Update: 02.05.2019

Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Of 18 December 1979 (Entry into force: 3 September 1981) 

Text of Treaty

German / French / Italian / English

The UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women obliged contracting parties to exhaust all possible resources to eliminate the discrimination of women.


189 Contracting States (as of 2 May 2019; current count

Defining «Discrimination against Women»

The convention defines discrimination of 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».

Obligations of Contracting States

The contracting states are obliged to change or repeal any laws or customs that discriminate against women. Any discrimination based upon sex is to be banned and victims of such discrimination shall be granted access to a court of law. The convention obliges the contracting states to take governmental measures against the role cast that is discriminating against women as well as against women trafficking and the exploitation of prostitutes. The convention contains a list of general human rights whose unrestricted exercise seems to be especially compromised among women. 

Monitoring Process

The contracting parties are responsible for regularly updating the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on any legal, judicial, administrative or other measures implemented to satisfy the obligations of the Convention as well as on any difficulties encountered (Art.18). The first report will be released within one year of entry into force and further reports will be released at least every four years or as often as the Committee requests.

Optional Protocol (OP-CEDAW)

Text: German / French / Italian / English

The Optional Protocol from 6 October 1999, created the opportunity for an individual complaint process with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in specific cases. The Optional Protocol entered into force on 22 December 2000, and so far 109 States have ratified it (as of 2 May 2019; current count).

The Optional Protocol allows the supervisory committee to receive and examine information by single persons or groups who are victims of discrimination within the framework of the convention. Article 8 and 9 of the Optional Protocol contain a special procedure allowing the Committee to take unilateral action if it has reliable evidence for grave and systematic violations by a signatory state of the rights stipulated in the Optional protocol. This authorisation of the Committee can be revoked by the signatory states by means of a respective declaration. No reservations to the Optional Protocol may be voiced.

© humanrights.ch / MERS - Hallerstr. 23 - CH-3012 Bern - Tel. +41 31 302 01 61