The Use of CEDAW to Invalidate Discriminatory Laws and Promote Gender Equality

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines discrimination against women and requires states not only to prohibit discrimination but also to take affirmative steps in order to achieve gender equality.  The Convention is legally binding upon States that have ratified the Convention and any laws in violation of CEDAW must be struck down.

CEDAW has been used to support affirmative action policies and programs as well as to strike down laws that are in violation of the Convention.  These cases carry significant import: the application of CEDAW in domestic courts gives CEDAW legitimacy globally and reinforces the principal that domestic courts are bound by international treaties such as CEDAW.

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Iraqi Women's Rights and International Law

The Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI) and the Global Justice Center (GJC) jointly organized a three-day conference on women’s rights and international law November 13th – 15th at the Dead Sea, Jordan.  Attendees included twenty members of the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) and representatives from the President’s office, the Prime Minister’s office, the Parliament, the Ministry of Human Rights as well as prominent members of civil society.  The conference addressed a crucial subject for women in Iraq: sexual violence, as a war crime, a crime against humanity and an instrument of genocide, and its drastic impact on the victims.  This issue was addressed in the context of international law and its role in the IHT, with an eye towards having the IHT address these crimes in its upcoming indictments and judgments.

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Historic Gender Training for the Iraqi High Tribunal Judges and Women Leaders at the Dead Sea

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–December 7, 2006

[JORDAN] From November 13-15, 2006, the Global Justice Center (GJC), a new iNGO based in New York provided the first training on international law and gender for 20 Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) judges and 10 women leaders from Iraq. The training, which took place in Jordan, was requested by Iraqi women leaders and the IHT Judges to inform the Tribunal’s rulings on gender violence used by the Baathist regime as a weapon of war as well as the Tribunal’s specific obligation to reach out to women and ensure justice to all Iraqis as the proceedings move ahead. Until now, there have been no indictments brought on sexual violence. The IHT Judges have, however, taken testimony from rape victims and have pledged to use international law in their opinions on these cases.

Using International Law in the Struggle for Democracy and Women's Participation in Burma

2006: A fact sheet on how to use international law to improve gender equality and ensure women's participation.

Excerpt:

The effort to achieve peace, security and democracy in Burma (called Myanmar by the current government) is an on-going battle against a repressive and brutal military regime. Burma is presently controlled by the SPDC, a military regime that took over Burma by force and refused to turn over power to the National Democratic League, the democratically elected government led by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Sui Kyi. A major part of the effort to achieve peace, security and democracy in Burma (Myanmar) is the struggle by the women of Burma to change strongly-held ideas about women’s role in society, including the belief that women do not belong in political leadership and should be subordinate to men. Within this movement, the Global Justice Center advises the Women’s League of Burma on how to use international law to ensure the inclusion of women in all aspects of the democracy-building process. In addition, the Global Justice Center looks for new and creative ways to use international law to address the widespread rape of ethnic women by the military.

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Using the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to Advocate for the Political Rights of Women in a Democratic Burma

Article written by GJC Fellow, Andrea Friedman, for the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender on using CEDAW to advocate for gender equality in Burma.

Excerpt:

The military dictatorship ruling Burma has had a firm grip on the country for over forty years.2 Despite authorizing a democratic election in 1990, the junta refused to turn over power, and jailed many elected to office. Forces for a democratic Burma remain strong, although the draconian measures taken by the ruling regime have forced the majority of those fighting for democracy to organize in exile. These groups in exile are joined together by a vital fight to bring peace to Burma after decades of violence, a peace that would enable them to return home. Unfortunately, the inclusion of women in this effort has been pushed aside in the name of a larger struggle, likely with the assumption that equality will be addressed once there is democracy. This assumption undermines democracy itself. Critical to the formation of a democratic Burma is the inclusion of women in all the nation-building steps, such as peace negotiations, transitional governments, constitution drafting, and war-crimes tribunals. Those groups arguing for democracy and the rule of law must live up to their own rhetoric and set the stage for a true democracy by ensuring the inclusion of women.

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