UN CEDAW Committee and HRC Consider Rights of Older Women
Friday, April 3, 2009 2:38 PM

In July 2008, Ms. Ferdous Ara Begum, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), submitted a background paper to the CEDAW Committee. The paper is titled Proposal for a UN CEDAW Committee General Recommendation on Older Women: Strengthening the Protection of the Rights of Older Women (PDF, 7 pages; scroll down to “Annex 1”).

The paper noted that the global population and proportion of older women has continued to grow in both developed and developing countries, yet very little has been done to understand and address the unique situation older women face. For example, they may experience heightened discrimination because their age compounds discrimination based on other personal characteristics, such as gender and socioeconomic status. Their families and communities may consider them worthless once they no longer earn income or bear children.

The paper went on to commend the CEDAW Committee for its past attention to this issue, but said more must be done, because state and nongovernmental organization reports continue to ignore older women. The paper proposed that a general recommendation on older women be drafted to explain signatory states’ obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW; also see its Optional Protocol).

In early 2009, advocates concerned for older women switched their focus to an additional UN body, the Human Rights Council (HRC). In a 27 February 2009 joint written statement with several other NGOs (PDF, 4 pages), HelpAge International called upon HRC to support the CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation on Older Women efforts. Among other items, they also called on HRC to disaggregate existing UN data by gender and age, and to both draft a convention and designate a Special Rapporteur to cover the human rights of older persons in general, and of older women in particular.

For the full text of the background paper to the CEDAW Committee, please click here (PDF, 7 pages; scroll down to “Annex 1”).

For the full text of the joint statement to the HRC, please click here (PDF, 4 pages).

Compiled from:

CEDAW Committee, 42nd Session, Lunchtime Event Report (6 November 2008) (PDF, 7 pages; scroll down to “Annex 1”).

HelpAge International et al., Joint Written Statement to UN Human Rights Council, 10th Session, Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development, A/HRC/10/NGO/95 (27 February 2009) (PDF, 4 pages).