Women's Rights and Gender Equality in Norway

Foto: Skarstein/BLD - Photo: Foto: Skarstein/BLD
Foto: Skarstein/BLD

Norway’s Minister of Children and Equality, Solveig Horne, was in Geneva last week to attend Norway’s hearing in the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 7 November 2017. Minister Horne was accompanied by representatives from the Ministry of Children and Equality, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

CEDAW is one of the human rights bodies of the United Nations. It consists of 23 independent women’s rights experts from around the world, monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. The Convention has 189 state parties, all obliged to submit regular reports on how they implement the Convention. During the sessions, the Committee considers the country reports and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.

Ms. Horne opened the meeting by stating that the Norwegian society is based on equality in general and on gender equality in particular. Since 2014, the Norwegian Constitution includes a comprehensive human rights catalogue, and in June this year Parliament adopted the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, aiming specifically at improving the position of women and minorities, and addressing intersectional discrimination. Despite continued difficulties arising from violence against women, harassment, and gender segregation in education and the labour market, women currently participate in the labour force almost at the same rate as men. The Minister recognized this as a great asset for the economy and a contribution to the sustainability of the Norwegian welfare State.

The Committee commended Norway for its commitment to gender equality and advancement of women’s rights, but requested further information into possible areas of improvement. Inquiries by the Committee related to the new Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, cuts to women’s legal aid organisations, participation of women in politics and in decision-making bodies of private companies, and gender stereotypes. Concerns were raised in relation to online sexualised hate speech and violence, violence against Saami women, the legal definition of rape, trafficking in persons, dual nationality, statelessness and family reunification, and the prevalence of a gender segregation in education and the labour market.

The review served as a platform for a comprehensive evaluation of Norwegian policies and practices related to gender equality and women’s rights. The Norwegian delegation highlighted positive aspects, such as enhanced protection from intersectional discrimination through the new Act, and the possibility for redress through the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. The delegation also stated that Norway prides itself on being among the first countries to launch a strategy against hate speech, and that measures are put in place to eliminate gender stereotypes and support individuals in taking unconventional educational and career choices. However, the review also highlighted issues related to insufficient services for females in prison, low-quality investigations of alleged rapes and additional critique of the legal definition of rape, as well as difficulties related to prostitution and integration of women from minority backgrounds.

In conclusion, Minister Horne thanked the Committee for the thorough review of the 9th periodic report of Norway. She emphasised that empowerment of women and girls is key to development, and that the concluding remarks by CEDAW will be helpful in shaping our national gender policies.

Find the Concluding Observations from CEDAW here.

Find the summary records and press release from the review here.

Find the 9th Periodic Report of Norway here.