لقراءته بالعربية اضغط هنا
On March 9th, 2018 the CEDAW Committee submitted its concluding recommendations to the Saudi Kingdom, after considering the two periodic reports the third and the fourth which were submitted by the Saudi delegation under its ratification of the Convention in September 2000.
The ESOHR welcomes the recommendations submitted by the Committee to Saudi Arabia based on its observations and on the official reports in addition to the alternative reports submitted by Human rights organizations. The recommendations that formulated by the Committee dealt with many fields including discriminatory practices against women in the legal aspect on in reality.
The Legal Aspect
The CEDAW Committee indicated that it concerned over the Saudi rejection to withdraw its reservations on the Convention which constitutes an obstacle to the implementation of the Convention. The Committee also noted that this reserve doesn’t meet the Convention’s substance and purpose thus it is not acceptable. Furthermore, the Committee cleared that it is concerned over the Saudi identification of the principle of equality as an implicit harmony and integration not equal rights for women and men, besides the lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.
The Committee recommended the State party to amend its basic law for governance, also to adopt and to implement effectively a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes a definition of discrimination against women covering direct and indirect discrimination, in public and private and in all fields included in the Convention.
Despite the issuance of a number of Royal orders and decisions of the Council of Ministers regarding Women’s Rights, the Committee indicated its concern over the existence of discriminatory laws, specially the legal provisions concerning personal status, Civil Code, Labor Code, Nationality Code and the guardianship system. The Committee turned the Saudi attention to its commitment to ensure the non-use of traditions, religion and culture as an excuse to the discrimination against women and the violation of the rights mentioned in the Convention.
Also, the committee recommended Saud Arabia to open a national dialogue with the involvement of women about the human rights of women in Islam, aiming to test the existing laws and regulations which fall within traditions and customs and developing the Foqoh that allows the Islamic Sharia adaptation with the present context of women. It also recommended Saudi Arabia to speed up in establishing a comprehensive review for its legislations to guarantee its meeting with the Convention, specially the legal provisions that require a permit from a male guardian so the woman can practice her rights.
Women, Peace and Security
The committee expressed its concern toward the credible information which certifies that Saudi Arabia is responsible of the rights violations of Yemeni women and girls through the military operation in Yemen.
The committee urged Saudi Arabia to put an end for its military operations in Yemen and to use the peaceful ways to resolve the conflict between rival factions. Furthermore, it called Saudi Arabia to ensure respect for norms of international humanitarian law which are applied on women during armed conflicts. In addition to ensure prohibition of attacks against civilians and civilian objects, and to facilitate the passage of humanitarian relief rapidly, without any obstacles, to the civilians in need also to response to the call of the Office of the UN High for human rights to establish an international and autonomous board of inquiry.
Access to Justice
In its report the committee referred to its concern over the ongoing barriers against women access to justice, especially with the lack of coordination between the existing complaints mechanisms and the women lack of knowledge of its rights and their fear of revenge also the lack of adequate legal aid services. The committee pointed out to the lack of knowledge of the staff assigned to save legislations and legal practitioners concerning women’s rights. In addition women and girls are often called upon taking the permission form the male guardian to complaint.
Moreover, the committee recommended Saudi Arabia to expedite the implementation of measures taken to facilitate the access of women to justice, to improve the coordination between the existing complaints mechanisms, to strengthen women’s awareness of their rights and the means of saving her in addition to encourage the women victims of discrimination based on type of gender to report their cases including their protection form any type of revenge through putting them down.
National Mechanism for the Advancement of Women
The committee referred that despite of the “2030 Vision” besides establishing a Council for Family Affairs in 2016 is an ambition and an opportunity to enhance women human rights as they are concerned over the lack of information about the legal frame work which defines the Council’s mandate, authority and regulates its relation with the related ministries and entities. The Committee is concerned because the related country didn’t put a national strategy to support equality between the two genders and empower women.
Furthermore, the committee recommended ensuring the consistency of “ 2030 Vision” with the sustainable development goals and the progress of information about the Family Affairs Council’s mandate its headquarter, power, and its relation with the ministries and the related non-governmental organisations. The committee also called to expedite and adapt a national strategy to improve equality between the two genders and empower women.
National Human Rights Institution
The committee expressed its concern that Saudi Arabia didn’t establish an independent national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. It recommended to establish an independent national human rights institution in accordance to the principles relating to the status of national institution to improve human rights and to ensure that it has a defined mandate to enhance and protect women’s rights and equality between genders and that it has sufficient human, technical and financial resources.
Civil Society & NGOs
Despite that Saudi Arabia adopted Associations and Institutions Act in 2015, yet it expressed its concerns from that lack of a vibrant, independent and diverse civil society which shows the lack of adequate alternative reports received by the Committee from the NOGs concerning the implementation of the convention in the related country. The Committee also pointed out that Saudi Arabia is impeding the freedom of establishing associations through long term registration procedures, depending on the Ministry of Labour and Social Development ‘s approval, and through excessive supervision. Likewise, the associations are banned from working in the human rights and political matters, including women’s organizations.
Stereotypes & Harmful Practices
The Committee expressed its concerns from the persistence discriminatory stereotypes in the related country, it recommended the latter to put a comprehensive strategy and an action plan to modify or eliminate fatherhood practical attitudes and stereotypes which discriminate against women. It recommended the related country to educate and raise awareness regarding equality in roles and responsibilities between men and women within the family or society.
The committee is also concerned about the persistent of a number of harmful practices, including children marriage, forced marriage, and The Compulsory Dress Act; it called on Saudi Arabia to ensure the women’s right to choose their clothes, without coercion, including taking effective measures to protect women from violence, threat, or coercion on the part of religious police and their male guardianship; it also called on to enhance support measures, such as shelters, counseling services and rehabilitation the victims of harmful practices.
Gender-Based Violence Against Women
The Committee noted that it observe with concern the prevalence of gender-based violence against women in Saudi Arabia, in addition to decriminalized rape, and the lack of comprehensive legislation to criminalize all forms of gender-based violence against women. It also pointed out that male relative could still file legal claims against “disobedience” women who run away due to domestic violence. The Committee noted also that police officers sometimes ask women to submit a complaint with or through a guardian or male relative. In addition, the Committee mentioned the low rates of prosecution, condemnation, and lenient penalties imposed on perpetrators of violence against women. The Committee has made a number of recommendations to Saudi Arabia, including the enforcement of the Protection against Abuse Law, and strengthen its efforts to combat all forms of violence based on gender, review and repeal all legal provisions that justify domestic violence perpetrators, amend legislation to ensure that women who are victims of domestic violence and who escape from their houses are not convicted for disobedience, remove all obstacles that impede victims of violence from accessing to justice, reparation and compensation, also encourage victims to report their cases, and ensure investigating the reports of violence based on gender type against women. The Committee referred that it is concerned for women and girls who are victims of sexual abuse face only criminal prosecutions if they were charged, as reporting rape or sexual abuse, if not proven, could be considered as a recognition of extramarital sexual relations which is punishable by lashing or stoning, and in some cases death in the State party.
The Committee mentioned that it notices the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2009 and the National Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the establishment of the Standing Committee against Trafficking in Persons, nevertheless it is concerned about the limited enforcement of the law and the lack of information on the resources allocated to the Standing Committee against Trafficking in Persons and its ability to coordinate and monitor the government’s actions against trafficking. As well as the lack of appropriate mechanisms to identify and transmit adequate social services to the victims of trafficking or exploitation of prostitution; who are said to be sometimes arrested, detained and deported for acts committed as a result of being trafficked.
Women Migrant Domestic Workers
The Committee expressed its concern that migrant domestic workers are still subjected to abuse, economic and physical exploitation, confiscation of passports by employers and the continuing sponsorship system, which in reality increase the risk of exploitation and make it difficult for them to change employers even in cases of abuse. The committee also noted the obstacles that block migrant workers’ access to judiciary, including the fear of detention and deportation while waiting for the legal procedures.
Besides, the Committee recommended Saudi Arabia to strictly implement the regulations on female domestic workers, extend the application of the Labor Code to domestic workers, and adopting a specific law that regulates domestic work and to continue spreading awareness among migrant domestic workers of their rights under the Convention.
Participation in Political & Public Life
The Committee expressed its concern over the low participation of women at all levels of decision-making, including within the government, the advisory council and municipal councils besides the judiciary and the diplomatic community. Furthermore, the Committee called on Saudi Arabia to adopt measures to promote equal and full participation of women in political and public life and in decision-making both at the national and local levels. It also recommended to address the cultural and practical barriers to the full participation of women as candidates and electors in municipal elections, including the requirement of guardian’s approval.
The Committee confirmed its continuing concern about the strict conditions established under article 8 of the Citizenship Act on a Saudi mother who is married to a foreigner and desires to transfer her nationality to her children; which may result to statelessness, as well as the discriminatory provisions regarding the naturalization of Saudi women foreign spouses. It also stressed that no progress has been made to address the situation of thousands of stateless women who are still deprived from their fundamental right to Saudi nationality and related rights. The Committee recommended amending the Nationality Law to enable Saudi women to transfer their nationality to their foreign husbands and children on an equally with Saudi men and to regulate the status of stateless women, and also to guarantee their right to citizenship without discrimination.
The committee’s report indicated that it appreciates the increase in rates of girls enrollment at all levels of education, but it expressed concerns that disadvantaged groups including migrant girls, girls with disabilities, girls who live in rural and remote areas and poverty cases have access to education. In addition, the report mentioned that the education curriculum did not include the appropriate education for health age, sexual and reproductive rights; as well as the teachers lack training on women’s rights and gender equality. Moreover, the report also referred that the number of women and girls who participate in sport and physical activities and occupational training is still limited.
Despite the issuance of a ministerial decree which states that women no longer need the guardian’s permission to work, the Committee is concerned that the measures are insufficient to promote the concept of common family responsibilities, and to combat the difficulties women face in combining work and family responsibilities; as well as the unclearness regarding the paid maternity leave in private sector, the low participation of women in labor market compared to men and the persistent wage gap between the two genders in both private and public sectors.
The committee recommended Saudi Arabia to enhance the equal sharing of family responsibilities and domestic responsibilities between women and men and to ensure the access to paid maternity leave in both private and public sector also to take measures to promote the women’s access to formal labor market.
Women Living in Rural and Remote Areas
The Committee noted that it still concerned at the disadvantage situation of women who live in rural and remote areas and who are facing poverty, difficulties in access to health care, education, income activities, lands and other properties; in addition to their limited participation in decision-making processes at the level of community. Also, the Committee recommended Saudi Arabia to develop and implement policies to accelerate substantive equality for women living in rural and remote areas in all fields where they are underrepresented or disadvantaged.
Women Human Rights Defenders
The report emphasized that the Committee is particularly concerned about the vulnerability of women human rights defenders to various forms of harassment, violence and intimidation by law enforcement officials, along with detention and maltreatment for their civic participation. The Committee recommended Saudi Arabia to abstain from acts of revenge against women human rights defenders and their relatives and to immediately ensure the cease of any sanctions against women who practice their rights of freedom of expression, association, and also compensates and rehabilitates them. The Committee also stressed on the importance of ensuring that women activists are allowed to practice their rights of freedom of expression and association, and that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2014, the Cybercrime Act of 2007 and the Internet Publication Act of 2011 are not used to criminalize women human rights defenders.
Women Belonging to Religious Minorities
The Committee noted that it concerned about the absence of legislation that prohibits discrimination and the hate speech based on religion. It explained that there is a continuing denial of Muslim Shiite women in many fields, including education, employment, health and the media. The Committee called for the speedy adoption of the Anti-Discrimination and Hate Act, also for promulgation of the necessary regulations for its implementation, in order to treat a number of problems including the inequality that Shiite women face.
Equality Before Law and Civil Matters
The Committee welcomed the various measures taken to limit the scope of the male guardianship system, but is concerned from the persistence of the male guardianship system, especially for women to obtain a passport, study abroad, choose residence, receive health care services and leave detention centers and shelters which are controlled by the state. The Committee noted that maintaining the guardianship system undermines the women and girls’ rights and capacities to develop their own capabilities and make free choices about their lives and their life plans.
The Committee, also recommended Saudi Arabia to abolish male mandate practices and ensure that all women obtain a passport and travel out of the country, study abroad on a government grant, choose their residence, receive health care services, and leave detention centers and shelters which are controlled by the state without having to seek guardian’s permission.
Furthermore, the Committee recommended to strictly implement the order lifting the de-facto ban on women from driving upon its entry into force in June 2018, and to ensure that allegations of disobedience by guardians are not used to subject women to arbitrary detention.
Marriage & Family Relationships
In its report, the committee expressed its concerns about the uses of Shariah by Saudi government as an explanation for the lack of progress in family law reform, and the continuing application of discriminatory legal provisions related to personnel status; particularly the requirement of women to obtain her guardian’s permission to marry, and the limited reasons available to seek divorce while men can act unilaterally. The committee is also concerned over the absence of minimum age for marriage stated by law, the persistent discrimination against women and girls in inheritance law, custody cases, marriage and divorce.
Besides, the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights welcomes the recommendations provided by CEDAW to Saudi Arabia, and stresses on the importance that civil society and activists monitor Saudi Arabia’s implementation of these recommendations as Saudi Arabia is a party in CEDAW, and that essentially requires Saudi Arabia to stop targeting civil society and rights organisations.
The continuation of the Saudi government’s targeting of civil society and activists will be a proactive indication of Saudi Arabia’s lack of seriousness in implementing the recommendations, which in two years Saudi government must provide written information on the steps taken to implement them.