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Part II. International Human Rights System. 6/11previousTable of Contentsnext

5. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)


PART I. National Frameworks for the Protection of Rights of Persons with Disabilities
PART II. The International Human Rights System
1. Introduction to the International Human Rights System
1.1 Exhaustion of Local Remedies
1.2 Disability Rights at the International Level
2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
2.1 Review of provisions
2.2 Reporting Procedure Under the ICCPR
2.3 Emergency procedure Under the ICCPR
2.4 Individual Communication Procedure
3. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
3.1 Review of provisions
3.2 1503 Procedure Under the ICESCR
4. The Convention on the Rights of the Child
4.1 Review of provisions
4.2 Reporting Procedure
4.3 Thematic Consideration of Issues
4.4 Missions
5. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
5.1 Review of Provisions
5.2 Reporting Procedure
5.3 Exceptional Reporting Procedure
5.4 Complaint Procedure
6. The Convention Against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment
6.1 Review of provisions
6.2 Reporting Procedure
6.3 Investigative procedure
6.4 Individual Complaints Procedure
7. The International Labour organization (ILO)
7.1 The Complaint Procedure
7.2 ILO Provision on the Rights of the Migrant Worker
8. Other International Norms and standards
9. Other International Mechanisms
10. Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
10.1 Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflicts
10.2 Human Rights in Times of Emergency
10.3 Civilian Persons Hors de Combat
10.4 Special Protection for the Wounded and Sick
10.5 Victims of Land Mines and Armed Conflicts
PART III. The Regional Human Rights System
PART IV. Towards a Rights Based Perspective on Disability
PART V. Rights of Special Groups with Disabilities

5.1 Review of provisions

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:

  • To embody the principle of equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein, and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of the principle;
  • To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunal and other public institutions the effective protection of women from any act of discrimination;
  • To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with their obligations;
  • To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women; and
  • To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.

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.

5.2 Reporting Procedure

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.

5.3 Exceptional Reporting Procedures

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:

  1. Tabling the reports at the upcoming session without sending them for attention of the working group;
  2. Permitting the State representatives to orally introduce the report at the session;
  3. Inviting questions by members;
  4. Permitting responses by the State representatives;
  5. Adopting and publishing brief comments for inclusion in the annual report, together with a summary of the discussions in the case of periodic reports.

5.4 Complaint Procedure

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.

This procedure puts the Convention on an equal footing with the ICCPR, CERD, and especially CAT, which also includes an inquire procedure.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
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