The new CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) strategy at the United Nations (U.N.) is to link the “women’s rights” treaty (CEDAW) with the “children’s rights” treaty (CRC – Convention on the Rights of the Child), calling the combination a “Double Dividend.” The underlying supposition is that when women’s rights are ensured, children’s well-being is enhanced.
In truth the strategy is, at a minimum, a public relations move. Linking children’s rights to “women’s rights” provides a softer image for CEDAW, which reassures those nations that are concerned about CEDAW’s anti-mother provisions and harsh enforcement rulings. By linking with the CRC, advocates of CEDAW hope to move the hearts and emotions of countries that have not signed; certainly they need a new, more positive patina for new activists coming on the U.N. scene.
But the best laid plans can come unraveled. That happened yesterday when a scheduled speaker had to be somewhere else. The substitute took off her gloves and, speaking extemporaneously, inadvertently exposed the CEDAW treaty’s iron hand. At a program about legal mechanisms for using both the CRC and CEDAW, the former President of the Commission for the Status of Women and a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Dubravka Šimunovic, spoke off-the-cuff about CEDAW.
Ms. Šimunovic made shocking statements about the treaty’s ramifications:
Ms. Šimunovic argued that while it is important for women to have rights under the law, implementation of those laws is key. She said, “We must hold governments accountable to CEDAW when they pass it.” To that end, she said, Article 2 of CEDAW states that each and every country must have articles in their Constitution to ensure gender equality. Further, she opined that all countries must have lawyers to guarantee those constitutional rights to women (emphasis mine).
Ms. Šimunovic said, “Countries must draft laws in language that will actually pass in their nation.” In other words, she was encouraging states to craft rhetoric about CEDAW into national legislation that would make it palatable to citizens in that nation.