Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

Australia comes in from the cold on Women’s rights

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Robert McClelland MP, Attorney-General

Australia has today formally moved to become a party to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was opposed by the former Government.

Australia has been a party to CEDAW since 1983. The previous Government refused to sign the Optional Protocol when it was adopted in 2000, despite countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and a number of our Asia-Pacific neighbours doing so. Even today, the Coalition, under Malcolm Turnbull, still opposes this important international human rights instrument.

The announcement comes on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland and , Tanya Plibersek said that by becoming a party to the Optional Protocol, the Government is making a powerful statement that discrimination against women in any form is unacceptable.

“The Rudd Government is committed to overcoming the stereotypes and prejudices that can stifle women’s rights and weaken equality,” Mr McClelland said.

“Becoming party to the Optional Protocol demonstrates our commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of women, both at home and abroad.”

Under the Optional Protocol, women in Australia will be able to make a complaint to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women about alleged violation of Australia’s obligations under CEDAW. This can only occur after domestic legal options have been exhausted. The protocol also permits a UN investigation process.

“Acceding to the Optional Protocol will send a strong message that Australia is serious about promoting gender equality and that we are prepared to be judged by international human rights standards,” said Minister Plibersek.

“It will also add credibility to our offers of support to women across our region.”

Australia’s instrument of accession to the Optional Protocol will be lodged shortly in New York, meaning it will enter into force for Australia before International Women’s Day on 8 March 2009.