Subject: [fem-women2000 93] APWLD Paper on CEDAW and BPFA
From: apwld <>
Date: Wed, 05 Nov 1999 10:40:18 +0700
Seq: 93

Paper Circulated at Lobbying Workshop on Monday, October 25
Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD)




The General Assembly, in Resolution 52/231, decided to convene a special
session to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action
(BPFA) five years after its adoption.  The special session,  which will
take place on  5 - 9 June 2000 in New York, USA, will look into actions
taken, lessons learned, obstacles encountered, best practices adopted,
persistent and emerging challenges faced by governments and other actors
in carrying out the strategic objectives enumerated under the 12 areas
of concern of the BPFA.

In preparation for this special session, women's NGOs in Asia-Pacific
held a Regional NGO Symposium for the BPFA Review on 31 August - 3
September 1999 in Bangkok, Thailand.  The symposium was a culmination of
national and sub-regional BPFA review activities currently undertaken by
women's NGOs in the region.  It was also the opportunity for
Asia-Pacific women to come together and collectively produce a regional
NGO report on the progress made in realising the commitments made in
Beijing.  The report will be eventually consolidated in a Global
Alternative Report on the BPFA to be presented at the special session of
the UN General Assembly in 2000.

The BPFA review process will centre on the theme "Women 2000:  Gender
Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century".  The focus on
gender equality, development and peace brings to fore the continuing
urgency to address these interrelated issues in the struggle to advance
women's rights in the coming millennium.  In highlighting gender
equality, the theme brings attention to the persistent gap between
equality of men and women in law and in fact. It directs the review
process towards the commitments made in Beijing to bridge this gap, go
beyond granting women mere formal rights and ultimately eliminate all
forms of discrimination against women.

As the review stresses equality between the sexes, it will be most
relevant to consider the framework of gender equality laid out in the
Convention of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Women's
Convention).  The Women's Convention framework of equality, which will
be discussed in more detail later, clearly asserts the attainment not
only of de jure, but more significantly, of de facto equality for women.
As such, it can be utilised as a tactical opening in the upcoming review
to push governments to institute not only policy or legislative  reforms
but also appropriate actions to ensure that such changes in policies and
laws translate into actual improvement in the lives of women.

In the light of the upcoming Economic and Social Commission for Asia and
the Pacific (ESCAP) High-level Intergovernmental meeting to review the
regional implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the BPFA,
conceptually integrating the Women's Convention and BPFA can further
provide a framework for a "rights-based approach to empowerment of women"
as tabled in the meeting's agenda.  The declaration of the Women's
Convention that all forms of discrimination against women, as sought to
be addressed in the BPFA, are violations of women's human rights
transforms the governments' commitments under the BPFA from mere moral
imperatives to assertions of claims for women's fundamental rights.

Adopting the Women's Convention in the BPFA review will also consolidate
the various recommendations on gender equality made under these two
international instruments.  It will combine the resources and mechanisms
employed to monitor the accountability of governments to carry out these
recommendations. And as most Asian and some Pacific governments have
signed the Women's Convention, linking these two fundamental instruments
on women's rights will also significantly reinforce the demands made on
governments to undertake all measures to eliminate all forms of
discrimination against women.

I.  The Women's Convention Framework of De facto Equality

The Women's Convention  takes off from the concept of non-discrimination
based on sex developed in international instruments such as the Charter
of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International
Covenants on Human Rights and other UN resolutions. But compared to
these instruments, the Convention acknowledges that women, more than men,
continues to be discriminated upon in society.  Hence, it takes the
categorical position of advocating for the elimination of discrimination
against women specifically.

Article 1 of the Convention defines discrimination against women as "the
distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has
the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition,
enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on
a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental
freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any
other field".  This article ensures women's protection against
discrimination of all forms, intentional or unintentional, and under
Article 2, whether committed by public or private actors.

In subsequent related documents[1], the Women's Convention clarifies
that women's "human rights and fundamental freedoms" in this context
include the following:  "right to life;  right not to be subject to
torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
right to equal protection according to humanitarian norms in time of
international or internal armed conflict; right to liberty and security
of person;  right to equal protection under the law; right to equality
in the family;  right to the highest standard attainable of physical and
mental health;  and right to just and favourable conditions of work".
By implication, then, any form of discrimination or impairment of any of
these rights is a human rights violation for which the State may be held
accountable.  Even in cases where the violation is committed not by
State actors but by private persons or entities, the Women's Convention
still holds the State responsible if it fails to act with due diligence
to prevent the violation.

Article 2 further directs that women and men must be treated equally
before the law by incorporating the principle of equality between the
sexes in national constitutions, policies and legislation (de jure
equality). But in addition to advocating for de jure equality,  Article
2 (a) further obliges States Parties "to ensure, through law and other
appropriate means, the practical realisation of this principle" (de
facto equality).  In relation to Article 4 (1), the Convention therefore
mandates that gender equality must be manifested in all aspects - in the
treatment, access, opportunity and actual enjoyment of rights granted to
women on equal basis with men.

The Women's Convention thus emphasises the importance of enabling
conditions which impact on women's full enjoyment of their rights.
Article 3  specifies that State Parties shall "take in all fields, in
particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all
appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full
development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing
them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
on a basis of equality with men".  In this regard, mere codification of
rights is not sufficient to ensure equality for women if positive
measures are not taken to create political, social, cultural and
economic conditions which will allow women to exercise such rights fully
and in actuality.

In ensuring equality for women in all aspects, the Convention
implicitly rejects the common approach to equality that assumes that
women and men are the same and, therefore, they should be treated in the
same manner.  This  simplistic approach ignores the biological
differences between men and women, the gender-based differences between
them and those socially-shaped roles and identities as well as norms and
values attached or related to women and men in various spheres of life.
The blinders that this approach have results in further discriminating
women.  For example, they have to meet male norms, at the same time they
have to cope with the burdens of their gendered roles; also, women's
vulnerability to violence will not be recognised and their reproductive
and sexuality rights ignored or marginalised.

The Women's Convention does not also subscribe to the  approach that
emphasises the differences between women and men without questioning
those gender-based  differences and seeking to correct them.  Common
examples of such approach are laws that provide for special protection
for women by virtue of their reproductive function but which do not
provide at the same time for measures to promote shared responsibilities
in child-rearing or to prohibit discrimination against women because of
pregnancy or marriage, or which curtails the exercise of their other
rights.  It recognises biological differences but ensures that any form
of special protection for women resulting from such differences will not
lead to a denial of their other rights or reinforcement of their state
of inferiority.  So in various articles[2], the Women's Convention
recognises the  reproductive role of women as child bearers but at the
same time points out that socially constructed differences should not be
built into such difference to justify women's subordination.  In essence,
the Convention advocates a framework for addressing discrimination
against women and promoting the full enjoyment or realisation of their
human rights.

Inspite of institutionalising special measures for women, the Convention
in no way advances discrimination against men. In fact, Article 11 (3)
specifies with caution that such special measures should "be reviewed
periodically in the light of scientific and technological knowledge and
shall be revised, repealed or extended as necessary".  Article 4(1)
similarly qualifies that affirmative action schemes which favour women
"in no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or
separate standards".  These special protective measures are only
temporary measures, intended to accelerate de facto equality between men
and women.  They are provided for in the Convention specifically to
progressively address the systemic causes of gender inequality.

II. Adopting a De facto Equality Approach in the BPFA + 5 Review

The adoption of the Women's Convention framework on de facto  equality
will be explored here in three of the twelve critical areas of concern
of the BPFA, namely:  violence against women, women and the economy,
women in power and decision-making.   These three areas were chosen
purposely since they have been repeatedly selected as priority areas in
the consultations of APWLD with its network of women's NGOs.  These
three areas of the BPFA will be examined in the light of the general
approach of the Women's Convention to address the elimination of
discrimination against women and integrating these areas of concern into
its framework of upholding women's fundamental human rights.

Despite this specific focus of the paper, special care is taken not to
lose the deliberate attention which BPFA accords to special groups of
women, e.g., rural women, young women, elderly and others.  Nor does
this paper preclude the applicability of the approach proposed here to
the other areas of concern of the BPFA which are not discussed in this

     A.  Violence against  Women

The BPFA, in Paragraph 113,  defines violence against women as "any act
of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in,
physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including
threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty,
whether occurring in public or private life". It covers both intended
and unintended acts, whether committed by the State or private actors.
This extensive definition is copied verbatim  from the Declaration on
the Elimination of Violence against Women which, as stated in its
preamble, was passed to strengthen and complement the implementation of
the Women's Convention.

Based on this common definition, both the Women's Convention and BPFA
therefore adopt the same perspective on violence against women.  Both
documents assert that it nullifies or impairs the enjoyment by women of
their human rights and thus, it is a major obstacle to achieving gender
equality. In General Recommendation 19, the Women's Convention goes
further to qualify violence against women as an act of discrimination
against women per se. Therefore, the Convention implores in the same
General Recommendation that  governments must undertake all other
actions necessary to eliminate de facto discrimination against women in
order to fully eradicate violence against women. Conversely, the full
implementation of the overall objective of the Women's Convention to
eliminate discrimination against women requires governments to take
positive measures to address all forms of gender-based violence, whether
committed by public or private actors.

General Recommendation 19, the Declaration on the Elimination of
Violence against Women and the BPFA suggest similar strategic actions
for governments to undertake in order to specifically address violence
against women:  the enactment/implementation/periodic review of domestic
legislation on violence against women[3]; gender sensitisation among
staff of enforcement bodies and other government agencies and legal,
medical and educational personnel[4]; assurance of access to legal and
other remedies in cases of domestic and other forms of violence[5];
conduct of awareness-raising campaigns and education programs for the
public[6]; provision of shelters, medical and other related services for
battered women[7]; data collection and research on violence against

However, following the perspective that violence against women is a form
of gender discrimination and human rights violation as categorically
declared in General Recommendation 19 by the Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women[9], the scope for
governmental actions in the BPFA becomes broader than enumerated above.
It now includes all measures enumerated under Strategic Objectives I.1-3
of the BPFA on human rights of women as well as all other measures
proposed to be undertaken under other critical areas of concern of the
Platform aimed at achieving gender equality.  Particularly, the mandated
area for governmental actions is now extended to cover gaps in the
Platform identified during the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on
BPFA + 5.  One of the gaps pertain to newer forms of violence
experienced by women (e.g., trafficking and working in slavery-like
conditions) and girl-children (e.g., child labour) resulting from
globalisation and related economic policies of casualisation and
exploitation of labour force, privatisation of basic services, etc.
Another gap concerns the discrimination against women on the basis of
sexual orientation, i.e., lesbian and bi-sexual women and the violence
committed against rural, indigenous and Dalit women.[10]

Paragraph 118  of the BPFA specifically states that violence against
women is essentially derived from cultural patterns, traditional and
customary practices that perpetuate the lower status accorded to women.
Paragraph 124 (a)of the BPFA, therefore,  specifically alerts
governments against any attempt to use gender stereotypes, customary
practices or religious traditions to legitimise discrimination against
women. In particular, Paragraph 124 (i) stresses the eradication of
customary practices which are harmful to women such as female genital
mutilation, female infanticide, pre-natal sex selection and
dowry-related violence[11].  Despite these provisions, participants at
the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5 observed the
alarming resurgence of right wing political movements, religious
fundamentalist groups and State-sanctioned armed groups which violate
women's rights in the name of culture, religion and other identity-based
constructs, e.g., honour killings in Pakistan and other Muslim countries,
mass rape of Chinese women in Indonesia, among others[12].

So as governments remain fully unresponsive to the call to eradicate
customary practices which are harmful to women, article 5(a) of the
Women's Convention can be invoked to support this urgent call to action.
This article mandates governments to modify customary and all other
practices which are prejudicial to women. Like the BPFA, it underscores
the need for governments to critically examine cultural patterns which
discriminate against women and perpetuate the violence committed against
them. It suggests that the attainment of de facto equality between men
and women necessitates that cultural practices must be put into question
and not used to cover up discriminatory practices which disadvantage
women. It asserts that governments must fully guarantee women's right to
life by ensuring that they are free from cultural, political or
religious based persecutions.

Enhancing the framework of the Women's Convention, the BPFA is
especially mindful of the greater degree of vulnerability of special
groups of women.  So to ensure that certain categories of women are
equally protected against domestic and other forms of violence, the BPFA
review process must not also fail to overlook the forms of violence
committed against women with disabilities[13], migrant women and
girls[14], young women, refugee women, displaced and internally
displaced women[15].  In the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Regional
NGO Symposium on the BPFA + 5, these same concerns were raised as
persistent issues.  It was pointed out that "while the human rights
chapter of the BPFA addresses gender as the causal factor for women's
human rights violations, for some women, other circumstances are also
relevant to violation(s) of their human rights"[16].  Hence, it was
acknowledged that there is a need to expand the framework on violence
against women to encompass the broader concerns of human rights in order
to address the violence committed against women with disabilities (in
the context of their health needs), indigenous women, migrant women and
migrant women workers, lesbians and bi-sexual women, displaced women and
others[17].  In this regard, the Women's Convention framework on de
facto equality becomes critically relevant as it explicitly links
violence against women to gender discrimination and human rights

     B.  Employment and Economic Rights

The BPFA has a comprehensive list of actions to be taken to advance
women's economic rights.  It categorises the numerous actions according
to strategic objectives and the different actors oblige to undertake
such actions.  But for the purposes of the upcoming review, it may be
more systematic to re-categorise the actions according to the Women's
Convention's framework of gender equality.  In this manner, greater
emphasis can be made on the need to challenge the actors, especially
governments, to go beyond mere attainment of de jure equality and give
equal importance to achieving de facto equality and creating enabling
conditions critical to ensure the full realisation of women's economic

So based on the equality framework of the Women's Convention framework,
actions enumerated in the BPFA which pertain to women's equality in
treatment before the law or de jure equality are limited to policy and
legislative reforms to promote equal employment terms and conditions[18]
or other formal economic rights for both men and women.  De facto
equality, on the other hand, relates to actions which recognise and
address the gender-based barriers that stand in the way of women's
enjoying equal  access/opportunity to work or engage in other economic
activities.  Under the BPFA, these measures refer to the following:
equal access to credit and other resources[19]; equal access to
extension services and technical assistance[20]; equal opportunity to
job training, re-training and other skills development programmes[21]
and a general provision in Paragraph 165 (o) which calls for the
implementation of affirmative actions to level the field of economic
opportunities available to both men and women.  De facto equality also
entails the provision of measures which address discrimination against
women while already employed such as enactment of anti-sexual harassment
laws and actualisation of all those measures enumerated under Paragraph
178 of the BPFA.  Lastly, de facto equality  also stresses the
significance of instituting measures to ensure equality in results which
translates into measures to ensure women's control over the fruits of
their employment such as ensuring their property rights[22] or right to
career advancement[23].

The continuing importance of pushing for the attainment of de facto
equality as underscored in the Women's Convention becomes more evident
in the assessment of women's economic rights during the Asia-Pacific
Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5.  The participants noted that women's
inheritance and property rights remain marginalised compared to men.[24]
As a result, women's effective access and control over land remains
marginal too.  In instances where women were provided access to
micro-credit, they observed that the poorest of poor women are still
unable to obtain access to such capital.  Moreover, they stated that
"micro-credit programs have several constraints such as high cost of
loan disbursements, small loan size, labour-intensive production methods,
lack of marketing and managerial skills training".[25]  Thus, they
suggested that UN agencies, multilateral bodies and NGOs should
"re-examine the impact of micro-credit and income-generating programmes
in genuinely empowering women". By invoking the call for de facto
equality under the Women's Convention, these gaps can be addressed.
More importantly, more comprehensive measures can be adopted pertaining
to women's right to have full control over the fruits of their
employment or economic engagement such as money they earned, skills and
knowledge they acquired, the greater physical mobility and personal
freedom they obtained.  These measures may cover, in addition to
ensuring land and property rights and institutionalising career
opportunities,  citizenship and under Article 16 of the Women's
Convention, marital rights.

The Women's Convention approach to equality, as mentioned, also advances
that enabling policies and conditions must be in place to allow women to
exercise and enjoy their rights.  In this regard, the BPFA specifies
that governments must revise budgets, policies and programmes,
especially trade and economic policies and agreements, to reflect gender
balance[26]. The negative impact on women of globalisation, structural
adjustment programmes, feminisation of labour migration and other global
trends must be reviewed as they limit women's full enjoyment of their
economic rights.   Relatedly, women must be granted equal access to
policy formulation and decision-making especially in matters pertaining
to economy[27]. In the recently concluded NGO Symposium, however,
participants reiterated that globalisation and the Asian financial
crisis have led to casualisation/sub-contracting of labour, reduced
wages and employment benefits, exploitative work conditions and the
overall erosion of women's employment rights.  In this light, it becomes
imperative to assert the equality approach of the Women's Convention
which draws attention to the advancement of enabling conditions and the
categorisation of women's economic rights as fundamental human rights.

The equality framework of the Women's Convention also specifies that the
special concerns of women due to their  reproductive function must also
be accommodated to achieve substantial equality for women.  To this end,
the BPFA identifies the following actions to be taken to eliminate
discrimination against women by reason of their reproductive role and
responsibilities:  elimination of discriminatory practices such as the
denial of employment or dismissal due to pregnancy or marital
status[28];  reassessment of the valuation and extent of women's
work[29]; standardisation of equal pay for work of equal value[30];
provision of child care services in the workplace; and adjustment of
employment policies to restructure work patterns in order to promote
sharing of family responsibilities[31].  While gains have been made in
this area, participants at the NGO Symposium reported this as a
persistent issue[32].  In this context, commitments under the Women's
Convention regarding acknowledging women's reproductive function as well
as the expansive interpretation of 'equality in results' as integral to
the achievement of de facto equality for women is relevant for advocacy
on this matter.  Equality in  results in the case of employment is not
restricted to women actually getting employed and not being
discriminated against in the workplace.  Such 'results' can also be
extended to women enjoying equally with men the use of and control over
their earnings from work.  Thus, government programs that seek to
correct gender stereotypes and address the power relations especially
within the family will integrate raising awareness on women's right of
control over the fruits of their employment.

To complement the Women's Convention framework, the BPFA also advocates
for strategies to respond to the needs of special groups of women which
should not be neglected in the review process.  It ensures access to
credit, market, technology and other resources for small and medium
enterprises initiated by young women, low-income women, rural and
indigenous women, women with disabilities, elderly women[33]. It
provides that economic activities of indigenous women must be supported
and their traditional knowledge respected[34].  It maintains that older
women and women with disabilities must be granted equal employment
rights and benefits[35]. The BPFA also advances the full recognition of
the employment and economic rights of women in the informal sector[36].
It prohibits child labour[37] and initiates actions to protect migrant

     C.  Women's Political Participation

In the context of women's political participation, de facto equality
means, at one level, that they have equal access/opportunity to
participate in all levels of decision-making.  To achieve this, the BPFA
enumerates the need to increase the number and upgrade the positions of
women in government bodies[39]; government-funded institutions[40]; in
political parties[41]; in trade unions[42]; in UN bodies[43]; in
NGOs[44]; in corporations and all other strategic decision-making
positions[45].   In addition, the BPFA lobbies for the review and
revision of criteria for recruitment and appointment in decision-making
bodies[46].  The BPFA also encourages the adoption of affirmative action
measures to ensure the substantial representation of women in the
political sphere[47].

But aside from building a critical mass of women in the political
institutions mentioned above, de facto equality also entails that there
are capacity-building programmes available for women to develop their
full potential as political leaders and decision-makers as well as
measures to ensure that women can equally participate with men during
their term of office or while holding positions in various
decision-making bodies.  The following provisions of the BPFA ensures
that these measures are in place:  development of career advancement
and on-the-job training for women of all ages[48]; gender sensitivity
training for women and men[49]; leadership training, self-esteem
training and other programmes to enhance women's participation in
electoral processes and political activities[50].

Both the Women's Convention and the BPFA also recognises that de facto
or real equality for women requires the liberation of women from the
unequal division of labour and responsibilities within households based
on unequal power relations as a precondition to the full realisation of
women's right to political participation.  Hence, Paragraph 192 (e)
encourages the promotion of public debate on the new roles of men and
women in the family and society.  Under Paragraph 190 (i), the BPFA
urges governments to adopt measures to help women reconcile family and
professional life.  Unless parental responsibilities are shared, women
will not have sufficient time and opportunity to develop their skills to
be involved in political processes. In the NGO Symposium, the
participants listed significant gains in the area of women in power and
decision-making such as the enactment of laws on women's political
participation and the growing public awareness of this issue; the
introduction of quota systems; the increased number of women in politics,
especially at the grassroots level; and lastly, the ratification of the
Women's Convention which provides for women's right to political
participation specifically under Article 7[51].

Despite these gains, the participants at the NGO Symposium still
identified several remaining issues, challenges and obstacles which
signify that de facto equality has not been fully achieved at the levels
of equality in access/opportunity, equality in actual participation and
equality in results.  Regarding equality in access/opportunity, the
participants observed that quota systems are rarely met;   the number of
women in senior positions remain small; power structures continue to be
dominated by men; and women's vote remain unconsolidated as a source of
political power.  They also pointed out that rising religious
fundamentalism and increasing threats of violence have intimidated or
prevented women from seeking office. At the level of equality in terms
of actual participation in politics, the participants noted that there
is still a dire need among women for education and training on political
participation, especially in the field of learning and harnessing new
technology.[52]  The participants emphasised that women are still
burdened with traditional duties in the family which hamper their right
to participate and enjoy the fruits of their participation in public
decision-making processes.

More significantly, the existing curtailment of women's right to
equality in results means current measures to achieve gender equality
have been limited to making sure that a substantial number of women are
found in all levels and fora of decision-making and that measures have
been in place to promote their capacity to participate on equal terms
with men in the actual exercise of political power. However, measures to
ensure that they can meaningfully or effective contribute in shaping the
political life of society have not been given much attention. Women's
potential contribution in redefining the actual exercise and ethics of
power and the structures of numerous power sites in society  have not
been seriously considered to initiate this process for women to
significantly shape politics.  Programmes have not been identified to
respond to the recurring complaint that politics, or the current
practice of it is "dirty";  that it pertains too much on "getting and
maintaining control".  Programmes have not been designed to allow women,
and men, to propose alternative structures, practices, ethics of power.

Consistent with the previous sections, the BPFA in this area of concern
also draws special attention to the needed of specific groups of women
in the context of participation in politics and decision-making
processes. It states in Paragraph 190 (g) that indigenous women, in
particular, must be encouraged to participate in decision-making at all
levels.  In Paragraph 192 (f), it focuses on the needs of young women in
terms of career advancement.  As alternative power sites and practices
are being located or identified, the actual and active participation of
these women in politics is valuable.


Based on this preliminary application of the framework of the Women's
Convention on de facto equality,  it appears that the framework will be
relevant to use in the review process as benchmarks for identifying
further areas for action in the review of the BPFA.  It suggests that
governments cannot simply stop at implementing de jure measures to
obtain gender equality.  Rather, they are still accountable to promote
gender equality in all aspects - in treatment, access to resources and
opportunities, in the results or enjoyment of the rights.  In this
regard, barriers or obstacles and suggested solutions towards the
achievement of de facto equality must be emphasised in the review

The emphasis on the adoption of special temporary measures in the de
facto framework of equality can also be used as a springboard to press
for the development of monitoring indicators and mechanisms to assess
the implementation of the commitments under Beijing.  As stated above,
the Women's Convention specifies that such special temporary measures
"must be reviewed periodically and shall be revised, repealed or
extended as necessary".  Hence, it is implied that governments and civil
society are encouraged to develop intervening targets and progressive
indicators against which to assess the progress of governments in
achieving not only de jure  but also de facto equality for women.

Finally, the integration of the framework of the Women's Convention into
the discussions during the BPFA + 5 review process can address a
weakness in the structural categorisation of the women's issues in the
BPFA that might have eroded the document's substantive merits, both for
the purposes of  its implementation and the present review process.  As
structured, the BPFA presents human rights of women only as one area of
concern, which gives the erroneous impression that other areas of
concern under the BPFA are not human rights issues.  The present BPFA
format downplays or lacks the exposition of a comprehensive and holistic
framework that a rights-based approach can bring to the different areas
of concern, considered individually and together.  A rights-based
framework can emphasise the interconnected nature of the concerns
addressed by the BPFA, surface the common systemic causes underlying
them, determine the integrated and systematic responses required and
promote and foster a deeper understanding of a rights perspective
through which those priority concerns can be viewed and assessed.

The framework of the Women's Convention for de facto equality for women
can provide the basis or foundation of the "rights-based approach to
women's empowerment" as tabled in the agenda of the ESCAP High Level
Intergovernmental meeting to review the BPFA implementation and in the
general agenda of the BPFA + 5 review process.   As this paper suggests,
the equality framework of the Women's Convention can be useful in
assessing whether or not five years of the BPFA indeed has spelled
strides in women's empowerment and created positive changes in their
lives. /ends


[*] Preliminary Paper prepared by Attys. Eleanor C.  Conda and Mary Jane
N.  Real for Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).
APWLD is a regional NGO committed to enabling women to use law as an
instrument of social change for equality, justice and development.

This paper is a draft so we welcome your comments.  Please send your
comments to:  APWLD, Santitham YMCA Building, 3rd Floor, Room 305-308,
11 Sermsuk Road, Mengrairasmi, Chaing Mai, 50300 ,Thailand.  Tel.  Nos.:
66 53 404613-14;  Fax No.:  66 53 404615; E-mail address:

Eleanor C.  Conda is an independent consultant on women's human rights.
She has worked on the Women's Convention, in the region and outside, for
several years now. In particular, she developed with IWRAW-Asia Pacific
a Women's Convention-based Monitoring Framework which can be used to
enhance fulfilment of State obligations to promote equality for women.

Mary Jane N.  Real previously worked as a programme officer of Southeast
Asia Watch (SEAWatch) where she helped set up the secretariat of the
organisation and organised its first "Regional Technical Workshop on
Monitoring Indicators for the BPFA".  She is currently the programme
officer of APWLD and takes charge of co-ordinating its BPFA projects and

 [1] General Recommendation 19 of CEDAW on Violence Against Women;
     Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women;
 [2] See third to last paragraph of the Preamble; Articles 4(2); 5(b);
     10(c); 11; 12  CEDAW;
 [3] Paragraph 124 (c), (d), (i), (o) BPFA; Paragraph 24 (b), General
     Recommendation 19; Article 4 (d), Declaration on the Elimination of
     Violence Against Women;
 [4] Paragraph 124 (g), (n) BPFA; Paragraph 24 (b), General
     Recommendation 19; Article 4 (i), Declaration on the Elimination of
     Violence Against Women;
 [5] Paragraph 124 (h), (d) BPFA; Paragraph 24 (b), (i), (r), (t)
     General Recommendation 19; Article 4 (d), (g), Declaration on the
     Elimination of Violence Against Women;
 [6] Paragraph 125 (d), (e), (g), (h) BPFA; Paragraph 24 (f), (t)
     General Recommendation 19; Article 4 (j), Declaration on the
     Elimination of Violence Against Women;
 [7] Paragraph 125 (a), (i) BPFA; Paragraph 24 (r), (t) General
     Recommendation 19; Article 4 (g), Declaration on the Elimination of
     Violence Against Women;
 [8] Paragraph 129 BPFA; Paragraph 24 (c), General Recommendation 19;
     Article 4 (k), Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against
 [9] The body that monitors implementation by State-Parties to the
     Women's Convention of their obligations under it.
[10] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, p. 26;
[11] Paragraph 124(i) BPFA;
[12] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, p. 16;
[13] Paragraph 124 (m), 126 (d) BPFA;
[14] Paragraph 125 (b), (c), 126 (d) BPFA;
[15] Paragraph 126 (d)BPFA;
[16] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, p. 36;
[17] Ibid;
[18] Paragraph 165 (b), (r), Paragraph 175 (g), Paragraph 177 (a), (c),
     Paragraph 178 (a), (b), (c), (h), (l);
[19] Paragraph 165(e), Paragraph 166 (a), (e), (l), Paragraph 167 (b),
     Paragraphs 169, 170, 171, Paragraph 173 (a), Paragraph 176(h), (j);
[20] Paragraph 166 (e), (f), (g); Paragraph 173 (c);  Paragraph 176 (b),
     (c), (g);
[21] Paragraph 166 (e), (j);  Paragraph 173 (f);  Paragraph 176(i);
     Paragraph 177 (b);
[22] Paragraph 165 (e) BPFA;
[23] Paragraph 178(g) BPFA;
[24] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, pp.  30-33;
[25] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, pp. 31-32;
[26] Paragraph 165 (i), (k), (p); Paragraph 167 (d);  Paragraph 175
     (b) BPFA;
[27] Paragraph 165 (d), (i), (n), Paragraph 167 (a), Paragraph 176 (d),
     Paragraph 177 (b), Paragraph 178 (i) BPFA;
[28] Paragraph 165 (c), Paragraph 178 (b), (d) BPFA;
[29] Paragraph 165 (g) BPFA;
[30] Paragraph 165 (a);  Paragraph 166 (l), Paragraph 178 (k) BPFA;
[31] Paragraph 165 (m), Paragraph 178 (g), Paragraph 179 (a), (b), (c),
     (e), (f), Paragraph 180 (a) BPFA;
[32] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, pp. 31-32;
[33] Paragraph 167 (c), Paragraph 169 (a), Paragraph 173 (c), (d),
     Paragraph 175 (d)BPFA;
[34] Paragraph 175 (f) BPFA;
[35] Paragraph 178 ( f), (j) BPFA;
[36] Paragraph 166 (d), Paragraph 174), Paragraph 179 (a) BPFA;
[37] Paragraph 166 (l), Paragraph 178 (m),(n) BPFA;
[38] Paragraph 178 (p) BPFA;
[39] Paragraph 190 (a) BPFA;
[40] Paragraph 190 (h) BPFA;
[41] Paragraph 190 (b), Paragraph 191 BPFA;
[42] Paragraph 190 (c), Paragraph 192 (d) BPFA;
[43] Paragraph 190 (j), Paragraph 192 (h), (i ), Paragraph 193 BPFA;
[44] Paragraph 192 (d) BPFA;
[45] Paragraph 192 (a), (d) BPFA;
[46] Paragraph 192 (c), (f), Paragraph 195 (b) BPFA;
[47] Paragraph 190 (a) BPFA;
[48] Paragraph 192 (f), (g), Paragraph 195 (c) BPFA;
[49] Paragraph 195 (d) BPFA;
[50] Paragraph 195 (a), (e), BPFA;
[51] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, p.  32;
[52] Report of the Asia Pacific Regional NGO Symposium on BPFA + 5, 31
     August - 4 September 1999, Thailand, pp. 32-33;

Return to Index
Return to fem-women2000 HOME