Convention, despite facing poverty, natural disasters, military conflict
Autor: ---- Fuente: United Nations International

Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said widespread and prevalent traditions rendered the law mere “dead letter”. Harmful traditions had been identified such as the abduction of girls, widows’ inheritance rights, women’s financial rights and marital rape. All those matters affected the identity of the family. Unless they were confronted, and men, women and girls were made aware of women’s rights, laws could be adopted, but they would be dead letters.
Ms. COKER-APPIAH, the expert from Ghana, said Ethiopia was one of the few African countries with community property laws, which was commendable. However, the report was not clear as to the grounds for divorce. What were the underlying causes for divorce? What remedies were available to the parties in terms of maintenance?
Ms. GNACADJA, expert from Benin, said while she fully understood the context and difficulties facing women, it was the Government’s duty to move ahead. The Constitution had granted seven of the nine regions full sovereignty to dictate the family code. That meant that the power of the federal State to implement civil law was very limited. How many family codes were now implementable? The Constitution recognized religion and custom as governing civil status. Custom and religion often contained discriminatory provisions. Was the Constitution above state legislation and what did it say about customary religious provisions that ran counter to it?
Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, asked if there was a law to deal with violence against women, particularly domestic violence. What was the situation of the female genital mutilation law? Was it clear that it was criminalized? Independent sources said it was still legal. Concerning the transmission of HIV/AIDS, was the transmission of the virus knowingly illegal according to the law? she asked. How was the virus spread so intensively to women?
Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said an international convention was higher than the Constitution in many countries. If a country adopted a convention, it meant that it was to abide by it. As Ethiopia had adopted the Convention, it must have the political will to adhere to it. Also, in Ethiopia, birth and marriages had to be registered.
Ms. KAPALATA, expert from the United Republic of Tanzania, asked about the partial application of the family code and the implementation of the Convention over domestic law. Political ups and downs should not be a permanent stumbling block on the way to fulfilling the Convention’s implementation.
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, also asked about provisions for divorce. What was the role of family arbitrators after the revision of the family code? Had there been a review of all existing customary laws in the various ethnic groups? She reiterated the urgency for a system of birth and marriages.

Country Response
Ms. ABASIYA said the implementation of policies and the Constitution rested with the Government, civil society and the community at large. Ethiopia had nine regional governments and two administrative councils. Three big regions had ratified the family code. By the end of the year, every region would have adopted the family code. Abduction was a violation according to the law and violence against women was, according to the Constitution, a criminal offence.
Regarding the transmission of HIV/AIDS, according to the penal code, the transfer of disease was criminalized, she said. The penal code was in the process of finalization.
Regarding whether the Convention was respected in the Constitution, she said she would make sure that the Convention was not a “dead letter”. It would not be an easy task. No struggle in human history had been. The Constitution had been ratified by all the districts. Although abduction was a crime, it still happened, many times as a result of an agreement between the parents. Violence against women was also a crime. Women very rarely sought help, however. The transfer of HIV/AIDS was illegal.

Experts’ Comments/Questions
Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, said that, while children were a blessing, many women wanted to use contraception for family planning. Was the Government doing anything in that regard?
Ms. KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, said she had taken statistics on maternal mortality from a World Health Organization publication.

Country Response
Ms. ASFAW said that level seemed very high. Women were encouraged to use contraceptives, but it had been a difficult task. There was a relationship between the development of education and family planning. The Government was very much supportive of family planning.

Concluding Statement by Committee Chairperson
In concluding remarks, Committee Chairperson, Ms. ACAR, expressed appreciation for the report. It was most fulfilling to dialogue with two women in positions of authority. They had provided the Committee with an opportunity to understand the issues, not only in their context, but also in their complexity. She hoped the Committee’s concluding comments would be disseminated widely.
The Committee was aware of the difficult struggle the country had undergone as a result of drought and poverty. It was clear that, despite the existence of laws that provided for equality, in many respects women’s situation had not improved commensurate with those laws. The Committee agreed that an improved economic, social and cultural foundation was essential. She urged the Government to take concerted steps to adopt a strategy to address the various spheres of critical importance for the protection and promotion of women’s rights. Unless economic and social development took off, significant change would not be expected. Poverty and the feminization of poverty appeared to be problem areas, impacting on a variety of issues, among them education, violence, health and prostitution. Governmental policies needed to take into account gender mainstreaming and budgeting.
The Committee encouraged the Government to adopt a more direct and aggressive attitude in approaching issues related to the implementation of women’s human rights, she said. The Committee’s experience suggested that, despite significant economic wealth, even fundamental human rights continued to be violated. In the fight against poverty, and the struggle towards economic development, the recognition of women’s rights constituted a basic paradigm. They were not to be deferred to future implementation.
Traditions and existing practice required adoption at the grass-roots level, she said. That was a grand tradition, but it must be complemented with other measures to advance its effectiveness. Measures were needed to ensure that people who debated issues were equipped with the necessary capacity. Unless such information was available, change could take forever. She underlined the need to enhance sensitivity to the Convention’s provisions by widespread and effective measures to ensure that the processes of grass-roots deliberation yielded results commensurate with the Convention and Ethiopia’s Constitution and laws.
Regarding the revision of the penal code, she urged the Government to step up efforts to adopt a new code that would ensure consistency with the Convention. There was a clear need for women and men to internalize women’s human rights. Changing women’s own attitudes was crucial. Education was a main tool in that regard. Not only formal education was needed, however. More efforts were needed in terms of public media campaigns and informal education to change traditions and social patterns.
She noted a sense of urgency in ensuring the Convention’s implementation. She did not know if that urgency was clearly realized by the Government. The implementation of the Convention without delay was key. The Committee was looking for specific, targeted action towards the issues in the next report.
She also urged the Government to conduct studies and collect statistics, including sex-disaggregated data. She was aware of the limitations the Government faced and was impressed with the political will it had displayed. She wished the delegation strength and stamina in fulfilling the responsibility before them.
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