Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Australia’s womens’s rights record lodged with UN

Australia’s report on actions to end discrimination against women has been lodged with the United Nations.

The report is an assessment of Australia’s performance against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW).

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, CEDAW is often described as an international bill of rights for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

Senator Kay Patterson, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, said: “Since it became a signatory to CEDAW in 1980, Australia has developed a range of mechanisms for promoting the rights enshrined within this Convention.

“At the forefront are the mechanisms and ideals provided by the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. The criminal justice system, the legal system and cultural attitudes, among others, are also utilised in the implementation and enforcement of the rights enshrined in CEDAW.”

CEDAW helps realise gender equality through ensuring equal opportunities in political and public life as well as in education, health and employment.

Senator Patterson: “As a signatory, Australia has agreed to take all appropriate measures so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

There have been major advancements in the status of women in Australia since the last progress report was completed in 1995.

“We have seen a 380 per cent increase in women involved in the New Apprenticeships scheme, in 1999 female graduates in medicine outnumbered men for the first time, and a 50 per cent reduction in the number of deaths from cervical cancer,” Senator Patterson said.

“At the same time, there are some areas where progress has been slower and new challenges have emerged for some women.

“The key areas where the Government is continuing to focus its efforts include: family and domestic violence and sexual assault; the concentration of women in some occupations in education, training and labour markets; and, the under-representation of women in high level decision-making.”

CEDAW is the only human rights treaty affirming the reproductive rights of women, and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It also affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children.

Signatories also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of trafficking in persons and the exploitation of women.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the Office of the Status of Women (OSW) website. Hard copies are also available on request from OSW on (02) 6271 5740.