International Women’s Day (IWD) also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, is globally held on 8 March every year.
This year’s theme is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,” for United Nations, while International Women’s Day 2013 has declared the year’s theme as The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.
Speeches made to address the IWD commonly touched on the treaty of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) referring to it as a major move forward in the development made so far to upgrade women’s status in all societies.
The only two Pacific Islands that have not ratified CEDAW are the Republic of Palau and the Kingdom of Tonga along with USA, Iran, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
Matangitonga report quoted Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, Tonga’s Minister for Education and Women’s Affairs saying that Government of Tonga still doubtful about CEDAW and it, “ has very strong reservations on Article 2, which is according to the UN Committee on CEDAW, the heart of the convention and they are reluctant to accept reservations offered by member states on that Article.”
In October 18, 2009 Tongan Parliament made it clear that it would not ratify the United Nations’ CEDAWS as its provisions would not uphold Tonga’s cultural and social traditions.
CEDAW convention focuses on three key areas mainly the “women’s civil rights and legal status, their reproductive rights and cultural factors influencing gender relations”.
Tongan’s constitution and law do not allow women to own land and to give them inheritance right. Abortion is prohibited as well.
Development and reaction
In September 2012 the Republic of Palau signed CEDAW in UN General Assembly in New York but has yet to ratify it.
Women in Palau have equal legal right with men and “the inheritance of property and of traditional rank is matrilineal, with women occupying positions of importance within the traditional system”
After revelation in 2009 that Tonga Government would not ratify CEDAW a petition charged by a group of women’s rights activists stated that, “ratifying (or accepting) CEDAW is the first step in making legislation that accounts for women’s human rights”.
“It will make Tonga accountable on an international level, and show the world that we take women’s rights seriously”.
It also said that there, “are gravely concerned about our government’s lack of commitment to creating a legal system that supports women’s rights”.