4 June 1999


4 June 1999

Press Release


19990604 Background Release

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the only United Nations human rights treaty-monitoring body concerned exclusively with women, will convene the second of its two annual sessions at Headquarters from 7 to 25 June.

Comprised of 23 experts serving in their individual capacities, the Committee monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Convention, often referred to as an international bill of rights for women, sets up an agenda for national action to end discrimination. It was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and entered into force in 1981.

During the upcoming twenty-first session, the Committee will evaluate progress made by seven States parties to the treaty. Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into effect. They are also committed to submit national reports on measures taken to comply with their treaty obligations. An initial report is required within one year of accession, and periodic reports at least every four years.

Initial reports of Georgia and Nepal will be considered at the forthcoming session, as well as the combined initial and second reports of Belize. The second and third periodic reports of Chile, the combined second and third periodic reports of Ireland, and the third and fourth periodic reports of Spain and the United Kingdom will also be reviewed. In addition, the Committee will hear country-specific information from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

On Monday, 7 June, in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention by the General Assembly, the Committee will hold a special commemorative ceremony in the morning. In addition to its chairperson, Aida Gonzalez Martinez of Mexico, the Committee will hear from Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette; the first chairperson of the Committee, Luvsandanzangyn Ider; the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai; the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and

Advancement of Women, Angela E.V. King; and the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, Yakin Erturk.

That afternoon, the Committee will also hold a round-table discussion on "The Impact of the Convention at the Domestic Level". Several former and present members of the Committee, including former chairpersons, representatives of United Nations bodies and NGOs, as well as special guests, will participate in the discussion.

To date, the Committee has considered 98 initial, 68 second, 42 third and 12 fourth periodic reports. It has also taken up five reports on an exceptional basis -- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Rwanda, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the former Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In addition to the country reports, the Committee will also have before it a note of the Secretary-General on reports of specialized agencies on the implementation of the Convention in areas falling within the scope of their activities; and reports of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It will also consider a report of the Secretariat on ways and means of improving its work.

In addition to reviewing the reports and evaluating the progress made, the Committee formulates general recommendations to the States parties as a whole on eliminating discrimination against women. To date, 24 general recommendations have been adopted covering such issues as women's economic position; the impact of structural adjustment policies; maternity leave; measures taken to allow women to combine child-bearing with employment; violence against women; the dissemination of the Convention and its provisions; health; and the extent to which NGOs have been incorporated into the process of preparing reports on the implementation of the Convention.

Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention

Adopted in 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the most comprehensive, legally binding treaty on women's human rights. The first 16 articles of the Convention call on States parties to take appropriate measures to ensure women's civil, political, economic and cultural rights and legal equality.

By its terms, States parties are called on to take measures such as: guaranteeing basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of women; ensuring the suppression of the traffic in, and the exploitation of the prostitution of, women; eliminating discrimination against women in political and public life; ensuring equal rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality; and eliminating discrimination in the fields of education, employment, health and other areas of economic and social life.

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Other articles of the Convention address problems faced by rural women, equality before the law and elimination of discrimination against women within marriage and the family. The rights of women to take part in the political and public life of their countries and to perform all functions at all levels of government are also guaranteed by the Convention.

Article 1 of the Convention defines discrimination against women as follows: "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".

States Parties to Convention

The following 163 States have either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which entered into force on 3 September 1981: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece and Grenada.

Also, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

- 4 - Press Release WOM/1125 4 June 1999

Committee Membership

The 23-expert members of the Committee, serving in their personal capacity, are: Charlotte Abaka, of Ghana; Ayse Feride Acar, of Turkey; Emma Aouij, of Tunisia; Carlota Bustelo Garcia del Real, of Spain; Silvia Rose Cartwright, of New Zealand; Ivanka Corti, of Italy; Feng Cui, of China; Naela Gabr, of Egypt; Yolanda Ferrer Gomez, of Cuba; Aida Gonzalez Martinez, of Mexico; Savitri Goonesekere, of Sri Lanka; Rosalyn Hazelle, of Saint Kitts and Nevis; Salma Khan, of Bangladesh; Yung-Chung Kim, of the Republic of Korea; Rosario Manalo, of the Philippines; Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, of South Africa; Ahoua Ouedraogo, of Burkina Faso; Zelmira Regazzoli, of Argentina; Anne Lise Ryel, of Norway; Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling, of Germany; Carmel Shalev, of Israel; Kongit Sinegiorgis, of Ethiopia; and Chikako Taya, of Japan.

Committee Officers

The Committee is currently chaired by Aida Gonzalez Martinez of Mexico. Its three vice-chairpersons are: Yung-Chung Kim, of the Republic of Korea; Ahoua Ouedraogo, of Burkina Faso; and Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling, of Germany. Ayse Feride Acar, of Turkey, is the Rapporteur. The officers are elected for a two-year period and the current bureau was elected in January.

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For information media. Not an official record.