Appendix 2: CEDAW -- a Brief Overview
In 1946, a Sub-Commission
on the Status of Women was appointed as a subsidiary
body to the UN Commission on Human Rights, to
support the Commission members on issues regarding
women's rights. The Sub-Commission later on became
a Commission in its own right through the Commission
on the Status of Women (CSW) which was further
strengthened through the adoption of CEDAW, the
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of
Discrimination Against Women in 1979. While its
predecessor, the Convention on Political Rights
of Women, from 1952, dealt specifically with women's
political rights to participate in election and
to vote, CEDAW had a more broad ranged approach
to women's rights. It took thirteen years to adopt
the Convention from its first draft in 1966 up
to the adoption in 1979. Today, 168 Member States
have ratified the text.
CEDAW emerged as
the comprehensive treaty on women's rights. The
process of compiling an overall treaty was facilitated
by the first global conference on women, the 1975
International Women's Year Conference in Mexico
City, and was by this occasion elevated to one
of the priority areas on the UN agenda. The following
decade, from 1975 to 1985, was labeled the Women's
Decade by the UN. The initial Conference in Mexico
1975 was followed by three others, Copenhagen
1980, Nairobi 1985, and Beijing 1995.
comprises 16 substantive Articles :
Article 1 Definition
of the term "discrimination against women."
Article 2 State parties condemn discrimination
against women in all its forms.
Article 3 (State parties) To take all appropriate
measures to ensure the full development and advancement
of women in all fields, including legislation.
Article 4 To adopt temporary measures aimed at
accelerating the de facto equality between women
Article 5 To take measures to modify social and
cultural conduct that discriminates women, and
Article 6 To take all measures, including legislative,
to suppress all traffic in women.
Article 7 To take all appropriate measures to
eliminate discrimination in political and public
Article 8 To take appropriate measures to ensure
that women on equal term with men have the opportunity
to represent their Government at the international
Article 9 To grant women equal rights with men
to acquire, change or retain their nationality.
Article10 To ensure women the equal right to education.
Article11 To take appropriate measures to eliminate
discrimination against women in the field of employment.
Article12 To take all appropriate measures to
eliminate discrimination in the field of health
care, including those related to family planning.
Article 13 To take appropriate measures to eliminate
all discrimination against women in areas of economic
and social life.
Article14 To take into account the particular
problems faced by rural women.
Article15 State parties shall accord to women
equality with men before the law.
Article16 To take appropriate measures to eliminate
discrimination against women in all matters relating
to marriage and family, including the right to
own and acquire property.
reserved themselves to text in the final Convention,
as governments could reserve their right not to
apply a specific part of the treaty by submitting
a reservation. Much controversy has been created
regarding the CEDAW because reservations in many
cases appear contrary to its very aim.
CEDAW, like other
legally binding conventions, lays down state obligations
for the implementation of rights and freedoms
safeguarded in the Convention. These are necessarily
worded in abstract terms so as to provide a general
framework to be applied worldwide and adapted
to changing circumstances. (Sida, 1999)
CEDAW lays down three
levels of obligations to be met by the ratifying
States: 1) Formal recognition that all human rights
and fundamental freedoms apply equally to women
and men, 2) Prohibition of discrimination in the
enjoyment of those formally guaranteed rights
and creation of equal opportunities for women
to exercise all rights and freedoms, and 3) Identification
and elimination of gender specific obstacles to
the equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms. This
requires that legal as well as other forms of
obstacles is identified, such as cultural and
social attitudes that discriminate against women
and should subsequently be changed. (See box 1)
Convention recognizes 2 layers of discrimination
De Jure Discrimination:
Examples of discrimination: Electoral
rights only for men, inheritance rights
only for sons.
Measures for its elimination: Constitutional
amendments and legal reforms.
De Facto Discrimination:
Examples of discrimination: Unequal political
representation, sexual harassment, unequal
workload and responsibilities.
Measures for its elimination: Change of
attitudes, awareness raising, questioning
and revalue of norms.
of the CEDAW is monitored and reviewed by the
so-called CEDAW Committee, which was established
in 1982. The committee is enlarged with the number
of countries that becomes a party to CEDAW. The
actual members of the committee today are 23 delegates
that hold annual sessions. Members of the committee
serve as independent experts, but are elected
at meetings of all states that are a party to
CEDAW. The Committee gives general recommendations
to States on the implementation of CEDAW and monitor
that these are followed in each and every country
party to the Convention. Recommendations do not
constitute law, and therefore do not amount to
obligations that States ought to follow, but should
rather be seen as contributions made by the Committee
on guidance in translating CEDAW into domestic
law and practice.
The Convention is
linked to reporting requirements for states party
to CEDAW, the reports should be submitted every
fourth year. The guidelines for the preparation
of reports are constantly revised by the Committee
members to adjust to the changing climate of the
world. These reports are submitted to the Committee
which reviews them and then holds so called "constructive
dialogues" with representatives from the
respective governments and other relevant invited
bodies. Quite often these dialogues relate to
issues which have not been addressed in the report,
but does also venture into examining laws and
policies adopted by the State bodies. To support
these dialogues NGO's from the respective countries
can submit so called "shadow report"
with alternative sources of data and information
for the CEDAW Committee members to use during
the follow-up dialogues with the country representatives.
In October of 1999,
the General Assembly adopted a 21-article Optional
Protocol to CEDAW. The Optional Protocol entered
into force in December 2000, following the ratification
of the Tenth State party. Today, 68 States have
ratified the Optional Protocol and by doing so
are obliged to follow its procedural requirements.
By ratifying the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, States
recognise the CSW to receive and consider complaints
from groups, as well as individuals, within its
jurisdiction. The Optional Protocol offers a new
opportunity for women, as individuals or groups,
to confidentially or officially, complain on discriminatory
treatment and/or unjust procedures against them