Maldives to withdraw reservations on women’s rights treaty

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced the government’s intention to withdraw the reservations of the Maldives to the UN Woman’s Rights Treaty.

The Ministry has informed the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Maldives will shortly be withdrawing the controversial national reservation, which limits key aspects of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The reservation restricts the application of Article 7(a) of CEDAW, under which state parties commit “to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right: (a) to vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies.”

Under the 1998 Constitution, women were banned from running for president. Article 109 of the new Constitution of 2008 does not include any restrictions based on gender under “qualifications for election as President”.

Aishath Zahir, Deputy Additional Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “this withdrawal is reinforcing the Constitution,” and “it reinforces our obligations under international law.”

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had repeatedly asked the Maldives to withdraw this reservation, since it was contrary to the purpose of the Convention of Women’s Rights and went against the principle of the equality of women and men.

The withdrawal of the restriction on Article 7(a) is a necessary official notification from the Maldivian government to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the statement claimed. This is being done so that “the new reality is fully reflected in international law.”

Because under the new Constitution parliament must approve any changes in the legislature, it is necessary for the government to submit a procedural bill to the Majlis seeking approval.

“As soon as it’s passed by the Majlis we will lodge our instrument of withdrawal to the UN,” said Zahir.

The Bill has been prepared by the Department of Gender and Family in the Ministry of Health and will soon be considered by the People’s Majlis.

Minister of Foreign Affaris Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the reservation was “a relic of a time in the Maldives when women were openly and explicitly discriminated against even within our primary legal framework.”

He added that this withdrawal makes explicitly clear that “everyone is entitled to the same rights and freedoms…without discrimination of any kind, including based on gender”.