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The 8th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination against Women is being held from 19 to 20 October

Introduction

The 8th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against women is taking place in Geneva from 19 to 20 October. The Committee composed of 23 international experts rigorously selected for their ability on the rights of the woman and for their high moral character, insures the successful application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Does France discriminate women?

According to France Stratégie, autonomous think-tank of expertise and dialogue attached to the Prime Minister, women in France suffer from several types of discrimination. One of the most visible fields remains discrimination at work. France Stratégie informs that being a woman in France remains the first factor of inequality. “With activity rates below 10 points compared to men, the lowest probability to gain access to the 10% of the highest wages and an unexplained salary gap of 12%, women continue to be the first victims of inequalities in the labour market.”[1]. Moreover, France Stratégie indicates that women may also be victims of discrimination owing of their geographical origin, their disability, their sexual orientation and their residence area. However, this organism does not refer to discriminations against French female citizens due to their religious beliefs. And yet it is a truism that in France women suffer from religious discrimination.

Let’s raise awareness!

Let’s take the opportunity this 8th session provides to inform or remind the UN that Muslim female citizens are highly discriminated in France. Discriminated on a daily basis and targeted for their freedom of religion, it is particularly difficult for them to find a work notwithstanding the full recognition of their skills and qualifications. There are many testimonies about discrimination. Situations may differ but the cornerstone remains the same. Let’s continue to deal with the issue of intersectional discrimination of Muslim women at work and let’s illustrate our words with stories.

The veil, this candidate systematically disqualified  

Kamelia* is dental surgeon. In order to exercise her profession, she must promptly register on the official list of Dental Surgeons. Her registration request had been rejected because she provided a photo with a veil. Only the intervention of the CCIF has permitted to assert her rights and has allowed her to be registered, two years after, on the official list of Dental Surgeons.

Yasmina* is a student midwife. She faced discrimination during SMI recruitment because she wears the headscarf. “I’m going to be honest with you, we do not accept any student who wears the veil.”. This was the remark from a midwife who, thereafter, added that even if Yasmina would remove her headscarf, they would not accept her because the policy of the SMI is wider.  In other words, the only fact that a student wears the headscarf in her personal life is enough to not be accepted within this SMI. Only the intervention of the CCIF with the hospital management and the President of the County Council has put an end to this discriminatory attitude and has allowed the blocking of any further employment discrimination in this SMI.

Marion* is 20 years old. Eager to get into the labour market, she submitted her application at the division “Garantie Jeunes” of the “Mission locale” (professional insertion portal). During the meeting, she was told that she cannot access the training because she weirs the veil. Therefore, the CCIF addressed the Labour Department and the Regional Director of the DIRECCTE (regional management of companies, competition, consumption and work in Île-de-France) in order to remind them that the duty of neutrality, which behoves civil servants, does absolutely not apply to users of the public service.

Soraya* registered for a training program in order to reach the required Pack Office level. This training took place at the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Two days after, she was informed that to be able to follow the training, she must remove her veil. The CCIF intervened and reminded the law by explaining that the 15 March 2004 law does absolutely not apply to university students and adults in professional training. It is only after this initiative that Soraya was able to reintegrate the centre.

Four examples may not be sufficient to illustrate the scope of this illegal discrimination. Nevertheless, they offer a foretaste, bitter certainly, of this injustice which is repeated day after day.

The final word

We would like to remind the United Nations that the drawn up Convention establishes a relentless fight against “All Forms of Discrimination against Women” and as a result it is legitimate to include in this fight the religious dimension reproached to women. Taking into account the above facts, we ask the Committee to monitor the application of the said Convention.

*All names have been modified.

[1] Website of France Stratégie, http://www.strategie.gouv.fr/publications/cout-economique-discriminations accessed October 16, 2017.

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