Government misses UN deadline to report on discrimination against women
Jess McCabe // 31 July 2009
UPDATE: In the comments (see below) WRC says:
In response to this press release, the Government Equalities
Office has informed us that they submitted their report to the UN
yesterday. We look forward to seeing the report to see what progress
the Government has made towards addressing the critical women’s rights
issues highlighted by the CEDAW committee.
The UK government has missed its deadline to hand in a one-year progress report to the UN, on tackling discrimination against women. The report was meant to be submitted by the end of this month, yet, as a group of 25 women’s and human rights groups, including the Women’s Resource Centre, highlights, this is the last day of July and there’s been no sign of the report so far.
Last year the committee for the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women said the UK is failing to meet its legal obligations under the treaty, and the progress report should have set out how the government has integrated all the provisions of this convention into UK law. However the 25 signatories say this hasn’t happened:
According to women’s and human rights groups, the UK Government is failing its international obligations to women.
There are still women in this country who are unable to access a place of safety when escaping a violent relationship. These women have no choice but to return to violent partners or become destitute.
This dire situation is one example of how the government has missed compulsory targets set by the international bill of rights for women, known as CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) .
CEDAW sets out what constitutes discrimination against women and a framework for national action to end discrimination.
Last July, the UK Government was assessed by the CEDAW Committee on their track record on gender equality, and was found wanting. As a result, the government is required to report to the Committee this month; twelve months on rather than the standard four year reporting cycle.
Hannana Siddiqui , joint coordinator of campaigning group and women’s refuge Southall Black Sisters , says: “There are women who are in this country legally, yet who are not able to access a safe place when escaping gender-based violence because of the conditions that apply to their immigration status that do not allow access to public funds. They continue to face a stark choice: destitution or more violence?”
Sheila Coates , director of South Essex Rape and Incest Crisis Centre , attended the UK Government’s examination by the CEDAW committee in July 2008.
She says: “This is the last day of July 2009, and we are yet to see evidence of a ‘one year on’ report. Every day of government inactivity means a worsening crisis in many women’s lives”.
In the one year on report, the government is required to include information on how it has ‘incorporated all provisions of the Convention’ into the Single Equality Bill, announced by Harriet Harman in June 2008. However, to date no measures have been taken by the government to incorporate the Convention into domestic law.
The CEDAW committee has also expressed concern over funding to the women’s voluntary sector in the UK and have requested that the government report on this.
Research by the Women’s Resource Centre, called ‘ Not Just Bread but Roses Too ’ in March 2009 found that one in five women’s organisations became inactive between 2004 – 2007, and have probably closed.
Vivienne Hayes , chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, says: “We would urge the government to comply with CEDAW and ensure that specialist women-only services, in particular domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centres, are protected.”
Sheila says “the Government Equalities Office told us in March that they had written to all central government departments setting out what they needed to do to meet their obligations under CEDAW.
“The women’s sector would like to know how each government department has responded. We are sending a clear message from the UK women’s sector: Are you CEDAW compliant?”
1. Amnesty International UK
2. Ballybean Women’s Centre
3. Breast Cancer UK
4. British Institute of Human Rights
6. Equality Now
7. Fawcett Society
9. National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
10. Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform
11. Older Women’s Network of Europe
13. Rights of Women
14. South Essex Rape and Incest Crisis Centre
15. Southall Black Sisters
16. Sparkhill Asian Women’s Association
18. Welsh Women’s Aid
19. Welsh Women’s National Commission
20. WOMANKIND Worldwide
21. Women Acting in Today’s Society
22. Women Asylum Seekers Together
23. Women in Prison
24. Women’s Networking Hub
25. Women’s Resource Centre