General Approaches to the Domestic Application of Women's International Human Rights Law
Anne F. Bayefsky
International standards in the field of human rights are numerous and their quantity continues to grow rapidly. But the eagerness of the international community to set standards masks a deep-seated reluctance to design adequate corresponding implementation schemes.
The consequence of this hypocrisy has been the establishment of international supervisory bodies with different enforcement tools. The Human Rights Committee set up by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with additional powers granted by an Optional Protocol, considers individual communications concerning violations of the Covenant. The power of individual petition is not available, however, with respect to violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (the CEDAW Convention), signed some 15 years later. In general enforcement machinery for the human rights treaties has tended to weaken in the 25 years since the Optional Protocol was signed.
Perhaps nowhere is the gulf between standards and enforcement more evident than in the context of women's rights. There are over 20 treaties devoted specifically to women and issues related to sexual discrimination.1 All human rights treaties that contain provisions for equality or nondiscrimination and that list prohibited grounds of discrimination include "sex." The general derogation clause of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights disallows derogations from the requirement of nondiscrimination on the basis of sex.2 And in particular, women's rights are the subject of a comprehensive treaty, the CEDAW