Women's Rights: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women releases Concluding Observations on Australia

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has released its Concluding Observations following a review of Australia’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Committee comments on a number of positive developments in Australia and welcomes the enactment of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and measures adopted to combat trafficking and support victims of trafficking.  The Committee acknowledges the progress made in promoting women in leadership positions and notes that two of Australia’s highest public offices are occupied by women.    

The Committee also raises a number of serious concerns, including around legislative protection of women’s rights, violence against women, participation in political and public life and the rights of disadvantaged groups of women, particularly indigenous women, women with disabilities, migrant women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women from remote or rural communities.

Some of the Committee’s concrete recommendations for reform were that Australia should:

  • give due consideration to the adoption of a Human Rights Act;
  • fund and implement the National Action Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, including a mechanism for independent monitoring;
  • adopt targeted measures to ensure the equal participation and representation of women in public and political life, with a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander women and women with disabilities.
  • develop a comprehensive child care policy to include out of school hours and vacation care and to increase the supply of affordable and quality child care;
  • prohibit, except where there is a serious threat to life or health, the sterilisation of girls and of adult women with disabilities in the absence of their fully informed and free consent; and
  • integrate a gender perspective in its efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The Committee notes that the provisions of CEDAW are binding on Australia and that it expects any incoming government to observe the recommendations contained in the Concluding Observations.

The Committee’s recommendations are available here.