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 is often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’. The UK ratified CEDAW in 1986.
By ratifying the treaty, the UK is committed to taking steps to end discrimination against women in all forms. CEDAW provides the basis for making equality between women and men a reality.
The CEDAW cycle and our role
CEDAW is one of seven UN human rights treaties that the UK has ratified. Each treaty operates on its own unique reporting timetable. A new cycle of CEDAW activity began in November 2017.
We're working with stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations, think tanks, trade unions and parliamentarians to raise awareness of important issues with the CEDAW Committee, a body of 23 women's rights experts who make recommendations for action.
We provided funding to three women’s rights organisations to conduct their own independent consultations with women across Britain and to ensure that their concerns are heard by the CEDAW Committee:
- Engender (Scotland)
- Women’s Equality Network Wales
- Women’s Resource Centre (England)
Our CEDAW work
In 2018, we published our biggest ever review into women's rights, submitted to the UN to inform the UK's eighth periodic review under CEDAW:
In 2019 we published an update report, submitting further evidence to the CEDAW committee.
Our past work includes:
- our report on the impact of legal aid reforms on women in the UK (March 2016)
- our submission to CEDAW ahead of the UK's last review (June 2013)
- our report on the 2013 CEDAW Concluding Observations
In July 2013, the CEDAW Committee raised concerns about many issues related to the implementation of the CEDAW treaty in the UK.
Their recommendations included a range of concerns.
These issues are being examined again in February 2019, and will be published on this page shortly after.
CEDAW is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a body made up of 23 experts on women's rights from around the world.
The Committee considers evidence from different sources. As one of the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), we submit information to this process in what is known as a shadow report. Civil society organisations are also encouraged to submit shadow reports. Read our most recent CEDAW report (July 2018).
Governments submit state reports to the Committee around every five years. These state reports explain the steps taken to implement the treaty. Read the UK government’s most recent CEDAW reports from November 2017 (PDF) and November 2018.
The CEDAW Committee publishes a report following its examination of the state report and any shadow reports, making recommendations for action. These are known as the ‘concluding observations’. Governments then have a follow-up period in which to implement the recommendations.
- the CEDAW Committee sometimes issues general recommendations which explain the application of the treaty in particular situations or for specific groups such as disabled women (see these recommendations on the UN website)
- the Committee can also consider complaints from individual women or groups of women against states that have ratified the Optional Protocol (a human rights convention that the UK has ratified allowing people in the UK to take complaints of human rights violations to the CEDAW Committee)
- the Committee can investigate more widespread violations of women's rights
We have published guidance on using the CEDAW Optional Protocol.
Last updated: 11 Mar 2019