Exclusive: United Nations slams the UK for failing to properly implement the convention signed by Mrs Thatcher to eliminate all discrimination against women

The UN committee monitoring progress by the UK to implement the UN Convention to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls (CEDAW) ratified by Margaret Thatcher in 1986 has severely criticised the foot dragging by the British government under Boris Johnson to fully implement it.

CEDAW in session; Pic Credit UN News

In a strongly worded report the Geneva based organisation “recommends that the State party incorporate all the provisions of the Convention into its legislation without further delay to ensure that the rights of women are guaranteed systematically and on an equal footing throughout all territories under its jurisdiction, including Northern Ireland.

It also recommends that the State party, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention, take proactive measures to ensure that the Convention is given effect in all of its overseas territories and Crown dependencies”.

The damning criticism comes after 35 years of delay by successive UK governments to properly implement a convention which the country signed up to years ago.

The committee’s findings sharply differentiate between the foot dragging actions of the UK government under Boris Johnson and the progress promised by the Welsh and Scottish governments. It is also pleased that Jersey has decided to implement the convention.

It says; “The Committee takes note that the Welsh Government commissioned research on how to foster equality and human rights in Wales, including through the incorporation of the Convention, and the new Programme for Government for 2021 to 2026 confirms the Government’s commitment to incorporate the Convention into Welsh law.

“The Committee also welcomes that the Scottish Government’s commitment to incorporate the Convention through a new Human rights Bill following the recommendation by the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership. Further, the Committee welcomes that the Convention has been extended to the Crown Dependency of the Bailiwick of Jersey in 2021.”

Official picture of Nicola Sturgeon who is pushing to implement CEDAW in full

The decision will place pressure on Johnson’s government which has been antagonistic to Scotland and Wales implementing UN human rights conventions – witnessed by Johnson successfully going to the Supreme Court to block Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish leader, from legislating to cover all parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child.

At the heart of the matter is that successive governments have not gone far enough in equality and human rights legislation to implement the convention.

It says: “the Committee deeply regrets that the State party has not taken necessary measures within its jurisdiction, including in Northern Ireland, to incorporate all the provisions of the Convention into its legislation despite the fact that the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 do not give the full effect of the Convention. The Committee also remains concerned that the Convention has not been extended to all of its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, including the Crown Dependency of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.”

It calls in particular for an “over arching strategy ” to implement women’s rights.

The CEDAW tribunal logo- where people earlier this year pressed for full rights for all women and girls

It says the UK must “Develop, without further delay, a unified and overarching national strategy for the incorporation of all the provisions of the Convention into its national legislation throughout its jurisdiction (including Northern Ireland) as well as its Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies (including the Crown Dependency of the Bailiwick of Guernsey), and take all necessary measures for the implementation thereof.”
It also critical of the UK government’s failure to make a proper post Brexit impact study on women’s rights”

Action called to tackle women’s rights post Brexit

It says the UK must “undertake a thorough impact assessment of its withdrawal from the European Union on the rights of women, including women in Northern Ireland, and adopt effective measures to mitigate the negative effects.”

The report goes on to urge the government to “consider establishing a national oversight mechanism to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Convention, with the effective participation of its national human rights institutions and women’s organizations”.

It says the recent establishment of an equality hub in the Cabinet Office is not good enough.

It expresses its concern”that the Government Equalities Office nor the Equality Hub specifically target the rights of women protected under the Convention, nor do they address the State party’s implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. Also, the Committee regrets that the State party has yet taken any actions to establish a national oversight mechanism in reviewing and implementing the Convention.”

This is a pretty damning conclusion by the UN about the state of women’s rights in this country. To campaigners like Jocelynne Scutt, president of CEDAWinlaw , it pinpoints exactly what they have been saying is missing in UK law – no overarching rights for women which could transform the situation on equal pay , pensions, job rights, protection from violence and could also have changed decisions taken in our courts. This will be a real test on whether Boris Johnson believes in real equality for women or just sticks to warm words.

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my investigative reporting into vital issues of the day


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

please donate to westminster confidential


Exclusive: What’s missing for women’s rights in the UK: Former judge Dr Jocelynne Scutt and former chief prosecutor Nazil Afzal talk about CEDAW

Dr Jocelynne Scutt, President of panel of judges of the CEDAW People’s tribunal , Nazir Afzal Legal Consultant to the tribunal

Two of the leading people talk in advance of the planned People’s Tribunal in London

Later this year there will be a People’s Tribunal in London to evaluate the need for the UN Convention on the elimination of all discrimination against women to be put into domestic law. The convention, signed and ratified by Margaret Thatcher in 1986 has never been put into domestic law though parts of it are in the Equalities Act, 2010.

The tribunal will examine the failure to integrate CEDAW into domestic legislation; decide whether those delays are legitimate or not; and make necessary recommendations as to how the Convention can be given full effect in the UK, advancing women in all aspects of society and recognising historic inequalities.

Dr Jocelynne Scutt, the Australian feminist who is president of the panel of judges CEDAW People’s Tribunal and Nazir Afzal, newly appointed Legal Consultant to the tribunal. have talked about their hopes for a massive legal change.

Jocelynne Scutt is a senior law fellow at the University of Buckingham. She was Tasmania’s first anti discrimination commissioner and is a member of the Labour Party in Cambridge and the Australian Labor Party. She is a former judge in Fiji.

Nazil Afzal, is the former Chief Crown Prosecutor for NW England and formerly Director in London. Most recently, he was Chief Executive of the country’s Police & Crime Commissioners. During 24 year career, has prosecuted many high profile cases and advised on many others and led nationally on Violence against Women & Girls, child sexual abuse, and honour based violence. His prosecutions of the so called Rochdale grooming gang and hundreds of others were groundbreaking and drove the work that has changed the landscape of child protection. He is the new legal consultant to the tribunal.

Jocelynne Scutt believes there are many cases -particularly those involving violence against women and rape cases- where women are still not seen as credible because of prejudice or the way they dress. She points to protests from women groups over rape cases with placards saying ” Wearing a dress does not mean yes” as a good example of the way women are treated by men. She says this is similar to the ” stop and search” policy by the police where just because a black man is driving a posh car it is assumed it is either stolen or he is a drug dealer.

She said one of the big changes CEDAW could bring is to change the law to make people treated as a whole human being instead of being categorised in different legal columns. She cited a discrimination case brought on both sex and gender and racial discrimination.

” The law as it is either treats the case as a sex and gender case with a bit of ethnicity added on or a an ethnicity discrimination case with a bit of gender discrimination. People are not like that.”

The standard in courts is still based on ” Benchmark Man”

She says courts are still dominated by white male values despite the fact we have more women barristers and judges. ” As one of my colleagues says the standard is Benchmark Man- that is still the standard for everything.”

She thinks that middle class women have an advantage over working class women to progress in their careers.

” Middle class women in professional jobs can get through the glass ceiling or at least see it . For working class women – such as cleaners and care workers – they are stopped by a concrete canopy- they can’t even see the glass ceiling let alone break through it” This is something that CEDAW would change.

Both she and Nazil Afzal believe CEDAW will bring about big changes. She is optimistic that support for CEDAW will build and build to become a major issue.

Nazil believes there is no legal impediment to introducing CEDAW only a political one. He also believes that if Scotland and Wales decide to implement CEDAW while England declines to do so – it ” will lead to an even greater postcode lottery in judicial decisions than it is now.

” Probably only one per cent of lawyers understand CEDAW”

He believes that at present the vast majority of lawyers don’t understand CEDAW even though its is recognised by the courts as international law.

” Probably only one per cent of lawyers -unless it is their speciality – don’t understand it and probably among that one per cent only one per cent understand it fully “

He thinks the passing of the Domestic Abuse Bill has made the case for putting CEDAW into domestic law and also for the United Kingdom to sign up to the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic abuse.

Some 45 countries have signed up and 34 have ratified the convention. The UK is not one – one of the stumbling blocks for the UK is that it would have to give migrants equal rights.