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Countries with worst challenges for women fail to ratify women's right to complain

A new report marking the 25th anniversary of the "Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women" warns that the biggest future challenges for discrimination against women will be in countries that have failed to sign up to a key part of the Convention that actually allows women to complain about their country's stance on discrimination against women.

Ann Stewart, Reader in Law at the University of Warwick, and Shradda Chigateri compiled the report for British Council. Entitled "Aspirations to Action: 25 Years of the Women's Convention (CEDAW)" it does have some good news to report - particularly in the area of political representation where women are facing much less discrimination 30.7 % of Deputies in Argentina's parliament are women, there is a quota system for women in the Pakistan local and central government, and in Rwanda women won 27% of the seats in the sector and district 2001 elections.

Of the UN's 191 members 179 have signed up to the convention but more worryingly many of that 179 have not signed a key 'optional protocol'. This optional protocol allows individuals and groups of women, who have exhausted the complaints procedures within their own countries, to submit the details of any discrimination they face to the CEDAW committee which will then require a formal response from the state as to how they can reconcile the complaint with their signature of the CEDAW Convention. The UK has just this month signed up to this protocol but almost all of Africa the Middle East and Asia have failed to sign it. The US and Australia have also failed to do so but it is in Africa the Middle East and Asia that the report's authors expect the biggest challenges for discrimination against women over the next 25 years - they point in particular to 3 crucial themes in which women could face even more discrimination and inequality all of which are significant themes in the counties that have not signed the protocol.

  • Women and HIV/AIDs in Africa - African women are being infected at an earlier age than men and the gap in HIV prevalence between men and women continues to grow
  • Access to Water and Women - More than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water and women have a pivotal role as the providers and users of water
  • Global Trade - Globalisation has drawn millions of women into paid employment across the developing world. At the end of many supply chains are women picking and packing fruit, sewing garments , cutting flowers etc.

 For further information please contact:

Ann Stewart can be contacted at home over Christmas on 0114 2701756

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick 07767 655860
02476 523708

PR157 PJD 22nd December 2004