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CEDAW Reservation: equality and non-discrimination

Published : Saturday, 1 December, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 760
Rashedul Islam

CEDAW Reservation: equality and non-discrimination

CEDAW Reservation: equality and non-discrimination

Bangladesh has ratified the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Convention in 1984 with initial reservations on four articles of which two were withdrawn in 1997. The Government of Bangladesh has still retained its reservations on article 2 and article 16(1c).

Although reservations are permitted in the international treaty regime, international law stipulates that certain derogations are impermissible in law and in certain other situations. The law on impermissible derogations has been discussed in case law, codified law and in the interpretations of treaty bodies. It was held in by the International Court of Justice that "reservations are impermissible if they are against the object and purpose of the treaty." The object and purpose test has also been codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the CEDAW Convention on article 19.

Ratification of the convention means that the state is bound to fulfill the objective of the convention. As we know that the main objective of the CEDAW is to ensure equality and non-discrimination, therefore, keeping any kind of reservation which goes against the purpose of the convention casts doubt whether the state wants to ensure quality and non-discrimination in a true sense.

CEDAW Reservation: equality and non-discrimination

CEDAW Reservation: equality and non-discrimination

The government of Bangladesh has adopted some women-friendly laws after the adoption of CEDAW which include, among others, the High Court's directives on sexual harassment and fatwa, Women and Child Repression Suppression Act 2000, Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010, Dowry Prohibition Act 1980. The Constitution of Bangladesh also guarantees equal rights for women and men. However, having a reservation on article 2 and 16 contradicts with articles 10, 19, 27, 28 and 29 of the Constitution of people republic of Bangladesh.

Human rights treaties have a special position in international law. Such treaties are unique as they promote state obligation towards the citizens of the state. These treaties are unlike other international treaties, including multilateral trade treaties, which prescribe state obligations vis--vis other contracting states.
The CEDAW Convention is one such international treaty that seeks to accomplish the high purpose of eliminating discrimination against women. The human rights tenor of this convention is apparent in every provision and through the interplay of these provisions.

It can be seen that reservations made to any one of its provisions may hamper the realization of the spirit of the entire convention. It is high time the government could consider withdrawing the reservation in order to give full effect to the CWDAW.

Rashedul Islam is an LLM student at the South Asian University, New Delhi.

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