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Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention (continued)
Fourth and fifth periodic reports of Israel (continued) (CEDAW/C/ISR/4 and 5; CEDAW/C/ISR/Q/5 and Add.1)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the delegation of Israel took places at the Committee table.
2. Ms. Younis (Israel), replying to a question raised at the previous meeting on the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, said that two civil servants from the Arab community would shortly be joining the Authority’s current full-time staff of 10 in order to deal with issues in that community. The Authority’s budget for 2011 had been doubled compared with the previous year and in 2011, for the first time, a specific allocation had been earmarked for the advancement of Arab women. The Authority was responsible for enforcing implementation of women’s rights legislation and, consequently, all new laws and legislative amendments in that area entailed a new monitoring mandate for the Authority. In particular, the Authority monitored implementation of the 2008 amendment to the Statistics Ordinance that required public bodies collecting and publishing disaggregated data to publish gender-disaggregated data. With respect to the question on the 2007 law on the gender implications of legislation, which required the Authority to submit an opinion regarding the gender implications of bills and proposed regulations, she referred the Committee to her Government’s replies to the list of issues (CEDAW/C/ISR/Q/5/Add.1), in particular the reply to question 7. Pursuant to Government Resolution No. 1563 of 28 March 2010, the Authority was also responsible for training women appointed by Government corporations as advisers on the status of women.
3. Her Government gave high priority to the integration of the Arab population in the civil service. As a result, the proportion of Arabs, Druze and Circassians employed in the civil service had increased steadily from 6.17 per cent in 2007 to 6.97 per cent in 2009 and the number of Arab women civil servants had risen from 1,256 in 2007 to 1,595 in 2009.
4. Ms. Kugler Ramot (Israel), in response to a question raised at the previous meeting on marital rape, said that it was considered as rape under the Criminal Code and was punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years, under aggravated circumstances. On the issue of prostitution, she referred the Committee to her Government’s reply to question 17 of the list of issues, as set forth in document CEDAW/C/ISR/Q/5/Add.1. As to trafficking, the definition of the offence in Israeli legislation was very broad and also covered internal trafficking. No cases of internal trafficking or trafficking between Israel and the Palestinian Authority had been reported. The National Coordinator was tasked with coordinating efforts to combat trafficking for the purposes of both prostitution and forced labour. There were also a special Knesset committee and an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealing with those issues. On the question of women migrant workers, she referred the Committee to the information provided by her Government in its reply to question 19 of the list of issues. Concerning domestic violence, she said that the number of complaints filed had decreased by 3 per cent compared to previous years.
5. Regarding the issue of detainees, she said that there were several instruments which ensured that all complaints of ill-treatment were properly investigated. While her delegation had no information concerning the allegations referred to by the Committee, she emphasized that any complaints should be submitted to the relevant body. Currently, there were no female Palestinian minors being held in Israeli Prison Service facilities. All detainees could receive family visits once every two weeks for 30 minutes; the number of adult visitors was limited, but there was no limit on the number of child visitors.
6. Ms. Murillo de la Vega, referring to the inadequate political participation of women in the State party, asked why the Government had not taken measures to enforce quotas for political parties to ensure more equal representation of women and men in parliament. With respect to the public administration, she said it was surprising that, despite the high level of education of the female population, women did not enjoy the same benefits as men, although they had the same obligations. As to the role of the Department for the Advancement and Integration of Women within the Civil Service in investigating complaints of discrimination from women civil servants, she wished to have information on the types of complaints received and their outcome. Lastly, referring to reports received regarding the detention of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, including Maryam Salah and Mona Mansour, she asked whether any prosecutions had been made against those persons.
7. Ms. Schulz commended the State party on the high level of representation of women in the judicial profession but noted that the religious courts, which had exclusive jurisdiction over matters of marriage and divorce, were totally male-dominated. She was concerned that that situation represented a violation of the right to equality in employment, since women could not be appointed to serve as judges of those courts. The delegation had stressed that the principle of equality was a fundamental principle of the State of Israel, and that human rights protection was guaranteed by various basic laws, including the basic law on the freedom of occupation, which guaranteed the right of every citizen to engage in an occupation, profession or trade. It was her understanding that only a law that was in accordance with the values of Israel and enacted for a proper purpose allowed derogation from a right enshrined in a basic law. She therefore wished to know whether the State party’s reservation to article 7 (b) of the Convention, which justified maintaining exclusively male religious courts, could be considered equivalent to a law that allowed derogation from the basic law on the freedom of occupation.
8. Ms. Ameline recalled the importance of involving women in the peacemaking process and enquired what measures were being contemplated to address that issue. Noting that legislation governing nationality and entry into Israel had been enacted as a temporary measure and was currently valid until 31 January 2011, she asked whether the political will existed to remove that measure. She sought clarification concerning the conditions under which Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem might lose their residency rights. Lastly, she invited the delegation to comment on reports that migrant women were obliged to send their children abroad as a condition for retaining their residency status.
11. Ms. Belmihoub-Zerdani recalled that the United Nations had been established in the aftermath of the Second World War as a forum for the prevention of conflict, the promotion of peace and the self-determination of colonized peoples. She therefore deplored the continuing situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and expressed the hope that the parties concerned would, in a spirit of goodwill, negotiate a peace agreement that would put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
14. Ms. Matias (Israel) said that, while her delegation did not have all the necessary information immediately available, it would try to give as full a response as possible to all the Committee’s questions, some of which did not relate to the State party’s obligations under the Convention.
20. Ms. Younis (Israel), turning to the issue of the representation of the Arab population in the judicial system, said that as at December 2010, only 1 of the judges on the Supreme Court was a Christian Arab; of the 128 district court judges, 5 were Muslim, 2 Christian and 1 Druze; of the 381 magistrates, 14 were Christian, 10 Muslim and 5 Druze; at the labour court level there were 1 Christian and 2 Druze judges. There were 3 Druze judges sitting on the State-funded Druze courts. Three new Arab judges would soon be appointed to the district courts. Of the 43 Arab judges, 9 were women; there were also 3 women court registrars.
21. Ms. Acar, turning to article 10 of the Convention, welcomed the progress made to promote education, in particular for women and girls, but expressed concern that less progress seemed to have been made within the Arab population. According to the fifth periodic report (para. 351) 2.5 per cent of Jewish women and 9.7 per cent of Arab women had never attended school; she wondered why that was so and why the percentage was so much higher for Arab women. Furthermore, while dropout rates were falling, she wondered why the dropout rate for Arab girls continued to be high. More information would also be appreciated on the educational situation of Arab girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
22. The Committee had information describing some of the barriers to Arab girls’ education, which included a shortage of facilities, difficulty in providing secure school transport and harassment of girl students. She asked what measures the State party was implementing to address such problems, including temporary special measures. She welcomed efforts by the Ministry of Education to review textbooks with a view to eliminating gender stereotyping, but stressed that rather than gradually replacing materials, they should be replaced as a priority. She enquired whether a review had been undertaken of both Hebrew and Arabic teaching materials.
23. There were significant numbers of women in higher education but she noted that according to the fifth periodic report (para. 367) women continued to study mostly the humanities; she asked what steps were being taken to encourage women to study subjects such as mathematics, science, engineering and computer science. The fifth periodic report indicated that 26 per cent of academic personnel in universities were women (para. 376); that figure was unacceptable for the Committee. She encouraged the State party to envisage temporary special measures to increase that percentage, in particular the percentage of Arab women, including at senior levels.
24. Mr. Bruun ...
27. Lastly, noting the high female unemployment rate in Gaza, he asked what the authorities were doing to facilitate the import of essential supplies to enable women to start and maintain small businesses.
28. Ms. Jahan said that it was regrettable that the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s otherwise commendable decision to make Arab employment a priority appeared to be limited to awareness-raising initiatives targeting potential Arab employers and Arab job-seekers. The related publications and websites should be translated into languages other than Arabic, notably Hebrew, in order to broaden the initiative’s scope and encourage other population groups to consider recruiting Arab women. She also wished to know whether quotas existed for women from ethnic minorities in public employment and skilled training opportunities, and whether the retirement age was the same for men and women. Lastly, emphasizing the clear contraventions of certain ILO conventions, in particular provisions relating to the treatment of female migrant workers, she asked whether ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was envisaged in the near future.
29. Ms. Schulz asked what the Government was doing to eliminate the disparities between Jews and Arabs evident in the key indicators of life expectancy and child mortality. In particular, she wished to know how the authorities ensured that checkpoints did not prevent Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory from accessing specialist health care. Female migrant workers’ exemption from social security cover was another concern, and she sought assurance that current legislation governing work and rest hours would be amended to protect female caregivers from the serious health consequences of excessively long working hours.
30. Details of measures taken to address domestic violence and its costs for women and the health system would also be appreciated, especially in the light of information suggesting that Arab women were at greater risk than Jewish women. Those details should also encompass measures to protect Palestinian women against violence at the hands of settlers and the army, as well in the home.
31. Lastly, she asked whether the care given to female victims of trafficking differed according to whether they were granted refugee status or given a one-year visa only.
32. Ms. Arocha Domínguez said that she had been unable to find a convincing justification for the limited application of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The restrictions on Palestinian women’s rights, including their access to specialist services available only outside Gaza, were a grave concern and she urged the delegation to address the unanswered questions 28 and 29 of the list of issues.
36. Ms. Murillo de la Vega asked whether women needed their husband’s consent to apply for credit and whether Palestinian women in remote areas faced similar restrictions on access to credit as they did on access to other services. She would like to have disaggregated data comparing credit availability among Palestinian women and Jewish women.
38. Ms. Patten said that she regretted the State party’s failure to respond to question 35 of the list of issues and its rebuttal of the Convention’s applicability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially since she recalled that in a previous dialogue the delegation had acknowledged that its Government had certain responsibilities in that Territory. Undoubtedly, the lives of Palestinian women were to a great extent controlled by the Knesset, which governed all security and land-related issues, although the Palestinian Authority held civilian powers in Area C. A recent report by the International Committee of the Red Cross had emphasized the impoverishment and displacement directly attributable to Israeli policies and practices in that Area, where some rural Palestinian women were required to obtain a visitor’s permit to access and cultivate their own land. She urged the delegation to comment on the impact of such policies.
39. Education and health services were ostensibly controlled by the Palestinian Authority but building permits for schools, hospitals, clinics and other civic buildings had to be obtained from the Israeli administration. That situation significantly impeded progress. In addition, reliable independent sources reported that rural Palestinian women were cut off from vital health services by checkpoints and the wall, and that permit requirements inhibited the movement of doctors, ambulances and mobile health teams. Given that medical facilities inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory were limited, she would like to know how many Palestinian women had applied for permits to seek medical treatment outside Gaza; how many such permits had been granted or refused; when the restrictions on travelling outside the Gaza Strip for medical treatment would be lifted; and when essential medical equipment would be allowed into Gaza to improve internal facilities.
40. Lastly, she enquired about the impact of the zoning and planning restrictions on living conditions in Area C and when the Government would cease its policy of demolishing “illegally” built homes.
41. Ms. Bareiro-Bobadilla said that, while an abundance of data was generally positive, in some cases it did not add to the reports’ clarity. In particular, the lack of disaggregated, comparative figures (e.g. urban vs. rural, Jews vs. the rest of the population) had impeded the Committee’s assessment of Israel’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under article 14. The report considered the situation of Bedouin women but, aside from brief references to women with disabilities and elderly women, gave no targeted information about other vulnerable groups of women, including stateless women in Israel and Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She was concerned that the absence of such data might reflect a lack of political will to ensure access to essential services for disadvantaged groups and to address the associated stereotypes.
42. Ms. Matias (Israel) said that Committee members could find much of the data requested on the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, but that the information they sought was in many cases beyond the delegation’s authority and control.
43. Ms. Stauber (Israel), ...
47. Arab schools enjoyed increased funding following the introduction of a new system that indexed budget allocations to individual schools to socio-economic conditions. In addition, a special programme covering the last five years of secondary education gave disadvantaged Arab students the benefit of smaller class sizes and extra teaching hours.
48. Other new educational initiatives included a plan to attract more women into technology and science-related disciplines, and a system of grants that had already given thousands of female and Arab students the opportunity to complete secondary school and enter higher education.
49. Mr. Leventhal (Israel), referring to the question from Ms. Schulz regarding differences in life expectancy and child mortality, observed that a book had recently been published on different aspects of the health inequalities in Israel. As overall averages, Israel’s health indicators ranked high among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, but the country now intended to see what more could be done to smooth out the inequalities among the different sectors of its population.
50. For child mortality in Israel, the best rate, of about 2 per 1,000 live births, was found among the Christian Arabs, as compared with the Jewish figure of 3 per 1,000, and that for child mortality in the Muslim Arab population of about 7.2 per 1,000. The high figure for the Muslims was related to the practice of consanguinity marriage, which although against sharia law, was still a reality.
51. Life expectancy of Arab women in Israel was 80.5 years, as against 83.9 for Jewish women. It was hoped that that gap would gradually decrease.
57. Responsibility for all health matters in the so-called occupied territories was in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, which was beyond Israel’s borders and not under its control. There was a very good relationship of quiet cooperation between the two health ministries, and media reports to the contrary were distortions of the facts.
59. Ms. Murillo de la Vega said that, unless she had misheard, there had been no response to her questions relating to articles 7 and 13. She also wished to ask a follow-up question concerning health. Information was extant concerning Palestinian women who had been refused entry into Israel when they were seeking medical assistance, including in some situations of extreme gravity, such as that of a pregnancy which was life-threatening.
60. Ms. Gabr said that the basis for the assertions she had made earlier about prisoners and juvenile detainees was the information contained in paragraphs 27 and 28 of the concluding observations of the Committee against Torture on Israel’s fourth periodic report (CAT/C/ISR/CO/4).
61. She wished to know whether Palestinian women prisoners could be in direct physical contact with their children when the children came to visit them in prison.
62. She asked whether any Palestinian women held positions of responsibility in the committees dealing with the future planning of the city of Jerusalem.
67. Ms. Stauber (Israel) ...
69. With regard to the issue of access to education, there was admittedly a problem in the very crowded eastern neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, but the Ministry of Education was making major efforts to remedy the situation. In the past five years, almost 300 new classroom facilities had been built, and considerable sums spent on computerizing kindergartens and schools. Special training courses were given on teaching in the difficult conditions of East Jerusalem, together with vocational training programmes for women teachers and women’s and girls’ empowerment programmes. The Ministry also ran various other programmes, including, to provide hot meals and longer schooling hours, for the children of working mothers to assist challenged junior high school students and gifted Arab children.
75. Ms. Matias (Israel) thanked the Committee members for their thorough and in-depth consideration of her country’s report. While it could be seen that Israel and the Committee had differing views with regard to the applicability of the Convention in the territory of the Palestinians, the delegation nevertheless felt that it had gained much insight from the discussion, and looked forward to the Committee’s concluding observations.
The meeting rose at 5.40 p.m.
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Editing Unit, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Any corrections to the records of this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.