Society 17:24 20/02/2015

Issues of early marriages, prostitution, abortions and violence against women in Azerbaijan discussed in UN

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considered the fifth periodic report of Azerbaijan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The discussion is presented on the website of the UN Office at Geneva.

The report of Azerbaijan was introduced Hijran Huseynova, the Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Child Affairs of Azerbaijan. During the discussion the participants raised concerns regarding the new legislation in Azerbaijan restricting the operation of NGOs including those working in the field of women’s rights

The fact that the laws were not self-implementing, and laws promoting gender equality were particularly difficult to bring to life, was highlighted. Despite the financial or human resources in Azerbaijan, there is no publicly-available National Action Plan on Women’s Equality. Traditional attitudes between men and women are difficult to change, and lead to violence and discrimination against women.

One of the experts pointed out to the fact that despite the Committee’s 2009 recommendation the report was silent on the issue of prostitution. Women operating as prostitutes were usually poverty-stricken, and often drug addicts. The Head of Azerbaijani Delegation said that prostitution is a painful and real problem in Azerbaijan, yet it’s a ‘hidden’ issue.

The issue of high and prevalent rate of early marriages in Azerbaijan was raised during the discussion. These marriages cause drop-out of school, particularly among girls in the ninth to eleventh grades. An expert noted that the troubling phenomenon of girls as young as 12 and 13 years leaving school to get married continued, despite the amendment to the Criminal Code. A delegate responded that the State had no information of any marriages involving children as young as 12 or 13. The experts also said that unregistered marriages, which were usually religious marriages known as Kabin, continued to be a serious problem. The issue was particularly grave for children of such marriages who were considered ‘illegitimate’ and could not be registered with the State. Perhaps the sanctions should be made stricter, commented the Expert.

Concerning abortions, it was reported during the discussion that Azerbaijan has one of the highest abortion rates in Central Asia. An Azerbaijani delegate said in 2012 around 200,000 registered abortions took place. There had been a decrease in the infant mortality rate but there was a discrepancy between data provided by United Nations agencies and the Azerbaijan Statistics Committee, said an expert.

The issue of the prevalence of gender discrimination in employment was also raised. Women overwhelmingly worked in low-paid and informal jobs. “The total wage gap was 57 per cent. In the health sector women were the majority of employees but their average monthly salary constituted 37 per cent of the men’s salaries. It was alarming that women working in the fields of oil and gas production earned on average 38 per cent less than men, and women working in chemical industries were paid 31 per cent less than men,” noted one of the experts present.

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