On International Women’s Day we joined forces with groups from across the UK to call on government to ensure international human rights promises are translated into progress on women’s rights here at home. Together with the British Institute of Human Rights and 17 other groups we published a letter (see below) in the Guardian urging the UK Government not to go backwards on women’s rights.
As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (8 March 2013), the UK is also preparing to appear before the UN Committee tasked with monitoring the Government’s progress on the promises we have made under the international law on women’s human rights – CEDAW.
The Government’s engagement with CEDAW is certainly welcome. As a State which prides itself on international human rights leadership it is important that we too step into the global spotlight and are accountable for action to guarantee basic rights here at home as well as abroad. Less heartening is what this spotlight reveals. The Government’s interim response to the UN Committee ahead of July’s full examination reveals a worrying picture which, in some instances, risks regression rather than progress for women’s rights in the UK. For example the fact that women are more likely to qualify for legal aid because they are amongst the poorest in our society is not a sign of progress.
As Eleanor Roosevelt stated shortly after drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, human rights begin in small places close to home. We applaud the Government’s commitment to engaging with international human rights mechanisms, but we urge them to remember that the point of human rights, including women’s human rights, is that they must be made real here at home.
Sanchita Hosali, Deputy Director, British Institute of Human Rights
Annie Campbell, Director, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland
Lynda Dearlove MBE, Chief Executive, Women at the Well
Rebecca Gill, Director of Policy, Campaigns & Communications, Platform 51
Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society
Carolina Gottardo, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service
Lily Greenan, Manager, Scottish Women’s Aid
Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda
Rachel Halford, Director, Women in Prison
Paula Hardy, Chief Executive, Welsh Women’s Aid
Vivienne Hayes, Chief Executive, Women’s Resource Centre
Davina James-Hanman, Director, AVA Project
Robina Iqbal, Board Member, Muslim Women’s Network UK
Annette Lawson OBE, Chair, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
Marcia Lewinson, Women Acting in Today’s Society
Polly Neate, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid
Sumanta Roy, Policy and Research Manager, Imkaan
Emma Scott, Director, Rights of Women
Deborah Singer, Policy Manager, Asylum Aid