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Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women


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.

You can read the full CEDAW text on the United Nations Human Rights website and our short film explains how the treaty can be used to bring about change.

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 activity began in November 2017.

A flow chart showing the various milestones of the CEDAW treaty cycle

The Commission is currently 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 are drafting a report for the Committee’s forthcoming review of the UK. 

We are also providing 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:

Please follow the above links to find out how you can get involved, or email Hayley Richardson to find out more.

Previous CEDAW work by the Commission

Our past work includes:


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:

  • ensuring that women can access courts effectively
  • ratifying the Istanbul Convention (a Council of Europe Convention combating violence against women) 
  • making forced marriage a criminal offence
  • adopting a national action plan to tackle the trafficking of women and girls
  • improving mental health care in all prisons
  • taking steps to end occupational segregation (the concentration of men and women in certain jobs, or in certain levels of job)
  • reducing the gender pay gap

The Commission is currently drafting its next CEDAW report. Contact Hayley.Richardson@equalityhumanrights.com for more information.

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), the Commission submits information to this process in what is known as a ‘shadow report’. Civil society organisations are also encouraged to submit shadow reports.

Governments submit reports to the Committee around every five years. These ‘State Reports’ explain the steps taken to implement the treaty and the impact on the enjoyment of these rights. Read the UK Government’s most recent report (November 2017).

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’.

  • 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 and systematic violations of women's rights

The Commission has published guidance on using the CEDAW Optional Protocol. 

The Commission's work on gender

Our other work on gender includes: 

Last updated: 09 Jan 2018