Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations: Russian Federation (2002).
Ms. Rosalyn Hazelle
Consideration of reports of States parties
1. The Committee considered the fifth periodic report of the Russian Federation (CEDAW/USR/5) at its 543rd and 544th meetings, on 25 January 2002.
I. Introduction by the State party
2. Introducing the report of her country, the representative of the Russian Federation analysed the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women for the period 1994-1998 and the situation of women within the framework of the current socio-economic climate and political situation in the Russian Federation. The country had experienced an unprecedented transition from a planned economy, a totalitarian regime and a one-party political system to a market economy, a democracy and a multi-party system. Such changes had had a profound impact on all aspects of life of the Russian population in general, and on women in particular, with the despair and fear of the early 1990s being replaced by a sense of optimism and hope.
3. The representative noted that the standard of living and personal incomes of the Russian population had started to rise, emphasizing that those positive developments in the economic sphere had allowed the Russian Government to begin to focus on social policy and programmes. For example, in the 2002 federal budget, more resources were reallocated to all social spheres. The priority was to increase investment in human capital, especially in terms of improving education and health care.
4. During the period covered by the report, the Government had introduced various legislative and administrative measures to improve the status of women, protect their rights and cushion the impact of the transitional period. Women had taken an active part in the reform process, resulting in the expansion of the women's movement, especially over the past three years. Women's non-governmental organizations had participated in all major national events and discussions on socio-economic and political issues. The national discussion on the theme "Initiatives of women citizens as a factor of sustainable development" had been organized within the Civil Forum which was held in November 2001.The representative noted that, with the increased dialogue between women's NGOs and the Government, there was now a real chance of improving the status of women in the country.
5. Pursuant to 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, the Government had identified five main priorities for the advancement of women in the Russian Federation. These included women's participation in decision-making, women and the economy, human rights of women, women and health, and the elimination of violence against women. The second National Plan of Action for the advancement of women had been adopted for 2001-2005.
6. The representative indicated that, as a result of the efforts of the Government, women's participation in political life, especially at the regional level, had increased. She emphasized the importance of the adoption, in 2000, of a Law on Political Parties, which in its article 8 ensured equal rights for women and men to be elected to all political positions. Despite new measures and initiatives, the level of women's participation remained very low, and out of 178 members of the Duma there were only 3 women. The level of women's participation in economic management was also low. To address this, the "Concept of the State Civil Service", currently under development, envisaged the introduction of gender-sensitive training to improve the participation of women at all levels of decision-making.
7. She informed the Committee of the adoption of the new Labour Code, which reflected the request of women's NGOs to limit the number of occupations barred to women. In addition, the Government had developed federal employment programmes for the population that envisaged quotas for women and included social security provisions for the most vulnerable groups of women. She also described plans to conduct a gender analysis of labour legislation and to develop monitoring procedures on women's participation in the labour market. She shared the Government's concern regarding existing discriminatory practices in the recruitment and dismissal of women, especially pregnant women, and the persistence of occupational segregation. Another source of concern was the substantial deterioration in the situation of rural women.
8. In order to reduce poverty, the Government was planning to increase the minimum wage by a factor of 2.5, expand the system of compensation for housing, review tax legislation, increase subsidies and allowances for mothers and children, and proceed with pension reform. Beginning in 2002, maternity allowances would be increased threefold. The representative described efforts to bring the country out of its demographic crisis by implementing measures to stimulate the birth rate, provide assistance to families, improve the health of the population and reduce maternal and infant mortality.
9. The representative described the health situation in the country. In the period of transition, the quality of health of the population had generally deteriorated, but there had been improvement in the reproductive health of women. The efforts of the Government had resulted in a decrease in the number of abortions, with the absolute number of abortions being reduced by a factor of 1.3, with 1,961 abortions in 2000 as compared, for example, with 2,498 in 1997. However, only 23.6 per cent of women used effective methods of contraception. Among other achievements were the reduction of birth pathology, as well as maternal and infant mortality. Efforts were under way to improve access to health services for rural women. Concern existed with respect to the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug addiction among women, and measures aimed at combating these problems had been introduced.
10. The representative indicated that the issue of violence against women, including domestic violence, continued to be a serious problem for society. Surveys suggested that about 70 per cent of women experienced violence at some time in their lives, and women constituted 40 per cent of the victims of premeditated murders. The Government, together with non-governmental organizations, was designing and implementing a wide range of measures and initiatives aimed at eliminating violence against women. These included the establishment of crisis centres, the introduction of new legislation together with the revision of existing legislation, awareness-raising campaigns, the collection of information and statistical data, gender-sensitive training of law officials as well as other programmes. The Government had also started to pay very serious attention to the growing problem of sex-exploitation and of trafficking in women and girls.
11. She reported on further steps undertaken by the Government to strengthen the national machinery for the advancement of women and mainstream a gender perspective into policy decision-making at the national and regional levels. The role and functions of the Women's Commission, which was responsible for mainstreaming a gender perspective into state policies and programmes in all areas, within the Government had been strengthened and expanded.
12. The representative indicated that the Commission on the Status of Women had been established in the upper chamber of Parliament, and the Department on Women's and Children's Affairs had been established in the Office of Ombudsmen on Human Rights. Many regional governing structures had also created women's commissions, departments or councils. The newly created inter-ministerial commission was responsible for the implementation of regional plans for the advancement of women, while the newly established "Round Table" within the Labour Ministry included representatives of non-governmental and non-commercial organizations and contributed to the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in governmental decisions. It also operated an ongoing negotiating forum between the authorities and women's organizations.
13. In concluding her presentation, the representative noted that, despite some definite progress in the implementation of the Convention, the Government was aware that much more needed to be done to ensure the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality. She articulated her Government's commitment to further efforts in this regard.
II. Concluding comments of the Committee
14. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the Government of the Russian Federation for the presentation of its fifth periodic report, which followed the Committee's guidelines. It commends the Government on its informative responses to the list of issues and questions and the frank and comprehensive oral presentation, which updated the Committee on developments in the country since the submission of the report in 1999.
15. The Committee also commends the Government of the Russian Federation for sending a delegation headed by the First Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Development.
16. The Committee welcomes the fact that the provisions of international treaties, and in particular of the Convention, are a component part of the State's legal system and can be directly invoked in domestic courts.
17. The Committee welcomes the enactment of the 1995 Family Code and the 2001 Federal Act on Political Parties. It welcomes the Government's adoption of the 1996 Outline on the advancement of women's socio-economic status and the National Action Plan to increase women's representation in decision-making positions, as well as the current consideration by the State Duma of the bill on a gender strategy. It welcomes the initiatives taken to combat violence against women and child prostitution.
18. The Committee also welcomes the publicity awarded to the Convention and the distribution of the State party's reports and the recommendations of the Committee.
Factors impeding the implementation of the Convention
19. The Committee notes that the economic transition, particularly the decrease of the standard of living and the increase in the number of people living beneath the poverty line, has posed impediments to the full implementation of the Convention.
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
20. The Committee is concerned that women's right to equality embodied in the Constitution of 12 December 1993 has not yet become an effective tool of social or legal policy. It is concerned that, although the Constitution guarantees the equal rights of women before the law, it does not expressly prohibit sex discrimination, in the way that it prohibits social, racial, national, linguistic and religious discrimination.
21. The Committee urges the Government to provide effective procedures and remedies for the enforcement of women's constitutional right to equality and for the prohibition of discrimination by both state and private agents. It also recommends that the Government take measures to ensure the effective implementation of the constitutional principle of equality for women and its dissemination as a principle of behaviour among the legal profession and the population at large.
22. The Committee is concerned that there is a reluctance to treat discrimination against women as a distinct structural problem, requiring distinct and separate methods of treatment and legislation. It is concerned that women are not resorting to the courts to combat sex discrimination because, in part, of distrust of the legal system, evidentiary barriers and the cost of litigation.
23. The Committee recommends that distinct legislation and machinery be adopted for combating women's disadvantage and discrimination, particularly in the areas of domestic violence, sexual violence, employment and sexual harassment. Such measures should provide specifically tailored prohibitions and civil remedies for women victims, with appropriate provisions to address problems of accessibility to the courts, evidentiary barriers and litigation costs. All such measures should be accompanied by a vigorous awareness-raising campaign to apprise women of their rights.
24. The Committee is concerned that the national machinery for the advancement of women, including the Commission on Enhancement of the Status of Women, may be rendered ineffectual because of lack of clear legal status and mandate, and insufficient financial and human resources.
25. The Committee urges the Government to confer proper jurisdictional powers on and allocate sufficient financial and human resources to the national machinery for the advancement of women to enable it to ensure the practical realization of equality for women.
26. The Committee notes with concern the persistence of cultural stereotypes, evidenced by legislation which has been attempted to be introduced in the State Duma, based on traditional attitudes and stereotypes with respect to the role of women and men in the family and society.
27. While commending the introduction of human rights education in school curricula, the Committee urges the Government to emphasize women's rights as human rights, to increase awareness-raising programmes, including those directed towards men, and to take measures to change stereotypical attitudes and perceptions about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society.
28. The Committee is concerned that the representation of women in the State Duma, which was low in 1993, has decreased even further since 1993, from 16 per cent to 7.2 per cent, and that a similar trend is evident for women deputies and in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The Committee is concerned that, of 178 members of the Council of the Federation, only 2 are women. The Committee is also concerned that there have, since 1997, been no women who have held the post of federal minister.
29. The Committee welcomes the Federal Act on Political Parties of July 2001 and recommends that the Government take further measures to give practical and concrete effect to the Act, including the adoption of temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1 of the Convention.
30. The Committee is deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation of women in employment, with women's share in highly paid sectors decreasing, and at increasing industrial and occupational segregation, with women constituting the overwhelming majority of the workers in low-paying jobs in health care, education, culture and social security. The Committee is concerned, in particular, that the level of women's pay in the economy as a whole is only 65 per cent of men's; that de facto discrimination against women persists in hiring, especially in the private sector; and, that in the State Service, women constitute 55 per cent of public servants but occupy only 9 per cent of leadership positions and 1.3 per cent of high leadership positions.
31. The Committee urges the enactment of an equal employment opportunity law, prohibiting discrimination in hiring, promotion, employment conditions or dismissal. It also urges enactment of legislation requiring equal pay for work of equal value. The Committee recommends that such legislation should enable women and women's NGOs to take legal action in cases of employment or wage discrimination and should provide effective enforcement procedures and remedies. The Committee also recommends the introduction of temporary special measures, with time-bound targets, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
32. The Committee welcomes Government policy to protect women against unsafe working conditions but is concerned that 12 per cent of women work in conditions which do not meet health and safety standards. It is also concerned about the exclusion of women of childbearing age from a list of 456 jobs, which may result in the effective exclusion of women from certain employment sectors. The Committee notes that the list is under reconsideration and also notes that employers may employ women in the prohibited jobs if the necessary standards are in place.
33. The Committee recommends that the Government require all employers to conform to the mandated standards, which would allow both women and men to work in proper conditions of health and safety. It accordingly recommends continued reconsideration of the list of prohibited jobs, in consultation with women's NGOs, with a view to reducing their number.
34. The Committee is concerned at the feminization of poverty and appreciates the Government's recognition of this problem. The Committee is also concerned about the fact that women constitute a large proportion of single-parent families and of the working poor, and at the disproportionate impact of the remaining debt in unpaid back-wages on women in public employment and the poverty of older women.
35. The Committee recommends that, in addition to the measures to reduce poverty in the Programme for Socio-Economic Development of July 2001, the Government collate accurate data on the extent of women's poverty and its causes and, urgently, take special positive measures to alleviate women's poverty as a distinct structural problem.
36. The Committee is extremely disturbed by the high level of domestic violence against women. It is concerned at the prevalent tendency, including by law enforcement officials, to view such violence not as a crime, but as a private matter between the spouses. The Committee is concerned that the Government has not taken sufficiently urgent measures to combat domestic violence and that none of the numerous draft bills on domestic violence has been enacted into law.
37. The Committee, in accordance with its General Recommendation 19, urges the immediate enactment of specific domestic violence legislation to facilitate the prosecution of offenders. It also urges the Government to take immediate and effective measures to provide training to all levels of law enforcement officers and judges as to the serious and criminal nature of domestic violence. It recommends the provision of training to health-care professionals and social workers to improve recognition and reporting of domestic violence. It recommends the provision of measures of physical protection for women who are victims of domestic violence, such as removal of the violent person from the family home, and state budgeting for a sufficient number of shelters for the victims of violence. All such measures should be accompanied by a vigorous awareness-raising campaign emphasizing that domestic violence is a criminal offence and not a "private matter".
38. The Committee is concerned about reports of ill-treatment of women in pre-detention centres and in prisons. The Committee is deeply concerned by the fact that, despite credible evidence that police officials have used violence against women in custody, the Government has not, as a rule, investigated, disciplined or prosecuted offenders. The Committee is also disturbed by the fact that, despite strong evidence that members of the Russian forces have committed acts of rape or other sexual violence against women in the context of the armed conflict in Chechnya, the Government has failed to conduct the necessary investigations or hold anyone accountable, in the vast majority of cases.
39. The Committee urges the Government to take measures to ensure that state officials responsible for women in custody desist from all acts of violence and, in particular, acts of sexual violence against women and girls and that any such acts be dealt with as serious breaches of the human rights of women and be severely punished.
40. The Committee is concerned about reports regarding the great increase in prostitution and, in particular, the number of girl street children who are exploited as prostitutes. It is concerned that the poverty of women and girls is the major causal factor.
41. Noting the Government's programmes of action to provide street children with shelter, subsistence and education, the Committee urges the Government to continue and extend such programmes and to apply them, appropriately modified, to women forced into prostitution by poverty. It also urges giving priority to the prosecution of those who live off the earnings of prostitutes and of adults involved in the exploitation of child prostitutes, with the introduction of special legislative provisions if necessary.
42. Noting the concern of the Security Committee of the State Duma in 1997 with respect of the increase in trafficking of Russian women to foreign countries for sexual exploitation, the Committee notes that in the period from 1994 to 1997 only four court cases were brought and seven persons were convicted for such offences. In addition, the Committee is concerned that the Russian Federation has also become a country of destination for trafficked women.
43. The Committee recommends the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to combat the trafficking of women, which should include the prosecution and punishment of offenders, increased international regional and bilateral cooperation, witness protection and the rehabilitation of women and girls who have been victims of trafficking. The Committee requests the Government to provide, in its next report, comprehensive information on trafficking of women and girls.
44. The Committee appreciates the measures taken by the Russian Federation to combat the effect of HIV/AIDS on pregnant women. It is, however, concerned that the Government regards HIV/AIDS as primarily resulting from the conduct of individuals in the context of drug abuse and alcoholism.
45. The Committee urges the Government to address the gender aspects of HIV/AIDS, including the power differential between women and men, which often prevents women from insisting on safe and responsible sex practices. It encourages the Government to strengthen its efforts to raise awareness and educate women and girls on ways to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. The Committee urges the Government to ensure the equal rights and the access of women and girls to detection, health care and social services.
46. The Committee is concerned at the deteriorating state of women's health and is particularly concerned at the increase in gynaecological problems and pregnancies among teenage girls. The Committee also notes with concern that, although there has been a decrease in the rate of abortions, this rate remains high and the number of women using effective contraceptive measures is low.
47. The Committee recommends that the Government, in accordance with General Recommendation 24 of the Committee, fully implement a life-cycle approach to women's health and urges the Government to strengthen family planning programmes and affordable access to contraceptive measures for all women in all regions. It also urges the Government to include sex education in the school curriculum.
48. The Committee expresses its concern with regard to the situation of rural women and, in particular, their degree of access to income-generating activities.
49. The Committee requests the Government to provide more information and data on the situation of rural women in its next periodic report; and recommends that the Government pay greater attention to the situation of rural women and develop special policies and programmes aimed at their economic empowerment, ensuring their access to capital and productive resources.
50. The Committee welcomes the Government's commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2003, and to deposit as soon as possible its instrument of acceptance to the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
51. The Committee urges the Government to respond in its next periodic report to the specific issues raised in the present concluding comments and to provide updated data and statistics disaggregated by sex and age.
52. The Committee requests the wide dissemination in the Russian Federation of the current concluding comments in order to inform the public in general, and government administrators and politicians in particular, of the steps that have been taken to ensure the de jure and de facto equality of women as well as of further steps that are required in this regard. It also requests the Government to continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women's and human rights organizations, the Convention, 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 for the twenty-first century".