CEDAW 84th Session Opening Statement Norway, Part One

CEDAW 84th session

Opening statement Norway

Part 1: Minister of Culture and Equality Ms. Anette Trettebergstuen


Madame Chair, distinguished members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to present Norway’s tenth periodic report to the CEDAW committee.

My Government is strongly committed to undertake measures on the national and international level, in order to achieve gender equality, in line with our obligations under the Convention and in line with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and Sustainable Development Goal number 5.

Gender equality is a fundamental value in Norwegian society, and we rank third on the Global Gender Gap Index. We passed our first Gender Equality Act in 1978, and Norway was among the first countries to ratify the CEDAW convention. The Convention has been incorporated in Norwegian law through the Human Rights Act and takes precedence over other legislation in case of conflict.

The Convention is an important tool in our work for human rights and gender equality. It is with great respect that I will present the Norwegian policies, and answer the questions of the committee.

The Norwegian delegation is made up of officials from eight ministries and one directorate. The delegates will present themselves as they take the floor for the first time. I will now give an overview of the Government’s gender equality policy. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security will then address the Government’s efforts against gender-based violence.

My Government took office in October 2021.  Our gender equality policy shall be proactive and cross-cutting. This is clearly stated in our political platform, and all ministries are required  to contribute to this within their sectors.

High ambitions for gender equality require a solid implementation structure.

The Ministry of Culture and Equality coordinates the Government's gender equality policy. The sector responsibility principle is fundamental to the Government's gender equality policy. Gender mainstreaming is also a principle enshrined in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, which obliges all public authorities to make active, targeted and systematic efforts to promote equality and prevent discrimination.

The Directorate for Children, Youth and Family affairs is the Government's specialist directorate in the field of gender equality. One of the Directorates’s tasks is to administer the grant scheme for family and equality policy measures. In order to strengthen NGOs' activities in the work on gender equality, the grant scheme was increased by 70 percent in 2022.

To achieve substantive gender equality, efforts must be made at the local and regional level. The Government has therefore strengthened the funding of the four regional centres for equality.

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal constitute the low threshold enforcement system for discrimination cases, and have an important role in the national gender equality machinery. During the last few years, the mandates of the Ombud and the Tribunal have been redefined in order to improve the low threshold enforcement system.

We are aware of criticism raised regarding the functioning the system, and we will conduct a review in order to assess the need for adjustments to ensure  strong protection against discrimination for individuals. 

The last few years have been characterized by the corona pandemic.

In April 2020, The Ministry of Culture and Equality commissioned The Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs to generate knowledge about consequences of the pandemic and the crisis management measures for gender equality and discrimination on other grounds. The Directorate reported regularly during the pandemic and gave recommendations for crisis management.

Furthermore, a research project on the consequences of the pandemic for children and young people, and equality in families and for individuals, has been initiated.

In Norway, a high number of women are employed. Three out of five students in universities and colleges are women. However, a gender divided labour market, part-time work and the gender pay gap remain obstacles for gender equality.

The employers´ activity and reporting duty is an important tool to improve gender equality in the labour market.

As of January 1st 2020, both employers' and public authorities' activity and reporting duties in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act were strengthened.

As part of the enhanced obligation, private employers with more than 50 employees and all public employers have a duty to map the difference in women's and men's pay conditions and the use of involuntary part-time work.

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud is mandated to supervise the duties.

The Directorate finances a research project on the implementation of the duties, which is led by CORE – Centre for research on gender equality.

CORE has also been commissioned to investigate whether wage mapping has been carried out in various enterprises, and the possibilities for developing a database to obtain an overview of national status.

In December 2022, the Government sent out for public consultation a proposal to establish a certification scheme for gender equality and diversity for private companies.

Far more women than men work part-time, respectively 37 per cent and 17 per cent. Part-time work is less predictable, and drives inequality by contributing to the pay gap between men and women. With effect from January 1st 2023, new regulations to strengthen the right to full-time work has been introduced in the Working Environment Act. The main rule in working life shall be full-time employment. A need for part-time employment must be documented by the employer and discussed with the workers’ representatives. Furthermore – employees´ preferential right to an extended position was strengthened.

The Government has also allocated funding for the implementation of pilot projects aimed at the increased use of full-time employment. The funding will also cover research on successful full-time employment projects.

Boys and girls still make gender traditional choices of education, which result in a gender divided labour market. This is closely connected to other fundamental gender equality challenges, such as differences in pay and part-time work.

Today, gender points are given to female and male groups in selected studies.

A public committee recently proposed that gender quotas in education should replace the gender points. The proposal from the public committee is yet to be assessed by the Government.

Less than 16 percent of the CEOs and only 13 percent of the chairs of the boards in the 200 largest Norwegian companies, are women.

The Government believes that more diversity in the top management of private companies will improve the quality of work and in the long term be a positive factor for the businesses. As one female executive put it: “How can businesses take the risk of only choosing amongst half the talent pool?”

Since 2008, there has been a rule about gender balance in public limited company boards. To increase the representation of women in the board and management of Private Limited Companies, the Government has submitted for consultation a proposal that the rules should also apply to large private companies. The consultation deadline is in March 2023.

Sexual harassment is a persistent challenge both within and outside of the workplace. Far more women than men are exposed, especially young women.

The Government is currently working on a white paper on sexual harassment. The white paper will be submitted to Parliament in 2024.

A proposal to ratify ILO Convention no. 190 on Violence and Harassment at Work has been subject to public consultation. The Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion has at the same time presented proposals to strengthen the protection against harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace. The Government is currently working on following up on the proposals. 

Language skills and formal skills are essential to be integrated in the labour market. Norway aims for better results, in terms of employment and education results, particularly for women. In 2021, we introduced a new Integration Act.

An important measure particularly tailored at immigrant women is the Job Opportunity Programme – which aims at increasing the employment rate among minority women who need basic skills and who are not covered by other schemes. The results of the programme are high, 74 per cent of the participants who completed the program in 2020 were employed or in education after completing the programme.

All people have the right to live their lives in freedom from negative social control, honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Norway was one of the first countries to criminalize female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and in recent years several legislative amendments have been enacted to strengthen legal protections. We are currently exploring whether the legal protection from negative social control and honour-based violence can be further strengthened in Norwegian law. A committee has been appointed to clarify current regulations and to assess whether the legislation is adequate. A report will be ready by 30th November 2023.

Many Norwegian couples choose to live in cohabitant relationships. Without clear agreements, the financially weaker party, who is often a woman, can suffer unexpected financial loss in a breakup. The Government has decided to appoint a legal committee to assess the need for derogatory regulation of the financial relationship between cohabitants.

The Government will give priority to women's health. A public committee has been appointed to produce a report on women's health and health in a gender perspective, which will submit its recommendations 2023. The Government has already announced a new strategy on women's health, which will be drawn up after mentioned report.

The Government has also appointed a committee to review the abortion law, to consider alternatives to the current abortion boards, and assess the counselling offered. The committee’s recommendations will be submitted in December 2023.

Due to global inequalities, climate change has a disproportionate impact on women and girls, especially those in vulnerable and marginalized situations and conflict settings.

Norway pursues an ambitious climate policy. Our climate target under the Paris Agreement is to reduce emissions by at least 55 % by 2030. Norway also contributes to funding climate activities in developing countries. Through this funding, gender is a cross-cutting concern.

Climate policies in the Nordic countries have been lacking sufficient and actionable gender equality insights. We want this to change. We are therefore gathering knowledge on the interconnections between gender and climate change, and how we can implement a gender perspective in our climate policies.

Last year, the Nordic countries presented a commitment on gender equality and climate change at the UN Commission on the status of women (CSW). We are also working for equal access in decision-making processes on climate action.

Women’s rights and gender equality is to be incorporated into all aspects of foreign and development policy. A new action plan will be launched later this year with concrete measures to ensure gender specific efforts as well as mainstreaming gender equality.  

To promote bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights is a priority.  We do not accept that established norms and rights are weakened.  

Women, peace, and security was one of our main thematic priorities during our membership of the Security Council 2021-2022. This work continues outside the Security Council. Norway will launch our fifth national action plan for women, peace and security in 2023.

Multilateral cooperation is important in our efforts to reach gender equality. My Government reiterated our financial and political commitments to SRHR from the Nairobi population summit in 2019, when we joined the Generation Equality Action Coalition for Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. We are also proud to be Co-Chair of the Generation Equality Women, Peace, Security and Humanitarian Action Compact. Through the Nordic Council of Ministers, Norway has joined the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Feminist Action for Climate Justice. 

To achieve gender equality, we must also consider men's challenges. The Government has therefore appointed a Men’s committee, which will look into gender equality challenges in light of norms for masculinity and traditional gender roles, and investigate gender equality challenges faced by boys and men. Its report is due in January 2024.

Several organisations and insitutions have submitted their reports to the committee. I would like to express my gratitude to the NGOs, the Norwegian Human Rights Insitution and the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud for their valuable contributions. Their reports form an important basis for our dialogue today, as well as for our continuous work at home.

I will now hand over to Mr. Austad of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

I thank you, Chair.