Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

Report from the 52nd Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

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By Alice de Jonge

Monash University, Faculty of Business & Economics

In July 2012 I attended the 52nd Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as an American Society of International Law UN Observer. During the Session, periodic reports were presented to the Committee from eight member States: Guyana, Indonesia, Bulgaria and Jamaica during the first week of the Session, and Mexico, New Zealand, Bahamas and Samoa during the second week of the Session. This article deals with the four country sessions held during the second week of CEDAW’s 52nd session. Something that became obvious throughout each of these sessions was that human rights, in this case women’s rights particularly, often raise issues that are politically very sensitive. And this, in turn, means that the ability, and the willingness, of a government to push through reforms required to bring the state into compliance with international law CEDAW obligations can often be imperilled by domestic politics. Moreover, when legal and policy reforms are set in motion, they can be threatened by a variety of domestic political forces. Elections can lead to regime change, which in turn can bring to power a new government politically unable or unwilling to commit to maintaining support for reforms initiated by a previous government. And even for politically very stable states, legal reforms to bring about compliance with CEDAW obligations can be frustrated in the implementation by federal divisions of power and /or other domestic political forces.

A failure to put into place reforms required by CEDAW obligations can often be explained by a lack of appetite for change politically in the electorate, combined with a reluctance on the part of politicians to bear the political costs of taking the lead in pressing for reform. This is evident, for example, in the continuing refusal by many countries to put into place quotas and/or other special temporary measures aimed at bringing about parity between men and women in leadership positions, public and private. Special temporary measures designed to address educational and labor-force segregation are also made much less use of than they perhaps should be. Abortion law reform is yet another politically sensitive area – which may explain why in so many countries women seeking abortion are still driven underground, where abortions are both illegal and unsafe.

Gender violence in various forms – most notably domestic violence and the violence inherent in human trafficking – is also an issue that gets caught up in the web of politics. The entrenched reluctance of state and law enforcement officials to interfere in domestic affairs is proving difficult to overcome in traditional societies particularly. This means that women are still not getting the support they need to bring or continue pressing charges against an abusive spouse or other family member. Trafficking is another form of gender violence which has recently become more prevalent. While the true nature and scale of trafficking remains unclear, what is evident is that it comes in many forms, and has many origins, ranging from the family home to organised crime.

Political Change, Federalism and the Implementation of CEDAW Obligations

Mexico’s combined 7th and 8th reports were presented to the CEDAW Committee on 17 July 2012.  While political instability is not the major issue it once was in Mexico, the Mexican delegation was presenting its report to the committee only two weeks after a federal election had resulted in a change of government.  Presidential and Congressional elections held on 1 July 2012 saw (now former) President Felipe Calderon from the PAN (National Action Party) replaced by PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto who claimed victory with 38.2% of the vote.[1]  Three weeks after the election, and following two partial recounts of the vote, protests and acts of civil resistance against Pena Nieto and the TV media enterprise Televisa were still continuing.  So the question of political continuity in support for legislative and policy reform was very much alive on 17 July.  It wasn’t long, therefore, before a committee expert member questioned whether political changes in Mexico might disrupt implementation of policies and programs.  Can you, she asked, provide us with reassurances as to steps taken to ensure continuity in the policies and programs outlined in your report to this committee?  The answer came back promptly and with confidence – yes, we are convinced that changes made and in progress will be permanent, and there will be no going back as a result of regime change.  The delegation was convinced that the gender equality programmes launched over the past few years were fully institutionalised and would not change with changes in government. [2]

A greater political obstacle to effective implementation of CEDAW obligations, however, was acknowledged to be the Mexican state’s federal structure.  The Mexican delegation admitted that federalism has rendered attempts to harmonised federal-level law reform initiatives, such as changes to the penal code, much slower than might be hoped for.  It was explained that each of the 31 states and the federal territory has its own constitution, and its own administrative structures, so that differences between the states remains inevitable.  For example, only some states have revised their criminal codes to make femicide a crime.   Similarly, only some have recognised rape within marriage as an offence in line with the federal penal code, and only some states have rules to penalise non-payment of child support.  Additionally, in approximately half of Mexico’s states, the legal system still permits reduced sentences in cases where women are killed in the context of infidelity, so that harmonisation with changes to the federal penal codes still has a long way to go.

In some Mexican states also, constitutional amendments have been enacted to protect life from conception.  This has caused confusion amongst women, and created the risk that by restricting women’s access to legal abortion, such laws could see a rise in illegal and unsafe abortions, with a consequent rise in maternal mortality in these states.[3]  CEDAW Committee expert from Cuba, recalling that the Committee had recommended in 2006 that Mexico work to harmonize abortion legislation, asked how Mexico intended to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on maternal mortality in light of this risk, and also wanted to know why maternal mortality was higher in the southern part of the country, particularly amongst indigenous populations?

In response, on the subject of federalism, the Mexican delegation argued that while the federal structure served to slow down harmonisation efforts, two very significant recent constitutional changes in Mexico will make efforts at implementing human rights-related legislative provisions across the federation much more effective.  The most important of these is the recent move towards a ‘monist’ approach in the Mexican Constitution in the form of provisions giving international human rights treaties to which Mexico is party the status of law in Mexico.  International human rights agreements ratified by Mexico now have constitutional status, obliging the state at all levels of government, especially the judiciary, to discharge duties stemming from legislation linked to international human rights treaties.  The government, said one delegation member, was aware of the importance of a judiciary that would apply sanctions when international treaty norms were violated.  Moreover, the country’s previous inquisitorial system has now been replaced by an oral, accusatory system following constitutional reforms in 2008, improving the transparency and effectiveness of the penal system.

Constitutional and Legislative Reform in Traditional Societies

The Bahamas presented its combined initial to fourth, along with its fifth periodic report, on 20 July.  Led by Melanie Griffin, Minister for Social Services, the delegation from the Bahamas said that the Bahamas had shown its commitment to CEDAW when it withdrew its reservation to article 16(1)(h) of the Convention in February 2011.  When asked to explain why the Bahamas had not also seen fit to withdraw its reservation to article 2(a), a key provision of the CEDAW requiring constitutional or legislative recognition of women’s equality and the introduction of practical measures to ensure equality, and in the view of the Committee, integral to CEDAW’s objects and purposes, the Bahaman delegation explained that changes to the Constitution were first needed to bring the Bahamas into compliance with article 2(a), and that such changes could not be made without a referendum.  A referendum held in 2002 had failed, and so the government had not been able to act to withdraw the reservation to article 2(a).  However, another constitutional review committee had been established shortly after the 2002 referendum failed, and the government hoped soon to hold another referendum to eliminate the discriminatory measures from the Constitution and subsequently to withdraw the CEDAW reservation.  At least one committee member remained unconvinced by this explanation, pointing out that the same constitutional change that had allowed the Bahamas to withdraw the reservation to article 16(1)(h) of the CEDAW should also have removed any obstacle to signing up to article 2(a).

The need to carefully prepare the political ground before sensitive legislative reforms are introduced was also evident in the Bahaman experience with attempting to make rape within marriage an offence.  As the Bahaman delegation explained, a marital rape bill was tabled and debated in parliament in 2009, but eventually withdrawn because the general populace was so opposed to it.

Samoa’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports were presented to the CEDAW Committee on 19 July 2012.  One of the key issues of interest to the CEDAW Committee’s 23 members was the participation of women in elections, in the context of Samoa’s ‘chiefly’ system of governance.  In Samoa, while there is universal suffrage so far as voting is concerned (since 1990), only citizens holding the title of matai (chief) are eligible to contest parliamentary elections.  However, 80 per cent of all matai are men, and only 20 per cent are women.  Moreover, there are still some villages (10 out of a total of 300 villages in Samoa, according to the Samoan delegation) where women are still not able to obtain the matai title.  Committee experts felt that such restrictions on women’s participation in elections were clearly inconsistent with CEDAW provisions.  In response, the Samoan delegation emphasised the need to move slowly when implementing changes in traditional culture.  In a UN-sponsored plebiscite held in 1961 prior to Samoan independence in 1962, the people of Samoa had overwhelmingly voted in support of retaining the matai or chiefly system for the purpose of ensuring stability.  The stability that Samoa had enjoyed since that time was largely due to its mix of traditional and modern systems of government said one delegation member.  While Samoa appreciated the Convention’s facilitative role, rather than forcing change on the people of Samoa, it was important to go step by step.  In earlier times, women had not been attracted to the idea of becoming a matai, but today many were interested in participating in that process.  Nor were there any barriers to them doing so, since even a woman from village that did not allow women to become matai could become a matai in another village where she had roots or family relations.  The matai system, therefore, was not a barrier to women running for parliament.  Samoan women were part of the household, and matai title depended upon household consensus.  Samoan women were integral to the structure of the family and community in Samoa, and the Samoan delegation hoped the Committee experts would appreciate the constraints of a small developing Pacific island state with its own culture.

The Concerning Absence of Temporary Special Measures to Advance Equality

Articles 2(e) and 3 of the CEDAW requires member states to take ‘all appropriate measures’ to eliminate discrimination against women and to ensure the full development and advancement of women for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights on a basis of equality with men.  Article 4 then ensures that adoption by States Parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination.  Most noticeably in the case of New Zealand and the Bahamas, but also in the case of Samoa, the Committee experts considering country reports in the July meetings of CEDAW expressed concern about the absence of temporary special measures.

In the case of the Bahamas, the Committee experts noted that cultural and other barriers still persisted to women’s advancement and their full participation in political and public life, in education and in the work-force on a basis of equality with men.  For example, women represented only 16.5% of all candidates in the 2012 general elections, which resulted in only 5 women (11.8 per cent) being elected to a 38-member Parliament (Lower House) – a fair distance from the target of 30 per cent set out in the Beijing Platform for Action.  The better news is that five women were appointed to the 16 member Senate (Upper House), and there are now four women appointed to cabinet (compared to a previous one female cabinet member following the 2007 elections).  The fifth periodic report of the Bahamas also lists (at para 86) a number of barriers faced by women in the Bahamas in accessing post-primary education, including cultural patterns that place a heavier burden of care-giving and home duties on women; marital expectations from husbands and boyfriends opposed to women spending time and resources on education; and job-constraints faced by women obliged to find employment to meet family needs, precluding time for educational advancement.

Why then, wondered Committee members Ms Neubauer (from Slovenia) and Ms Simonovic (from Croatia) had no consideration been given to the implementation of temporary special measures to combat these barriers?  In response, Ms Griffin said that there had been no barriers to the advancement of women in the Bahamas, and as such, there had been no real need to implement any extensive special measures, outside those pertaining to maternal health-care issues.  When further challenged, she reiterated that ‘there is no barrier to what women can do because certainly there has been no obstacle’.  However, she pledged to review the possibilities of special measures and see how they could be used.  Another member of the delegation explained that the government had difficulty in understanding such measures because laws and regulations were already in place to ensure gender equality.  Women’s branches of political parties actively sought to encourage female participation in politics, and the Government has collaborated with non-government organizations such as the Crisis Centre in organising meetings with female election candidates.  A member of the delegation also recalled that a September 2011 special issue of Newsweek magazine had ranked the Bahamas 39 out of the 165 best countries to be a woman.  She asked the Committee experts not to underestimate this achievement.  So far as awareness raising was concerned, she noted the establishment of a new radio program focussing on women’s issues, and that the Bureau of Women’s Affairs was collaborating in a video documentary and other activities to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of women’s suffrage in the Bahamas.

The meetings of the CEDAW Committee held on 18 July 2012 considered the seventh periodic report of New Zealand.  During the engagement between delegation and committee experts, it was acknowledged that New Zealand was a trailblazer on women’s rights, having been the first nation to give women the right to vote in 1893.  At the same time, however, the committee’s expert members were concerned that the country’s current political leadership did not appear to have the same level of commitment as previous administrations, and pressed the delegation to set higher standards for women’s leadership in politics and in the private economy, and to consider adopting temporary special measures.  Victoria Popescu, Committee Vic-Chairperson and expert from Romania, for example, emphasised that temporary special measures could address remaining gender gaps in New Zealand, such as the highly gender-segregated New Zealand labour market and remaining gender pay gaps, which were proving to be intractable.  Moreover, there is a legal basis for such measures in New Zealand’s Human Rights Act and Bill of Rights Act.[4]

Ms Pires, expert from Timor-Leste, noted that parliamentary and Inter-Parliamentary Union statistics actually showed a decrease in the number of women in politics in New Zealand over the years.  Alternative sources had stated that New Zealand did not meet the 30 per cent target for women’s representation in local government (although women currently hold 32 per cent of the seats in Parliament, with six of the 20 Cabinet members being women plus an additional 2 women Ministers outside Cabinet).  Furthermore, the 41.5% of women on state boards was actually a decrease from the previous 42 per cent.  Taking that reduction in women’s representation into account, she asked whether those statistics argued for the introduction of temporary special measures to make women’s leadership in politics more consistent.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange in mid 2012 introduced a new ‘diversity listing rule’ requiring listed firms to provide a gender breakdown of their board members and senior management in their annual reports.  The government is also working with a group of business leaders, the 25 Per cent Group, on how companies can increase the number of women in senior roles.  The group has set a target of 25 per cent women on New Zealand’s top 100 company boards by 2015.  Committee expert member Ms Pires wondered why the Government had not aimed for parity, instead of settling for 25% of women in private sector leadership?  In response, Jo Goodhew, Minster for Women’s Affairs and leader of the New Zealand delegation, explained quite firmly that ‘there is no appetite in New Zealand for the use of special measures’.  She also said that it was important that women seeking to serve on boards of directors are promoted on merit, and cautioned that if promoted through the use of temporary special measures, women could be seen as ‘tokens’.  Scholarships offered by the Ministry of Education and numerical targets for women’s participation (such as the government’s goal of 45% of women on State sector boards by 2015) were measures currently in place to help women advance.  The NGO Rural Women New Zealand has been active in training women candidates for territorial and regional authorities, and national political parties had also put training programmes in place.  New Zealand’s Youth Parliament programme is another great training ground for potential parliamentarians.  ‘But I accept your challenge’ said Ms Goodhew, to do more to increase the number of women in politics because ‘these numbers are not what they could be’.  However, she reiterated that there is no appetite for temporary special measures in New Zealand.

In Samoa also, the government has recognised the need to implement more effective measures to bring about greater parity between men and women in politics.  Samoa currently has 2 women MPs in a 49 member Legislative Assembly, down from 4 women MPs in the last parliament.  In March 2012, the Samoan Government tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill 2012 in Parliament.  The Bill seeks to introduce a 10% quota of women representatives into the national Legislative Assembly. The system proposes a ‘floating’ five reserved seats for women. If no woman is elected during the elections, the amendment is activated and five seats are added to the Assembly. This will mean a Samoan parliament with a total of 54 seats. If one woman is elected then four seats are added and parliament has 53 seats, and so on. When extra seats are added, they are filled by women who have already run in open constituencies. The unsuccessful women candidates who receive the highest percentage of votes in the election will fill the requisite number of reserved seats.  During the presentation of Samoa’s periodic reports to the CEDAW, Committee members praised Samoa for taking such a step, but questioned why the quota had been set so low, well below parity between men and women and below the 30% target for women in leadership set at Beijing in 1995.  In response, the Samoan delegation noted that the 10% figure was a minimum and would not preclude further efforts towards greater parity for women in politics.  Committee members were not altogether satisfied with this response, noting that in countries where less ambitious quotas have been set as a beginning, they have tended in practice become a de facto ceiling, rather than a floor.[5]   Dubravka Šimonović, expert from Croatia, stressed the importance of temporary special measures for women’s advancement, and asked whether the Government planned to institute them in areas other than the proposed Parliamentary quotas.

 The Tricky Politics of Abortion Law Reform

As in other countries whose reports were presented to the CEDAW committee in July 2012, abortion law reform remains a sensitive issue in New Zealand.  Ms Schulz, expert from Switzerland, noted that New Zealand’s abortion laws were convoluted, requiring a certificate from two certified practitioners supporting the abortion on medical grounds, making women dependent on a benevolent interpretation of the rules by medical professionals, thereby nullifying women’s autonomy.  New Zealand needed an urgent legislative review of its abortion laws which currently make abortion effectively illegal in New Zealand, she said.  A further issue of concern raised by Committee experts involved recent changes to New Zealand’s social security legislation withdrawing benefits from young mothers who become pregnant again while on benefits.

In response, Ms Goodhew explained that there was currently ‘no appetite’ among New Zealand government members, or amongst members of Parliament from other political parties, to modernize abortion legislation.

In Mexico also, abortion law reform remains a politically very sensitive issue, particularly given the strong influence of the Catholic Church in that country.  As Ms Murillo de la Vega, CEDAW Committee expert from Spain, pointed out, social workers in Mexico still have a tendency to subject women requesting abortion to ‘third degree’ interrogation, and access to legal abortion remains severely limited.  In 2008 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Mexico City’s 2007 law decriminalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and Ms de la Vega said that the Supreme Court should be congratulated for this decision.  But how, she wanted to know, was it possible that the Mexican Human Rights Commission had now appealed that decision?

In response, a Mexican delegation member said that all health clinics were obliged to provide abortions for women who had been raped, and if that was not done, criminal sanctions were applicable.  However, she acknowledged that practice between states varied, and that it was it was necessary to put up signs in clinics informing women of their rights as many did not know them.

The Politics of Gender-Based Violence

The combined 7th and 8th periodic report of Mexico to the CEDAW Committee contains over 40 references to gender violence, plus an almost equal number of references to violence against women and children.  Both the combined report and Mexico’s responses to the Committee’s list of issues and questions in response to that report[6] recognise that gender violence is a major problem in Mexico, and that ‘Feminicide (sic) is one of the most serious problems facing Mexico.[7]  Mexico’s ‘Responses’ further explain that:

Feminicide constitutes a specific form of violence, characterized by State impunity and social permissibility.  This is the link that Mexico is now seeking to break through various actions to prevent, treat, punish and eradicate violence against women. (para. 61)

The federal government’s General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free From Violence (LGAMVLV) was published in the Official Journal of the Mexican Federation on 1 February 2007.  According to Article 8 of the Federal Law, ‘Within a framework of coordination, the state legislatures will provide the necessary reforms of local legislation (…) within a period of six months as from the entry into force of this law.  The LGAMVLV establishes a National System to Prevent, Treat, Punish and Eradicate Violence Against Women (SNPASEVCM), with the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES) playing an important coordinating role.  As an important part of the SNPASEVCM, the federal government, through INMUJERES has also made harmonisation of state legislation with national and international regulations a priority.  Political forces, however, have again intervened to complicate these efforts to tackle the problem of violence in Mexico.  Very soon after the passing of the LGAMVLV, lack of state-level commitment to implementing the law became all too evident.  Two years after the passing of the LGAMVLV, two states (Guanajuato and Oaxaca) still had not approved the law, and only five states had complied with the obligation to establish the implementation mechanisms essential for the law to have practical effect.  Only 20 states had established an agency coordination mechanism for preventing violence against women, recognised in LGAMVLV as an equally essential aspect of protecting women against violence.

Mexico’s Responses emphasise that by December 2011, all 32 federal entities in Mexico had an LGAMVLV, and had implemented state systems, with regulations published in 28 states.  However, many of the mechanisms ostensibly forming part of the SNPASEVM have become politicised, severely detracting from their effectiveness.  For example, part of the SNPASEVM is a mechanism for the issuing of gender violence alerts.  As the Mexican delegation acknowledged in response to questions from Committee experts during the 17 July meetings, the issue of gender violence alerts has become politicised.  Thus, since publication of the LGAMVLV and it regulations, no gender violence alert has been declared, as the two requests which have been presented to SNPASEVCM were ruled out of order.[8]  Moreover, by December 2011 only 10 states had approved and published the definition of the crime of femicide, bringing state legislation into line with the federal level Penal code.  Particularly in cases of domestic violence, women face a range of obstacles in seeking protection from violence, including the refusal of officials to accept complaints, deficient investigations, and poor enforcement of protective measures when such measures are granted.[9]

Impunity is a major problem stemming from the politicisation of the SNPASEVCM.  For example, the torture and ill-treatment, including rape and other forms of sexual assault, of women protestors detained in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico state in May 2006 has gone unpunished.  More than 200 demonstrators, including 47 women, were detained in a federal, state and municipal police operation.  The operation employed excessive force and ill-treatment of detainees.  At least 26 women reported suffering sexual violence by state police while being transferred to prison.  One policy officer was charge with the crime of libidinous acts and several others were accused of abuse of authority.  Even on the basis of these lesser offences, all police officers were acquitted by the courts on the grounds of lack of evidence.  The federal government has sought to blame the state government for failing to bring those officials responsible to justice, and has not taken measures to press charges itself.  The Special Federal Prosecutor for violent crimes against women and trafficking (La Fiscalia Especial para los Delitos de Violencia contra la Mujere y Trata de Personas, FEVIMTRA) which carried out an enquiry, ultimately declined jurisdiction in 2009 and submitted its findings to Mexico state’s Attorney General’s Office which, as with the initial investigation, failed to take action against the perpetrators.  Nor have enquiries carried out by the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) and the National Supreme Court of Justice (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN) provided relief for victims, despite the fact that both the CNDH and the SCJN concluded that grave human rights violations had been committed and issued recommendations for perpetrators to be brought to justice and victims to receive reparations.[10]

On 30 and 31 August 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued judgements in favour of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, two indigenous women raped by members of the military in Guerrero in 2002, concluding that the women had indeed been raped, that the Mexican state had failed to investigate the case effectively and that the women had been discriminated against and denied access to justice and reparations.[11]  The judgements ordered a series of measures to be taken by the Mexican state, but these have only partly been implemented, and to date no member of the military has been brought to account, either for the original offences or for the later attempts to block the initial inquiry.[12]

A final observation regarding the politics surrounding the concept of gender violence.  While Mexico, a devoutly Catholic country, has been forced to recognise the reality of gender violence, it is interesting to note that the Holy See does not seem to accept the concept of gender violence as a valid concept at all.  The Holy See sent a rather large delegation to the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations that were taking place at the same time as the 52nd Sessions of CEDAW in July 2012.  An early draft preamble of a potential Arms Trade Treaty contained this language:

Recognizing that the absence of commonly agreed international standards for the trade of conventional arms that address, inter alia, the problems relating to the unregulated trade of conventional arms and their diversion to the illicit market is a contributory fact to armed conflict, serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the displacement of people, armed violence, [gender based violence/ violence against women and children], organized crime terrorism[13]

The phrase ‘gender based violence’ was placed in brackets in this early draft, due to its controversial nature – with the Holy See one of its most determined opponents.  The Holy See, delegates to the treaty talks were told, was unable to accept the concept of gender based violence as a valid concept or one which had gained acceptance in international law.   The more gender-neutral phrase ‘violence against women and children’ was to be preferred.

The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) talks failed in July 2012.  No doubt there will be future attempts to revive them, and hopefully such attempts will eventually be successful.  The conjunction of the AAT negotiations in the same building and at the same time as the CEDAW Committee 52nd Session did serve to impress upon me yet again both the inter-connected nature of human rights and the importance of language in human rights and international law discourse generally.

 

REFERENCES

General Assembly WOM/1917, 17 July 2012.  Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.  Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1051st & 1052nd Meetings (AM & PM), ‘Mexico gaining ground in efforts to end ‘femicide’, other violence against women, delegation tells anti-discrimination committee: Expert Members Concerned about Abortion Laws, Murder of Human Rights Defenders, Low Education for Indigenous Women.

Human Rights Watch, Re: Review of Mexico’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 25 June 2012.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012, List of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of periodic reports: Mexico.  CEDAW/C/MEX/Q/7-8.  (1 November 2011).

National Citizens’ Observatory on Feminicide (Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional de Feminicidio, OCNF) ‘Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women with regard to the consideration of the combined 7th and 8th Periodic Report of Mexico, June 2012.

Mark Weisbrot, ‘Irregularities reveal Mexico’s election far from fair’, The Guardian, Monday 9 July 2012, at guardian.co.uk.

‘Mexican Constitution Protects Human Rights’, created 7 July 2012, published on AIDA (http://www.aida-americas.org).

FIAN International, ‘Landmark constitutional reform strengthens human rights in Mexico’, 27 May 2011.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Mexico: Pillay commends human rights constitutional reform in Mexico’ 9 June 2011.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012, List of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of periodic reports: New Zealand.  CEDAW/C/NZL/Q7.  (1 November 2011).

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012.  Responses to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the seventh periodic report: New Zealand.  (CEDAW/C/NZL/Q/7/Add.1).  (8 February 2012).

General Assembly WOM/1918, 18 July 2012.  Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.  Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1051st & 1052nd Meetings (AM & PM).  New Zealand Continues to Uphold Proud Pioneering Record on Women’s Empowerment, Delegation tells Anti-Discrimination Committee: Cancer Deaths among Indigenous, Minority Women, Absence of Special Temporary Measures Raise Expert Members’ Concerns.

Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Consideration of the report submitted by New Zealand.  Statement by the Minister of Women’s Affairs, the Honourable Jo Goodhew, 18 July 2012.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012, List of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of periodic reports: Bahamas (CEDAW/C/BHS/Q/5).  (28 October 2011).

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Pre-session working group, Forty-seventh session, 4-22 October 2010.  Responses to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the combination initial to fourth periodic report: Bahamas.  (CEDAW/C/BHS/Q/4/Add.1).  (27 July 2010).

Responses to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the fifth periodic report: Bahamas (CEDAW/C/BHS/Q/5/Add.1). (19 January 2012).  Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012.

General Assembly WOM/1920, 20 July 2012.  Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.  Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1051st & 1052nd Meetings (AM & PM).  Bahamas Reports ‘Steady Progress’ in Improving Situation of Women in Appearance Before Anti-Discrimination Committee: Expert Members Express Concern about Absence of Special Temporary Measures.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012, List of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of periodic reports: Samoa.  (CEDAW/C/WSM/Q/4-5) (1 November 2011).

General Assembly WOM/1919, 19 July 2012.  Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.  Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1051st & 1052nd Meetings (AM & PM) ‘Samoa Meeting Obligations while Balancing Position of Women with Gradual Advances in Political Participation Delegation tells Anti-Discrimination Committee: Experts Voice Concerns about Imbalances Leading to Electoral Restrictions.

NGO Shadow Report on the Status of Women in Samoa: 4th and 5th Periodic reports of State Parties (2005-2009), compiled May 2012.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-second session, New York, 9-27 July 2012, Responses to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports: Samoa.  (CEDAW/C/WSM/Q/4-5/Add. 1) (8 February 2012).

Statement of Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, CEDAW 30: A Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Focusing on Women’s Political Participation and Leadership – In Pursuit of Equality’  9 July 2012, 11:00 am-1:00 pm.  Conference Room 3 of North Lawn Building.  United Nations, New York.


[1]              Mark Weisbrot, ‘Irregularities reveal Mexico’s election far from fair’, The Guardian, Monday 9 July 2012, at guardian.co.uk; Jose Luis Jiménez, ‘Mexico’s Elections: It Ain’t Over Until…’, Fronteras, The Changing America Desk, available at http://www.fronterasdesk.org/news/2012/jul/17/mexicos-elections-it-aint-over-until/#.UBjxvo6IzLY.

[2]               See further General Assembly WOM/1917, 17 July 2012.  Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.  Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1051st & 1052nd Meetings (AM & PM), ‘Mexico gaining ground in efforts to end ‘femicide’, other violence against women, delegation tells anti-discrimination committee: Expert Members Concerned about Abortion Laws, Murder of Human Rights Defenders, Low Education for Indigenous Women.

[3]               Paragraph 18 of the Committee’s ‘List of Issues and Questions with Regard to the Consideration of Periodic Reports: Mexico’, requests the following:

‘In the light of constitutional changes in a number of states to protect from the moment of conception, please indicate which type of measures have been taken to effectively protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women and accessibility of therapeutic abortion in the concerned states.  Please indicate measures taken to address clandestine abortions.  Please also provide information on measures taken or envisaged to guarantee that women are not prosecuted and sentenced for having undergone an abortion.’  For comment on the assumptions inherent in these questions, see ‘False correlations between liberalized abortion laws and maternal mortality reduction: observations on the combined seventh and eight periodic report of Mexico’, jointly submitted by Allianza Latina America Para la Familia, Alliance Defense Fund and other NGO’s to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Fifty-Second Session, 9-27 July 2012, dated 25 June 2012.

[4]               New Zealand has no formal written constitution, so that domestic law incorporating provisions of the CEDAW and other human rights treaties are found in a range of legislative acts, such as the Bill of Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.

[5]              General Assembly WOM/1919, 19 July 2012.  Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.  Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1051st & 1052nd Meetings (AM & PM) ‘Samoa Meeting Obligations while Balancing Position of Women with Gradual Advances in Political Participation Delegation tells Anti-Discrimination Committee: Experts Voice Concerns about Imbalances Leading to Electoral Restrictions.

[6]               UN Doc. CEDAW/C/MEX/Q/7-8/Add.1.  (14 March 2012)

[7]               Ibid, para 61.

[8]               Responses, para. 68.  See further Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir and Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos as part of the Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio, ‘Femicide and Impunity in Mexico: A context of structural and generalized violence: Report presented before the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW’, 17 July 2012.

[9]               Amnesty International, ‘Women in Mexico let down by failures in justice system’, 1 August 2008.

[10]             For more detail, see Responses, CEDAW/C/MEX/Q/7-8/Add.1, paras 18-39.

[11]             Corte IDH.  Caso Fernández Ortega y otros vs. Mexico.  Excepción Preliminar, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas.  Sentencia de 30 de Agosto de 2010 Serie C No. 215.  Corte IDH.  Caso Rosendo Cantú y otra vs. Mexico.  Excepción Preliminar, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas.  Sentencia de 31 de agosto de 2010.  Serie C No. 216.

[12]             For more details, see Amnesty International, Mexico: Briefing to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 52nd session, July 2012 (Index: AMR 41/041/2012) 11-12.

[13]             Main Committee I: Preamble/ Principles, Chairman’s paper, 22 July 2012 – 10h00 AM.

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