|Passport to Equality (UNESCO, 1999, 40 p.)|
Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
18 December 1999 marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of discrimination against women by the General Assembly of the United Nations. 163 States are party to this Bill of rights for women, and thus obliged under international law to realize equality between women and men in the civil, cultural, economic, political and social fields. In States parties, but also in countries that have not yet ratified it, the Convention is a powerful tool in the hands of activists and legislators, judges and educators, politicians and professionals. They use the Convention to influence legislative processes and Government policies. It is instrumental in shaping public opinion for womens equality and in advocating for womens rights. Courts in many countries refer to the Convention in domestic litigation to redress discrimination against women in areas such as sexual harassment at work, nationality, or violence against women. The early entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention will further accelerate realization of womens equality.
The Committee on the elimination of Discrimination against women monitors implementation of the Convention. This Committee has been an agent for change for women both collectively and individually. Its practical recommendations to States have ensured that the Convention is now an active part of domestic legal, political and social discourse. The Committee has assessed the influence of traditions and customs that relegate women to second-class status, and stereotypes that mould womens proper place in society and in the home. It has reviewed the compatibility of customary laws, and their application to women, with the requirements of the convention. It has considered the strengths and weaknesses of educational policies and their impact on girls and womens right to quality education and training. It has debated how marriage and family relations should evolve and be transformed so as to ensure equality of rights between women and men.
At the Fourth World Conference on Women, Member States committed themselves to the goal of universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000. With the help of this Passport to Equality, this goal is moving within closer reach. And what could be more fitting than to begin the new century, the new millennium, with a truly universal commitment to womens right to equality and non-discrimination.