SDGs, Women’s Rights and Neoliberalism

Prof. Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat

The UN has been a key player in the promotion of women’s rights. In addition to adopting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, it included “gender equality and empowerment of women” as distinct goals both in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through a critical interpretive analysis of major documents related to these three UN initiatives, the paper examines the changes to assess the progress and likely impact on improving women’s rights, status, and lives. It contends that despite the rhetorical change that acknowledges the diversity of women and the need to address root causes of their subjugation, the SDG documents continue to subscribe to liberal feminism, implicitly endorsed in the CEDAW text, but they may erode some subsequent improvements in the interpretation of the CEDAW by appealing to the private sector and neoliberal policies.