Latvijas sieviešu nevalstisko organizāciju tīkla alternatīvajā ziņojumā ANO Komitejai par ANO Konvencijas par jebkuras sieviešu diskriminācijas izskaušanu izpildi Latvijā analizēta reālā situācija sieviešu tiesību jomā Latvijā. Ziņojumā kritizētas nepilnības tiesību aktos un to izpildē un atbildīgo institūciju darbībā, kā arī izteikti konkrēti priekšlikumi situācijas uzlabošanai
TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEE
ON THE ELIMINATION OF DICRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
TO THE COMBINED INITIAL, SECOND, AND THIRD PERIODIC REPORT OF LATVIA ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF CONVENTION OF 18 DECEMBER 1979 ON ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN THE REPUBLIC OF LATVIA
SUBMITTED BY WOMEN’S NGOs NETWORK OF LATVIA
RIGA, LATVIA, 2004
Legal and Institutional Framework on Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities
The Constitution of the Republic of Latvia has no special provisions regarding gender equality; however, it is considered that the article 91 of part 8 is guaranteeing gender equality. The article prescribes that “all people in Latvia shall be equal in front of the law and court” and that” human rights shall be exercised without any discrimination”. The Constitution provides for equal rights to vote and be elected. Latvia has had a woman as the country’s president since 1999.
Latvia has ratified the majority of the international human rights agreements since the restoration of independence. The most important of these include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights (ICSER), The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), and the European Social Charter (ESC). Specifically in the field of women’s rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is also ratified by Latvia in 1992, however, the Optional Protocol to CEDAW is yet to be ratified. Neither has Latvia yet ratified the Protocol 12 to ECHR, prohibiting discrimination, nor has it ratified the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
The Law on Labour Protection came into force on 1 January 2002 and the new Labour Code on 1 June 2002. The requirements of the European Union Directives in the field of equal treatment are incorporated in these laws. It is necessary to raise awareness and understanding on equal treatment, which is essential for social partners. Although specific articles in the Latvia Labour Code focus on the gender aspect, measures should be undertaken to ensure that the above norms stimulate de facto equality in the economic as well as other areas of life.
A new Law on Sexual and Reproductive Health entered into force on 1 July 2002 guaranteeing the right to abortion – a right previously granted only through Welfare Ministry Regulation of 1993. On 25 April 2002 Parliament amended the Criminal Code strengthening norms against trafficking in human beings. In 2002, charges on sending a person abroad for sexual exploitation with the person’s consent were filed in 13 criminal cases, bringing the total number of cases to 25.
The new anti-discrimination law(s) implementing the two EU directives on employment and race were originally planned to be discussed in the Parliament on 13 May, but it were replaced from the agenda in order to discuss the issue more thoroughly before adoption. Even if the anti-discrimination laws are passed, it seems probable that further amendments are still needed to fully comply with EU Directives, particularly in regard to discrimination in sectors other than employment. At the moment, the definition of indirect discrimination is prevailing only in Latvian Labour Law (which entered in force in June 2002). It would be very important to expand the scope into other areas/spheres (social protection, health care, housing, education, supply of goods and services, etc.).
In legislative and administrative field there has recently been some limited progress. Since January 1999 the Ministry of Welfare has been responsible institution for gender equality issues in the Government. Also, a Gender Equality unit was set up at the department of European and Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Welfare, to facilitate coordination of issues related to gender equality. The Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia passed a Concept on the Implementation of Gender Equality on 16 October 2001. It aims at the promotion of effective, integrated and coordinated management of gender equality issues. However, despite the fact that a framework document on gender equality was adopted in 2001, the relevant inter-ministerial working-group failed to draft a National Gender Equality Programme for 2003-2007.
With the decision in February 2002 to establish the Gender Equality Council in Latvia, a co-ordination and advisory body has been created, although insufficient budget and resources were allocated. The Council contains representatives of public administration, non – governmental and research institutions. The Council aims to promote the implementation of the gender equality policy at public administration institutions of all levels and draft recommendations for the Ministries on necessary lines of support for gender equality. The relevant institution does not have the adequate administrative capacities in place and is not able to fulfil its new responsibilities emerging from the new legislation.
In October 2003 the Parliamentary sub-committee on Gender equality was established, tasked with gender-mainstreaming, development of necessary legislation, prevention of trafficking in human beings and education of public on gender equality issues.
Despite a progress made with respect to promotion of gender equality in Latvia, the gender awareness is still rather low in Latvian society and this is reflected among civil service, decision-makers and the Latvian society at large.
Since 1996 the mandate for an ombudsperson-like institution – the National Human Rights Office – includes not only informing and educating the public, analyzing the human rights situation, and drafting recommendations, but also investigating complaints of human rights violations. The National Human Rights Office has reviewed several complaints on discrimination at work and police attitudes to domestic violence. On 30 June 2003 working group was formed assigned with the task of developing a draft law on the institution of ombudsman in cooperation with the Chancery of the President and the State Chancellery. Draft law has been developed.
Because of low public awareness and the lack of information on equal opportunities issues, targets of discrimination have rarely fought discrimination in the courts or sought assistance from state’s bodies or non-governmental institutions. The statistical data shows that 74 % of the population would not go to court in the case of human rights violation, 37 % of the population does not trust the court system, and 13 % do not know where to turn for assistance. As a result, effectiveness of the Constitution’s provisions is put into question.
In practice there are neither proper mechanisms nor culture for resolving gender equality disputes. At present the only institutions for the submission of complaints and claims are court, the State Labour Inspection Bureau and the National Human Rights Office. The small number of complaints about failure to observe gender equality testifies the low information level of the community on these issues, to the distrust of the population in the court system as well as the fear of employees about possible sanctions undertaken by the employer, e.g., the dismissal of the employee.
Only a small number of NGOs provide legal aid specifically for women. Experts of the working group of UNDP and OSCE have evaluated that establishment of ombud’s institution would improve human rights realization in Latvia.
NGO Coalition for Gender Equality was formed in year 2000 by NGOs active in the field in order to raise public awareness. Women NGOs created a Women NGOs network in year 2003 to provide qualitative consultation process between state institutions and civil society promoting advocacy of women human rights and equality between women and men. The network unites 33 women NGOs.
In reality women in Latvia continue to meet various difficulties in exercising their rights. The lack of understanding of gender issues in society in general, the existence and continuation of stereotyped attitudes regarding genders, the lack of equal treatment in labour market and other sectors of society, the use of violence against women (domestic violence, trafficking in women, sexual harassment, etc.), all contribute to the violation of women’s rights in Latvian society.
The report highlights some of the most critical issues as regards women/women’s rights in Latvia, based of the experience of various NGOs working in the field of women’s rights and protection in Latvia:
1. Violence against women
The last decade has shown a slow but growing awareness among professionals and the general public in Latvia about domestic violence and violence against women in general. However, international and domestic sources indicate that the entire legal system, including the courts, tends to downplay the seriousness of violence against women.
Government does not have united system and approach to fight against violence against women. There is lack of unified mechanisms and coordination system between institutions and professionals working in this field. The Government does not have proper research or data on violence against women, so there is no comprehensive statistics on domestic violence, sexual harassment in work place, prostitution and trafficking in women. There is also lack of specialists that could work with the serious problem, providing help to the women that have suffered from violence.
1.1. Domestic violence
Significant number of women suffers from the violence every year. Statistics show that half of the crimes happen in the families. NGOs working with women rights and protection report that domestic violence against women is sizeable and underreported. Victims of abuse are often uninformed about their rights as well as reluctant to seek redress through justice system. One of the obstacles is still prevailing attitudes in society that burden women with guilt and shame. The police and court system also tend to downplay the seriousness of the problem.
The Government in Latvia does not have proper informative programme and activities on stereotyped attitudes about gender roles and negative consequences of such attitudes that leads to violence against women. Women NGOs provide limited amount of informative brochures on violence against women but their resources are not sufficient to deal with the scope of the problem.
NGOs have provided trainings for the police staff. It is evident that police are insensitive to the domestic violence and consider it as a private matter of the family. NGOs working with victims of domestic violence also reveal that there are cases when policemen try to convince women not to submit a report on violence in the family and that at times the police are reluctant to make arrests in such cases.
The lack of supportive legislation is an important obstacle that prevents problem solving: violence against women is not defined as a serious problem that demands efforts from government and municipalities and NGOs.
There is no legal provision that prohibits abusive persons to approach the victim; therefore women are afraid to report on violence.
Police statistics for domestic violence are grouped in more general categories such as assault or battery. The criminal code specifically criminalizes rape but does not recognize the spousal rape.
There are no shelters designed specifically for battered or abused women.
NGOs are active in the field of providing consultations and other support for women. The only place where women get free of charge shelter is “Talsi women and children crises centre” assisted by local municipality. Possibilities to offer help are often limited because of the lack of legal protection and financial limitations of the NGOs.
Latvia has signed the Convention for the Suppression of Trafficking in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others in 1992. Prostitution is widespread, although there are no official numbers of its actual scope. Nevertheless since 1998 prostitution is legal although procuring is not legal in Latvia.
It is estimated that around 3,000 persons worked as prostitutes in 2003, but “The Latvian Gender Problem Centre “GENDERS””, an NGO, providing support for prostitutes estimates that there are 10 000 – 15 000 prostitutes. 25% are girls working in prostitution are under 18 years old.
Adult prostitutes have no legal protections, neither are there any state institutions to assist prostitutes.
No state funding has been budgeted for preventing the spread of HIV among prostitutes.
No funding for special police that would deal with prostitution and trafficking in women was allocated in the national budget.
1.3. Sexual harassment
Definition on sexual harassment was introduced in the legislation only year 2004. The research on implementing principles of gender equality in local municipalities in year 2003 supported by United Nations Development Programme illustrates the opinion of the respondents, women and men working in the municipal institutions on sexual harassment. Although the respondents think that women more often than men suffer from the sexual harassment in workplace, 54,5% men and 43,5% women could not formulate their opinion about sexual harassment in workplace. According to the point of view of 11,4% men and 5,6% women there is a problem of sexual harassment in the workplaces. The Public understanding and awareness on sexual harassment in workplaces and in society in general can be estimated rather low.
1.4. Trafficking in women
Anti-trafficking information campaign has been carried out aimed at general public and specific target groups in co-operation with the Nordic and other Baltic governments, relevant state institutions and local NGOs. There is still a very low awareness about trafficking in human beings among the Latvian youth and the society in general.
In April 2002 the Parliament amended the Criminal Code strengthening norms against trafficking in human beings. Most traffickers were however prosecuted under earlier law that prohibits sending persons abroad for sexual exploitation valid since May 2000.
There have been proceedings against persons for trafficking related crimes but for instance in the most important case where trafficker was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in the prison, some prosecutors and judges did not consider human trafficking a serious crime, and reduced some of the sentences on appeal.
There is lack of research on the scope of trafficking in women from Latvia, lack of cohesive education programme for specialists that should work with victims of trafficking.
On March 3, 2004 Government adopted programme on Elimination of trafficking in human beings with the aim of improvements in legislation, but it is not clear how government is going to cooperate with NGOs providing assistance for the victims of trafficking and whether funding will be provided for implementation of the programme.
At the moment assistance for victims of trafficking is provided mainly by few NGOs, without any financial support from the government. There is a serious need for proper assistance programmes for the victims of trafficking, as well as more education and awareness-building activities and programmes.
Recommendations for the Parliament and the Government:
Improve legislation providing legal protection to victims of violence:
1. Define violence against women in the family and in society as a serious crime; prohibit abusive person to approach the victim that reported on the case of violence; recognise spousal rape as a crime; provide shelter to the persons that have suffered from the violence as well as necessary professional assistance for the victims of violence.
2. Criminalise buying of sexual services
Allocate funding for the already developed programme on Elimination of trafficking in human beings and develop a comprehensive government programme to fight against violence against women and:
1. Create a proper database of the scale and scope of violence against women.
2. Develop education programmes for specialists that work with victims, as well as initiate education and awareness-raising measures for the society, police, mass media and various institutions on moral unacceptability of the violence against women.
3. NGOs, politicians and the government need to build up a more comprehensive cooperation to identify joint methods and resources with which to support the work against violence.
2. Education/ Right to free choice of profession and employment
Although girls and boys do not meet discrimination based on gender to enter education institutions, they meet discrimination based on gender within the education system.
Education system does not properly train the teachers and trainers to introduce women human rights in education system and recognise situations when segregation of persons on the base of gender occurs. Educators cultivate gender stereotypes – attitudes towards girls and boys are different based on gender, girls and boys receive different messages what they should do when they grow up according traditional gender roles through games, learning methods, and books. For example the subject on Christian Ethics in the school promotes accepting the norms of Patriarchal society.
In 2001 Latvian Association on Gender Equality ordered a research “Gender roles in the study books”. Research shows that gender stereotypes still exist in the study books. Study case in Limbazi Preschool proves that girls and boys learn different social skills according to traditional gender roles which lead to limited possibilities to develop one’s own individual capacities and to limited and traditional choices of occupation.
Existing government education policies promote segregation in labour market. Domestic science is still divided to learn different things for girls and different for boys. Sessions are held for girls and boys separately. In the secondary schools there is specialization in Humanities and mathematics. Pupils that choose humanities have limited opportunities to apply for exact sciences in higher education programmes. Women study much more social and humanistic sciences, while men study more natural sciences, technology, and engineering.
It is possible to observe gender inequalities in the higher education institutions. There are few women in professorship. Both women and men promote men to take higher positions. Rectors, leaders of councils, and other structural units are more men within the Higher Education institutions. Male corporative networks are very strong.
Recommendations for the Parliament and the Government:
As the government efforts are crucial to avoid labour segregation the education programmes have to promote equal treatment, attitudes and content for all girls and boys. Women NGOs Network in Latvia recommends:
- Introducing subject on equality between women and men in the programmes of higher education, promoting responsibility on recognising situations when discrimination based on gender occurs, and individual approach towards both genders in different areas.
- Secondary schools have to provide general education not specialisation in humanitarian and maths directions and equal start positions for youth, as well as specialization not typical to traditional gender roles. Girls and boys have to have the same content of Domestic science.
- It is necessary to introduce affirmative actions to make equal representation of women and men in the Academic and science councils, structures of higher education.
3.1. Horizontal and vertical gender segregation of the labour market
The horizontal and vertical gender segregation of the labour market is a reality (as in most countries). There are low positions of women in high ranking posts, hiring and pay discrimination particularly in private sector, etc. In practice, there are some jobs that are not considered suitable for women (hard jobs, unhealthy).
3.2. Pay gap
According to Human Rights Committee concluding observations to the report of Latvia, at the 79th session, 5 November 2003 discrimination against women with regards to remuneration persists, despite the efforts of the government to guarantee equal treatment, including the employment law, and the programme on the implementation of gender equality. An occupational survey of legal units – enterprises, business companies and organizations conducted by the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia in 2003 shows that women do not receive the same pay for the same job in all 10 major groups – groups, how occupations are divided, mainly in descending order of occupational skills. For instance the first major group includes occupations whose main tasks consist of determining and formulating government policies, as well as laws and public regulations, overseeing their implementation. There are rather equal representation of women and men in this group compared with other groups – 40,1%men and 59,9% women. However women receive 22% less than men in Riga and 13% less than men in rural areas. The discrimination regarding remuneration is evident in the occupational groups where women are more represented than men like clerks and service workers. Women working as clerks receive 18% less than men. Women working as service workers and shop and market sales workers are paid 32% less than men. Insufficient information is provided by state party in regard to the number and results of cases brought and whether compensation has been paid.
3.3. Women do not make a complaint
There is also evidence in various NGOs on cases when women apply for jobs where employer prefers to have men. The personnel of the departments of the State Employment Agency orally provide information for women that they are not preferred for specific jobs.
Women do not make a complaint against discrimination in labour market even they meet discrimination. Although under Civil Procedure Law, any natural or legal person of age and having full legal capacity may submit a claim to court to protect his/ her rights that have been violated, there are only 2 judgments of the national courts concerning violation of principle of gender equality.
In the other one of the above mentioned cases the plaintiff Inga Muhina brought to court the Riga central prison, as the director of the prison had refused to employ her on the grounds of her gender. The Riga Latgale District Court ruled that the prison had violated the Latvian Labour Code, the Constitution and CEDAW, but denied her claim for compensation. Interestingly, the Court ignored the impermissibility of gender-specific job advertisements, and even ruled that the plaintiff herself evoked the discrimination by applying a job, which had been advertised for males. The Civil Court Collegium of the Riga Regional Court maintained that the acknowledgement of the violation of Muhina’s rights and a public apology was in itself sufficient compensation and that there was no ground for material compensation.
NGOs working in the field of women’s rights and protection reveal that women are afraid they will be stigmatized if they turn to the court, and that there will be negative consequences to their families and to their future employment prospects. Another obstacle for women to make a complaint is that persons do not have sufficient support and protection when they make a complaint. There is not a specific ombudsman for gender equality. Neither is there Gender Equality Act, or other specific law on gender equality. Nevertheless Government has developed a program on gender Equality for year 2005 -2007 which includes a proposal to have specialists in Human Rights Office on gender based discrimination. Women NGOs see it as a step towards improvement of the situation and encouragement of women to submit a claim, whether the program will be adopted by government.
3.4. Conciliation of work and family life.
Women meet difficulties in conciliating work and family life. There are not sufficient day-care and pre-school facilities, especially for children younger than 3 years. In rural areas there is limited access to public transportation to take children to the day-care centres and preschool institutions and travel to workplace. Women NGOs in Latvia consider it to be discriminatory that child care benefits are so low that it is impossible to live on them. The existing policies are not supporting the conciliation of work and family life. Disabled women meet double discrimination in labour market.
Recommendations for the Parliament and the Government:
Allocate financial resources for the developed government program on promotion of gender equality 2005 -2006, supporting initiatives regarding labour market:
- Encouragement of women to make a claim on gender based discrimination by establishing a gender equality office and legal protection when they make a claim.
- Promote possibilities to work and have a family by providing access to preschool institutions all around country, access to public transport especially in rural areas.
Provide equal pay for the same job for women and men.
Make additional wage increases in female-dominated sectors.
Accelerate the representation of women in all levels of decision-making; promote women’s presence in well-paid and high-ranking posts.
Support financially NGOs work to integrate women in labour market and limit the vertical and horizontal segregation of labour market.
4. Equality in exercising of parental rights
Children that are born in unregistered relationships from year 2002 have difficulties to receive acknowledgement of paternity. The legislation of Latvia does stipulate that paternity can be recognised only by legally free man according the changes in the Civil law article 155, part 6 in December, 2002. It means that a man who entered marriage has to receive a permission from his wife to recognise the paternity of a child born to other women. Women can make a complaint according article 158 of the Civil law but the costs of the court process have to be covered by the petitioner. Single parents –mostly women are among the most vulnerable and poorest groups in the society  and they can have difficulties in filing a petition for the declaration of paternity.
Recommendations for the Parliament and the Government:
To introduce the norm in the Civil Law that stipulates that paternity can be recognised not based registered relationships and regardless of the marital status of the parents.
 Elizabete Pičukāne, Inese Ķīkule, Sonja Zemīte. Dzimumu lomu attēlojums mācību grāmatās (Gender roles in the school study books), www.politika.lv, 28.05.2003
 „Women and Men in Latvia”, 2003, Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia