The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- convening on 13 January at Headquarters in the first of its two 1997 three- week sessions -- will consider the reports of eight States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on their efforts to implement the provisions of the only United Nations treaty that deals exclusively with women's rights.
During its forthcoming session which runs through 31 January, the Committee of 23 experts will review the initial reports of Morocco and Slovenia. It will examine the combined initial, second and third periodic reports of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; the second and third reports of Turkey; and the third periodic reports of Denmark, Philippines, and Venezuela. The Committee will also consider the third and fourth periodic reports of Canada. In addition, the Committee, which is currently chaired by Ivanka Corti of Italy, will elect new officers.
The Committee of experts, who serve in their personal capacity, is charged with monitoring the implementation of the Convention, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, opened for signature in March 1980, and entered into force in 1981. The Convention -- ratified by 154 countries as of December 1996 -- requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights. In pursuing the Convention's goals, States parties are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men.
In 1996, three countries -- Pakistan, Algeria and Botswana -- acceded to the Convention bringing the total number of ratifications to 154. The Convention is now among the international human rights treaties with the largest number of ratifications. However, it also is amongst those treaties with the highest number of reservations by States parties.
The Committee's call last year for additional meeting time was approved by the Assembly, and now it will hold not one but two three-week sessions annually. Following the sixteenth session in January, the seventeenth session will take place from 7 to 25 July. The additional meeting time will enable the Committee to take up in a timely manner more of the reports submitted by States parties; it will also serve as an incentive for more States to report on their implementation of the treaty.
As has been past practice, two working groups are scheduled to meet during this session. Working group I has previously focused on suggesting ways to expedite the work of the Committee, and working group II has dealt with implementation of article 21 of the Convention, which provides that the Committee make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of reports and information received from States parties. In addition, the Committee will have before it reports from specialized agencies of the United Nations on the implementation of the Convention in areas falling within the scope of their activities.
Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, one year after becoming a State party and then at least once every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. In addition to reviewing the reports and evaluating the progress made, the Committee formulates general recommendations to the States parties as a whole on eliminating discrimination against women. It may also invite United Nations specialized agencies to submit reports for consideration and receive information from non-governmental organizations.
To date, the Committee has considered 76 initial, 48 second, and 16 third periodic reports. It has also received four reports on an exceptional basis -- one from Bosnia and Herzegovina, one from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), one from Croatia, and one from Rwanda.
The Committee has adopted general recommendations covering such issues as women's economic position; the impact of structural adjustment policies; maternity leave; measures taken to allow women to combine child-bearing with employment; violence against women; the dissemination of the Convention and its provisions; and the extent to which non-governmental organizations have been incorporated into the process of preparing reports on the implementation of the Convention. Last year, the Committee decided to revise its guidelines for reports of States parties by inviting them to include information on measures taken to implement the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). The Committee also urged the Commission on the Status of Women to prepare an optional protocol to the Convention which would allow individuals and groups the right to petition the Committee directly about violations of women's rights.
- 3 - Press Release WOM/925 10 January 1996
Women's Anti-discrimination Convention
Often described as an international bill of rights for women, the Convention in its 30 articles defines discrimination against women and provides an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
The Convention defines discrimination against women 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 the basis for realizing equality between men and women through ensuring women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life -- including the right to vote and to stand for election -- as well as education and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Fourth World Conference on Women called upon governments to promote and protect the human rights of women through the full implementation of all human rights instruments, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It urged universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 and asked governments to limit the extent of any reservations to it.
The following 154 States have either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which entered into force on 3 September 1981: Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Luxembourg.
- 4 - Press Release WOM/925 10 January 1996
Also, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The 23 expert members of the Committee, serving in their personal capacity, are: Charlotte Abaka, of Ghana; Ayse Feride Acar, of Turkey; Emna Aouij, of Tunisia; Tendai Ruth Bare, of Zimbabwe; Desiree Patricia Bernard, of Guyana; Carlota Bustelo Garcia del Real, of Spain; Silvia Rose Cartwright, of New Zealand; Ivanka Corti, of Italy; Aurora Javate de Dios, of the Philippines; Miriam Yolanda Castillo, of Ecuador; Yolanda Ferrer Gomez, of Cuba; Aida Gonzalez, of Mexico; Sunaryati Hartono, of Indonesia; Salma Khan, of Bangladesh; Yung-Chung Kim, of the Republic of Korea; Ahoua Ouedraogo, of Burkina Faso; Anne Lise Ryel, of Norway; Ginko Sato, of Japan; Hanna Beate Schopp-Shilling, of Germany; Carmel Shalev, of Israel; Lin Shangzhen, of China; Kongit Sinegiorgis, of Ethiopia; and Mervat Tallaway, of Egypt.
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