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National Human Rights Commission of Korea Comments on "Sexist" Provisions in Local Ordinances in Incheon City

      Incheon City, located in the west of Seoul, had conducted a voluntary survey to find out whether or not local ordinances contain sexist provisions and, in December 2005, asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide its legal views on the result of the survey. In response, the NHRC expressed its views in 8 June 2006, stating that some texts contain possibly sexist provisions, which are not compatible with the Constitution and international treaties ratified by South Korea, and that remedial measures should be taken.
      According to the press release issued by the NHRC(Korean), sexist provisions were found in the following six areas: (a) dress codes; (b) qualifications for members of councils and other bodies; (c) separate organizations and stereotyped functions for women; (d) legitimacy of the measures to promote women's participation; (e) reducing women's work burden; and (f) indirect discrimination.
      In the area of dress codes, for example, the Regulations for the Implementation of the Ordinance on the Establishment of the Fire Department designate skirts for female members and trousers for male members. The NHRC finds that the distinction can hardly be justified on operational reasons and that it rather reflects stereotyped ideas on gender. With regard to the area of legitimacy of the measures to promote women's participation, the NHRC refers to the ordinances on the organization and operation of the Committee for the Settlement of Disputes Concerning Apartment Houses, which set the quota of female members in the Committee as "30% or less" or "around 30%". In order to reflect the original purpose of these provisions, which is the promotion of women's participation in policy-making and the positive realization of gender equality, the NHRC points out that the quota should be "30% and more".
      As an example of indirect discrimination, the NHRC refers to the provisions of some ordinances concerning membership of the relevant councils. According to them, membership of the councils should be commissioned to those who are at least associate professors, or to civil servants who rank in the third/fourth or higher grade (there are nine grades for civil servants). Although these provisions do not constitute direct sex discrimination, Korean universities had only 6,741 women among 47,088 associate professors or professors in the year 2005; and, among 5,457 civil servants who rank higher than the fourth grade, there are only 155 women. In the light of these figures, women are placed in a disadvantaged status because of the qualification provisions. Since these qualifications are not minimum necessary conditions for the relevant functions, the NHRC indicates the need for reform.
      The NHRC also stresses the need to eliminate sex discrimination in local as well as national legislation, stating that other municipalities may have similar discriminatory provisions in their ordinances.

Source: National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Korean)
See also: The Chosun Ilbo (Korean)