9 January 2003


Press Release

Background Release



The twenty-eighth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 to 31 January 2003.

The Committee will review the reports of eight States parties, including the combined initial and second periodic report of Albania and Switzerland respectively; the fifth periodic report of Canada; the combined initial, second, third, fourth and fifth periodic reports of Republic of Congo; the combined third and fourth, the fifth and the sixth periodic reports of El Salvador; the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Kenya; the fourth periodic report of Luxembourg; the fifth and sixth periodic reports of Norway.

The 23 experts of the Committee, who serve in their personal capacities, monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Since 1997, the Committee has met twice annually.  In August 2002 the Committee conducted an exceptional session to reduce the backlog of reports awaiting its consideration.

The Convention, which as of 7 January 2003 had been ratified or acceded to by 170 countries, requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights.  In pursuing the Convention’s goals, States parties are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men. The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and came into force in 1981.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention entered into force on 22 December 2000.  It entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies and to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention.  As of 7 January 2003, there were 49 States parties to the Optional Protocol.

      Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.  They are also committed to submit reports, one year after becoming a State party and then at least once every four years thereafter, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.  In addition to reviewing the reports and evaluating progress made in concluding comments, the Committee formulates general recommendations on eliminating discrimination against women to the States parties as a whole.  It may also invite UN specialized agencies to submit reports and receive information from non‑governmental organizations.

To date, the Committee has considered 119 initial, 89 second, 69 third,

41 fourth and 15 fifth periodic reports.  It has also received five reports on an

exceptional basis –- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and Rwanda.

The Committee has adopted 24 general recommendations 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; and the extent to which non‑governmental organizations have been incorporated into the process of preparing reports on the implementation of the Convention.  The Committee is currently working on its twenty-fifth general recommendation, which was begun during its twenty-fourth session.  When completed, this new recommendation will address article 4.1 of the Convention on temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women. 

Experts receive country-specific information from non‑governmental organizations, which are able to brief the Committee’s pre-session working group and plenary meeting.

About the Convention

With the accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by Bahrain on 18 June 2002, the number of States parties to the Convention became 170.  Adopted in 1979 and opened for signature in March 1980, the Convention is now among the international human rights treaties with the largest number of ratifications and accessions.  However, it is also among those treaties with the highest number of reservations by States parties.

The Convention in its 16 substantive articles defines discrimination against women and provides an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.  Discrimination against women is defined as “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”.

The Convention spells out the basis for realizing equality between men and women through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life –- including the right to vote and stand for election -– as well as education and employment.  States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislative and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

On 6 October 1999, the General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention, which enables women victims of sex discrimination to submit complaints to the Committee.  By accepting the Optional Protocol, States recognize the competence of the Committee to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups of individuals within its jurisdiction in cases where they have exhausted domestic remedies.  It also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights.  Although the Optional Protocol includes an “opt-out clause”, allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure, it explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms.   Opened for signature on 10 December 1999, as of 7 January 2003,

75 States had signed the Optional Protocol, and 49 had ratified or acceded to it. Two States Parties -- Bangladesh and Belize -– have opted out of the inquiry procedure.  The Optional Protocol came into force on 22 December 2000.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women called upon governments to promote and protect the human rights of women through the full implementation of all human rights instruments, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  It urged universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 and asked Governments to limit the extent of any reservations to the Convention.  The twenty-third special session of the General Assembly “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”, which took place in June 2000, called on governments to ratify the Convention, limit the extent of any reservations to it, and withdraw reservations which were contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention or otherwise incompatible with international treaty law.  It also asked governments to consider signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

States Parties to Convention

As of 7 January 2003, the following 170 States had 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, Bahrain, 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 People's Republic of Korea, 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, Grenada, 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, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

States Parties to Optional Protocol

As of 7 January 2003, the following 49 States had either ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol of the Convention which entered into force on 22 December 2000:  Andorra, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Committee Membership

The current members of the Committee, serving in their personal capacity, are:  Ayse Feride Acar, Turkey; Sjamsiah Achmad, Indonesia; Meriem Belmihoub-

Zerdani, Algeria; Huguette Bokpe Gnancadja, Benin; María Yolanda Ferrer Gómez, Cuba; Cornelis Flinterman, the Netherlands; Naela Gabr, Egypt; Françoise Gaspard, France; Aída González Martínez, Mexico; Christine Kapalata, United Republic of Tanzania; Salma Khan, Bangladesh; Akua Kuenyehia, Ghana; Fatima Kwaku, Nigeria; Rosario Manalo, Philippines; Göran Melander , Sweden; Krisztina Morvai, Hungary; Pramila Patten, Mauritius; Victoria Popescu Sandru, Romania; Fumiko Saiga, Japan; Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling, Germany; Heisoo Shin, Republic of Korea; Dubravka Šimonovic, Croatia; Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Portugal.

Media Contact

Myriam Dessables, Department of Public Information, tel:  (212) 963-2932;

fax:  (212) 963-1186; email:  mediainfo@un.org.

For more information on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and women’s rights contact:  Women’s Rights Unit, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Room DC2-1228, United Nations, New York, NY 10017;fax:  (212) 963-3463, e-mail:  del-vasto@un.org; Web site: www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw.

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For information media. Not an official record.