The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women was adopted and opened for signature by the General
Assembly on December 18, 1979. The sixteen substantive articles of the
Convention outline government obligations to eliminate discrimination
and pursue equality in nationality rights, legal status, education,
health care, employment, family life, and participation in public and
political life. Most significantly, ratifying countries (States parties)
undertake to eliminate prejudices and customs that perpetuate
stereotyped gender roles and inequality.
States parties are required to report on the status of women and girls within one year of ratification and every four years thereafter. A 23-member group of independent experts, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the CEDAW Committee), monitors implementation of the Convention, reviewing country reports on implementation and, under the Convention's Optional Protocol, addressing individual complaints and pursuing inquiries. When a State party's report is scheduled for review, any NGO with knowledge of sex discrimination issues in that country may submit a shadow report to be considered by the CEDAW Committee.
The CEDAW Committee issues Concluding Observations (previously called Concluding Comments) at the end of every session. These remarks are the official opinion of the CEDAW Committee on the progress the reporting States parties have made to comply with the obligations of the CEDAW Convention.
With the adoption in 2000 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, women gained an avenue for individual claims of Convention violations as well as an opportunity to request a CEDAW Committee inquiry into situations of "grave or systematic" violations of women's human rights. Under the complaints procedure, when a woman's human rights have been violated, and she has exhausted all possible remedies within her country, she may petition the CEDAW Committee to hear her complaint. Under the inquiry procedure, the Committee may initiate inquiries into situations of "grave or systematic" violations of women's rights.
For more information on the Convention and the Optional Protocol, please see
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, CEDAW home page
For information on submitting complaints or requests for inquiry under the Optional Protocol see Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "Monitoring the Core International Human Rights Treaties"
For more information on submitting complaints under the Optional Protocol, see Human Rights Bodies--Complaints Procedures.