322. The Committee considered the second and third periodic reports of Italy (CEDAW/C/ITA/2 and 3)**At its 346th meeting, the Committee was informed that its Bureau had waived the general rule requiring simultaneous release of official documents in all working languages of the Committee and agreed to take up document CEDAW/C/ITA/3 - on the basis of the edited English version. at its 346th and 347th meetings, on 15 July 1997 (see CEDAW/C/SR.346 and 347).
323. In introducing the reports, the representative of Italy stated that Italy's basic strategies with respect to the advancement of women were mainstreaming and empowerment, gender difference being perceived as a resource rather than a disadvantage. She noted that women in Italy were now seeking freedom, independence and personal development and were no longer willing to be constrained in stereotypical social and family roles.
324. The representative noted that Italian women had reached high levels in education and were increasingly part of the workforce. She indicated that, paradoxically, women's increased employment was manifested in the high unemployment rate among women, with women no longer content to revert to their traditional role as housewife.
325. The representative stated that regrettably men's culture and the basic structures of society had not changed at the same pace as women's and that men had sometimes actively opposed women's empowerment.
326. The representative pointed out that basic guidelines for government action for the advancement of women were outlined in the Directive of the Prime Minister adopted on 7 March 1997. The Directive, which was aimed at all levels of public administration, both national and local, had been formulated after extensive consultation and parliamentary debate, and mandated all cabinet members to implement the Beijing Platform for Action.
327. The representative informed the Committee that Italy was now going through a period of welfare reform, as well as convergence measures to join the European Monetary Union. She noted that those reforms had the capacity to affect women negatively and for that reason measures to mainstream a gender perspective into welfare reform were essential and were being taken in Italy.
328. The representative drew attention to the measures that had been introduced in Italy to reduce working hours and to create employment, including community- based strategies and the encouragement of entrepreneurship among women, for example by the facilitation of soft loans.
329. The representative indicated that the burden of caring responsibilities in Italian society still fell mainly on women, although there was evidence that men were now taking on their responsibilities in that regard. She made clear that government policies and measures were being introduced to reinforce that change in perspective, including the creation of opportunities for childcare, facilitated by tax credits and incentives for non-profit organizations. In addition, draft legislation on parental leave, as well as measures to provide for flexible work patterns, were being introduced. The representative also noted the innovation of time banks, mostly managed by women, which allowed for the exchange of skills and services in communities.
330. The representative informed the Committee that draft legislation to address violence against women in the home had now been prepared and that a Commission had been established to investigate allegations of torture, including rape, perpetrated by Italian soldiers during the 1993 peace mission to Somalia. She noted that Italian women had actively participated in peace missions in the Middle East, the former Yugoslavia and Albania and the entry of women into the Italian armed forces had been an opportunity to redefine the role of the armed forces in the country.
331. The representative indicated that women remained under-represented in decision-making positions and that steps were being taken to address that issue via approaches aimed at empowering women generally. She noted that women were now well represented in decision-making at the local and municipal levels; in particular, women were particularly well represented in municipalities in the south, including Sicily.
332. The representative informed the Committee that educational campaigns, based on the model of a multicultural society, to address racism and xenophobia had been introduced in Italy. She noted that it was not enough to educate the next generation, but that efforts must be made to enable people to learn from each other.
333. The representative concluded by stating that although much remained to be done to implement the Convention in Italy, formal equality had been achieved. Efforts were still required to achieve substantive equality, but she was confident that the combination of the mainstreaming and empowerment strategies would reach that goal. In that regard she stressed that feminism and the women's movement had already transformed Italian society and women's empowerment would lead to further positive change.
Concluding comments of the Committee
334. The Committee expressed its appreciation to the Government of Italy for its high-level delegation headed by the Minister for Equal Opportunities, which it considered an indication of the State party's commitment to the Convention and its appreciation of the work of the Committee.
335. The Committee noted with satisfaction the second and third reports of Italy, which were frank, extensive and detailed. Both reports, particularly the third, exhibited an imaginative and forward-looking policy approach and, together with the oral presentation, explained the logic behind government policies and priorities. Nonetheless, the Committee expressed disappointment that the third report had not been submitted until a late stage thereby precluding its close examination by all members in advance.
336. The Committee was gratified by the excellent oral presentation and the answers to its questions, which were thought-provoking and responded very sensitively to the details and nuances of those questions. The oral presentation, moreover, allowed for reflection on the notion of gender equality as well as presenting the full statistical picture regarding women's position in Italian society.
337. The Committee welcomed the establishment by the present Government of the Ministry of Equal Opportunities as a coordinating ministry and expressed appreciation for the escalated efforts of that office for gender mainstreaming in the legal, institutional and social aspects of life in Italy. In that respect it especially commended the 7 March Directive of the Prime Minister to focus on gender issues across a wide spectrum of activities.
338. The Committee noted with appreciation the consistent efforts of the Government of Italy to enact legislation against discrimination. In this respect it welcomed the introduction of the recent draft Domestic Violence Act into the Parliament and evaluated this as complementary to the Violence Act of 1996. It welcomed those initiatives as demonstrations of the Government's will to ensure the protection of the human rights of women and combat all kinds of violence directed against them.
339. The Committee welcomed the gender-sensitization and awareness-raising efforts of the Government, aimed at the elimination of xenophobia and racism in Italian society. The Committee was pleased to note the promotion of the role of women as peacekeepers in different parts of the world. In that regard the Committee noted with satisfaction the commitment made, and the steps taken, to confront acts of violence against women allegedly perpetrated by Italian soldiers during peacekeeping missions.
340. The Committee noted with satisfaction the intentions and efforts of the Ministry of Equal Opportunities to ensure gender mainstreaming in the forthcoming welfare reform by moving the focus from the "male breadwinner regime" to overcome the injustice faced by women and to respond better to the needs of the elderly, particularly women.
341. The Committee welcomed the remarkable gains made by Italian women in education and occupational fields, which had significantly enhanced women's economic independence and contributed to their de facto equality in many respects.
342. The Committee welcomed the Government's efforts to promote entrepreneurship among women through provision of credit and via monitoring and coordination of the activities of different public and private agencies in that field.
343. The Committee acknowledged the progressive and humane provisions of Italy's immigration law, and particularly appreciated those provisions of immigration legislation that were protective of the human rights of immigrant women.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention
344. The Committee noted the persistence of significant cultural, social and economic differences and inequalities between the north and the south as major impediments to the full implementation of the Convention to achieve de facto equality in Italian society.
345. The Committee considered that the feminization of poverty, indicated by data showing that over 60 per cent of families headed by women were under the poverty line, constituted a serious obstacle to the full implementation of the Convention in Italy.
Principal areas of concern
346. The Committee expressed concern with regard to the inadequacy of efforts to combat stereotypes through education and other public means. It was deeply concerned that no substantial initiative had been taken in Italy to rid textbooks and teaching materials of stereotypes and/or towards making women and their contributions to history and society more visible and apparent.
347. The Committee expressed its concern about the persistence of patriarchal norms and stereotypes in Italian society and noted with particular concern the relative lack of attention to that matter in governmental policies and by governmental officials. The State party's attitudes and actions aimed at "utilizing women's own resources" were viewed by the Committee as potentially reinforcing and glorifying stereotypical roles of women, thereby impeding the realization of de facto equality.
348. The Committee noted with deep concern that the presence of women in politics and decision-making positions remained very limited and that political participation had fallen in recent years. Emphasizing the importance of the presence of women in such positions, the Committee was concerned that the Government's opinion of the adoption of numerical goals and quotas as unnecessary had contributed to that situation.
349. The Committee was also concerned about the lack of programmes to sensitize the public, particularly the police, the judiciary and health professionals, to the conditions and needs of victims of domestic violence. The Committee had expressed serious concern that in the absence of such measures the anti-discrimination laws, as well as laws on violence against women, would not be able to combat effectively indirect discrimination, or ensure accurate reporting and rigorous prosecution of all forms of violence against women.
350. The Committee was concerned about the lack of sex-disaggregated data relating to part-time work, and underlined the importance of close monitoring of the subject by, inter alia, keeping up to date sex-disaggregated statistics so as to determine the number of women occupied in part-time employment, which, when their number was disproportionate, was a factor that contributed to indirect discrimination.
351. The Committee was concerned about the inequality in the sharing of "caring responsibilities" and the fact that such responsibilities fell predominantly upon women in Italy, a factor that was particularly acute in southern Italy. It noted with concern the absence of efforts or programmes to encourage Italian men to undertake their fair share of domestic responsibilities, and to care for the children and the elderly.
352. The Committee expressed concern about the lack of statistics and/or studies into the causes of a number of health-related issues concerning women. It noted with serious concern that studies suggested an increase in incidence of lung cancer among women. It also noted the very high incidence of caesarian section deliveries and the failure of women to take advantage of early detection technologies, including mammography and pap smears, and the failure to explain that phenomenon in the report. In addition, the Committee was concerned about the lack of data on occupational health and disease.
353. The Committee expressed particular concern with regard to the limited availability of abortion services for women in southern Italy, as a result of the high incidence of conscientious objection among doctors and hospital personnel.
354. The Committee noted that while the shift in emphasis from the concept of man as breadwinner that underpinned current welfare reforms was intended to give women autonomy and reduce humiliating financial dependence, it was concerned that those reforms posed real risks for women who had been inter alia homemakers, and not part of the paid workforce, or whose careers had been interrupted by childcare and other responsibilities, and for older women who had little earning capacity.
Suggestions and recommendations
355. The Committee recommended that the Government of Italy continue to implement and strengthen the current measures it is taking to empower women and mainstream gender issues. It encouraged specific affirmative actions targeted to numerical goals and quotas, in particular in those areas such as political and decision-making positions of public life, where women's de facto equality had not been improving at the desired pace.
356. The Committee urged the Government of Italy to take large-scale measures to combat the widespread acceptance of stereotypical roles of women and men, particularly in the south, by alerting the public to the importance of an equitable distribution between women and men of family roles and "caring responsibilities". The Committee deemed it essential that textbooks and teaching material be reviewed and revised to reflect the non-stereotypical roles of men and women.
357. The Committee recommended that Italy expand its existing legislation and/or enact new legislation, where needed, in order to effectively deal with the phenomenon of indirect discrimination. To that end it emphasized the importance of measures to sensitize judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel to indirect discrimination and to Italy's international obligations, in particular those outlined in the Convention.
358. The Committee requested the Government to provide full information evaluating the impact of legislation and policy concerning equality for women and discrimination in Italy's next report to the Committee.
359. The Committee urged the Government of Italy to embark on public sensitization campaigns in relation to domestic violence in its various manifestations (sexual, physical, etc.) to ensure the protection of human rights of women and the girl child in the family. In particular, the Committee recommended that measures be introduced to encourage complaints and provide mechanisms for effective and timely response to such claims. It recommended that health professionals be trained in the care and management of domestic violence cases. The Committee also recommended the introduction of measures to increase the number of domestic violence shelters throughout Italy.
360. The Committee strongly recommended that the Government take steps to secure the enjoyment by women, in particular, southern Italian women, of their reproductive rights by, inter alia, guaranteeing them access to safe abortion services in public hospitals.
361. The Committee urged the Government of Italy to take the necessary steps to incorporate participation by non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the country's next report to the Committee.
362. The Committee recommended that Italy, as a State member of the European Union, take concrete initiatives to encourage the acceptance by the European Union of the Convention as a fundamental bill of rights for women.
363. The Committee recommended that the State party should ensure that all women had an adequate income and that husbands and fathers were obliged to provide financial support. It also recommended that the Government introduce measures to enforce payment of alimony and of a fair share of the matrimonial assets, including measures which would enable the courts to set aside provisions intended to or having the effect of concealing assets and income and thereby depriving women of the entitlements.
364. The Committee requested the Government of Italy to disseminate these comments widely throughout Italy, so as to make individuals aware of the measures that have been taken to implement the Convention and the remaining steps required to achieve de facto equality for women.