United Nations scrutinise UK progress on Gender Equality

The UK Government has answered tough questions about their performance on Gender Equality by the United Nations. The United Kingdom are part of The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women Treaty(CEDAW).

CEDAW was drawn up after decades of work by the United Nations, governments and women’s rights activists. The First World Conference on Women held in Mexico City in 1975 resulted in a call for a treaty for women’s rights.

The treaty is the most authoritative UN human rights instrument to protect women from discrimination. It is the first international treaty to comprehensively address fundamental rights for women in politics, health care, education, economics, employment, law, property, and marriage and family relations.

Barbara Follet, head of the country’s 30-member delegation answering a panel, said laws must be updated to reflect changing times. In April 2007, as part of the Equality Act, the UK had introduced the Gender Equality Duty, requiring all public authorities to draw up three-year gender equality schemes and gender impact assessments of all new policies and legislation, with an emphasis on erasing discrimination and harassment.

Despite such advances, Ms. Follett acknowledged that the UK had yet to stamp out violence against women, which had taken new forms. Domestic homicide, rape and trafficking for sexual exploitation, indeed, remained a concern. The 2004 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act and the 2003 Sexual Offences Act sought to tackle this  through better protection for victims and harsher penalties for offenders.

While acknowledging such moves, Committee experts expressed concern over whether sufficient attention and funding was allocated to address women’s needs and foster women’s advancement in the United Kingdom’s overseas Territories. They critiqued, among other things, continuing discrimination against ethnic minority women, the illegal status of abortion in Northern Ireland, and the absence of a unified, multifaceted national campaign on violence against women -– deeming “most alarming” for a developed country the situation of gender-based violence in the United Kingdom. They also implored the delegation to do more to increase women’s political representation and to expand racial equality programmes throughout the United Kingdom.


posted by Asif Yusuf




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