Commission submits evidence to the United Nations Committee on Women’s equality
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today ( 01 July) published its submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) ahead of an oral examination on July 17, which will look at the UK’s progress on women’s equality.
The British Government has signed up to CEDAW, an international Convention, which forms a bill of rights for women worldwide. As part of this, the UN Committee reports every four years on state compliance. In its submission the Commission, as a national human rights institution, identifies key issues it believes should be highlighted as actions following the examination and sets out a number of questions the Committee may wish to put to the Government.
It notes that there is no joined up national strategy to implement the Convention in the UK, although there are equality strategies for England, Scotland and Wales. Devolution and localism mean responsibility for delivery and funding is spread across different levels of government. This could lead to geographical inconsistencies and hamper national progress in, for example, the availability of services to women experiencing violence.
The Commission suggests the Committee asks the Government how it can show it is fulfilling its strategic responsibilities regardless of this situation.
Further questions raise issues around legal aid and access to justice; the effect of austerity measures on women and how these are assessed and mitigated and how the persistent educational and occupational gender segregation that contribute to the pay gap will be tackled.
The Commission further addresses female genital mutilation (FGM), noting that since the Act banning FGM came into force in 1985 there has not been a single prosecution. It asks what plans the Government has to enable this to happen and how will it support communities to abandon the practice.
The submission also calls on the Committee to raise questions relating to the gap between the demand for flexible work and affordable child-care, particularly for disabled and disadvantaged children. Commission Director of Human Rights, Anna Henry said: “CEDAW is an international human rights treaty that focuses on equality between women and men in all areas of life. The UK is one of 186 countries that have signed up to the Convention and by doing so it is obliged to respect, protect and fulfil women’s rights.
“Since the last periodic review by the Committee, the Government has made efforts to promote women and girls’ equality, but there is still further scope for improvement in a number of areas on which we have focused.”