On Thursday 8 December, the second Women’s Parliament will be focusing on violence against women and women’s economic independence as part of their campaign for a Women’s Bill of Rights.
In 1979, the United Nations created the human rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The UK signed the Convention in 1981, ratified it in 1986 and entered into the Optional Protocol in 2004.
The CEDAW committee was set up to oversee its operation and implementation. However, the UK has not nominated a representative to sit on this committee. Neither has it, to date, made any undertaking to transpose CEDAW into domestic law.
CEDAW People’s Tribunal
On 16 July 2020, The CEDAW People’s Tribunal was established to look into the failure of the UK government to integrate CEDAW into UK domestic legislation. The Tribunal collected evidence from women and women’s organisations, and submitted its report with recommendations for legislative and policy implementation of CEDAW as a Women’s Bill of Rights. The Tribunal believes that it is incumbent on the UK to incorporate CEDAW into domestic law, given that it ratified CEDAW 37 years ago. While the Equality Act of 2010 goes some way to fulfilling the spirit of CEDAW, with regards discrimination, it does not go far enough.
From 2010 onwards
The years of austerity and the pandemic proved to have a disproportionate impact on women in both financial and social terms. Women’s rights were further diminished and violence against women increased. As women represented only 29% of MPs in Parliament, the voices of women were not being heard clearly and women’s issues were not being given a fair hearing. As a result, the first Women’s Parliament met on 8 March 2022 to address the need to incorporate CEDAW into domestic law as a Women’s Bill of Rights.
The first Women’s Parliament
The first Women’s Parliament focused the campaign for a Women’s Bill of Rights with regards issues of equal pay; equal health rights, especially with regards abortion laws which needed updating; domestic abuse and violence against women; family law and access to law as well as equal treatment under the law for women and girls; and the climate emergency.
The second Women’s Parliament
On Thursday 8 December 2022, during the days of action to end violence against women, the second Women’s Parliament at the Guildhall, Cambridge. It will be sitting to discuss violence against women and women’s economic independence. This follows the United Nations acknowledgement that every 11 minutes, an intimate partner or family member kills a woman or girl, and that when killing by strangers or non-intimate partners or family members are included, a woman or girl is killed every 5 minutes somewhere in the world.
The Women’s Parliament will call on the UK Parliament and the devolved assemblies of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on a number of issues, such as:
- Taking a leading role to end violence against women by implementing practical programmes designed to change the dynamics that underpin violence against women
- Taking a leading role in changing employment practices that elevate male dominated perspectives and discriminate in appointments and promotions; and address the pay and pensions gaps
- To outlaw discrimination in all aspects of life, including education and training; employment; accommodation; administration of laws; the media, among others
- To advance, fulfil, promote and protect the human rights of women under all circumstances, including the ending violence against women
- To note that women’s lives (particularly working-class women, women with a disability, Black and minoritised women, older women and younger women) have been impacted disproportionately by austerity measures introduced in 2010 and present budgeting, particularly in relation to soaring energy and food costs. These problems make women more vulnerable to violence of all forms
The Women’s Parliament will also demand recognition of women and girls’ rights to just and effective laws to end misogyny; rape and other sexual offences; murder and dishonour crimes; on-line violence and exploitation as well as sexual harassment and bullying. And in this regard, to recognise the need for appropriately funded women’s services.
A Women’s Bill of Rights
In all these issues, the Women’s Parliament is aiming for the provisions of CEDAW to be transposed into domestic law as a Women’s Bill of Rights, and ensuring effective monitoring of its implementation.
Follow events on the livestream broadcast from the Guildhall, Cambridge starting at 10am, 8 December.