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[[Image:CEDAW Participation.svg|right|400px|thumb| Participation in the CEDAW


The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly.Described as an international bill of rights for women, it came into force on 3 September 1981. The United Statesmarker is the only developed nation that has not ratified the CEDAW. Several countries have ratified the Convention subject to certain declarations, reservations and objections.

The Convention

The Convention defines discrimination against women in the following terms:

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.

It also establishes an agenda of action for putting an end to sex-based discrimination:States ratifying the Convention are required to enshrine gender equality into their domestic legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women. They must also establish tribunals and public institutions to guarantee women effective protection against discrimination, and take steps to eliminate all forms of discrimination practiced against women by individuals, organizations, and enterprises.

Members and ratification

The six UN member states that have not signed the convention are Iranmarker, Nauru, Palaumarker, Somaliamarker, Sudanmarker, and Tongamarker. These are either Islamic states (Iran, Somalia, Sudan) or small Pacific Island nations (Nauru, Palau, Tonga). Niuemarker and the Vatican Citymarker have also not signed it. The United Statesmarker has signed, but not yet ratified.

In 2007, after much pressure from women's organizations such as the National Alliance of Taiwan Women's Associations, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan ratified the stipulations of CEDAW into its own domestic policy. It is still awaiting CEDAW's approval of its ratification.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Convention oversight is the task of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which is made up of 23 experts on women's issues from different UN member states. The Committee meets twice a year to review reports on compliance with the Convention's provisions that the signatory nations are required to submit every four years.

The Committee is one of the eight UN-related human rights treaty bodies.

The Committee's members, described as "experts of high moral standing and competence in the field covered by the Convention", are elected to serve four-year terms in staggered elections held every two years. Its officers are a chairperson, three vice-chairpersons, and a rapporteur. Efforts are made to ensure balanced geographical representation and the inclusion of the world's different forms of civilization and legal systems.

As of January 2007, the members are:

No. Country Name Position
1. Croatiamarker Dubravka Šimonović Chairperson
2. Egyptmarker Naela Mohamed Gabr 1st Vice-Chairperson
3. Francemarker Françoise Gaspard 2nd Vice-Chairperson
4. Jamaicamarker Glenda P. Simms 3rd Vice-Chairperson
5. Bangladeshmarker Ferdous Ara Begum Member
6. Cubamarker Magalys Arocha Dominguez Member
7. Thailandmarker Saisuree Chutikul Member
8. Algeriamarker Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani Member
9. Ghanamarker Dorcas Coker-Appiah Member
10. The Netherlandsmarker Cornelis Flinterman Member
11. Israelmarker Ruth Halperin-Kaddari Member
12. Italymarker Tiziana Maiolo Member
13. Sloveniamarker Violeta Neubauer Member
14. Mauritiusmarker Pramila Patten Member
15. Brazilmarker Silvia Pimente Member
16. Japanmarker Fumiko Saiga Member
17. Germanymarker Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling Member
18. South Koreamarker Heisoo Shin Member
19. Singaporemarker Anamah Tan Member
20. Portugalmarker Maria Regina Tavares da Silva Member
21. Chinamarker Zou Xiaoqiao Member
22. Malaysiamarker Mary Shanthi Dairiam Member and Rapporteur

Optional Protocol

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is a side-agreement to the Convention which allows its parties to recognise the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to consider complaints from individuals.

The Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 6 October 1999 and entered into force on 22 December 2000. Currently it has 79 signatories and 98 parties.


The CEDAW has been controversial for statements seen by Concerned Women for America as promoting radical feminism. Particularly referenced is a 2000 report which said that in Belarusmarker, "the Committee is concerned by the continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes and by the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers' Day and a Mothers' Award, which it sees as encouraging women's traditional roles." Other controversial positions of CEDAW include supporting the decriminalization of prostitution in specific countries, criticizing Slovenia because only 30% of children are in daycare, demanding equal treatment for work of "equal value", and a treaty requirement that nations "embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitution or other appropriate legislation." These requests are seen by Concerned Women for America and other antifeminist and Christian Right groups as a backdoor to an Equal Rights Amendment or comparable national legislation. Australian and (defunct) New Zealand anti-feminist groups voiced similar concerns in the early eighties.

More recently, the controversy concerning CEDAW has centered around the question of easy access to abortion and contraception. According to C-FAM (the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), at UN meetings officials pressed the delegation from Colombia to liberalize its abortion laws and to inaugurate campaigns encouraging contraceptive use and "reproductive health awareness".

Many Islamic countries view the CEDAW as culturally biased towards the Western nations and have consequently placed reservations on the elements that they see as in fundamental contradiction with Islamic Sharia law.

See also


  1. Declarations, Reservations and Objections to CEDAW
  2. Member states
  3. Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan). "Taiwan Aims to Sign Up Against Discrimination." September 8, 2006.
  4. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 1.
  6. Concerned Women for America - Exposing CEDAW

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