvantaged groups of women
42. The Committee is concerned about the sponsorship system which makes women migrant workers vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse by their employers, as well as the lack of awareness among women migrant workers of their rights and the lack of access to justice and legal redress.
43. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Expedite ratification of ILO Conventions No. 87 (1948) and No. 98 (1949);
(b)Strengthen the legal protection of foreign workers by adopting policies aimed at preventing abuses;prosecute and sentence the offenders in such crimes, including the recruiters and employers; raise awareness of workers’ rights among all, including migrant and domestic workers, and ensure their access to legal aid and complaint mechanisms and provide necessary assistance and victim protection.
Discriminatory laws in marriage and family
44.The Committee is concerned at the persistence of a significant number of discriminatory laws and provisions including laws relating to marriage, divorce, nationality, guardianship and custodial rights that deny women equal rights with men. It is particularly concerned about the legal provisions relating to personal status, including the need for a woman’s guardian’s (wali) permission for her to marry, equal rights with respect to divorce, property relations and inheritance which do not fully adhere to the provisions of the Convention. The Committee is concerned that, despite efforts such as the Royal Decree No. 55/2010 to prevent the practice of dowry from limiting women’s rights to choose their husbands freely, this custom continues to negatively impact on the rights of women. In this context it is also concerned about the fact that the man is considered the head of the family and married women cannot freely choose their place of residence according to the Personal Status Code. Furthermore the Committee is concerned at reports that, despite the legal prohibition, marriage of girls under the age of 18 is still widely practised and accepted by Omani custom. The Committee is also concerned that polygamy which constitutes a direct infringement of women’s rights is not prohibited in the State party.
45.The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a)Embark on law reform with regard to the Personal Status Code taking into consideration the experiences of countries with similar religious backgrounds and legal systems that have successfully accommodated their domestic legislation to commitments emanating from the legally binding international instruments they have ratified, specifically with respect to matters of property, divorce, inheritance and the requirement of the “wali” in entering marriage;
(b)Prohibit polygamy, in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 21 (1994);
(c)Continue with efforts to ensure that the practice of dowry does not negate or curtail women’s fundamental human right to freely choose their spouse.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
46.The Committee urges the State party, in the implementation of its obligations under the Convention, to utilize fully 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.
The Millennium Development Goals
47.The Committee also 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 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.
48.The Committee requests the wide dissemination in the Sultanate of Oman of the present concluding observations in order to make the people, including Government officials at the national and local levels, political representatives and decision-makers and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the measures that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in this regard. It requests the State party to continue to strengthen the dissemination, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, of the Convention, 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, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
49.The Committee recommends that the State party avail itself of technical assistance in the development and implementation of a comprehensive programme aimed at the implementation of the recommendations set out above as well as the Convention as a whole. The Committee expresses its willingness to continue the dialogue with the State party, including through a country visit by Committee members to provide further guidance on the implementation of the recommendations and the State party’s obligations under the Convention. The Committee also calls upon the State party to strengthen further its cooperation with specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations system, including the United NationsEntity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Statistics Division, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organization, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ratification of other treaties
50.The Committee notes thattheadherence of the State party to the nine major international human rights instrumentswould enhance the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. Therefore, the Committee encourages the Sultanate of Oman to ratify the treaties to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 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.
Follow-up to concluding observations
51.The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 28 and 45. The Committee also requests the State party to consider seeking technical cooperation and assistance, including advisory services, if necessary and when appropriate for implementation of the above recommendations.
Preparation of the next report
52.The Committee requests the State party to ensure the wide participation of all ministries and public bodies in the preparation of its next periodicreport, as well as to consult a variety of women’s and human rights organizations during that phase.
53.The Committee requests the State party to respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding observations in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention. The Committee invites the State party to submit it combined second and third periodic reportsin October 2015.
54.The Committee invites 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, approved at the fifth Inter-Committee meeting of the human rights treaty bodies, in June 2006 (HRI/MC/2006/3 and Corr.1). The treaty-specific reporting guidelines adopted by the Committee at its fortieth session, in January 2008 (A/63/38, Part one, annex I), 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 All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The treaty-specific document should be limited to 40 pages, while the updated common core document should not exceed80 pages.