Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is one of the most widely ratified conventions, but at the same time, it is one of UN's core conventions for which the highest number of nations have entered into reservations.

CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women), was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. It is one of the UN’s nine core conventions and the most widely ratified convention after the Children’s Convention. In 2012, 187 countries have signed it, which corresponds to over 90 percent of the UN member states.

CEDAW was developed when the existing instruments were deemed insufficient to safeguard the rights of women and prevent gender discrimination. Women were often ignored in the discussions of human rights, as there had mainly been a focus on men’s human rights, such as protection against torture in war situations.

CEDAW consists of 30 articles, of which the first 16 concern definitions and rights. The articles urge the signatory states to work actively to eliminate discrimination of women in the country’s political and public life as well as in the labour market. The nations are also expected to take appropriate measures to eliminate stereotypical behavioural patterns that imply one gender is superior or inferior to the other.

CEDAW is unique and it requires governments to address discrimination of women in both private and public spheres.

Reservations

At the same time, as a large number of UN member states have ratified CEDAW, it is the UN core convention for which the highest number of nations have entered into reservations. The reservations concern primarily Article 16, which deals with discrimination in marriage and family life. About 60 countries have entered reservations in areas such as reproductive health, a woman’s right to have control over her own body, childbirth, birth control and sexuality. USA is one of the few countries that has not ratified the Convention.

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