CEDAW 52nd Session Country Reports: New Zealand and Samoa

By Mel O’Brien

I thought I would put NZ and Samoa in the same blog post, as they are two Pacific island countries, and so it is a useful comparison. The two states are in completely different situations, however, in many ways, with regards to advancement and equality of women.

The issue of women in politics continues to be a pressing issue for the Committee, and they have pushed this topic with every state whose report(s) has(ve) been considered. There was no love lost with either NZ or Samoa, however. In the case of NZ, there was, we repeatedly heard, "no appetite" for special measures like quotas to increase the number of women in parliament. NZ does have a relatively high percentage of women in parliament, at 32%, however this is down from previous governments, and in general the trend towards women’s advancement is decreasing in NZ. As a consequence, the Committee pushed for NZ to consider implementing temporary special measures, although the NZ delegation did not take to this idea. Continue reading

CEDAW 52nd Session Country Reports: Bulgaria and Jamaica

By Mel O’Brien

The country reports of Bulgaria and Jamaica were addressed at the end of the first week of the 52nd session of CEDAW. Both states worked quite hard to answer all the questions of the Committee.

In the case of Bulgaria, there have been quite a lot of new laws promulgated recently, as well as the establishment of a Commission on Protection Against Discrimination. The news laws include one on anti-discrimination (including gender, race, etc). In 2005, a domestic violence law was passed, which has also been amended in 2009 and 2010. The Penal Code also offers domestic violence protection, including provisions for violation of protection orders, and others on general crimes such as assault and murder. In addition, there are new hate crime provisions in the Penal Code, and new legislation against trafficking in persons. The government is in the process of amending the Penal Code further (for 2012 or 2013), including the removal of provisions that outlaw ‘crimes against sexual morality’, and the ability of rapists to avoid punishent by marrying their victims.

One of the ongoing concerns of the Committee through all of the issues was the issue of Roma women. In 2012, the Bulgarian government launched a National Strategy for the Integration of the Roma, and this focuses on prevention of discrimination and hate crimes, including against Roma women. The Strategy has two timeframes of application, the first from 2012 to 2015, the next from 2016 to 2020.

30 Years of Working to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women- 52nd Session of CEDAW

By Mel O’Brien

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Today the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women held a 30th Anniversary Event during its 52nd Session at UN Headquarters. The brief event focused on women’s political participation and leadership, and the pursuit of equality in this area. Mr Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, spoke about the importance of equality and non-discrimination and how his office is seeking to achieve that, through intergration of human rights principles. Michele Bachelet, the head of UN Women, gave an excellent speech about how women in positions of leadership inspire young women to seek further education and aspire to be leaders themselves some day. The event also heard from several women from different countries, who hold positions in their home countries in the legal profession, government or civil society organisations, and the challenges that they face in their home states with regards to achieving parliamentary parity and legislative changes to implement rights under CEDAW.

By 2030, the UN is aiming for 30% women in all governments/parliaments across the world. Currently only about 30 states have at least 30% women in their parliaments, which certainly makes the UN goal an ambitious one, but still an essential one. Having women in leadership roles ensures that a wider variety of issues are addressed by governments, including women’s concerns. 

I am attending the 52nd Session of the CEDAW as a delegate of the American Society of International Law, and will post regularly during the next three weeks. During this session, the CEDAW will address the state reports of Bulgaria, Guyana, Jamaica, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, Bahamas, and Samoa.