False Choices: Sacrificing Equality to get CEDAW

The United States signed CEDAW in 1980, but it has not yet ratified the Convention. Proponents of ratification argue that the U.S.’ failure to ratify CEDAW hurts American efforts, by both the government and private organizations, to promote human rights. Although the Global Justice Center agrees, we urge organizations committed to promoting true gender equality not to support ratification accompanied by the sort of "understanding" added by Senator Helms in 1994.1 The compromises made by the addition of the Helms "understanding" sacrificed the core concepts of CEDA W. This dangerous "understanding" resurrects the discriminatory fallacy of biology as destiny and promotes the agenda of those who would find laws severely restricting or even criminalizing abortion to be perfectly compatible with "women's rights" and "equality."

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GJC’s Partner Group Submits Recommendations to UK Iraq Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  June 18 2007

NewYork, NY  – The UK-based International Coordination for Gender Justice in Iraq (ICGJI) last week submitted recommendations to the Iraq Commission, the independent cross-party UK commission to examine the future of British commitment in Iraq.

Legal Tools for the Establishment of Gender Equality through International Law

This manual starts with a general background on the role of international law and how it can be used in a domestic context. It then touches on the concept of Customary International Law and some international forums for enforcing women’s rights when domestic efforts fail. We then look at some of the tools women are using – the laws – starting with the women’s rights treaty – the bill of rights for women – Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, followed by a brief discussion of other treaties with a bit of extra focus on the ICCPR. In addition to treaties, a number of other international legal tools have developed including, most recently, Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. The manual then reviews two other forums for enforcing women’s rights—regional bodies and tribunals. It then discusses the role of constitutions and quotas in advancing rights. Finally we try to provide other resources for understanding and researching international law. We hope this guide will be the beginning of your use of international law to advance rights.

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GJC Commends Iraqi Prosecutor for Including Rape in Closing Arguments of Kurdish Genocide Trial

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—April 10, 2007

[NEW YORK, NY] The Global Justice Center, an NGO that advocates for women’s human rights through the rule of law, commends Prosecutor Monquth Al Faroon for including the charges of rape and sexual violence against the perpetrators of the Kurdish genocide in his closing arguments for the Al-Anfal trial in Baghdad. That the IHT Prosecutor identified these crimes, alongside other crimes such as torture, forced displacement and murder, is a significant step towards ending impunity for crimes of sexual violence committed under the Saddam Hussein regime.

Advancing the Legal Enforcement of SCR 1325: Structural and Political Obstacles Imposed by the United Nations

The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325) in 2000 was a legal milestone for women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination. For the first time the UN Security Council not only recognized the gender-biased impact of internal or country conflict,  it also mandated that the UN itself and all member states erect and monitor enforceable protections from such gender-based violence. However, there is still an urgent need to address:

  • The lack of any systematic progress towards parity for women as decision-makers in UN sponsored and other peace negotiations;
  • The failure to recognize SCR 1325 as a binding international law, particularly, as applicable to transitional justice processes;
  • The total exclusion of women stakeholders from such pariah states as Burma who are forced to operate only in exile and because of their difficult legal status are prevented from travel and access to critical  INGO and UN networking;
  • The discrimination against women survivors/victims of conflict from certain countries like Iraq where the politicized nature of the conflict has led to such actions as the de facto UN “blacklisting”, stopping any UN  support to the war crimes tribunal or to women victims of gender crimes under the Saddam regime;
  • The absence of any penalties or sanctions for repeated violations of SCR 1325 or country funding conditions based on compliance in country action plans.

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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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