UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
In 2013 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) last examined the UK Government’s performance in implementing CEDAW.
The EHRC has produced a publication outlining the concluding observations from this examination.
As a result of this examination, the UK Government is required to submit a follow-up report in July 2015 on its progress in ensuring effective access by women to the courts and the impact of the legal aid reforms on the protection of women’s rights. The EHRC will submit a shadow report in August 2015.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the international human rights treaty that focuses specifically on equality between women and men in all areas of life. It defines discrimination against women on a universal basis, forming an important bill of rights for women worldwide.
The UK ratified CEDAW in 1986 agreeing to take measures to ensure equality between men and women and protect women's rights as outlined in CEDAW.
CEDAW requires the UK to take 'all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men'; including in:
- participation in political and public life
- access to health care services
- marriage and family relations.
When it examines a state, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), makes a number of concluding observations which outline how the state can improve its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In July 2013, the CEDAW Committee raised concerns and issued concluding observations (recommendations) about many issues in the UK, including:
- ensuring that women can access courts effectively
- ratifying the Istanbul Convention
- making forced marriage a criminal offence
- adopting a comprehensive national action plan to tackle trafficking in women and girls
- improving mental health care in all prisons
- taking steps to end occupational segregation and reducing the gender pay gap.
The EHRC developed a publication with the National Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO) which sets out these concluding observations and their context in the UK.
The examination process
The implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Committee (CEDAW) is monitored by Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), a body made up of 23 experts on women's rights from around the world.
These experts are nominated by the Governments who have ratified CEDAW, and are elected to serve four-year terms. The CEDAW Committee generally meets formally twice a year (January and July).
Governments who have ratified CEDAW are required to submit reports to the CEDAW Committee every four years outlining the measures they have taken to give effect to the provisions of the CEDAW. They should also provide evidence about the effect of these laws and policies on the enjoyment of women's rights in CEDAW. These reports are known as the 'State Report.'
Other organisations like the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and civil society also provide submissions to the CEDAW Committee which can provide an alternative analysis of the impact of laws and policies, supported by different kinds of evidence. These reports are known as a 'Shadow Report'
The Women's Resource Centre coordinated a Shadow Report from a coalition of 42 women's and human rights organisations from across the UK in April 2013.
Prior to being examined by the full CEDAW Committee, a pre-session working group of the Committee meet to draw up a short list of issues and questions for particular State Reports for the next session. The lists of issues are intended to facilitate the preparations by State parties for constructive dialogue with the CEDAW Committee.
At the examination, the Government party is invited to make an introductory statement followed by constructive dialogue between the Committee's experts and the Government.
Following the examination the CEDAW Committee produces a report which includes recommendations for the State party to implement. These are called the 'Concluding observations'.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) periodically drafts general recommendations which offer clear guidance on the application of the CEDAW articles in particular situations. Such recommendations include guidance on:
- disabled women (Recommendation 18)
- older women (Recommendation 27)
- violence against women (Recommendation 19).
The CEDAW Committee can accept complaints from individual women or groups of women against States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Optional Protocol). The Committee can also inquire into more widespread and systematic violations of women's rights.
The EHRC has developed guidance on using the Optional Protocol: 'A lever for Change: Using the Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.'
Read an example of how the Optional Protocol can be used to hold governments accountable for women's human rights.
- Report on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
- Inquiry into board appointments
- Research into pregnancy discrimination
- Mid-term Universal Periodic Review report - this report covers issues such as violence against women and girls and addressing the pay gap
- Parliamentary Briefing on the Modern Slavery Bill
- Response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into violence against women and girls.
Further information on CEDAW can be found at:
Last Updated: 30 Sep 2015