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

UN treaty

CEDAW is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1979. The UK ratified (agreed to follow) CEDAW in 1986.

By ratifying CEDAW, the UK agrees to take measures to ensure women’s full enjoyment of human rights on an equal basis with men, including:

  • eradicating stereotyped roles for women and men
  • ensuring women’s equal participation in public life
  • equality before the law
  • eliminating discrimination in employment

How the treaty is monitored

The implementation of CEDAW is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Around every five years the Committee reviews how well each state is putting the rights included in CEDAW into practice. Find out more about the previous review cycles.

There are six stages in the treaty cycle. Civil society organisations can engage throughout this process. The UN has information on how to participate on its website.

Optional protocols

CEDAW has one Optional Protocol. This is an additional treaty that allows people to complain directly to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women if they believe their rights have been violated. It can only be used when all domestic channels have been exhausted. It has been ratified by the UK.

Guidance on using CEDAW’s Optional Protocol can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

The Committee can also conduct its own inquiries, where they receive reliable information on serious, grave or systematic violations. Read about the Committee’s inquiry on abortion law in Northern Ireland, published in 2018.

General comments

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has issued a number of General Recommendations on CEDAW. These provide further detail on how it should be interpreted, covering issues such violence against women and girls, access to justice and harmful practices.

Last updated on 10/10/2022