Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women

The Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women is an international Convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is also known as the international bill of rights for women.

The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) consists of a preamble and 30 articles, defining what constitutes discrimination against women and setting up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. So far it has been ratified by 186 countries.

What do member states need to do to comply with CEDAW?

CEDAW is a legally binding international Treaty. States that have signed up to the Convention agree to take all appropriate measures to ensure that women enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The UK became a signatory to CEDAW in 1981 and ratified the Convention in April 1986.

In line with the obligations of the Convention, States undertake to submit periodic reports to the CEDAW Committee (the expert body that monitors States parties' compliance with the Convention) every four years. These reports provide progress information on the situation of women in all the areas of discrimination detailed within the Convention, as well as the UN CEDAW Committee’s previous recommendations.

UK government action

The government submitted the UK’s 7th Periodic CEDAW Report to the United Nations on 10 June 2011. 

The Report sets out progress over the last four years that the UK has made on significant legislative, judicial and administrative measures adopted to give effect to the Convention since the submission of its last report to the Committee.

It details developments in areas covered by the Convention, such as health, employment, education, representation, social and economic benefits, sex role stereotyping, trafficking and marriage and family law. It responds to recommendations made by the CEDAW Committee in 2008 following the UK’s 5th and the periodic reports which covered issues such as forced marriage, trafficking and teenage pregnancy.

The report also provides an update on the situation of women in the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to which CEDAW has been extended to and these reports are provided as separate annexes.

The Government engaged with women and women’s organisations throughout the reporting period to promote the UK’s work on CEDAW and to seek views on potential areas of concern and the next part of the CEDAW process provides interested Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) further opportunity to be involved in the whole process.

What next?

The submission of the State periodic report is usually followed by an in depth one-day oral examination of the State Party by the UN’s CEDAW Committee.  The CEDAW Committee is the overseeing body comprised of independent experts on women's issues from around the world. 

The UK government’s oral examination of the Seventh Report is expected to take place in Geneva during the early part of 2013.

NGOs can submit independent or "shadow" reports until two weeks before the oral examination to the CEDAW Committee, detailing concerns about progress on women’s rights in the UK. The CEDAW Committee considers these reports as part of the oral examination process.

Following examination, the CEDAW Committee will publish a set of Concluding Observations which outlines concerns and make Recommendations to the UK.

Previous UK Reports

On 1 May 2007 the UK submitted its 6th Periodic Report to the CEDAW Committee; see the report on the UN CEWAW website.

The Report sets out progress that the UK has made on significant legislative, judicial and administrative measures adopted to give effect to the Convention since the submission of its last report to the Committee.

The UK was orally examined on its 5th and 6th national reports in July 2008. The CEDAW Committee published the subsequent ‘Concluding Observations’ which included a number of follow-up Recommendations for the UK. One of these was that the UK submit, within one year of its examination, a report on what the UK is doing to address several of the recommendations made by the Committee. The UK submitted this One Year On report to the UN on 30 July 2009. The  Concluding Observations of the 2008 examinations are on the Office of the United Nations High Commioner for Human Rights website.

UK’s commitments to CEDAW

We are responsible for overseeing the UK’s commitments to CEDAW and works across government to ensure coordinated follow-up action to address the recommendations of the Committee. To date it has:

  • circulated the recommendations throughout Government, including to the Devolved Administrations and the Overseas Territories
  • ensured that all departmental Ministers are alerted to those recommendations that are relevant to the work of their respective departments
  • established a network of the lead officials on gender policy from GEO, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure a joined-up approach to address the recommendations and to share information and good practice on gender equality more widely
  • raised public awareness of CEDAW through regional Stakeholder events (London, Newcastle, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) in 08/09 and 09/10

See the CEDAW articles

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