By Jackie Blue, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner.
Next week the New Zealand Government will by examined by the UN’s CEDAW Committee (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), to assess how well the human rights of women and girls are being upheld in our country. I will be travelling to Geneva to speak directly to the CEDAW Committee, along with several NGO’s from New Zealand.
The CEDAW Committee’s job is to hold governments to account who have signed the CEDAW Treaty. CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979 and ratified by New Zealand in January 1985.
The Convention obligates signatory states to end all forms of discrimination against women and contains three core elements:
- affirms women’s legal rights, including all civil and political rights
- devotes attention to women’s reproductive rights
- addresses cultural conceptions of women and how stereotypes, customs and norms can perpetuate discrimination
The Human Rights Commission held several consultation meetings around the country to inform our report in regard to women’s rights which we have now filed the with the United Nations.
Based on our consultations with women and our own research, we identified five priority areas, where action needs to be taken by the New Zealand government to strengthen the rights of women and girls:
a. Gender based violence
c. Exploitation and trafficking
e. Data collection and resource allocation
The women who attended the Commission’s consultations overwhelmingly agreed that addressing gender-based violence remains the most significant human rights issue affecting women in New Zealand. We made several recommendations regarding this issue which I will be highlighting to the CEDAW Committee, including calling for a cross-party agreement on a family violence strategic accord that is more likely to endure beyond the political cycle.
Other issues I will be highlighting are the slow progress for marginalised groups of women in the workforce or seeking employment including disabled women and young Maori and Pasifika women, the need to use quotas to achieve equality for women in leadership roles and reform of New Zealand’s laws around abortion.
I believe that New Zealand should be an exemplar for gender equality and I look forward to advocating for this at the United Nations.