For information only - not an official document.
22 December 2000
Optional Protocol to Women's Convention Comes into Force

NEW YORK, 21 December (UN Headquarters) -- Another milestone on the road towards equality between women and men and the full enjoyment by women of their human rights has been met. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women enters into force tomorrow, 22 December.

Just over a year ago, on 6 October 1999, in a landmark decision for women, the United Nations General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted the 21-article Optional Protocol to the Convention, and called on all States parties to the Convention to become party to the new instrument as soon as possible.

Angela King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the new Optional Protocol would be a useful and effective addition to the available inventory of tools for the protection and promotion of women's human rights.

"The Optional Protocol", she said, "provides an international remedy for violations of women's rights. It will act as an incentive for governments to take a fresh look at the means currently available to women at the domestic level to enforce their rights. That is perhaps the most important contribution of the Optional Protocol". She added that such action at the national level would create an environment for women and girls to fully enjoy all their human rights, and it would also allow their grievances to be addressed with "the efficiency and speed they deserved".

States which ratify the Optional Protocol recognize the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted all national remedies. The Optional Protocol also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention. States which ratify may opt out of the inquiry procedure, but no other reservations are permitted to its terms. The Committee is the body established under the Convention to monitor its implementation. The Division for the Advancement of Women in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs provides the technical and substantive servicing of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.

The Optional Protocol is significant for a number of reasons. Its two procedures reaffirm existing remedies available under other international human rights instruments, such as the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Optional Protocol also advances the development of international human rights law, and incorporates practice developed by international monitoring mechanisms over the last 30 years. It recognizes that women continue to face specific challenges in seeking redress for their grievances under general human rights mechanisms.

As of today, the Optional Protocol has been ratified or acceded to by 13 States parties: Austria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Mali, Namibia, New Zealand, Senegal, Slovakia and Thailand. There are a total of 62 signatories to the Optional Protocol.

The adoption of an Optional Protocol to provide a right to petition was one of the commitments made by States at both the 1993 Vienna Conference on Human Rights and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women. Its entry into force represents a major step towards the realization of the objectives set out in the Beijing Platform for Action.

For further information, please contact: Ellen McGuffie, Department of Public Information, tel.: (212) 963-0499, fax: (212) 963-1186, e-mail:; or Women's Rights Unit, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Room DC2-1226, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, Fax: (212) 963-3463, e-mail:

You can visit the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women page of the Web site of the Division for the Advancement of Women at:

* * * * *