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Equality Now: Eliminating discrimination against women through the use of the international human rights system.

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Presentation on theme: "Equality Now: Eliminating discrimination against women through the use of the international human rights system."— Presentation transcript:

1 Equality Now: Eliminating discrimination against women through the use of the international human rights system

2 Overview of the international treaty body system The international human rights legal system began with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)in 1948 UDHR + the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) = the International Bill of Human Rights The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is also considered one of the core UN treaties – known as the Bill of Women’s Rights

3 Overview of treaty bodies (cont). 8 human rights treaty bodies, committees of experts that monitor the implementation of the core UN treaties: – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural Rights – International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment – Convention on the Rights of the Child – International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families – International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Functions of the committees include: -examining States Parties’ reports and NGO shadow reports; -having a dialogue with States Parties on fulfilling their obligations under the treaties and issuing concluding observations -issuing general recommendations or comments about specific articles

4 FUNCTIONAL COMMISSIONS OF UN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL (ECOSOC) 9 functional commissions assist ECOSOC in monitoring implementation of various UN goals: – Statistical Commission – Commission on Population and Development – Commission for Social Development – Commission on the Status of Women – Commission on Narcotic Drugs – Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice – Commission on Science and Technology for Development – Commission on Sustainable Development – United Nations Forum on Forests

5 SPECIAL MECHANISMS OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL Special Procedures of the HRC are: – an individual –a special rapporteur or representative or independent expert; or – a working group Special Procedure’s address: -specific country human rights situations; -or global thematic human rights issues 30+ thematic mandates and 8 country mandates. All report to the Human Rights Council on their findings and recommendations.

6 THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM and MONITORING WOMEN’S RIGHTS - Overview The CEDAW Committee, made up of 23 experts, is the treaty-based body dealing with women’s rights violations under The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council and principal global policy-making body on gender equality and advancement of women with 46 Member States which meet annually for 10 days. The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women is one of over 30 thematic “Special Procedures” of the UN Human Rights Council, a charter-based body of the UN. She transmits urgent appeals and communications to States regarding alleged cases of violence against women, undertakes fact-finding country visits and submits annual thematic reports. The new HRC Working Group on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and in practice, made up of 5 regional reps, will will work with States to end legal discrimination.

7 THE CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW) Known as the international Bill of Women’s Rights Ratified by 186 countries – NOT including Iran, Somalia, Sudan, the United States and 3 small Pacific Island nations (Nauru, Palau and Tonga). The Convention has 16 substantive articles that cover a wide range of women’s rights including in education, employment, marriage and family life, political and public life, and equality before the law etc. No specific article on violence but the CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation No. 19, Violence Against Women, covers this in stating, “Gender-based violence may breach specific provisions of the Convention, regardless of whether those provisions expressly mention violence.”

8 CEDAW CONTINUED - Monitoring by the CEDAW Committee Two main ways of monitoring by the Committee: State party reports: – States parties have to submit reports to the Committee every four years – The Committee questions each State party about their implementation of the Convention at one of their tri-annual sessions – Committee issues concluding comments to the State party – NGOs can submit shadow reports to the Committee to encourage the Committee to ask relevant questions and issue recommendations. Optional Protocol to CEDAW (ratified by 100 countries): the Committee can investigate mass violations under its inquiry procedure and take individual complaints under its complaints procedure.

9 Bringing an issue to the CEDAW Committee through shadow reports – example of Japan Japan is considered at CEDAW Committee’s July 2009 session Equality Now submits “shadow” report on rape simulator video games in Japan to the CEDAW Committee based on our Women’s Action and makes oral statement at the session Committee expresses concern to the government about these games and the “normalization of sexual violence” Committee issues concluding observations- “The Committee strongly urges the State party to ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women which normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls. The Committee also recommends that, as indicated in the delegation’s oral assurance during the constructive dialogue, the State party include this issue in its revision of the Act Banning Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.”

10 JAPAN CONTINUEDJAPAN CONTINUED Equality Now issues updated Women’s Action using CEDAW Committee’s comments to pressure Japan to ban these games outright. Japan announces that the gaming industry has issued self regulation guidelines and that it shall be monitoring these.

11 THE OP COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE – EXAMPLE OF A.T. V. HUNGARY The Optional Protocol provides opportunity for specific redress in individual cases when a State violates women’s rights A.T. v. Hungary, Communication No. 2/2003 (Domestic Violence) Facts The plaintiff was subjected to ongoing severe domestic violence at the hand of her husband. She was unable to go to a shelter because none was equipped to take in her fully disabled child. There were no protection orders or retaining orders available under Hungarian law. A.T. also requested assistance from the child protection authorities but the authorities felt unable to do anything in such situation.

12 CEDAW OP COMPLAINT CONT.CEDAW OP COMPLAINT CONT. Findings The Committee found that Hungary failed in its duty to provide A.T. with effective protection from the serious risk to her physical integrity, health and life from her former husband thereby violating the Convention. Recommendations Individual: Take immediate and effective measures to guarantee the physical and mental integrity of A.T. and her family; ensure that A.T. is given a safe home in which to live with her children, receives child support, legal assistance and reparation. General: respect and fulfil women’s human rights; promptly implement national strategy for prevention and effective treatment of violence, training; specific law prohibiting domestic violence; provide shelters, promptly investigate and bring offenders to justice; safe and prompt access to justice including free legal aid, rehabilitation programmes.

13 BRINGING AN ISSUE TO CEDAW UNDER THE OP INQUIRY PROCEDURE -- MEXICO Inquiry procedure of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW – Committee may initiate inquiries into situations of “grave or systematic violations” of women’s rights where the State concerned has accepted the OP Equality Now and partners request CEDAW Committee undertake an inquiry on hundreds of murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and impunity for officials 2003 CEDAW Committee visit and inquire into the murders – the first use of the Optional Protocol inquiry mechanism 2005 report issued by the CEDAW Committee notes that: “[v]iolence against women has…taken root [in Ciudad Juárez] and has developed specific characteristics marked by hatred and misogyny.” Also found crimes were gender-based and suggested this is why they have been tolerated for years by the authorities with total indifference. Committee makes 14 recommendations to Mexico Equality Now issues Women’s Action in 2006 targeting government officials, citing their obligations under CEDAW

14 THE UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN CSW issues agreed conclusions on priority themes (e.g. violence against women) set for each year - Agreed conclusions can become political issues, e.g. no agreed conclusion adopted on violence against women in 2003 CSW adopts a number of resolutions on a range of women’s issues - Equality Now got Member States to adopt resolutions in 2005 and 2006 to consider establishing a new special mechanism on discriminatory laws The final annual report of the Commission is submitted to the Economic and Social Council for adoption. This report can be a further tool for NGOs.

15 Using the CSW to promote advocacy on women’s rights issues CSW sessions are an opportunity for NGOs all over the world to conduct events, meet and network and collectively promote an agenda by influencing the agreed conclusions that are adopted by CSW at the end of each session. These can be used to hold governments accountable. In ,440 representatives from 463 NGOs from 138 countries attended CSW. Key themes of CSW are chosen each year – e.g. implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, violence against women, sharing of responsibilities between men and women, access to media etc.

16 CSW COMMUNICATIONS PROCEDURECSW COMMUNICATIONS PROCEDURE CSW communications must allege systematic and pervasive violations of women’s rights Equality Now submits communications on alleged violations of human rights affecting the status of women in any country in the world, which are forwarded to the gov’ts concerned; their response to CSW is confidential – even just having the issue raised by CSW puts pressure on national governments to address it. – In 2010 on discriminatory laws in 36 countries in our Beijing +15 report, as well as on several other countries where Equality Now has Actions

17 CSW COMMUNICATIONS CONT.CSW COMMUNICATIONS CONT. - In 2009 on a case of forced divorce in Saudi Arabia highlighted in our Women’s Action. In February 2010, Supreme Judiciary Council overturns the forced divorce. – In 2004, Equality Now submits communications on all countries in our Bejing +10 report --> 2005 CSW annual report, CSW working group states it was “concerned about… ( d) The continued existence of legislation or practices in many areas either intended to or with the effect of discriminating against women, despite the international obligations and commitments of States and their constitutional provisions to outlaw such discrimination.”  Governments may take more notice of Equality Now’s info if it comes from UN CSW

18 THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN and others Special mechanisms influence an issue by issuing reports – Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women’s 1996 thematic report on domestic violence with model laws; – SR’s on VAW’s 2006 report on due diligence standard as a tool for the elimination of violence against women Special mechanisms also reports on incidents – based on communications from groups Other rapporteurs relating to women’s rights – Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children Equality Now submitted memo to previous SR on VAW about issues such as lack of access to justice for victims of sex discrimination and sexual harassment with the UN

19 THE NEW WORKING GROUP ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN LAW AND IN PRACTICE Equality Now and partners advocate for October 2010 HRC resolution establishing 3 year working group – five independent experts – balanced geographical representation – election in March 2011 Main tasks of the working group will be: – To develop a dialogue with States and others on best practices related to the elimination of laws that are de jure or de facto discriminatory and prepare a compendium of best practices; – To undertake a study on the ways and means in which the working group can cooperate with States to fulfil their commitments to eliminate discrimination against women in law and in practice; – To make recommendations on the improvement of legislation and the implementation of the law to contribute to MDG 3

20 THE NEW WORKING GRP CONTINUED – To submit an annual report to the Council on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, and on good practices in eliminating such discrimination  Potential of the new Working Group: – Convince Member States to repeal all de jure discriminatory laws, which they should have done by 2005 and end de facto discrimination by finding best practice examples – Identify real obstacles and challenges to the above and ways to overcome them

21 CONCLUSION Knowledge of and expertise in international laws, policies and mechanisms can be useful in promoting women’s rights at the national level – as well as for influencing international policy on the issue. Getting good language in international documents/resolutions is critical and facilitates advocacy at the national level. Advocacy at the international level can be conducted through various UN monitoring venues – treaty bodies, functional commissions, special mechanisms are some venues.


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