August 19, 2016

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Dr. Khine Khine Win

Being a Myanmar woman, I am pleased to welcome the Myanmar Women’s Day. Globally, international women’s day is annually held on March 8. In Myanmar July 3 is Myanmar women’s day. As a fulfillment of the commitment made in Beijing in 1995, the Myanmar government established the National machinery, the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs (MNCWA) on 3rd July 1996 for systematic implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action for the advancement of women and systematically implement activities for the advancement of women in Myanmar. In commemoration of the establishment of MNCWA, the founding day of the committee was designated Myanmar Women’s day in 1998.
With regard to Myanmar Women’s Day, let me introduce the first bill of rights for women, what we call today is Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which is one of the international human rights instruments.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)proclaims the entitlement of everyone to equality before the law and to the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of any kind and proceeds to include sex among the grounds of such impermissible distinction. However, the fact of women’s humanity proved insufficient to guarantee them the enjoyment of their internationally agreed rights.
With an aim to transform the structural barriers to equality and to address multifaceted nature of problems women face, CEDAW was adopted in 1979 by votes of 130 to none, with 10 abstentions by Union General Assembly resolution 34/180 according to UN Women. It is the first document to comprehensively address women’s rights to non-discrimination within political, civil, cultural, economic, social and family spheres.  This is also a tool for achieving equality for women. The core principles of CEDAW are equality and non-discrimination. According to United Nations Treaty Collection, 189 countries are state parties as of today. Myanmar became the State Party on 22 July 1997. There are six parts and thirty articles in CEDAW. Article (1) clearly states the term “discrimination against women” shall mean 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 and fundamental freedoms, in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
With this in mind, CEDAW permits ratification subject to reservations, provided that the reservations are not incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention. When a government ratifies CEDAW, it commits to put in place legislation and policy to ensure women’s equality. Today in Myanmar, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement is the focal ministry on gender related issues. Under article 18 of the convention, every state party has to submit the country report to the committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women every four years. In this regard, the first CEDAW report from Myanmar was submitted in 1999, combined second and third report in 2007 and combined fourth and fifth report was submitted in 2015. CEDAW committee consists of twenty-three experts on women rights from around the world and the responsibility is to monitor the implementation of the CEDAW. These reports contain detailed information about legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures that have been undertaken to implement CEDAW, as well as about obstacles encountered. During its sessions the Committee considers each State party report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.
There is Optional Protocol in CEDAW, which was adopted on October 1999 by General Assembly acting without vote and came into force in 2000. It provides women two mechanisms to hold governments accountable under CEDAW: (1) a communications procedure, which provides individuals and groups the right to lodge complaints with the CEDAW Committee; and (2) an inquiry procedure, which enables the CEDAW Committee to conduct inquiries into serious and systematic abuses of women’s rights. These mechanisms are only applicable in states that are party to the Optional Protocol. Myanmar has not ratified this optional protocol yet. As of today only 107 countries are state parties of optional protocol to the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
Gender equality is at the very heart of human rights and United Nations value and discrimination based on sex is prohibited under almost every human rights treaty. Women comprise more than half of the today world’s population and are primary caretakers for most of the children and elderly. Actually, the women rights movements had a long and good history.Women are still fighting for their rights and far more progress is needed to foster real gender equality and empowerment. They must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure without discrimination. They should exercise their rights and gain the knowledge, skills, and information they need.They can become powerful agents of change. There is no doubt that women will never gain fully dignity until their human rights are respected and protected. This is a time to accelerate the commitment into action to the enjoyment of full rights for the women.
It is sure that men and women have different roles but their rights are equal. Being a women, I wish “may all women in Myanmar have equal rights without discrimination“, Happy Myanmar Women’s Day.


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