Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
Weaving profile.jpg
Signed 18 December 1979
Location New York City
Effective 3 September 1981
Condition 20 ratifications
Parties 187 (Complete List)
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women at Wikisource
Participation in the CEDAW
  Signed and ratified
  Acceded or succeeded
  Unrecognized state, abiding by treaty
  Only signed
A world map showing countries by CEDAW enforcement, 2010.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it came into force on 3 September 1981. The United States is the only developed nation that has not ratified the CEDAW. Several countries have ratified the Convention subject to certain declarations, reservations, and objections.[1]


The Convention

The Convention defines discrimination against women in the following terms:

Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

It also establishes an agenda of action for putting an end to sex-based discrimination:

States must take measures to seek to eliminate prejudices and customs based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of one sex or on stereotyped role for men and women.

States ratifying the Convention are required to enshrine gender equality into their domestic legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women. However, special protection for maternity is not regarded as gender discrimination (Article 4). Appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women and forced prostitution are also not regarded as gender discrimination (Article 6). Equal opportunity in education for female students is required, and coeducation is encouraged. (Article 10). States ratifying the Convention must also establish tribunals and public institutions to guarantee women effective protection against discrimination, and take steps to eliminate all forms of discrimination practiced against women by individuals, organizations, and enterprises (Article 2,(e)).

Members and ratification

The seven UN member states that have not ratified or acceded to the convention are Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga, and the United States. The United States and Palau have signed it, but not yet ratified it.[2]

The one UN non-member state that had not acceded to the convention is the Holy See/Vatican City.[2][3]

The Republic of China (Taiwan) in 2007 has also ratified the treaty in its legislature, but is unrecognized by the United Nations and is a party to the treaty only unofficially.[4]

The latest state to have acceded the convention was Nauru on June 23, 2011.[2]

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Convention oversight is the task of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which is made up of 23 experts on women's issues from different UN member states. The Committee meets twice a year to review reports on compliance with the Convention's provisions that the signatory nations are required to submit every four years.

The Committee is one of the eight UN-related human rights treaty bodies.

The Committee's members, described as "experts of high moral standing and competence in the field covered by the Convention", are elected to serve four-year terms in staggered elections held every two years. Its officers are a chairperson, three vice-chairpersons, and a rapporteur. Efforts are made to ensure balanced geographical representation and the inclusion of the world's different forms of civilization and legal systems.

Committee members and experts also attend an annual luncheon, hosted by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY), where key issues are discusses and the efforts of the committee are honored.[5]

As of January 2011, the members are:

Name State Term Expires
Silvia Pimentel (Chairperson)  Brazil 2012
Victoria Popescu (Vice-Chairperson)  Romania 2012
Zohra Rasekh (Vice-Chairperson)  Afghanistan 2012
Nicole Ameline (Vice-Chairperson)  France 2012
Violet Tsisiga Awori (Rapporteur)  Kenya 2012
Magalys Arocha Dominguez  Cuba 2012
Barbara Evelyn Bailey  Jamaica 2012
Niklas Bruun  Finland 2012
Indira Jaising  India 2012
Soledad Murillo de la Vega  Spain 2012
Zou Xiaoqiao  China 2012
Ayse Feride Acar  Turkey 2014
Olinda Bareiro-Bobadilla  Paraguay 2014
Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani  Algeria 2014
Naela Mohamed Gabr  Egypt 2014
Ruth Halperin-Kaddari  Israel 2014
Yoko Hayashi  Japan 2014
Ismat Jahan  Bangladesh 2014
Violeta Neubauer  Slovenia 2014
Pramila Patten  Mauritius 2014
Maria Helena Lopes de Jesus Pires  Timor Leste 2014
Patricia Schulz  Switzerland 2014
Dubravka Šimonović  Croatia 2014

Optional Protocol

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is a side-agreement to the Convention which allows its parties to recognise the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to consider complaints from individuals.[6]

The Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 6 October 1999 and entered into force on 22 December 2000.[7] Currently it has 79 signatories and 103 parties.[8]


In an article in Moment Magazine in February 2011, Paula Kweskin, in discussing so-called “honor” killings taking place in the Palestinian Authority, writes that two-thirds of all murders in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza are “honor” killings. These crimes go unpunished and laws grant impunity to those who kill based on “family honor.” In interviews and press releases on their websites, many NGOs, including Badil, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, have decried “honor” killings and the lack of legal protection for Palestinian women; yet these NGOs are silent when given a forum at CEDAW to address these problems.[9]

The CEDAW has been controversial for statements seen by a number of states and NGOs as promoting Western-style radical feminism. Often referenced is a 2000 report which said that in Belarus, "the Committee is concerned by the continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes and by the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers' Day and a Mothers' Award, which it sees as encouraging women's traditional roles."[10] Other controversial positions of CEDAW include supporting the decriminalization of prostitution in specific countries, criticizing Slovenia because only 30% of children are in daycare, and pressuring numerous states to decriminalize abortion.[11] Other requests are seen by groups as a backdoor to forcing states parties to adopt an Equal Rights Amendment or comparable national legislation, which is seen as a violation of the CEDAW treaty mandate and the sovereignty of states parties.[12] Australian and (defunct) New Zealand anti-feminist groups[weasel words] voiced similar concerns in the early eighties.

More recently, the controversy concerning CEDAW has centered around the question of easy access to abortion and contraception. According to C-FAM (the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), at UN meetings officials pressed the delegation from Colombia to liberalize its abortion laws and to inaugurate campaigns encouraging contraceptive use and "reproductive health awareness".[13]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Declarations, Reservations and Objections to CEDAW". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  2. ^ a b c "'Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women'". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  3. ^ Note: See New Zealand No 47 Declarations and Reservations New Zealand has signed this treaty on behalf on Niue.
  4. ^ Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan). "Taiwan Aims to Sign Up Against Discrimination." September 8, 2006.
  5. ^ "NGO CSW, NY / About / How We Work". 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  6. ^ Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 1.
  7. ^ "Optional Protocol to Women's Convention Comes into Force". 2000-12-21. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  8. ^ "Parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women". UN OHCHR. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  9. ^ by elisniv (2011-02-24). "NGOs Fail Palestinian Women at the UN". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  10. ^ "Womenwatch report". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  11. ^ "Nations Pressured by CEDAW". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  12. ^ "Concerned Women for America - Exposing CEDAW". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  13. ^ "UN Committee Pressures Slovakia over its Concordat with the Catholic Church". 

External links

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