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.

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Time for a new UN convention on the rights of older people

Today is the United Nations International Day of Older Persons. As the number of older people grows in developed countries they are becoming a much bigger force.

Yet as we see in the UK the government pays mere lip service to them – trying to present the general public with the idea that they are all well off and preferring to focus on the young.

Indeed the present Tory government thinks it can get away with targeting them – along with the poor- for the mainstay of their new post pandemic austerity polices.

In the last few years they have taken away free TV licences for the over 75s, abolished the ” triple lock ” for pension rises for one of the lowest state pensions in developed countries, continually raise the pension age and targeted women born in the 1950s and 1960s -taking away around £50,000 in pension payments by raising their pension age.

Many people aged 60 cannot now get free bus passes until they are 66 and ministers now have their plans to make them pay full prescription charges from the ages of 60 to 66 – knowing that far more of them are unhealthy and suffer chronic ailments than younger people. And they are going to reintroduce national insurance contributions for those over 66 who supplement their pension by working.

Older people facing redundancy

There are also problems for older people being targeted for redundancies -indeed the organisation Rest Less, (website here) which monitors job prospects for the over 50s, suggests that there were half a million people over the age of 50 on furlough according to the latest figures. They are reporting growing numbers of economically inactive people in their 50s and 60s. How are they going to get a full pension?

So it is rather good news that JustFair – a campaigning organisation – is calling for a new international convention on the rights of older people. You can read about them and their proposal here. Sufficient to say it highlights a lot of issues affecting older women – and it has the backing of CEDAWinLaw which held a tribunal examining women’s rights and the case for putting that UN convention on eliminating all forms of discrimination against women into UK law.

As it says: “Gender inequality in older age is the result of disadvantages accumulated over the life course and further exacerbated by ageism and age discrimination. As a result, many older women are denied their rights, a situation further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic with its disproportionate effect on both older persons and women. It is estimated that the impact of the pandemic increased the gender gap by a generation.  This means that women will continue to reach older age in a disadvantaged position unless structural changes are made“.

Internationally the UN is highlighting a huge digital divide between developed nations and developing countries over the internet with older people the worst affected.

Yet, one-half of the global population is off-line, with the starkest contrast between the most developed countries (87%) and the least developed countries (19%) (ITU Facts and Figures 2020).

Age UK Dacorum’s campaign to highlight the UN day

There are also lots of local events today highlighting the day. In my area in Hertfordshire Dacorum Age UK have a fund raising campaign called ” Slip into Slippers” celebrating the dignity of old age and the fact that many older people play a big role in the community.

Charlie Hussey, development officer for Age UK Dacorum said: “We are asking individuals businesses schools and clubs to get involved by Slipping into Slippers for some of the day, and encourage people to have some fun, make a small voluntary donation and take some photos / videos. All to raise funds and awareness of Age UK Dacorum and highlight the needs of older people and equally importantly the contributions they can still make to our community. “

I am also raising funds for my own website to develop my work holding the government and the powerful to account. Please donate if you can

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