Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
    UNIS/WOM/494
    3 January 2001
     

    WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TO HOLD 24TH SESSION
    AT HEADQUARTERS 15 JANUARY - 2 FEBRUARY

    Reports of Eight States Parties Will Be Reviewed

    NEW YORK, 2 January (Division for Advancement of Women) –- The twenty-fourth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 15 January to 2 February.

    The 23 experts of CEDAW, who serve in their personal capacities, monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and came into force in 1981. The Convention, which as of 31 December 2000 had been ratified or acceded to by 166 countries, 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.

    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 Burundi, Kazakhstan, Maldives and Uzbekistan, the third and fourth periodic reports of Finland, and the third and combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Egypt. It will also examine the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Mongolia and the combined second, third and fourth periodic reports of Jamaica.

    Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national 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 the progress made, 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.

    To date, the Committee has considered 107 initial, 76 second, 52 third,18 fourth and two fifth periodic reports. It has also received five reports on an exceptional basis -- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and Rwanda.

    The Committee has adopted general recommendations covering such issues as women’s economic position; 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 non-governmental organizations have been incorporated into the process of preparing reports on the implementation of the Convention. As of 1 December 2000, there were 24 general recommendations. During the twenty-fourth session, the Committee will begin work on its twenty-fifth general recommendation which will address article 4 (special measures) of the Convention. At the meeting, the Committee will also adopt new rules of procedure, including those relating to the Optional Protocol.

    Experts receive country-specific information from non-governmental organizations, which are able to brief the Committees pre-session working group and plenary meeting.

    166 States Parties

    With Saudi Arabia being the latest country to ratify or accede to the Convention on 7 September 2000, the number of States parties to the Convention became 166. 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 an 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 to 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 United Nations 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 December 2000, 62 States had signed the Optional Protocol, and 13 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. It urged universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 and asked governments to limit the extent of any reservations to it. 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 December 2000, the following 166 States have either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which entered into force on 3 September 1981: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia & 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 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, 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, Zimbabwe.

    States Parties to the Optional Protocol

    As of 31 December 2000, the following 15 States have either ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol of the Convention which entered into force on 22 December 2000: Austria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Mali, Namibia, New Zealand, 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, St. Kitts & Nevis; Fatima Kwaku, Nigeria; Rosario Manalo, Philippines; Göran Melander, Sweden; Asha Rose Metengeti-Migiro, United Republic of Tanzania; Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, South Africa; Ms. 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: loregnard-kasmally@un.org.

    Visit the CEDAW page of the Web site of the Division for the Advancement of Women at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw.

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