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Commissioner calls on Government to remove Australia's reservation to CEDAW

Commission Commission – General

30 June 2004

calls on Government to remove Australia's reservation to CEDAW

Federal Sex Discrimination
Commissioner Pru Goward has called on the federal Government to remove
its reservation to a key part of an international convention on the rights
of women.

The Australian Government
ratified the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination Against Women
(CEDAW) in 1983, but included a reservation
to Article 11(2)(b) because it did not meet the requirement to introduce
paid maternity leave as a means of redressing discrimination against women,
ensuring their right to work and supporting them in their mothering role.

"From 1 July women
in Australia will receive the Maternity Payment at the birth of their
child," said Ms Goward. "This payment is a very good start on paid maternity
leave and I congratulate the Government on taking this step. It will be
a valuable contribution to household income when a child is born and responds
to the need expressed by many families and mothers for support at this
time. I congratulate the Government on taking this step."

"The Government should
take the next step and remove Australia's reservation to CEDAW".

Ms Goward suggested
the Government seek legal advice to determine whether or not the introduction
of the Maternity Payment in combination with workplace rights meets the
standard in CEDAW.

"Either we do have
paid maternity leave, and we remove the reservation to CEDAW; or we don't
and the Government should implement further reforms so that we do," she
said. "Either way, we should comply with the international standard and
join the rest of the developed world in providing women with paid maternity

"Australia and the
United States are the only two OECD nations not to provide a national
scheme of paid maternity leave."

"2004 marks the
20th anniversary of the Sex Discrimination Act. Removing Australia's
reservation to CEDAW would be a strong message to Australian women that
the Government is committed to eliminating discrimination against women
and a fitting way to celebrate 20 years of federal sex discrimination

Media contact:
Janine MacDonald (02) 9284 9880 or 0407 660 235

updated 13 July 2004.