Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women

CEDAW 68th Session – Introductory speech by the minister

Geneva, 07.11.17.

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Madame Chair,

Members of the Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to present Norway's report here today.

My government is committed to undertake measures on the national and international level, in order to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, in line with sustainable development goal number 5.

Norwegian society is based on equality in general and on gender equality in particular.

We passed our first Gender Equality Act in 1978, and Norway was among the first countries in the world to ratify the CEDAW Convention.

Together with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the convention forms the basis of our gender equality policy.

The convention has proved to be an important tool in our work for human rights and gender equality.

It is therefore with great respect that I will present the Norwegian policies, and answer the questions of the Committee.

Chair,

In 2014, the Norwegian Constitution was amended, and it now includes a comprehensive human rights catalogue.

Section 98 of the Constitution states that: "All people are equal under the law", and that "No human being must be subject to unfair or disproportionate differential treatment."

In June this year, Parliament adopted the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act.

The Act aims specifically at improving the position of women and minorities.

Parliament also enacted changes to the enforcement system.

A new Equality Tribunal will be established, which can award compensation in discrimination cases within working life.

This is a major improvement.

I would also like to highlight the White Paper on Gender Equality, that I presented to Parliament in 2015.

The White Paper focuses on five domestic areas:

  • Violence and abuse
  • Upbringing and education
  • Working life
  • Health
  • Business and entrepreneurship

The White Paper launched several measures to meet the challenges we are still facing.

Chair,

Over the past 50 years, better social services and the increase in higher education have led to women's entry into paid jobs.

Paid parental leave and affordable childcare have made it easier for more women to enter the workforce.

Today, women participate in the labour force almost at the same rate as men.

This is a big asset for our economy and contributes to the sustainability of our welfare state.

Chair,

Norway has one of the best parental leave schemes in the world.

Parents having a child are entitled to paid leave for 49 weeks with 100 per cent pay or 59 weeks with 80 per cent pay.

One quota is reserved for each parent.

This gives fathers and mothers a unique opportunity to combine paid work and family life.

There has been a discussion in Norway about the length of the father's quota.

When my government took office, we reduced the quota for fathers and mothers from 14 to 10 weeks.

This was because we wanted a more flexible scheme to let families themselves decide what suits them best.

However, following our parliamentary elections in September, Parliament has made a resolution urging the Government to extend the father's quota to fourteen weeks.

The Government will propose an extention of both the father's and the mother's quota from ten to fourteen weeks.

We are moving steadily towards an even more gender equal society.

  • More women work full time.
  • The number of women in management positions is growing.
  • And the gender pay gap has been reduced.

Chair,

Norway has come a long way towards equality and now ranks number 2 out of 144 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index – up one place from 2016!

Still, challenges remain – such as:

-       Violence against women

-       Gender segregation of education and of the labour market

-       And the need to include more immigrant women in the workforce.

Women are victims of violence in close relationships, sexual harassment and rape.

The committee, in its "List of issues", is questioning the high incidence of violence in Norway.

I am, as well as you, worried about the level of gender based violence, sexual violence, and sexual harassment in my country.

And I am worried that many victims do not report these crimes and do not seek help.

The Norwegian government’s view is clear.

Violence against women and domestic violence is unacceptable and punishable.

It must be prevented through measures to help and protect the victims and through treatment and prosecution of the perpetrators.

To underline our intentions in this field we have ratified the Istanbul Convention.

Norway has put in place a large range of preventive measures:

  • The government has presented a new strategy for Youth health. It covers issues such as preventing violence and abuse, helping the victims, and prosecuting the perpetrators;
  • Pregnant women are now routinely asked about violence at maternity check-ups;
  • The government provides funding for prevention activities run by non-profit organisations;
  • We have included the subject of violence and sexual abuse in training for school teacher students and police students;
  • And we run awareness-raising campaigns, targeting youth.

The last few weeks, harassment through the internet has been highlighted in the media - and  especially issues of sharing images with sexual content.

Most victims are girls, and this has a huge negative impact on their lives.

The Government will present a Strategy on internet related abuse. This will give us the opportunity to define a framework for our activities in this field.

We will also investigate a low-threshold enforcement system for sexual harassment cases.

The last years we have taken some important steps to improve the situation of women and children affected by violence:

  • We have ensured that the police give these cases higher priority;
  • We are improving the shelter services for victims of violence with drug addiction, mental health problems and disabilities; 
  • And we have developed measures to protect victims in more efficient ways. We will establish 12 support offices located in police stations for victims of crime.

They will:

  • give advice and practical help;
  • inform victims on the pending of a criminal case, from the bringing of charge to the court's judgment;
  • and assist with preparing applications for criminal injuries compensation.

In order to work effectively, plans and strategies have been developed.

This includes an Action Plan to combat domestic violence for the period 2014-2017.

We have also launched an Action Plan to Combat Negative Social Control, Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation. Next year, we will launch a new Action Plan against rape.

In 2014, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security launched a five-year research programme on domestic violence.

A total of 50 million Norwegian kroner has been allocated to the programme.

In 2015, a study on all intimate partner homicide cases in Norway from 1991 to 2012 was launched.

The study identifies risk factors and effective preventive measures for the police, for health care and support services concerning domestic violence.

We will establish a commission on intimate partner homicide. The commission will review a selection of intimate partner homicide cases as part of the efforts to develop better preventive measures.

Chair,

Women in Norway are active participants in public debate about all issues in society.

Some women are, however, reluctant to participate in the public debate because they have been met with hateful or abusive speech.

This keeps important voices from speaking out, and it represents a loss for democracy.

The work against hate speech is high on the Government's agenda.

One year ago, we launched a strategy against hate speech.

The Strategy aims to prevent hate speech on all discrimination grounds, including gender.

We also support the Council of Europe campaign No Hate Speech.

And we are about to establish a website and launch social media campaigns directed at youth, parents and teachers.

Chair,

We have come a long way towards gender equality in working life in Norway.

The inequalities that still exist are often associated with traditional choices of education and profession.

Business and industry are largely divided by gender.

Women now account for 60 per cent of students in higher education, but there is a gender imbalance in the choice of subjects.

Women now make up the majority of the students in formerly male dominated studies such as law and medicine.

But still, most health studies and education are dominated by women, and technological studies are dominated by men.

The Government supports the programme Girls and Technology, which aims at increasing the proportion of girls studying mathematics and natural sciences at all levels.

We have appointed an expert committee to acquire more knowledge about gender differences in school and to suggest measures to counter them.

We will also set up a public committee to investigate challenges to gender equality for children and youth.

Chair,

In the public sector, organisations and in politics, many women hold management positions.

In business life, management positions are still dominated by men, especially the senior executive positions.

But there has been some positive development.

In 2016, there were 22 000 more women in management positions than in 2013.

This number includes both the public and the private sector.

But in the 200 largest companies in Norway, 80 per cent of the members of executive committees are men.

And more than 90 per cent of the CEOs of these companies are men.

The Government funds the CORE, Centre for Research on Gender Equality and has given CORE the task of monitoring the gender balance in the largest Norwegian companies over time.

We will follow the development closely.

Chair,

To succeed in our work for gender equality, we need to include immigrant women in the workforce.

The employment rate for immigrants is lower than for the non-immigrant population.

The difference between immigrants and the Norwegian-born population is much larger for women than men, due to very low employment rates among female immigrants from Asia and Africa.

On the other hand, among Norwegian-born persons with immigrant parents, women are more active than men, as a result of the large share of women under 25 engaged in education.

The aim of the integration policy is to introduce measures that provide incentives for participation in the workforce.

This is a question of self-sufficiency and financial independence.

We have therefore proposed amendments to make the Introduction Program more job-oriented.

The Job Opportunity Programme now includes more target groups.

Low income should not be an obstacle for children to attend kindergarten.

More children than before now receive free core time in kindergarten, enabling the parents to join the workforce.

As from 1 July 2017 parents who claim cash-for-care benefits, must have lived five years in Norway.

This requirement is set to encourage immigrant women to send their children to kindergarten.

The requirement is also an incentive for better integration through education or paid work.

Women and girls who have immigrated, or have parents who have immigrated, have the same rights to make decisions about their own life as everybody else.

That is why we have launched an action plan to liberate children and young people in Norway from negative social control and various forms of coercion. 

Chair,

Several organizations and institutions have presented their own reports for the Committee.

I would like to thank them for their valuable contributions.

Civil society organizations are a source of input and correction to policy makers.

They challenge the authorities on behalf of different groups and play an important role in society.

I meet regularly with representatives from civil society organizations and I am often impressed by their efforts.

Today we will be focusing on the achievements we have had since our last dialog meeting with the CEDAW-committee – and on the challenges we still face.

I am looking forward to discussing gender equality issues with the distinguished members of the Committee.

The Norwegian delegation is made up of members from relevant ministries and from the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva.

They will introduce themselves by name as they take the floor.

I will now give the floor to Ms. Hege Nygård and Mr. Jan Austad who will elaborate on some of the issues I have touched upon. Thank you, chair.