Tuvalu's women's rights record comes under review
Tuvalu is fronting the UN for a review of its women's rights record.
Tuvalu is undergoing a review of its women's rights record before the United Nations in Switzerland, to review its progress as a signatory to a convention to end all forms of discrimination against women.
Tuvalu faces significant challenges to meeting its commitments to eliminate discrimination against women as a signatory of Cedaw.
The Officer in charge of the UN Human Rights agency's Pacific office, Satya Jennings, says despite Tuvalu's limited resources, the country has made important progress.
SATYA JENNINGS: It is important because through the reporting process, the states can do a critical self assessment of their performance with regard to the elimination of the discrimination against women. Reporting is also a legal obligation for states which have ratified the convention. It's also comprehensive reviews taken to harmonise laws and policies and also problems and shortcomings should be identified. And plans and developments with regards to policies to achieve the goals set. It is also an opportunity to consult with civil society and to invite for public scrutiny in this area and ultimately, reporting should benefit rights holders at the national level.
KOROI HAWKINS: And what is or has been Tuvalu's women's rights record so far?
SJ: Well with regard to Cedaw specifically, women in Tuvalu continue to face significant challenges to their realisation of fundamental human rights. However some areas do show signs of progress. For example the efforts of the Tuvalu government to increase womens political participation such as the women's practice parliament, progress in the draft labour bill giving effect to ILO conventions and passing of the police powers and duties act are very positive developments and should be commended. Also parliament unanimously passed the family protection and domestic violence act in December last year after its second and final reading in the house. And Tuvalu developed a comprehensive national gender policy in 2014 as well as a plan of action to implement the policy. These are very important signs of progress. However significant obstacles remain to the fulfillment of women's rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The principal of equality and explicit provision of discrimination on the grounds of sex remain absent from the constitution of Tuvalu. Highlighted in previous reports the government has not yet taken steps to amend this and the UPR reports the Universal Periodic Review of Tuvalu that was issued in 2013 also makes reference to the need to amend the constitution in this regard. Further representation of women in decision making bodies remains low at both local and international level and concerns remain regarding womens access and rights to health. Including discriminatory abortion laws and low levels of HIV education and understanding among girls. Access to clean water and sanitation is also variable and particularly poor for women residing in outer islands. And the potential impact of climate change also places challenges regarding womens access to natural resources and livelihoods. And what also remains an issue of concern is the high rates of violence against women and in this regard further steps are needed by the government of Tuvalu to tackle those remaining challenges.
KH: Going back to the issue of self determination and of participation in decision making I understand there has been work to amend the Falekaupule Act or sort of their womens participation in the local councils. Where I understand mostly it's male dominated. How has that work to get women to be more involved in local sort of decision making before it sort of goes up to the higher levels?
SJ: Yes Tuvalu's report refers to a number of laws that contain direct or indirect discriminatory provisions against women. Such as the act you mentioned the Falekaupule Act, also the Marriage Act, the Employment Act and the Penal Code and Native Lands Act. So this is work in progress but it remains to be seen what comes out of the CEDAW review of Tuvalu when it engages tomorrow in a dialogue with the CEDAW committee experts.
KH: Finally any thoughts as Tuvalu prepares to go into this meeting any preliminary projections or expectations of what's going to come out of the review?
SJ: Maybe just on the possible issues to be discussed those will focus likely on the provision of all forms of discrimination against women, womens access to justice, violence against women, an expanded definition of rape. Measures to tackle all the girls being kept at home and not attending school, measures to decriminalise abortion in cases of rape, incest, threat to life and health of mother. And access to affordable water and sanitation for all in particular for women living in poverty and on the outer islands. I think those are some of the issues which are likely to be raised by the UN Committee.
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