Challenging Conventions: In Pursuit of Greater Legislative Compliance with CEDAW in the Pacific

University of Melbourne, Melbourne Law School
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Melbourne Journal of International Law, 2009, 10 (2), pp. 655 - 690
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A recent review of the legislation and constitutions of 10 Pacific Island countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women revealed a uniformly low level of legislative compliance with the Convention across a range of areas. These include in the areas of equality and nondiscrimination law, employment law, criminal law, protection against gender-based violence and marriage and family law. This commentary considers the reasons for the low levels of legislative compliance with CEDAW in the Pacific, such as the lasting impact of Western colonisation, which has left many PICs with outdated legislative frameworks; the prioritisation of practices deemed customary or traditional above addressing discrimination against women; the stark lack of female representation in political institutions including legislatures at both local and national levels; and the weaknesses of the CEDAW reporting system. Whilst legislative reform is but a first step towards gender equality in the region, this commentary argues that it is a necessary and important goal. Legislation provides a mechanism through which individuals who have experienced discrimination can seek redress and, importantly, can represent a societal commitment to equality, diversity and nondiscrimination, thereby benefiting not only women's lives but also Pacific communities at large.
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