Sudan Cabinet votes to ratify UN women's rights convention

Council of ministers approves Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women with reservations on three main articles

Sudanese Cabinet. Courtesy Sudanese Prime Minister’s Office

Sudan's Cabinet voted to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, with reservations on three main articles.

The move falls short of ratification, which must come from a joint meeting of the Cabinet and the Transitional Sovereignty Council.

The approval took place in a Cabinet session on Tuesday chaired by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The convention, often described as an international bill of rights for women, was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. It was instituted in September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states.

Sudan is one of six countries or territories that have not signed or ratified the convention. The others are Iran, Niue, Somalia, Tonga and the Holy See. Palau and the US have signed, but not ratified the agreement.

Sudan's previous government led by dictator Omar Al Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019, refused to sign the convention as it viewed some of its clauses as a breach of the country's societal and religious values.

The transitional administration – comprising the Cabinet and the council – came to office after an August 2019 power-sharing agreement between the pro-democracy group that orchestrated the protests against Al Bashir and the generals who removed him.

In post-Al Bashir Sudan, there has been increasing pressure from women's rights groups for more participation in the government, as well as louder calls to ratify the convention.

epa07756591 Sudanese women hold a national flag as they celebrate on streets after signing the constitutional declaration between the ruling military council and protest movement, in Khartoum, Sudan, 04 August 2019. According to reports, the ruling Sudanese military council and the opposition movement Alliance for Freedom and Change signed a constitutional declaration mediated by African Union and Ethiopia, while a new prime minister is expected to be named on 20 August and a cabinet formed on 28 August.  EPA/MARWAN ALI

The Cabinet’s reservations about the convention are centred on equality between men and women.

Article 2 calls for the principle of the equality of men and women to be embodied in national constitutions or other appropriate legislation.

Article 16 ensures equality of men and women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.

It also has reservations against Article 29/1, which allows for any dispute between two or more parties concerning the convention to be submitted to arbitration, if not settled by negotiation.

If the parties are unable to agree on the arbitration organisation, the dispute can be referred to the International Court of Justice.

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