CEDAW – essential for women’s rights

Back to all Motions

2022 Virtual National Women's Conference
13 October 2021

Conference recognises that CEDAW, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is significant in the international human rights framework because it is exclusively devoted to gender equality. It is one of the core international human rights treaties of the UN and it requires countries that have ratified it to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfil women’s human rights.

Countries that have ratified CEDAW, including the UK which ratified it in 1986, are expected to work towards implementation of its provisions and must submit a report, usually every four years, to the CEDAW Committee, the UN Committee which monitors the implementation of CEDAW, giving a report of their progress.

The Committee examines the measures implemented by the country to comply with its obligations under the Convention and then releases a report with its findings, called ‘concluding observations’, and recommendations for concrete steps to enable the realisation of women’s rights.

Following the last review of the UK in 2019, the Committee produced a report which concluded that the UK is still not compliant with the Convention, and its Concluding Observations listed concerns and recommendations under 17 themes for the UK Government to address before the next monitoring round in 2023.

Some of the recommendations were reiterated from previous reviews in 2009, 2013 and in 2018, including a recommendation for the UK government to incorporate CEDAW into domestic law throughout all territories under its jurisdiction.

The Government’s response was that it did not agree that it needed to incorporate all the provisions of CEDAW into domestic legislation ‘because women and girl’s rights under CEDAW are already largely covered under domestic legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act’.

However, the manifestos of the Scottish National Party and the Welsh Labour Party for the May 2021 devolved Parliamentary elections committed them to introducing the CEDAW convention into Scottish and Welsh law, and work is already underway in both Scotland and Wales on draft legislation.

Further, the CEDAW People’s Tribunal, a civil society initiative, conducted a hearing over three days in June 2021 that examined the case for the UK to introduce CEDAW into domestic legislation, and published its 252 page report in September. The report includes comprehensive proposals backed up by research on a very wide range of areas to improve the rights of women. It provides a ‘blueprint’ for a Women’s Bill of Rights to transform national law and law in different parts of the UK to end all forms of discrimination against women and to properly implement CEDAW.

Conference recognises that these positive developments have opened up a new basis for campaigning for the incorporation of CEDAW into domestic legislation, and it welcomes the adoption by the 2021 Labour Link Forum of a motion that called on the Labour Link National Committee to campaign for the Labour Party to take a policy position that is in favour of the implementation of CEDAW into domestic legislation and to develop a campaign to pressurise the government to do so.

Conference therefore asks the National Women’s Committee to:

1)Work with the National Executive Council to develop a campaign for the implementation of CEDAW into domestic legislation, working with other organisations as appropriate

2)Raise these issues with Labour Link and seek to develop a campaign for the Labour Party to support implementation of CEDAW into domestic legislation and a campaign to pressurise the government to do so.