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United Nations


General Assembly


[Voor volledige tekst van het verslag van de 49e CEDAW-zitting: klik hier].

Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Thirteenth session General Assembly Official Records - Forty-ninth Session Supplement No. 38 (A/49/38)


      UNDER ARTICLE 18 OF THE CONVENTION ........  36 - 776   23

B. Consideration of reports ...............  38 - 776   23

1.   Initial reports ...................  38 - 368   23


Netherlands ....................... 245 - 317   53





245.  The Committee considered the initial report of the
Netherlands (CEDAW/C/NET/1 and Add.1-3) at its 234th and 239th
meetings, on 17 and 20 January (see CEDAW/C/SR.234 and 239).

246.  In introducing the report of the Netherlands, which
consisted of three parts, one concerning the European territory
and two others concerning the autonomous islands of the
Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, the representative of the
Government stressed that the Convention was considered to be an
integral part of the internationally recognized human rights
instruments that formed part of the Netherlands legal and
political order.  The Convention was valued not only as the
international legal basis for the national programme of legal
reforms, but also as a source of reference for the development of
policies and programmes for women's equality.  She outlined
important revisions of and additions to existing legislation as a
result of the ratification of the Convention.

247.  In referring to the country's emancipation policy, she said
that the coordination and integration of the policy in all
ministries and departments was hampered by the fragmented
structure of administrative and political decision-making, which
constituted an obstacle to the effectiveness of the national
machinery.  Efforts to redress that problem included the use of
the Department for the Coordination of Emancipation Policy as a
centre of expertise on policy-making in matters of equality.  She
said that part of the emancipation-support policy was the
provision of financial support to non-governmental organizations
for their activities in this field.

248.  She stated further that under the law of the Netherlands a
Convention to which the country had become a State party
automatically became part of the Netherlands legal order, and
that national laws and regulations which were contrary to the
Convention's provisions lost their validity.  In the course of
her explanation of the ratification process, she mentioned the
adoption, in the very near future, of a general equal treatment
act.  The Government was instructed to report to Parliament on
the implementation of the Convention four years after its entry
into force and every subsequent four years.  She cited, as an
example of the functioning of the Government's emancipation
support policy, the preparation for the Committee of a shadow
report by non-governmental organizations, which counterbalanced
the official report because it accurately reflected the
relationship between the Government and private voluntary
organizations, and an additional advisory report by the external
advisory body belonging to the national machinery.

249.  The representative of the Netherlands Antilles said that
Convention not only contributed to identifying some existing
deficiencies in the infrastructure with regard to the
implementation of some of its provisions, but it also showed
constraints in the field of reporting in general, for instance
with regard to the collection of statistical information.  She
emphasized the relationship between economic activities and their
effect on the status of women and confirmed her Government's
intention never to let the economic status of the country justify
non-compliance with the provisions of the Convention.  She said
that the pace of the Convention's implementation could be
affected by different factors in the community.

250.  She reported on a decrease in the unemployment rate among
women in recent years and a recent decision to apply the
principle of equal pay for equal work to all civil servants.
Consciousness-raising programmes on gender issues had been
carried out.  She also highlighted the role of the Bureau for
Women's Affairs as the coordinating body of the national
machinery in the field of women and development and said that one
of the priority areas of its agenda was violence against women.

251.  The representative of Aruba pointed out that the entry into
force of the Convention had given a new impetus to the rights of
the female population.  The rapid economic development in the
last five years had caused a sharp increase in the participation
of women in the local labour force.  While the proportion of
women in the labour market increased to over 50 per cent in 1993,
the corresponding changes in labour conditions and in the social
field, which were necessary to facilitate the combination of
professional work and family tasks, were still lagging behind.
The Government of Aruba was, therefore, studying the possibility
of part-time work and an increase in the number of day-care

252.  The representative said that the predominant influence of
economic factors on important areas of the society explained why
it was that women were not particularly active in women's rights
movements.  However, they were pioneers in providing information
about HIV/AIDS and were very active in providing information on,
and preventing, child abuse.  The Aruban Human Rights Committee,
which was formally installed in 1993, dealt with reporting
obligations and was authorized to advise the Government on human
rights issues and to raise consciousness among the population
about the existence of human rights in a society where there was
no network of non-governmental organizations.  The Committee had
also introduced human rights education in the general school
curricula.  The Convention had been translated into Papiamento
and presented in a simplified version to the public.

General observations

253.  Members of the Committee commended the extensive, very
detailed report, which adhered to the general guidelines and also
contained ample statistics and graphs, and its presentation to
the Committee.  They welcomed the fact that the Convention had
led to revisions of and additions to existing legislation and
that it had been ratified without reservations.  They noted that
human rights education was included in school curricula and that
the Convention had been translated into the native language of
Aruba.  Members were favourably impressed by the fact that, one
year before presenting each subsequent report to the Committee,
the Government would have to report to Parliament, and they
commended the concern that was shown about the issue of sexual
preference.  Members noted that the Government gave support to
women's groups.  In reaction to the members' concern as to why
non-governmental organizations had not been consulted in the
course of the report's preparation, the representative explained
that much value was attached to the distribution of power and the
spread of responsibilities in the country.  Since
non-governmental organizations were independent, they were
responsible only towards their respective constituencies; they
could criticize, question or judge governmental policies, but
were never responsible for them.  The critical input of
non-governmental organizations was sometimes a challenge to
government policy, but was never an integral part of it; in that
way those organizations did not lose their independence.

254.  Members made specific reference to the shadow report
prepared by non-governmental organizations and were interested in
the Government's reaction to some of the issues addressed in it.
The representative said that it was not necessary to discuss all
the issues raised in the shadow report, since many of the same
issues would be addressed under the different articles of the

255.  In reaction to the observation that the report should have
been more result-oriented and should have given a more in-depth
analysis of both the status of women and the policy approach
taken by the Government, the representative explained that that
was partly the result of the fact that contributions to the
report came from different parts of the Administration and that
it proved difficult to follow the Committee's guidelines without
losing sight of the country's policy priorities.  Committee
members felt that the many efforts undertaken were not matched by
an equal number of positive results.

256.  Whereas some members commented on the fragmented nature of
the national machinery, others said that its structure
highlighted the political will of the Government to introduce the
policy of women's rights into the mainstream.  The representative
replied that, in her country, national machinery meant a complex
of various institutions responsible for dealing with different
aspects of the advancement of women.  The main political
responsibility for the emancipation policy rested with the State
Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment and, at the
administrative level, its core was the Department for the
Coordination of Emancipation Policy.  The Emancipation Council
and the Equal Opportunities Commission also belonged to the broad
national machinery.  In addition, the role played by other
ministries and departments, local and regional authorities, trade
unions and non-governmental organizations was also highlighted.
In follow-up remarks, members asked whether the transfer of
responsibility on women's issues to the regional and municipal
levels posed a danger, and requested information on this in
subsequent reports.

257.  When members stated that women's issues should also be
included in the mainstream of the activities of all of the
government departments in the Netherlands Antilles, the
representative said that the national machinery had started to
function in 1989 and had been restructured under the competence
of the Minister for General Affairs, who was currently the Prime
Minister.  In 1992, the Government had organized a workshop on
human rights and the reporting procedures for participants from
different social strata, during which the Convention was also
dealt with.  It was important for the national machinery to
receive information on gender bias from all interested parties in
order to tackle the areas of concern in a structural way.  Data
were currently gathered in an insufficiently uniform way and the
conduct of research in the five islands that comprised the
Netherlands Antilles faced practical difficulties, related to the
decentralization in several policy fields and the specific needs
and characteristics of the different islands.  Recognizing the
need for population studies, the Bureau for Women's Affairs was
working on an integral draft policy plan for women and

258.  The representative of Aruba reported that in 1986 the
Government had appointed a focal point for women's affairs at
the Directorate of Social Affairs.  Despite numerous efforts,
that had not yet led to the development of an integral and
interdepartmental emancipation policy.

259.  Members expressed their hope that the island countries
be kept informed about the presentation of their reports to the
Committee and about the Committee's reactions.

Questions related to specific articles

      Article 2

260.  In reply to questions about what was meant in the report by
the working of the Constitution on equal treatment in horizontal
relationships, the representative of the European territory said
that horizontal relationships referred to relationships between
citizens, as opposed to the vertical relationship between
citizens and the State.  One of the main aims of the
anti-discrimination legislation was to determine in which cases
citizens were obliged to respect the fundamental rights of their
fellow citizens and in which they might follow their own

261.  Commending the measures taken to combat the problem of
violence against women, members asked which measures had proved
to be the most successful and requested information on the amount
of money spent on those measures.  The representative explained
that the various instruments that had been used in that respect
were changes in legislation, research and care and assistance to
victims.  The prevention of sexual violence was a policy
priority.  In 1993, approximately $40 million was spent on
various policy measures, such as shelters, information and
innovative projects and the supporting structure.  The
responsibility in all such matters lay with various ministries.

262.  Replying to the question how many women had made use of the
possibility of filing recourse action in cases of discrimination,
the representative said that, since its revision in 1989, the
Equal Opportunities Act had been used in some 40 to 50 court
cases and over 500 cases had been dealt with by the Equal
Opportunities Commission.  Referring to the new guidelines for
public prosecution concerning cases of discrimination, of
September 1993, the representative stated that they would be
reviewed after the entry into force of the General Equal
Opportunities Act.

263.  More information was requested on the follow-up policy
document on sexual violence against women and girls.  The members
of the Committee made positive comments on the Government's
interpretation of equal access of women to jobs in the military.

      Article 3

264.  In reply to the members' requests for copies of the social
atlas on the situation of women, the representative said that it
was available only in Dutch.
265.  When asked who was responsible for financing support
at the national, regional and provincial levels and whether a
coordinating body for the various levels would be set up, as well
as whether the Government intended to institutionalize the
funding for women's centres, the representative explained that
each case was different.  Some ministries subsidized certain
projects on a permanent basis, whereas other organizations and
national support centres were funded for limited periods.  Often
after the initial period an evaluation was conducted and it was
decided on a case-by-case basis whether the subsidy should be
prolonged and which party should take the responsibility.  The
overall responsibility for the emancipation support policy
resided with the State Secretary for Emancipation Policy.

266.  Regarding the summary of the position of women based on
recent statistics, referred to in paragraph 323 of the report,
the representative said that it was unfortunately not available
in time for the session and would be sent to the members of the
Committee immediately after publication.

267.  Reacting to the disappointment expressed by members at the
abolition of the Cabinet Committee for Emancipation Policy in
1991, the representative explained that that was the result of a
process of political and administrative reform.

268.  Members asked how it was possible that the Queen could be
President of the Council of State, which was the highest advisory
body in the country, serving her in fact with advice.

      Article 4

269.  Regarding a request for further information on the targets
set and the timetables provided for temporary special measures,
the representative stated that the goal of government policy was
to impose positive action or preferential treatment by law only
as a measure of last resort.  Although the Government had set
targets to increase the number of women in almost every sphere of
the civil service, no sanctions were applied if targets were not

      Article 5

270.  Members welcomed the reports from non-governmental
organizations on article 5 and requested clarification of the
policy for equal rights of lesbian women.  The representative
postponed presenting an overview of related government policies
and programmes to the second periodic report.

      Article 6

271.  It was asked whether, within the Bureau for Women's
there were special departments to deal with the abuse of women
and children.  The representative of Aruba stated that the issue
remained a sensitive area of concern.  According to data obtained
from the Police Department, offences related to the sexual abuse
of women and children constituted a considerable part of their
workload and the figures were increasing.  A private organization
had been set up to help children who were victimized by such
crimes and adults could seek legal redress or obtain help at the
Bureau of Family Difficulties.

272.  Doubts were expressed as to whether voluntary prostitution
could be considered an entirely personal matter and a profession.

Confronted with the issue of the forced prostitution of immigrant
women, the representative of the European territory of the
Netherlands replied that traffic in women was considered a
problem of forced prostitution and that persons who were
illegally in the Netherlands and had been forced into
prostitution would be granted a residence permit for the period
of time covering any investigation into their situation and the
court session.

273.  Regarding the HIV/AIDS situation in the Netherlands, it was
reported that the Government had been formulating a policy on
HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic, a policy which was
being implemented at national, regional and municipal levels, in
close cooperation between the competent health ministry and
interested groups.  Its key aims were prevention of the further
spread of HIV, care, research and prevention of discrimination
against infected persons, including AIDS-information campaigns
for prostitutes.

274.  Regarding a question about the reasons for the increase in
sexual violence, the representative said its increase was not
influenced by the fact that pornography was not prohibited.  It
was even possible that the availability of pornography for adults
had had a restraining influence on the incidence of violence
against women.

      Article 7

275.  The Committee commended the way in which the report of the
Netherlands mentioned the dates of introduction of male suffrage
and universal suffrage, when the vote was conceded to women.
They expressed surprise at the scarce references in the report to
policies of the European Union that promoted equality of
opportunities between women and men.  Members asked what the
reactions of the Government and non-governmental organizations
were to positive measures, including legislation to include a
larger number of women in electoral lists, and they requested
further clarification on the electoral system and on the
possibility of modifying lists of candidates in order to
introduce more women.  The representative explained that one of
the main aims of the emancipation policy was to try to increase
the number of women in politics and public administration.  As
the candidates were put forward by the autonomous political
parties, and the Government had no influence in that sphere, it
could only exercise indirect influence through measures such as
the provision of grants to political parties for activities aimed
at increasing the number of women in politics or the setting-up
of special working groups dealing with the issue.  The political
parties themselves decided on the names and the order of
candidates on the list and it depended on the importance given by
the individual parties to women in politics as to whether women
were elected.

276.  Regarding the size of grants given to political parties,
representative said that an amount of about $2.7 million per year
was given by the Government to political parties for training,
education and related activities, but only if the activities were
related to matters of importance to the functioning of the
democracy, and only if a party was in financial difficulty.

277.  In response to the request for an analysis of the progress
made and the obstacles encountered in securing parity democracy,
the representative explained that, regarding the composition of
elected bodies, parity between women and men was not an objective
to be achieved by the Government and that parity democracy was
rejected as conflicting with the basic principles of democracy

278.  In answer to a question about the target figure for female
Queen's Commissioners, the representative said that new Queen's
Commissioners were appointed by the Cabinet, according to the
relative strength of the political parties in the Second Chamber
of Parliament, from among the veterans from the field of public
administration, only a few of whom were women.

279.  Regarding the number of women in administrative and
political positions in provincial and municipal governments, the
representative said that detailed figures would be provided to
the Committee in a brochure.

280.  Further questions were posed as to whether the marked
decline in the membership of most political parties was the same
for women and for men and whether women's membership in
non-governmental organizations had increased.  Considering that
some parties mandated that their members belong to a particular
church, it was asked whether there was a danger of religious

281.  Regarding the number of women deputies in the Parliament of
the Netherlands Antilles, their representative stated that
currently 13 per cent of the members of Parliament were women,
and 30 per cent of the ministerial and junior ministerial posts
were occupied by women.

      Article 8

282.  Asked about government policies to increase the number of
women in the diplomatic service, the representative of the
Netherlands explained that policy measures were geared towards
the recruitment and promotion of women and that preferential
treatment was applied in cases where candidates had equal
qualifications.  In the case of couples with both partners in the
diplomatic service, a number of arrangements had proved to be
satisfactory to all parties concerned.

      Article 10

283.  Members inquired whether programmes demonstrated that a
of education was an obstacle to gender equality.

      Article 11

284.  Regarding the employment rate of women, which until
was relatively low in the Netherlands, it was said that it could
be explained by historical, economic and social development, but
that thus far social scientists had not been able to give a
generally accepted answer.

285.  As to the question whether the increased number of women in
part-time employment was a manifestation of direct or indirect
discrimination against women, the representative said that that
was not the case.  Most women sought part-time jobs themselves in
order to achieve a better balance in their lives between their
various duties, and men too were looking for part-time work.

286.  Regarding questions concerning the number of working hours
that qualified a job as part-time and the percentage of women
working in double part-time work, the representative stated that,
in general, that qualification was applied to jobs with less than
38 to 40 hours per week and that no statistics were available on
the number of women working in double part-time jobs.

287.  Considering that women were highly concentrated in a
number of occupations, in spite of having the same educational
level as men, several measures were being taken to redress the
situation, such as awareness campaigns through teaching materials
and the media.

288.  The representative said that the requests for more
information on pay differences between women and men and pay for
work of equal value would be answered and supplemented by
statistics in the second periodic report.  Group action was
possible in cases of unequal pay, and that was one of the main
reasons for having introduced group action.  Data on female
agricultural workers would also be supplied in the subsequent

289.  Members inquired whether sanctions existed in the event
the public employment services did not meet the set targets.
Regarding women working in the private sector, the organizations
and enterprises concerned carried out affirmative action for
which they could receive government grants.

290.  Asked about the volume of paid work at home, the
representative said that official statistics differed a great
deal from one set of statistics to another and that legislation
to improve the situation of those doing paid work at home was in

291.  Regarding questions about the position of women enrolled in
private social insurance schemes, the representative said that
any related problems should soon disappear in view of the
forthcoming implementation of relevant legislation.

292.  In response to questions about the former and the current
taxation situation for women, and concern expressed by members
about the negative effect of the so-called breadwinner's benefit
in the system of personal income tax on women's participation in
the labour market, the representative stated that the major tax
reform in the 1980s removed de jure differential treatment of
women and men.  A person's decision to enter the labour market
was influenced by various considerations.  It was, therefore, not
certain whether the system really functioned as a disincentive
for all women to enter the labour market.

293.  Members asked whether the Government provided child-care
facilities to single and unmarried mothers, whether affirmative
action was undertaken aimed at employing more women in managerial
positions and what the social security situation and unemployment
benefits of women as compared with men were.  Members commented
that the labour market schemes and targets for unemployed women
were not obligatory enough for officials.

294.  Regarding the question whether women who suffered
discrimination at work could refer in court to article 11 of the
Convention, the representative replied that it was possible only
in litigation against the State, but not against a private
employer or another citizen.

295.  When asked whether the Government of Aruba was planning to
eliminate the provision according to which dismissal on the
grounds of pregnancy was legal, the representative of Aruba
stated that in the instance of female government employees no
cases of dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy had ever been
presented.  In the private sector, dismissal required special
previous approval and pregnancy was not considered to be
sufficient reason to grant such permission.  As the Civil Code
prohibited dismissal in cases of sickness, pregnancy was
considered to be included under sickness.

      Article 12

296.  In reaction to the comment by members that the report was
not detailed enough on the question of health, the representative
of the Netherlands said that in 1994 a study would be conducted
on the access of women to health services.

297.  Replying to a question about the availability of special
programmes for women who were already infected with HIV/AIDS, the
representative said that while all government programmes were
accessible to both women and men, the Government subsidized a
Women and AIDS office and self-help groups were trying to get
women out of their isolation.  Although tourism was one of the
main industries in Aruba, the prevalence of AIDS infection was
relatively low.  The National AIDS Commission offered care and
counselling, as well as control measures, including health
education.  Specific information and guidance was also provided
to prostitutes.

298.  Following a request for further information on drug
addiction among women and related programmes, the representative
of the Netherlands explained that the central objective of the
drug policy was to reduce, as much as possible, the risks that
drug abuse presented to the users, their environment and society.

A pragmatic approach to the problem proved to be more effective
and statistics showed that generally one woman was addicted for
every three men.

299.  Asked about the Government's position on euthanasia, the
representative stated that she did not think it proper to link
euthanasia with women's issues.

300.  Referring to the question whether there was legislation
regarding artificial insemination and whether it was based on
ethical or on scientific principles, the representative replied
that artificial insemination was not regulated by law.  However,
hospitals had their codes of conduct and an individual physician
with a different view on the matter could refer a woman to a
colleague to undertake the procedure.  It was important that
women applying for that procedure not be refused on the basis of
their marital status, sexual preference or lifestyle.  Pregnancy
at an advanced age was currently not covered by law.

301.  Members of the Committee requested clarification about the
abortion policy in the country.  It was explained that the reason
for the five-day waiting period was to safeguard responsible
decision-making and to give the women the chance of reconsidering
if they wished to.  Abortion could be carried out only by a
physician in a hospital or clinic with a permit and was allowed
only in a medically or socially untenable situation in which it
was deemed necessary.

      Article 16

302.  Turning to the question whether any reform was under way
regarding the order of names of married couples, the
representative reported on a bill on equality between men and
women in choosing family names that was currently being
considered by Parliament.

303.  Regarding the question whether cases of rape within
had been dealt with in court since the entry into force of the
new legislation in 1991, the representative replied that there
had been some cases, most of them situations in which the spouses
were divorced de facto, but not de jure.   Replying to a related
question, she said that, before that law was adopted, a
replacement of the words through force by against the will
had not been considered, since it would have given a chance to
question the victim about her attitudes.

304.  Regarding the high number of divorces in the Netherlands
Antilles, the social, cultural, economic and political reasons
for that phenomenon and the question whether it was not also
influenced by the low minimum age of marriage for women, the
representative replied that currently the Civil Code was
undergoing an integral revision.  In spite of the low minimum age
of marriage, women generally entered into marriage at the age of
18 or above.  Experience showed that reasons for divorce were
short periods of marriage, especially if the wife was
self-supporting, domestic violence against women, unfaithfulness
of the husband and the general empowerment of women.

305.  Responding to an additional question relating to
international technical cooperation, the representative stated
that development cooperation relating to the women in development
policy had to operate within the overall development policy,
which might force the Government to take a more selective

Concluding comments of the Committee


306.  The Committee commended the State party for not entering
reservations and for undertaking such conscientious efforts in
legislation as well as other measures, first before ratifying the
Convention, and secondly for its implementation.

307.  It also applauded the State party for presenting such an
extensive report, including a general description of the country
and statistics on the situation of women.  It wished, however,
for a more in-depth analysis and a more result-oriented
description of legal and other policy measures in subsequent
reports, including more comparative data, as well as information
on the financial cost of the projects described.

308.  It noted with satisfaction that the answers given by the
State party to the questions posed by the Committee filled many
of the lacunae and even further improved an already excellent

      Positive aspects

309.  The Committee commended the State party's efforts to
establish a comprehensive national machinery as well as the
requirement for each future report on the Convention to be
submitted to Parliament before being presented to the Committee.

310.  It noted with appreciation the extensive research, policy
and support measures taken by the State party that explored the
causes of and combated the various forms of violence against

311.  It also commended the financial support given to women's
initiatives and women's organizations by the Government as well
as its willingness to listen to their concerns and demands.  The
Committee also applauded the fact that the State party
implemented the Convention by developing policies and other
measures to eliminate discrimination based on sexual preference.

312.  It noted with satisfaction that the Netherlands Antilles
Aruba actively implemented the Convention despite economic
difficulties, including publicizing its content in general and in
the schools.

      Principal subjects of concern

313.  The Committee voiced concern whether the mainstreaming of
the State party's national machinery impacted on its
effectiveness.  In this respect it also noted with concern that
the transfer of equality policies and measures from the central
to the provincial and municipal levels might result in a loss of
political will and financial support.

314.  Another concern was raised by the character of an
emancipation policy that gave only limited financial support to
women's projects rather than institutionalized support.

315.  The Committee also expressed concern on the thinness of the
State party's reporting on article 11 compared to the reporting
on other articles and wondered whether this reflected
insufficient attention by the Government to women's employment

      Suggestions and recommendations

316.  The Committee suggested that in the second report more
information should be given on the national machinery of the
Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands Aruba.  It recommended
the inclusion of more information on the legal and other policy
measures to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of women's
sexual preference as well as on the results, including data, of
the efforts of provincial and municipal governments regarding
policies and other measures for women.

317.  It suggested that more result-oriented policies regarding
women's employment, including affirmative action, pay issues and
child care, were to be pursued and to be reported upon.