The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) came into force in Australia on Wednesday.
Under the protocol, women can submit claims directly the CEDAW Committee if they believe their rights under the convention have been breached once they have exhausted all domestic avenues. The committee can then issue its views on whether there has been a breach and its recommendations, and the state party is given six months to provide a written response outlining the remedial steps taken,
The protocol also gives the committee the power to initiate inquires into situations of grave or systematic violations of women's rights.
The president of the Law Council of Australia, John Corcoran, welcomed the protocol's commencement in Australia. "The complaints mechanism ... will work to complement Australia' existing sex discrimination regime and will provide an added incentive for government to ensure that Australian women's rights are respected," he said.
The Optional Protocol entered into force in December 2000, however Australia only signed on in December last year. Australia has been a party to CEDA since 1983.