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Letter asks Minister about CEDAW recommendations


letter, Minister, women's organisations, Converntion on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, UN review 2019, What are the UK government’s plans to effectively implement the recommendations?

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states. The UK ratified the Convention in 1986.

Unlike domestic UK and European Community legislation on sex discrimination and equal treatment, the Convention is solely concerned with the position of women rather than discrimination faced by both sexes, which would include discrimination and inequalities faced by men.

State parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In March 2019, the CEDAW Committee published a set of recommendations outlining how the UK could better protect and promote women’s rights.

The UK and the devolved governments have until 2023 to implement these recommendations before they have to report back to the UN on progress made.

On 1 May 2019, the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) and a number of women’s organisations sent a letter to the Minister for Women, Victoria Atkins MP, regarding the UN’s recent review of the UK’s performance on improving the position of women in the UK and the progress made in achieving their rights.

The letter asks about UK government’s plans to effectively implement the recommendations for the benefit of all women in Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

Dear Minister,

CEDAW Implementation

We are writing regarding the UN’s recent review of the UK’s performance on improving the position of women in the UK and the progress made in achieving their rights.

As you know, the UN Committee responsible for assessing compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women has published its concluding observations with a comprehensive set of recommendations, on how the UK and devolved governments can improve and protect women’s rights.

UK Women’s Human Rights NGOs have been critically involved in this process, many for over 12 months; leading on and attending consultations and producing nation shadow reports and a UK wide shadow report. Many also attended the examination of the UK government by the committee in February 2019.

Collectively we provided a broad range of evidence gathered predominantly from grassroots women’s organisations and their service users.

We are very pleased that the UN listened to our representations; indeed commending us on our excellent collaborative approach, and that the resultant recommendations represent a carefully considered view of where further progress is needed, based on the written and oral evidence that we presented.

The recommendations reflect the breadth and complexity of the challenge ahead in achieving better progress on women’s rights, and we are mindful that such a task is not the responsibility of Government alone; indeed, our Women’s Rights NGO sector is a crucial partner in delivering on this progress.

The Committee’s recommendations and our own shadow reports offer various policy solutions.

The Committee highlighted a number of cross-cutting themes, which we believe are pivotal for the government to address in order to make progress:

The uncertainty arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union will impact upon a range of public policy areas. We would like to see Impact Assessments conducted to understand what that means for women to ensure that there is no regression in their human rights.

We urge the Government to adopt an intersectional approach to Women’s Rights which includes the gathering of data to ensure all women, and disabled and BME women in particular, have their rights upheld.

We also urge the Government to incorporate CEDAW into domestic law and create a national mechanism to ensure women’s concerns are sought and to oversee CEDAW implementation.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee has also supported the introduction of a strategy for implementing CEDAW, and the development of a monitoring mechanism, underpinned by consultation with NGOs and NHRIs.

We note the [GEO] Government Equalities Office’s move to the Cabinet Office, which provides an excellent opportunity for GEO to lead progress on CEDAW across all of Government.

We also look forward to publication, in due course, of your revised strategy on women’s economic empowerment in England, and very much welcome the Secretary of State’s intention to create a new national listening platform, to bring the voices of diverse women into the national debate.

We would strongly encourage the Government to use the recent CEDAW review and its Concluding Observations as a basis for its overall strategy on women’s rights.

We would welcome a meeting to discuss the committee’s recommendations and in particular the key overarching issues noted above, and to hear about the UK Government’s plans to effectively implement the recommendations for the benefit of all women in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Yours sincerely,

Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO, WRC; Bee Rowlatt, Chair, Mary on the Green;  Catherine Anderson, CEO, Jo Cox Foundation; Catherine Fookes, Director, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales; Chiara Capraro, Amnesty International UK; Cris McCurley, Partner, Ben Hoare Bell LLP; Davina Lloyd, Back to 60; Dr Fenella Porter, Interim Deputy Director, Women’s Rights and Gender Justice, OXFAM; Dr Helen Pankhurst, Convener, Centenary Action Group; Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, UK Women’s Budget Group; Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Founder & Editor, Women in Leadership Publication; Eleanor Lisney, Sisters of Frida; Elizabeth Law, N.I.W.E.P; Ellen Grogan, Nordic Model Now; Emma Ritch, ED, Engender; Evelyn Fraser, Development Manager, Scottish Women’s Convention; Harriet Wistrich, Director, Centre for Women’s Justice; Jane Gordon, Legal Director, Sisters for Change; Kellie Turtle, Women’s Resource and Development Agency; Lee Chalmers, Director, The Parliament Project; Liz Dominey, Chair, UK Programme Action Committee of Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland; Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party; Marta Welander, Refugee Rights Europe; Mary Santo, Policy Advisor, Mothers Union; Maureen Meatcher, President, National Board of Catholic Women; Melissa Green, General Secretary, The WI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes); Nick Newland FRSA FHEA, Policy and Communications Manager, Associated Country Women of the World; Ros Bragg Director, Maternity Action; Sarah Taal, Baobab Women’s Project; Seyi Akiwowo, Founder and Executive Director, Glitch!; Shaista Gohir OBE, Interim Executive Director, Muslim Women’s Network UK; Sister Lynda Dearlove RSM MBE, CEO Women@the well; Umme Iman, ED, Angelou Centre; Zarin Hainsworth, Chair NAWO, Widows Rights International.

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