Concluding Comments of the CEDAW Committee



Seventeenth Session, July 1997




1.  The Committee thanked the State party for its very comprehensive and frank report which dealt with all the articles of the Convention from both the juridical and sociological perspectives. It also appreciated the high level of the delegation and complimented the representative of the State party for her lucid presentation.


2.  The Committee appreciated the fact that the report was submitted on time and followed the Committee’s guidelines.


3.  The Committee was pleased that non-governmental organizations had been given an opportunity to consider the report and that they were able to submit supplementary reports. 


4.  The Committee was disturbed that all the questions put forward by members to the representatives of Israel were not responded to in the Government’s written answers. The Committee is of the view that response to all the questions would have clarified issues and problems.


Factors and Difficulties Affecting the Implementation of the Convention


5.  The Committee considered the fact that no basic law embodies the principle of equality or prohibits discrimination hindered the implementation of the Convention.


6.  The Committee regretted the fact that Israel has maintained its reservations to articles 7 (b) and 16 of the Convention. It also regretted the fact that women cannot become religious judges and that the religious laws that govern family relations to a large degree discriminate against women.


7.  The Committee considered that the persistence of conflict and violence hinders implementation of the Convention. Moreover, as a consequence of the ongoing conflict, power is concentrated in the armed forces. Women who are not represented in senior leadership in the armed forces are discriminated against and their perspective on peacekeeping and their negotiation skills are not utilized.


Positive Aspects


8.  The Committee commended the fact that Israel has developed progressive legislation, as well as comprehensive programs on violence against women and equal employment opportunities.


9.  Although equality is not part of the basic law of Israel, the Committee commended the fact that the Supreme Court can give effect to the principle of equality in its judgments.


10.  The Committee noted with satisfaction that most Israeli women have a high level of education, especially at the tertiary level.


11.  The Committee commended the very extensive analysis of women in the media and the programs to reorient society against stereotypical images of women.


12.  The Committee commended the existence compulsory National Health Insurance Law of 1995 which guarantees universal access to health care to all communities. 


Principal Areas of Concern


13.  The Committee noted with concern that the Government has not yet formulated an overall plan or measures to implement the Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action.


14.  The Committee is very concerned that there is no specific governmental machinery responsible for promoting and coordinating policies for women.


15.  The Committee noted with concern that non-Jewish women have worse living conditions than Jewish women. They receive a lower level of education, participate less in the government service and occupy limited decision-making posts.


16.  The Committee was also concerned that non-Jewish women enjoy poorer health, resulting in very high maternal and infant mortality rates. There are also fewer employment opportunities available to them.


17.  The Committee was concerned that there are still instances of polygamy, forced marriage and genital mutilation, as well as “honor killings”.


18.  The Committee noted with concern that a very low percentage of women occupy political decision-making posts and that this situation has barely changed over the years.


19.  The Committee was concerned that a marked disparity exists between the average earning of women and men in many sectors and that women are also disproportionately represented in part-time employment.


20.  The Committee was concerned that many more women than men work in the informal sector and perform unpaid work thereby prospectively limiting their access to benefits associated with the formal sector.


21.  The Committee noted with concern that the public health system allocates considerable resources to in vitro fertilization, yet contraceptive are not free of charge.


22.  The Committee was concerned that a large number of women are arrested for prostitution. The Committee was likewise concerned with the large number of advertisements for sex services in daily newspapers which contributed significantly to the spread of prostitution.


23.  The Committee was concerned that despite the existing legislation, cases of violence against women still occur frequently, due in large measure to traditional ideas of the roles of women and negative societal attitudes towards the problem of violence against women.


Suggestions and Recommendations


24.  The Committee recommends that the Government of Israel should ensure that the Convention is implemented throughout the territory under its jurisdiction.


25.  The Committee recommends that the Government should adopt an overall plan for the implementation of the convention and the Beijing platform through specific measures and within a definite time-frame.


26. The Committee recommends that the right to equality and the prohibition of both direct and indirect discrimination against women should be reflected in a basic law.


27. The Committee suggests that in order to guarantee the same rights in marriage and family relations in Israel and to comply fully with the Convention, the Government should complete the secularization of the relevant legislation, place it under the jurisdiction of the civil courts and withdraw its reservations to the Convention.


28. The preamble of the Convention states that full development and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields. The committee thus recommends that all necessary measures be taken with the full participation of women, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze alike. This is necessary to create an environment where women may enjoy their rights fully and where equality of opportunities in economic and social development, especially of rural women can be assured.


29. The Committee looks forward to the adoption of the bill creating the governmental machinery to be know as the “Authority on the status of Women” and hopes that this machinery will be given sufficient resources to carry out its work.


30. The Committee recommends that measures to guarantee the exercise of human rights of non-Jewish women, including those living in the rural areas, particularly in relation to health, education and employment should be intensified. Special measures should be taken to close the gap between Arab and Jewish schools and address higher drop-out rates of Arab and Bedouin girls. Adequate resources should be allocated for school facilities and education opportunities, including scholarships. Further, the participation of Arab women in the civil service and in decision-making posts should be increased.


31. The Committee recommends that Government strengthen its efforts and expand its actions to eliminate violence against women, especially violence within the family, in all communities.


32. The Committee strongly suggests that the Government of Israel take necessary steps to eliminate practices which cannot be justified on any grounds, such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation, crimes of honour and polygamy.


33. The Committee recommends that satellite accounts should be used to evaluate the value of unpaid work and incorporate these into the national accounts.


34. The Committee recommends that some of the resources allocated to the treatment of infertility should be used to study its causes and its prevention.


35.  The Committee recommends that public health services provide free and accessible contraceptives.


36. The Committee requests that the Government of Israel address the following issues in its next report: the status of disabled women; how indirect discrimination in the workplace is dealt with; the leave entitlement of mothers and fathers for the birth of a child or when they have young children, and the actual use made of such entitlement; the impact on the social roles of women and men of programmes aimed at changing stereotypes; programmes for gender sensitization of the judiciary, police and health professionals; financial support provided by Government for all NGOs in the territory of Israel.


37. The Committee requested wide dissemination of these concluding comments in Israel so as to make individuals aware of the steps that had been taken to ensure de facto equality for women and the further steps that are required in this regard.