2 Nov 2005

The birth of the gender vision

The original article was not particularly relevant to Singapore, save this paragraph where it quotes Singapore laws.

Adopted in 1979 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – the most far-reaching international commitment of governments working for gender equality – was the first international human rights instrument to explicitly define all forms of discrimination against women as fundamental human rights violations. As of April 2005, 180 states have ratified CEDAW, interpreting their treaty obligations in diverse ways ranging from reluctance to active incorporation.

This, I can say, is old news.

States that ratify the treaty are obliged to implement CEDAW’s principles in their domestic context. Upon ratification, they are allowed to enter “reservations” to single provisions of the treaty, as long as these are not incompatible with the Convention’s object and purpose. A global monitoring mechanism requires states to report every four years on their progress and enter into a ‘constructive dialogue’ with the CEDAW committee – twenty-three experts of ‘high moral standing’ representing the world regions. In a nutshell, the Convention is an ambitious instrument with regard to content, while being non-coercive in its enforcement mechanisms.
As of April 2005, a remarkable 180 states had ratified CEDAW with only eleven UN member-states not being a party to it – the USA being the single exception amongst developed countries. Overall, those who signed up show a limited commitment, combined with increasing respect for the Convention. The majority of the states parties do not comply with the duty to submit periodic reports to the CEDAW committee every four years, making it difficult to establish a continuous monitoring process. However, where the committee has received regular reports it has almost always noted improvement. State institutions undergo a learning process, so that those delegations engaged in dialogue with the committee tend to be better prepared, franker and more aware of the complexity of their obligations.However, roughly 20 percent of states parties have entered reservations that are incompatible with the Convention, usually not withdrawing them even if consistently urged by the committee to do so. For example, Singapore states:

In the context of Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious society and need to respect the freedom of minorities to practice their religious and personal laws, the Republic of Singapore reserves the right not to apply the provisions of articles 2 and 16 where compliance with these provisions would be contrary to their religious and personal laws.

This nullifies the Convention’s provision to grant equal rights and duties for men and women in matters regarding marriage and the family – one of the areas where equal rights for women are most necessary. Another group comprising less than 10 percent of states parties has overtly expressed disapproval with the fundamental reservations of other states, though this symbolic protest has had little effect.

The birth of gender vision Susanne Zwingel - openDemocracy

A particular pet peeve I harbour is how religion is used to justify discrimination, usually against women.

Where do we draw the line between observing one's cultural and religious practices, and the issue of personal freedom and equal rights? Isn't granting everyone their religious rights a form of granting equal rights in itself? So why a freedom, granted in the name of equality, being used to suppress equality for another disadvantaged section of the public? There is a glaring contradiction here, but few people seem to be able to see it.


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2 comments:

clyde said...

Interesting you should mention this. I've never thought of Singapore as being one to apply Sharia law but rather one that has no one dominant religion (or any) intertwined with politics and the law. In my view, as far as the law is concerned, cultural and religious practices should not dictate or impinge on any individual's rights.

"In the context of Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious society and need to respect the freedom of minorities to practice their religious and personal laws, the Republic of Singapore reserves the right not to apply the provisions of articles 2 and 16 where compliance with these provisions would be contrary to their religious and personal laws."

The right to practice religion and "personal laws" are very different. Can you cite these laws directly or any first-hand knowledge/examples of instances where the law associated with religion has caused discrimination in Singapore?

pleinelune said...

The tudung issue? :D