The United Nations General Assembly adopted CEDAW in December 1979, and it entered into force in September 1981. Under Article 2 of the Women's Convention states assume "obligations to act by a specific means toward the achievement of aspirational goals and obligations to achieve results by whatever means are determined to be appropriate."
The means specified in Article 2 requires states:
The main provisions of the Convention concern the elimination of discrimination against women in specified areas, such as health care, education, employment, treatment under the law, and rights in the marriage and family.
A considerable number of States have made reservations to the provisions of the Convention.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is in charge of the monitoring process of CEDAW. As with the other conventions, the Committee is composed of elected experts who serve in their individual capacity. Unlike the other Committee's which are based in Geneva, the CEDAW Committee is based in New York. The Committee is heavily overburdened. States are to submit an initial report within a year of ratification of the Convention, and then every four years. NGOs are also welcome to submit information, but generally have been more reluctant to use this option than with other conventions, especially the CRC.
State reports should indicate factors and difficulties affecting the degree of fulfilment of the obligations which have been undertaken, as well as the legislative, judicial and administrative or other measures which have been adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention. The Committee may make suggestions of an informal nature regarding specific countries or general situations, and general comments of a formal nature regarding general situations. At the outset of each session, the Committee adopts concluding comments, which resemble those adopted by the Human Rights Committee. CEDAW reports annually to the General Assembly, via the Economic and Social Committee, on its consideration of country reports.
In 1987, CEDAW decided that it was authorised to make suggestions and general recommendations addressed to individual States. This decision constitutes a major advance over other human rights treaty committees that have not yet decided to issue formal comments on individual States.
Pursuant to article 18 of the Convention the Committee requested in 1993 reports on an exceptional basis from certain States of the former Yugoslavia. With regard to the reports, which have been submitted by these States, the Committee has adopted the procedure of:
The Optional Protocol to CEDAW instituting an individual complaint procedure was adopted in 1999 and entered into force in 2000. The Protocol contains two procedures: a communications procedure allowing individual women, or groups of women, to submit claims of violations of rights to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women's rights. In either case, States must be party to the Protocol. The Protocol includes an "opt-out clause", allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure. Article 17 of the Protocol explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms.