Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
22 March 2013
Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, adopted by the Committee at its fifty-fourth session (11 February–1 March 2013)
1. The Committee considered the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (CEDAW/C/MKD/4-5) at its 1115th and 1116th meetings on 21 February 2013 (See CEDAW/C/SR.1115 and 1116). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/MKD/Q/4-5 and Corr.1 and the responses of the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are contained in CEDAW/C/MKD/Q/4-5/Add.1.
2. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its combined fourth and fifth periodic report which was timely and generally followed the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of reports. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the Committee’s pre-sessional working group, and the responses to the questions posed orally by the Committee. However, it regrets that the report lacked data disaggregated by sex and qualitative data on the situation of women in a number of areas covered by the Convention, in particular with respect to women belonging to disadvantaged groups.
3. The Committee thanks the State party for its delegation, which was headed by Ibrahim Ibrahimi, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Policy, and which included representatives of different ministries and departments. The Committee appreciates the dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee, although it regrets that some questions were not answered.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee welcomes the adoption, since the consideration of the last report, of legislative measures aimed at eliminating discrimination against women, including:
(a) The 2010 Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination which includes a definition of discrimination, covering gender-based discrimination, and sets the legal framework to address discrimination;
(b) The 2012 Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men which replaces the 2006 Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men and contains the same definition of discrimination provided in the aforementioned law, clarifies the reporting responsibilities of all public actors and obliges public authorities to adopt gender-responsive strategic plans and budgets;
(c) The 2009 amendments to the Law on the Ombudsman which required the Office of the Ombudsman to establish a unit for the protection of citizens from discrimination;
(d) The 2012 amendments to the Law on Labour Relations which expressly prohibit discrimination against women workers during pregnancy, maternity and parenthood regardless of the type or duration of work;
(e) The 2006 amendments to the Law on the Election of Members of Parliament which provide that 30 per cent of parliamentary candidates must be women; and
(f) The 2010 Law on Free Legal Aid which assists women without financial resources to access justice.
5. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the following policies:
(a) The National Strategy for Gender Equality (2012–2020) and the National Action Plan for Gender Equality (2013–2016);
(b) The National Strategy on the Introduction of Gender-Responsive Budgeting (2012–2017);
(c) The National Strategy for Prevention and Protection from Family Violence (2012–2015);
(d) The National Action Plan for the Promotion of the Status of Roma Women (2008); and (e) The National Strategy for the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migrants (2009–2013).
6. The Committee further 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 and regional instruments:
(a) The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure, in 2012;
(b) International Labour Organization Conventions No. 183 (2000) on concerning the revision of the Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), No. 177 (1996) concerning Home Work and No. 187 (2006) on the promotional framework for occupational safety and health, in 2012;
(c) The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, both in 2011;
(d) The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in 2009;
(e) The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, in 2007; and
(f) The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, in 2009.
C. Principal areas of concern and recommendations Parliament
7. While reaffirming that the Government has the primary responsibility and is particularly accountable for the full implementation of the obligations of the State party under the Convention, the Committee stresses that the Convention is binding on all branches of government and invites the State party to encourage the Parliament, in line with its procedures, where appropriate, to take the necessary steps with regard to the implementation of the present concluding observations between now and the State party’s next report under the Convention.
Visibility of the Convention, the Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations
8. The Committee notes with concern that, while the Convention forms an integral part of and takes precedence over the domestic law of the State party according to article 118 of the Constitution, in legal practice, it has not been given sufficient visibility or been used as the legal basis for measures, including legislation and policy measures, for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the promotion of gender equality in the State party. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the Convention has not been given central importance as a legally binding human rights instrument and basis for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the advancement of women. In addition, while commending the training conducted for judges and public prosecutors on the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee further notes that to date the Convention has not been directly invoked or applied in court proceedings, which indicates a lack of awareness among women, the judiciary and legal professionals about the rights of women under the Convention and its Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations.
9. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that the Convention, as a legally binding instrument, is sufficiently known and applied by public authorities and the judiciary as a basis for legislation, policies and court decisions;
(b) Continue raising awareness among women about their rights under the Convention and the communications and inquiry procedures provided by the Optional Protocol; and
(c) Ensure that the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto, the Committee’s general recommendations, its views on individual communications and its inquiries, and relevant domestic legislation are made an integral part of systematic training for lawyers, judges, prosecutors, police and other law enforcement officials with a view to enabling them to apply the Convention and interpret national legal provisions in line with the provisions of the Convention.
Definition of non-discrimination and legal framework for equality
10. While noting that discrimination based on sex is prohibited by article 9 of the Constitution, the 2010 Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination and the 2012 Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, the Committee is concerned at the failure of the State party to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity following its pledge to do so at the last universal periodic review in 2009 (A/HRC/12/15, para. 46).
11. The Committee calls upon the State party to amend national gender equality and anti-discrimination laws in order to explicitly prohibit all forms of discrimination against women, in all areas covered by the Convention, in accordance with its pledge to do so at the universal periodic review in 2009.
Legal complaints mechanisms
12. While noting the appointment of the Legal Representative within the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the establishment of the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination and the Unit for Protection of Citizens from Discrimination in the Office of the Ombudsman, the Committee is concerned by the lack of visibility, transparency and accessibility of these mechanisms, the overlap in mandates of these institutions and the low number of complaints of discrimination based on sex received by them and filed with the State party’s courts. The Committee is further concerned that the Office of the Ombudsman is not fully compliant with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles).
13. The Committee urges the State party to strengthen its legal complaints mechanisms to ensure that all women have effective access to justice and recommends that the State party:
(a) Take measures to improve the visibility, accessibility and transparency of the Legal Representative, the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination and the Office of the Ombudsman;
(b) Further strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman with a view to becoming fully compliant with the Paris Principles and expand activities addressing discrimination based on sex and gender;
(c) Take measures to increase women’s awareness of their rights and the functions of the existing complaints mechanisms so that they are better able to seek redress in cases of sex and gender-based discrimination; and
(d) Provide legal aid so that women, in particular those belonging to vulnerable groups, may claim their rights.
National machinery for the advancement of women
14. While acknowledging the establishment of the Sector on Equal Opportunities in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, a Government coordinator and the Intersectoral Advisory Group, the Committee notes that the lack of visibility, decision-making powers and coordination of State institutions indicate that low priority is accorded to the principle of gender equality within the State party.
15. The Committee recommends that the State party further strengthen the national machinery by increasing the visibility and coordination of State institutions; providing them with adequate decision-making powers; and making them more effective by enhancing the availability and use of sex-disaggregated data and by strengthening their capacity to monitor the enactment and implementation of legislation and policy measures in the field of gender equality.
The National Strategy for Gender Equality (2013–2020) and the National Action Plan for Gender Equality (2013–2016)
16. While noting the recent adoption of the National Strategy and the National Action Plan for Gender Equality, the Committee regrets the lack of information provided on their content, the results to be achieved and the procedures relied upon to implement, monitor and evaluate their policies. The Committee is further concerned by the lack of adequate national resources allocated to the State party’s strategies and action plans aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, in particular against women belonging to ethnic minorities, including Albanian and Roma women.
17. The Committee calls upon the State party to include the implementation of the present concluding observations in its annual strategies and reports, allocate adequate human and financial resources to all national strategies and action plans for the advancement of women, ensure their effective implementation and monitor and regularly evaluate the process.
Temporary special measures
18. While noting that some temporary special measures have been taken to encourage the participation of women in political life, the Committee is concerned by the use of differing terminology referring to temporary special measures in the State party’s 2010 Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination and the 2012 Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which indicates a lack of consistent application of article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention on temporary special measures and that these measures are not being used in all areas covered by the Convention to accelerate the achievement of de facto equality of women and men.
19. The Committee encourages the State party to adopt temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, as interpreted in the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (1992) on temporary special measures, in all areas covered by the Convention where women, including women from ethnic minorities, are underrepresented or disadvantaged, ensure that adequate resources are allocated to these measures and that the relevant State institutions coordinate these measures among themselves and evaluate and publish gender impact analyses of these measures and make their findings available to the public.
20. The Committee is concerned about the persistence of stereotypes concerning the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society, which overemphasize the traditional role of women as mothers and wives, thus undermining women’s social status and their educational and professional careers. The Committee notes with concern that the media persistently convey stereotyped and sometimes degrading images of women and that there is not a sufficient overview of such representation.
21. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Further strengthen its efforts to put in place a comprehensive policy with proactive and sustained measures, targeted at women, men, girls and boys, to overcome stereotypical attitudes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society; and
(b) Take all appropriate measures to raise the awareness of the media on the need to eliminate gender stereotypes by promoting positive images of women actively participating in social, economic and political life and to encourage the media to institute an effective self-regulatory mechanism for addressing the degrading representation of women in the media.
Violence against women
22. While noting the amendments to the State party’s 2008 Family Law, which extend the definition of a victim of family violence, the Committee remains concerned that this law does not protect all victims of violence, that family violence remains criminalized as an aggravating circumstance only and that specific and comprehensive legislation covering all forms of violence against women, in particular domestic, sexual and psychological violence, is absent. Furthermore, while commending the adoption of the National Strategy for Prevention and Protection from Family Violence 2012–2015 and the National Coordination Body for the Prevention and Protection from Family Violence, the Committee expresses its concern about the increasing incidence of all forms of violence which are underreported, in particular psychological, physical and sexual violence against women and girls; the limited use of protection orders; the limited number of State-run shelters and the lack of data on violence against women.
23. Recalling its general recommendation No. 19 (1992) on violence against women, the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Strengthen existing criminal and family law or adopt a comprehensive law addressing all forms of violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, and ensure that all women and girls who are victims of violence are protected by such legislation and have access to immediate means of redress and protection and further ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished;
(b) Raise public awareness, through the media and educational programmes and provide mandatory training for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, health-service providers and social services and teaching staff in order to ensure that they are sensitized to all forms of violence against women and girls and can provide adequate gender-sensitive support to victims;
(c) Encourage women to report incidents of domestic and sexual violence by raising awareness about the criminal nature of such acts and provide adequate assistance and protection to women victims of violence, including Roma women and women from other ethnic minorities;
(d) Increase the number and funding of shelters and guarantee national coverage, including for women from ethnic minorities and women from other disadvantaged groups affected by violence;
(e) Enhance the system of data collection to ensure that data are disaggregated by type of violence and by the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim, support research in this field and ensure that information and collected data are available to the public; and
(f) Expeditiously ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and introduce criminal sanctions for non-compliance with restraining orders.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
24. While noting the legislative, institutional and policy measures taken to combat trafficking in persons, including the adoption of the National Strategy for the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migrants (2009–2013) and the National Referral Mechanism, the Committee remains concerned about:
(a) The lack of visibility and coordination of the relevant institutional mechanisms;
(b) The high number of girls trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation;
(c) The lack of preventive measures to address the root causes of trafficking, in particular with regard to Roma women; and
(d) The lack of information on re-socialization programmes.
25. Furthermore, while noting that prostitution is a misdemeanour in the State party only for persons in prostitution, the Committee regrets the absence of information on the prevalence of prostitution and is concerned by the lack of efforts to prevent the exploitation of prostitution and to address its root causes, and the lack of protection, health services and exit and reintegration programmes for victims of this form of exploitation.
26. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Effectively implement the National Strategy against Trafficking by strengthening the visibility and cooperation between the relevant institutional mechanisms, monitoring the National Referral Mechanism for victims of trafficking in human beings and by providing funding for anti-trafficking activities by relevant national institutions and non-governmental organizations;
(b) Address the root causes of trafficking and exploitation of women and girls by increasing its efforts to prevent the trafficking of all women and girls, including Roma women and girls; and
(c) Pursue a comprehensive approach in addressing the exploitation of prostitution, including by developing strategies and implementing programmes to support and provide rehabilitation for women who wish to leave prostitution, and ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of those who exploit prostitution.
Participation in political and public life
27. While noting the high percentage of women in the State party’s Parliament (34 per cent), the Committee remains concerned that women, including women from ethnic minorities, continue to be underrepresented in ministerial positions, in high-ranking posts in the diplomatic service, at the municipal level and in mayoral positions. The Committee is also concerned by the lack of temporary special measures or other proactive and sustained measures taken to promote and accelerate an increase in such representation and by systematic barriers such as negative gender stereotypes which impede women’s equal participation in political life.
28. The Committee encourages the State party to accelerate the full and equal participation of women in political and public life and increase the number of women in decision-making positions, including by adopting temporary special measures. It also recommends that the State party create an enabling environment for political participation of women, including Roma and Albanian women, as well as encourage their participation through educational and outreach programmes which are aimed at changing gendered perceptions of the role of women in political life.
29. While noting the introduction of compulsory secondary education in 2007, the Committee is concerned about the lack of sufficient data disaggregated by sex and ethnicity allowing for the comparison of the educational attainment of girls in different ethnic communities. The Committee reiterates its concern, expressed in its previous concluding observations (CEDAW/C/MKD/CO/3, para. 27), at the dropout rates of Roma girls and women. It also notes the low number of Roma girls in higher education and the lack of measures taken to ensure their access to education. The Committee is further concerned by the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman that there is a disproportionately high number of Roma children, including girls, in schools for children with special needs.
30. The Committee urges the State party to enhance its compliance with article 10 of the Convention and raise awareness of the importance of education as a human right and as the basis for the empowerment of women. To this end, it urges the State party to:
(a) Provide comparative data disaggregated by sex and ethnicity on the rates of school enrolment, attendance and dropout rates;
(b) Address barriers to the education of all women and girls, such as negative cultural attitudes and excessive domestic duties, to take steps to reduce and prevent the dropout of girls and strengthen the implementation of re-entry policies enabling girls who drop out to return to school; and
(c) Investigate and urgently address the recommendations of the Office of the Ombudsman which call for the regulation and review of findings made by institutions authorized to determine the level of children’s disabilities and special needs, including those of Roma girls.
31. While noting the subsidized employment, training and entrepreneurship programmes available to some women, the Committee is concerned by the continuing vertical and horizontal occupational segregation and the overrepresentation of women in low-paid jobs; the lack of implementation of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and the persistent wage gap between women and men; the disproportionately high rate of women’s unemployment; and the exclusion of Roma women and women with disabilities from the formal labour market. The Committee is further concerned that the lack of policies stimulating women’s economic activities, childcare facilities, and changes to the Labour Law concerning parental leave forces women into part-time and low-paid work and reinforces the unequal division of family responsibilities between women and men. Furthermore, the Committee regrets the lack of information on sexual harassment in the workplace.
32. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen efforts to eliminate occupational segregation, both horizontal and vertical, and to adopt measures to implement the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and to narrow and close the wage gap between women and men by applying job evaluation schemes in the public sector connected with wage increases in sectors dominated by women;
(b) Increase women’s, including Roma women and women belonging to other disadvantaged groups, access to formal employment and entrepreneurship and improve their possibilities to combine working life with family responsibilities; and
(c) Collect sex-disaggregated data on the situation of women and men in the labour market and on the number and outcome of labour inspections, court cases and administrative complaints related to sex-based labour discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.
33. While noting the adoption of the National Strategy on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2010–2020 and the low maternal mortality rate, the Committee remains concerned about the high rate of abortion and the low use, availability and accessibility of modern forms of contraception, which indicates that abortion continues to be used as a method of birth control. The Committee is also concerned about the financial, cultural and physical barriers to gynaecological services faced by Roma and rural women. The Committee is further concerned about the lack of education programmes on sexual and reproductive health and rights in schools, the lack of gender perspective in national HIV and other health policies, and the lack of sex-disaggregated data. Furthermore, the Committee regrets the lack of information on health and rehabilitation services available to women and girl drug users.
34. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Take all measures necessary to improve women’s access to quality health care and health-related services, within the framework of the Committee’s general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health;
(b) Raise awareness, through public education campaigns, education on sexual and reproductive health in schools and enhanced counselling services, about the importance of using contraceptives for family planning and increase efforts to provide adequate family planning services and affordable contraceptives; and
(c) Integrate a gender perspective in all health interventions and policies and collect and analyse sex-disaggregated data.
35. The Committee continues to be concerned at the disadvantaged position of women in rural areas who have limited access to health and social services, participation in decision-making processes at the community level, education and the formal labour market; despite the Committee’s recommendation in the previous concluding observations (CEDAW/C/MKD/CO/3, para. 28) to implement effective measures to eliminate discrimination against rural women through all available means, including temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (1992). The Committee is further concerned by the low percentage of rural women who own land and have access to microcredit schemes.
36. The Committee recommends the State party to:
(a) Take immediate steps to implement effective measures to eliminate discrimination against rural women in all areas covered by the Convention and to enhance their enjoyment of human rights through all available means, including through temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (1992);
(b) Intensify its efforts to enhance the economic and political empowerment of women in rural areas, including by reviewing the causes of the low percentage of women who own land and have access to credit facilities; and
(c) Include in its next periodic report information on rural women’s access to education, social and health services, and to the formal labour market.
Disadvantaged groups of women
37. While noting the adoption of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005–2015, the National Action Plan for the Promotion of the Status of Roma Women and the related strategies adopted by the State party (2008–2010, 2011–2013), the Committee is concerned about the lack of adequate financial resources allocated for the implementation and evaluation of these measures as well as the continuing marginalization of Roma women and the intersecting forms of discrimination they face, especially with regard to access to education, employment, adequate housing and health care, identity documents, protection from violence and access to justice. The Committee further notes the limited information and data available on other disadvantaged groups of women, such as Albanian women, widows, older women and women with disabilities. The Committee is concerned about the marginalization of these women and their vulnerability to intersecting forms of discrimination and is concerned about the lack of information on the use of temporary special measures to improve their situation. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned by the lack of a gender-sensitive approach in asylum and refugee procedures.
38. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Implement and expeditiously allocate adequate financial resources to national action plans and strategies aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against Roma women;
(b) Collect and provide, in its next report, comprehensive statistical data disaggregated by sex on the situation of disadvantaged groups of women, including Roma and Albanian women, in all areas covered by the Convention, as well as information on specific programmes;
(c) Take effective measures, including temporary special measures, with a view to accelerating the realization of substantive equality for such disadvantaged groups of women; and
(d) Integrate a gender-sensitive approach in all asylum and refugee processes, including at the application stage.
Marriage and family relations
39. The Committee is concerned about the prevalence of the practice of arranged and early marriage within Roma and Albanian communities, the lack of specific measures in place to combat this discriminatory practice, the lack of statistical data and information on this phenomenon and the lack of measures taken by the State party to ensure that all marriages are registered.
40. The Committee urges the State party to strengthen its efforts to raise awareness among Roma and Albanian communities about the prohibition of child marriage, as well as on its harmful effects on girls’ health and education, and to effectively investigate and prosecute cases of forced and early marriage. The Committee also calls upon the State party to adopt measures to register all marriages, including those taking place within Roma and Albanian communities.
Amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention
41. The Committee encourages the State party to accept, without delay, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
42. The Committee calls upon the State party to utilize the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention.
Millennium Development Goals
43. The Committee calls for the integration of a gender perspective in accordance with the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Dissemination and implementation
44. The Committee recalls the obligation of the State party to systematically and continuously implement the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. 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 the timely dissemination of the concluding observations, in the official language of the State party, to the relevant State institutions at all levels (national, regional, local), in particular to the Government, the ministries, the Parliament 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 and research institutions, media, etc. It further recommends that its 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, its Optional Protocol and jurisprudence, and the Committee’s general recommendations to all stakeholders.
Ratification of other treaties
45. The Committee notes that the adherence of the State party to the nine major international human rights instruments1 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 treaties to which it is not yet a party, i.e., the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Follow-up to concluding observations
46. The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 23 (a), (e) and 30 (c) above.
Preparation of next report
47. The Committee invites the State party to submit its sixth periodic report by March 2017.
48. The Committee requests the State party to follow the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including the guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, chap. I).
1The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.