CEDAW – UN Women’s Rights Committee publishes findings on Brazil, Estonia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Montenegro, Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Singapore

GENEVA (5 June 2024) – The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) today issued its findings on Brazil, Estonia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Montenegro, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Singapore, after reviewing these eight States parties during its latest session.

The findings contain positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations. Some of the key issues include:


The Committee was gravely concerned about the sharp increase in femicides, cases of rape, assault and other sexual crimes, domestic violence, as well as disappearances of women and girls increasingly targeting Afro-Brazilian women and girls and the lack of adequate resources to implement the “Safe and Protected Women” programme. It called upon Brazil to strengthen measures to prevent, prosecute and punish perpetrators in cases of gender-based violence against women and allocate adequate resources to effectively implement the “Mulher Viver sem Violência” programme, expand the number of “Casa da Mulher Brasileira” centres throughout the country and extend the coverage of women’s police stations, particularly in rural areas.

The Committee also expressed concern about the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by indigenous and Quilombola women and women of African descent who are economically and socially disadvantaged. The Committee highlighted their lack of land titles and the risk of forced removals and exploitation by private, non-State actors such as extractive industries and infrastructure developers without their consultation and free, prior and informed consent. It urged Brazil to protect indigenous women, Quilombola women and women of African descent from any illegal occupation of and forced evictions from lands traditionally occupied or used by them, strengthen procedural safeguards against forced evictions and reparations for victims, provide adequate sanctions, and require free, prior and informed consent of their communities and adequate benefit sharing arrangements.


The Committee welcomed the election of the first woman President (2016-21) and the first woman Prime Minister (since 2021). It, however, noted with concern the overall decrease in women’s representation in decision-making positions, and reports of online violence, hate speech and harassment in social media against women in political and public life. The Committee recommended that Estonia appoint equal numbers of women and men to leadership positions, including in the foreign service as ambassadors or diplomats, and Government bodies, the judiciary, and State-owned companies. It also asked the State party to enforce stricter penalties for harassment, gender-based violence and hate speech, in particular on social media, against women politicians and candidates.

Regarding Estonia’s legislative framework, the Committee pointed out that the Equal Treatment Law does not cover discrimination outside the field of employment, and the Gender Equality Law lacks legal provisions prohibiting intersecting forms of discrimination, including against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBTI) women. The Committee recommended that Estonia enact legislation that includes a comprehensive definition of discrimination covering all grounds and encompassing direct and indirect discrimination in both the public and private spheres and intersecting forms of discrimination, such as discrimination against LBTI women.


While welcoming Kuwait’s adoption of the Domestic Violence Act, the Committee expressed concern over the lenient sentences in Article 153 of the Penal Code, which provides for three-year imprisonment and/or a fine of 225 Kuwait-Dinar when a man, in the name of so-called “honour”, kills his wife, mother, sister, or daughter “in the act of adultery”. It urged Kuwait to repeal Article 153 of the Penal Code and raise awareness among the general public, religious leaders, and legal and health professionals about the criminal nature of all forms of gender-based violence against women committed in the name of so-called “honour” and ensure that notions of so-called “honour” cannot be used to justify such acts.

The Committee was also concerned about the underrepresentation of women in political life. It underlined that women hold only 18% of leadership positions in the public sector, with only one woman member in the fifty-member National Assembly, one woman minister in the Cabinet and merely three women Ambassadors appointed by the State party since 2017. It recommended that Kuwait increase its target for women’s representation in decision-making positions from 30 to 50 per cent. It called for temporary special measures such as a zipper system to ensure equal ranks for women and men candidates on electoral lists of political parties, targeted campaign financing for women candidates, and preferential recruitment of women to public service positions and international bodies.


The Committee reiterated its concern about the persistence of female genital mutilation among Muslim communities reinforced by a non-binding fatwa on female circumcision issued by the Malaysian National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs in 2009, as well as among some indigenous communities. The Committee particularly underscored its concern about reports that more than 95% of Muslim girls in the country suffered from this harmful practice. It stressed that female genital mutilation cannot be justified on religious grounds and constitutes a violation of the Convention. It urged Malaysia to criminalize all forms of female genital mutilation, ensuring that such criminalization cannot be overruled by fatwas or other rulings issued by religious or clerical authorities.

The Committee remained concerned about the absence of anti-discrimination legislation explicitly prohibiting discrimination by state and non-state actors, intersecting forms of discrimination, including against LBTI women, and the lack of a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women. It recommended that Malaysia accelerate the adoption of the Anti-discrimination against Women Bill, which includes a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women covering direct and indirect discrimination in the public and private spheres, as well as intersecting forms of discrimination.


The Committee noted with concern that Montenegro has one of the highest baby gender disparities in Europe, according to the World Health Organization, while taking note of the State party’s indication that sex-selective early genetic testing and abortions are mostly taking place outside the country. It asked Montenegro to launch a programme for the general public and health professionals to raise their awareness of the negative impact and criminal nature of sex-selective abortions. It also recommended that Montenegro strengthen cooperation with countries where Montenegrins reportedly obtain sex-selective early genetic testing and abortions to prevent such harmful practices.

While noting women’s increased participation in political life in Montenegro and that the Electoral Law requires a minimum quota of 30% for the representation of either sex in Parliament and local assemblies, the Committee pointed out that not all legislative assemblies meet the 30% quota and that only four out of 23 Ministers of the current Government and only one out of 26 municipality mayors are women. It recommended that Montenegro amend the existing Electoral Law to introduce a zipper system requiring political parties to create a candidate list alternating between female and male candidates and that it approve said amendments before the 2027 general elections.

Republic of Korea

Regarding the prevalence of gender-based violence against women, including sexual violence and domestic violence, the Committee was concerned that the current definition of rape in Article 297 of the Penal Code requires proof of “means of violence or intimidation”. It also questioned that the Act on Special Cases concerning the Punishment of Domestic Violence allows for exemptions from criminal sanctions in cases of domestic violence. It recommended that the State party amend the Penal Code to incorporate a definition of rape based on lack of affirmative, free and voluntary consent, covering any non-consensual sexual act, including marital rape. It also called for an amendment to the Act on Special Cases concerning the Punishment of Domestic Violence to abolish the practice of suspending charges in home protection cases on the condition that perpetrators undergo counselling, and ensure that prosecution is given priority over reconciliation and mediation.

The Committee expressed concern about the proposed abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF), stating that it could lead to the de-prioritization of legal and policy frameworks dedicated to the advancement of women. It called on the State party to rescind the proposed abolition but substantially increase resources for MOGEF to enable it to effectively coordinate efforts to mainstream gender across all government departments.


The Committee commended Rwanda on its National Gender Policy of 2021 to combat patriarchal stereotypes. It was, however, concerned about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes which undermine the social status, autonomy, educational and career opportunities of women, and constitute an underlying cause of gender-based violence against women. It recommended that Rwanda implement a comprehensive human rights-based strategy to eliminate gender stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society.

While welcoming Rwanda’s measures to increase women’s financial literacy and access to financial credit, the Committee remained concerned about the significant gender gap in access to loans and the barriers faced by women in accessing financial credit, including the requirement of collateral, as well as their limited agency to manage land resources jointly owned by both spouses. The Committee called on Rwanda to expand measures to promote women’s financial literacy and access to low-interest loans without collateral and other forms of financial credit. It also asked Rwanda to extend support to women’s entrepreneurship, such as women’s cooperatives and schemes promoting access to markets, including export markets.


The Committee noted with concern the absence of legislation specifically criminalizing domestic violence as well as its social legitimization, underreporting and low prosecution and conviction rates. It also voiced concern about the increasing online violence involving image-based sexual abuse, including non-consensual distribution of sexual, nude, or intimate photos or videos of women and girls, despite measures taken by the State party to combat gender-based online violence. The Committee called on Singapore to adopt legislation to ensure that all forms of gender-based violence against women, including domestic violence and online violence, are specifically criminalized. It also recommended that Singapore strengthen the implementation of the Online Criminal Harms Act and Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act (2022) and other regulatory procedures to hold social media companies accountable for user-generated content involving online violence and harassment.

Regarding the fact that foreign work permit holders constitute 30 per cent of the State party’s workforce, including a large part of women migrant domestic workers, the Committee was concerned about the lack of legislation to protect the basic labour rights of migrant workers, predominantly women domestic workers, and the risk of exposing them to economic and physical abuse, trafficking and exploitation. The Committee asked Singapore to ensure that the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act provide for basic labour rights including limitations on working hours, overtime pay, annual leave and medical leave. It also recommended the establishment of a confidential and independent complaint mechanism for women migrant workers to report abusive employment conditions and conduct regular labour inspections of workplaces and dormitories of women migrant workers.

The above findings, now officially published as Concluding Observations, are available online on the session page.

SOURCE: OHCHR.org. Press releases June 2024. At: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/06/un-womens-rights-committee-publishes-findings-brazil-estonia-kuwait-malaysia