Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives

By Rebecca J. Cook | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
State Accountability Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Rebecca J. Cook


Introduction

The time has come to recognize that denials of individuals' rights on the ground only that they are women are human rights violations, and to require state practices that expose women to degradation, indignity, and oppression on account of their sex to be independently identified, condemned, compensated, and, preferably, prevented. The purpose of changing ubiquitous state practice may appear ambitious, but it is not too ambitious for the needs of our times. Egregious and pervasive viola- tions of women's rights often go unrecognized. Moreover, when they are recognized, they go unpunished and unremedied, and are all too often defended as a necessary part of a culture or religion or as a quality of human nature. While violations of women's rights vary in different cultures, victims all share a common risk factor: that of being female.1

States are likely to contest not only their legal responsibility for such wrongs but also their accountability. Legal responsibility denotes lia- bility for breach of the law, but accountability is a wider concept that requires a state to explain an apparent violation and to offer an ex- culpatory explanation if it can.2 States may deny that there are bind- ing international obligations, that they have violated binding duties, that particular tribunals have jurisdiction over them, or that particu- lar claimants have standing to launch legal claims. States are seldom held responsible for ignoring their international obligations to respect women's human rights, but may more often be called to account for the status of women in their territory. A survey of international human

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