Local non-governmental organisation Uthema Maldives called on the government to remove all reservations to Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on the occasion of International Women's Day.
Emphasizing the presence of social issues including high divorce rates and a proportionately high number of single mothers, Uthema criticized government hesitancy to lift reservations on four points of Article 16 which seeks to eliminate discrimination against women in marriage and family matters.
Maldives signed CEDAW in 1993 with reservations to Article 7 and 16. Following the enactment of the 2008 constitution, granting Maldivian women the right to contest for presidency, the government, in 2010, removed reservations on Article 7 which seeks to eliminate discrimination within political and public spheres.
On February 24, Maldives officially lifted reservations to Part 1 (b)(e)(g)(h) and Part 2 of Article 16.
Despite recent progress, the administration still maintains reservations on Part 1 (a)(c)(d)(f) of Article 16 which are detailed below:
(a) The same right to enter into marriage
(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution
(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount
(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount
In addition to socio-economic motives, Uthema noted a precedent of other majority-Muslim nations including Tunisia, Morocco and Indonesia also removing reservations against CEDAW articles.
The NGO also condemned lack of female representation in discussions and the decision making process concerning Maldives' stance on CEDAW.
Uthema revealed that the 13-member parliamentary committee that discussed reservations against Article 16 consisted of men and that the most recent meeting, held on February 17, 2020 also lacked any female participants. The latter meeting was also conducted without the representation of the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services or the parliament's Committee on Human Rights and Gender.
The NGO urged the government to remove Article 16 reservations in order to guarantee women's rights and ensure prioritization of children's welfare in Maldives as well as permanently ending lack of female participation in the state's decision making process regarding women's issues.
Uthema is a Maldivian NGO registered in 2016 with the Ministry of Home Affairs to advocate for gender equality and women's empowerment in Maldives.