Input from the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination to CEDAW in relation to the forthcoming List of Issues Prior to Reporting for Norway, pre-session working group in July 2020

Paragraphs in this document refers to concerns and recommendations made by the Committee in the 9th reporting cycle on Norway (CEDAW/C/NOR/CO/9).

1: Inequality in the labour market

a) Equal pay

Paragraphs 36 and 37.
There is a persistent pay inequality between women and men in the Norwegian labor market. Statistics from Statistics Norway show that women in 2019 earn about 70% of men's salaries. The reason for this pay gap is to a large extent that women and men work in different occupations which are valued differently, and that women work part-time to a much greater extent than men. A typical example is that women work in the care sector in low-paid professions characterized by a large part-time share, while men work in full-time positions in high-paid technical professions. In addition, men and women work in different parts of the hierarchy in the businesses and the tendency is for more men to take a leading position and thus receive higher wages.

The Ombud sees the pay gap as an indication of a lack of gender equality in the labor market.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to reduce gender inequalities in the labour market when it comes to both horizontal and vertical segregation.

b) Mandatory introduction programme

Compared with men, women have a lower probability of transitioning to employment or education upon completion of the mandatory introduction programme for refugees and asylum seekers. Recent changes to the integration legislation do not compensate for these differences. The Ombud is concerned about the relatively low employment rate of certain groups of minority women.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to ensure that a greater number of women refugees and asylum seekers transition to employment or education upon completing the mandatory introduction program.

c) Activity and reporting duty

Paragraphs 12 and 13.
The changes in the activity and reporting duty from 1th of January 2020 comply with previous recommendations from the CEDAW committee. For instance, the duty now includes measures to combat compound discrimination and gender-based violence. The general duty to promote equality and combat discrimination is for all employers, whereas all public employer and the largest employers in the private sector are also required to follow the specific duty. The specific duty requires employers to follow a 4-step method and to map involuntary part time work and equal pay. These employers are also required to report publicly on their gender equality situation and on their equality work. The tribunal can consider whether the report is in accordance to the law.

There are 1,500 employers in the public sector with an obligation to report and publish their work. Of the approx. 214,000 employers in the private sector only five percent of the businesses are covered by these specific obligations.

Even though only a fraction of the private employers is included, the gender equality apparatus in Norway is not dimensioned to conduct a comprehensive follow-up/control work of the companies' reports. Because of this, the Ombud is concerned about how the sought after strengthening of this legislation will actually work in practice.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to secure the desired effects of the changes made to the activity and reporting duty.\

d) Fathers and parental leave

Paragraph 36.
Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or parental leave is still one of the most pressing equality issues in the Norwegian labour market. This type of discrimination is mainly a problem for women, although men can also be discriminated against when it comes to parental leave. The Ombud is of the opinion that a more even distribution of parental leave between men and women will reduce the barriers for women in the labour market.

With current Norwegian regulations, fathers’ right to parental leave is contingent upon various factors relating to the situation of the mother. For instance, the mother must be working, studying or be unable to care for the child due to illness. The EFTA Court concluded that an absence of an independent right to parental leave for fathers, is not discrimination[1]. The court argued that the right to parental benefits, as stated in the National Insurance Act, lies outside the scope of what the Equality Directive refers to as employment and working conditions. The Ombud is concerned that the ruling will become an obstacle to the realization of an equality promoting work-life balance for both men and women.

The state should be asked to reconsider whether fathers’ right to parental leave should be contingent upon factors related to the mother’s situation.

e) Sexual harassment

A low-threshold offer has now been established for persons who are subjected to sexual harassment by allowing the Tribunal to handle cases from 1. January 2020, and to impose redress and compensation in matters relating to employment. The Tribunal is an alternative to the court system and is free of charge. Many employers are still unfamiliar with their obligations under the Equality Act's provision to prevent sexual harassment.

The state should be asked to enshrine in law an obligation for employers, employee representatives and safety delegates to undergo training in how to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Furthermore, that said training becomes part of the health, environmental and safety work which is statutory in the Working Environment Act and associated regulations.

2: Violence against women

a) Fragmented approach

Paragraphs 22, 23, 24 and 25.
The commonly held notion that Norway has achieved gender equality, has led to gender-neutral policies as the norm. Simultaneously, little attention is afforded the root causes of violence against women and domestic violence. This leads to a fragmented approach at all levels – policy making, prevention work, services and prosecution. The Ombud is concerned about the lack of a holistic approach and coordination, and the division of areas of responsibility between various ministries at the government level, and how this reflects negatively into all levels of delivery – with femicide numbers not decreasing as the worst consequence.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to ensure a holistic approach in addressing violence against women and domestic violence and whether the new national plan of action (under development) will ensure appropriate measures for a holistic approach to long-term prevention, providing services to victims and for prosecution.

The state party should also be asked whether root causes will be addressed, what measures are taken to combat root causes to gender-based violence, and steps taken to secure good, inter-ministerial organizing and coordination at the highest level of government.

b) Sami women neglected

Paragraphs 22 and 23.
The state has neglected the responsibility to protect and provide (equal) services for Sami women who have experienced violence and domestic violence.

Research shows significantly higher levels of violence and domestic violence against Sami women compared to women in the majority population.

Services do not reach them, and often do not reach out to them either. There are barriers such as language and lack of interpretation services, and a lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding from the public services in general. An added problem is long-time distrust (due to historical reasons) from the Sami communities towards the public authorities and services.

The Ombud is concerned about the insufficient efforts and the shortage of measures to specifically provide women in Sami communities with the protection and services they need.

The state should be asked what steps are taken to ensure that Sami women have equal access to services. 

The state should also be asked what steps have been taken to increase the Sami communities’ trust in public services, steps taken to increase cultural knowledge and understanding in the population in general, and in public services in Sami areas in particular, and steps taken to reduce the language barrier.

c) Minority and empowerment

Paragraphs 22 and 23.
Measures with the intention of providing and securing protection and services for minoritized women who are victims of violence against women and domestic violence, tend to focus on controlling the minority population rather than the empowerment of the women. This may lead to further stigmatisation of an already stigmatized group.  There is a lack of an intersectional and antiracist perspective and approach.

The state party should be asked what steps have been taken to ensure an intersectional approach in policies.

The state party should also be asked what steps have been taken to ensure the empowerment of minoritized women who are victims of violence against women and domestic violence so that they can make effective use of services available and facilitate self-expression.

d) National standard

The provision of protection and services to victims of violence against women and domestic violence varies depending on where you live in Norway. The individual municipality has autonomy in the distribution of funds. The national law and binding international conventions obligate the State to keep the population safe, and that the delegated responsibility to the individual municipalities in providing this, including the provision of a chain of services that cooperate and communicate to give the best prevention, protection and help possible, is ensured. Despite this, there are few inspections, sanctions and no national standard. The Ombud is concerned about the lack of national standards binding each municipality to equal services, hence making it easier to cut costs and redistribute resources.

The state should be asked about the rationale behind the absence of national standards and ear-marked funding from the central authorities.

e) Municipal plan of action

Less than half the municipalities have responded to the authorities’ call to develop holistic plans for how to fulfil their duty to protect and provide services to victims of violence against women and domestic abuse.  The municipalities that have developed plans, in many cases have not implemented them, nor given the plans a timeframe or evaluated them. Plans have also in many cases been developed without consulting the various service providers and fail to include a strategy for cooperation between the services and how to give information to the public.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to ensure that the municipalities develop and implement holistic plans to prevent and stop violence against women and domestic violence including all aspects of prevention, protection, providing services and prosecution.

f) Police priorities

Paragraphs 22 and 23.
Despite directives and instructions from the highest levels and the proclaimed commitment by the police authorities themselves, prevention work and the actual cases involving violence against women and domestic violence are not given priority by local police. Other forms of crime jump the queue and there are no effective time limits set to handle cases.

There are significant challenges in the Police regarding resources and their possibility to actually give priority to cases involving violence against women and domestic violence.

Also, the ambition to shift the burden from the victim to the abuser with regard to restrictions to the freedom of movement, is moving too slow. Systems are in place, legislation is in place, instructions are given from the highest level to use reverse attack alarm systems, but still only a handful of rulings have been implemented.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to secure police resources and focus so that work to prevent and protect women against violence and domestic violence will be given priority. Further, the state should be asked why there is no deadline on these cases.

The state should also be asked why reverse attack alarm system on the abuser has yet to become a widely used measure of prevention.

g) Digital violence

Paragraphs 24 and 25.
In June 2018, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security suggested in a draft resolution, the need to put in place legislation that specifically targets non-consensual dissemination of images that may violate the right to privacy. In current legislation, several provisions apply to cases of non-consensual dissemination of images, such as videos and pictures. However, it was argued that a provision with an explicit wording directly linking it to this particular practice would make the provision much more accessible to the public and that this in turn would have favourable preventative effects. 

In our written statement to the draft, the Ombud argued along similar lines and pointed out that the provision also would strengthen the victims’ legal and human rights.

The widespread use of ICT has resulted in an increase of non-consensual dissemination of sexually charged images, and the police report that sexual images are used to force victims to perform sexual acts on themselves; a practice that amounts to sexual assault and even rape in the Norwegian Penal Code. Girls and young women seem to be particularly vulnerable. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the situation, the proposed provision has yet to come into force. The Ombud is concerned about the seemingly increase in digital violence in general, and non-consensual dissemination of sexual images in particular. In some cases, the dissemination is well organised and at times part of a larger picture of sexual harassment, doxing and stalking. Simultaneously, we have very little knowledge about the extent of the phenomenon, no systematic information about the perpetrators or the victims. Nor do we know how the police handle reported cases of non-consensual dissemination of sexual images.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken to increase public awareness and knowledge that non-consensual dissemination of sexually charged images is illegal.

The state should also be asked what steps have been taken to gather information and systematize experiences the police have in handling cases of non-consensual dissemination of images.

3: Women in prisons

Paragraphs 46 and 47.
The prison conditions for women prisoners in Norway are still not on an equal level with men, and the problems described in para 46 are still relevant.

In order to highlight these persisting structural problems for women prisoners in Norway, the Ombud in March 2020 forwarded a legal complaint to the Equality and Discrimination Tribunal, arguing that women prisoners in Tromsø prison are being discriminated against. The Ombud also argued that financial restraints are not a valid reason that can justify poorer conditions for women prisoners as compared to male prisoners.

In June 2020, the Equality and Discrimination Tribunal concluded and affirmed that women prisoners in Tromsø prison are being discriminated against due to inter alia the following circumstances:

  • Women prisoners with sentences on higher levels of security are serving their sentences in custody cells with poorer conditions than the conditions for men serving on high security.
  • Women prisoners are in practice kept more isolated than men.
  • Women prisoners have poorer access to work-training activities etc than men.

The Ombud is concerned that female prisoners in all prisons in Norway are at a high risk of being discriminated and serving sentences under poorer conditions than men.  We thus recommend that the state party in this reporting cycle is asked what concrete steps the State party will take to ensure that women prisoners in Norway are secured prison conditions equal to men in all Norwegian prisons, and how budgetary constraints for equal treatment will be remedied.

The state should also be asked what steps have been taken in order to implement the recommendations, and ask the state party to report on present and future steps to strengthen access to health services for women prisoners needing mental health care and to strengthen access to substance abuse rehabilitation services.

4: Gender stereotypes

Paragraphs 22 and 23.
In our report for the 9th reporting cycle on Norway, the Ombud expressed concern about how childhood and adolescence has become increasingly commercialized, gendered and sexualized, resulting in omnipresent negative gender stereotypes and a youth culture that is increasingly marked by the objectification and sexualization of and the impact these trends may have on the extent of sexual violence.

Since then, several reports from both civil society and research centers paint a similar picture. These reports show for instance a widespread use of pornography among children and young people, that girls have more negative experiences with being exposed to pornography, that almost halve of all young people (13-18 years) have received nudes and been asked to send nudes. More girls than boys receive unwanted sexual images. Another report found that teenagers, through algorithms, are met with gendered marketing on social media, which appear stereotypical and follows traditional gender roles.

Furthermore, an Official Norwegian Report about challenges to equality among children and youth, found that gender stereotypes permeate all aspects of the lives of children and youth. Through digital media and communications technology, children and youth, are exposed to an endless and constant stream of sexualized images and dissemination of unobtainable body ideals through retouched images from algorithm-driven advertisement. They also found that more girls than boys feel pressured into sending nudes, while more boys than girls watch pornography.

Based on their findings, the authors point out that we need more knowledge about how pornography affects children and youth, and pornography’s impact on gender, perceptions about the body and sexuality, sexual practices, boundaries and violence in a gender perspective.

The state should be asked what steps have been taken in order to implement recommendations given by the Committee I para 23. The states party should specifically be asked what steps have been taken to acquire knowledge about the possible connections between sexualization and pornography and the and the persistence of sexual violence and gender-based violence, in particular in relation to girls.

5: Artificial Intelligence

The Government wants Norway to take a leading position in exploiting the innovation potential in applying artificial intelligence, and there is a growing engagement for artificial intelligence in Norway from different sectors as well as from government agencies. January 2020, the Government presented Norway's first ever National strategy on Artificial Intelligence. The strategy is aimed at both public and private sector. The very last section of the strategy is about AI ethics. Inclusion, diversity and equal treatment are mentioned in one bullet point in the section. The strategy does not address how or who is supposed to make sure that AI won’t lead to discriminatory decisions. It does not mention the Anti-Discrimination Act and how this will be applied on AI. The government consulted with many public and private agencies in the preparatory work of the strategy, unfortunately the Ombud was not included in the consultations. The Ombud is therefore concerned that the introduction of AI in all sectors of society may inadvertently lead to discrimination of women.

In light of the rapid deployment of AI, the state should be asked what steps have been taken to prevent historical biased data from influencing the predictions that machines make.

The state should also be asked what steps have been taken to address the current lack of legal and regulatory safeguards regarding AI and discrimination.


Yours sincerely,


Hanne Bjurstrøm

Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud


Taran Knudstad

Senior advisor


Brevdato: 29.06.20