Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 991st & 992nd Meetings (AM & PM) Experts Warn of Staggering Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation, Sluggish Pace of Women’s Economic Development, Lenient Penalties for Trafficking.
Ratification by Djibouti of the international women’s Convention in 1999 had sparked a transformation in Djibouti that had “changed the landscape of the country”, the head of the delegation and Minister of the Promotion of Women and Family Planning of Djibouti said today, as the State party appeared before the monitoring Committee for its first-ever periodic review of implementation.
Opening the dialogue with a presentation of Djibouti’s combined first, second and third reports, Hasna Barkat Daoud said that during the review period, 1999-2009, Djibouti had elaborated a national policy for the promotion of women, children and vulnerable people. The country — which had seen virtually no political participation by women over the course of its history — had elected seven female Parliamentarians in 2003. A temporary quota had been implemented requiring 20 per cent presence of women in high-ranking posts, she said, and three ministerial posts were now held by women. Last month, the country also welcomed its first-ever female ambassador.
Women and children’s health was the “cornerstone” of Djibouti’s national health policy, she said. Significant progress had been made in that arena, with the adoption of a highly successful decentralized health system and the provision of free health care throughout the country. The country had also built a reference centre for reproductive health, which included mammography, a surgical ward and a cutting-edge pathology centre.
National laws now prohibited the traditional practice of female genital mutilation, she said. However, due to the custom’s “deep anchoring” in Djiboutian society, the prevalence of girls undergoing female genital mutilation had only dropped slightly — from 98 per cent to 93 per cent. “Evolution on [female genital mutilation] comes slowly, but surely,” she stressed, pointing to awareness-raising campaigns that had been instituted in recent years. Several communities had officially abandoned the practice with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and non-governmental partners, but without more commitment among local chiefs and traditional leaders there was no hope of a more widespread improvement.
Meanwhile, a major legal system reform was under way, aimed largely at improving the access of vulnerable people to the judicial system, the delegation head explained. Recent innovations in that area included a new judicial assistance law and the creation of “roaming courts” in rural areas, she said.