Women’s Rights are Human Rights
AWARE contributes to human rights submission to UN by local NGOs
A loose and informal grouping of local civil society organisation, including AWARE, has made a 10-page submission to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
This process, launched by the UN in 2006, involves a review of the human rights record of all UN member states once every four years. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The review covers the five categories of human rights – civil, political, social, cultural and economic.
Singapore will be up for review in May 2011. After the civil society stakeholders submit their reports, the Government will subsequently issue its report. The materials are then considered by a working group of the Council and points are discussed with the state and other parties, after which a report and recommendations will be made.
The UPR is similar to the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) process, except that the UPR deals with all aspects of human rights . AWARE has been involved in the CEDAW process since 2004.
CEDAW is one of several human rights review processes initiated by the UN, with the UPR serving as an over-arching mechanism. The aim of the UPR, says the UN, is to remind states “of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Women’s rights are, of course, an important part of human rights. Since AWARE is already a participant in the UN human rights process through CEDAW, taking part in the coalition of Singapore NGOs for UPR was a logical next step.
On women’s rights, the UPR submission points out that while progress has been made there remain areas where women in Singapore face discrimination and other obstacles. It notes that Article 12 (2) of Singapore’s Constitution prohibits discrimination on certain grounds but excludes gender.
The recommendations made in the submission on women’s rights include:
- repeal the partial marital rape immunity that remains in force in the Penal Code
- amend Article 12(2) of the Constitution, to bar discrimination on the grounds of gender and sexuality
- implement stronger protections for pregnant women against discriminatory employment practices
- offer citizenship as of right to foreign women who are married to Singaporean men
- update Singapore’s definition of trafficking to conform to international norms
- review the application of inheritance laws to Muslim women.
The first four-year UPR cycle began in 2008. In the follow-up reviews during the second UPR cycle, from 2012 to 2015, the focus will be on the implementation of the recommendations made during the first cycle.
The civil society organisations that made the submission, apart from AWARE, are: Challenged People’s Alliance and Network (CAN!); Deaf and Hard of Hearing Federation; Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics; MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore); People Like Us; Singaporeans for Democracy; and Transient Workers Count Too. MARUAH coordinated the effort
The UPR Report submitted by the civil society organisations can be downloaded from MARUAH’s website at http://maruah.org/
For more information about the UPR: Basic Facts.
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- CNA: Singapore’s human rights under UN scrutiny
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