Australia has fulfilled just a quarter of its international obligations to advance women's progress, significantly less than its low- and middle-income, crisis-affected neighbours like the Philippines and Myanmar, a new report has revealed.
The research paper from the George Institute for Global Health and the Australian Human Rights Institute shows Asia-Pacific nations experiencing an ongoing humanitarian crisis had implemented 40% of the United Nations' gender equality recommendations.
Asia-Pacific countries not in crisis had implemented an average of 34%.
Cambodia has the highest implementation rate, at 71%, followed by Samoa and Afghanistan.
Singapore and India came in last and second last place, at 8% and 14%.
"We often assume that high-income countries and well-resourced countries are just better and more diligent in implementing UN recommendations and that we take the process more seriously," lead author Janani Shanthosh told the Guardian. "But that isn't the case."
Shanthosh added: "[Australia has] very little justification for failing to improve when low resource settings are doing this very well. They're also establishing human rights institutions and collecting data, which can be very difficult, particularly across rural communities. Certainly, the next phase of this research is going to answer the question: Why? How are countries in crisis doing this, and what insights and lessons can we learn as a high-income country about how to get things done?"
If you missed the launch of #CEDAWmap@georgeinstitute, follow the link for a powerful discussion by our panelists on eliminating discrimination against women@NStottDespoja@KaraninaSumeo@JanShanthosh@justine_nolan & Audrey Lee @IWRAW_AP:https://t.co/uNfmITA8mkpic.twitter.com/FcJIAzrSII— The George Institute for Global Health (@georgeinstitute) March 24, 2021
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN branch that sets recommendations for women's progress, was developed in 1979 and has since been universally ratified. Once ratified, countries are bound by the provisions and must alter policies to uphold women's rights.
Among the recommendations: Reduce maternal mortality rates, undertake legislative measures criminalising domestic violence acts, encourage women to report incidents of violence and initiate surveys on violence and its root causes.
Australia has been commended in the report for adding a definition of family violence to the Commonwealth Family Law Act, which now includes examples like physical assault, emotional manipulation, economic abuse and threatening behaviour.
"While it's a positive step that Australia has amended the Family Law Act to expand the definition of domestic violence ... we still have a long way to go," Shanthosh said.
The report makes a series of further recommendations for nations, including establishing clear timelines for action and taking a gendered lens to COVID-19 pandemic responses.
"[COVID-19] risks impeding the realisation of human rights for women and girls," Natasha Stott Despoja, a CEDAW member and Global Citizen Australia board director, said in a statement. "It has also created a financially constrained environment, but also one in which researchers and policymakers can make a meaningful change and create a new opportunity for our community locally and globally."