On May 10th, 2006, the Constitutional Court of Colombia made a historic decision, overturning the nation’s total ban on abortion, and ruling that abortions would now be permitted in the most extreme cases: “when the life of a mother was in danger or the fetus was expected to die or in cases of rape or incest.” This unprecedented case was the first to challenge a domestic abortion law using the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
This document contains a brief introduction to the different legal tools, international instruments and strategic contexts through which the advancement of women worldwide can be facilitated, and how the Global Justice Center is helping to achieve this goal.
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."
This fact sheet provides information on the Gonzales decision, and how it "opens the door to more criminal laws regulation reproductive rights on theological, ideological and/or moral grounds." The fact sheet also lists the four pillars of Roe, and four phony wars: The Federal ERA, The US Ratification of CEDAW, "Roe v Wade" as it stands today is no right to fight for and the Global Gag Rule.
The GJC publishes a fact sheet on the Anfal decision.
The Anfal decision was made by the IHT, in prosecuting crimes committed under the Anfal campaign against Iraq's Kurdish population. The decision is a step in the right direction for women's rights in Iraq. This fact sheet gives information on the decision, including rape as torture, rape as genocide, joint criminal enterprise and rape, and how the IHT can be a vehicle for legal reform both in Iraq and internationally.
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.
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.
2006: A fact sheet on how the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women can be used to advocate for women's reproductive rights, including abortion.
2006: A fact sheet on how to use international law to improve gender equality and ensure women's participation.
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.
PowerPoint presentation by the Global Justice Center for the Gender Perspective on Constitution Drafting Process Seminar held in Chiang Mai, Thailand from January 9-11, 2006.
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.
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.