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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 671 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Watering down the motion in the way the amendment proposes is not necessary at this time. It is just a delaying procedure. It is appropriate for this Assembly to send a clear signal that it believes the optional protocol should be ratified and does not accept that there are any cogent reasons for delaying that process. To write to the Commonwealth as the amendment proposes would be to diminish the thrust and the force of the motion in a way that we should not support. It would send a message that we are equivocal about our support for this fundamental principle.

The government supports Mrs Dundas' motion. It does not support the amendment.

MRS CROSS (4.55): The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, otherwise known as CEDAW, adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women.

Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. By accepting the convention, states commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including measures to incorporate the principle of equality of women and men into their legal system, to abolish all discriminatory laws and to adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women; to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and to ensure the elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organisations or enterprises.

The convention provides the basis for realising equality between women and men through ensuring equal access and opportunities in areas such as political and public life, education, health and employment. The convention is the only human rights treaty that affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It also affirms women's rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children.

Nations that have either ratified or acceded to the convention are also bound to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in, and exploitation of, women. They are further required to submit national reports to an oversight committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, at least every four years on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.

The convention came into force in September 1981, and 168 nations are currently party to the convention. Australia became a signatory on 17 July 1980.

Very often human rights treaties are followed by optional protocols which either provide for procedures to implement the treaty itself or address a substantive area related to the treaty. The optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women includes two implementation procedures.

These provide, firstly, for women to make a complaint to the oversight committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, about violations of the convention once local remedies have been exhausted. Secondly, they enable the committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic abuse of women's rights in

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