It’s called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and it was adopted at the 1979 U.N. Decade for Women Mid-Decade Conference in Copenhagen. The Convention or CEDAW, as it’s known, is an international Bill of Rights for women. The Convention is the most comprehensive and detailed international agreement which seeks the advancement of women. The Convention, we believe, will contribute to achieving equality of women and men throughout the world.
CEDAW obligates those countries which have ratified or acceded to it to take “all appropriate measures” to ensure the full development and advancement of women in all spheres — political, educational, employment, health care, economic, social, legal, and marriage and family relations. It also calls for the modification of social and cultural patterns of conduct in order to eliminate prejudice, customs, and all other practices based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either sex. CEDAW was passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1981.
Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, CEDAW defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…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.”
By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:
- to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women
- to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination
- to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises
The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as 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 human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Convention 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. It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.
Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.
Countries that Have NOT Ratified CEDAW
- In Europe and North America: The United States of America
- In West Asia (Middle East): Iran, Qatar
- In Asia Pacific/Central Asia: Brunei Daussalam, Cook Islands (not UN member), Nauru, Palau, Tonga
- In Africa: Somalia, Sudan
- In Latin America/Caribbean: All ratified
Countries that Have Ratified CEDAW
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus Republic, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Columbia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’lvoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia & Montenegro, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Surinam, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
We must pressure the new Democratic controlled Senate to ratify this treaty! Write to all the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking for their help.