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CEDAW committee considers sexual and reproductive health and rights in New Zealand

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SRHR in Focus

Jackie Edmond, Chief Executive of Family Planning

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has just published a list of issues related to the eighth periodic review of New Zealand and has requested further information from Government about sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The list of issues is the result of a pre-sessional working group meeting to help Committee members prepare for the 2018 formal review of New Zealand. During the review, the Committee will consider how well New Zealand is meeting its obligations under the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The Committee has asked for more information about a range of issues including abortion, sexuality education and gender-based violence.

The Committee writes:

“Please also provide information on measures being taken to (a) amend the Crimes Act in order to expand the grounds for legal abortion to include rape; and (b) revise the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, 1977 in order to alleviate the onerous procedure for procuring an abortion, which requires women to obtain certificates from two certified medical consultants and reportedly creates long waiting lists for women and girls. What steps are being taken to shift oversight over abortion laws, policies and services from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health?”

While we hope the final report from the CEDAW Committee recommends removing abortion from the Crimes Act altogether, it is useful for the international body to acknowledge that the current system is overly burdensome for women.

The Committee ask the government about comprehensive sexuality education:

“Please provide an update on progress and challenges incurred in the delivery of age-appropriate education programme on sexual and reproductive health and rights for all levels of education in the State party.”

The Committee recognises the need for sexuality education throughout a young person’s education and includes sexual and reproductive rights as a key component.

The Committee asks about progress on gender-based violence:

“Please provide information on the challenges and successes in the fight against gender-based violence against women including domestic violence, particularly among Māori women, since the establishment of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence (Ministerial Group) in 2014.”

The CEDAW Committee represents another mechanism for ensuring accountability for protecting and advancing the rights of women in our country and for the work of the cross-Ministerial group.

We look forward to the new government’s responses to these sexual and reproductive health and rights issues and questions.

Earlier this year, Family Planning was one of three organisations making a joint submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on abortion law reform and contributed to an NGO shadow report led by the National Council of Women.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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