New Zealand is party to a number of international agreements that protect and promote the rights of women in New Zealand and around the world. These include the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which sets goals for the global advancement of women.
New Zealand speaks strongly for women in international forums and works hard to meet its obligations in relation to the status of women.
The Ministry is the lead agency for the work to manage the government’s international reporting obligations in relation to the status of women. In this role it promotes and protects the interests and well-being of women in international forums, and promotes the development of domestic policy that is consistent with international responsibilities of New Zealand in relation to the status of women. The Ministry works with other agencies, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on international issues that are relevant to the well-being and interests of women.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN 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
The Convention defines discrimination against women as "...any 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."
By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including to:
- incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
- establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
- ensure 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 women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life -- including the right to vote and to stand for election -- as well as education, health and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women's rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.
Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.
Optional Protocol to the CEDAW
Human rights treaties are followed by ‘Optional Protocols’ which may either provide for procedures with regard to the treaty or address a substantive area related to the treaty. Optional Protocols to human rights treaties are treaties in their own right, and are open to signature, accession or ratification by countries who are party to the main treaty.
The optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women includes:
- the right of individuals and groups of women the right to complain to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women about violations of the Convention.
- enables the committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic abuse of women's human rights in countries that become States parties to the Optional Protocol.
New Zealand signed and ratified the Optional Protocol in September 2000.
Read the Status of New Zealand CEDAW report 2016. The eighth report on New Zealand's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The concluding observations resulting from New Zealand’s examination on CEDAW were released on on 12 July 2018. The Concluding Observations commend the measures taken to ensure the protection of women’s rights in New Zealand, and make recommendations covering a wide range of issues including the visibility of CEDAW; access to justice; eliminating gender-based violence against women; accelerating women’s equal representation in decision-making positions; eliminating occupational segregation; and realising substantive equality in the labour market.
Read the CEDAW Report 2010: The Status of Women in New Zealand: The seventh report on New Zealand's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Read the Minister of Women's Affairs' Statement to UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, July 2012.
Read the concluding observations of the CEDAW Committee.
Read the CEDAW Report 2006: The Status of Women in New Zealand: The sixth report on New Zealand's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Questions & Answers sixth CEDAW Response. The government's response to questions from the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on New Zealand's Sixth CEDAW report (April 2007).
Read the Opening Statement: New Zealand Mission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women - Hon Lianne Dalziel Minister of Women's Affairs, Friday 3 August 2007 and the 2007 Concluding comments.
Read the CEDAW Report 2002. The Status of Women in New Zealand: The fifth report on New Zealand's Progress on Implementing the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Read the CEDAW Committee's concluding observations on New Zealand's fifth CEDAW Report (advance and unedited version), July 2003.
Commission on the Status of Women
New Zealand is a member of the Commission on the Status of Women. (CSW). CSW is a global policy-making body within the United Nations Economic and Social Council, dedicated to gender equality and advancement of women.
The member states of CSW meet in March each year and the principal output is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year.
The Ministry for Women convenes the International Caucus – a forum for government agencies and non-government organisations to work collaboratively on international issues relevant to the interests and well-being of women.
The purpose of the Caucus is to provide a forum for government agencies, NGOs and relevant individuals to collaborate to enhance New Zealand’s capacity to participate in and contribute to international fora arising from the institutions and instruments of the United Nations relevant to the interests of women by: sharing information on issues and institutions, co-ordinating participation in international fora and co-ordinating dissemination of relevant information domestically.
The Caucus consists of those government agencies, individuals and NGOs with an interest and involvement in issues relevant to the interests and well-being of women that arise in international fora. Involvement in the Caucus is voluntary.