Mauritania ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on May 10, 2001.
Upon ratification, Mauritania made the following reservation as described below:
- Having seen and examined the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979, have approved and do approve it in each and every one of its parts which are not contrary to Islamic Sharia and are in accordance with our Constitution.
Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:
To date, Mauritania has submitted one official periodic report to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”). Their first initial report was submitted in May 2005.
In response to Mauritania’s first periodic report, the Committee released comments in June 2007 regarding Mauritania’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns. The Committee expressed its appreciation to Mauritania for submitted its initial report, which in general followed the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of reports, was very informative and provided a candid picture of the situation of women in Mauritania, but which was overdue. The Committee also noted its appreciation for the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group and for the oral presentation and responses to the questions posed by the Committee. The Committee commended Mauritania for the frank and constructive dialogue held between the delegation and the members of the Committee.
A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Mauritania’s report in 2005 as follows:
- Expressed commitment and political will to eliminate discrimination against women and adopt measures to ensure the implementation of the Convention.
- A stated intention of Mauritania to withdraw its general reservation made upon ratification of the Convention.
- Introduction of a 20 percent quota for women on lists of candidates for municipal and parliamentary elections which, together with financial incentives for political parties, resulted in the election of 33 percent women at the municipal level and 17.9 and 17.0 per cent women, respectively, to the Senate and the National Assembly.
- Adoption of the Personal Status Code.
- Making basic education compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Mauritania’s report in 2005 as follows:
- Complete as soon as possible the process of withdrawal of its general reservation, which is contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.
- Intensify its efforts to raise awareness about the Convention among the general public and, especially, among public officials, the judiciary and the legal profession.
- Ensure that the Convention becomes an integral part of the legal education and training of judicial officers, including judges, lawyers and prosecutors, so that a legal culture supportive of women’s equality with men and non-discrimination on the basis of sex will be firmly established in the country.
- Incorporate in its Constitution or in other appropriate legislation a definition of discrimination against women, encompassing both direct and indirect discrimination, in line with article 1 of the Convention, and furthermore ensure that the understanding of indirect discrimination encompasses sex-based discrimination as well as other, multiple forms of discrimination that women may face.
- Remove impediments women may face in gaining access to justice, and to ensure that the judiciary is familiar with the Convention and the State party’s obligations.
- Provide legal aid services, implement legal literacy programs and disseminate knowledge of ways to utilize available legal remedies against discrimination, as well as to monitor the results of such efforts.
- Seek assistance from the international community in order to implement measures that in practice will strengthen women’s access to justice.
- Strengthen its national machinery for the advancement of women by clearly defining the mandates and responsibilities and the means for cooperation between the different mechanisms with responsibility for gender equality, and by allocating sufficient human and budgetary resources so as to ensure that they can fully and adequately perform all their functions, including providing capacity for better and more effective coordination among the various mechanisms on gender equality and for enhanced cooperation with civil society.
- Use temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25, as part of a necessary strategy towards the accelerated achievement of substantive equality for women, especially in the judiciary and the civil service, including the foreign service, and include information on the use of such temporary special measures, in relation to the various provisions of the Convention, and the impact of such measures, in its next periodic report.
- Per the commitment made by the candidates to the Presidency, in the charter for the promotion of women, establish a minimum quota of 20 percent of women in decision-making posts in the public administration.
- View culture as a dynamic dimension of the country’s life and social fabric, subject to many influences over time and therefore to change.
- Be more proactive and put into place without delay a comprehensive strategy, including clear goals and timetables, to modify or eliminate negative cultural practices and stereotypes that are harmful to and discriminate against women and promote women’s full enjoyment of their human rights, in conformity with articles 2 (f) and 5 (a) of the Convention.
- Undertake such efforts in collaboration with civil society organizations, women’s groups and community and religious leaders, and assess regularly progress made towards the achievement of established goals and report thereon in its next periodic report.
- Assess the status of implementation of its strategy for the advancement of women and for gender mainstreaming, and utilize fully the momentum and partnerships generated during the process of the preparation of its report under article 18 of the Convention and the Committee’s present concluding comments to review the current strategy and further elaborate a comprehensive operational plan for the promotion of gender equality and advancement of women, encompassing all levels and sectors of Government. Such a strategy should cover legal, policy and program measures and contain clear goals, benchmarks and timetables, as well as mechanisms for regular and systematic monitoring and evaluation of progress in its implementation, including the development of indicators for assessing compliance with all the provisions of the Convention. Seek the technical support of United Nations entities in the collection of data and the training of the national team responsible for the elaboration and implementation of such a plan.
- Include adequate statistical data and analysis, disaggregated by sex and ethnicity, and information on women with disabilities, in its next report so as to provide a full picture of the implementation of all the provisions of the Convention, in regard to all women.
- Regularly conduct impact assessments of its legislative reforms, policies and programs to ensure that the measures taken lead to the desired goals, and that it inform the Committee about the results of these assessments in its next report.
- Raise awareness about the provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure that prohibits female genital mutilation for minors and to ensure its enforcement, including the prosecution and adequate punishment of offenders.
- Speedily adopt the draft law that will specifically address female genital mutilation, mentioned by the State party’s representative during the constructive dialogue.
- Strengthen its awareness-raising and education efforts, targeted at both men and women, with the support of civil society and religious leaders, to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation and its underlying cultural justifications, and devise programs for alternate sources of income for those who perform female genital mutilation as a means of livelihood.
- Address the health consequences of female genital mutilation and provide medical support to those affected by it, and in this context, seek technical assistance from the United Nations Population Fund and the World Health Organization.
- Place the highest priority on implementing a comprehensive approach to address all forms of violence against women.
- Make full use of the Committee’s general recommendation 19 in such efforts and of the Secretary- General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women.
- Raise public awareness through media and education programs that all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence and forced feeding of girls, are unacceptable, and train the judiciary, law enforcement officials, legal professionals, social workers and health providers with respect to violence against women so as to ensure that the perpetrators of violence against women are effectively prosecuted and punished with the required seriousness and speed and that effective and gender sensitive support is provided to victims.
- Enhance victims’ access to legal redress and establish support measures for victims of violence against women, including shelters and legal, medical and psychological support.
- Provide information in its next report on the laws, policies and programs in place to deal with all forms of violence against women and on the impact of such measures, as well as statistical data and trends concerning the prevalence of various forms of such violence.
- Accelerate its efforts aimed at the effective implementation and full enforcement of its legislation on the suppression of trafficking and on the prohibition of forced labor. Such efforts should, in particular, include the effective prosecution and punishment of traffickers.
- Increase the provision of assistance and support to women victims, as well as prevention efforts, by addressing the root causes of trafficking and by improving the economic situation of women so as to eliminate their vulnerability to exploitation and traffickers. Place priority on enhancing practical measures for the protection of girls employed as domestic servants from all forms of exploitation and abuse and to ensure that they can exercise their right to education.
- Take steps to completely eliminate remnants of slavery.
- Amend the Mauritanian Nationality Code so as to bring it in conformity with article 9 of the Convention.
- Raise awareness of the importance of education as a human right and as a basis for the empowerment of women, and take steps to overcome traditional attitudes that perpetuate discrimination and lack of compliance with the provisions of article 10 of the Convention.
- Implement measures to ensure equal access for girls and women to all levels of education and to ensure the retention of girls in school, including through temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25, and make efforts to improve the literacy level of girls and women through the adoption of comprehensive programs of formal and non-formal education, and through adult education and training.
- Implement specific measures to enable girls to complete their schooling after childbirth and to combat early and forced marriage as obstacles to their education, and strengthen collaboration with civil society and to seek enhanced support from the international community and donor organizations to accelerate compliance with article 10 of the Convention.
- Introduce without delay specific measures, including an enforcement mechanism, to ensure equal rights for women in the area of employment and work and their full and equal participation in the labor market. This should include a guarantee of equal pay for equal work and for work of equal value. The Committee also calls upon the State party to enact legislation prohibiting sexual harassment.
- Undertake all necessary measures to improve women’s access to health care and to health-related services and information, including for women in rural areas.
- Improve the availability of sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning services and obstetric care, and adopt programs and policies to increase knowledge of and access to affordable contraceptive methods, so that women and men can make informed choices about the number and spacing of children.
- Implement a comprehensive maternal and infant mortality reduction program, with time bound targets, including measures to increase access to obstetric services.
- Address teenage pregnancies with a view to preventing vescico-vaginal fistula and to provide medical support to those affected by it.
- Provide appropriate sex education and youth-friendly reproductive health services, inter alia, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and address drug and substance abuse among young people, with a specific focus on young women.
- Pay special attention to the needs of rural women and of those belonging to various ethnic groups, and ensure that rural women have access to health care, education, justice, clean water, electricity, land and income-generating projects.
- Carefully monitor the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Poverty Reduction of Mauritania so as to ensure that the gender perspectives contained in the strategy are explicitly addressed in the implementation process.
- Collect data on the situation of rural women and include such data and analysis in its next periodic report, and provide a clear picture of the situation of women belonging to various ethnic groups in that report.
- Accelerate its reform of marriage and family law and to eliminate all discriminatory provisions so that women enjoy the same legal rights and obligations, in accordance with articles 15 and 16 of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 21.
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
- Utilize fully in its implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and include information thereon in its next periodic report.
- Recognize that a full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It calls for the integration of a gender perspective and explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
- Consider ratifying the treaty to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
- Widely disseminate in Mauritania the present concluding comments in order to make the people, including government officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in that regard.
- Continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention, its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
- Respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention, and submit its second periodic report, which was due in June 2006, and its third periodic report, which is due in June 2010, in a combined report in 2010.
Summary of Shadow Reports:
To date, two shadow reports have been submitted regarding the application of CEDAW in Mauritania. Both reports were prepared and submitted to the Committee in March 2007.
One report was written under the coordination of the NGO National Forum for the Promotion of Women’s and Children’s Rights of Mauritania, with the technical and financial assistance of WILDAF-Benin, UNIFEM and the collaboration of a group of over 20 NGOs working on a project on the evaluation of a mechanism of following and evaluating the implementation of CEDAW.
The other report was prepared by the Partners Network for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Mauritania in March 2007. This alternative report, created by the collaboration of over ten women’s organizations, described at-length the discrimination that women in Mauritania face on a daily basis, and made the following recommendations to the government:
- Creation of a structure at the level of Prime Minister Office or of Presidency for the protection of minor girls against the premature marriage; any marriage before the legal age will have to get a special authorization.
- Intensification of SECF structures in qualified and specialized staff (integration of social workers for an action of nearness with authority to carry the cases before courts).
- To assure the independence of justice of any form of pressure as required in a law State.
- To contribute to strengthen the capacities of NGOs in promotion and in protection of human rights of women and girls.
- To make a study on the extent of the fatal practices and the violence against women; and adopt an action plan to eliminate them.
- To take administrative measures in health centers to handle the cases of victims of violence as a matter of urgency priority.
- To adopt a gender budget for a better handling of problems connected to this question.
Women in Mauritania face discrimination despite the fact that the government has made efforts to improve women’s status. In August 2006, the government issued a legal order facilitating women’s access in the public sphere, stipulating that 20% of parliamentary and municipal seats be allocated to women. In addition, the government offered financial incentives to political parties with a larger number of female candidates. Currently, women occupy 20% of the seats in the National Assembly and 1,120 women were elected to municipal councils in 2006.
Although Mauritania has ratified CEDAW, national law continues to discriminate against women in various areas, including access to property, marriage rights, divorce and parental rights. The National Human Rights Committee in Mauritania as well as women’s NGOs such as The Rally for Defending Women’s Rights and Hope Organization work to fight discrimination against women.
On March 3, 2008, Al-Hayat Daily reported that President Sheikh Abdullah spoke with leaders of the Mauritanian Network for Ministers and Parliamentarian Women. In this meeting, the President consented to appoint more women to high-level state positions. It was noted that he had appointed women ambassadors and governors for the first time in Mauritania’s history.
On May 13, 2008, the UN News Service reported on the situation of rape victims in Mauritania. The government claims that it is trying to increase rape case prosecution, but outdated legal texts and poorly trained judges prove a big challenge. In particular, the penal code does not give a precise definition of sexual violence, making it all the more difficult to prove. Judge’s personal opinions often affect legal decisions, and sexual abuses are often labeled as voluntary sexual relations.
The number of reported rapes in the capital Nouakchott has tripled this year, according to UNICEF, and close to none of the perpetrators received any legal punishment. NGOs are the only entities providing support to victims, with organizations like AMSME assisting victims with reporting assaults to police and helping them with the administration procedures necessary for convictions. In addition, these NGOs also provide psychological counseling for rape victims.
On February 9, 2009, Al-Sharq reported that activists from women’s leaderships called for assisting Mauritania in getting rid of household slavery and exploitation of slaves. Although the government prohibited slavery first in 1984, and again with a prohibition law in 2006, the law has not been practically implemented and continues to be ignored by traditionalists. Aminato Bint Mukhtar, director of the Women Who Support Families declared that the authorities are doing nothing to end the suffering of many women subjected to various forms of exploitation and discrimination.
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