A ‘Bill of Rights’ for Women: CEDAW
CEDAW (the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) is an international bill of rights for women. It outlines a comprehensive set of rights of women in a variety of areas including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. CEDAW defines what discrimination against women is and what governments must do to end it.
In the Programme for Government published earlier this year, the Welsh Government committed to incorporating CEDAW into Welsh law. This would be an important step forward in protecting the rights of women’s and girls in Wales and we will continue to campaign and support this process.
Since the 2019 CEDAW examination of the UK, the global Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit have dramatically worsened entrenched inequalities that systematically breach women’s rights. In our jointly produced 4 Nations Follow-up Shadow Report, we argue that women’s equality has not been prioritised within management of these events and make the following recommendations to the UK and Welsh Governments:
- Review the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming and invest in strengthened data collection.
- Undertake a rigorous and gender-sensitive analysis of the impact of Brexit, including for future trade deals, and review post-Brexit measures regularly.
- Establish an independent, transparent accountable mechanism to ensure women and women’s organisations, reflecting regionality, diversity and representation across the UK can meaningfully engage with policy making.
- Implement urgent policies to meet the disproportionate impacts on women, especially young, disabled, Black and minority ethnic women and LGBTQI+ people, alongside Covid-19 recovery plans.
- Make free childcare available to all parents from birth and invest in the childcare and early years sectors.
- Ensure gendered, strategic approaches to ending all forms of VAWG, including abolishing the no recourse to public funds policy.
The report was jointly produced by the Engender, Women’s Equality Network Wales, Women’s Resource Centre and the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform. You can find the full report here.
Context of the report:
The UK ratified CEDAW in 1986, which means it committed to the articles, rights and procedures within it. Countries that have ratified the Convention are required by law to implement its provisions (subject to any reservations made). They need to submit progress reports every 4 years to an UN expert committee (the CEDAW committee). The CEDAW committee meets several times a year to review the periodic reports and issue recommendations to individual governments. The committee’s work is supported by shadow reports, which are prepared by women’s rights organisations and provide a civil society perspective that gives a true and accurate account of the status of women’s rights in the UK.
Following the UK Government’s hearing in 2019, the committee produced a list of recommendations for the UK Government to address until the next monitoring round in March 2023. It also identified recommendations of particular concern, relating to incorporation of CEDAW, the impacts of Brexit, and an oversight mechanism for women’s participation in CEDAW at UK level, which require a response by the UK Government by 2021. The UK Government has submitted its progress report on these areas, but it did not consult with any of the organisations who have been involved with the CEDAW process at UK level (Engender, the Women’s Resource Centre, the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform, and Women’s Equality Network Wales). These organisations have jointly produced a 4 Nations Follow-up Shadow Report to tell the CEDAW Committee what’s happening for women’s equality and rights in the UK.