Women’s Participation at CEDAW’s 52nd Session

30 Jul

As we noted in previous blog posts, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (hereinafter “Committee”) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a public event on women’s political participation. Political participation is highlighted in Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (hereinafter “Convention”) which calls on all states parties to take all appropriate measures to prevent discrimination of women in public and political life, and ensure for their right to vote, to participate in government policy formulation, to run and hold public office, and to perform at all governmental levels.

As such, in its review of states parties in the 52nd session, the Committee discussed with the delegations the status of women’s political participation, looking not only at participation within the national political systems, but also focusing on diplomatic services. Below, we highlight some of the discussion that has taken place on this topic, as the Committee reviewed Jamaica, New Zealand, and Samoa. Overall with this issue, as well as most of the articles examined by the Committee, the focus was not only on enacting the right legislation, but also in ensuring that such legislation is implemented and a culture of participation is promoted. Women’s rights are not automatically ensured if they are translated into appropriate legislature; there must also be room within society for them to exercise those rights.  

For Jamaica, the Committee’s attention was on women’s participation in politics and emphasis was placed on political violence as a deterrent to participation in this context and the need for programs that increase awareness. Jamaica noted the difficulties of participation when the focus of political parties was mostly on winning elections, but noted efforts that need to be taken to ensure for the tools necessary to address this issue through providing financial support and support to women’s organizations that promote the advancement of women.

For New Zealand, the focus was on ensuring that adequate training is available to promote a culture of participation. The New Zealand delegation recognized as one of its challenges the need to engage more women as representatives and noted current measures undertaken, such as training available in the rural areas to promote participation as well as efforts undertaken by political parties. The delegation acknowledged that more could be done to build confidence and encourage participation.

For Samoa, the delegation discussed the proposed amendment to allow a minimum number of seats for women to participate in politics, which is a significant step for the government of Samoa.  The Committee focused its attention on the impact that Matai titles have on women’s participation; according to the national Constitution, women must obtain Matai titles before being candidates in elections, but there are barriers with accessibility to those titles and, more generally, with women coming forward to participate in politics.   

Overall, throughout the session, the Committee was focused on addressing its concerns towards the states parties, as it pertains to their obligations under the Convention. With the 52nd session now complete, attention and preparation shifts to the 53rd session to be held in Geneva in 1 October – 19 October 2012. As we move forward we also take note of the General Recommendations on the Committee’s agenda, such as access to justice and women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict. GAPW will be monitoring the development of the General Recommendations and will be reporting updates accordingly. 

–          Melina Lito

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