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"... the full and complete development of a country, the
welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on
equal terms with men in all fields." (CEDAW, p.1)
[ Read the CEDAW
The Convention is a legally binding document which sets out
internationally accepted principles on the rights of women being applicable to all women
in all fields. The basic legal norm of the Convention is the prohibition of all forms of
discrimination against women. This norm cannot be satisfied merely by the enactment of
gender-neutral laws. In addition to demanding that women be accorded equal rights with
men, the Convention goes further by prescribing the measures which shall be taken to
ensure that women everywhere are able to enjoy the rights to which they are entitled.
The Convention was opened to signature, ratification and accession in New
York in March 1980. It entered into force in September 1981. As of July 1997, 160 States
had ratified the Convention.
Within one year of signing the Convention every State Party is obliged to
report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on its efforts
to meet CEDAW's goals. Thereafter States Parties are required to report at least every
four years and whenever the Committee so requests.
The list of countries which have signed, ratified, acceded or succeeded to
the Convention, as of 5 January 1998 (97 Signatures/161 ratification and accessions), at gopher://gopher.un.org/00/ga/cedaw/RATIFICA
The Committee was established under the terms of the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted by the General Assembly
in its resolution 34/180 in December 1979.
It holds a constructive dialogue with the States Parties reporting to it under article 18
of the Convention. Reporting States are expected to describe steps taken to adhere and
progressively realise the Convention, or point out obstacles encountered. Following the
exchange with representatives of States Parties, the Committee experts prepare concluding
comments which are incorporated in the report of the session. The Committee is also
empowered to formulate suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of
States Parties reports. Suggestions are directed at the UN system and general
recommendations assist States Parties in the interpretation of articles on the themes
underlying the Convention.
The Committee is composed of 23 experts in the fields covered by the Convention. Experts
are elected by the States Parties to the Convention for a term of four years and serve in
their personal capacity. In electing the experts, consideration is given to equitable
geographical distribution and the representation of different forms of civilisation, as
well as the principal legal systems.
The Committee meets annually, in January/February.
[ Read the text of the Optional
The Vienna Declaration and the Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 recommended the
introduction of the right to petition through an optional protocol to the Convention. The UN Commission on the Status of Women
has in 1999 agreed an optional protocol provides, among other things, for the
right of individual petition.
What is an Optional Protocol ?
Very often, human rights treaties are followed by "Optional Protocols"
which may either provide for procedures with regard to the treaty or address a substantive
area related to the treaty. Optional Protocols to human rights treaties are treaties in
their own right, and are open to signature, accession or ratification by countries who are
party to the main treaty. An Optional Protocol has been agreed for CEDAW. It