UN and the rights of women


Sir, – Regarding the interactions of the United Nations human rights bodies with regard to women’s rights, it is necessary to correct some assertions in a letter from Niamh UÃí Bhriain, published on May 10th.

The United Nations is a collection of institutions, four of which are referred to by your correspondent. These are the Human Rights Council, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The two former are populated by representatives of UN member states, who speak on behalf of their state. The two latter are composed of independent experts, nominated by member states but speaking on behalf of the committee.

As the representative of Saudi Arabia on the Commission on the Status of Women will speak on behalf of their state, which imposes repressive standards on women, questions have been raised as to the appropriateness of this appointment.

The criticisms of Ireland’s restriction on abortion have come from the independent committees which monitor member states’ compliance with the UN Conventions on Human Rights. Ireland is a voluntary signatory of both the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (monitored by the Human Rights Committee) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Ireland has agreed to comply with the conventions in question and the jurisprudence and recommendations of the relevant committees.

Our failure to accord reproductive autonomy to our residents is therefore in contravention of our commitments, and it is entirely legitimate that we be criticised for that failure. The United Nations is an imperfect system; however, as much as anti-choice campaigners may wish to deny it, in this case the unreliable defender of women’s rights is the Irish State. – Is mise,