Date: 
Wednesday 4 July 2018

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has appeared before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The CEDAW Committee, is meeting in Geneva to review Australia’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as part of its regular reporting cycle for all countries who are signatories to the Convention.

The report back was attended by the Commission and NGO’s. The Government delegation was led by the Head of the Office for Women.

Commissioner Jenkins told the Committee that more work is needed to address gender inequality in Australia.

“Violence against women in Australia, including family and domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment, remains endemic.

“Since the age of 15, three in ten women have experienced physical violence, one in five women have experienced sexual violence, and one in four women have experienced violence by an intimate partner.

“There have been some recent positive developments in Australia since the Commission’s previous appearance before the CEDAW Committee in 2010, including the release of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children and the establishment of Our Watch and Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, ANROWS. However there is still much to do.”

On women’s economic security and participation in the workforce, Commissioner Jenkins pointed to the national gender pay gap, which is currently at 15.3 percent and the under-representation of women in leadership and board positions – with women making up 27.7 percent of board directors in ASX 200 companies.

“The Australian Government has committed to reduce the gender participation gap by 25% by 2025 and has developed the Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation. However, there are still many barriers to women’s equal participation in the workforce.

The Australian Human Rights Commission submission to the CEDAW Committee made 19 recommendations, recognising the additional barriers facing women with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, younger women and older women.

Commissioner Jenkins identified three priority areas that the Committee may wish to consider seeking updates from the Australian Government within the next 12 months.

“Australia needs to accelerate action to provide targeted prevention and early intervention initiatives to reduce violence against Indigenous women and children, to address the high rates of incarceration of Indigenous women and the high rates of Indigenous children in out of home care.

As a second priority Commissioner Jenkins also updated the Committee about the recently announced National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, the first of its kind in the world.

The third priority for Government is to improve women’s economic security, noting the barriers to women’s equal participation in the workforce and gender gap in retirement savings.

“Australia has been a world leader on women’s rights, however recently progress has stalled. We cannot remain complacent in the hope that generational change will address the existing gender gaps,” Commissioner Jenkins said.