The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, also known as an international bill containing rights for women. It consists of a preamble and 30 articles. It defines what discrimination is against women and also sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
The Convention defines discrimination as any distinction, exclusion or restriction which is made on the basis of sex and has the effect of impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights including fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
By accepting the Convention, all the States commit themselves to undertake various measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including the following: (Purpose of the Convention)
- Incorporation of the principle of equality of men and women in the legal system, abolishing all discriminatory laws and adopting appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
- to establish public institutions and tribunals , to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
- to make sure that all acts against women of discrimination by organizations , enterprises or even by persons are eliminated completely.
Equality between women and men, ensuring that women get equal access and opportunities in political and public life, is the main basis that the convention provides. It includes the right to vote, the right to stand for selection. Also, including education, health and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their fundamental freedoms and human rights.
This Convention targets culture and tradition as powerful influential forces that shape gender roles and family relations. It also affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children too. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.
Committee on Elimination of discrimination against Women.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, is abbreviated as ‘CEDAW Committee’, in the United Nations (U.N.) treaty body. It oversees the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Article 17 of CEDAW requires the formation of this committee. It establishes the rules, purpose, and operating procedures of the committee. Multiple sessions of the committee have been held over the years to ensure that the rules outlined in CEDAW are abided by and followed. There has been a great evolution over time in the working of the committee due to the increased focus on women’s rights issues.
Article 18 of CEDAW says, that States must report to the committee on the progress they have made in implementing the CEDAW within their state. The committee works on the basis of the information and the guidelines which have been developed to help states prepare accurate and useful reports.
States are required to prepare and present these initial reports within one year of ratifying the CEDAW. States party to the CEDAW are typically required to provide periodic reports every four years, but the same can be asked for at any time if need be.
The main aspect that the committee focuses on is constructive dialogue when a report is presented and appreciates careful time management on the part of the state presenting its report. However, because of the high backlog of overdue reports the committee has come out with a way. The States are allowed to combine all the outstanding reports into one sole document.
The committee is also required to provide an annual report that includes its comments, its activities relating to the reports provided by the States.
This report is, in turn given to the United Nations General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council. All reports, agendas and all the other official documents pertaining to the committee, including the reports provided by the states, are provided to the public at large unless otherwise decided by the committee.