Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women

CEDAW 68th Session - Supplementary speech

Geneva, 07.11.17.

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As the Minister mentioned, a new comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act was adopted by Parliament in June. The Act will enter into force in January.

It replaces the four current equality and anti-discrimination acts, and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, parental leave, caring for children or close family members, ethnicity, religion, belief, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age and combinations of these grounds.

There has been raised some criticism against such a holistic legal approach. Mainly due to the abolishment of a separate Gender Equality Act. A separate Gender Equality Act could have a symbolic value. However, it is important to underline that the new act will not weaken women’s protection against discrimination – quite the opposite.

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

It applies to all areas of society, including family life and other purely personal relationships, just like the Gender Equality Act.

In several regards, the new Act gives a better protection against discrimination against women, than the current Gender Equaliy Act.

For example:

  • The protection against pregnancy discrimination has been made more specific.
  • Caregiving is listed as a separate discrimination ground.
  • And the prohibition against discrimination based on a combination of discrimination grounds is specified.

The Act will be enforced by a new and strengthened Discrimination Tribunal.

The Tribunal will be given the authority to award redress in cases regarding working life.Today, only the ordinary courts of law can award redress in discrimination cases. This is a major achievement in the enforcement of these cases.

Chair,

In the list of issues, the Committee raises the issue of an allegedly continuing and growing tendency for gender neutralisation in Norwegian legislation, policies and programmes.

We do not recognize any clear tendency, as the Committee refers to, towards increased gender neutralisation. Norwegian laws, policy and programs are, and have always been, mainly gender neutral.

At the same time, the Government maintains its focus on challenges and obstacles to equality that are gender specific in policy and programs in all areas of society.

Chair,

In the list of issues, the Committee also expresses concern that the revised legislative drafting instructions no longer explicitly mention the requirement of assessing implications for gender equality and non-discrimination.

According to the revised instructions, the potential implications of a measure for all affected parties must be accounted for in the analysis of the issue. This implicates that also effects on gender equality should be included in the analysis.The guidelines to the instructions specify that fundamental questions of equal opportunities and discrimination shall be assessed if relevant.

The ministry in charge shall present all proposed measures with major effects to affected ministries. This implies that if major effects regarding equal opportunities are anticipated, the measure shall be presented to the Ministry of Children and Equality prior to public consultations. 

When the revised instructions have been in force for two or three years, an evaluation will be conducted in order to find out whether the quality of impact assessments has improved.