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2011 Media Release: A new guide for women: Taking action on human rights violations

Discrimination Sex Discrimination

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, launched a guide today that will assist women who have experienced human rights violations, and been failed by processes in Australia, to use international complaint mechanisms to seek redress.

“This guide, entitled, Mechanisms for advancing women’s human rights: A guide to using the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other international complaint mechanisms, aims to help and encourage advocates, lawyers and women to use international complaint mechanisms when they are left with no other option,” said Commissioner Broderick.

Where domestic remedies have been exhausted, the Optional Protocol enables women in Australia to make a complaint to the United Nations committee responsible for monitoring Australia's compliance with its obligations under CEDAW.

“Women around the world have used the communication and inquiry procedures under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW to obtain redress for violations of their human rights, but so far no-one in Australia has done so,” Commissioner Broderick said. “In a recent case, a Filipino woman succeeded in holding the Philippines accountable for the actions of a judge who relied on gender stereotypes in acquitting the defendant of raping her.”

Commissioner Broderick said that, following adverse decisions by the CEDAW Committee, several countries had introduced laws regulating gender-based violence against women or had committed to effectively enforcing existing laws.

“Effects can be very significant - one country responded to a negative decision of the CEDAW Committee by introducing a national strategy on violence against women, building domestic violence shelters and establishing a telephone counselling service,” Ms Broderick said.

However, she said, for such international complaints mechanisms to be effective tools, women and those advocating on their behalf need to know they exist and understand how to use them.

“It is important that women know how to seek redress for violations of their rights and can challenge gaps in our laws and policies,” said Commissioner Broderick.

The guide features a list of over 70 cases where other international mechanisms have been used by people in Australia to advance human rights. It also builds on the CEDAW Toolkit , published by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Government Office for Women. Both can be downloaded from the Commission website at www.humanrights.gov.au/sex_discrimination/publications.html. The Guide can also be ordered from the Commission at publications@humanrights.gov.au.

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529.