Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers the report of Madagascar – See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16734&LangID=E#sthash.NvFEDIT5.dpuf

10 November 2015

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the combined sixth and seventh periodic report of Madagascar on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Noeline Ramanantenasoa, Minister of Justice of Madagascar, outlined the progress made by Madagascar in the legal protection of the rights of women and gender equality. Most notably, the Government had carried out awareness raising campaigns and dialogues with local communities and traditional leaders in order to fight harmful traditional practices, such as enforced marriage. It had also elaborated and adopted a property policy in order to facilitate women’s access to land and foster rural development. The new Anti-Trafficking Law extended protection to include all forms of exploitation, such as trafficking of children, trafficking of domestic labour, modern slavery, forced marriage, trafficking in organs, illegal adoption and sale of persons. Also, the National Social Policy Protection Plan sought to reduce extreme poverty, focusing on elderly women, pregnant women and women with disabilities as some of the most vulnerable categories.

Committee Experts commended the Government’s efforts to re-establish the rule of law and to provide universal and free education to all citizens. However, they raised concern over the persistence of early marriages and harmful customary practices which perpetuated gender stereotypes. They particularly noted that women in de facto unions needed to have their economic rights recognized. As for women with disabilities and rural women, Experts urged the State party to ensure that they enjoyed equal access to basic services, such as education, health and justice. An Expert noted that Parliament had not adopted a law on a minimum quota for women in elected positions, and it had failed to adopt the bill on gender and development, adding that women’s representation at all levels of government was low and there was no legislative framework to offset that imbalance.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Ramanantenasoa noted that the observations and recommendations made by the Committee would help the Government better protect women’s rights. Progress had been achieved, but a lot of work remained to be done to close certain gaps. She thanked the Committee for the genuinely constructive dialogue.

In her concluding remarks, Yoko Hayashi, Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, which provided further insight. The Committee commended the State party for its efforts, and encouraged it to take into account the Committee’s concluding observations.

The delegation of Madagascar included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Population, Social Protection and Promotion of Women, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Permanent Mission of Madagascar to the United Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 11 November, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined second and third periodic report of Timor-Leste (CEDAW/C/TLS/2-3).

Report

The combined sixth and seventh periodic report of Madagascar (CEDAW/C/MDG/6-7) is available here.

Presentation of the Report

NOELINE RAMANANTENASOA, Minister of Justice of Madagascar, said that the Government had drafted a National Development Plan which focused on the social protection of vulnerable groups, including on women in the areas of access to drinking water, education, justice, employment, health and property. In 2012 Madagascar had signed the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with a view to abolish the death penalty. In 2013 it had signed the Third Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2014 it had ratified the International Convention on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities and it had acceded to the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families. In addition, the constitutional revision of 2010 had recognized the equality of women and men and Article 6 of the Constitution stipulated equal access and participation of women and men to public employment and public functions. In July 2014 the Government had adopted a law on the fight against human trafficking. In order to better protect women against trafficking for sexual exploitation, the law extended the protection to include all forms of exploitation under human trafficking, including trafficking of children, trafficking of domestic labour, modern slavery, forced marriage, trafficking in organs, illegal adoption and sale of persons. The law encompassed the national and international dimension of human trafficking, including migrant workers. Likewise, penal sanctions for those crimes had been made stricter. In order to enhance the implementation of the law, in 2015 the Government had set up an inter-ministerial body, which included civil society, namely the National Bureau for the Fight against Human Trafficking.

As for violence against women and girls, Madagascar had undertaken various awareness raising campaigns through films, posters and leaflets. The Penal Code criminalized violence against women and stipulated harsh punishment for crimes against pregnant women. Other measures taken to combat violence against women were: the creation of a National Bureau for Sexual Gender-Based Violence, three national platforms on the fight against gender-based violence, a pool of lawyers who would provide free legal aid to victims of gender-based violence, judicial clinics which helped victims of violence, counselling centres which provided psycho-social services to victims, and bureaus of judicial assistance at each court of first instance and appeal court. In order to fight harmful traditions, such as so-called “moletry” or “bride price”, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Population and the Ministry of Youth had held awareness raising campaigns and dialogues with local communities and traditional leaders. In order to facilitate women’s access to land, the Government had elaborated and adopted a property policy in August 2015 in order to secure access to land rights for all persons, regardless of their gender, age and wealth, as well as to facilitate rural development. To that end, in 2013 the Government had also implemented a programme of economic independence for women through increased literacy. More than 200,000 vulnerable women had benefited from the Credit for Education programme, whereas some 3,000 micro and small businesses in rural areas had obtained loans to improve their condition of life. The fight against poverty was one of the priorities of the Government.

The new Constitution of Madagascar stipulated the equality of all persons under the law, regardless of their gender. The minimum age of marriage was 18, and men and women enjoyed the same marital rights under the law. Efforts had also been made to allow for equal participation of women in political and public life, as well as for equal access to education, health and employment. At the university level, 46 per cent of students were female, whereas at the primary and secondary level that percentage stood at 49 per cent. The Government had increased the number of labour inspectors to 127 in 2014. In July 2013 the pension age for women was raised from 55 to 60, to bring it in line with the pension age for men. In 2015 the Government had adopted the National Social Policy Protection Plan, with a view to reduce the 15 per cent of persons living in extreme poverty. In that group elderly women, pregnant women and women with disabilities were one of the most vulnerable categories. In the sector of health services, efforts had been made to improve access to health services in rural areas.

Questions by Experts

When would the Government ratify the Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the African Charter of Human Rights? When would a definition of discrimination in line with the Convention be adopted? A review of discriminatory laws, which had been delayed for too long, was urgently needed.

As for women’s access to justice, an Expert noted that it was extremely limited. How did the Government intend to strengthen access to justice, given the corruption and discriminatory attitude by police? As for legal clinics, were conciliation processes biased in favour of men? Did the Government intend to develop a competent and free legal assistance system for women?

Answers by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the Constitution provided for equality before the law for all persons. Legal clinics had been set up to provide assistance to women who were victims of violence. Conciliation could be biased. However, in all the cases conciliation was successful because men did not want to appear in front of court. There was also a system that provided guidance to women, often in cooperation with non-governmental organizations.

The Government had adopted an operationalization plan to implement various recommendations made by the United Nations treaty bodies, which could be followed in 2016. As for the need to define discrimination in line with the Convention, the Government would take the necessary steps in order to do that and hold broad consultations, including with civil society. The delegation expressed hope that the revision of all discriminatory laws would take place soon.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

An Expert asked for statistical data on all the cases of discrimination. Was it really necessary to have such a lengthy process of adopting the definition of discrimination under the Convention?

The Expert pointed out to a gap between legal texts and the experience of most people in Madagascar. In many areas the legal system guaranteed equality between women and men, but in practice many women lived without any of those rights. There were discriminatory traditional practices, for example. Women did not seem to be aware of their rights. What was being done to ensure the legal literacy of women?

Another Expert raised the issue of discrimination against women with disabilities. They were often kept hidden at home and suffered from violence. They did not enjoy access to proper medical care, and they were not allowed to earn money. Had the Government finalized the national strategy for the social inclusion of women with disabilities? Was the implementation plan and budgeting for that matter set aside?

Answers by the Delegation

The delegation welcomed the proposal made by the Committee to draw the definition of discrimination directly from the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It was true that there was a gap between the legal system and the actual implementation, which was why the Government intended to step up its programmes to improve awareness about laws among the public. The delegation welcomed the proposal of the Committee that the legal literacy of women be improved.

As for women with disabilities, their situation was aggravated by prejudice, neglect from the family, and poverty. The Government worked to implement equal access to education for girls with disabilities. As for their access to the labour market, the relevant laws already existed. Further efforts needed to be made to increase awareness of legal texts, the delegation noted. There was a programme to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, including women.

Questions by Experts

An Expert commended the Government’s efforts in ensuring the return of the rule of law to the country. What type of framework of action was available to implement the recommendations made by the Committee? How would all stakeholders be involved in that process? How were the existing strategies linked with institutions to provide full effect? Was there a follow-up structure in Parliament to work on women’s issues? Was there the right of referral with respect to legal drafts on women’s issues? Was the reconciliation process on the right track and did it account for the rights of women? What was the status of administrative decentralization? Was funding provided for that purpose?

Another Expert commended the delegation for its efforts to ensure equal representation of women and men in political and public life. However, Parliament had not adopted a law on a minimum quota for women in elected positions, and it had failed to adopt the bill on gender and development. Women’s representation at all levels of government was low and there was no legislative framework to offset that imbalance. Did the Government intend to adopt temporary special measures to achieve at least 40 per cent of each gender at political and public functions? Were women adequately represented in the ongoing reconciliation process?

Answers by the Delegation

The reconciliation process took into account the rights of women. But, almost all applicants for amnesty were men. As for administrative decentralization, in March 2015 the First Lady and almost all female ministers encouraged women to stand in communal elections. A local development plan allowed communities to develop projects for capacity building, granting loans and credits, and following up on the literacy programmes for women. The Ministry of Justice was responsible for paying salaries of those working in legal clinics, with the view to spread their presence throughout the country in 2016 from nine to 17.

With respect to quotas for women’s participation in political and public life, indeed that was a failure. But, the Government intended to raise awareness on that issue. Parliamentarians had just undergone training on how to implement the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review process. A draft bill to institute a minimum of 30 per cent of women in elected positions would be reviewed. However, more awareness raising was necessary in order to motivate women to stand in elections.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

An Expert explained that only temporary special measures could ensure that women had equal representation in political and public life. What specific measures would be taken by the Government to that end?

Another Expert reiterated her question about the budgetary resources set aside for the rights of women. There was a degree of urgency to implement the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women because it would contribute to the overall development of the society. What proportion of the national budget and what amount of external funds would be allocated to that end?

The National Human Rights Commission did not have the competence to intervene in courts. How was it able to deal with multifaceted discrimination against women? As for the amnesty process, almost only men had submitted requests. How many were accepted or considered? Concerning the security situation in the south of the country, it was reported that conflicts had taken place between police forces and that sexual violence had taken place, directly targeting women. What measures were being taken to re-establish security and protect women?

Answers by the Delegation

As for the distribution of the national budget and external financial resources for women’s issues, the Government looked at various recommendations issued and then decided how to distribute the budget, in cooperation with external partners. The National Human Rights Commission was empowered to conduct inquiries and their results were then communicated to the relevant authorities. It was also empowered to follow up on how the inquiries were dealt with. The Commission could intervene on how victims were treated.

As for the security problems in the south, there had been no complaints of sexual abuse, both on the part of the groups involved or the authorities. There were no complaints about gender-based violence. There were some complaints on property violations. The delegation explained that the operation in the south of the country was a “peace operation” and that there had been no violence. As for granting amnesty, all those who had committed crimes would never benefit from amnesty, the delegation clarified.

Questions by Experts

An Expert raised the issue of stereotypes and reminded that women were still considered inferior to men. One of the main aims of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was precisely to change harmful customs. What permanent mechanisms were in place to coordinate all different societal stakeholders in the effort to prevent traditional stereotypes? Many people lived in the rural areas where there was no access to education and the media. How could women and men be involved in the debate in order to change the traditional mentality and prevent carrying out of harmful practices?

Sexual gender-based violence perpetrated by men in Madagascar had to stop immediately. What was the actual legal framework to combat violence against women and girls? Did the Government plan a law on domestic violence? Were there any shelters for women and where were they located? What kind of sanctions against perpetrators were in place? Why were cases not reported? Were there any plans to prevent corporal punishment of girls and marital rape? Was disaggregated data on sexual violence available?

As for trafficking in human beings for forced labour or sexual exploitation, Madagascar was a source country. Legislative reforms in that area had been made. However, thousands of mostly illiterate rural women were employed in domestic labour and were sent abroad.
Some reports indicated that women were sent to China with false documents, and some were sold as fiancés and wives. Was the embargo on such recruitment still in place? Sometimes Government officials were involved in trafficking themselves. Did the Government strive to punish them?

Regarding prostitution, the lack of employment opportunities forced girls to accept suspicious employment contracts. Was there any statistical data available on the number of women exploited in illegal prostitution? Border management was of crucial importance in addressing trafficking. Were there any shelters for women who were sexually trafficked?

Answers by the Delegation

The delegation explained that Madagascar was trying to combat all harmful traditional practices, such as the custom that prescribed the abandonment of a twin child in Mananjary. The Government had carried out actions to bring together all communal leaders and stakeholders to discuss discrimination against twins. The Government did the same in the north-west of the country where the practice of “moletry” (bride price) was carried out. Those traditional practices did not only harm girls, but children in general.

Marital rape was not yet defined in Madagascar’s laws. The Government had tried to submit it to Parliament, but it was rejected. As for forced labour, sex tourism and women sent abroad as domestic workers, the Government had suspended the sending of women abroad. It would set up judicial and bilateral cooperation with host countries to ensure that it had a liaison officer who would monitor the situation of those women. A bill on such judicial cooperation was in process. There were no more agencies that could send women abroad. However, fake documents were still issued to girls and the Chinese Government had warned Madagascar of that situation. Those officials who were involved in trafficking were severely punished. Real international judicial cooperation was lacking, which was why the Government was in negotiation with China. The Penal Code defined sexual exploitation, and it imposed a legal obligation on individuals to denounce sexual exploitation in case they had any knowledge about it. There was no database on women who were sexually exploited.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

An Expert reminded that there were other practices, such as early marriage and the sale of girls as brides. Those were very young girls and the situation on the ground contradicted the law that set the legal marriage age as 18. The Expert suggested that the Government adopt an action plan to prevent such practices. Those who acted as pimps were sometimes family members who “sold” their daughters to avoid poverty.

Another Expert observed that the protection of victims and witnesses was highly important and would help resolve the cases of trafficking and sexual exploitation. She suggested setting up shelters in cooperation with international partners and agencies. She reiterated the importance of border control in order to prevent human trafficking.

The 2007 law set up the minimum age of marriage at 18. However, did it apply to customary marriage, and was it accompanied by an adequate sentence? The law still designated the husband as the head of the household, which greatly enhanced negative stereotypes of women. An Expert reminded that almost half of the girls under 18 had already been married and had children. Did the provision of forced marriage under the Anti-Trafficking Law apply to their case?

Did the Government apply the principle of the universality of courts? Was the National Bureau for the Fight against Trafficking up and running? Would it be enough to have a single person observe the situation of Madagascar women working in domestic labour abroad?

Answers by the Delegation

The law determined the legal marriage age as 18. Only under exceptional circumstances could a minor enter into a marriage, and with a judge’s permission. Customary marriage indeed still existed, but the marriage age was 18. A whole series of awareness raising campaigns were being held at the communal level in order to stamp out forced marriage. Criminal punishment was not handed out for marriage under the age of 18. However, such marriage could be declared null and void. As for the punishment of families that benefited from sexual exploitation, the law did not draw a distinction between a parent and non-parent. In addition, forced marriage was an offence under the new Anti-Trafficking Law. The legal marriage age for both civil and customary marriage was 18. Unions made out of free will were difficult to manage. The Anti-Trafficking Law could apply to underage unions if it was determined that the marriage had been made against the will of the person, the delegation explained.

There was a major rise in the number of minors who were trafficked for sex. All the reported cases were subject to prosecution. As for the universal jurisdiction of courts, a case for such jurisdiction had not yet been identified. The National Bureau for the Fight against Human Trafficking was not yet operational. However, the budgeting for the Bureau had already been set aside as part of the budget of the Ministry of Population. As for the protection of victims and witnesses in combatting human trafficking, due to the weak economy, the Government was not in a position to implement practices of other countries.

Questions by Experts

The low participation of women in politics was the result of a lack of temporary special measures by the Government, and the inability of political parties to provide places for women in their structures. Women’s representation at the local level was especially low. What were the key points of the strategy to increase the number of women in key positions? What measures were available to support the recruitment of women in foreign missions? As for the reconciliation process, had the measures been successful in ensuring that women’s role was important?

Another Expert drew attention to the Nationality Code, which did not allow women to transmit nationality to their children on an equal footing with men. It created cases of statelessness. Madagascar was one of the few countries that did not grant equal rights to women in that respect. Why had a review not taken place and why wasn’t it a priority for the Government? What was the delay in discussing the draft law? Would there be a retroactive measure to apply to children born under the previous law? Some 20 per cent of children still had not been granted Madagascar nationality.

Answers by the Delegation

Indeed there was a discrepancy between the Nationality Code and the Convention. The new draft Nationality Code was under review and the Government was waiting for comments from relevant ministries. There were problems with birth registration due to the lack of access to administrative offices in remote areas in the country. Those who could not meet the deadline for birth registration could file an appeal.

The delegation recognized that indeed there were not many women who were members of political parties, and that there had been few female ambassadors. The Government would strive to catch up in that regard, and it took note of good practices in other countries. As for an effective female participation in the reconciliation process, there was a special commission made up of women.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

An Expert reiterated her questions about the timeframe for the adoption of the new Nationality Code. As for birth registration, she wondered whether the Government could simplify the procedure as much as possible, for example through the use of mobile phones. Why not use highly educated women to jumpstart the increase of female participation in politics?

Answers by the Delegation

As for the deadline for the submission of the new Nationality Code, all comments from relevant stakeholders needed to be collected first. The delegation could not provide a clear deadline. The law for organizing senatorial elections in December 2015 had already been adopted, but it did not have a provision for quotas for women.

Questions by Experts

An Expert regretted that the political crisis had undermined provisions for free and compulsory education. Some 18 per cent of girls in primary education, and 40 per cent of girls in secondary education were out of school. Conditions that impeded their access to education were living in rural areas and remote areas, early marriage and early pregnancy. Were pregnant girls expelled from school? Were there age appropriate sex education programmes in schools?

In practice some companies discriminated against pregnant women, in particular in the informal sector. What plans were in place to extend employment protection to women in the informal sector? Was there any data on the gender pay gap? Were measures in place to undertake a gender specific study in the labour market? What measures were being taken to protect women from abuse by employers abroad? As for child labour, what plans were in place to ensure that children remained in school? Concerning sexual harassment at the workplace, which laws applied? There were no or very few complaints. What measures were in place to ensure that women felt confident to report sexual harassment? What kinds of violations were uncovered by labour inspectors?

What was being done to restore the quality and quantity of health care centres, especially those for pregnant women? Madagascar had one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. What was being done to address and change that serious situation? Illegal abortion was still practiced. Were there any studies on the prevalence and consequence of illegal abortion? Was there any intention to decriminalize abortion in cases such as rape? The low use of contraceptives demonstrated that better family services needed to be provided. What was the content of the draft Family Planning Law and were there obstacles for its adoption? What was being done to prevent the stigmatization of HIV positive persons?

Answers by the Delegation

Many girls were able to return to school after they had given birth. That practice should be reflected in law and practiced in all educational institutions. An efficient approach to sex education was given to adolescents through information on the prevention of pregnancies and use of contraceptives, as well as through radio and television broadcasts.

As for the framework for preventing discrimination in labour recruitment, there was no distinction between women and men, and there was no pay gap. In the informal sector, the Ministry of Labour had undertaken efforts to prevent any discrimination. The Government had identified one case of sending women abroad to work. The perpetrator had been prosecuted. Child domestic labour had been classified as one of the worst forms of child labour and was punishable. Child welfare schools were promoted as poor nutrition was one of the reasons why children failed at schools.

As for community health services, measures were being made to recruit paramedical staff and the Ministry of Health had been recruiting from private medical training establishments. Training was also provided to midwives to prevent maternal mortality. There was no database on that matter. The Criminal Code criminalized abortion, as well as rape and incest. That led women to have clandestine abortions without medical assistance, which in turn caused the high maternal mortality rate. The accelerated campaign 2014-2015 to reduce maternal mortality had been undertaken.

Regarding sexual harassment, it was regulated by the Labour Code and the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code penalized sexual harassment in general, whereas the Labour Code specifically covered the relationship between the employee and the supervisor. The penalties were the same.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

An Expert noted that despite the lack of formal complaints of sexual violence in schools, it seemed that it was prevalent. There seemed to be a culture of silence about that issue. Was there a code of conduct for teachers and students?

Another Expert observed the lack of clarity on how sexual harassment at the workplace was regulated. Did any of the laws cover sexual harassment among peers? What were the findings of labour inspectors and what would the State do with those findings? What mechanisms allowed people to come forward about the harassment they had experienced at the workplace?

Bearing in mind the political will to reduce maternal mortality by 2017, did the Government aspire to introduce free of charge pre-natal check-ups? What did the reform of sex education envisage?

Was the downgrading to an administrative offence for abortion sufficient to prevent illegal abortions? Opening up of abortion to safe conditions was absolutely necessary in order to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality.

Answers by the Delegation

There had been complaints of sexual violence in schools, and the Government had undertaken awareness raising activities to that end. However, it seemed that the campaign had not reached the intended audience, so the campaign would be repeated. When labour inspectors found cases where female domestic workers had been mistreated, they advised them to lodge their complaint with the police or court. Legal counselling centres existed and they were run by non-governmental organizations. There were also legal clinics which provided advice to women on various forms of abuses.

Sexual harassment at the workplace was clearly and narrowly defined by the Labour Code, whereas the Criminal Code adopted a broader definition. However, the penalties were equal. As for going beyond the downgrading of abortion to an administrative offence, the Government had tried to bring on board a variety of social actors. However, the position of the Catholic Church was not favourable to the decriminalization of abortion.

Pre-natal check-ups were free of charge and women could go to local health centres to receive treatment. The Law on HIV/AIDS provided for voluntary and free of charge testing in order to encourage prevention. The Ministry of Health also published epidemiological reports, including on HIV/AIDS, to spread the knowledge about that disease.

Questions by Experts

An Expert noted that women should enjoy full economic authority. A microfinance service had existed in the country since 2006. However, it was not enough to help overcome exclusion and discrimination. A targeted economic programme should be implemented to ensure the autonomy of women. Were there any specific programmes to promote entrepreneurship for women? How many businesses in the country were owned by women, and what was the percentage of women accorded bank loans? Did women need prior authorization from their family in order to apply for loans?

Almost 80 per cent of the population lived in rural areas. Poverty and extreme poverty affected women to a great extent, particularly when they headed households. Women in rural areas had great difficulties in accessing basic services, such as education, health care and justice. Did rural women have to pay for those services? Did the Government take measures to make those services free of charge? Land tenure was essential for rural women. The Committee was concerned about the regulation that allowed co-inheritors to decide to offer cash compensation for land to women. Were rural women familiar with the provisions of the Convention? Rural women were also reported to have not been able to participate in local decision-making. Did the Government intend to carry out awareness raising campaigns? What were the consequences of the recently adopted National Social Protection Plan?

Answers by the Delegation

Combatting poverty was part of the general Government policy and a general strategy had been prepared. Rural women’s access to micro credit was not enough to foster economic independence. Through the land tenure policy, women had an opportunity to play a more significant role in rural society. There was no exact data on the number of women who owned businesses, but it was hoped that facilitated access to loans would increase the number of those women. The Marriage Law stipulated a spouse’s consent in taking a loan. Access to basic services for rural women was free of charge. As for inheritance, women could oppose the intention of co-inheritors to convert the land portion into a sum of money.

Social security protection was currently governed by a previous law. The Government, however, intended to extend social security to rural women and to include them in the national development policy, as well as local development plans. Access to credit was covered by a national strategy, which was focused on covering women in rural areas.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

When would the Government take a decision to include women in social protection schemes? Were there capacity-building programmes in the farming and cattle rearing sector for rural women?

It was reported that in cases of violence and child birth complications, women had to pay medical expenses themselves. How many cases of transfer of land ownership into money had been recorded? Did the husband also have to seek his wife’s approval for taking a bank loan?

Answers by the Delegation

Training was provided to women and there were four special training centres for rural women to train them in crop growing and similar activities. Training was also provided for income-generating activities. The delegation said it could extend the scope of free services to women victims of violence, such as issuing of medical certificates. There was a budget assigned to persons without economic means, and that budget could be extended to women in need. Concerning the conversion of women’s land inheritance into money, there was no information available on such cases. Unfortunately, the society believed that women should not have land tenure because land could be lost by the family as a result.

Questions by Experts

The legal marriage system was dual and it comprised customary and civil marriages. Most customary marriages were not registered, which meant that women in those “free unions” did not enjoy any protection. Would the State party consider making marriage registration compulsory? Women in de facto or free unions had to have their economic rights recognized. The division of marital property was not clear. What happened in the case of free unions? How were agreements reached by couples? Was there a default regime? Although polygamy was illegal, the State party had noted that the prohibition of polygamy was contrary to Muslim customs. Women sometimes risked losing child custody. Could the State party clarify such cases?

Answers by the Delegation

The customary marriage was recorded on the registry, just like the civil marriage. But, there was an intermediary union which was not registered. Marital assets were shared equally, unless property had been previously owned only by one spouse. The Criminal Code stipulated that if the father failed to provide child support for several consecutive months, he would be penalized. As for marriage contracts, spouses were duly informed and asked what kind of marriage they wanted. Custody was awarded in the supreme interest of the child. Polygamy was prohibited by law. Only a few Muslims in Madagascar practiced polygamy.

Concluding Remarks

NOELINE RAMANANTENASOA, Minister of Justice of Madagascar, noted that the observations and recommendations made by the Committee would help the Government better protect women’s rights. Progress had been achieved, but a lot of work remained to be done to close certain gaps. She thanked the Committee for the genuinely constructive dialogue.

YOKO HAYASHI, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, which had provided further insight. The Committee commended the State party for its efforts, and it encouraged it to take into account its observations.

__________

– See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16734&LangID=E#sthash.NvFEDIT5.dpuf

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