As mentioned previously CEDAW focuses on women and their situation.

The Convention provides a framework for States to take responsibility for tackling (often embedded and historical) discrimination against women and achieving substantive equality for women in both the private and public spheres. It outlines a comprehensive set of rights for women in all fields (civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other fields) is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.

By signing-up (i.e. ratifying or acceding) to the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to:

  • End all forms of discrimination against women;
  • Protect women; and
  • Promote equality within the legal system, public institutions and other organisations and amongst individuals

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions (Articles and General Recommendations) into practice, except where they have Reservations (when the country’s government cannot agree to implement a certain part of the Convention).

There is also an Optional Protocol attached to the Convention. This allows individuals to take their case to the CEDAW Committee if all national options to resolve allegations of discrimination have been exhausted. The UK Government has agreed to the Optional Protocol and it came into force in 2005.

The Convention has a preamble (introduction) and 30 Articles (clauses) which cover:

  • Sex roles and stereotyping
  • Trafficking and prostitution
  • Political and public life
  • Participation at the international level
  • Nationality
  • Equal rights in education
  • Employment
  • Article 12: health and family planning
  • Economic and social benefits
  • Rural women
  • Equality before the law
  • Marriage and family law

There are also a number of General Recommendations attached to the Convention which cover a wide range of issues such as violence against women, women migrant workers and older women.

The Convention is overseen and implemented by a UN committee of 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world, known as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

State parties who have signed-up to the Convention are obliged to report to the Committee who examine the measures implemented by the country to comply with its obligations under the Convention. The Committee meets twice a year and countries are examined on a rolling basis, approximately every four years. We expect the next UN examination in July 2018. Alongside a country’s written report, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) submit shadow reports and the Committee invites direct NGO input via written reports and informal and formal meetings in order to bring women’s real concerns to national and international attention.