Key obstacles, underlying causes for the persistence of discriminatory laws and the EU's potential role

AuthorDeniz Devrim - Roland Blomeyer - Paul Dalton - Senni Mut-Tracy
Policy Department, Directorate-General for Extern al Policies
legal frameworks in accordance with the requirements of the Convention. National and international
advocacy by women’s and other human rights organisations have drawn public attention to the principles
of t he Convention and to the work o f the CEDAW Committee an d to the compa rative performance of
differ ent co untr ies in fulfilling t heir commit ments .
For CSOs the periodic reporting process provides an opportunity to engage with th e government and the
treaty body during the preparation and presentation of the report, and to draw public attention to the
Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations. CEDAW and regional conventions are often
invo ked by CSOs in dom estic po licy discu ssions. The int ernation al human rig hts fr amework pr ovides them
an opportunity to hold their governments to account. Case studies on the CEDAW reporting cycle have
sho wn that in additio n to s ubmitting shadow reports, many CSOs have been present at CEDAW sessions
to br ief th e Comm ittee on priorit y issues, wh ich has imp roved t he quality o f the Com mittee’s dialogue with
State Part ies to the Co nvention and enable them to formu late more specific and detailed
recommenda tions73.
Resear chers have str essed, however, t hat the impact of CEDAW has not been immediate a nd policy
changes have been introduced at varying speeds in different countries. In many cases change was only
observed over a number of reporting cycles . The firs t CEDAW Im pact Study (2000) conclud ed that more
pro gress wa s docum ented in the pa ssing o f new legisla tion th an with re pealing exis ting discr iminatory
laws. A World Bank study on women’s property rights, on the other hand, showed that the pace of legal
reforms in the area o f protection o f women’s right s was double as fast in th e five years following a State’s
rat ificatio n of CE DAW, co mpar ed to the fif teen y ears pr ior to rat ification (H allward -Driemeier et al. 2013).
6 Key obstacles, underlying causes for the persistence of
discr iminator y laws and the EUs potential role
6.1 Poverty and lack of funding
One of the main factors holding back progress on reform of laws that discriminate against women is
poverty. Many countries lack the means or resources to carry out reforms. The potential for impact of
pro viding add itional res ources is evid ent in the leg islative reforms undertaken in many countries in Sub-
Saharan Africa since 1990 and in the continued comparatively poor performance of small island States in
the Pacific (Wor ld B ank, 2019). Furthermore, poverty is often linked to security concerns that take
precedence over equ ality and non-discrimination issues on the national agenda. Governments that are
preoccupied with securit y issues often fa il to see gender equ ality as part of t he solution.
Lack of fu nding also affects the capacity of CSOs to lobby fo r pro-women's rights legislative reform or to
consolidate a nd protect r eforms already adopted agains t attacks by the o pponents of gender equality. In
inter views con ducted fo r this st udy, Latin A merica was id entified as a regio n where pr eviously achieved
reforms are under t hreat, particularly in the ar ea of sexual and repro ductive rights. Development funding
in th e regio n has sign ificantly d ecreased, wit h the US g overnment cutting a ll fund ing for org anisations that
counsel women on abortion, and USAID ‘graduating’ tar get count ries fro m family p lanning a ssist ance
where the lo cal sit uatio n is s aid to h ave ‘improved ’74. Wit h the US wit hdr awal from s exual a nd repr oductive
73 Byrnes, A ndrew, Free man, Marsha (2012), The I mpact of the CEDAW Convent ion: P aths to Equali ty Universi ty of New Sout h Wales
Faculty of Law Research Series.
74 USAID (2 019 ) Techni cal I ssue Brie fs: Lat in Ame ri ca and the Caribbe an: obal-health/he alth-
areas/ famil y-planni ng/r esou rce s/issu e-bri efs-lati n-amer ica-car ibbe an

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