Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Justice for women: UN Women's first report

UN Women released its first report last week.
Entitled Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice, the report's available in English here and in Spanish here. It was issued by the new super agency -- full name United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women -- which, as described in prior IntLawGrrls posts, combines functions formerly held by UNIFEM and others.
The report does a good job of combining empirical data, and not oversimplifying complex issues.
To wit: the report first orients the reader around salient parts of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and then provides comments from different women around the world about what justice means to them, noting that no one solution will fit all
Importantly, it does not glorify international criminal tribunals or the rule of law, even while referring to important cases from around the world. For example, the report quotes a woman who survived the Rwanda genocide and testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as stating:

'When I returned, everyone knew I had testified. My fiancé refused to marry me once he knew I had been raped…Today I would not accept to testify, to be traumatized for a second time. No one apologized to me…'

But the report also makes reference to the importance of cases like Unity Dow, a decision from Botswana, in correcting gender discriminatory citizenship laws.
► The first part of the report is organized around case studies of countries, which are used to illustrate particular issues important to women’s equality: Ecuador illustrates legal pluralism; Liberia, justice for women during and after conflict, for example.
► The second is organized as a review of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, every subpart containing useful empirical data on points such as: the ratio of employed women to men, primary school attendance by gender and region, mortality rates, birth rates by gender, women’s access to health care, and so forth.
► The report concludes with “Ten proven approaches to make justice work for women,” which are unfortunately neither revolutionary nor backed with any particular enforcement requirements. The list includes such recommendations as: “implementing gender sensitive law reform,” and “use quotas to increase the number of women legislators,” -- recommendations that have been made for years and rarely well implemented. More novel are specific recommendations such as “put women on the front line of law enforcement.”
Overall, the report includes very useful data if few revolutionary recommendations for moving women’s equality forward. Nevertheless, starting off with a report on justice for women is a good choice for an agency which many look to with hopes for actual implementation of CEDAW and for improvements of women’s status in the world order.


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