Conventional Wisdom Series Part 2: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
In this second installment of the series to feature major conventions that have significantly advanced the cause of universal human rights, we bring to your attention the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), commonly thought of as the international bill of rights for women.
“…discrimination against women violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity, is an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries, hampers the growth of the prosperity of society and the family and makes more difficult the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity…”
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, CEDAW holds a special place in the history of women’s rights advocacy in that it unifies many previously fragmentary approaches to the recognition and promotion of women’s human rights and gives the first comprehensive and central platform to combat inequality and discrimination against women.
The convention outlines and 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.” With 30 articles, CEDAW establishes:
The principle of equality of men and women, including equal access to and opportunities in education, politics, health and employment;
The social, economic, political, cultural, and family rights of women;
The reproductive rights of women;
An agenda of legal, social, political, and economic reforms to undertake in order to achieve equal rights
The convention formally brings into international focus the plights and rights of the female half of humanity, and has been instrumental in urging all its members to actively seek all appropriate measures against all forms of traffic, exploitation and violation of women. So far, all but 7 UN members states have ratified the convention. Thailand acceded to CEDAW on August 9, 1985. The United States is the only developed nation yet to ratify the convention.
DEPDC/GMS applauds the hard work by the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), humanitarian workers, human rights activists and all those who made CEDAW a reality and who continue to shape the advancement of a cause that impacts billions of women around the world. To find out more about CEDAW, please click here.
DID YOU KNOW?
Dr. Saisuree Chutikul, a long-time supporter and a board member of DEPDC/GMS, served as a member on the CEDAW Committee for the term 2007-2010! The main building at the DEPDC/GMS headquarters in Mae Sai is named after her.
Click here to listen to a UN Radio broadcast published in 2009 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of CEDAW.