Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. CEDAW is often referred to as the international bill of rights for women as it sets forth principles and standards to promote and protect women's rights and gender equality.

Definition of discrimination: CEDAW defines discrimination against women as any distinction, exclusion, or restriction based on sex that impairs or nullifies the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise of women's human rights and fundamental freedoms. It recognises that such discrimination can occur in both private and public spheres.

Substantive equality: CEDAW promotes the principle of substantive equality, which goes beyond formal equality. It emphasises the need to address the underlying causes and structural barriers that perpetuate discrimination against women, and to take proactive measures to ensure women's equal enjoyment of rights and opportunities.

Rights covered: CEDAW covers a wide range of women's rights, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. It addresses areas such as access to education, employment, healthcare, participation in public life and decision-making, equality in marriage and family matters, and the elimination of gender-based violence and stereotypes.

State obligations: CEDAW places obligations on states parties to take concrete steps to eliminate discrimination against women and promote gender equality. States are required to enact laws, establish institutions, and adopt policies to ensure women's rights. They must also address harmful practices, provide access to justice, promote women's participation in decision-making, and eliminate gender stereotypes in media and education.

Monitoring mechanism: CEDAW establishes a monitoring mechanism to oversee the implementation of the Convention. This mechanism consists of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a body of independent experts. States parties are required to submit regular reports on their progress in implementing CEDAW, and the Committee reviews these reports, provides recommendations, and issues general recommendations on specific aspects of women's rights.

Optional protocol: The Optional Protocol to CEDAW, which came into force in 2000, provides an additional avenue for women to seek redress for violations of their rights under CEDAW. It allows individuals or groups to submit complaints to the Committee after exhausting national remedies, and it enables the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of women's rights.

CEDAW has been widely ratified, with over 189 countries being parties to the Convention. It has played a crucial role in shaping national laws, policies, and practices to advance gender equality and protect women's rights. CEDAW provides a comprehensive framework for states to work towards the elimination of discrimination against women and the achievement of gender equality in all aspects of life.
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