and third periodic reports
The Committee considered the second and third periodic reports
of the Netherlands (CEDAW/C/NET/2 and Add.1-2 and CEDAW/C/NET/3
and Add.1-2) at its 512th and 513th meetings, on 6 July 2001 (see
CEDAW/C/SR.512 and 513).
(a) Introduction by the State party
In introducing the second and third periodic reports, the representative
of the Netherlands indicated that the Netherlands had fully endorsed
the Convention and that, during recent decades, a genuine revolution
had taken place in the labour market whereby, while in 1988 only
one third of women had paid employment, in 2001 the level of participation
had risen to 52 per cent. There was, however, still evidence of
a "male breadwinner's model of society", as demonstrated
by the low numbers of women in senior positions and in technical
professions, and the large number of women in part-time jobs which
did not provide economic independence. The representative indicated
that the Government would remain firm on accelerating the emancipation
The representative emphasized that paid employment was a prerequisite
for economic independence and that women's economic independence
contributed to a more equal balance of power, which had proved
to be the most effective instrument for preventing and combating
violence against women. The participation of women in the labour
force was the focus of the Government's recent Multi-year Plan
on Emancipation Policy, which involved all governmental ministries.
Set targets included that 65 per cent of women would be in paid
employment by 2010 and that 60 per cent of women who were currently
in part-time jobs would be fully economically independent.
The representative indicated that labour participation by women
could be increased only through a reallocation of care tasks between
women and men. A number of measures had been taken in that regard,
including doubling the capacity of childcare facilities; the introduction
of the Work and Care Bill, which provided for four weeks' leave
for foster parents or parents of adopted children; flexible use
of the provisions for three-months' parental leave; 10 days' leave
per year to care for a sick child, partner or parent; and a law
giving employees a right to work more or fewer hours per week.
In addition, the project entitled "Daily routine", which
aimed at a better alignment of education, childcare and leisure
facilities, had been established. The Government would be delineating
a "Daily routine" policy in the near future.
The strategy of gender mainstreaming had been accepted by the
Government and all departments had a responsibility for gender
mainstreaming, with each having formulated measurable emancipation
tasks. Examples in this regard included a new tax system, which
promoted the economic independence of women; the preparation of
a tax measure aimed at facilitating women's re-entry into the
labour market; and efforts to increase the number of black, ethnic
minority and refugee women on local councils.
Domestic violence was still a serious problem in the Netherlands,
and the Minister of Justice had submitted to the Parliament a
plan of action to combat domestic violence, which included more
severe punishments for the perpetrators of such violence. In accordance
with European Union policy, the Netherlands had appointed a national
rapporteur on trafficking of persons and was the first country
of the European Union to do so.
The representative of the Netherlands highlighted aspects of the
Multi-year Plan on Emancipation Policy, including a life-cycle
project which examined diversity in lifestyles.
On behalf of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles, another
representative explained the restructuring programme and aggressive
economic policy in place, indicating that, while obstacles existed,
developments in gender equality had taken place. Among these were
the entry into force of the first part of a new civil code, which
abolished a number of discriminatory laws and granted women equal
rights in issues pertaining to marriage and the family. Irretrievable
breakdown had been delineated as the only ground for divorce and
either spouse could request termination of the marriage on that
ground. Differences in status between children born in and out
of wedlock had been eliminated; a law had been enacted which provided
protection to domestic workers, most of whom were women; and termination
of labour contracts on the basis of marriage and pregnancy had
been prohibited. In addressing increased sexual violence against
women, the penal code had been amended to increase the maximum
punishment available for sexual offences and special training
had been given to police officers in dealing with victims of domestic
violence. Campaigns condemning violence against women had also
been carried out in collaboration with local non-governmental
organizations. The representative indicated that regional collaboration
on gender issues between Aruba, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles
was being expanded.
On behalf of the Government of Aruba, the representative indicated
that the National Bureau of Women's Affairs, established in 1996,
had had an important role to play in raising awareness of women's
rights, existing discriminatory laws and traditional attitudes
and practices. Owing to limited resources, most of the Bureau's
projects had been carried out within the context of the regional
collaboration between Aruba, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles.
The three had agreed to develop projects on job training for women,
gender-awareness training for media personnel, on sexuality and
reproductive health of teenage mothers and on violence against
women. A regional meeting would be held on women's participation
in positions of leadership and decision-making. The Aruban parliament
had approved a new civil code which eliminated existing discriminatory
laws, and a medical insurance scheme aimed at providing health
care for all persons had been introduced. Efforts were under way
to counteract violence against women, including through the establishment
of a shelter for battered women and the introduction of draft
amendments to the criminal code, which included marital rape.
Also of importance was the establishment of a Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS theme group for the prevention and control
of HIV/AIDS in Aruba. In closing, the representative mentioned
several remaining areas of concern, including sex-segregation
in the labour force, with the employment of women concentrated
in the lower-skilled and lower-paid occupations, and low levels
of women's participation in politics and decision-making.
(b) Concluding comments of the Committee
194. The Committee commends the Government of the Netherlands
on its second and third periodic reports, which are in accordance
with the Committee's guidelines for the preparation of periodic
reports. It also commends the Government for the comprehensive
written replies to the questions posed by the Committee's pre-sessional
working group, and the oral presentation of the delegation which
sought to clarify the current situation of women in the Netherlands,
as well as in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, and provided
additional information on the implementation of the Convention.
The Committee also welcomes the written responses to a number
of additional questions posed during constructive dialogue, which
were provided in the final week of the session.
The Committee congratulates the Government for its high-level
delegation, headed by the Secretary of State for Social Affairs
and Employment. The Committee expresses appreciation for the constructive
and frank dialogue that took place between the delegation and
the members of the Committee but expresses regret that no representatives
of the Governments of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles were
able to be part of the delegation which presented the reports,
since it considers that this would have enhanced that dialogue.
The Committee commends the Government on its conceptual approach
to the implementation of each article of the Convention which
incorporates, wherever possible, three policy levels: achievement
of complete equality for women before the law; improvement of
the position of women; and efforts to confront the dominant gender-based
The Committee also commends the Government on its extensive programme
of legislative and administrative reforms which contributes to
the implementation of the Convention.
The Committee further commends the Government on its programme
to combat trafficking, in particular the appointment of the National
Rapporteur on Traffic of Persons, whose aim is to provide the
Government with recommendations on how best to tackle the problem
of trafficking, and for its commitment to combat this phenomenon
at the level of the European Union.
The Committee commends the Government for its willingness to place
objections to reservations entered by other States parties that
it considers incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.
The Committee also commends the Government for having accepted
the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
The Committee welcomes the establishment in Aruba in 1996, in
accordance with the Committee's recommendations, of the National
Bureau of Women's Affairs.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention
The Committee notes that there are no significant factors or difficulties
which prevent the effective implementation of the Convention in
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
The Committee expresses concern that the policy in the Netherlands
of balanced division of paid work and unpaid care has not produced
the expected results, since the burden of unpaid care still falls
mainly upon women. The Committee is also concerned that women
who work outside the home devote twice as much time as men to
unpaid work, and that there are still insufficient child-care
The Committee recommends that the policy of balanced division
of paid work and unpaid care be reviewed. It also recommends that
greater efforts be devoted to the development of additional programmes
and policies to encourage men to share family and caring responsibilities.
The Committee also recommends that the Government ensure the availability
of sufficient childcare places, and an uninterrupted long school
Despite the efforts made to combat discrimination in the Netherlands,
the Committee expresses concern at the continuing discrimination
against immigrant refugee and minority women who suffer from multiple
discrimination, based both on their sex and on their ethnic background,
in society at large and within their communities, particularly
with respect to education, employment and violence against women.
The Committee also expresses concern about manifestations of racism
and xenophobia in the Netherlands.
The Committee urges the Government to take effective measures
to eliminate discrimination against immigrant, refugee and minority
women, both in society at large and within their communities.
It urges the Government to respect and promote the human rights
of women over discriminatory cultural practices, and take effective
and proactive measures, including awareness-raising programmes
and programmes to sensitize the community to combat patriarchal
attitudes and practices and stereotyping of roles and to eliminate
discrimination and violence against women in immigrant and minority
communities. The Committee also urges the Government to eliminate
xenophobia and racism in the Netherlands by strengthening its
efforts to combat the activities of racist and xenophobic groups
based in the country.
The Committee is concerned about the lack of information in the
reports on the de facto situation of women of ethnic and minority
communities in respect to their access to education, employment
and health services. It is also concerned at the limited information
on their freedom from violence, including female genital mutilation,
domestic violence and honour crimes, as well as other discriminatory
practices, such as polygamy, early marriage and forced pregnancy.
The Committee urges the Government to provide in its next report
detailed information, including statistics disaggregated by sex
and ethnicity, on the implementation of the Convention with respect
to different ethnic and minority groups resident in the territory
of the State party.
Noting the recent legislation on the abolition of the ban on brothels,
which came into effect in October 2000, the Committee emphasizes
that prostitution poses for women risks of exploitation and violence.
The Committee urges the Government to begin monitoring this law
immediately and provide, in its next report, an assessment of
the intended as well as unintended effects of the law, including
those pertaining to risk of violence and to health, in particular
in regard to those women without residence permits who are engaged
in prostitution. The Committee also urges the Government to increase
its efforts to provide training and education to prostitutes in
order to ensure that they have a full range of options for earning
The Committee expresses concern about non-European women who have
been trafficked, who fear expulsion to their countries of origin
and who might lack the effective protection of their Government
on their return.
The Committee urges the Government of the Netherlands to ensure
that trafficked women are provided with full protection in their
countries of origin or to grant them asylum or refugee status.
Although acknowledging the efforts undertaken by the Government
to solve the problem of discrimination faced by women at the workplace
through all of the legislative measures aimed at improving women's
economic status, including, inter alia, the Work and Care Bill,
the Flexibility and Security Act, the Working Conditions Act and
the Working Hours (Adjustment) Act, the Committee expresses concern
over continuing discrimination in employment and business enterprises.
The Committee also expresses concern with the "horizontal"
and "vertical" gender segregation of the labour market,
and the concentration of women in part-time employment. The Committee
further expresses concern that, in the private sector, women earn
on average 23 per cent less than men, although when adjusted in
the light of the work they do and their personal characteristics,
this differential is reduced to 7 per cent.
The Committee urges the Government to increase its efforts to
eliminate stereotypes relating to traditional areas of employment
and education for women. The Committee recommends efforts to improve
the conditions for working women so as to enable them to choose
full-time, rather than part-time, employment in which they are
currently over-represented. It also urges the Government to eliminate
the discrimination that part-time workers face in relation to
The Committee expresses concern that elderly women may be marginalized
within, as well as insufficiently covered by, the health insurance
and pension systems and urges the Government to pay special attention
to the needs of elderly women in "Daily routine" programmes.
The Committee expresses concern about the low presence of women
in high-ranking posts in all areas, in particular in academia
where, according to 1996 figures, women hold only 5 per cent of
The Committee also expresses concern about the low participation
of women in political and public life. In the present Government,
women hold 26.75 per cent of posts in ministries whereas, according
to 1998 figures, only 7.5 per cent of posts at the level of ambassador,
permanent representative and consul-general are filled by women.
The Committee urges the Government to make efforts to facilitate
an increase in the numbers of women in high-ranking posts, including
in decision-making in politics, the economy and academia. It recommends
the adoption of proactive measures to encourage more women to
apply for these posts and, where necessary, the implementation
of temporary special measures, as provided for in article 4, paragraph
1, of the Convention.
The Committee notes with concern that, in the Netherlands, there
is a political party represented in the Parliament that excludes
women from membership, which is a violation of article 7 of the
The Committee recommends that the State party take urgent measures
to address this situation, including through the adoption of legislation
that brings the membership of political parties into conformity
with its obligations under article 7.
The Committee expresses concern that there is insufficient information
on the issue of HIV/AIDS included in the reports and requests
the Government to provide such information in its next periodic
report, in accordance with general recommendation 15 of the Committee.6
The Committee also expresses concern at the absence of information
in the reports on tobacco and alcohol addiction among women. It
further expresses concern at the absence of information on drug
addiction among women, in particular in the light of decriminalization
of the use of certain drugs. The Committee requests that information
on these areas be provided in the next report and, taking account
of paragraph 10 of its general recommendation 24 on women and
health,2 on any measures adopted to address these issues.
The Committee further expresses concern that the new Law on Names
provides that, where the parents cannot reach an agreement as
to the name of a child, the father has the ultimate decision.
The Committee believes that this contravenes the basic principle
of the Convention regarding equality, in particular article 16
The Committee recommends that the Government review the Law on
Names and amend it to comply with the Convention.
The Committee found it difficult to evaluate the implementation
of the Convention in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles because
no representatives of the Governments of those territories were
part of the delegation which presented their reports.
The Committee urges that Government of the Netherlands to ensure
that the Governments of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles are
sufficiently supported so that they can be part of the delegation
of the Netherlands when it presents its next periodic report to
The Committee expresses its concern about the status of women
in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles where, despite the strides
that have been made towards strengthening the legal position of
women, gender equality is far from being achieved and gender-based
stereotypes persist. The Committee expresses particular concern
about the negative effects that the structural adjustment programmes
might have on women in the Netherlands Antilles and on the limited
resources available to the National Bureau of Women's Affairs
in Aruba, which might prevent the effective implementation of
projects aimed at empowering women.
The Committee urges the Government of the Netherlands to strengthen
its economic support to Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, in
particular support for programmes on capacity-building to better
achieve gender equality, including support for the implementation
of the Convention.
Noting the positive contributions of the Netherlands to the process
of elaboration of the Optional Protocol, the Committee urges the
Government to ratify that instrument as soon as possible.
The Committee requests the Government to respond to the concerns
expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic
report submitted under article 18 of the Convention.
The Committee requests the wide dissemination in the Netherlands,
including in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, of the present
concluding comments in order to make the people of the Netherlands,
in particular governmental administrators and politicians, aware
of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto
equality for women and of the further steps that are required
in this regard. It requests the Government to continue to disseminate
widely, in particular to women's and human rights organizations,
the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee's general
recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
and the results of the twenty-third special session of the General
Assembly, entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development
and peace in the twenty-first century".