Background Release

29 June 2001


New York Meeting Will Review Implementation of Convention
By Andorra, Guinea, Singapore, Guyana, Netherlands, Viet Nam, Sweden, Nicaragua

NEW YORK, 28 June (Division for Advancement of Women) -- The twenty-fifth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York beginning next Monday (2 July) and continuing until 20 July.

The 23 members of the Committee, experts who serve in their personal capacities, monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and came into force in 1981. As of 31 May the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 168 countries. It requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights. In pursuing the Convention’s goals, States parties are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men.

On 22 December 2000, the Optional Protocol to the Convention entered into force. The Optional Protocol entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies. It also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention. As of 31 May 2001, there were 21 States parties to the Optional Protocol.

Since 1997, the Committee has met twice annually. At this forthcoming session, the Committee will review the reports of eight States parties to the Convention, including the initial reports of Andorra, Guinea and Singapore, the second periodic reports of Guyana, the Netherlands and Viet Nam, as well as the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Viet Nam. It will also examine the fourth periodic report of Sweden and the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Nicaragua.

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit reports, one year after becoming a State party and then at least once every four years thereafter, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. In addition to reviewing the reports and evaluating progress made in concluding comments, the Committee formulates general recommendations to the States parties as a whole on eliminating discrimination against women. It may also invite United Nations specialized agencies to submit reports and receive information from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

To date, the Committee has considered 111 initial, 77 second, 56 third, 22 fourth and 3 fifth periodic reports. It has also received five reports on an exceptional basis -- from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The Committee has adopted general recommendations covering such issues as the economic situation of women; the impact of structural adjustment policies; maternity leave; measures taken to allow women to combine child-bearing with employment; violence against women; the dissemination of the Convention and its provisions; and the extent to which NGOs have been incorporated into the process of preparing reports on the implementation of the Convention. As of 31 May 2001, there were 24 general recommendations. During the twenty-fourth session, the Committee began work on its twenty-fifth general recommendation, which will address article 4.1 of the Convention on temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.

Experts receive country-specific information from NGOs, which are able to brief the Committee’s pre-session working group and plenary meeting.

168 States Parties

With the accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by Mauritania, on 10 May 2001, and by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the number of States parties to the Convention became 168. Adopted in 1979 and opened for signature in March 1980, the Convention is now among the international human rights treaties with the largest number of ratifications. However, it is also among those treaties with the highest number of reservations by States parties.

Often described as the international bill of rights for women, the Convention in its 30 articles defines discrimination against women and provides an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. Discrimination against women is defined 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".

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

On 6 October 1999, the UN General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention which enables women victims of sex discrimination to submit complaints to the Committee. By accepting the Optional Protocol, States recognize the competence of the Committee to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups of individuals within its jurisdiction in cases where they have exhausted domestic remedies. It also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. Although the Optional Protocol includes an "opt-out clause", allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure, it explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms. Opened for signature on 10 December 1999, as of 31 May 2001, 67 States had signed the Optional Protocol, and 21 had ratified or acceded to it. The Optional Protocol came into force on 22 December 2000.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women called upon Governments to promote and protect the human rights of women through the full implementation of all human rights instruments, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It urged universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 and asked Governments to limit the extent of any reservations to the Convention. The twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century", which took place in June 2000, called on Governments to ratify the Convention, limit the extent of any reservations to it, and withdraw reservations which were contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention or otherwise incompatible with international treaty law. It also asked Governments to consider signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

States Parties to the Convention

As of 31 May 2001, the following 168 States had either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which entered into force on 3 September 1981: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

States Parties to the Optional Protocol

As of 31 May 2001, the following 21 States had either ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol of the Convention which entered into force on 22 December 2000: Austria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mali, Namibia, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Slovakia and Thailand.

Committee Membership

The 23 expert members of the Committee, serving in their personal capacity, are: Charlotte Abaka, Ghana; Ayse Feride Acar, Turkey; Sjamsiah Achmad, Indonesia; Emna Aouij, Tunisia; Ivanka Corti, Italy; Feng Cui, China; Naela Gabr, Egypt; Françoise Gaspard, France; María Yolanda Ferrer Gómez, Cuba; Aída González Martínez, Mexico; Savitri Goonesekere, Sri Lanka; Rosalyn Hazelle, Saint Kitts and Nevis; Fatima Kwaku, Nigeria; Rosario Manalo, Philippines; Göran Melander, Sweden; Asha Rose Metengeti-Migiro, United Republic of Tanzania; Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, South Africa; Frances Livingstone Raday, Israel; Zelmira Regazzoli, Argentina; Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling, Germany; Heisoo Chin, Republic of Korea; Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Portugal; and Chikako Taya, Japan.

For more information on CEDAW and women’s rights contact: Women’s Rights Unit, DAW, DESA, Room DC2-1226, United Nations, New York, NY 10017 -- Fax: (212) 963-3463, e-mail:

Visit the CEDAW page of the Web site of the Division for the Advancement of Women at

* *** *