Australia to Accede to Optional Protocol of CEDAW

Australia to Accede to Optional Protocol of CEDAW

Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for Housing and the Status
of Women Tanya Plibersek have today [26/8/08] welcomed a significant step forward in
the protection and promotion of women’s rights in Australia.

The Rudd Government has tabled a National Interest Analysis, which proposes
that Australia accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Acceding to the Optional Protocol demonstrates the Rudd Government s
positive re-engagement with the United Nations after many years of inaction
on a number of important international instruments, Mr McClelland said.

If Australia is to be taken seriously when it comes to international human
rights, then it’s important that we impose on ourselves the same high
standards we expect of our neighbours.

The Optional Protocol allows Australians to make complaints to the United
Nations about the protection of women’s rights and gender equality when all
domestic avenues for review have been exhausted.

In preparing the National Interest Analysis, a wide-ranging consultation
was conducted with the States, Territories and Non-Government Organisations.

The Government received a high number of positive responses from women’s
groups and community organisations, Ms Plibersek said.

By signing up to the optional protocol, Australia places itself as a global
leader when it comes to women’s rights.

The previous Government refused to become a party to the Optional Protocol,
which came into force in 2000.

The proposal to accede to the Optional Protocol will now be considered by
Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which will report by 10
November 2008.

Source: Ministerial Media Release

Comment: The Optional Protocol may well have teeth. Complaints about human rights to international bodies can have major consequences- for example when Nick Toonen complained to the UN Human Rights Committee that he was being discriminated against because he was prosecuted for being gay, the result was the decriminalisation of anti-sodomy laws between consenting adults Australia wide.

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