Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

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 What Is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women?

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979. It was instituted in September 1981 after 20 member states had ratified it. The CEDAW was instituted more quickly than any convention in U.N. history.

CEDAW is viewed as an international bill of rights for women. CEDAW was written for the following two purposes:

  • To define discrimination against women;
  • To create an agenda for the world’s nations’ actions to end discrimination against women.

Has the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination against Women Ever Been Ratified by the U.S. Senate?

As of February 2018, nearly all of the U.N.’s 193 member nations had ratified the agreement.

President Carter signed the agreement in July 1980. He then submitted it to the full U.S. Senate for ratification. However, The U.S. Senate still has not taken action to ratify the treaty. Among the other nations that have not ratified CEDAW are Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.

What Is Discrimination against Women?

The Convention defines discrimination against women as any distinction, exclusion, or restriction on a person’s activities made based on gender, which inhibits the exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Discrimination extends to all areas of life and can affect the political, social, civil, economic, and cultural areas.

What Are Some of the Provisions of the CEDAW?

Countries that ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women agree to take concrete steps to improve the status of women and end discrimination against women in their countries. They further agree to end violence against women in their countries.

The CEDAW is supposed to be an action plan, and the nations that have ratified it are required eventually to achieve full compliance. The Convention focuses on the following three main areas:

  • Civil Rights: Civil rights embrace such rights as the right to vote, serve in public office, and exercise public functions. It further includes such rights as the; right to non-discrimination in education, employment, and economic and social activities. Civil rights are further defined as the equal treatment of women in civil and business matters. Finally, women should have equal rights in their ability to choose a spouse, to choose to become a parent, and their command over their person and property;
  • Reproductive Rights: These provisions mandate fully shared responsibility for child-rearing by both sexes; the right to the protection of maternity, the availability of child-care facilities and maternity leave from employment as well as the right to full reproductive choice and access to family planning, i.e., birth control;
  • Gender Relations: CEDAW requires the nations that have ratified it to modify social and cultural customs to eliminate gender bias. This could include revising school textbooks and curricula, eliminating discrimination from school programs, and teaching methods to eliminate gender stereotypes in education.
    • Further, nations must address modes of behavior and thought that define society’s public sphere as a man’s world and the domestic sphere as a woman’s domain. In this way, nations should affirm that both genders have equal responsibilities in family life and equal rights to education and employment.

Countries that ratify the agreement are expected to work toward implementing the Convention’s provisions in their respective laws and regulations. Each nation that has ratified the Convention must submit a report to the Committee of the Discrimination Against Women every four years. A panel of 23 CEDAW board members reviews these reports and identifies the areas in each nation that require further action.

How Is the Convention Enforced?

Any nation that ratifies CEDAW must agree to take several measures to end discrimination against women. These would include the following:

  • Establishing public institutions whose role would be to ensure that women are protected from discrimination;
  • Ensuring the elimination of discriminatory acts against women;
  • Incorporating the principles of the equality of men and women in the legal system, including abolishing laws against women and enacting laws prohibiting such discrimination.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) comprises independent experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The CEDAW Committee members are women’s rights experts from various nations worldwide.

Nations must report on the measures they have taken in connection with the rights described in the Convention and on the nation’s progress in protecting women’s rights. These reports are available online at the website of the Committee.

For example, Argentina ratified CEDAW and, as of 2016, had submitted 7 reports about its progress in enacting the provisions of the Convention. Argentina reported taking numerous affirmative steps to eliminate discrimination against women in Argentina, among them the following:

  • It established a body of attorneys to provide legal aid to victims of gender-based violence;
  • It changed its Code of Criminal Procedure to reduce the length of legal proceedings and recognize the rights of victims of gender-based violence;
  • Argentina changed its National Civil and Commercial Code to recognize the economic value of household work. It now guarantees access to all scientific methods of assisted fertilization. Argentina now recognizes labor rights and protection for domestic workers. Argentina provides prevention and punishment for trafficking in people as well as assistance to victims;
  • Argentina recognizes a person’s right to their self-perceived gender identity;
  • Argentina now recognizes the equal right to marriage for same-sex couples.

The Ivory Coast, an African nation, had submitted 5 reports as of 2018 and noted the following progress:

  • The Constitution of the Republic of the Ivory Coast was changed so that it now recognizes the rights, freedoms, and duties of every Ivorian woman and man, and it references the fight against gender-based discrimination;
  • The Ivory Coast established a National Observatory for Equity and Gender, and it is in operation;
  • The Ivory Coast reformed its security sector, so it is now possible for girls to attend the Technical Military
  • Preparatory School and for women to join the National Gendarmerie.

One hundred and ninety-one other nations have ratified the Convention and are actively working to improve the status of women in their societies.

What Else Does the Convention Guarantee?

As noted above, CEDAW aims to ensure that women have equal access to political and public life by giving them the right to vote and to run for election to public office. CEDAW also affirms women’s reproductive rights and other rights pertaining to their children. Nations must also work to prevent the trafficking of women.

Do I Need an Experienced International Law Attorney for My CEDAW Issue?

If CEDAW ever became the law of the United States, an international law or government lawyer would be able to explain to you the goals and provisions of the treaty. They can also explain how it is supposed to operate and how it is operating in the nations that have ratified it to date.

If you have any specific questions or inquiries regarding international law, an attorney can provide the research needed to explain the answers for you. They can represent you in a court of law also if the need to pursue legal action arises.

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