AWAVA and NATSIWA’s Australian NGOs’ Follow-up Report to the CEDAW Committee’s 2010 Interim Recommendations on addressing violence against women, and actions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, was endorsed by all six National Women’s Alliances and by 106 NGOs, in part or in full.
The report was submitted to the CEDAW Committee on 16 August 2012 and can be downloaded here.
Thank you for your amazing support!
CEDAW developments at home and abroad
by Edwina MacDonald the Law Reform and Policy Solicitor at Kingsford Legal Centre
Article originally featuring in the September Human Rights Legal Centre Bulletin
At its July 2012 meeting in New York, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women celebrated its 30th Anniversary. At the same time in Australia, over 100 non-government organisations were involved in finalising Australia’s NGOs’ follow up report on Australia’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The follow up report process is a new one for the Committee, with 25 countries having provided follow up reports to the Committee in the last three years. When the Committee reviews a country’s implementation of the Convention, it now requests that the country follow up on two priority recommendations in one to two years, in advance of the regular four-yearly review. In its July 2010 review of Australia, the Committee requested that Australia report back on its steps to implement the Committee’s recommendations on improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s enjoyment of human rights, and on addressing violence against women. The Australian Government is expected to report in the coming weeks.
A key focus of the Australian NGO report is on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s participation in public and political life. The report stresses the importance of providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with access to political, board and committee positions, and leadership and training opportunities; and to include and listen to their views and voices in consultations and policy making processes.
The theme of women’s political participation and leadership also featured prominently at the 30th anniversary celebrations in New York. In a panel discussion on this theme, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet highlighted what she summarised as “30-30-30” – that at the 30th anniversary of the Committee there were more than 30 countries that have 30 percent or more women parliamentarians. She identified a target of 2030 for gender parity in parliaments.
In Australia, we are heading in the wrong direction. On 1 January 2012 we scraped into this elite group with 30.3 percent of our parliamentarians being women. But the election in Queensland this year pushed Australia back down under the 30 percent mark. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the situation is even more dire, with no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women ever having been elected to Federal Parliament and few to State or Territory parliaments. The NGO report highlights the importance of committing to strategies and temporary special measures to increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
The NGO report’s other main focus is violence against women. In particular, it stresses the importance of adequate resourcing and implementation, and independent monitoring and evaluation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
The Convention is silent on the issue of violence against women. Yet, 30 years on, it has become a major theme in the Committee’s work. The Committee has prioritised violence against women in its requests for follow up reports, with nine of the 25 countries that have submitted a follow up report having been asked to focus on this issue. Seven of the 12 admissible communications made under the Optional Protocol to the Convention have also related to violence against women, with the Committee finding rights violations in all seven cases. The Committee’s only completed inquiry is into the abduction, rape and murder of women in Mexico.
Over the past 30 years the Committee has, through its general recommendations and jurisprudence, conceptualised violence against women as a form of “discrimination against women” within the meaning of the Convention and developed the obligation of “due diligence”. This means that governments can be held responsible for private acts, such as domestic violence, if they fail to take all reasonable measures to prevent, investigate, punish and remedy violations.
In Australia, violence against women continues to occur at unacceptably high rates, with one-in-three Australian women having experienced physical violence and almost one-in-five having experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
The NGO report identifies that the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children is a welcome step to addressing this human rights violation. But it also recommends further measures that Australian governments must take in order to fulfill their due diligence obligations. In particular, the NGO Report expresses concern that the Committee’s 2010 recommendations to implement, adequately fund, monitor and evaluate the National Plan have not been fully implemented. It also calls for further investment in service provision that is appropriate to meeting the needs of all women who have experienced violence, and in comprehensive primary prevention strategies to drive long-term social change.
Over its 30 years’ existence, the Committee has continued to evolve – both in developing new processes, such as the follow up reports, and in developing concepts and understanding of women’s rights. Its work has resulted in improvements in laws, policies and programs that advance the universal human rights of women, but much remains to be done in ending all forms of discrimination against women. The NGO report highlights steps that Australian governments should be taking now to advance the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and to address violence against women.
The NGO report was coordinated by the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) and theNational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA).
Coordinating NGO CEDAW Report
We asked you what you thought the priority actions on VAW and for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women were back in June. Our online survey sought your views on Australia’s performance on actions on violence against women and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children and what Australia’s priorities on violence against women and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women needed to be.
AWAVA and NATSIWA asked for your input into the non-government organisations’ response to the CEDAW July 2010 Concluding Observations recommendations on action on violence against women and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
So, what’s was the survey for?
The survey assessed NGOs’ views of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children and what they thought Australia’s priorities on violence against women and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women needed to be. It was used specifically to produce the NGO report for the CEDAW Committee. The NGO report provides additional information and an alternative view for the CEDAW Committee when it considers the Australian Government’s response to its July 2010 recommendations.
What is CEDAW?
The United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, is an international treaty that Australia is signatory to. Many countries around the world, including Australia, signed on to this convention and agreed to try and implement mechanisms in their country to eliminate discrimination against women.
What does it aim to achieve?
The convention aims to:
How are countries held to account?
As a signatory to the Convention, the United Nation requires each country to prepare a report around every 4 years about how the government has been implementing policies and programs to meet the conventions requirements. There is a Government report, and a Shadow Report which is prepared by NGOs. The UN CEDAW Committee reviews these and prepares a report back to each country outlining how it is progressing and makes recommendations on areas for improvement.
When was Australia last reviewed?
In July 2010 the UN CEDAW Committee reviewed the Australian Government’s compliance with CEDAW and how Australia has implemented the treaty into its laws and policies. The committee made two specific recommendations for actions on violence against women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, in its Concluding Observations and requested an update on progress at the 2-year mark, prior to a full review in 2014. The Australian Government has to report back to the CEDAW committee on its progress on these two areas (paragraph 29 and 41) by July 2012
For more information about the 2010 review of Australia and the CEDAW Committee’s other recommendations please see the Australian NGO CEDAW Action Plan.
Why are we doing an NGO report?
The NGO report provides additional information and an alternative view to the CEDAW Committee when it considers Australia’s response to its recommendations. We took NGOs’ views on how policies, programs and practices really work, on what works well and where more needs to be done. The NGO report is high-level and focussed, capturing the key points raised.
The survey responses helped both AWAVA and NATSIWA capture what the sector and communities want to see on violence against women and actions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, it will also feed into the preparations for the Commission for the Status of Women 57th session in March 2013 where the theme is Elimination and prevention of all forms of volence against women and girls.
Who coordinated the interim NGO report?
Two of the Commonwealth-funded National Women’s Alliances, AWAVA, and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance, NATSIWA, coordinated the NGO response to the CEDAW recommendations.