“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.” Mahatma Gandhi
On Monday the 18th of August 2014 the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations will start. The Centre is a programme of The Hague Academy for International Law. Each year the Academy proposes a different research programme. This year's programme is the Rights of Women and Elimination of Discrimination and the main focus will be on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the key international agreement on women's human rights. The Convention was adopted by the United Nations on 18 December 1979.
The CEDAW places obligations on State parties to eliminate discrimination against women, which is defined as: “… any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
The Convention provides a framework for States to take responsibility for tackling (often embedded and historical) discrimination against women and achieving substantive equality for women in both the private and public spheres. It outlines a comprehensive set of rights for women in all fields (civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other fields) and it is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.
By signing-up (i.e. ratifying or acceding) to the CEDAW, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end all forms of discrimination against women, to protect women, and to promote equality within the legal system, public institutions and other organisations and amongst individuals. Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions (Articles and General Recommendations) into practice, except where they have Reservations (when the country’s government cannot agree to implement a certain part of the Convention). State parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The CEDAW has a Preamble (introduction) and 30 Articles (clauses) which cover the following topics: (1) sex roles and stereotyping, (2) trafficking and prostitution, (3) political and public life, (4) participation at the international level, (5) nationality, equal rights in (6) education and (7) employment , (8) health and family planning, (9) economic and social benefits, (10) rural women, (11) equality before the law and (12) marriage and family law.
There are also a number of General Recommendations attached to the Convention which cover a wide range of issues such as violence against women and women migrant workers. The Convention is overseen and implemented by a UN committee of experts on women’s rights from around the world, known as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. There is also an Optional Protocol attached to the Convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 6 October 1999. This Optional Protocol allows individuals to take their case to the CEDAW Committee if all national options to resolve allegations of discrimination have been exhausted.
Together with the two Directors of Studies of the research programme for 2014, Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, Professor at Uppsala University and Member of the Hague Academy Curatorium, for the English-speaking section and Hélène Tigroudja, Professor at Aix-Marseille University, for the French-speaking section, the Centre participants will study the various aspects of law which are related to the CEDAW.
Both the participants and the Directors of Studies will write an article which will eventually be published in the Recueil des Cours, together with a bibliography. This bibliography which will be compiled by E. Cameron (Legal Reference Librarian at the Peace Palace Library), will be inspired and tailored by the structure and topics of the CEDAW.
The programme of the Centre for Studies will take place from 18 August to 5 September 2014 at the Academy and Library building of the Peace Palace. During this period the Peace Palace Library will serve as the Centre’s ‘home library’, providing the students with access to all books, articles, essays and documentation on the Centre’s programme and related topics, available in either paper or electronic format.
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- Corti, I., Universo femminile : la CEDAW tra diritto e politiche, EUM, Edizioni Università di Macerata, 2012.
- Freeman, M., and C. Chinkin (eds.), The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: a Commentary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.
- Holtmaat, R., Naber, J., Women's Human Rights and Culture : from Deadlock to Dialogue, Cambridge, Intersentia, 2011.
- Kouvo, S. and Z. Pearson (eds.), Gender and International Law, London, Routledge, 2014, 4 vols.
- Schöpp-Schilling, H.B. and C. Flinterman (eds.), The Circle of Empowerment : Twenty-five Years of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, New York, NY, Feminist Press, 2007.
- Shivdas, M., and S. Coleman (eds.), Without Prejudice : CEDAW and the Determination of Women's Rights in a Legal and Cultural Context, London, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2010.
- United Nations, Department of Public Information, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, New York, NY, United Nations, 1999.
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for the Advancement of Women, The Optional Protocol : Text and Materials : the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, New York, NY, United Nations, 2000.
- Westendorp, I., The Women's Convention Turned 30 : Achievements, Setbacks, and Prospects, Cambridge, Intersentia, 2012.