Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations: Cuba, U.N. Doc. A/51/38, paras. 197-228 (1996).


197. The Committee considered the combined second and third periodic report of Cuba (CEDAW/C/CUB/2-3 and Add.1) at its 294th and 295th meetings, on 22 January 1996 (see CEDAW/C/SR.294 and 295).

198. In introducing the combined report, the representative of Cuba recalled that her country had been the first to sign and the second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. That constituted an historic achievement for the country and showed the importance it attached to the Convention. Policies for women, however, had begun already in 1959, following the revolution, and they still constituted a priority.

199. Despite the economic and political circumstances in which the country had found itself since 1989 as a result of the stepped-up economic blockade by the United States of America, which had had severe repercussions on the situation of women and children and had led to the deterioration of the quality of people's lives, Cuba had not ceased to go forward towards achieving full equality between the sexes.

200. The representative said she was sorry that the report did not comply with the Committee's general guidelines and replied to the Committee's written questions on implementation of the articles of the Convention.

201. The elimination of all forms of discrimination against women was a major goal of the Government of Cuba, and its legal and practical implementation was under constant review by the Government as well as by the Federation of Cuban Women. Relevant ministries and institutions had developed and promoted programmes to change socio-cultural patterns of conduct between women and men and to educate women on their rights. For children between 6 and 14 years of age, the schooling rate was currently 99 per cent. Girls participated at every level, and constituted 58 per cent of the student population in higher education. In the most recent parliamentary elections, 98.7 per cent of the population had participated. There were, however, still more men than women in positions of political leadership.

202. Women currently make up 40.6 per cent of the labour force in Cuba, which represented a slight increase since 1989, and despite the dramatic drop in production and the subsequent changes in order to restructure employment, women had not been the most affected group. Efforts were being made, nevertheless, to provide more training for women and opportunities for redeployment, including special measures for female-headed households. The Government was studying the question of wage differentials.

203. While the improvement of women's health had been a major achievement, the embargo currently affected the daily diet of women and children. Furthermore, there remained a need to place emphasis on prevention and risk reduction. Women had a life expectancy of 77.6 years, and there had been a steady reduction in infant mortality. The rate of maternal mortality due to abortion had decreased to 6.4 per thousand but still represented the major cause of maternal mortality.

204. Women had the right to retain their nationality and that of their children after marriage. The violation of the right to equality was a criminal offence in Cuba, and the law offered protection in cases of violence against women. Efforts were being made to step up education for prostitutes and their families, as there had been a re-emergence of prostitution in recent years. Women enjoyed the same rights as men with respect to credit and bank loans and could have title to land on an equal basis with men.

205. Regarding the follow-up to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the representative said that a large-scale process of information and discussion of the commitments contained in the Beijing document had begun in which women and the whole society were taking part.

Concluding comments of the Committee


206. The Committee thanked the representative of the Government of Cuba for her detailed responses to the written questions which had been provided prior to the session of the Committee. Although the Committee noted that the second and third combined report of Cuba had not completely followed the guidelines established by the Committee, sufficient information on the implementation of the Convention had been presented to show the progress that the country continued to make in the area of women's rights. It welcomed the high-level representation in the delegation from the national machinery for women.

Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention

207. The Committee noted the negative effect of the economic embargo on the country. This, combined with the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its socialist allies, with which Cuba had maintained close economic, commercial and collaborative ties, had had serious repercussions for the Cuban economy. As a result, some of the programmes to promote equal opportunities and to eliminate stereotypes between women and men had been curtailed or suspended, and the food situation in general had deteriorated.

Positive aspects

208. The Committee noted that Cuban legislation was progressive in its provisions affirming gender equality and that discrimination was punishable under the law.

209. The Committee noted with satisfaction the Government support for the work of the Cuban Women's Federation, which represented 90 per cent of the women of Cuba.

210. The Committee also noted with satisfaction the significant increase in the number of women in all fields and levels of education, in the labour force in a wide variety of occupations, including science and technology, medicine, sports, etc., and, in particular, in policy-making at local, national and international levels.

211. The steady decline in maternal mortality, owing largely to improved care for pregnant women and better care for children in their early years, was noted by the Committee. It was also noted that deciding the number and spacing of one's children had been proclaimed a fundamental human right.

212. The Committee noted that drop-out rates for girls had been declining, and adult education programmes had been developed for women.

213. The Committee noted with satisfaction that the Government had made the adjustments necessary to ensure that the effects of the drastic drop in economic growth were not felt especially or solely by women.

Principal subjects of concern

214. The Committee noted the fact that the Government intended to uphold its reservation concerning article 29. The Committee was concerned about the elimination of certain areas of progress for women owing to the embargo and the subsequent economic constraints.

215. The Committee observed that gender stereotypes persist despite the high levels of school enrolment, and domestic work and child care continue to be the responsibility of women.

216. The Committee pointed out the need to expand the participation of women at the highest levels of political power.

217. The Committee noted that, owing to the fact that women traditionally were less well paid, there was indirect discrimination in women's wages. Concern was expressed about the lack of information on women in trade unions.

218. The Committee noted with some scepticism that domestic violence was reported to be infrequent and that it was not considered to be a social problem.

219. The Committee also noted that the economic situation in Cuba resulting from the economic embargo had produced a serious shortage of essential products like medicines and contraceptive devices, which had been problematic for the population as a whole, and for women in particular.

220. The Committee was concerned about the re-emergence of prostitution in Cuba, which was linked to the growth in tourism and to the economic problems facing women.

Suggestions and recommendations

221. The Committee recommended that disaggregated data be collected concerning the number of complaints regarding discrimination.

222. Surveys and studies should be undertaken to determine the extent and impact of violence against women, in particular domestic violence, even if unreported, and to take steps in accordance with general recommendation 19.

223. Successful programmes to combat sexist prejudices and stereotyping, such as "Mujeres", "Muchachas" and "Perfil F", should be revived as soon as possible, since they helped to address the attitudes of both men and women that need to be changed, particularly with regard to the need to share in the care and education of children in keeping with general recommendation 21.

224. The Government should do everything possible to meet the demand for contraceptives. Special information programmes relating to sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, should be strengthened for young girls, particularly those engaged in prostitution, in keeping with general recommendation 15.

225. Every effort should be made to further check the re-emergence of prostitution, to offer more and better job opportunities to women who engaged in prostitution, and not to place the sole responsibility for prostitution on the women themselves. Stronger measures must be adopted to prosecute procurers and clients who violated those women's rights.

226. An empirical study was needed to determine whether women were paid the same wages as men for work of equal value and to document occupational segregation and its relationship to income.

227. The Committee asked that more information be given in the next periodic report on women in the labour market and their income situation. The Committee would like to receive more information on the situation of women in trade unions in subsequent reports.

228. The Committee pointed out the need to expand the participation of women at the highest levels of political power, and suggested that efforts be continued to ensure that women have an effective voice in decisions that affected their lives.

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