Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Asia

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the Southeast of Asia

All ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) —Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam— have ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Timor-Leste, a non-ASEAN country, acceded to the Convention in April 2003.

The Convention has suffered from poor political will and visibility across the Southeast of Asia. It has mostly remained off the political agenda or been a low priority issue in many countries, despite their governments having become signatories.

Governments and civil society stakeholders have lacked sufficient knowledge, capacity and expertise to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which in turn has had a negative impact on the sense of national ownership of the process. There has also been discomfort and resistance in some societies where the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women has been perceived as a challenge to accepted sociocultural and religious norms.

The complex nature of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women implementation process itself has sometimes been an impediment. Beyond consistent political will, effective implementation requires the participation of many different stakeholders, strategic actions and appropriate resource allocation on various levels.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women also requires proper benchmarking to measure progress and mechanisms to ensure accountability. This is undoubtedly a complicated and formidable undertaking that cannot be accomplished over a short period, particularly given the relatively low baseline of gender equality in most Southeast Asian countries.

Enhancing legal frameworks and justice systems

A country’s legal framework and justice system can arguably be considered the most important means to eliminate genderbased discrimination and achieve gender equality. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee has repeatedly amplified the importance of the conformity of domestic laws with the Convention. Also stressed is the need for Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women awareness-raising among legislators and members of the justice system so that a legal culture that is supportive of women’s rights and non-discrimination can firmly be established.

In addition, public education about Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, domestic laws and the means to access justice is critical to ensure that women know what their rights are and how to claim them. Greater public awareness also helps in altering traditional attitudes and gender stereotypes that can perpetuate discrimination.

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