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2014 National Women's Conference
1 January 2014

CEDAW (19 19.1,20)

In July 2013 the UK Government was called to give evidence to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This requirement to give evidence happens every three years. Women’s organisations came together to produce a shadow report – that was given in evidence to CEDAW. The Shadow Report brings together issues impacting on the realisation of women’s rights under CEDAW in the UK in order to support the Government to make positive change in the future. The report highlights the key areas where Women’s rights in the UK have come to a standstill and in fact some are being reversed. Conference applauds the work of the 42 women’s organisations that worked together to gather evidence and present it so effectively to the CEDAW panel.

On 26 July 2013 CEDAW published its “Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. The report highlights a number of key areas of concern:

1. Austerity and women

2. Legal Aid and Employment Tribunal Fees

3. Abolition of the National Women’s Commission

4. The UK national strategy for implementation of the Convention

5. Women only shortlists

6. Violence against women

7. Female Genital Mutilation

8. Human Trafficking

9. Women into public life

10. Employment and economic empowerment

11. Health care

12. Women in Prisons

13. Disadvantaged groups of women

14. Welfare reform

The report also makes a number of specific recommendations. All of the recommendations made, support our UNISON campaigning and bargaining agenda. For example it made recommendations or urges that our government should:

a) Take advantage of the review of the PSED to ensure that the gender equality component of the duty is properly prescribed for public authorities, including the application of the principle of substantive equality.

b) Mitigate the impact of austerity measures on women and services provided to women, particularly women with disabilities and older women. It should also ensure that Spending Reviews continuously focus on measuring and balancing the impact of austerity measures on women’s rights. It should further review the policy of commissioning services wherever this may undermine the provision of specialised women’s services.

c) Ensure that the Government Equalities Office has a dedicated section for the coordination of gender equality in all parts of the State party.

d) Continue to engage with the media to eliminate stereotypical imaging of women and their objectification in the media, particularly in advertising.

e) Increase its efforts in the protection of women, including black and minority women, against all forms of violence, including domestic violence, and the so- called honour killings; and Continue public awareness-raising campaigns on all forms of violence against women, including black and ethnic minority women.

f) Intensify its efforts to promote the use of flexible working arrangements and introduce shared parental leave to encourage men to participate equally in child care responsibilities;

g) Create more opportunities for women with disabilities to access employment;

h) Ensure women’s access to justice in employment cases, including in cases related to discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and motherhood.

i) Urges the State party to provide affordable childcare and to mitigate the impact of the proposed reforms of the welfare system on the costs of childcare for low income families and the increased burden for care on women.

Conference notes that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and its supporters have policies which would adversely impact on many of the recommendations in the report, including their policies on workers’ rights and public sector spending, should they come into power at local, regional or national level.

Conference further notes that UNISON and the TUC participated in the process of submitting a “shadow report”, along with partner NGOs and co-ordinated by the Women’s Resource Centre, to which UNISON is affiliated. This shadow report drew attention to the government’s failings as identified in points 1-14, and work now continues to put pressure on the government to take the necessary action to meet the recommendations.

Many of these issues have been the subject of debate in National Women’s Conference, but as the CEDAW report reveals there is still a long way to go before discrimination against women is eliminated in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to work with the relevant structures of UNISON and the TUC to campaign for the implementation of the observations by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women within Great Britain and Northern Ireland and asks that the National Women’s committee resolves to monitor all relevant UK government activities and to highlight the CEDAW recommendations at every opportunity, raising awareness of the government’s failings on women’s issues and campaigning for real and substantive equality for women.

Conference further calls on the national women’s committee to work with the NEC, Labour Link and all other appropriate structures to encourage women to use their vote in the next elections, and raise awareness of the implications of voting for UKIP.

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