Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women

  • The Convention on the Elimination of ALL Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • Described as an international bill of rights for women,
  • Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles,
  • It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and
  • Sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
  • It was instituted on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women defines discrimination against 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.

By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:

  • to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

The Convention is structured in six parts with 30 articles total.

  • Part I (Articles 1-6) focuses on non-discrimination, sex stereotypes, and sex trafficking.
  • Part II (Articles 7-9) outlines women’s rights in the public sphere with an emphasis on political life, representation, and rights to nationality.
  • Part III (Articles 10-14) describes the economic and social rights of women, particularly focusing on education, employment, and health. Part III also includes special protections for rural women and the problems they face.
  • Part IV (Article 15 and 16) outlines women’s right to equality in marriage and family life along with the right to equality before the law.
  • Part V (Articles 17-22) establishes the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as the states parties’ reporting procedure.
  • Part VI (Articles 23-30) describes the effects of the Convention on other treaties, the commitment of the state’s parties and the administration of the Convention.


India & Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women

Steps Taken by India:-

  1. Article 14 of the Indian constitution, Equality before Law, states, “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”
  2. Article 15 Prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children)
  3. In 1994, India ratified the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) treaty.
  4. The purpose, as outlined in Article 1 of the treaty, is to focus on the forms of discrimination that women face and to help eliminate discrimination that either intends to, or has the effect of, limiting women from participating equally in public life.
  5. To control female feticide, the Government of India enacted the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT) in 1994, which restricts the determination and revelation of gender of the foetus through amniocentesis as well as specifies the code of conduct for medical practitioners.
  6. Under the PNDT Act, an individual/ institution found guilty of advertising prenatal determination of gender in any form is subject to imprisonment and/or a fine.
  7. The PNDT Act was amended to Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCNDT) in 2002 and 2003, owing to innovation in technologies for sex determination through ultra sounds that impede the implementation of the Act.
  8. Section 318 in The Indian Penal Code. Concealment of birth by secret disposal of dead body. — “Whoever, by secretly burying or otherwise disposing of the death body of a child whether such child die before or after or during its birth, intentionally conceals or endeavours to conceal the birth of such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”.
  9. In 1956 India passed the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) which has severe penalties ranging from seven years’ to life imprisonment.
  10. From a national level, in 1992, India established the National Commission for Women, which is the national mediator for women.
  11. In 1997 India established a parliamentary committee on the empowerment of women, and in January 2001, India announced its commitment to the empowerment of women through the launching of a new National Policy on Women’s Empowerment.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under a state’s own domestic legislation.

The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.

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