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General Recommendation No. 29 on Article 16 of the CEDAW Convention:
ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF MARRIAGE,
FAMILY RELATIONS & THEIR DISSOLUTION
Article 16 of CEDAW Convention
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same right to enter into marriage;
(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
(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;
(e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;
(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;
(g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
(h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.
2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
EQUALITY IN FAMILY RELATIONS -
RECOGNIZING WOMEN'S RIGHTS TO PROPERTY
April 2013 - The gap between women and men trapped in the cycle of poverty has
widened in the past decade affecting millions of women facing economic hardship
after the dissolution of marriage or similar partnerships.
During its 54th session, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted a General Recommendation, entitled Economic Consequences of Marriage, Family Relations and their Dissolution, on how to protect women’s equal rights to property upon divorce or death of their spouses.
“This general Recommendation brings the Committee’s approach to equality in the family into the 21st Century,” says Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a CEDAW expert who helped shape the General Recommendation.
CEDAW says that women’s equal rights to property must be globally recognized regardless of its form, and in all world regions and legal systems.
Women tend to sacrifice their education and careers to have children, which prevents them from providing financial support. The Committee states that if they can no longer depend on their husbands for financial support and face discriminatory family laws that may force women out of their homes, they are at an increased risk of falling into the cycle of poverty.
The General Recommendation also addresses the discriminatory nature of many family laws, concluding that all family laws must adhere to the equality norms of the Convention. Some of these norms include the equal treatment of women and men as surviving spouses or partners; prohibit the disinheritance of the surviving spouse; and provide that rights to land should not be conditioned on forced marriage to a deceased spouse’s brother or any other person.
CEDAW recognizes the various forms of contemporary family relationships that give rise to property rights. These family relationships may include same-sex relationships, de facto unions, and registered partnerships. The General Recommendation also stresses that polygamy should be discouraged and prohibited. However, the economic rights of those women who are currently in a polygamous marriage must be protected.
According to CEDAW, property rights subject to fair distribution after the dissolution of marriage include pensions, social security payments and land. The General Recommendation also addresses the rights of widows. According to the General Recommendation, “Many States parties, by law or custom, deny widows equality with widowers as to inheritance, leaving them vulnerable economically upon the death of a spouse.”
The Committee recommends that States parties implement their obligations under Article 16 of the CEDAW Convention in light of the General Recommendation. According to Article 16, “States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women.” CEDAW will refer to the General Recommendation in its future dialogues with States parties.
“It addresses a root cause for the universal phenomenon of feminization of poverty,” Halperin-Kaddari said. “It indicates that States must fully acknowledge the many forms of women’s contribution to the economic well-being of their families and see to it that this contribution is fully recognized when the relationship ends.”