Ground breaking moves to end all discrimination against women could become law in Scotland and Wales by next year if as predicted, the Scottish National Party and the Welsh Labour Party win Thursday’s devolved Parliamentary elections.
Manifestos for both parties commit them to introducing the CEDAR convention into Scottish and Welsh law and the Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, has also given his support to write the convention into Scottish law.
The decision will have far reaching effects on the equality and rights of women and put huge pressure on Boris Johnson, the Tory leader, and Liz Truss, who is also equalities minister, to have to follow them or face a postcode lottery on women’s rights across the UK. It will also be an enormous boost to the planned People’s Tribunal on CEDAW to be held later in London.
The issue has not made the headlines because it has been overshadowed by the row over Scottish independence and the funding of Boris Johnson’s flat which have dominated the news. But it has implications for equal pay, violence against women, job discrimination and could resurrect unfair treatment over the raising of the pension age again.
Far reaching proposals
The Scottish proposals are the most far reaching. Not only do they want to end all discrimination against women but they also want to implement three other UN Conventions which have not been put into law by the British government.
These cover: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Scotland has already passed laws to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law
. This has infuriated Boris Johnson and he is going to the Supreme Court to stop Scotland implementing it -saying it is beyond Holyrood’s powers.
But he can’t do anything about the CEDAR convention because Margaret Thatcher signed and ratified the convention in 1986. Unless he decides the UK will leave the convention which would create a storm.
Fraser Meechan from the Scottish Government’s Equality and Human Rights division, said in a letter to Ann Fenner, communications leader to CEDAW tribunal ; “The intention, dependent on the election outcome, is to introduce the proposed Bill in the next Parliamentary session. A multi-treaty human rights Bill of this nature is innovative and ambitious. Therefore, careful thought and extensive engagement will be required, both during its development and throughout implementation, to ensure it is done right.”
A task force is already working on the details of the legislation.
Wales for CEDAW
The Welsh manifesto commitment means the Wales will follow on CEDAR.
The move has caused the Government Equalities Office in London to start meetings with women’s groups on what changes they would like to see in England – as they are now aware of the proposals in both Scotland and Wales. This is the first time the Government Equalities Office has had regular meetings on CEDAW beyond the UK commitment to review progress on CEDAW every four years.
So what started as a move to open a debate on women’s rights through the CEDAW People’s Tribunal has now turned into a serious and urgent issue for Whitehall and ministers. The decision by Nicola Sturgeon to do this is a gamechanger that will have repercussions across the whole of the UK.