Addressing Government Concerns about OP CEDAW

Advocates working towards the ratification of the OP-CEDAW should be prepared to engage with government officials and address their concerns. In this connection, it is useful to keep in mind that most of the contentious issues around the OP-CEDAW were discussed and resolved during the OP-CEDAW text negotiations.

This section analyses key issues that were discussed during the OP-CEDAW negotiations. Additionally, it includes a list of points that may be used when advocating in favour of the OP-CEDAW.

Why States Should Consider becoming a State Party to OP CEDAW

The following arguments in favour of the OP-CEDAW may be used to support your advocacy efforts:

1) The OP-CEDAW will help strengthen national level capacity to deal with discrimination against women.

2) All Constitutions contain provisions on non-discrimination and equality that should be interpreted in light of the CEDAW Convention.

3) The OP-CEDAW is the first international gender-specific human rights procedure available.

4) The final text of the OP-CEDAW was adopted as the result of political compromises.

5) The OP-CEDAW gives the CEDAW Committee the opportunity to further develop the normative content of all rights contained in the CEDAW Convention.

6) Recommendations by the CEDAW Committee are not legally enforceable.

7) The OP-CEDAW ratification process provides an opportunity to generate greater awareness of the CEDAW Convention at the national level.

8) Discussions on the ratification/accession of the OP-CEDAW will provide an opportunity for government bodies to discuss the adequateness of resources available for the promotion of women’s human rights.

9) By supporting the ratification of the OP-CEDAW and promoting the implementation of the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, all government bodies will be expressing their commitment and political will to promote women’s human rights.

10) Greater public awareness on the CEDAW Convention and the OP-CEDAW resulting from the ratification/accession of the OP-CEDAW will put women at ease.

11) The ratification of or accession to the OP-CEDAW is likely to give momentum to debates on women’s access to justice.

Source: These arguments were originally developed by NGOs during the negotiations of the OP-CEDAW and were later adapted and further developed for IWRAW Asia Pacific by the NYU Law School Human Rights Clinic.

During Negotiations

Since many of the States Parties to CEDAW participated in the negotiations of the text of the OP-CEDAW, government concerns were raised and given due consideration during the drafting process. Moreover, it is important to emphasise that the UN General Assembly – a body in which all UN member states are represented – adopted the final text of the OP-CEDAW. Thus, at the outset, it should be made clear that this treaty was drafted by governments, and that a lot of the “myths” surrounding the OP-CEDAW can be addressed and overcome.

Specifically, these included:

a) The potential for frivolous complaints brought before the Committee;

b) The justiciability of rights enumerated in the CEDAW Convention;

c) The competence of the Committee to adjudicate complaints;

d) The applicability of the OP-CEDAW to existing reservations by States Parties.

What You Can Do as a Parliamentarian

As legislators, overseers of government action, political leaders and representatives of the people, parliamentarians have a role to play to ensure ratification or accession of the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention (OP-CEDAW).

Parliamentarians may play a part in:

1. Ratification of the OP-CEDAW.

2. Challenging State declaration of the "Opt-Out" clause.

3. Public awareness about the OP-CEDAW.

Source: Confronting Discrimination: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol. A Handbook for Parliamentarians (UN, 2003) pp 84-85.

What You Can Do as an NGO

The next step in making the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention (OP-CEDAW) an effective tool for advancing women's human rights in your country is to persuade your government to sign, ratify or accede to it.

The legal steps that must be taken in order to ratify or accede to the OP-CEDAW will be determined by your national law. NGOs can catalyse this process through public information campaigns, advocacy and support government officials who are working to secure ratification.

Advocacy for ratification means building a working knowledge of the OP-CEDAW and the CEDAW Convention and how the OP-CEDAW will benefit women's human rights. This understanding will equip you to advocate persuasively for ratification.

Source: Produced for IWRAW Asia Pacific by the NYU Law School Human Rights Clinic

For a more detailed explanation about the above, please click here.