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Demanding to be human : the moral authority of human rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Zirngast, Natalie (2013) Demanding to be human : the moral authority of human rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.

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Abstract

Women’s rights occupy a contested moral and political position internationally. They are neither accepted as core values everywhere, nor always struggling for acceptance. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, was designed to be an ‘international bill of rights for women’ (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 2009). It codified non-discrimination within an international treaty to add legitimacy and strength to the implementation of women’s rights. The treaty’s reception reflects the contested nature of women’s rights. While the vast majority of UN member states are signatories, of all comparable treaties CEDAW has the largest number of reservations, many counter to fundamental provisions. CEDAW has supported women’s rights for more than three decades. Several barriers to implementation have been highlighted; a lack of resources for the CEDAW Committee and associated bodies and the quarantine of women’s rights from the human rights work of the UN (Chinkin 2010, p. 5; Lawson 1996, p. xxix). Delegates at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights raised the slogan ‘women’s rights are human rights’ to force acknowledgement that human rights were not equally applied to women. While these difficulties have begun to be addressed within UN processes, CEDAW’s efficacy has not been explored. The treaty’s content has received little critical attention, and my research helps fill this gap. Using philosophical inquiry, I have compared CEDAW to the International Bill of Human Rights (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and associated Covenants). Also I have assessed CEDAW against criteria drawn from Amartya Sen’s perspective on human rights as an ethical system and considered a range of feminist viewpoints critical of international law. I have found that, as well as strengths, CEDAW has limitations, omissions and flaws. Importantly, CEDAW does not provide a list of women’s rights (Burrows 1986, p. 80). Its focus on ending discrimination means that women’s relation to rights is mediated through actions by the state. This failure to recast the claimant of human rights as female undermines CEDAW’s legitimacy.

Item Type: Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Additional Information:

Master of Business (Research)

Uncontrolled Keywords: civil rights, feminism, UN, United Nations, treaties, universal women's rights, International Bill of Human Rights, UDHR
Subjects: FOR Classification > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society
FOR Classification > 1801 Law
Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES)
Depositing User: VU Library
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2013 07:03
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2013 07:03
URI: http://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/22017
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