The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international women’s rights bill, adopted by the United Nations in 1979, and instituted in 1981. The Convention is dedicated to the periodic review and assessment of women’s rights and discrimination against women who reside in the member states.
Governments from member states periodically submit reports to the CEDAW Committee. These are accompanied by shadow / alternative reports from various NGOs.
The Committee comprises 23 experts from a wide range of nationalities and occupations.
Since the 5th October 1995 CEDAW ratification in Singapore, the government has submitted five reports to the UN CEDAW Committee. Women’s rights-focused NGOs have also submitted shadow reports. Sayoni first sent its shadow report on the discrimination of LBTQ women in 2011.
In 2007, the CEDAW Committee asked the Singapore government how they intended to “prevent discrimination against lesbian women in the workplace, in access to health services and in society in general”, to which the response was “homsexuals were not discriminated against… they had the same right to employment, education or housing as everyone else.” This claim later inspired the creation of Sayoni’s 2011 shadow report which outlined aspects and instances of discrimination towards LBTQ women.
CEDAW is important for the parity of specifically LBTQ women to non-LBTQ women. Women of multiple intersectionalities face multiple marginalisation, inequality and discrimination. It is therefore important for NGOs to provide evidence-based shadow reporting to ensure the Singapore government is held accountable and fulfills all its obligations to the Convention.
Sayoni and CEDAW
In 2008, members of Sayoni attended CEDAW training sessions aimed at women’s groups in Singapore. Because of prevailing systemic discrimination against LBTQ women, we learned such issues and subject matter would either be inadequately or inaccurately presented in the national report.
Believing in substantive change for the rights and welfare of LBTQ women in Singapore, Sayoni recruited a team of 11 researchers and writers to create our first shadow report (2008 to 2011).
At that time, the CEDAW Committee had yet to make general recommendations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. General recommendations was added in 2011 (GR 27 and 28), in time for Singapore’s CEDAW session.
LBTQ women face a wide range of discrimination and violence across various domains of their lives, and among them, many more who also experience multiple marginalisation and oppression because of their intersectionalities (e.g. ethnicity, age, disability, education, etc.). Furthermore, LBTQ women’s lived daily realities are often ignored, trivialised or rendered invisible. These challenges are compounded by the lack of a comprehensive understanding on such matters by the LGBT community and women’s groups to effectively – let alone, adequately – address them.
In participating in the CEDAW process and shadow / alternate CEDAW reporting, Sayoni aims to create greater visibility for the issues faced by LBTQ women in Singapore. We want greater visibility, representation and substantive changes for the rights of LBTQ women in Singapore. Through informed and inclusive policy-making as well as changing societal attitudes, we can removal institutional discrimination and make the step forward towards equality for LBTQ women.
Sayoni is a community of queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We organise and advocate for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.
Our vision is to empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community.
Our mission is to provide resources and communication channels that would contribute to self-confidence, participation and a voice.